I had the distinct pleasure to recently hear Dr. Ajai Lall from Central India Christian Mission speak. Dr. Lall started CICM many years ago as a church-planting and evangelistic outreach to India and the surrounding countries. His mission has been to spread the Gospel of Christ throughout India and, through God’s blessings, CICM has been wildly successful.
Dr. Lall told the story of one of the pastors that CICM had trained who was ministering in a village in India. The pastor’s name was Emmanuel and Dr. Lall showed a picture of Emmanuel, his wife and two beautiful sons. Emmanuel boldly shared his faith in a climate of radical Hinduism. Some time after he had been there, a group of radical Hindus kidnapped Emmanuel and his wife. They presented him with an option – sign a document renouncing Christ and agree to leave the area and we will let you go. Emmanuel and his wife courageously refused and, for their refusal, both were tortured repeatedly and beaten. Finally, the radicals tied Emmanuel to a tree and told him that if he did not sign the paper, they would rape his wife in front of him. Emmanuel and his wife once again refused to deny Christ. As the radicals were making good on their threats, some passersby heard Emmanuel’s screams and brought help. Emmanuel and his wife were rescued.
Courageously, Emmanuel and his wife refused to leave the village and continued to proclaim Christ. Several times in their ministry in the village, they ran into the people who tortured them and each time they did, they told these people, “God bless you.” Finally, some of the men who tortured them had enough and asked, “Why do you always ask God to bless us after what we did to you?” Emmanuel and his wife invited the men into their home for tea and shared Christ’s love with them. Two of the men have since become Christians.
Emmanuel’s amazing story reminded me of how many times I take freedom of religion in America for granted. I drive to church every week, I worship God freely, and I hear from God’s word – all without any threat or thought that someone will come in and attempt to kill me or my family or destroy my church. And I have done that for my entire life. I have never had to worry that, in America, I will be killed or tortured for what I believe.
Now don’t get me wrong – the church in America has its share of censorship and I have devoted my life to fighting the threats against the church in America. But let’s take just a moment to think of Emmanuel’s story and be grateful for the religious freedom we enjoy in this country. We still have the right and the ability to worship and share our faith freely. And let’s also give thanks for those brave Americans who gave their lives to defend our ability to worship and share our faith freely.
Let Emmanuel’s story stand not just as an amazing page in church history, but let it stand as a witness to all Americans not to take religious freedom for granted. Let us exercise the religious freedom we do have and thank God that we live in a country where we don’t have to fear death or physical harm for holding and sharing our faith. God has blessed America with an amazing level of freedom and we must use that freedom to share our faith with an increasingly secular culture that has turned its back on God. Our society needs to hear the life-changing message of the Gospel from the Church in America. That’s why ADF started the Church Project and why we have devoted ourselves to keeping the doors open for the spread of the Gospel. Freedom was not free for the men and women who died in the fight for freedom and it is a luxury that many in the world do not have.
And let us pray for our brothers and sisters across the world who do not enjoy the same religious freedom. They, like Emmanuel and his wife, face dangers every day simply for believing in Christ and sharing His life-changing message with those around them.
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