International (MNN) — 2008 was a year of ups and downs for
many believers. Glenn Penner with Voice of the Martyrs
Canada says one of the good things in their ministry was the expansion into some tricky parts of the world.
Growth requires funding, and despite the economic downturn,
God not only met their budget needs, but exceeded them.
The timing of surplus couldn't be better. Global food
shortages combined with financial and natural disaster hit many churches
hard. Persecution increased in many places,
but Penner says the greatest challenge this year came in India.
Upheaval throughout the country has exacted a severe price
from the church. Although the Christian community is no stranger to
persecution, it has endured its most trying and testing time in its 2,000 years
Rioting and harsh retribution for the murder of a Hindu
leader in August cost hundreds of believers their lives. The unrest
continued to spread, and homes, churches and schools associated with Christians
were burned. Threats kept many churches on guard and derailed public celebrations of Christmas.
Christmas Day in India was relatively peaceful, and Penner
believes it could be simply because authorities are finally responding to the
terror threats. There's hope that the
worst of the campaign has burned itself out, but in areas where there has been
violence, the region remains tense.
Penner says their work will not only continue in 2009, but
they have plans to expand. "Pray for our brothers and sisters. It is
what they ask for, first and foremost. Then [we're involved with] doing
advocacy work on their behalf, writing on their behalf, writing to those who
are in prison, helping to provide Bibles and legal aid for those that are
going through trial, and helping to take care of the families."
Part of their focus in 2009 will be responding to church
leaders in India. Their plea: "We
need to know how to respond Biblically. This is something Voice of the Martyrs
focuses on, what we call a 'Biblical theology of persecution' — teaching church
leaders, in particular, what the Bible teaches about persecution and then passing it on." That means
teaching and resourcing more church leaders to be prepared for what's to come