A dark, solitary cell; food through a hatch—for 23 years. That’s the reward Wang Mingdao received from the Chinese government for telling others about the love of Jesus. But Wang was not alone.
Rather than push him to the edge of insanity, Wang’s lonely lockup turned into a kind of sanctuary—one which, he testifies, brought him an infinite blessing of communion with his heavenly Father. Wang’s years of incarceration removed all distractions, helping him develop a relationship with God that few of us will ever know. Most people “have no time for God,” he laments. “You need to build yourself a cell,” he admonishes, “so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me; simplify your life and know God.”
Wang’s story rocked my life. As the director of Heaven’s Family’s Persecuted Christians Ministry, I am well aware of the various forms of physical abuse the devil uses to combat the body of Christ. But I wonder if I’m equally aware of simple, under-the-radar techniques, like distractions, which can be a powerful weapon that keeps me from intimacy with God.
Wang’s insistence for simplification has become an invitation. I can feel the Lord asking me to let go of distractions, possessions or ventures that have stolen my focus from what I’m called to do. This isn’t easy, and quite frankly I’ve not surrendered without a fight. But as my white-knuckled grip begins to loosen, I feel that I’m entering a more and more beautiful space. King David said it this way: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19).
I’ve also had new revelation into how God is using Heaven’s Family to offer this same space and simplicity for His persecuted followers. For years, the Persecuted Christians Ministry has invested in safe houses to support displaced families and underground church leaders. These houses are secretly operated by local believers who are dedicated to offering food, shelter, discipleship and restoration counseling for those who have experienced persecution. But the houses also offer something else to guests—a singular focus on Jesus. With everything stripped away, those seeking refuge spend their days in the Lord’s presence, understanding Him in deeper ways while their souls and bodies heal.
Just one of those you’ve helped provide a sanctuary for is Isaac in North Africa. Isaac was once a revered Islamic leader, but after an incredible conversion to Christ, many of his fellow teachers and former students quickly turned on him. For almost six years Isaac lived on the run, separated from his wife and four children, persecuted at every turn. Just as hope had all but vanished, he met a Heaven’s Family partner who smuggled him to a safe house for refuge, counseling, and discipleship. Isaac’s loved-ones were also secretly brought to the safe house, reuniting the family. Together again, they were surrounded by a community offering a season of restoration in the Lord’s presence.
Wang Mingdao found closeness with the Lord in the quietness of a dirty cell. Isaac, and all those who have sojourned in Heaven’s Family-sponsored safe houses are now finding the Lord in simple homes that, although missing lavish decorations and comfort, are yet rich in freedom to worship and seek God.
What about those of us who are not truly persecuted for our faith? What kind of “cell” do you and I need to regularly lock ourselves into? What kind of “safe house” do we need to retreat to? Maybe it’s as simple as clearing some clutter from our schedules, trusting the Lord to provide His presence in the simplicity and space we create for Him.
Thank you to those who, through gifts to the Persecuted Christians Ministry, are providing safe-house sanctuaries for many whose true names and faces we’ll only know in heaven. May we all find the Lord in new ways this coming season, and may we be renewed in serving those who are suffering.