From the minute I stepped into VOM's offices for a college internship, I felt welcomed and loved – and very much disturbed. While a warm lady greeted me and an office manager gave me a tour, I couldn't take my eyes off the pictures on the walls. A young boy whose limbs were burned. An Asian woman smiling brightly, her face disfigured beyond recognition. A man and his family standing outside what used to be their home. A lump caught in my throat. I shifted in my sandals. My life was about to be turned upside down.
On the second-floor news department where I spent three months copyediting, transcribing and writing, the peace of Jesus prevailed with an undercurrent of urgency. As a college sophomore, it was thrilling – breathtaking! – to have a front-row seat to the most important news on the planet. Popular syndicates do not cover it, but this breaking news from our persecuted family was precious to VOM staff. A pastor was released in China! We would celebrate. A Christian village was ransacked and burned. We would pray. I came to realize that it was good to be disturbed by those pictures lining the walls and stories filling my inbox. Because when we are disturbed, we do something about it.
It was in this environment of communion with the persecuted church where God got my attention about His agenda for my life. As I heard stories from Indonesia and Nigeria and Iran I started piecing things together. What was the common thread running through these nations and their persecutors? It was like a light bulb came on for me: Islam.
One of the best things about working at VOM was staff chapel. Each week, chapel was an encouraging time of worship and prayer, as well as a refreshing break from my cubicle! That summer, an Egyptian sister spoke about living in the heart of the Muslim world with "Kingdom mentality." In her ministry she sought to plant the attitudes and mindset of the Kingdom of God, preparing the way for the Good News. She explained that Muslims must first be won to the mentality of a Christian before they are ready to receive the truth of the Gospel.
That got me thinking. Could I live among Muslims with a Kingdom mentality? Like this sister from Egypt, could I relate and respond to Muslims in a Christ-like way, clearing a space for the Gospel to take root and grow? God was developing in me a love for the most frequent persecutors of Christians. He was clearly calling me to be a laborer among Muslims.
After that summer at VOM, I returned to my university deeply changed and motivated to make my life count for the Kingdom. Walking into a packed lecture hall that fall, I took a deep breath and scanned the room.
One. Just one woman wearing a floral-print headscarf. She was sitting near the back of the hall, and there was an empty seat beside her. There was no mistaking the Spirit's voice. You are my witness. And there is your seat.
That was ten years ago. Today, I am privileged to continue 'taking my seat' among Muslim women by living and ministering in the Muslim world. Whether from a mat on the floor or atop an ornate sofa, I laugh with my friends, hear their stories, and share Kingdom values little by little. Yes, the stories of the persecuted church disturbed me as I walked the halls of VOM, yet they inspired me to action. Perhaps we could all use a little more of that kind of disturbance.
Editor's note: "Anna" was one of the first college interns to spend a summer working and learning at VOM. Today she blogs about friendship, culture and Kingdom-living from her home in the Middle East. She loves Jesus and wants to see Him cherished by her neighbors and people everywhere. Anna will be posting on the Persecution Blog each month. Feel free to ask questions or suggest future topics in the comments section for this post. Anna is a pseudonym, and all names in her posts are changed for security reasons.
VOM's internship program is available to students who have completed at least their sophomore year in college. CLICK HERE for more information.