By: Catherine Finch- IMB
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series on global persecution, leading churches to pray for the persecuted church.
Raymond*, a church planter and pastor, went to jail for sharing his faith in 2008, and now faces the possibility of more time in jail.
In Raymond’s country it is not illegal to be a Christian, but it is illegal to make a person question the main religion of the country and to own more than one Bible. Believers who preach the gospel in Raymond’s country must show discernment as they share because someone could report them if they feel offended or upset by hearing the gospel.
Additionally, Christian churches are legal, but the local government has forced many churches to close their doors permanently in the last several years. According to IMB workers familiar with the country, the government will find any excuse to say that a Christian church is violating an ordinance or law and then demand that the church close. While places of worship for other religions are reopening as the spread of COVID-19 slows, many Christian churches remain closed due to legislation and mandates that do not apply to other religious institutions.
Raymond was arrested again in 2017 when police found Christian materials he intended to distribute. Raymond and his friend were brought in for questioning, held for a couple of days and then released.
Now Raymond’s case from 2017 has been brought to the attention of authorities, again. Earlier this year he was brought before the local police, taken to jail and then released on house arrest. Soon he will face another prosecution and potential imprisonment.
Raymond’s story is one of many from his country. One of his close friends, Harold*, was prosecuted for expressing his faith online. However, Harold was not provided a lawyer when he was prosecuted. He was put in jail for five years.
While Harold serves his sentence in jail, his wife and three young children are living in a city that provides a place of refuge for church members whose family members are in jail. Harold’s seven-year-old son was turned away from the local school in the city because the teacher told him “your father is a Christian.”
Yet another family in Raymond’s church is facing persecution, not from authorities but from the local community. The father of the family works in construction and should have plenty of work from constant construction needs in their country. However, this believer continually loses his job as soon as his coworkers and boss find out he is a believer. Now this family lives in a garage and may soon be kicked out because of their faith.
Despite many of the members of their churches facing either persecution in jail or persecution from their families and communities, an IMB worker who knows Raymond said, “They are not discouraged.”
These faithful brothers and sisters press on in sharing the gospel and find encouragement in the steady faith of leaders like Raymond and Harold. While the government may not allow Raymond’s church to meet in buildings because of COVID and restrictions on Christian churches, the church continues to encourage one another in spite of ongoing persecution.
For more resources on how to pray for the persecuted church, visit imb.org/persecuted.
Ways to pray for the church in this area:
- Pray Raymond receives a fair trial and is not thrown in jail.
- Pray Raymond’s church and his family find strength and hope in the Lord if Raymond is put in jail and do not feel isolated or discouraged.
- Pray for Christian church leaders and members to remain steadfast and unified in sharing the good news, despite persecution.
*Names changed for security
Catherine Finch is a writer for IMB.
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