Hannah Grace excited about the retreat and a bit nervous
After a happy and delightful ride with Hannah Grace to Camp Victory and getting her settled in, I went to a Voice of the Martyrs conference at Rocky Bayou Baptist Church in Niceville, FL. The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. Their website is www.persecution.com. Once again, this is kind of a cheat. I've been to VOM conference once before. I've never been to Rocky Bayou Baptist Church before. I've been to lots of Baptist churches though, so that's kind of a cheat as well. And I drove through Mossy Head, Florida on the way which I don't remember doing before. Just driving through a town really can't qualify as a "first." Hey, wait a silly minute. This is my blog. I can sum all of those up and count it as a "first." Maybe the blog police won't find out.
I've never seen a huge dog sit in a corvette all day while the owners attended a VOM Conference before. That was pretty cool and is a "first." Every time I went outside, he was sitting in the corvette.
The conference was very challenging and inspiring. I heard stories of our Christian brothers and sisters who are remaining faithful to Christ despite horrific persecution. One guy told about visiting a church in Pakistan where on top of the church where there is usually a cross, this church had a metal rooster. He thought that was odd (I think I would have as well). He asked about the reason they had a rooster on top of the church. No, it was not because their pastor loved fried chicken. They did that to remind them that when Peter denied Christ 3 times, the rooster crowed. They put that metal rooster up there to remind themselves to never deny Christ. Wow!
I also had the opportunity to hear Gracia Burnham. While she and her husband (Martin) were missionaries in the Philippines, they were kidnapped. They were held captive for 376 days in 2001-2002. The captivity ended in a gun fight with the authorities where she was wounded and her husband was killed. She lived through 16 gun battles during that captivity. What a real privilege it is to sit in the same room with her and listen to her speak. You may remember hearing about her and her husband on the news back in those days. She's written a book about her experience titled "In the Presence of My Enemies."
I also had the opportunity to hear a Chinese Pastor speak while his daughter Lily translated. That was really sweet. His name is Pastor Shi Weihan but he goes by Jonathan Stone in the States. He was in the publishing business when he gave his life to Christ. He eventually was able to print over a million Bibles and several million other Christian books. He was sent to prison for this. If I remember correctly, he served about 3 very tough years in a Chinese prison. Because of their lack of hospitality, he now lives in Texas. It was tough to hear him talk about how his family missed him while he was imprisoned and his daughter was the one translating for him. It was really cute when they talked about the 2 daughters waiting until he got out of prison so he could baptize them (he served as a pastor as well as working in publishing). When they were talking about it, she exclaimed, "That was on February 10th, the anniversary is Monday." She seemed so excited about that. We all clapped. Actually, we clapped for them several times and then gave them a standing ovation at the end. I felt like maybe I should wash their feet or something. That probably would have just turned out weird, but I just felt like I needed to say "you guys have really stayed faithful to Christ in hard times and I haven't" in some kind of demonstrable fashion.
Instead of washing feet, I asked if I could have my picture taken with them. So, here are a couple of Christians that have remained faithful in persecution and one that has had it really easy. I'm pretty sure I've never had my picture taken with a guy that has been imprisoned for 3 years for being a believer.
As I total up the day, there were some really good "firsts" in there somewhere.
Seeing the abundant life in a different way,
3 things I thank God for today
1. Hannah Grace enjoys Camp Victory
2. Meeting Pastor Shi and Lily- she really was too cute while translating for her Daddy
3. Voice of the Martyrs ministry