USA (MNN) — Open Doors USA is preparing hearts and minds around the world for the Beijing Olympics with a prayer countdown.
"One Minute/One Year/ One Country" is a prayer campaign asking people to pray everyday, if possible, at 8 p.m. Beijing time. Anyone who joins will also receive a monthly prayer calendar and daily e-mail brief.
The Olympics will be held in August 2008, but the Chinese government is already showing signs of cracking down on foreign Christians. Elsewhere, Christians are still making plans to do outreach in Beijing next year–to fans as well as participating athletes.
Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors says house church leaders usually take the brunt of the government crackdowns. "We don't know for sure, but we think that they're going to be under closer surveillance, and they could face more arrests and harassments. So we really need to cover our brothers and sisters in prayer."
Dykstra says the government is "very fearful, and that's why they're restricting travel for some house church leaders." The Chinese government has already warned
missionaries to abide by their ‘rules.' There are also reports from China Aid that about 100 Christians were expelled from the country between April and June, which is evidence that persecution may begin to escalate in the months preceding the games.
China's February expulsion campaign, called Typhoon No. 5, is believed to be an effort
to stop proselytizing before the Olympic games.
It's hard to know how much freedom Christians who decide to do outreach anyway will have.
As the world watches China, Open Doors USA invites anyone and everyone to join their prayer effort. "Some of the Open Doors bases in other parts of the world are also
engaging in this campaign, so we really hope that it spreads all over the world," said Dykstra.
"We're hoping and praying that China will open up and that there will be more freedom for all minorities and that house church leaders and their house churches will not have to register with the government. But how that all plays out, only the Lord knows now. But what we do know is that we need to blanket China with our prayers," said Dykstra.
With over 20,000 pastors trained by Open Doors, they have a real investment and hope for the country.