“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
Manuel had been a Christian for only four years when he became Pastor Manuel. “It was the seventies,” he said. “Persecution was great.”
Rocks thrown through church windows. Church members harassed and beaten en route to services. Manuel’s life, and the lives of those he loved, were threatened.
Then Compassion International moved into the community. Pastor Manuel’s church partnered with Compassion to launch EC431, a Compassion Child Development Center. “We started with only twelve children,” he said. “The community did not trust us.”
Twelve children who saw a doctor when sick. Twelve bellies filled with chicken, rice, peas and carrots. Twelve children with books open, brows furrowed by study, pencils scribbling answers. Twelve sets of hands clasped in thanks. Only twelve.
Today there are more than 350 – with rooms under construction to serve more. And peace has broken out.
“They trust us. Our church is full.”
“Is that kind of persecution still common in Ecuador?” I asked Pablo, one of our translators, over the sound of rattling windows as we bumped down broken roads.
“Among the indigenous people it is, yes.” And I didn’t expect such barbarism still lingered. Not here. In a democracy? In my hemisphere? In a developing nation?
I leaned across the aisle and turned an ear.
“Two years ago my friend, George,” he began. “George was teaching the bible and they came and poured gasoline on him. He kept preaching. They told him to stop or they would light a match. He kept preaching. They lit a match and threw it on him. Nothing happened. He kept preaching.”
Pablo was grinning. Becoming more and more animated with each sentence.
“They kept lighting matches and throwing them on him. Nothing happened. He kept preaching! And many know Jesus after that.”
“Wow,” I said. What else was there to say?
“And…a man I know,” Pablo continued, fired up like a big tent revival preacher now. “They dragged him to the street and told him to renounce his church. He refused. They beat him to the ground. Still he refused. They say they will kill him. Then his mother layed on him, to cover her son…They killed his mother.”
My face contorted uncontrollably from the grief I felt for this brother I’ve never known. But Pablo was smiling wide.
“And the church grew.”
Blessed are the persecuted for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – the dynamic reign and rule of God on earth in the present. In them. Through them.
Pablo and I stepped off the bus and across a playground where soccer balls flew, a swing set creaked, girls painted fingernails, three year-olds ate snack.
I searched for a restroom and found instead a small empty-for-the-moment classroom and read the walls: Vocabulary words. Names of children. Memory verses.
Con Dios camino Noe…hiso conforme a todo lo que Dios le mando.
Noah walked with God…and did all God commanded him to do.
The road Faithfulness is narrow and paved with tears but never walked alone.
We walk with God: The Father who so loved the world that He gave (John 3:16). The Son who laid his life over ours, taking death in our place (1 Peter 3:18). The Spirit who floods us with boldness and love and power – not fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
We walk with God. And God through us walks with the small, vulnerable, uneducated, hungry, sick and poor. And the Church grows.
Broken to be blessed and a blessing.