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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Paying a Price

By Randy Hurst
Jan. 2, 2011

Sitting before a group of pastors in Bangalore, India, I tried to put myself in their place. What would it be like to prepare for church on Sunday morning, not knowing if this would be the day when a mob of religious extremists would show up with plans to beat me in front of my congregation?

I was in India with Omar Beiler, Assemblies of God World Missions regional director for Eurasia, to attend graduation ceremonies at Karnataka Institute of Theology. Following the graduation, a group of pastors from across Karnataka state had gathered for a seminar to strategize and encourage one another. Included in the group was director John Siebold, who has dedicated more than 20 years to training and encouraging these faithful pastors.

The investment of this group is making a great spiritual impact in their communities, but the pastors have been paying a steep price. Across the state religious extremists were stepping up persecution against churches. Buildings had been burned and destroyed, services disrupted, and pastors dragged outside and beaten. In some cases, pastors’ families were attacked.

Omar commented on the incredible price these men pay daily to establish the Church in these difficult areas. “Yet their joy in serving the Lord is obvious,” he said.

During the interview Pastor Shivanda Siddi, a descendant of African slaves brought to work in the tea plantations of India in the 18th century, spoke calmly of the threats he had endured. But his countenance changed, and he became joyful and animated as he shared about Gnanodaya Assembly of God, the church he pastors. He described its outreach to more than 20 people who are HIV-positive. Some of them had accepted Christ through this ministry.

We had no idea at that time what Pastor Siddi would face just a year later.

During a Sunday morning service Sept. 26, 2010, several religious radicals invaded Gnanodaya AG. They argued with Siddi and confiscated believers’ Bibles. Taking Siddi outside, they viciously beat him for half an hour. Afterward they called police and falsely charged him with a crime. In response, Siddi, five women and two young girls were arrested and taken to the police station. The women and children were released later that day, but Siddi spent three days in jail before he could post bail.

“Persecution is a very real experience for many Christians around the world,” says Omar. “Our intercessory prayers for the suffering church can make the difference between life and death.”

It is a mystery why God has chosen to work through our prayers, knowing that most of us almost certainly have weaker faith than those for whom we are praying. But in His grace, He has given us the privilege and responsibility of intercessory prayer.

Through prayer, we can help strengthen and sustain our spiritual brothers and sisters throughout the world as they faithfully work to bring the light of the gospel to people lost in darkness. Though separated by many thousands of miles, we are allowed by God to be fellow workers with believers around the world. Please pray for Pastor Siddi and other ministers who are paying a great price in their service to the Lord.

RANDY HURST is communications director for AG World Missions.

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