They pooled their resources to buy a graveyard.
Pastor Fareed Assad was secluded in an underground room with ten members of his leadership team when he issued this ominous invitation:
“ISIS is overtaking our region,” he said. “God may be calling some of you to flee and some of you to stay. Take a week to pray and fast. If God calls you to stay, come back to this location one week from today.”
By some estimates, half the population in Syria is homeless. Nearly 11 million families have had their dwellings, their jobs, and their hope of a future decimated by civil war entering its sixth year. It’s a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions.
In the middle of that desolation was Pastor Assad. God’s calling on his life was clear – to share the hope of Christ with the hopeless in the ruins of a city still bombed dozens of times a day.
What wasn’t clear was whether or not he would have to serve alone. Of his 10 Christian brothers, Fareed hoped God would lead one or two to stand with him.
When Fareed returned to the underground church the next week, all 10 of his leaders were there … and they had recruited 15 other Muslim converts to Christ to join them.
They told Fareed, “We’re staying. We believe Jesus is the answer for Syria.”
In North America and Europe, Christians have only suffered the tip of the spear of religious persecution. But in the Middle East, following Christ is literally a life-and-death decision.
Fareed and his Christian brothers not only risked being killed, but their Muslim countrymen would refuse to bury them. So Fareed’s small group pooled what few resources they had to buy land that would serve as a cemetery. That way, they could bury each other if they died for Jesus.
Most of us in the Western world can’t relate to the suffering of people like Pastor Fareed. We don’t really understand what it’s like to risk everything for our faith.
Nov. 6 marks the 20th anniversary of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. On our radio program today, we’ll pull back the veil on what living for Christ means for millions of Christians around the world.
Our persecuted brothers and sisters have a lot to teach us about sacrificing everything to serve Christ. Imagine if the risk you faced each day led you to update family and friends the way Pastor Assad does: “Good news: Our graveyard is still empty.”
Join us today for “Living and Dying as a Witness for Christ.” Our guest is Tom Doyle, the vice president and Middle East Director for E3 Partners, a global church-planting ministry. Also on our program is Sami Yacoub, the Middle East Regional Director for Focus on the Family, and Remon Shohdy, the Middle East Executive Manager for Focus on the Family.