Stories of Faith from the Mission Field
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…
1 Peter 1:6–7
An Introduction from Leslie Ludy
For as long as I can remember, I have been deeply inspired and challenged by stories of Christian missionaries throughout history who risked everything for the sake of the Gospel. I have read and re-read biographies of men and women like Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and Gladys Aylward … and each time I am freshly motivated to go after Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. As I have shared these stories with others, one question I’ve been repeatedly asked is whether there are any modern-day examples of that kind of radical devotion to Jesus Christ. I believe that there are many modern-day Hudson Taylors and Amy Carmichaels out there, living dangerously for Jesus. We just don’t often see them. Their life stories are still being written. And unlike previous generations, Christian biographies are, sadly, not very popular or common anymore. As a result, the experiences and adventures of devoted modern-day Christians often go unheard this side of Heaven.
In this article, we’d like to give you a glimpse into the unseen work of a servant whose givenness to Jesus stands in stark contrast to the mediocrity that is often seen today. Her name is Marli, and she has spent many years ministering to faithful Christians in persecuted countries. It is our hope that this peek into her ministry life will inspire and encourage you — not only to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in persecuted nations, but to boldly stand for Jesus Christ no matter the cost.
About Marli K.
Marli is a longtime friend and guest teacher at Ellerslie Discipleship Training, whose abiding relationship with Jesus Christ is evident through her thoughtful observation and careful study of His Word. While she sensed God’s call on her life to serve Him while still in high school, she never dreamed it would be overseas. In fact, she once begged God not to send her to a foreign field! She is thankful God didn’t answer that prayer, but instead changed her heart — a surrender that proved to be a turning point in her service to the King of kings. Today she continues to rejoice in God’s calling as she serves in Asia helping disciple and train church planters and leaders and their wives, in addition to overseeing an orphanage where she is affectionately called, “Mama.”
Q: Could you share a story of witnessing the power of God in a foreign field and what that impressed upon your heart?
A: Once I was smuggling Bibles and medicine into Iraq when we were stopped and searched at the border. The first thing the soldiers pulled out of the back of our jeep was my bag of medicine. I found myself praying, “Lord, I have prayed much that You would hide that medicine. Why?”
They informed us that it was illegal to bring in medicine and demanded we take the bag to a building about half a block away. Just then a driving cold rain and wind swept down out of a perfectly clear sky. The soldiers pulled their jackets over their heads and rushed into their shack. We threw our luggage back into the jeep and sped right past the building where the soldiers had ordered us to take the luggage and stopped instead at the visa office. By the time we parked and got in line, the wind and rain had stopped. We stood outdoors waiting for several hours under a perfectly calm blue sky.
Once we had visas in hand, we drove toward the bridge to cross into Iraq. Again we were stopped and searched. Again my bag of medicine was the first bag pulled out and opened. Just then the same wind and rain hit fiercely. The border guards shouted that we could go and ran into their building. We threw our bags into the jeep and sped across the bridge into safety. I had prayed that God would not let the bags be searched, but God chose to show His power and favor in another way … a way that clearly demonstrated how much I could trust Him.
Q: In what ways has God grown your faith through serving him in hard places?
A: I am forced to embrace a lifestyle of dependence upon Jesus and have to be flexible, trusting that God is in control and is working even when everything seems to be going wrong. This teaches me to let go of the controls and trust Him to guide and care for me as my good Father. I have learned that studying and meditating on God’s character is one of the most important things I can do to grow in my trust of Him. Only when we understand God’s character correctly are we able to navigate extreme difficulties in a way that helps us maintain faith and hope, and grow spiritually through the trials.
Q: What conditions are believers facing in other countries and how can we be praying for them?
A: Our persecuted brothers and sisters overseas never know when there is going to be a sudden knock on the door. For example, a year ago one of our translators was preparing for Sunday worship at a church he had recently planted when the police walked in and arrested him. He is still in prison, and as a result, his wife and three young children have been left in distress and uncertainty, and the newly planted church in a tribe that had never heard the Gospel before is left without a pastor and teacher. We need to pray not only for those in prison, but for their families and churches as well. Pray that their faith will remain firm and their witness courageous.
Q: How do suffering Christians in other countries respond when greeted with limited religious freedom? How have you been challenged by witnessing their evidence of faith under fire?
A: What stands out to me is how many of them do not shrink in fear. They are careful, but bold. They go about their lives and ministries tenaciously and unhesitatingly. One national lady I know regularly gets on her motorbike and travels into the mountains to minister to tribal women. If she were to be caught, she would be in trouble with the authorities — so her solution is to travel the rough, dark mountain paths by night.
Another lady, a pastor’s wife, was in prison for her faith. She was interrogated daily and would tell her interrogators, “Your problem is that you do not know Jesus.” They finally released her for fear that she would convince them to become Christians. Following a time when I was questioned by the police, she met me with the words, “Praise God! You had the opportunity to suffer for Jesus!” I was her Bible teacher, so I dared not show less courage than she did! Her joy in suffering for Jesus challenged me to rise above fear.
Q: What spiritual lessons can we glean from our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries?
A: In my experience, I have found that we need to be so convinced of who Jesus is that we can stand strong and courageous — no matter what. However, courage does not mean acting irrationally. God honors courage, but not recklessness. And we must ensure that our courage is tempered with wisdom. Perhaps you’ve known that wisdom is important, but haven’t known how to actively pursue it. Proverbs exhorts us to pray for wisdom, so we need to take that command seriously.
I have also seen that persecution does not necessarily purify the Church or cause believers to grow in their relationship with the Lord. Believers who live under persecution have many of the same problems that the western Church has. There is the same wide spectrum which includes people who are spiritually hungry and dedicated, to those who keep one foot in the Church while dabbling in sin, to those who embrace false doctrine. What transforms their lives, and ours, is humbly learning and applying God’s Word accurately.
Q: What would you say to a woman who desires to serve Jesus overseas and what is one way to prepare now?
A: Know the Word of God and learn to be flexible and humble. You will never do well overseas if you have to be in control, are frustrated by unexpected schedule changes, or get stressed because you do not understand what is happening and why no one is explaining anything to you. Your foundation will be exposed by the challenges you face. Prayerfully take these questions to the Lord and allow Him to search your heart:
- Are you truly abiding in Christ?
- Are you absolutely convinced that He is your firm foundation?
- Are you rooted in His Word?
- Do you take the Word of God seriously enough to determinedly apply it in your own life?
We will not be able to help others if our foundation is shaky or we do not know God’s Word well enough to point others to truth. Refrain from rushing ahead, but take the time to prepare well. As you invest in preparation, be patient but confident that your wise Father will open the right doors in His time and way.