So I've never really been threatened because of my faith before. I mean granted I've lived most of my life in the safe confines of the United States were the worst someone can do is tell me they don't like me because I'm a Christian or make fun of me for my religious beliefs, but that's it. And yeah, more and more Christian "rights" are being squandered in the USA, but even that doesn't really count as "persecution" in my book.
Since moving to Ecuador though, I've heard stories about different people being persecuted for their Christian faith. The previous missionaries in Saraguro told us about the time they had stones thrown at them in one village and had to run for their lives from an angry mob in another village. And our pastor friend who lives in one of those villages often shares with us the struggles he and his family face for hosting a church in their house or for even just talking about their faith. But to be honest, all those stories have just been...well, "stories" to me... until today!
Today my teammates and I went to one of these villages to prayer walk and visit our friend...at least that was our plan, since that's what we have done before. So we arrived in town, prayed together and then split into two groups to pray and walk around opposite sides of the village...ultimately meeting in the middle again in order to visit our friends together.
My half of the team and I walked around without incident. In fact we said Hello to plenty of people who were outside and even took pictures of some of the kids who were just walking home from school, as we prayed and sang worship songs. Then we met up with out other teammates and were just talking together and preparing to head to our friends house when out of the blue this indigenous man approached us.
Now to be honest, when the man came storming up to us, I didn't think anything of it. In fact I reached out my hand to shake his, thinking that maybe we knew him some how or that maybe he was coming to having a friendly conversation. I should have figured that was not the case when instead of shaking my hand, he gave me his fist.
Before we knew it this man was going off on us, telling us that this land is sacred and we have no right to come on it, bringing our gospel. This was kind of funny to me considering up to that point we hadn't talked to anyone about the gospel and because when he approached us we weren't talking about anything religious.
The man continued on, pointing at me and talking about how we Americans from the United States come into villages bringing our Christian ideas on the one hand and then destroying people with fighting and war on the other! I couldn't help but shake my head, because clearly he has some mixed up ideas about North America and of Christians.
At one point the man even began to tell the children who were gathering around us that we are the "destroyers" and that they should never listen to us! And just when I thought things couldn't get any crazier, he threatened us, telling us that this was our final warning and if we ever came back Him and a group of other people would harm us!
Honestly, in the moment I didn't know what to think. We decided not to visit our friend out of fear that after this altercation, this man would link them to us and cause even more trouble for them (which they've already experience enough persecution). But honestly, even though I was the one that suggested we not go, I felt like by walking the other way and out of town we were letting him think that he had won and scared us off.
I guess a part of me was scared. I was certainly thinking that I am not sure I could run all the way up these hills back to the police station if he started chasing us or if some of the people he spoke about to came out to attack us. But mostly I was just taken aback. Like I said in the beginning of this post, I've never been physically threatened before because of my faith and it completely took me off guard.
The really cool thing was, immediately after we walked away from this man, we ran into two ladies separately, that we know from the village and each woman excitedly told us it was not only a blessing but a "miracle" that we were there! For me it was like confirmation from God that He was with us.
Not only that but as I thought back over this altercation with this man I couldn't help but think how God had led us to stop in an say hi to president of the community when we first arrived. It was like God knew we were going to run into this man and that we would need to say by what authority or with what right we thought we could be there (not that our ultimate authority isn't Jesus...but I'm pretty sure the man would have started fighting us all right then and there if we answered with that!)
It's so strange to think that this man would get so angry over people coming into his village to pray for it. It's was even stranger that he would know were are carriers of the gospel without even ever talking to us. And then for Him to call us the "destroyers"...such a strong but somewhat strange word choice, was by far the weirdest for me (which jokingly afterwards we said amongst ourselves that we were destroyers...destroyers of the darkness that is).
I guess it just proves that we are standing for God and that when we pray for God to be in us and shine through us, He does just that! I have no doubts that what happened today in this village was a spiritual battle. And if anything, it makes me all that much more aware and overwhelmed for this village and for God to move in it. Obviously we are going to have to use some wisdom the next time we go back to this village. And we will need to really be prayed up and listening to what God is saying as we go. But I'm not scared to return. I really believe the battle is the Lord's. And I think...judging by today... the devil is scared, cause he knows he's going down!