A year ago, on March 1, 2015, my wife, our three children and I gathered in the cold evening air to take a few quick family selfies in front of our home in Kansas. We then locked the front door for the last time and crammed into the car with two dogs and a mass of things.
As we drove away, we collectively whispered our goodbyes to the Kansas City area — the place we had always called home. We were all born there. It’s where our extended family, lifelong friends and church family all live. It’s where we became who we are today. For us, moving away from all of this was the biggest decision we have ever had to make.
We continued driving for three hours until we reached our destination: Bartlesville, OK. We made the move so I could work as a writer for The Voice of the Martyrs. When I received VOM’s free newsletter as a teenager, I never imagined I'd end up writing some of those stories myself, but here I am.
During the last year, I’ve been able to help retell numerous stories in the newsletter about our brothers and sisters in Christ who’ve lost so much more than what our family left behind — simply because of their faith. I’ve traveled to Nigeria, Bangladesh and India, and heard numerous accounts of men and women who’ve made the ultimate challenging decision: reconvert to your old faith and remain safe, or continue to proclaim Christ and face brutal beatings or even death. Many others have been forced to flee their homes with only the clothes they were wearing.
The believers VOM serves in nearly 70 countries — certainly those whose stories we tell in our newsletter, website, books and conferences — have often sacrificed so much more than I likely ever will have to. Their level of surrender has helped me grow in my own faith.
Surrender is at the heart of the gospel, and therefore central to the advancement of God’s kingdom. The sacrifice of one spotless Lamb paid the ransom for many. Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world daily give up safety and security, which in turn has led to new churches, baptisms and changed lives. “We must decrease so He can increase” rings true on many levels.
Since moving to Oklahoma, our lives have certainly changed. My wife now works for VOM, too. Our children continue to get to know VOM staff and hear stories of our work around the world.
For me, nothing has changed me more during the last year than the stories. These stories of believers standing firm in their faith in the face of real persecution — even loving their persecutors in the process — are among the best modern examples our faith has to offer. And whenever I can, I share them with everyone I meet. Like the people in the stories, God’s not done using them for his glory.
Darren Sanders is a writer on staff with VOM. He learned about VOM as a teenager after reading Jesus Freaks and began receiving the newsletter. He continues to be inspired by those living out their faith despite persecution.