It is easy to get wrapped up in our own lives this time of year. The holiday gifts, traveling, visiting family, and time off from work. But something beautiful is brewing behind the shadows. What will it take for us to look up from ourselves to see what God is up to?
Earlier this semester I met a student who grew up in a country with limited Gospel access. As she and I became good friends, I had the opportunity to share my faith with her. I did not see it at first, but something was going on. Her eyes lit up every time we talked about Jesus, but I was not sure what it was. I hoped she would come to know Jesus as I have!
There are very few people in her people group or country that know Jesus, so it was an easy assumption to believe she did not. Yet she was always so excited to speak of Jesus as if she knew Him. I thought she was a Hindu because of a small altar that is in her and her friend’s apartment.
She eventually shared a secret with me that explained everything. She was a secret Christ follower!
Several years before coming to America, she and two family members were saved and baptized after witnessing a miracle from the one true God. What I did not see before was something sweet as we shared sisterhood in Christ and quickly started to walk together. After many Bible studies, long talks in my car, and visits to church she began to feel convicted about hiding her faith from those around her in Arkansas. Her father is very hostile to the Gospel, and he to this day does not know about her and her family member’s faith in Jesus.
She had spent her whole Christ-following life in the shadows. She now desired people would know that she is, “in the hands of God.” One Sunday morning, she told me of her desire, and she walked with me around our church, and she started telling people about her faith. It was such a beautiful step of obedience. The heaviness of the secret was lifted, and she could now walk in a community that encourages her and walks with her, even living under her father’s oppression.
I was so proud of her and excited about what God was doing. The next week she did something very unexpected. She spoke with the pastor and gave her entire testimony to the congregation following the service. Watching as people began to see how difficult following Christ is for so many people and cultures was incredible. There was not a dry eye in the entire sanctuary. God used her to show people that there is beauty in the shadows.
My prayer for this friend is that she will continue to embrace and share her faith with the people around her and possibly even in her people group someday and that God will change the heart of her earthly father.
There are countless persecuted Christians around our world, and it is an unexpected blessing to have the opportunity to walk alongside someone who is forced to hide her faith for fear of harm to her family. She is a reminder that it is worth it to follow Christ. No matter the cost, He is all we need.
International student ministry is something that affects the whole world. I may never have the opportunity to go and comfort the persecuted Christians in this country, but I do have the opportunity to love and walk alongside of the ones who have come here for their studies. God uses these relationships to change people and draw people to Himself here and abroad. The opportunities are there, we need to look up and see how we can help.
This article was written by Bekah Gulledge, international student missionary Baptist Collegiate Ministry associate.