May 27, 2014

The Fight for Freedom

By Joan Hutter

The men clanged on the black prison bars like taunting applause, like clattering cans and clashing clamor.

I kept walking. I wore a skirt suit and heels and carried my tiny tape recorder, pen in hand, notebook ready. My soles echoed, despite the noise, and I smiled my way through the thick smell of stale sweat.

Some men whistled, as when a woman walks past certain worker zones. But I didn´t care.

In Christ, I had no fear.

Then my heart broke as I came to the room where I would interview a prisoner for a feature article for the newspaper I was representing.

He confessed guilt for horrific crimes, and I saw the sorrow in his eyes. Tears spilled as He shared his heart. He said he deserved to die, but he had met the Author of Life. And that changed everything.

Somehow, he tasted freedom. Whoever ministered to that man bore eternal fruit.

Today I am writing for a different “news” source. At Christian Aid Mission I have the deep privilege of reading letters filled with testimonies from the field, from those all over the earth who are spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and bringing people into freedom.

They minister to addicts, murderers, and thieves in prison ministries. In Latin American nations, ministries plant churches behind bars. Many who meet the Lord in prison become gospel preachers when they are set free.

In one African nation, a woman stole a can of beans and was thrown into a prison pit like a wild dog to scrap for murky water and – what food? I read a testimony of a minister who visited and saw men and women crammed into a cell with no bed, no bathroom, no water, and no food. He found this woman who had stolen from her neighbor because her children were starving. Now what for them?

This is a type of death row.

And many go to prison for their faith. Courageous and fruitful indigenous pastors and missionaries boldly share the gospel in closed countries, despite the promise of persecution, imprisonment, or execution. Many end up in prison. Some for the rest of their lives. Others for a few years.

They come out with an intimacy with the Lord Jesus that is only instilled through Gethsemane nights in the valley of the shadow of death.

But they know. They believe. Those valleys are only shadows.

“O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

I heard a testimony of ministers in a closed country whose prison experience looks like the book of Acts. Not that the doors flung open. But they would sing from cell to cell until every prisoner was singing. The guards separated them but they just kept singing in the night. And many came to faith.

In the former Soviet Union 30 years ago, people served time if they had even a page of scripture in their possession.

Another man preached the gospel to every prisoner until more than a dozen tribes had heard and believed on the Name of Jesus. The guards were so threatened that they threw him into solitary confinement, a wreaking dungeon black as the deepest cave; tight as a coffin practically, with no way to stretch out or stand up.

Do you know what that man did?

What do you do in a tight spot where you are stuck in your own mess?

He sang. Despite near starvation and death by stench, he survived supernaturally as He worshiped the Lord.

Prem Pradhan

This was Prem Pradhan of Nepal. Not only did he win men from many tribes there behind bars in a type of “prison ministry,” but he planted a witness for the Lord in village after village and took in 100 orphans to raise in the presence of the Lord when he was freed. Brought up as Christians, they would not have to go to prison for changing their religion.

Christ followers have suffered all over the world. Chinese believers endured harsh imprisonments that lasted decades under communism. But Dorothy Sun, who served 20 years in prison work camps for her faith, said God triumphed by making the underground churches, and her faith, stronger. God brought beauty for ashes.

Prisons in other countries are nothing like the ones here. But we can make a prison for ourselves. There is an enemy of the gospel, and he wants not only to put frontline godly missionaries behind bars, or stop them in their tracks for lack of supplies . . . but also to stop you from living powerfully for Him where you are and keep you from a life of steadfast prayer.

Sing your way through this. The gates will open. Our Lord is victorious.

The man serving life in prison received the Lord Jesus when someone shared the gospel.

And for the gospel man who was left to rot and die in solitary confinement, the Lord used to win many tribes in Nepal.

Which are you like?

Jesus came to set the captives free. He is doing this through His faithful servants.

They fight for freedom.

They have testified.

They count their lives worth nothing, if they can gain Christ.

“. . . I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

Please pray for freedom to come as Christ is preached among every unreached people group.

Would this happen in our generation?