Editor's note: a version of this story appears in VOM's February newsletter. U.S. residents can request a free subscription to the newsletter here.
There are good trips and bad trips when you go on the road to meet the persecuted church.
Bad trips where you come home with malaria (Sudan) or get so sick you actually consider going to a local doctor (Pakistan). But the good trips far outweigh the bad: trips where you meet a pastor and his wife eight days after the pastor was shot by Muslim radicals (Iraq) or watch as God opens door after door so you can meet widows of Christians martyred just a few weeks before (Turkey). Good trips where you are "smuggled" late at night to an underground Bible school and meet the future church leaders of a huge nation (China), or are tossed up in the air (literally!) by brothers in Christ as they thank you for coming to encourage them in their trials (can't say where for security reasons). Good trips where a kindly pastor's wife, seeing jet-lag overcoming you, invites you to take a nap in one of her children's beds (Uzbekistan).
I am often sobered by the fact that brothers with whom I've laughed over coffee and popcorn are in prison today because they follow Jesus (Eritrea). I am humbled and incredibly grateful God has allowed me the sacred privilege of meeting, interviewing and hopefully encouraging His beloved children who suffer so much for doing things most of us take for granted.
Visiting Nepal late last year was definitely a good trip. For one coworker it was the first time he'd been to meet the persecuted church, and seeing the trip through his fresh eyes was a great reminder of the blessing of our work. I was encouraged to hear from a Nepali brother that two books I helped write – Extreme Devotion and Hearts of Fire – are among their favorite tools to strengthen Nepali Christians to stand amidst persecution. And it was amazing to step out of my hotel room and look up at four of the 10 tallest mountains in the world!
When her earthly family kicked her out, her spiritual family opened their doors and took her in. We met Danmaya in the stifling heat of a one-room brick house that belongs to her pastor and his family. They gave me a plastic chair to sit in while the pastor sat on the bed and his wife and Danmaya sat on the floor.
Danmaya couldn't stop smiling. She's lost every family relationship she had in the world because she followed Jesus. She's sleeping on the floor of someone else's house. But she couldn't stop smiling. She told us that she's forgiven her husband…and even prays for his new wife.
Danmaya and her pastor thanked us repeatedly for coming, as if we'd done something special. We thanked them for sharing their stories, and for their faithful witness. We rode almost two hours in a taxi with a/c that couldn't quite keep up with the heat to meet Danmaya. But after hearing her story, and seeing the joy of the Lord literally radiate from her face, I thought on the two-hour drive back to the hotel that I'd happily drive eight hours to spend one hour with such a Godly saint.
P. Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM almost 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1850 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.