Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Sharing in Suffering

Leslie Basham: When Michele Rickett met persecuted believers in China, she was ready to launch a campaign to fight for their rights. But these believing women had a different request.

Michele Rickett: They said, “Here’s what we want you to do. We want for you to tell the women in the United States, ‘Pray for the women here in China who suffer so many things to share the gospel. Pray that they will have courage under interrogation. Pray that they will not give away any names under persecution of other believers. And pray that they will love their enemies into the kingdom.’”

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 6.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m so thankful that the Lord has allowed us this week to hear from Michele Rickett, the founder and president of Sisters In Service who is sharing with us some things that I think are very, very important for our Revive Our Hearts listeners to be hearing, some things that may shake your world a little bit.

In fact, one of our technical staff just said a few moments ago, “I’m not sure I want to hear all this.” And I think there’s a little bit of that in each of us. These are not easy things to hear, but they’re important for us to understand as we think about what is going on outside of our relatively comfortable little world here in the United States. While we are enjoying many of the blessings and the freedoms of life in this country, we have sisters around the world who are suffering because they are women or because they are Christians, sometimes both.

So Michele, thank you for opening our eyes to see what God sees and what God knows and encouraging us to get educated as to what is happening in the world and then to let God impress on our hearts as to what in fact we can do about that. Thank you for joining us this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Michele Rickett: Thank you for the opportunity thank you.

Nancy: You know as we’ve been talking over the last few days—and if you haven’t heard these last few days I want to encourage you to go to ReviveOurHearts.com and to pull up the transcripts or the audio from these last couple of interviews. You’ll hear some things that will be disturbing but I think will rock your world in an appropriate way.

But I’ve been thinking about that passage in Proverbs 24 that says,

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, "Behold, we did not know this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it. and will he not repay man according to his work? (verses 11-12).

I think prior to this week, Michele, some of us could have said, “I did not know. I didn’t really know what was going on in the world.”

I mean, we see these massive images one after another on our TV screens and on the Internet news. But sometimes it’s just too big to get a handle on. We see there are wars going on. There are famines going on. There is persecution going on.

I get an email virtually daily of religious news updates. Almost every day there are tales of persecution going on in different parts of the world. But you kind of get immune to it. It’s so much. It’s so not personal to where we live.

And yet you have traveled. You have looked into the eyes of these women. You have heard their stories. You have wept with those who are weeping. And you’re here to tell us what is happening with these women so we can no longer say, “I didn’t know that.”

Tell us just in an overview fashion in summary of what we’ve talked about the last couple of days. What are some of the things that our sisters around the world are experiencing because they are women or because they are believers in Jesus Christ?

Michele: Well, in broadest terms I believe ever since the dawn of time, women and their children have suffered disproportionately because they are the most vulnerable. You’ll remember that when the man and the woman fell God said to the man, “From this day there’s going to be thorns and thistles in your way.”

And it’s true. Every man works very hard to provide for his family.

And then He turned to the woman and said, “From this day there is enmity”—that word means war—between the serpent and the woman and the serpent and the seed of the woman (see Genesis 3:15). That’s women and children. And from the body of the woman would come the Savior of the world.

God gave her as a gift to the world and the Savior as a solution. No wonder the enemy hates her so. So the suffering that we see of basically women and girls are the:

  • least fed
  • least educated
  • least valued
  • most often abused
  • most often abandoned
  • most often aborted
  • most often abducted and enslaved

Their issues, most of the women of the world, not generally women in the United States . . . We have opportunities for education, and we have opportunities for healthcare and to develop personally as women. We have one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given to women anywhere at anytime in history in that we have freedom to talk about what’s really important.

I believe this is by God’s design although other women around the world and girls and children are oppressed and live under such suffering sort of like Queen Esther in the Bible. We are the “Esthers” in the family of faith in that He has preserved someone who has the platform to speak up about what’s going on for the others.

We here in North America who have all these advantages, the last thing I want people to do is feel guilty about being blessed by God. Instead, look at our opportunities for information that we get, this flood of information on the radio and television sets, and say, “Okay, God is informing those of us who can do something about it not so we have to feel guilty that we’re not in that position, but instead be thankful He has put us in the position as Esthers in the family of faith so that we can speak up for the voiceless ones. We can begin to say, “We think girls should be fed as well as boys, and we think they should have an education.”

Who’s able to provide this in these countries? Probably I’m not the best person to go to China, India, Indonesia when we have our sisters who are there who know the language and culture and they are perfectly willing to do this work. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing for me to do. It does mean if we would join together, imagine how much more effective and powerful we will be for the gospel when we work together.

Nancy: I think one of the first things that you’ve encouraged us to do, Michele, is to just get informed and to know what’s going on. And Michele, I’m so thankful that you’ve written this book, Daughters of Hope. The subtitle is Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution.

I want to say this is a book you will have a hard time putting down. Yet it’s a book you may not want to read as you’re going to bed at night because there are some troubling, disturbing, hard to read stories for those of us who are in our comfortable worlds.

I think of one sentence, for example, that just jumped off the page to me as I was reading one of these stories was a woman who said, “Every time we meet as believers, we expect to be turned in,” turned into the authorities.

That’s something that’s hard for us to even fathom as we go to our churches and worship so freely in this country. But that really is not true in major parts of the world.

Michele: That’s right. When that woman told me that I was so upset by the things that these women had told me that they suffer just for wanting to sing a hymn. I thought, “Well, you know what? We can do something about that. We live in a free country, and we can start a letter writing campaign.”

And they laughed at me. They said, “Oh no, no, no,” like maybe she hasn’t read this part in the Bible. They said, “Michele, it says in the Bible, ‘All those who walk godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’”

I was taken back. That wasn’t what I expected from them. They said, “Here’s what we want you to do. We want for you to tell the women in the United States:

  • Pray for the women here in China who suffer so many things to share the gospel.
  • Pray that they will have courage under interrogation.
  • Pray that they will not give away any names under persecution of other believers.
  • Pray that they will love their enemies into the kingdom.”

What I began to see is though I may not suffer persecution, if I do what the Bible says and I bear the burdens of my brothers and sisters as though they were my very own, I can borrow some persecution. In that way I can share in the sufferings of Christ. That’s sort of the thing that the apostle Paul was talking about.

It’s a mystery to think that we can share in the sufferings of Christ. Well, we do so vicariously. If we have strength in this part of the body, what a joy to be on this end of the equation and to leverage some of the privileges we have to strengthen those who suffer to serve.

Nancy: It reminds me of what the writer to Hebrews says in Hebrews chapter 13. He says, “Remember those who are in prison as though in prison with them" (verse 3).

Now the people he was writing to were not themselves in prison. But he says, “Put yourself in their place. Enter into their sufferings. Pray for them. Love them as you would want to be loved, as you would want to be prayed for. Remember those who are experiencing these afflictions in other parts of the world as if you yourself were experiencing those afflictions.”

You chronicle many of the stories of women that you have actually heard from, firsthand stories of women who came distances or at some risk to themselves to tell you their stories, people whose names you can’t say. Sometimes you can’t even say what city or exactly what country they may be in. But you are telling these stories so that we can participate in some measure in their affliction as we pray for them, as we ask God to bless them and to give them the courage and the faith to endure.

One of the things that struck me Michele as I read story after story in this book Daughters of Hope was the amazing conspicuous absence as these women told you their stories of fear, of depression, and of bitterness. And as they talked about their backgrounds, the things their parents had done to them, forced marriages, religious persecution, physical affliction because they are women or because they are believers in Christ, sometimes both. I thought of the women in our country, many of whom write to us at Revive Our Hearts, some of whom are enduring themselves difficult situations.

But you know, fear and bitterness and depression have almost become the birthright of us as American women. But the women whose stories you’re telling, that didn’t seem to be their response. It struck me as being so different—their circumstances being so much worse than most of our circumstances. And yet in their response, there’s this freedom from fear, freedom from anger, freedom from bitterness. It almost didn’t even seem to be an issue.

How do you understand that and how do you explain that?

Michele: What Jesus talked about—distinguishing ourselves as His followers. In the Sermon on the Mount He said, “The people of the kingdom they’re going to be like this.” And He described them.

And He said, “Unlike the pagans, unlike the unbelievers. The pagans they look only to themselves. They’re looking at where they’re going to live, what they’re going to put on, what they’re going to eat next.” He said, “They run after those things. But you, you put me first and my kingdom and all these things, they will be added to you” (see Matthew 5:25-34). 

The apostle Paul said, “I glory in Jesus, in exalting Jesus. And therefore, this light and momentary affliction, it’s working for me a far more eternal, exceeding weight of glory” (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). If you’re living for the eternal, then the temporal is buying for you a future that can never be taken away. If you’re living for the joy that you can hold onto and grab right now and building a nice life and happiness and freedom from pain, then you will always be disappointed.

Jesus essentially told His followers, “I will tell you a little bit about what’s going to happen before I return. There’s going to be wars and rumors of wars, and nation is going to rise against nation. There’s going to be disease and famine and pestilence and earthquakes in unexpected places. Some of you are going to be taken into custody, and some of you will be put to death for my name’s sake. See to it that you are not alarmed” (see Matthew 24:4-7).

He said, “See to it that you are not alarmed.”

Nancy: Expect it.

Michele: I scratched my head about that. But He goes on in Matthew 24:14, “Because this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (NASB).

“These terrible things that are going to happen are like birth pains,” He said. Well, from personal experience some of us know as the wonderful birth draws near, the pains become more frequent and more intense.

So what our sisters are saying to us overseas is, “We don’t expect things to get better in a sin sick world. We expect, as Jesus said, that things are going to get tougher on Christians. But this is working for us. We know the end from the beginning. We are not alarmed by these sufferings. No one enjoys suffering, but we are going to use these to shine the light brighter against this darkening backdrop.

This perspective I think of our sisters is what is probably the most helpful to us as we endure one difficult thing after another. All of us have challenges and trials ahead. If we keep that perspective that I am here as an ambassador, a bearer of the light; if things get darker it’s only so that the light can shine more brightly for those who are lost, shepherdless sheep who need to find their way. It will actually help us.

And I can tell you that because of my abusive upbringing I carried so much baggage and confusion and disappointment. I wanted somebody to take care of me as a woman. I didn’t want to go boldly and do anything for anybody else. I figured I’d gone through enough as a child.

Even as a young Christian, I didn’t begin to experience the joy of Jesus until I did what He said. He said, “Lay your life down for me, and then you will pick it up.” That is where you find your joy. Jesus said, “A seed cannot multiply itself, it can’t be fruitful, until you’re willing to lay down and die and be covered over in death. Then you’ll spring up a harvest to the glory of God more than you ever would have imagined. And in that you will have great joy and the thing that counts the most, and that’s the glory of God on the face of the earth" (see John 12:23-25).

"Here’s what we want you to do. We want for you to tell the women in the United States, ‘Pray for the women here in China who suffer so many things to share the gospel. Pray that they will have courage under interrogation. Pray that they will not give away any names under persecution of other believers. And pray that they will love their enemies into the kingdom.’”

Nancy: What you’re talking about Michele is so contrary to our human natural way of thinking. We are so tied into the here and now, what we can see, what we feel. We lose the sense of perspective that you have found in some of these women in other countries where they have much to teach us about seeing this current life and its suffering from God’s point of view.

In fact, I was struck by something that you wrote in the book, and let me just read it here. A woman in Beijing who spoke to you and said,

You Americans think life is supposed to be pleasant. When it’s not you think something is wrong.

And I thought, “How true is that?”

You have to fix it so you can be happy and comfortable again. You have not learned to trust God when life is hard. You have not learned the lesson of finding His purposes for you when you are uncomfortable. You have not yet learned to find joy in suffering.

Now you’ve seen some women and heard them with your own ears who have actually learned to find joy in suffering.

Michele: My husband is on staff with Sisters In Service, and he and I have the joy of traveling together sometimes. Often as we minister together as a couple, there are couples who minister on behalf of women and children overseas. We wanted to get ourselves to somehow extend God’s love into the troubled, imprisoned nation of North Korea.

So at the end of this last year, we traveled to stand on the river that separates China from North Korea and just put our toes in the water. We wanted to pray over that river alongside both Chinese and North Korean believers. And one of the women (we call her Parchoi in the book) is such an incredible example of what we’ve been talking about.

She and her husband, like most of North Koreans, were literally starving to death. Most of the people who come across the river into China it’s not because they’re dissident; it’s because they are hungry, and they’ve heard that there’s food inside China.

Well, she and her husband made it across the river. They had been told, “Look for people of the cross. When you see a cross go to those people and they will help you. They love Jesus, and they love people.” That’s what they knew, so they got themselves there.

She recounted that they had a plate of food in front of them. And she said, “We kept eating and eating and eating. We’d never even seen so much food.” A bag of rice will last a family an entire year in Korea because they use about a tablespoon of rice and the rest is water and weeds and sort of a gruel.

We couldn’t even tell when she was full. She didn’t know what that feeling was like. They finally regained their strength. When they came to know Jesus, they turned their eyes back to North Korea.

These two walked right back into North Korea because for them, though they knew they might be taken into custody right away for having left and come back, though they knew they were going to famine, what was more important to them was that Jesus would be the light to the people in darkness in North Korea. They were willing to pay the cost, take on discomfort rather than even waiting for it to be imposed on them. They embraced it knowing that that’s what it takes.

Nancy: And so many of these women consider that not a burden but a privilege to give their lives for Christ in that way.

Michele: It is a privilege. It’s part of my wonderment every day to hear the lessons from these women. It’s part of my goal with Sisters In Service. Let’s go ahead and open our hearts though these things are difficult to hear about, open our ears to the lessons that they alone can teach us. We don’t live in those circumstances and yet in a sense we do. We are a part of the same family. When one part of the body suffers, the other part hurts as well. We can actually pull in and be benefited, gaining perspective we couldn’t gain in any other way.

Nancy: Michele, I know that many of our listeners’ hearts have been touched as has mine as you’ve shared with us and opened our eyes to some of what is going on outside our own world. I know that many are wondering, “My heart’s been touched. What can I do? How can I pray?”

I want to ask you if you’d come and join us again on our next Revive Our Hearts program and share with us just some practical ways that our listeners can pray, can become involved in helping to bear the burden of these our sisters in other parts of the world.

Leslie Basham: I hope you’ll join Nancy Leigh DeMoss and our guest Michele Rickett as they pick up that conversation tomorrow. But you don’t have to wait to get a copy of Michele’s book Daughters of Hope. As Nancy and Michele just described, when you start to understand the plight of persecuted women around the world, you can share in their sufferings through prayer.

The book Daughters of Hope will guide your prayers. As you read about the joy that other women maintain through their suffering, you’ll approach your own trials with a new perspective.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you Daughters of Hope. You can give online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Women around the country and around the world are gearing up for True Woman 2010, the conference Revive Our Hearts created for women. Speakers like Crawford and Karen Loritts, Mary Kassian, Fern Nichols and Dannah Gresh will join Nancy. I hope you’ll join them too.

You can register online at ReviveOurHearts.com to attend True Woman in Chattanooga, Indianapolis, or Dallas next year.

Tomorrow Michele Rickett will describe how to balance information and action. Please be back.

Michele's back with a final thought about how we can help the persecuted around the world.

Michele: I think the biggest message that I hope no one misses is that we have the incredible joy and the opportunity to encourage these women and to stand with them in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of prayer. I have seen it work.

I love to tell the story of our friend Wati in Indonesia. She and a small team were taken into custody by a constable who was trying to save their lives. There was a mob ready to kill them. The gentleman asked her, “Isn’t there something I can tell these people that will spare our lives?” He was afraid for his own life.

And Wati in her usual way said, “If I die tonight I’ll be a happy person, but we’re afraid for you.”

And he said, “No, isn’t there something?”

And she said, “You know we have people praying for us in Jakarta and people praying for us in the United States.”

He said, “You mean people know you? People in the United States know you’re here right now?”

And so he went out and negotiated with the mob that they could cause an international incident. Now, we are no threat. We are a tiny group of praying women for Wati that day. But we saved her life through the power of connection and prayer.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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