one of the many wonderful perks about living in an international-city environment, is the exposure to people from all over the world. i wouldn't have singled that out as a reason for moving back to this area 6 years ago, but i've been deeply blessed to have my worldview expanded and educated by the individuals i've encountered who initially seem so foreign to me.
with that said, we have some very close friends who we met through our church four years ago, who opened their home (6 weeks ago) to two foreign exchange students who have come to America to learn English. it was, and is, an exciting undertaking and it has proven to be an adventure for everybody involved!
the students are actually two Muslim teenagers from Saudi Arabia who we had the privilege of meeting over dinner at our friend's house last week.
if you know these friends of ours (and you may!), you would be aware that they are driven from a mission-based desire to share the Gospel, to intentionally open their lives and home with others for the purpose of sharing Christ with others. so you can imagine the interesting conversations that have transpired with their two young foreign exchange students.
have i mentioned how kind, gracious, sweet and friendly these teenagers are?
we walked into the house and despite only 3 months of English exposure, they attempted to have an hour long conversation with us and we were astonished by their English! and you can only imagine the sorts of questions my husband attempted to have them answer. it was enlightening and amazing. two kids from across the globe having dinner with us, discuss the intricacies of the Muslim religion and traditions, how they skype with their parents 3 times a day, how the religious unrest impacts their lives, how they want to learn English, and of course, their thoughts on America in general and opinions about our past and current Presidents. :)
they helped isaac with his new puzzles, blocked him from accidentally falling off the couch, watched Veggie Tales with him and took up residence in our hearts, as well as our friend's home.
as you're probably aware, the epi-center of the Muslim religion is located in their country. as the nerve center of this massive world-wide religion, Christianity is not tolerated. Christianity, from what has been personally relayed is in direct opposition to what they believe is true and is punishable by death. i was fascinated that all of us could sit around a living room and openly discuss these opposing beliefs, wholeheartedly associate with one religion or the other, and find a way to peacefully live under one roof. without fear...
the conversations have progressed and grown lengthier and more transparent. our friends have opened the Bible to them, shown them the story of Christ, explained redemptive salvation and answered the questions they may have. these teens are equally engaged in having the conversations and it's been a real blessing to watch this story unfold.
i have been secretly hopeful and prayerful to see them convert...optimistic that they would recognize peace vs war, Truth vs lies, confident hope vs uncertainty. we've checked in with our friends, we've seen the teens on more than one occasion and we've all been excited about this situation.
our friends came over last night and updated us on a new conversation that unfolded this past week.
the boys confessed that their acceptance of Christianity, if they ever were to truly consider it, would mean certain death for them.
these sweet boys would face being disowned and forsaken by their families...the families with whom they video-conference multiple times a day.
they would have a target on their heads and undoubtedly be martyred within three days of returning home this summer and confessing Christianity.
for some reason...i had forgotten, momentarily, about the earthly price they would pay to accept the Bible's invitation to salvation. my heart sank. i choked back tears. i looked at my husband, "i think this is the first time i've known somebody personally who would have to suffer bodily death as a penance for accepting what i'm privileged to embrace freely in America."
it's haunted me for two days now.
they're teenagers from wealthy Saudi families who are being afforded the opportunity to travel and expand their education and who now recognize the tragic social implications of following God and His Word.
how does the same, perfect God make it so straight-forward and painless for me to accept salvation...and yet permit such seemingly insurmountable circumstances into the lives of those in this situation who choose the same thing?
with the set of options they have to choose from, i can't even imagine the mental anguish and difficult process they can possibly face.
yet, history is full of people who have chosen Christ over their next breath.
to lose everything, even life itself, for the sake of salvation. it's a black and white fact of life for them. no exceptions.
stop for a second and imagine whatever your set of circumstances may be. the convictions you hold. the beliefs you have that bolster your way of life. the very core of who you are.
...and then imagine having to die for it.
would it hold up under that kind of weight?
do you believe in it so much that you would trade your life for it?
...or would it fall by the wayside because it was not something that could be conformed to fit within the limited and sinful and fallen constraints of this world?
what exactly is it that you worship? we all worship something...
some of us worship our position as mothers, our ability to travel, maybe we worship our ease of life, or being in an upper-income society. worship is simply a descriptor for the behavior we exhibit toward whatever it is that takes the most residence in our hearts. what is top priority in your heart? will it undergird you through the valleys of life? ...and will it carry you past the day you die and into all of eternity?
i am so humbled by the ease i experience when choosing Christ. i am moved beyond words to befriend those who do not ever have the hope of sharing in the same ease.
I Timothy 3:10-12
"You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life,
my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me...
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted."
"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his life...?"
i shouldn't be so shocked by this since it's written everywhere in Scripture that Christians will suffer persecution.
it's just by sheer grace and blessing that American Christians have not, yet...
i pray i find myself unable to deny my faith...even in the face of certain death.
and i pray for the persecuted church all around the world, even now, having full confidence that every death will produce eternal glory...
"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death..."
-- C.S. Lewis