What if you lived in a country that was hostile toward your faith in Jesus Christ?
Two hundred million Christians in more than 50 countries suffer persecution. Many worship secretly. In Laos, Christian children aren't allowed to attend public schools. In North Korea, a teacher may hold up a Bible and ask, "Do you have a book like this?" If a student admits to owning God's Word, the teacher alerts the government. Police then arrest the family and send them to a labor camp.
In Colombia, teachers and students bully Christians:
Nine-year old Ananias came home from school crying. His teachers had shouted at him: "Christians are useless! You just want to pray and convince others of your beliefs." While his classmates enjoyed recess, Ananias had to work on extra assignments.
Ananias' parents eventually took him out of school. "I wanted to study, but I could not," Ananias said. Even so, "I trust that God will help me, because He knows that we serve Him with all our hearts."
Ananias' father, a pastor, also faces persecution. When he tried to build a church, men with guns threatened him.
"I am proud of my father, because he dares to obey God," Ananias said.
In the midst of difficulties, Ananias' family has also seen blessing.
"People attack us because every day more people are joining our faith in Christ," Ananias' mother said with tears in her eyes. "God has supported our family. We are living for a purpose that will give fruit not only here on earth, but in eternity."
Unlike many Christians living in parts of the Middle East and Africa, Americans can worship freely. But that doesn't stop Christians from being bullied or told they cannot share their faith.
Jillian, 12, attended a required religion class at her school in California. Her teacher claimed that every religion was true. "You have to decide which is right for you," the teacher said.
Jillian knew there's only one true God.
"I stood up and said that wasn't true," Jillian said. "Everyone got upset and mocked me. But I didn't care."
Jillian cared more about pleasing God than pleasing others. In 1 Peter 4:16, it says: "If anyone suffers as a 'Christian,' he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name."
Laura, 11, also loves God and His creation. After she attended a nature camp, she felt uneasy. "The counselor led us through the forest, and he told us to hug the trees," she said. "Then we sang a Christian song with the names of natural objects replacing the name of Jesus."
Laura remembered that God warns people not to trust in other gods or worship nature. She asked to go home early, but the counselor called her a baby.
"You'll have to walk," he told her.
Outcast, but Not Cast-Off
Modern-day Christians aren't the first to face persecution. Many in the Bible suffered, too. As the early church grew, Stephen shared his faith and performed miracles (Acts 6:8). Others hated Stephen and hurled rocks at him. Before he died, he stayed committed to God's calling and even forgave his enemies (Acts 7:58-60).
Acts 16 tells how Paul and Silas suffered in a dungeon before God's power broke their chains and set them free.
In John 15:20, Jesus says: "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you."
Christians suffer in different ways, but one thing remains the same: They continue to worship Jesus. God's love brings comfort. The greater the pressure, the more strength they receive.
Paul and Silas sang in jail. Ananias and his family continue to share Christ in Colombia. Laura found greater strength from God after she spoke up at camp.
Smiling, she said: "I know we'll face persecution for being Christians, but knowing God is much better."
Pray for the Persecuted
So what can you do to help? Every year in November, churches in more than 110 countries join together in praying for people who suffer for their faith in Jesus. But you don't have to wait until then.
You can do plenty to help your brothers and sisters in Christ by praying right now! Prayer is more powerful than you will ever realize. Only God can change hearts and dethrone rulers. And God does listen to His people.
Challenge yourself to pray—starting now and ending on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 2. Choose a country, write it on a piece of paper and post it on the refrigerator or where everyone in your family can see it.
I will pray for ______________ until November 2.
Pray for God's protection. Pray they'll receive Bibles. Pray that the leaders of that country will find the truth of Jesus Christ. Pray for Christians who have been rejected by their families to be reconciled or find other Christians who can support them. Pray for God to provide food and a safe place to live. And while you're at it, thank God for allowing you to live in a place where you can freely worship Him.
You can make a difference. Learn more ways you can help these brave believers around the world.
This article was adapted from Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine. Sign up your 8- to 12-year-old child for this award-winning publication.