I heard these words from a Nigerian pastor as he described the volatile situation in his own country. The situation in Nigeria can be a little difficult to understand, but Voice of the Martyrs Canada describes it in a succinct and understandable way,
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is divided between a Christian culture in the south and a radical Islamic culture in the north — the latter of which is characterized by massive riots, bombings and a plan to create an Islamic state.
The pastor mentioned above was concerned with the many Christian leaders in the southern part of Nigeria who were not willing to be counted among the Christians in the North that were daily suffering at the hands of Boko Haram.
Despite their good seminary education, despite their adept knowledge of theology, despite their ability to read Greek – they were “Coward Christian Leaders,” who were not willing to suffer persecution alongside of the Christians in the north.
Being a seminary graduate myself, I recognize the value of classes like Old Testament Exegesis, Systematic Theology, and Advanced Hebrew – but the truth is that most seminaries never train their students to be practically faithful in situations of Christian persecution, let alone daily life.
Practical faithfulness is one of the philosophies that drives our Underground University (UU) training school for North Korean defectors. UU is a two to three year program where NKs are trained to be missionaries to their own people.
But we don’t simply give our students academic training, we send them out on the field. And we don’t just send them to easy places . . . we send them to difficult places . . . to places where Christian persecution takes place.
If the students are not willing to go to the difficult places, they are not allowed to continue in their training. It may sound harsh, but we cannot afford to send out missionaries who are not willing to stand with those they are ministering to in times of suffering.
We recently sent one of our students to minister to NK orphans . . . not the safest of environments for her. This UU student (Mrs. Bong), had been on several missions trips already, so her good training was evident as she worked with the orphans. This trip was especially meaningful, because she grew up as an orphan herself.
Mrs. Bong was originally sent to an orphanage right after the Korean War when she was only six years old. She had never known her father, and because of her mother’s ill health she and her five siblings were sent to an orphanage. As she got older, she bounced around from the orphanage, to various schools and back to home as her mother’s health improved. But when she was 18 years old, she was sent to a child labor camp for two and half years for a reason that she has still never understood. Needless to say, Mrs. Bong had a very traumatic childhood, but God took her difficulties and has allowed her to bring hope to those who have had similar experiences.
In the midst of tears, Mrs. Bong shared with the orphans how she suffered loneliness while she was without the care of loving parents. She told the kids how her life changed after she accepted Jesus Christ as her savior. All of the orphans were listening carefully to her stories and they showed visible emotion as she prayed for each one of them.
Mrs. Bong is almost seventy years old. She has never been to seminary and she will probably never pastor a church. And yet, she is ministering in some of the most difficult places on the planet with forgotten children. She will receive no accolades for her work and she won’t make a comfortable salary. But Mrs. Bong is no coward seminary graduate, and she is no coward missionary. She is a woman who is being trained in practical faithfulness, in everyday life and in places where suffering is inevitable for those who follow Jesus Christ.