“I long to see you…that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Romans 1:11-12).
I spent Resurrection Sunday in Russia this year. I was there while traveling to meet with some persecuted brothers and sisters in a neighboring hostile nation. After I reconnected with a dear Russian brother and his beautiful family, we met for worship at a church plant.
We shared a wonderful experience as children recited portions of Scripture they had memorized from the Gospels and a professional opera singer offered her finest gift to the Lord—a stunning song! As she finished the song, she sheepishly shared that she had not performed it as well as she intended. We certainly hadn’t noticed, but it reminded me of the widow giving all she had, while wishing she could do so much more.
The Resurrection Sunday celebration was followed by a large fellowship meal. The warmth of these dear family members was full-bodied. For a few semi-awkward moments, I tried to chat with a mother of five children. Kimberly and I have been blessed with five children as well, and by using hand gestures and taking full advantage of her very limited English (and my non-existent Russian), we discovered that some of our children were near the same age. After we mined that connection point as deeply as we could, we simply stood next to each other surveying the crowd around us and resting in the fact that one day we will be able to speak freely with each other because we are in the same universal family! It was a beautiful, sacred space—a few serene, non-anxious moments simply enjoying a newfound sibling's presence.
Prior to Paul’s introduction to his Christian siblings in Rome, he noted that even though they had never had the opportunity to meet in person, he frequently lifted them to their Father in prayer: "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you” (Romans 1:9-10).
Until we have the joy of seeing our international family face-to-face, let us agree to lift them in prayer regularly. And, then, let us live with the expectation that no matter what happens in the “here and now,” we will joyfully experience complete communion with our universal family in the “then and there!”
Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He lived overseas for five years and has ministered in 35 countries as diverse as Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Iraq, Nigeria, and Indonesia. He and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, count it a great honor to serve with the persecuted church.