GlobalView from Bishop Bill Atwood
Recently, I’ve been traveling through Asia. For security reasons, I won’t mention which countries I’ve visited because there are many places where evangelism is illegal and conversion is a crime. I don’t want to run the risk of authorities (or radicals) putting 2 and 2 together and heaping additional persecution on anyone. Hopefully, I can convey some interesting insights I’ve gained and experiences I’ve had recently, but do so in a way that doesn’t put anyone in danger.
Everywhere I have gone, because of the internet, I have found that people are amazingly informed about the election in the USA and have even kept up with current events about immigration and terrorism. Almost everyone who spoke with me about the recent election volunteered comments such as, “Trump is strong. We like him. He will be strong against the terrorists. The recent years, America under Obama has been weak.” I’m not sharing those statements to be political. In every case, the local people were the ones initiating conversations about the election, and they were very revealing. Almost all of them volunteered that they thought a strong America would make it easier for them to do evangelism and would likely have a lessening impact on terrorism. Many expressed great distress at the advocacy that the previous administration pursued for abortion and for same-sex marriage, and they said that they earnestly hoped that President Trump would have a different approach.
It was fascinating to see the almost universal sentiment from these Christians in other countries, namely that they felt President Trump’s election is a good thing. I did say how crucial it is for them to pray for President Trump. He is clearly a person capable of bringing about tremendous disruption. Unified prayer support can help shape matters toward Kingdom values to help the disruption be positive. Of course, there are many places where great evil is unleashed, but “the effective fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much” (James 5:16). Our friends and partners overseas know that prayer can steer events. We don’t know what are the limits of that transformation, but certainly more happens when people pray (fervently and effectively) than when there isn’t prayer support.
Last night at the airport, we were pretty much on lockdown, with lines of passengers moving at a crawl through check-in and security. The people doing security checks were unpacking most bags and examining everything. There were regular police, lots of guys in suits with guns, and Army soldiers in body armor all over the place. One of the Army sergeants who was checking tickets alongside the airport personnel said, “We have specific threats that bombs will be planted tonight, so we check everything.”
As you can well imagine, I was glad when my 3:00 A.M. flight, though late, actually departed.
Some huge highlights…
I visited an Anti-trafficking Ministry. Nine women and one man work at an operations centre from which they coordinate rescues of children who are being grabbed for trafficking in the sex-trade or being sold to become temple prostitutes. The front-line people who actually find and rescue the children were actually rescued themselves. Their passion to rescue and share Christ with these children is breathtaking. I was able to pray for them. When I did, the reality of the horror was poignant, and I couldn’t hold back tears.
Each of the office workers monitors an area of about one hundred villages. Their responsibilities span across a number of languages, and outreach is done in areas in which majorities are from a numerous different religions. Often, when people come to faith in Christ, they must move to another area because the retribution can be severe.
In worship, teams led in singing skilled choruses that were familiar (though sometimes translated into several languages). There were also original worship songs reflecting indigenous music. The anointing of the Holy Spirit during worship and prayer times would have been hard to miss.
There are also medical clinics (some mobile ones in trucks and buses), schools, and many training centers where young girls who live without hope are taught to sew, and then hired to sew dresses, uniforms, and the like. Developing a marketable skill is life-saving for these girls. Boys can study academics or learn a trade such as welding or carpentry.
The Christians in these settings have a very wholistic view of the Kingdom and the Gospel, in which many different spheres are touched. Considering the opposition that the Church faces and the persecution by radicals (or in some countries by the government), the fruit is absolutely remarkable.
I am still traveling, but I can say that this last week has been very sobering, refreshing, and also highly motivating. When one sees the tremendous fruit that has been produced in the face of a government that wounds rather than supports Kingdom initiatives, it is certainly a reminder of how much more earnestly we need to pray in North America. For too long, many North Americans have been AWOL—out of the picture—and have not engaged in prayer for the political sphere in a substantial and targeted way. It does not have to be that way. When people see actions that they do not support, prayer can be mobilized. A great encouraging Scripture about that is to “turn the heart of the king like a stream of water in the hand of the Lord.” You can be one of the prayer warriors who pray those kind of world-changing prayers. The worse the situation, the more prayer is needed
The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood is Bishop of the ACNA International Diocese and an American Anglican Council contributing author.