Thursday, June 16, 2011
Persecution of the Saints
When we Americans hear about believers being persecuted, we generally turn our minds toward the Arab and Asian nations, and think of people killed for converting to another religion or getting kicked out of the country. The difficulty in living as a follower of God here is more subtle. In Madagascar, everything is governed by your tribe’s fady (taboos), and everything revolves around community. If you start living for God and not the ancestors, you will break the fady of your tribe (many fady are full of ancestor worship) and thus get cast out of community. A new believer is struggling with this very thing right now.
Hiking to visit the new believer, I nearly leap to the side of the path to avoid a snake, but remember just in time how narrow the path and steep the mountainside is! The new believer’s husband leads Mirana and I, boulder jumping and wading, across the river to their hut.
Husband seated behind her, the new believer tells us how grateful she is that we have come. “Everyone in the village thinks that I am adaladala [crazy], and you are the only ones who think that I am wise.” We only know of her and two other believers in this village of two hundred fifty, and there is definitely a daily clash between the believers’ new lives and the old fady way that everyone else is living. Her old friends have been even more up in arms recently about her decision to live for God because of her decision for her son not to participate in the village circumcision rite due to the ancestor worship involved. She feels exiled and disheartened.
“My brother came to me when he heard of our decision. I told him why we were not worshipping the ancestors anymore. He told me he understood, but said that I should know that if we didn’t do the circumcision rite with everyone else, that everyone would believe we wanted to always be alone and leave us like that. That if something happens to my family – like a death – no one will come.”
She and her husband have also decided to completely change crops this season. Until now, they have been growing sugar cane, used in this area for making moonshine or to sell so other people can make it. “We’ve prayed about it, and feel like God is telling us not to be a part of making people drink alcohol anymore,” I ask her if that will put a financial hardship on them, because I know that they are already living at a day-to-day level. “Yes it will,” she responds, “but we have faith that God will provide for us in this hard time because He has called us to do it.”
This dear woman is such an encouragement to me. Praise the Lord for her faith. What evidence that our Lord is worth it all – though friends and family reject you, though you have no idea how you will be able to buy food the next day – knowing Him is your life (John 17:3).
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:12