Yolande Springveldt represented Gateway News at the 50th anniversary celebration of Open Doors Southern Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday. She shares her impressions of the event
Across the globe people have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in some way or another. States of emergency have been declared in various nations, death tolls are rising and financial hardship across borders is a reality and its impact has been devastating for the most part however it has accentuated the Christian faith like never before.
Christians in all nations have been united in seeking the face of the Lord. Some, out of reverence and an awareness of our dependence on a sovereign God, others out of sheer desperation and hopelessness. Whatever the reason for this “turning back” it leaves one wondering whether our seeking after the Lord’s presence and His steadfast love for us would have taken on similar measures had it not been for Covid-19?
What is apparent is that when our very existence is threatened and the future is uncertain we look for some form of security to draw from and for Christians our assurance is found in a faithful God. Consequently we pursue His will above all else and follow hard after Jesus despite the world and it brings a boldness to living out our faith despite worldly opposition.
At this juncture you might wonder where all of this going? I had the privilege, this past weekend of attending the 50th Birthday Celebration of Open Doors Southern Africa. What a humbling experience it was. Unlike other milestone celebrations, this was not one of pomp and fanfare. It was a celebration of lifegiving hope. The hope that Open Doors Southern Africa has brought to the persecuted church over the past 50 years.
Open Doors SA was established in May of 1971 with a handful of faithful members who aimed to strengthen the persecuted church worldwide. From humble beginnings they have, to date, reached more than 5 million Christians in over 60 countries worldwide, many of which are war torn. These nations stretch from our neighbours in Mozambique to East Africa and as far as central Asia with some of these jurisdictions subjected to extreme persecution of followers of the Christian Faith. The persecuted church is strengthened in practical ways through the provision of Bibles, literature, leadership training as well as socio-economic development and prayer. On the home front, Christians are educated and mobilised to identify with the persecuted church and assist them in advancing the Kingdom.
In light of the background, the celebration saw followers of Christ come together to honour the faithfulness and grace of our Father as manifest through His Word. The men and women who are fighting on the frontlines of this war depend on the support and assistance of Open Doors SA. Theirs is not a war to gain recognition or advance world systems, it is one of taking territory, faith and the souls of our brothers and sisters who share our faith yet lack our freedom to exercise theirs. Open Doors SA has over the past 50 years, through donations and sponsorships been able to come alongside and journey with these men, women and children who face fierce opposition daily, on account of their faith.
First-hand accounts of God’s goodness, His grace, His love and His faithfulness was the recurring theme. I saw the persecuted church through the eyes of humble Christian warriors, men and women who give not of themselves but rather give themselves to those who live a Christian life in a constant state of emergency. Their uncertainties reach far beyond unemployment and financial hardship, theirs is an uncertainty of whether tomorrow they would see the sun rise.
They boldly follow Jesus knowing that the very act of following Christ could cost them their lives, and worse still the lives of their children — yet they remain faithful. They constantly seek to go deeper after God and to live for Him with absolute abandon. They have no need for a global pandemic to convince them of the Lord’s faithfulness or His love for them or the fact that His grace is all sufficient when we are in His will. Their daily lives bear testimony to the majesty and greatness of the God that we serve and although staring down the barrel of a semi-automatic weapon is at times almost as certain to them as the dawn of a new day, they remain unwavering and steadfast.
To what end you might ask? To the end … .
“Who can preach the Gospel of Christ?” “Anyone who is not afraid to die.”
This sobering quote shared at Saturday’s celebration event was but one account of the commitment of a persecuted follower of Christ. Weighted words that have changed my life forever and fostered a renewed commitment to come alongside those who advance the Kingdom where they face persecution.
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