Oppression is not an experience that I have had in my life, but recently I had a second-hand taste of it. I say second-hand because I stood between the oppressors and the oppressed during a recent trip overseas. This was a rare experience and one that I will not forget.
In the nation I visited, there is a particular people group who were forced out of their home country several years ago because of religious differences. Their citizenship was taken away and because of this there is now no record of their lives. No nation acknowledges their existence. There are approximately 300,000 individuals in this people group, and they wander, trying to survive somewhere.
I say “survive” because they are not allowed to work in any country. They subsist somehow on about a dollar a day by fishing, then selling the fish to anyone who will buy them. They have no access to healthcare, and their children are not permitted to attend any school. Their “homes” are built out of scraps of plastic and wood they have collected off the streets. They sleep on shredded pieces of cloth that have been laid on the bare ground. As soon as a cluster of these plastic-covered homes is noticed in a neighborhood, the authorities move in and the homes are plowed over. This people group is continually being displaced and pushed out.
I was recently traveling with a pastor friend, and we had the opportunity to meet the first-known believers of this previously unreached people group; we talked with six people who have given their lives to Christ. When we met these brave individuals they had just completed an eight-hour trip for the sole purpose of meeting with us. When they came to our hotel they were not permitted inside because they are so completely despised. We had to convince the hotel management to allow us to meet in the back area of the hotel. We could see the fear and rejection on these new believers’ faces as we sat down to talk.
This was meant to be a private opportunity for us to bless and encourage these new brothers and sisters, but as we talked the hotel staff began to gather around us. The tension in the room grew exponentially. The hundreds of eyes surrounding us were communicating clear and pure hatred toward these six precious travelers. As the crowd continued to grow we sensed it was time to end our meeting. We closed with prayer and sent our new friends on their way.
As my friend and I retired that evening, our thoughts were on this experience, and our prayers remained with these new believers. We had stood between the oppressor and the oppressed. It is very difficult to describe my feelings as an inadequate and temporary protector who could sense the injustice from an isolated incident. I cannot imagine the hardship that these six—and the other 300,000—must experience every day in their struggle to survive.
Endless oppression and deep despair are what these believers have faced throughout their lives. But now they will no longer face these trials alone. They now have Jesus—the God of all comfort and hope. And while a desperate struggle remains, through prayer we bring them into the very Throne Room of God for His care, protection, and path.
I thank the Lord that I could experience a brief moment with these six courageous new believers. They truly have no citizenship on this Earth, but they have been given citizenship in glory for eternity. I can only imagine what their mansions will look like! I suspect that those who have been oppressed on Earth will be those in the “front row” in Heaven, right next to Jesus. This brief time of experiencing oppression and hatred has served to remind me of why Jesus came to Earth. He came to set the captives free and to break the chains of bondage for all. Jesus is all that these six individuals could call their own. He was their sole treasure, and they reminded me of what is truly important in life. They have challenged me to ask the questions: What is my treasure in life? Is it Jesus only?
I’ve intentionally withheld the names of people and places here in order to protect them from additional scrutiny.