Tom White: A dedicated ‘voice’ in behalf of the persecuted church
By Susan Mires
November 29, 2005
SPRINGFIELD – Persecuted Christians around the world are fighting the war on terror.
And the war is won one soul at a time, Tom White, executive director of the Voice of the Martyrs, said during the Missouri Baptist Pastors’ Conference.
“Christianity is the only key in the world to winning the war on terror,” White said. “You are the only ones who hold the key to One who has abolished death.”
A moving moment during the pastors’ conference, a day of preaching just prior to the annual meeting at Second Baptist Church, Springfield, was when White displayed a tray rescued from a church in Indonesia. In the last 10 years, Muslims have destroyed 800 churches in the island nation. At one such church, 12 glasses melted onto a communion tray.
“The heat in the fire caused these glasses to melt together as one unit,” White said as he held it before the audience.
The tray was a symbol of how God uses trials to bring believers together and make them stronger, White said. Voice of the Martyrs, based in Bartlesville, Okla., serves the persecuted church through practical and spiritual assistance. White himself spent time in a Cuban prison in 1979 for distributing Christian literature.
People often think his ministry would be depressing, but White said he brought a word of encouragement from believers willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel.
“There’s something about persecuted Christians that we need in the core of our churches,” he said. “We love to bring that courage back across the water to America.”
In Iran, for instance, very little legal Christian activity is allowed, but women hide New Testaments inside the shapeless black robes they’re forced to wear, secretly sharing copies of God’s Word. Muslims are professing Christ as Lord, White said.
“They’re desperately looking for ways to unburden themselves from their sin,” he said. “They’re looking for redemption, looking for the love of Christ.”
Even in the heart of Islam in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Christians are meeting in secret house churches. One Muslim man was forced by religious leaders to read the New Testament so he would know how to fight against Christianity. But he is now “sold out” for Jesus after reading the words of life.
With the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is more open to missionary work than at any time in history, White said. Voice of the Martyrs has shipped tons of literature into the country, distributing a semi-truck load within weeks.
“The average Iraqi is just kind of curious,” he said. They’ve read about Jesus in the Koran and are eager to learn more.
Voice of the Martyrs works with local believers to strengthen them in their work. White said they buy many motorcycles and bicycles so pastors can visit people. They also buy bus tickets so believers can visit family members in prison.
During the pastors’ conference, White shared a story about three Indonesian women who were jailed because they taught a children’s Sunday school. The husband of one of the women told White, “We must be extreme or we will be ice cream.”
“They were not afraid because they were already buried in the life and death of Jesus Christ,” he said.
White asked the audience to visit the web site w ww.prisoneralert.com and write letters to the women, which would be automatically translated. Even if the prisoners never receive the letters, it will impress authorities that the women have friends around the world.
Voice of the Martyrs has a number of practical ways Christians can help persecuted believers, said Karen Litton, a staff member who attended the conference. For $5, they can purchase an action pack, then fill it with basic health care items and send it to someone in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq.
“The message from the persecuted church is actually ‘Pray for us,’” Litton said. “Most of the body is suffering and not free to worship as we are.”
The group distributed kits for churches to use to observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 13.
White said that even in countries such as North Korea where Christians are harshly abused, people are longing for the good news and are making the decision to follow God, even to death. In Iran, more people are being won to Christ than are being killed by terrorist bombs around the world.
“There are people in the world so hungry for redemption, for the love of God, they want to join the One who has abolished death,” White said.