It is November! Many have commented how quickly this year went by. Another one asked in jest if we could go back and restart from 2020 so that all that we couldn’t do could be given a chance again. With most borders opened and activities returning to normal, there is a lot of planning for the year-end. It is also the holiday season and so a lot of people are making plans to reconnect with loved ones and travel around the world.
In the west, it is thanksgiving season while locally, it is school holiday season. We had our own 30th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service on the 5th of November and we are indeed thankful to the Lord for seeing us through the years. We have heard many people share their gratitude and prayers for our church. As a church, we are now preparing for the Christmas season through different ministries, outreach events and service of Lessons and Carols. Soon, it will be Christmas.
It is also the time to plan for next year- a time to reflect how the year went by and re-evaluate our priorities. Some might have already started making New Year resolutions for next year! And then there are things we need to deal with in our respective homes, in the lives of our children and in our own lives as well. So many things are competing for our time and attention and in the midst of so much busyness and planning, it is easy to forget about others.
Interestingly in November, Christians around the world pray for other believers who are persecuted for their faith. This is done in conjunction with International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Many believers around the world are in prison, face violence, arson, kidnapping, restrictions and treated poorly as a result of their faith. Many are not reported, and they find no avenue to share their plight.
We have had the opportunity to hear about some from our own mission workers who have first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground. We have heard from our brothers and sisters who are involved with Starfish Asia about the plight of believers in Pakistan. We have also heard about the greater challenges and serious persecution faced by the believers in China. Many have chosen to leave the country as a result of the changes made by the government. Those who choose to stay behind face tremendous pressure and challenges. In the last few years, the Indian government also clamped down on all mission works in India. Many agencies couldn’t receive funds from overseas and as a result, many children dropped out of mission schools, orphanages and they were sent back to other religious groups. At the end of the day, poor people will go to the hand that can feed them. And then there are stories of how churches are burnt down, pastors beaten to death, families tortured, movements restricted, children kidnapped… and the list goes on. These are just some examples of how other believers are suffering around the world.
As we think about our suffering brothers and sisters around the world, there are a few things we can do. We can be involved by going to such places as the Lord calls us. If we are not called to go, we can give generously so that the work of God can continue. Yet not all are called to go and not all will have the capacity to give. But we can all pray.
God has already blest us so much in the comfort and safety of Singapore. We continue to give thanks to God for the peace and harmony that we have and the freedom to worship God. But God would also want us to consider the plight of others who are suffering. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us how to pray. It makes us aware of the fact that we live in a world that is bigger than our own private worlds- our home, our church, our lives. We are pointed to a larger God who cares for us all. In Matthew 6:9, the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray begins with the word “Our Father”. God is our Father, not just my father. We are all His children. M.W Gass said, “I cannot say Our, if I live in a watertight spiritual compartment; if I think a special place in heaven is reserved for my denomination”.
According to Open Doors’ 2022 Watchlist, every day 13 Christians are killed for the faith worldwide; 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked, and 12 Christians are unjustly imprisoned and another abducted. Just because none of these things happen to us does not mean we cannot do anything about it. We can pray for them.
If you are not sure how and where to begin, you can contact our mission workers in the church to find out how you can pray for such persecuted people. You can also reach out to those whom God has brought to our doorstep – the foreigners in our midst. Festive seasons are the best time to invite them to your homes and learn about them, their culture, and their needs. Then you can pray specifically about the challenges they and their countries go through. We have different nationalities worshipping in our midst. We have people from Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Brazil, Kazakhstan, US, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia etc. Yes, the Lord has brought them to us. The least we can do is to get to know them and pray for one another.
Even as we go about our lives, winding down the year and preparing to celebrate Christmas, let us continue to remain grateful and thankful to God. And as we reflect of God’s goodness, let us remember our suffering brothers and sisters around the world that they might rejoice like Paul in Philippians 4:10, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.” May we seize the opportunity to do what we can as the Lord enables us.