Central America (MNN) — Believers in one Central American country that’s closed to the Gospel shouldn’t be thriving. Jonathan Dahmer with Vision Beyond Borders says Christians face oppression on two fronts.
One is spiritual.
“Our contacts have informed us that at least 70% of the country would identify themselves as part of the voodoo or Santarea religion, which is a very dark and spiritually-oppressive religion,” Dahmer explains.
The other source of oppression is political. Dahmer says, “If churches get too large, they will literally come and lock the doors, and tell the parishioners that they can’t come anymore.”
Nevertheless, the Gospel is advancing. According to Operation World, many new believers in this country are young people.
“Despite the persecution from the government, despite the fact that they’re not allowed to go and witness in mass on the street…this is not stopping them,” notes Dahmer. “If anything, it’s only encouraging them to grow in their faith and continue to walk with the Lord.”
During a recent visit, a small group from VBB smuggled resources into the country to equip national believers. Dahmer says the Lord’s hand was upon their group the entire time, especially in customs.
“All of our bags were loaded with Bibles, computers, discipleship materials, and flannel graphs for teaching,” he explains.
It’s illegal to bring resources like these into the closed country. But somehow, they were able to pass smoothly through customs–until they reached the very last station. The guard didn’t seem to see tags on their bags reading “Books” or “Electronics,” but he did pull one bag marked “Food” off to the side.
Two officials immediately began searching the bag, as the team prayed silently.
“They opened the bag and the senior agent stuck her hand in, started rummaging through, and put her hand at the bottom, where all the Bibles were,” recounts Dahmer. “She quickly took her hand out and zipped up the bag. After a quick disagreement with another agent, she said we were free to go.”
“God had put a believer exactly where we had needed [her].”
After this close encounter, the VBB team met with their in-country church partners and distributed the Bibles.
“It was really exciting and very encouraging to see all the work that our brothers and sisters are doing in the Church and around the country,” Dahmer says.
VBB is seeing great return on their Pastor Sponsorship Program, he adds.
“This program allows [pastors] to focus completely on ministry, and it’s a huge blessing for them and their church, and their congregation,” explains Dahmer.
Believers sponsor pastors in this country for $25 each month. Since most families exist on $20 a month, the sponsorship provides extra blessing. With his family’s needs taken care of, the pastor can exclusively focus on meeting the spiritual and physical needs of his congregation.
“Those [funds] can be enough to purchase a bicycle, which would allow the pastor to go to different Bible study groups throughout the week, rather than having to walk 8 or 9 miles,” Dahmer says as an example.
Funding support could also be used to supply church members with their own Bible, an extremely rare gift in this country.
“Each year, [the program has] been growing. Right now, I believe we’re at about 110 pastors,” says Dahmer. “We know of, at least in one church, that there are over 160 pastors that would benefit from a sponsorship program.”
“These people have a vision that one day their island will be a light for the nations, and that one day soon they will no longer be a nation cast in darkness but they can continue to carry forth that light to all nations and to all people,” Dahmer shares.
“Pray that the government will give them the opportunity to go forth and be public with their faith.”