September 29, 2015
Sit By the Gate and Watch
Post by Martin Li
In a remote region in Laos, a plot of rainforest land owned by local Christian farmers remained uncultivated, as they were unable to afford the equipment necessary to develop it. The farmers did what they could to earn a living, but the Buddhists who dominate the area didn't make it easy for them. In fact, many farmers were badly persecuted for sharing their faith.
A few years ago, however, everything changed—starting with a tractor and a bag of seeds, provided by Christian Aid Mission.
The leader of an indigenous ministry in Laos recently visited our office to tell us what our support had produced in the hands of those farmers.
They'd used the tractor to plow their land and cultivate crops, which eventually earned them a comfortable living.
But envy began to spread.
One day, while the believers gathered to worship the Lord, hostile Buddhist neighbors and local police surrounded their church.
Expecting to be arrested and thrown into prison, the believers became fearful. Yet the pastor led them to continue worshipping God and lifting up prayers for protection.
An hour later, when the worship ended, the congregants cautiously opened the doors to find all of their enemies had gone. The following day, some of their Buddhist neighbors asked if they might be able to invest in the agricultural project.
The Christians gladly accepted all requests, and increasing amounts of land were designated for cultivation. The standard of living improved for many of the locals.
When word reached the governor, he called a community meeting to reward the good deeds of the local farmers. Their pastor was invited to represent them—the first time in local history for a Christian to attend such a government-level meeting.
"He is a Christian, and has no right to attend such a meeting with us!" screamed one district official.
The governor's response was a game-changer: "Shut up! He represents Jesus, and is good to our people."
The ministry leader shared with us that more than 300 churches were planted in that region due to the faithfulness of those local believers.
Not quite, actually. You see, all of those churches and all of that success drew the attention of 15 different missionary agencies from the West. They wanted to partner with these Laotian locals. Many of them sent foreign missionaries who stayed with the locals and attempted to train church leaders.
All of it was very costly, and ultimately drew the attention of the government, which became alarmed by the infiltration of foreigners into their country. They suspected the foreigners of being spies, sent to overthrow their nation.
Locals began rejecting the foreign workers, refusing to associate with what looked to them like a foreign religion.
"They got into mud with us," the ministry leader said, "which really messed up the local ministries. We had to stop such partnerships as it is not good for us or for them."
He illustrated his point with the biblical account of Esther. A great deal of Esther's story, he told us, is about Mordecai, her cousin.
After Esther became queen, Mordecai sat by the gate of the kingdom. Though he couldn't enter the inner court, he was an invaluable resource for Esther.
Christian Aid Mission has played the role of Mordecai for more than 60 years—assisting "Esthers" working in the "inner courts," or native missionaries working on the frontlines. We sit by the gate and watch, mobilizing God's people to pray for and give to those on the frontlines.
"The role of the person standing at the gate is a very important role," the ministry leader said. "If you are in prison, you are no good to us. Let us go to prison. Stay alive! Stay well! When we are hungry, give us food. When we are in prison, call out to God in prayer. Do your role and we'll do ours."