Have you ever experienced persecution for your faith? Did you find that verses from the Bible helped you to stand strong during that troubling time? Perhaps ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.’ (Revelation 2:10) or ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ (Romans 8:35) were comforting.
Imagine you didn’t have the ‘sword of the spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:17) to help you? That’s the reality for 1 in 5 people around the world today, who don’t have the Bible in the language they understand best.
Here are three stories of people who have followed Christ in the face of opposition, and the difference his word makes.
‘I’ll go to heaven when I die’
In 1995, Salomi became one of the first protestant Christians in her village in South Asia. This did not go down well with her community. She was insulted, threatened and ostracised. Others who had become believers at the same time could not handle the persecution, so they left their new faith. But not Salomi.
Her opponents thought they had delivered the perfect ultimatum when they declared that when she died she would not be given a decent burial – the definitive form of humiliation in her culture. They thought that this would cause her to fear and abandon her faith.
They were wrong. ‘I’ll go to heaven when I die, but you will be the ones to have trouble dealing with my dead body!’ was Salomi’s confident reply. Her calm, unwavering faith made people curious. As a result, many chose to follow Jesus.
Thanks to Salomi’s steadfast witness, half of her village are now Christians, and worship in the first church in her community. Through the work of a Bible translation team, they have been able to write Bible-based worship songs, pastors have been able to preach from Scripture, and Christians pray, worship and testify to God’s goodness, all in their own language. They are now enthusiastically awaiting God’s word in the language that they understand best – and the translation team is planning to launch the New Testament at the end of this year!
Salomi did all this without having God’s word in her language. Christians in her community now won’t have to. They will be able to turn to Revelation 2:10, Romans 8:35, and so many other verses that will help them to persevere.
Jesus speaks Oku
Mrs H*, from Cameroon, became a Christian while she was at university. When she told her family, they laughed her out of the house. Although she tried repeatedly to share the good news of Jesus with her family, they rejected her every time. Her grandmother was her fiercest critic.
Then the Jesus film was translated into their language. Mrs H gathered her family so they could watch it together. When it ended, there was silence.
Her grandmother was the first person to speak. ‘Is this the same Jesus that you’ve been telling us about?’
‘Yes’, Mrs H replied.
‘Then if he speaks Oku, he knows our problems. If he speaks Oku, then he knows how to help us.’ Mrs H’s grandmother accepted Jesus as her saviour.
From vengeance to forgiveness
In 2013, Christians in the Banda-Linda area of the Central African Republic suffered months of violence and heartache, often fuelled by religious differences.
They’d lived peaceably with the local Muslim community for years, but at one point, they wanted revenge. One thing stopped them – a reading from Luke’s Gospel on forgiveness.
The Banda-Linda people are so hungry for God’s word. One man walked 45 miles for the Bible portions the translation office had printed so far, all because he’d heard his minister preaching from Luke’s gospel in his own language.
God’s living word
God’s word changes lives. It can enable a woman to stand up to persecution. It can heal a family. It can turn vengeance into forgiveness.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that ‘the word of God is alive and active’. May you know the truth of that today, and pray for those who are still waiting to read those life-giving words in the languages they understand best.