Nigeria

These women in Nigeria have lost husbands and other family members to violence.

Christians are not safe in many places around the world.

It’s true for those who serve and those who decide to follow Jesus.

Close to 1 million Christians were martyred in the last decade, according to Open Doors International.

It’s hard to grasp.

North Korea tops the watch list of most dangerous countries for Christians. There following Jesus is a death sentence. Other dangerous countries include Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

Nigeria is in the top 10 for the first time as Christians in north and central Nigeria face violent attacks from radical groups like Boko Haram and Fulani radicals.

It may seem like faraway trouble, but at least half of the 80 missions partners Southeast Christian Church supports around the globe live in risky places. Their names cannot be printed; their location or photos cannot be published.

Yet none have stopped talking about Jesus. And there is something they want you to know: Though they are sometimes afraid, their resolve to continue is strengthened.

Southeast Missions Ministry Leader Charlie Vittitow said the percentage of partners in risky places will continue to increase.

“As we look to the future, sacrifice will be greater,” he said. “There will be fewer safe places that haven’t heard about Jesus, but safety is not the goal. In Asia and Africa, churches are being planted because believers have been martyred for their faith.”

One Southeast partner, Dr. Florence Muindi, president of Life in Abundance, said God is opening doors in dangerous places.

“Southeast is called to be on the front lines of the persecuted church,” she said. “We must be involved where believers need us most.”

She also believes persecution will increase in the future.

“Things will get worse around the world because Satan is losing,” she said. “We have a saying in Africa about the kicks of a dying donkey. Satan does not want to die lying down.”

Another longtime partner, “Joseph” has been stoned, threatened, beaten and arrested. His photo or name can’t be printed. Violence and persecution against Christians is an ever-present threat in his country. He shrugs off a hefty bounty on his head.

He once was kidnapped, along with 10 other men, and taken to an abandoned building. Kidnappers lined the men up one beside the other. Joseph watched as one of the kidnappers pulled out a gun and shot the first man in the head. He did the same with the second and the third and the seventh.

Joseph knew his turn would come soon.

“Why do you want to kill me?” he asked the gunman. For some reason known only to God, when it was Joseph’s turn, the kidnapper put his gun away, ordered him to get into a car and dropped him off at another location.

That brush with death could have made him more afraid. Instead, it strengthened his resolve to continue teaching and preaching no matter the cost.

Muindi was working with war refugees from Darfur in Sudan when she was detained at a police checkpoint for three days.

“I never knew what they would do next,” she said.

On the third night, they told her to walk away from the checkpoint.

“I thought they would shoot me when I turned my back or send someone after me,” Muindi said. “I didn’t know what to do, but God provided away out. As I began walking, a truck came by, and I asked them if I could go with them. As I got in the truck, I realized that I was getting on a truck with strangers, but I had no other option.”

One of the men on the truck spoke Swahili and agreed to take Muindi to the Kenyan embassy in Sudan.

Looking back, Muindi believes God allowed her to suffer so she would understand what women in difficult areas experience at the hands of those who should be protecting them.

“It gave me courage to stand in the gap for them, and it gave me a whole new love and passion for God,” Muindi said. “I know that my God is with me. What the enemy means for bad, God will use for good.”

From then on, praying for the persecuted church was different.

“They are vulnerable, but their passion for God is more than their passion for security,” she said. “That is a defining moment when your safety matters less than your passion for God. If we don’t respond to those who are suffering, to areas that are not safe, who will?”