Jenny Cornfield is the Chair of Trustees for the Sophia Network. For the last eight years she has worked for Open Doors, the Christian Charity that supports the persecuted church. Jenny lives in Edinburgh with her husband and their three children.
It was the last Sunday for the ministry of this Pastor in the church. I am sorry not to be able to share with you his name.
Unbeknown to his entire congregation the authorities had become suspicious of his ‘underground’ activities and they had told him that they were moving him to a desk job and taking him away from leading a church. He was not allowed to tell his church that his next job was to be sat at a desk and that he had been forced to leave them – rather he had to paint a bright picture of how the Lord was moving him on to other things.
In front of the whole church he knelt down. With tears running down his face he asked his church to forgive him if he had ever hurt anyone or done anything to offend. He went on to preach the most gracious sermon I have ever heard. He talked of God’s timing always being right and good. In God’s timing everything would be perfect. That although this was his last Sunday that he would be with them as their pastor he wanted to thank God for the time that he had given him there. ‘I know that his timing is good,’ he said. He warned the congregation that Satan tries to destroy God’s timing and tempt us to use our time for things that aren’t of God. He talked of the importance of the time that is set aside for us on a Sunday to worship God. That nothing should come between us and this time of worship. That worship was a spiritual exercise that we should practice. He exhorted the church that before Jesus returns – while we still have time in this world – let’s use it to worship, to pray, to tell others about God. Let’s determine to serve him as long as we are in this world.
Again, unbeknown to his congregation, he and his wife had been threatened that week that he was running the risk of arrest.
I had been told that he was one of the most influential Christians in his country. He and his wife were known for their godliness. That service was one of those ‘holy ground’ moments. In front of an unknowing church and probably in front of government officials who were there to make sure that he obeyed their instructions, he declared that no matter what – he would live for Jesus as long as he was in the world. Nothing was going to stop him.
A small group of us had the privilege of going out for a meal in a hotel with this man and his family. His daughters had brought a guitar with them to the hotel and they asked us if they could sing to us. While the whole restaurant looked on the girls sang songs of praise to God.
This was happening in a hotel in a country where Christianity is hated. Where Christians are literally hunted down and often imprisoned and even killed. The girls sang and as their parents listened they closed their eyes and lifted their hands to God. The restaurant was silent and watching. All that mattered to this family was God. His presence and their desire to worship Him permeated their lives. Those of us who sat and watched knew that we were on holy ground. For when you are in the presence of those who know what it is to surrender their entire lives – at whatever cost – to Jesus, you cannot help but sense the very presence of Him who surrendered his life for us all.