To be concise: a lot. I learned a lot.
That isn’t very informative, though, so I suspect if I submitted those two sentences to the editor of this blog, I would get a kind email asking me to elaborate.
As I look back on that project, it seems now like I played just a tiny role. It’s interesting, because when I was hired to write a book (a real book and a real job!), I think in the back of my head I had an idea that it would be about me. Not the book, necessarily, but the whole experience would make me feel good and make me some great storyteller.
So, I guess the first thing I learned is that the stories in that book don’t need any embellishment in order to make them “great.” The stories of those Christians, of the persecution they face and their response to it, are already a part of the Greatest Story. I was simply a member of the relay team who had the real privilege of placing those stories in a setting where more people could read them.
I also learned the incredible story of Pastor John, which I wrote and which opens the book. I learned about the truly horrible things that had happened to him and the enormity of loss he had experienced. But I also learned of his forgiveness and the enormous faith he has that even in the midst of all that suffering God never turned His back on him. The men who attacked his family cross the street to avoid meeting Pastor John, but he hopes that he will have the opportunity one day to share the love of Christ with them. If that doesn’t move you, then I think you’ve missed the point of the Story.
I also learned of an aspect of VOM that I had never heard of, in spite of the fact that my father has worked there since I was a little kid. VOMedical provides prosthetic limbs to Christians who are attacked by persecutors. These limbs allow the Nigerian Christians to keep living their lives in a nearly-normal fashion, and I think this is a wonderful demonstration of Christian love. This part of VOM’s ministry sticks out to me because of its practicality, but also because of the stories we outlined in the book of people who have benefited from this unique ministry and the incredible difference it made in their lives.
One last thing I learned (well, not the last, but I do need to wrap this up) was the current-ness of the persecution in Nigeria. When you’re asked to write a book on the history of persecution in a given place, that word “history” seems to set it all apart from the time period you’re living in. In the case of the book I helped with, however, a lot of the stories and examples were startlingly recent. This is not a problem of the distant past; persecution in Nigeria happened yesterday, it’s happening today, and it will likely happen tomorrow.
I’ve never been to Nigeria, but learning about the country and about the church there for this project created a special place for it in my heart. Please continue to pray for peace, but more importantly, pray the love of Christ shines like a beacon in the midst of these brutal examples of persecution.
Last month Kameron Nettleton finished his BA in English at Evangel University in Springfield, MO. He currently resides in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.