Saturday, July 31, 2010

Favorite Memories from AFHE 2010

Last weekend I worked with some other Voice of the Martyrs representatives at their Kids of Courage booth in the exhibit hall for the annual Arizona Families for Home Education convention.  It was my fourth time there, but this was my first time there with my new orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs as a way to represent the repression of Christians in hostile countries.  Here are some of my favorite memories from this year:

  • The family at the booth across the aisle had several young children.  The mother informed me afterward that they had warned their children, “We are going to Phoenix next, and there is a lot of crime there so you need to be careful.”  When the kids saw me in my handcuffs and orange jumpsuit, they told her, “Wow, you were right, there is a criminal in here!”  (The youngest child, a boy, later came over and wanted to try on my handcuffs.  To his delight and my amazement, his hands were still just small enough that he could squeeze them out of the handcuffs!)
  • At the beginning of the convention, a man came by the booth, saw my handcuffs, and said, “Here, let me check something!”  He pulled out his keychain and he had a handcuff key on them.  He tried it in my handcuffs to make sure it fit, which it did.  He then went off to his own booth.  At the end of the convention as we were packing up, I discovered that I couldn’t find my key to my cuffs.  (The next day I discovered that it was in a box that had already been taken out to my car.)  Fortunately I was only wearing them on one wrist, which meant I could get my orange jumpsuit off, but I was still a bit concerned about making it out to my car without attracting police attention.  Then the Lord reminded me of the man with the key.  I found his booth, and fortunately he was still there and very happy to unlock me.  The girl with him went into hysterical laughter.
  • The girl in her late teens who, after signing up for the newsletter and writing a note of encouragement on a greeting card, asked (with emphatic earnestness) “What else can I do?”  I was so surprised by this that I failed to ask the diagnostic questions that I have trained you reps to ask (!), but still gave her a few ideas that will hopefully be helpful.  Most people after signing up for the newsletter and writing a note of encouragement headed off to the next booth—but she wanted to do more.
  • The middle-aged woman who told me how she had been attacked 3 years ago in Scottsdale by a man with a 10 inch blade.  He got her down on the ground.  Then she remembered the name of Jesus.  She screamed “Jesus!” and kicked him—hard.  A second scream of “Jesus!” with a kick.  The third time she yelled “Jesus!” he fled.  Police never caught him.  She forgave him in her heart, and told me that God has delivered her from fear or any other lingering emotional trauma from the attack.  So, she can relate to some of the trauma that persecuted women experience.
  • My VOM colleague Mark Panttila shared an insight he’d heard from John Piper about John 11: “Now Jesus loved Mary and Martha… therefore He stayed there two days.”  Jesus wanted to give them something better than a physical healing; He wanted them to see the glory of God.  I used this brief insight a couple of times at the table to explain one aspect of the paradox of persecution.
  • Meeting people who have been in or have friends who have been in some of the countries VOM works in.
  • A woman shared an insight she’d heard from a pastor: “Why does the church grow under persecution?  Because there is so much forgiveness.”  This seemed valid to me; it does seem that when persecuted Christians don’t forgive, the church struggles.
  • The mother who was utterly stunned when I asked if she would like to sign a note to a pastor in jail.  She had no idea that Christians still undergo persecution.  The expression on her face was priceless.  Although she did not cry, she seemed shaken to the core.  She stood there for a while before writing her note.
  • The woman who shared about the amazing heart her 5th grade daughter is developing for the persecuted church and missions.  She was in a sewing group with some other homeschooled daughters.  They made aprons.  The others decorated their aprons with animals or flowers or something.  She decorated hers with countries—and the state of persecution in those countries.  She has also taken homemade gifts with attached Bible verses to every home in their neighborhood, twice.

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