I’ve lived in Asia almost 20 years. Most of that time I have worked with people who suffer for their faith. The people I meet are often amazing. They endure what I can’t imagine for their faith and wrestle with decisions that I’m glad I don’t have to make. Their stories inspire me and they never get old.
Recently I visited our Wholistic Development Center. This amazing center provides intensive training in both vocational skills and biblical truth. Many of the past and present students there have incredible stories. I was there when the students were on semester break, but I did meet one student, ‘John.’ John wasn’t able to go home this semester break—it’s quite the story.
When John was young his father died. His mother remarried and decided that she only wanted her daughter, so she gave her two sons to her brother, John’s uncle, to raise. John’s uncle decided that only one of the two boys had potential and was worthy of education, the other became his slave. Unfortunately for John he was the second of the two—so with only two years of education he started to work all day for his uncle. As the boys grew older they built their own shack on the uncle’s property. Last year a local missionary came to John’s village and shared about the Wholistic Development Center. John was excited for any change and applied to attend. John was selected, his uncle agreed and in September last year John started school. Needless to say it’s been really difficult. With only grade two education, he struggles to understand basic lessons. Staff are giving him extra help to catch up. But John would tell you the frustration and extra work are worth it for one reason—he met God. For the first time he has learnt about a God that loves him. For the first time that he can remember he’s been loved. Unfortunately John’s uncle is not amused. When he heard that John had become a Christian, he threatened to burn down the shack that John had been living in with his brother. The only way to prevent this was for John not to go home on the semester break. So I got to meet John.
Another remarkable story is of two brothers who recently graduated from the center. (The graduated students visit regularly and continue to be discipled by the staff of the center). These young men were sons of a pastor who had been martyred for Christ. They had left their area to come to the center while their mother had taken over the church, despite continued death threats. The two brothers now have good jobs, earning a good income. However, one of them is praying about returning to their village to lead the church. It’s a tough decision. As church leaders their income would dwindle to only $30 a month—not enough to survive on, certainly not enough to raise a family on. They would put their and their families’ lives in danger. And yet they also feel the need to go and support their mother as she leads the church. It’s a heavy decision for a twenty-year-old.
Many of the students are faced with tough decisions at an early age. Two of this years students were going to be married if they hadn’t attended. Their fathers were already starting to arrange their marriages—they are 16. While under the age that we usually allow, it was decided to make space for them. Both of these teenage girls have given their lives to Christ, a decision that alienates them from their witch doctor fathers.
Please do keep the program and students in your prayers. Especially pray for those who are new in their faith, that they would continue to grow deeper. Pray also that God would give perseverance and comprehension to those who find the classes difficult.