Presence Is Powerful

July 21, 2017 by Janelle P in

Longing to Spend Time With Others

After Open Doors staff member Chantal* lost her husband to a heart attack, God sent her exactly what she needed. Companions.

Chantal felt drawn to be with women who were facing challenges themselves, particularly those who were facing persecution for their faith. “I longed to spend time with other widows,” she recalls.

Chantal and a team of volunteer travelers from Open Doors Women’s Ministry were able to do just that. They were recently able to spend just over two week weeks with Ethopian women who had experienced different kinds of trauma ranging from loss and isolation to threats and attacks.

Some Background on Ethiopia

Unsurprisingly, the challenges these women faced were tied to their home country. In Ethiopia, there are many tribes and not all of them are favorable to Christianity. Some tribes, in fact, are deeply interconnected with Islam. And in many cases, their ruling officials purposefully create hardship for other religious institutions, often intentionally blocking Christians’ freedom of expression and assembly. In these situations, officials do not take kindly to dissent and often become hostile toward Christians who live among them.

A Simple Approach

Though the team of course hoped to aid in the Ethiopian women’s recovery from their own painful experiences, their approach was more simple than strategic. Every day, the visiting team woke up and spent as much time with the Ethiopian women as possible.  Each morning, the women gathered to study the Bible together. Each afternoon, they worked on crafts together. In between and during these activities, they talked.

While engaging these women in relatively simple activities, this team participated in an activity that is central to Open Doors: spending time with vulnerable people groups in parts of the world that are rarely traveled.

This act of “spending time with” persecuted believers is a core activity of Open Doors. Sharing these sorts of prolonged visits and participating in daily life together gives team members the chance to offer a unique ministry of presence.  This ministry of presence, which is also sometimes called incarnational ministry, is inspired by the life of Jesus who chose to come to visit humankind and spend time living and walking among us.

Similarly, Open Doors endeavors to interact with people in public spaces, to get to know people and communities, and to build relationships. We come alongside people as they face hardship, placing a real human hand on the shoulder and speaking tangible words of comfort and of prayer. By doing so, we take seriously the guidance in Galatians 6:2 to “bear one another’s burden and, in doing so, fulfill the law of Christ.”

By spending time with Ethopian women, in person, Open Doors is able to learn about the hardships of local life first hand. They’re also able to uncover information that helps Open Doors better advocate for marginalized people whose challenges wouldn’t be made public otherwise.

Presence Is Powerful

When the Open Doors team first met the Ethopian women, they were struck by their deep sadness. But as they talked and worked on therapeutic crafts, like Kintsugi–where broken ceramic pieces are turned into beautiful artwork–the Ethopian women’s demeanor transformed before their eyes.

“In these women, I witnessed resolute faith in God and was reminded what an immense difference spending time and praying with persecuted Christians can make,” Chantal explains, “Their hope and joy in the Lord were restored, they felt part of the Body of Christ as they shared their stories and were reminded that they are neither forgotten nor alone. They told us that our presence showed them what real love looks like!”

Although not everyone is able to visit Ethopia to spend time with residents firsthand, Open Doors provides multiple ways for people around the globe to express support and solidarity with persecuted believers like them. You can sign up to receive updates about groups in need of prayer via email. And you can donate to the work of Open Doors in Ethopia in order to personally participate in strengthening Christians who are resisting Islam and other belief systems in favor of following Jesus.

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