The world has got itself into a dreadful state: the meaningless slaughter of a Japanese hostage by the so called Islamic State, and the gruesome elimination of whole villages by Boko Haram in Nigeria can only increase our feeling of helplessness, such that we could easily be engulfed in a cloud of despair and hopelessness.
For Christians, the burning question must be: where is God in all this? Is he as helpless as we are, or maybe disinterested? However, as bad as the situation might be – and that is undeniable – I have to say that the media are not good at reporting other than disaster and mayhem
I met a Co Armagh man some years ago whom I got to know quite well (I’ll call him George). He told of an occasion when working with Brother Andrew, the now 68-year-old founder of Open Doors. George was tasked with delivering hundreds of Bibles into Iran.
Here’s what he told me: ‘It was almost midnight as I drove along country roads towards the little village in central Iran that was to be my destination. Suddenly the car, with its boot-load of Bibles, spluttered to a standstill. I turned the key again and again, frantically hoping and praying that the engine would start, but it was as dead as a door nail.
‘After sitting there for a minute or two, wondering what on earth I could do, three shadowy figures emerged from the darkness and tapped on my window. I was sure my life was over and gingerly wound down the window, fully expecting a bullet between my eyes.
“Have you got the book?” the tallest of them said in a half-whisper. I was speechless, I just sat there, but he kept repeating in broken English: “Do you have the book? Where is the book?”
‘I still didn’t know what to do, but then one of the men began to explain that they were representatives of a small underground church that was part of a network of such churches all through the land. “We were praying, only last night, pleading for Bibles, and one of our number had a vision in which he was sure that God told him that if he could be at this spot at midnight, somehow God would provide us with Bibles.”’
George began to breathe again, jumped out of the car and opened the boot, and he described how the men’s faces shone with gratitude and delight. They took a supply of the precious books and slipped silently into the night.
George turned the ignition key, the engine sprang into life and he went on his way.
Just today I was told that in Iran, on average 4000 Muslims a week are being baptised as a sign of their commitment to their newfound Christian faith.
As a boy, I was told that God has a specific job for me to do and if I fail, or refuse, it will go undone. These days I’m not sure. If what I have just reported is true – and I trust my sources – it is evidence that God is rolling up his sleeves and doing the job himself that he commissioned the church to do because sadly, it is too busy arguing about women bishops and gay priests. We are living in perilous times and the church needs to wake up.
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