In 586 BC, the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and carried its people off to exile. We can hear the prophets’ warnings and the cries of the exiles in our Old Testament. The Israelites, however, are far from the only people to suffer exile for their faith.
CNN recently reported that in the small village of Sandino, Cuba, the first new Catholic Church since 1959 is ready to break ground. Many of the inhabitants of this hamlet were uprooted from their homes and exiled there when Cuba officially became an atheist state.
Funny thing about exiles, though, they are resilient. The Sandino exiles found each other, found an abandoned garage and have been meeting together ever since. Digna Martinez is quoted in the CNN article as saying, “Having a church is very important…We were baptized and prayed when we went to bed and woke up, just like our parents and grandparents taught us.” CNN didn’t report on the Nazarenes in Cuba, but our story there is quite similar.
When the Berlin Wall came down, a thriving Christian community was discovered literally in its shadow. Nazarene missionaries often tell stories, if they can, of communities of believers in the most unlikely and often dangerous places. The Jesus Film and Nazarene Motorcycle Fellowship provide the gospel and two-wheeled transportation, often in “creative access” areas. In other words, these pastors need transportation to help them serve their “churches” in places where the church isn’t supposed to exist. Incredible.
The scriptures speak of a “faithful remnant.” Isaiah begins the language, and it gets carried along all the way through the Apostle Paul’s writings and the gospels. Whether the cause is calamity or sin, God always preserves a faithful remnant. The New Testament writers call that remnant the church.
I’m honored to be numbered among these faithful believers. I’m humbled by their determined faith in the face of persecution. I’m encouraged to evaluate my relative struggles in light of theirs. May God bless his church wherever it is found and may God challenge each of us to imitate the faith of the remnant.
One of the ideas the Lord seemed to whisper to me when I accepted the role as District Superintendent was that every church, regardless of size or location, has the opportunity to be life-changing to someone. You are a part of God’s plans to redeem a very broken world. Take heart and join hands with the faithful across the centuries.