She’s my age.
This thought was just starting to register in my mind as I read about a girl who was tortured by her own father for her faith in Christ.
I was reading a field report from Uganda that had an update on Susan Ithungu and it included recent pictures of her.
When I first saw the pictures, I thought: She must be about 15 now. She looks very young and it never occurred to me that she could be my age until I read a previous VOM article about her:
“Susan was just 13 when an evangelist spoke at her school in Uganda and she turned to Christ for salvation,” the article began. “That year, 2009, marked the beginning of the troubles with her father.”
That was the year she started getting beaten by her father for her conversion. The next year, he locked her in a room for six months without feeding her.
Wait a second. I was around that age in 2009. That means Susan is around my age now. My heart lurched at the thought of what Susan was enduring then. What was I worried about in 2009? School, friends and boys probably sums it up well. What was Susan worried about in 2009? Dying of starvation at the hands of her father for her faith in Christ.
I stared at her glowing face on the screen as I suddenly felt so many different emotions running through me. I felt grieved for Susan. I felt sad for what she had to go through, for what she had to lose to profess her faith in Christ. Yet I felt happy that she counted the costs in the beginning and didn’t give up her faith after facing physical torment for it. It was as if I had seen my own sister go through that.
But Susan is my sister. We are family through Christ. I found myself stopping what I was doing to pray.
I honestly didn’t feel connected to Susan before I had the realization about her age. Why is that? Why does it take little things like that for us to connect emotionally with our persecuted family? I hear it often regarding things like age or other parallels we see in a particular person we read about: we don’t feel connected until we can relate to someone. But these people are Christians. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, shouldn’t that be enough to make us feel connected?
This is what VOM does that I didn’t fully understand until I started working here as an intern this summer. One of the goals of VOM is to inform and inspire American Christians to act. That’s why there’s a newsletter and a website and a blog and tons of other resources that VOM produces: to get us to act! It’s so easy with all the distractions in our own culture to forget about our persecuted family in other countries, let alone feel a connection or burden for them. But to connect motivates us to act and to act starts with prayer.
As believers we are called to “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).
As bound with them. As if I were with them in prison, as if I were with them starving, as if I were beaten with them. Although Susan is free from her father now, she still bears the scars of what he did to her. She bears those scars every day and is probably reminded of it every time she tries to walk. I am to remember Susan as if I am bound with her, as if I am trying to walk with her. To walk with Susan daily is to pray for her daily, to pray for her emotional freedom and freedom from the need to walk with crutches.
As we are reminded of our persecuted family, we need to pray for them like they are our own brother or sister.
Because, well, they are.
Valerie O. is a summer intern at The Voice of the Martyrs. This fall she will be a junior at California State University, Long Beach studying journalism. She first heard of VOM through a Bible study when someone handed her a VOM newsletter. Since then, she has felt drawn to VOM and its primary goal and has desired for God to use her skillset to help in reaching that goal.