Sometimes when we read the Bible we assume a historical posture that says to us, “that happened a long time ago but doesn’t happen today.” For example, when we read Hebrews 11:38 about ancient saints wandering in deserts and mountains and living in caves and holes in the ground because they were homeless because of their faith, we usually don’t connect that with today’s world—especially in the Western world where homelessness is either a personal choice or one is forced into homelessness due to financial setbacks. The world is larger than our enclave and looking beyond our normal focus, we can see that homelessness due to faith is happening right now.
A form of harassment and persecution is to force Christians from their homes so they will be destitute, causing them either to die off due to exposure or to spread out into the neighboring countries and no longer be a formidable witness as a community of faith in that particular location. ISIS has done this to Christians in Iraq. Christians who have lived in security for generations were forced out of their homes and communities, often with only the clothes on their backs and the few things they could gather and carry. Their prospects for survival were minimal since their resources would run out quickly. However, Christian organizations (like The Voice of the Martyrs and others) stepped in to provide basic life essentials to keep them from being destitute.
Hebrews 10 talks about persevering in the faith and the writer recalls how these particular Christians responded to their persecution by “joyfully accepting the confiscation of their property.” This is not a universal attitude, even among Christians. Christian families forced from all they have and all they have known initially experience trauma, especially parents and children since they were suddenly forced out under duress. The sudden loss and the fear of the future grip them. How will they survive, they ask? How can we feed our children? Later, as they reflect upon the events of their lives, they can come to terms with the loss and joyfully give it all to God.
In the meantime, they need help—material support to meet their basic needs of food and shelter, spiritual encouragement, and hope. The Voice of the Martyrs is providing such help on behalf of the whole body of Christ around the world. Knowing that the larger body of Christ cares for them and helps them is a wonderful encouragement at this difficult time of their lives. It makes the year 2015 look more promising and hopeful. It is satisfying to us to know that we can be a part of this great effort that spares the lives of Christian men, woman, and children in a place we will most likely never see but can have an impact upon.
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.