“You will have to stand trial.” Alim sat in a chair, his hands sweating, as his brother continued, “They will come get you in the morning.”
In the public trial that followed, Alim and another man were forced to answer to the local religious authorities for their belief in Christ. “Tell me, what have we done?” Alim cried out. “Have we stolen from someone? Have we murdered somebody? If we have done wrong, we are willing to be judged, but tell us what we have done.” Much like Christ’s trial 2000 years ago, they were then faced with contradictory charges from false witnesses. Eventually, the man presiding over the trial held up his hand.
“I see no reason to condemn these men. They are moral men. They have faith in God. And they are willing to stand up for their convictions. If anyone stands condemned, it is you who dragged them here and are trying to condemn them with lies.” With that, he dismissed the charges and Alim and his friend went free.
When I met Alim, he was sitting at a cafeteria table at a college campus in North Eurasia eating dolma and sipping tea. He and a few dozen other men and women from various countries in the former Soviet Union had come to hear a few men and women from Pioneer Bible Translators share about Bible translation and mother tongue ministry. Many of them were the only people in their families who knew Christ. Many had faced persecution from relatives and governments. Yet all of them radiated a peace and joy that I find uncommon.
During the week-long conference, they listened intently and asked many questions. They shared out of their hearts and their lives. They discussed the challenges they faced as they sought to reach their communities with the Gospel. They also responded to the challenge that my colleagues and I issued to realize that God has placed them in a position to reach people that we as Americans cannot.
In response to this challenge, they issued a challenge of their own. In different words and different ways, they said, “Come. Serve with us. Help us. Yes, we are here. This is our home. We have no choice but to be here. But we cannot do this alone. Teach us how to be translators. Teach us how to take the Gospel to different cultures. Pray with us in our streets. Live with us in our houses and see what God is doing and join in the work with us. Please do not be like so many others who have not seen us as equal brothers and sisters but have treated us like incapable children….”
I feel like I learned far more than I taught at this conference. But the learning did not stop there for me. I spent the next couple of weeks in another country where my wife and I will soon serve. I was able to meet with brothers and sisters from other agencies to see what God is doing in the area. I heard others sharing things that fell in line with what I had heard at the conference. Though the church is small and persecuted, it is none-theless alive. They are a small but growing flame in a land of darkness. It even seems that the latest challenges they have faced have been serving to unite them and strengthen their resolve to make disciples of every nation. They have already started to raise up and send their own people out across cultural lines, but they are asking for help.