Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Conference Starts

Friday night the conference started, and I will just be able to give you a small sampling of what we actually experienced that night.

First up were two brothers from Iran, both older, mature Christians. One of them couldn't speak English at all so the other translated.

He shared how he met Jesus with us. In the late 70's his son moved to the US and married a Christian woman. He was so upset that he flew to the US, determined to one way or another remove this dishonor from his family. Instead, he began to be impressed by their faith in Jesus. One day he prayed, "If You show me You're God, I will accept my daughter in law, and I will accept You."

Three days later he got a call from Iran informing him that the government had decided they'd made a mistake. After the overthrow of the Shah, the new regime had confiscated a large amount of money and the trucks he used for his business. Now they had returned everything to him! This was nothing short of a miracle and he realized this was the sign he'd asked for.

He has had numerous encounters with the police and has been beaten many times.

He told us of one new convert who rode 27 hours by bus -- each way -- simply to get baptized. This struck home with me because I know how sore I was after a total of 15 hours of sitting to get to Bartlesville. I can't imagine sitting for 27 hours just to get baptized!

It was hard to understand some of what he said, but one thing that did come through very movingly was when this white-haired man started crying as he talked about how good God had been to him. He is somewhat feeble and required assistance to go down the steps off the stage.

Next was a woman from the Marxist-controlled zone of Columbia, also speaking through a translator. She and her husband have been ministering there for 20 years. She told us numerous stories of Christians being killed by the guerrillas, and numerous stories of God miraculously protecting them from death. This is the mystery of God's providence that we can even see in Acts 12, where God allowed James to be beheaded but sent an angel to rescue Peter.

One story that was moving to me was when the guerrillas interrupted their church service, grabbed her husband and took him outside and started to lead him away. The men of the church followed. The guerrillas tried to push them back. But the brothers replied, "What you do to him, you must do to us." They let her husband go.

During the Friday night session, I actually got to meet and sit next to Daniel (DJ) Elkins, one of the 8 young people who went with VOM to Vietnam in 2006. Their experiences there are chronicled in the video "Underground Reality: Vietnam". This has become the best selling video VOM has ever released. For more details (and to view a trailer) you can visit this website.

Here's a picture of DJ in Vietnam as he prepared to deliver 50 pounds of Bibles (in his pack) to a national believer. (And no, I didn't take this picture!)

Daniel's life was greatly impacted by his time in Vietnam and it was neat to meet him and see how he's growing in the Lord.

After the Columbian woman, we had a choice of 4 breakout sessions. I chose to go to hear Michael Wurmbrand, son of Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand who founded VOM in 1967. Richard was an incredible man whose books and messages have greatly impacted me although I never got to meet him in person.

Michael shares his father's penchant for telling fascinating stories. Here are a few, not connected together in any particular way.

When he was a child, his father told him a story about a rich man who saw a beggar but only gave the beggar some moldy cheese. When the rich man died and went to heaven, he saw many people eating excellent food but he was forced to go off to a separate table which contained only... moldy cheese! The moral of the story was that we should give others our best.

A few days later his father was given, out of the blue, a really nice, expensive suit. He had one suit already but it was old. Michael said, "Now that you have two, you'll want to give one to Brother W" (a poor believer who had no suit at all). His father said, "And which one shall I give him?" Michael recalled the moldy cheese story and said, "You should give him the suit which you wish to wear in heaven." And so it was that Richard gave the new suit to Brother W just a few hours after receiving it.

When Michael was 11, his father was in prison. Michael was doing well in school and one day the school officials announced that he (along with others) would be awarded the coveted "Red Necktie" of the Communist Youth society at a special convocation. He excitedly told his mother the news. But she told him, "When it's your turn, get up and tell them 'I do not wish to wear the necktie of the government that imprisoned my father.'" This was very hard for him to do. He was angry with his mother at the time, but now he looks back on her courage with great fondness and love. He did as she told him, and it so shook the school that it ended the red necktie event there for several years.

Eventually Michael's mother was imprisoned too and he was left on the streets. It was a crime to help children of political prisoners. A 28 year old single young Christian woman took him in, as well as another boy in the same situation. Her 71 year old father had to go back to work to make enough money for them to have food. For this "crime", she later spent 6 years in prison and had physical repercussions from it for the rest of her life. After the Wurmbrands escaped from Romania they helped her to escape also. She never married, but spent the rest of her life in France and was active in VOM's work there.

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