How I Became An Advocate For Persecuted Christians
I always love hearing how people got involved in what they do- the different events in their lives that God orchestrated to bring them where they are today. Lindsay Vessey is the Advocacy Director at Open Doors USA. Below is Lindsay’s story:
I grew up in Panama where my parents worked as missionaries. Panama was governed by a dictator named Manuel Noriega, when I was young. I remember that even as a child I enjoyed learning about the transition of our government to a democracy and then learning about the different political parties and why people supported them. I’ve always had an affinity for political issues and discussion. When I came back to the States and started college, I thought some type of international job sounded good. But in reality I had no idea what that meant!
I first learned about human rights issues while attending BIOLA University. One particular class rocked my world as I’d barely heard about issues such as sex trafficking and modern day slave labor. Through a university mistake, I discovered that I would not be able to take all the Political Science classes that were a part of my degree. As a result, I spent a semester in Washington, DC, taking these classes and doing an internship at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). While I was complaining to God about having to spend a semester in DC, he was carefully orchestrating my education and experience to prepare me for my work with Open Doors. I interned in the Grassroots Advocacy department at AIUSA and continued to learn about many other issues that I’d never been exposed to previously. My boss regularly sent met to Capitol Hill to attend hearings, drop of information and speak with Congressional staff about various issues, and spent a lot of time teaching me about how to work on human rights issues. When I returned to BIOLA, I pursued learning more about human rights issues through my classes. God again orchestrated my journey so that I learned about the persecuted Church worldwide for the first time in my life. A book by Paul Marshall titled, “Their Blood Cries Out” was instrumental in this process. I was blown away. How could I have been raised overseas, surrounded by Christians and Christian ministry my whole life, and never really learned about the scope of persecution worldwide?!
During my last semester o f University, I did a special research project, learning about God’s heart for justice and what the should mean for us as Christians. This spiritual journey combined with having lived under a dictatorship as child, gave me a huge appreciation for the privilege of living in a democracy in which the average person has the opportunity to make a difference. There’s often a big focus on financial resources in discussion of human rights or social justice efforts. But I think our nation’s heritage and the freedoms afforded us here are also a key part of our blessing and responsibility in terms of how we serve the Global church. One of the things I love about my work at Open Doors is that I can share with people how to support persecuted Christians, regardless of their ability to give. I can always encourage people to pray and advocate!
During this journey, God has given me incredible opportunities to learn from persecuted Christians worldwide and to share their trials with our policy makers in Washington, DC. Serving the persecuted church is a real privilege and calling and I thank God for allowing me to be a small part of His work in this world.