Recently, I had the opportunity to visit an unreached area of the world with some ministry friends. This country is an enigma of sorts. It’s wide open to tourists, it seems safe on the surface, and yet within two hours of landing we were covertly making our way to a local worship service with a small group of underground Christians. Our contacts split our team into smaller groups and walked us in circular routes through the city to avoid attracting too much attention. The tension was real.
This country has a population of 11,000,000 people, yet there are less than 400 known Christians. That’s just 0.0036%! There are twelve unreached people groups represented here, some with populations of more than 100,000 with no known believers among them. Zero.
Of the 400 believers in the entire country, we had the honor of worshipping that day with 40 of them. We stood among them, a little shell-shocked and a little jet-lagged. We didn’t understand the language, but as they worshipped we sensed the same presence of God we feel when we worship in our own churches.
One of the songs was particularly meaningful. My friend stood next to me and translated as they sang:
“I’m not afraid under the shelter of your wings. I live under the shade of your wings.”
Christians there are outnumbered 28,000 to 1, so there was something powerful about hearing them declare, “I am not afraid.”
One in a Hundred Thousand
Believers in some of these areas face horrible persecution for following Jesus – beatings to the point of death, paralysis, one man whose skull was split open, women raped in front of their family – it is gut wrenching to think about.
One of the believers we met was a man named Micah. Micah found Christ through, of all things, a Facebook post that led him to a series of YouTube videos about Jesus. God is using strategic technology in some amazing ways in these parts of the world.
When Micah became a Christian 5 years ago, he was the only Christian in his entire city of over 100,000 people! Micah was so concerned about the consequences of his new faith that he worshipped Jesus in secret for three years. Since going public with his faith, Micah has been threatened with physical harm, and the cell phone repair business that he owns has been significantly harmed because town leaders bully his customers into taking their phones to other shops in the area.
I asked Micah if he ever thought about going back to his old life. He told me, “Never. When I came out of the waters of baptism, I became a new person. And new people don’t go back to their old life. If you have Jesus you can’t have fear, whatever happens, whatever they do to you.”
Can you imagine being the only believer in a town of 100,000 people? The average American town of this size has dozens, if not hundreds of churches, and thousands of people worshipping Jesus. Micah was all alone.
Thankfully his isolation didn’t last long. When his family saw the transformation in his life, they all wanted what he had. His wife is now a follower of Jesus as well as his four brothers. All told the Christian population in Micah’s town has grown from 1 to 11 in the last twelve months.
A Tax on Our Faith
The wife of a Christian who was horribly beaten coined a phrase that has become very popular among the Christians in this region.
She calls persecution “a tax on our faith.”
In their country, there is a 17.5% sales tax figured into the price of every purchase. When you buy a loaf of bread they don’t add tax at the register, it’s built-in as part of the price. When she called suffering “a tax on our faith”, she meant, “Persecution and suffering are just part of faith. It’s part of the price, it’s figured in.”