Rosie Zakes, Seminary Student
This year, I met some of my family whom I’d never known before.
I met my brothers and sisters in Christ who have been persecuted out of their own country in the Southeast Asia and have settled in Bangkok, Thailand. I think we all know that persecution exists. We’ve all heard of Christians whose homes have been burned to the ground or whose family members have been killed because of what they believe and told others about Jesus who saves.
But this summer I got to know them personally. Their stories changed me. I met a family of five who live in a one-room apartment that’s smaller than my own bedroom. They fled their own country in fear for their lives and arrived in Bangkok trying to get refugee status, but never actually attained it. Their visas and passports have now expired, and they earn next to nothing. Getting out of Thailand and into a country that will accept them as refugees has become extremely difficult.
These brothers and sisters asked my hosts and I to visit one of their friends who did the same thing as them. Robert (name changed) and his family went to Thailand trying to get help and ended up overstaying their visas, too. Robert got caught for being in Bangkok illegally, and now he lives in an immigrant detention center (read, prison). He’s separated from his family, doesn’t get enough food in the detention center, and lives in a cell so crowded that the detainees must take turns sleeping. I went to visit him there, and I think it will be a long time before I forget what he told me.
"Thank you for coming. You’re obeying Jesus’ command to visit those who are sick and in prison…Your assignment from God is to be in Thailand, mine is to be in prison here… God has big plans for you, so keep serving him and doing what He wants… Give him your life."
When I asked Robert how I could pray for him, I expected him to request prayer that the UN would resettle him soon, or that he would be reunited with his family, or that God would provide for his family’s material needs. Instead, he said something that shook me.
"Pray for me to be able to share the Gospel. Pray for my people to understand the Gospel and turn to Christ."
God has allowed people to take away nearly everything Robert has ever owned because of his commitment to the Gospel, but he is one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met (Actually he and another man who’d been imprisoned as a Christian in the Middle East are the two at the top of my list). His commitment to Christ and his passion for telling people about Jesus regardless of his circumstances is overwhelming.
This summer, I came away from my time with my newfound family members with a renewed sense of the urgency of the Gospel. The Gospel is so important to these refugees I met that they are willing to give up everything to be able to share it. The Gospel is worth it.
1 Peter 1:14-18 says, “Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct … Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers.”
Christians live in exile. None of us get to live in our home country of heaven yet, but some Christians are reminded of their exile in a much more tangible way than others. Robert is one of them. But God has called all of us to renounce “passions of our former ignorance” and the “futile ways inherited from our forefathers” while we live in exile. We’re supposed to renounce sin. This summer I learned from my brothers and sisters in exile that the Gospel is worth renouncing sin for. The Gospel is worth giving everything for.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.