When we read Bible stories to our kids, they hear about and see God’s goodness, hope and love. We share with them the stories of Moses and the plagues, David and Goliath and the miracles of Jesus. But many of us may not feel a need to expose our kids to some of the tougher stories of persecution we find in God’s Word. We might be tempted to skip the stories of Stephen’s stoning, Paul’s imprisonment and the eventual fate of the disciples. Our kids probably won’t hear stories from us of how their parents or grandparents faced incredible danger for their faith.
But parents living in places where following Jesus costs the most don’t have this luxury. So, how do these parents help cultivate deep, lasting faith in their children?
In countries where persecution against Christians runs rampant, kids who receive a legacy of faith from their family quickly learn being a believer comes with pain, difficulty and loss. It’s an inheritance that stands in stark contrast to the peace and connectedness of many of our own faith stories in the West.
If persecution continues to rise at its current rate, the next generation will suffer more for their faith than any generation before them. More kids will be forced from their homes in a hurry, narrowly escaping before their parents are arrested on false charges. Others will lose fathers in violent attacks by extremists. And more still will lose the opportunity to go to school when Christians are excluded from public education.
But these traumatic experiences don’t have to harden the hearts of the next generation. We can help these children learn to navigate suffering by repeating the hope they need to hear, much like Jesus repeats “Be not afraid” in Scripture.
As part of the Open Doors family, our vision is to build the next generation into a resilient Church. Together, we can provide spiritual support and mental health counseling to every suffering child. We can give them an education and teach them vocational skills that can help them survive. We can equip their families to faithfully demonstrate the presence of Jesus through the harshest of times. But most importantly, we can also remind these precious children that they don’t have to be afraid.
I often wish I could spare the children of the persecuted church even a fraction of their pain—I’m sure all of us do. However, I also know through their pain, they become prepared. And that’s why I’m excited for the future of the Church: because there’s a new generation rising who are prepared with resilient faith. The children of the persecuted church are strong enough to keep hopeful hearts while carrying heavy loads.
Their generation may be the one to usher in a new era of freedom for followers of Jesus. And you are helping their cause, through your prayers, your encouragement and your support towards their care and education. Through you, they are reminded they are not alone: God with us.