Friday morning I rushed into a staff meeting with a myriad mundane concerns occupying my thoughts, most of them centered on myself--what I needed to do, what meetings I had to attend, what deadlines I was facing. I left the same meeting 90 minutes later awestruck, tear-streaked and seriously adjusted in my perspective. For on that morning, our staff at Sovereign Grace Ministries heard from one of the groups we supported through our tsunami disaster relief fund. This group works in Indonesia and the man who leads this particular organization gave a compelling hour-long talk about the persecution Christians are experiencing in Islamic Indonesia--events that span the last seven years and in many ways were the warning signs of 9/11 and the London subway bombings. Though the situation is very grim, this man also gave a glorious testimony of how the Lord responds to the prayers of His people and how the church is not defeated in the face of such a determined enemy.
Sovereign Grace is a church-planting ministry with a growing international family of churches, but we don't yet have any churches in Indonesia. The reason we knew of this organization was because of a fruitful single woman who is a member of one of our churches. Ann Buwalda is the founder and director of Jubilee Campaign USA. As described on their website, this group promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities in countries which imprison, terrorize, or otherwise oppress them. They advocate the release of prisoners of conscience and the change of laws as necessary to affect these purposes. Jubilee also advocates against the exploitation of children with particular attention to the sex industry in Asia.
Ann founded Jubilee Campaign USA more than ten years ago to lobby Congress on behalf of those suffering religious persecution and human rights violations. She actively travels overseas to promote religious tolerance, handles certain cases involving religious asylum seekers, and promotes and supports (financially) children's rights internationally.
I had heard her name for many years, but never had the pleasure of meeting her until Friday. I was able to grab about a half-hour with her after the meeting to ask further questions, offer a few meager ways to help, and encourage her. I was amazed by what the Lord has accomplished through Ann. We are almost the same age, but the way she has invested her life has literally touched thousands of others around the world. I'm sure if she read this, she would protest that evaluation and point to the team she works with as the ones who've made that possible. In one sense that no doubt is true--and it is all of grace either way. But in another, it's also the result of her faithful response to her Lord's claim on her life. She told us in this meeting that though she would like to be married, she is completely fulfilled in serving the Lord this way.
Since that meeting, I've been pondering a few things. One, how serious the opposition toward Christianity truly is, both in this nation where Christianity is being forced out of the mainstream culture and marginalized as politically incorrect, and in other nations where believers are facing imprisonment and death for their faith. I wonder if there is another tsunami headed from Indonesia toward our shores that is far more devastating than a wall of water. I wonder which events we will look back upon and belatedly comprehend their significance, just like those near the Indian Ocean did last December: "Wow, the ocean has receded...I wonder why?" Two, there are a lot of single Christians who want to know just what we are supposed to be doing with our lives. What if the Lord wants to make a similar claim on us? Would we see the Lord's redemptive purposes in our singleness and accept His call to advance the gospel in such a sacrificial way?
I am seriously provoked by these ideas. And I would be the first to confess that I simply want to get married, make a comfortable home for a wonderful man, and enjoy a peaceful life full of God's abundant blessings. But in light of the current circumstances, would I then be guilty of the charge found in Ezekiel 16:49? It reads, "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." Just to be clear, I'm not saying that getting married to a wonderful man and enjoying a peaceful life full of God's blessings is bad. But if that's all I think about or pray about, am I "arrogant, overfed and unconcerned"?
I would appeal to my fellow "singletons" to visit Jubilee's website and read over the items there, including the list of prisoners of conscience. Then pray for Ann, her Jubilee Campaign colleagues, and these brothers and sisters in prison. I mean, really pray. There are Christians alive today in Indonesia because when an urgent plea was emailed during a violent assault against their village, people around the globe interceded and our God, who is rich in mercy and abounding in steadfast love, stayed the hand of evil. We may never completely understand the complexities of prayer this side of heaven, but in some senses it is both the least and the most we can do. (In particular, please pray for three Christian women who are on trial in Indonesia for allegedly converting Muslim children to Christianity. As the Jubilee Campaign reports, a guilty verdict in this case could have serious ramifications in a country that has already seen a great deal of inter-religious violence in recent years. Over the past seven years, more than 10,000 people have died, 40,000 houses and 1000 churches have been destroyed and 700,000 people have been forced to flee their villages.)
And if the Lord leads us to do more, then hallelujah. Most certainly it is a far better investment of our time, thoughts, energy, and finances than the vast majority of our singles activities, if we are to be honest.