Stay or leave? That looks like a straightforward question with two possible answers. In most situations, the question does not appear too complicated. However, the stakes go up considerably if your life hangs in the balance of your answer.
In Central Asia, I have met many people who faced this question. Three stories with three different outcomes come to mind.
- Story 1: A young pastor was told if he preached the gospel one more time in his village, he would be killed. That very night he sent his wife and children away. He brought his case to the village counsel, but his point of view only enflamed the people against him. The threat was repeated in front of all those gathered. The pastor carefully weighed out his options and chose to leave this village and find ministry elsewhere.
- Story 2: A pastor was told to leave town or he would regret staying. He chose not to leave. He was awakened early one Saturday morning by an angry mob surrounding his house. They tore the gates off the hinges, stormed into his courtyard, entered his home, and beat the pastor severely, leaving him with a broken arm and contusions. In spite of this severe opposition and continued threats, he and his family chose to return to the same village after his recovery and continue serving there.
- Story 3: A man in prison heard the gospel. He was greatly moved by the message and became a true Christ-follower. Later, he pastored a church in a town with 33 registered mosques and one evangelical church. Threatened many times, he was told to cease preaching in that town. Undaunted by the threats of unbelievers, he happily shared his faith with many people. Each night he sat in his living room, which also served as the gathering place for the believers, for his quiet time. On one such night, several shots shattered the windows of his home and three bullets found their target. He dropped to the floor and soon died.
Now, the question is, which of these three did God’s will? Thousands upon thousands of believers around the world live in constant danger. Let’s lift them up in prayer, asking God to give courage and strength each day to face the opposition Satan hurls at them. Pray, as they live in this challenging environment, they will be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”