It began with Lent. My church does not accent the giving up of something for Lent. It was something I had heard many people talk about, but not something I had ever done until one Easter season several years ago. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I knew I wanted it to be a private thing, and in a small house with three people, giving up things like a particular food or television program wasn’t a choice that could stay private. My family would have supported me, I didn’t question that for a moment, but I felt God drawing my heart toward doing something differently that year, I just wasn’t sure what. So I prayed and asked Him to show me what it was He wanted me to give up. Do you know what He showed me?
My comfort zone.
For years, I had received newsletters from ministries supporting the persecuted Church around the world. I gave financially to the ministries from time to time, but I had not invested my heart. Something was holding me back. God showed me that the something was being willing to be uncomfortable. Reading stories of persecuted Christians isn’t easy. It isn’t pleasant. But for one Lenten season, I felt the burden to read—really read and become involved with—the stories held in the newsletters I had been saving but not reading.
So I did, and the more I read, the more I needed to read. The stories were overwhelming. There were so many of them. I had always known Christian persecution existed, but somehow in my mind I had limited it to one country or one area and one particular period of time. It was something that had happened in the past, but as I read I realized it was happening today, to Christians around the world, to children.
Before long, my heart was overwhelmed by the stories of hurting families in countries that are too often forgotten, in towns and villages with names that are hard to spell and harder to say. My heart was broken, but I didn’t know what to do. I prayed; I gave as I was able. I didn’t feel God calling me to leave my job or my family. But I had to do something. I couldn’t hold the stories I was reading inside; the weight was too heavy, and I could feel myself slipping away from others emotionally as I tried to make sense of it all.
Write It Down
That’s when God reminded me of the other passion He has placed in my heart—writing for children. Writing is the way I express myself, the way I sort out my swirling thoughts, and the way I share what is on my heart. Why not write about the persecuted Church in a way that was safe for children to read?
So I began. I used what I learned about real-life events, combined that with what I could find about life in the nations involved, and wrapped it in stories of children who were facing persecution and danger for their Christian faith. I purposefully stayed away from graphic details that would be too much for children to read.
I had no idea what I would do with the stories. I had been studying writing professionally for long enough to know that the stories I was writing were too long for most magazines and about a topic that would not be an easy sell. But I had to write the stories; it allowed me to process what I was feeling and move forward reading, learning, and serving in whatever ways I could. In time I had the opportunity to share some of the stories on a blog I began to help children learn about lost people groups and the needs of persecuted Christians. I shared some of them in other online forums. I’ve continued, during the last several years, to read and learn all I can about the persecuted Church and have found my heart drawn again and again to the people of South and Southeast Asia.
Then God blessed me with a surprise I never could have imagined—the chance to combine those stories together with some non-fiction material I had written for another project. The result was my first self-published book, Asia: Its People and History. It’s a sixteen-week study for homeschools, co-ops, and small church groups that explores life in six Asian nations through fictional stories and non-fiction history and geography-based narrative. Its purpose is to awaken curiosity and help children feel connected to their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
What burden has God put on your heart? How is He calling you to go outside your comfort zone so He can expand your world and your ministry? Ask Him to show you what steps to take and then, with His help, take them one step at a time.