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An Exciting Journey with the Persecuted Church

Twenty years ago, I heard a strong message on Christian radio from the Word of God that changed my life.  The Lord used it to wake me up to what is happening to millions of my brothers and sisters in Christ and stir me to action!  Through prayer, He graciously helped me get past my fear of failure and perfectionism and start doing what I could to raise prayer and support for the worldwide persecuted Church.  Jesus is calling us all to love our Christian brothers and sisters with the same kind of love He showed us on the Cross, the kind of love that Dominic Sputo calls Heirloom Love in his book with that title.

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But with this kind of overwhelming call, how could I even dare to get started?  The answer was to become an advocate for Open Door USA with my church, St. James Anglican Church, Costa Mesa, California (which was St. James Episcopal Church of Newport Beach, California in those days).

Open Doors was founded by Brother Andrew who was known as “God’s Smuggler” for smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War in 1955. Open Doors provided the tools and information I needed to host a very important event – IDOP, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, held in early November each year.  That year, 1998, it was decided to have a whole season of prayer for the persecuted Church from mid-September to early November instead of just one day.  God gave me many ideas to fill this time productively including hosting an information table each Sunday, doing a book study of Their Blood Cries Out by Paul Marshall, as well as hosting an information night at the beginning of the prayer season and a liturgical prayer night at the end of the period.  Everyone was encouraged to select a prayer card with a photo of a persecuted believer to pray for, and each small group adopted a particular country to pray for. 

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If the Lord calls you, He is very faithful to equip you!  My faith was built up when I saw how He sent people to me to help with this new ministry.  One person encouraged me to start a monthly prayer group for the persecuted Church and helped me launch it.  Another person, a missionary herself, became my mentor in the early days and gave wonderful guidance.  Every month we pray for a different country, which makes it more interesting.  After a few years, a priest gave me some really great advice – organize an international banquet for the persecuted Church!!!  Being a ticketed event, it would allow us to raise more financial support for the persecuted Church.  This is probably the most effective way I have found to share this incredible opportunity to advance God’s Kingdom with others.  It is a very powerful experience that is also a lot of fun!  So, I’ve been hosting this banquet for my church once a year in May for the past 15 years, and for the past 5 years it’s been an extra special blessing to be able to work with Kim Hensley of Calvary Chapel Living Word in Irvine to host the banquet at her church as a joint endeavor for the two churches. 

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So, you may wonder – why is an Anglican Church like mine holding an event at a Calvary Chapel Church?  This is another God story that I love!  St. James Anglican lost its property because of our stand for Jesus, and we became “homeless” with nowhere to hold the IDOP in November 2013.  Grace Fellowship, a church close to where we were temporarily holding Sunday morning services, opened their doors and their hearts to us to host this Sunday evening event.  They did not know much about the persecuted Church, but they were eager to learn!  It was a very successful IDOP, but what about the May banquet event?  Grace Fellowship did not have a room suitable for hosting a banquet, but the Lord brought us another church, Calvary Chapel Living Word, to host the banquet.  Kim Hensley of that church wanted to do something for the persecuted Church but thought she needed help to get it started.  This wonderful church rolled out the red carpet for us, changing their main sanctuary into a banquet room.  I absolutely love this evidence of unity in the body of Christ – with the Lord tearing down denominational walls to bring us all closer to the international body of Christ!  It has been such a joy working with these two churches for the IDOP and the banquet ever since!  We at St. James have a leased property now so that I am no longer “homeless”, but hosting an event for two churches working together with usually 10 or more churches attending is so much more fruitful for the Kingdom!

I could tell you many stories of the interesting speakers the Lord has brought me over the years for IDOP and the banquet and the joy it has brought me to raise so much prayer and support for believers in countries like Nigeria, North Korea, and across the Middle East.  But let me just share a little about the last banquet this May.  It was a wonderful evening!  We started with an incredible array of international cuisine donated by our chefs, followed by musical worship that touched our hearts.  Our speaker, William Hernandez, a missionary to the Middle East, thrilled and inspired us with his stories of Muslims coming to Christ and his work to strengthen them for the persecution they suffered as soon as they converted.  This was followed by a time of prayer for our suffering brothers and sisters and an offering for our project focused on discipleship of new believers in the Middle East.  Since this is a ticketed event, the proceeds included ticket money as well as the offering, and we were blessed with over $4,000 to help the Church in the Middle East, both through the Hernandez family and through Open Doors.  The great food and festive atmosphere seem to really bolster attendance.  I praise the Lord for this idea!

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some very special people who have suffered much for the sake of Jesus.  Some people may think that prayer for the persecuted Church is too gloomy and depressing, but my experience has been the opposite!  It has inspired and strengthened me in my faith, and I have learned so much from their example.  God is using these suffering saints to advance His Kingdom in a very exciting way, and I get to watch and cheer them on from a front-row seat!  I invite you to join me!

 
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Patricia Streeter is a software developer, mother of two, and grandmother of four.  After moving to California from Texas in 1986, she found Jesus in a deeper way at St. James Anglican Church, Costa Mesa, CA (then an Episcopal Church in Newport Beach).  In 1998, Patricia founded a ministry to the persecuted church that has grown beyond her church’s boundaries. Please email her here to learn more.