Simulating What it Feels like to be a Persecuted Christian
Every year our Youth Group students (5-12th graders) fast for 15 hours in order to raise money for a global cause. Each year has looked different from the year before…and they’ve actually morphed into simulations in order to better understand global problems. In year’s past we’ve raised money for Syrian Refugee children, those living without basic necessities like food, clean water, adequate healthcare, shoes, etc. This year our cause was a little different, and more close to home. Our students were fasting and simulating for 15 hours in order to raise money for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted around the world because of their belief in Jesus.
This isn’t spoken of a lot, but it has been more prevalent in news media, such as the Sri Lankan Easter attacks, Nigerian killings and more. The truth is, Christians are the number one most persecuted religious group in the world, amounting to 245 million people who experience high levels of persecution. To think that people who believe in the same things we believe in are harassed/persecuted because of it is unfathomable. Worldwide, 1 in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution mostly in countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Our students learned all this information. They learned the different forms of persecution, how we can pray for our brothers and sisters and what it means for us in the Western World.
11 students entered through our doors on Friday, May 17th not knowing really what the night would entail. Some received insider information that they would have to sleep in a tent outside, and correct they were. But the night encompassed way more than just sleeping in a tent in 50 degree weather. It involved a night in which we were tested, a night where our worldview was attacked. We did this by learning facts about persecution, such as the various types of persecution, how often and frequent the Bible talks about persecution and how sacrifice is a huge part of our faith. It was amazing to learn all of these things. Things that have been happening for decades, right under our nose…and we just hadn’t noticed. But now we know and our group is forever changed because of it.
Of course we also had time to play really fun games, like “Hunt the Ring” and “Manhunt.” We utilized the fire pit and benches that Josh Cribbem, one of our Eagle Scouts just finished building. We sat around the campfire and each identified what our favorite/not so favorite (high/low) moment of the day was. While it was still lite out we worked together to pitch five tents that we’d sleep in that night.
Around 12:00 am we put our layers on and got tucked into our tents. The air was crisp and got progressively got colder as the night went on. It was hard to sleep throughout the night. We could only imagine what our persecuted family members might feel like in refugee tents in the middle of winter. It was hard. Morning came around 5:00 am when the sun rose and the birds started singing. Everyone stirred but didn’t get up until around 7:30 am. Students packed up their things and then made their way into the Chapel for our Worship Service.
We reflected on all that we had learned over the past 15 hours. We learned that when we participate in two of the most common sacraments, baptism and communion, we can and will identify with the whole Body of Christ, including our persecuted family members. And that’s exactly what we did. We served communion to each other, realizing that Jesus in fact endured the worst form of persecution. Giving his life up for us. Taking communion this morning took on a totally new and profound meaning for us.
After the service, we quickly made our way into the Fellowship Hall where we indulged in a delicious french toast casserole breakfast by Larry & Karyn Briggs. It was absolutely amazing! But was even better was to sit around a table together, sharing a meal and reminiscing on the great evening we had with each other.
These Famine’s have a lasting effect on all who participate in them. Memories are seared into the hearts and minds of the attendees. We’re so happy that in this little way we were able to help our families members around the world. Because of the support of our congregation, we were able to donate $635.62 to the Voice of the Martyrs! The money was divided evenly to help support Families of Martyrs, Front Line Ministry Work and to distribute Bibles to Hostile Nations. A special thank you to Richard Bolinder and Jordanna Burroughs for sleeping over and serving alongside our students. You both are amazing!
To view more photos from the Famine, click here.