USA (ODM/MNN) — Open Doors received the prestigious Milestone Award at the National Religious Broadcasters banquet at the Gaylord Opryland and Convention Center Tuesday night.
The Milestone Award is given annually to ministries which have more than 50 years of continuous exceptional ministry in Christian outreach and broadcasting. Open Doors is celebrating 58 years of serving persecuted believers in restricted countries around the world.
Over the course of many years, that commitment never wavered. In a recent interview, Open Doors founder Brother Andrew and the author of the best-selling autobiography "God's Smuggler," says, "The most important motivation is that God sends you. He says, "Go and live among them as a Christian, even if it is costly to you, because without the message of Jesus, they will be lost. We have not made a very big effort yet there because there is a very small minority of missionaries living–up until now–in Muslim countries."
The world is an ever-changing place, and Open Doors has changed right along with it. Brother Andrew noted, "In Communism, if you were caught you were probably thrown out of the country. They would probably confiscate your visa and your Bibles. At worst, you got a prison sentence."
Yet in today's world, the balance of power has shifted, and so has the risk. "With the Islamic countries, if you get caught for doing the same thing that we used to do in the communist countries, you don't get sent to prison, you get killed. You just disappear."
Noting the small numbers of missionaries working in Muslim countries, Brother Andrew adds, "It's just finding out the right tone to reach them, because everyone needs Jesus. But how do we present Christ in a society that, on the surface, is so terribly hostile to the Christian message?"
He admits that's hard to do when most Muslims regard anyone from the West as a Christian. "They see the Western people as alcoholics, fornicators, and idolaters. They don't have a good impression of the western world, and now, of course, what they see in a number of countries is the military."
Figuring out how to deliver the most important story in the world in a relevant way has changed dramatically in the last half century. Today, that story can be shared electronically, via television or on mobile platforms.
Of course, this all takes resources and a whole lot of prayer. The more sophisticated Gospel approaches are being met by equally savvy distractions. Brother Andrew says it's important to know what the marching orders are. "Get informed, and then pray intelligently because that is how we ought to pray. We must know what we pray for to be persistent in prayer, and remind God of His own promise; then God will remind us of our own responsibility…. That's a great Christian life!"
Everything Open Doors ministry produces is a call to action. In most cases, it's a call to mobilize prayer warriors. To be effective in today's cultures, explains Brother Andrew, the troops must be willing to change. "Open our heart to see what God sees and to love what God loves, because there are no terrorists. There are only people for whom Jesus died. So the change should first come with us, and we look at them with different eyes."
That mindset was communicated by Sealy Yates, Open Doors International Founding Chairman, who accepted the award on behalf of Open Doors.
"On behalf of Open Doors and Brother Andrew (Open Doors founder), it is an honor to accept the Milestone Award from the National Religious Broadcasters," said Yates. "It is also a privilege for me to be here on behalf of all those living under persecution because they have chosen to live their lives with their faith in Jesus Christ…those who cannot be here themselves. I would like to thank NRB for their recognition of all those who are faithfully serving and who have served with Open Doors in serving the suffering Church around the world for more than five decades.
"The Lord has blessed Open Doors since Brother Andrew first delivered Bibles behind the Iron Curtain in 1955. Today, Open Doors continues to sustain and strengthen Christians living in hostile environments so they can live out and share the Gospel. I thank the Lord for all those who have supported and prayed for our persecuted brothers and sisters over the years."
NRB President/CEO Dr. Frank Wright stated: "For nearly six decades, Open Doors has faithfully served the persecuted church through theological training, community development, and distribution of Bibles, training materials, and other Christian materials. The ministry has also done a phenomenal job in raising awareness of suffering Christians around the world and in mobilizing the church in the West to pray. Only God knows the full impact of this tremendous ministry."
A total of 10 ministries received the award during NRB's 70th annual convention.