Isaiah 25:4 - For You have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall
The people came, and they came, and they kept on coming.
Their destination was St. Mary Catholic Cathedral, located in the city of Wau, which is positioned in the new nation of South Sudan. Eventually it was estimated the Cathedral's compound was holding some 16,000 souls.
Only a few times in my ministry, and never in my congregations, have I been blessed to speak to a crowd that size.
All of those occasions were celebrating God's ongoing blessings for His people I can confess to you that those presentations were always awe-inspiring, challenging, frightening, and a blessing.
• Sadly, the 16,000 people gathered at St. Mary's were not recalling the Savior's birth, passion, death, or resurrection.
• They were not remembering the earthly passing of one of their faithful elders or pastors.
• They were not baptizing, confirming, or marrying hundreds of congregational members in a great service recalling God's grace.
• No, they had come there out of a desire to stay alive. All around them homes were being burned, and Christians were being martyred by enemies of the cross.
Having observed these churchyard refugees, Father Germane Bernardo commented that these people believe it isn't "safe anywhere. But if they were going to be killed, they preferred to be killed in the church because this is the place where Jesus is present. They wanted to die in the church rather than die in their homes."
That last answer intrigued me. I was very pleased to see that these people under persecution didn't think the church was unimportant and irrelevant. That thought was immediately followed by how someone ought to tell them that Jesus is everywhere and not just in a building made by hands.
The last thing I noticed was something that wasn't there at all. Not a single one of those 16,000 people gathered in the Cathedral courtyard was considering changing his or her faith. They were all fully prepared to die rather than renounce the Savior who had promised, "Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10b).
I pray the Lord will watch over these people who have been forced to make decisions, which I probably will never have to make, and I pray He may also watch over us. May we also be faithful to the Savior when we are persecuted by the anti-Christian forces around us.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, persecution comes in many different forms. May we who have been blessed by Jesus' great sacrifice be faithful to the Savior who gave His life for us. May we be granted the courage to stand against the forces of evil whenever they confront us. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Stoyan Zaimov for The Christian Post on May 3, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so by the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries