by Yangchen Choden
Yangchen grew up in Bhutan, a country in which Christians are persecuted and where she now serves as a leader in her local church. Here in the context of the Western World, where we don’t necessarily understand the challenges the persecuted church face, her letter to the family brings us clearer understanding, encouragement in love, and great hope.
Dear Shofar Family,
As I am writing this, I am thankful for knowing your church family and for all the opportunities I have had to share life, love and laughter with fellow believers in South Africa, my heart is filled with memories of joy and gratefulness. Thank you for opening up your hearts and homes to me. My heart believes in and longs for the day when we will have the freedom to proclaim Christ and His works openly in my country, like you can in your country.
I am thankful for fellow believers’ years of praying for my country, and for the co-workers currently labouring for the Gospel in unreached nations. My mom got saved because my aunt did not give up on sharing the Gospel with her and praying for her salvation. Many times my aunt was not welcomed in our home, but she did not give up on the Great Commission, nor on sharing the love of Christ with my mom. And because my mom got saved, so many people in my country have come to Christ. This always reminds me and makes me realise that we cannot allow our fears of offense to stop us from sharing Christ with our family, friends and all unbelievers.
Looking back on life in a persecuted country, I am thankful for all the hard times and suffering we experienced. It has shaped me into the person I am today. Even through discomfort, lack and pain, God is always faithful and working in us and through us. My mom always told me that whatever we have in life, it is for God to be glorified. Sometimes I really, really wish for persecution to come back because our faith in Christ grows so much through it. We have to be careful of slacking because of a lack of persecution. As Paul writes in Philippians 1:29, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him”, it is a privilege to know Christ and it is a privilege to suffer for Him too.
My mom was healed when she did not even have faith in Jesus. She attended a healing conference in our neighbouring country because, after years of illness, she really had nothing to lose. There are so many people in bondage who need healing and deliverance. I have realised that seeing people with a lack of faith in Jesus shouldn’t stop us from praying for them and believing for them; God is bigger than our weaknesses and He heals us because He is Jesus, not because of our faith or lack of faith. If you seek God, you will find Him. He reveals Himself to people who seek Him.
Currently, one of our congregations meets in my apartment in the capital city. I always wanted to have my own apartment, but the only way a person can (or, rather, is expected to) move away from your family here is if you get a job in a different town or if you get married. I didn’t have either of those two options, but God knew my desire to have my own place. In 2014, I was able to rent an apartment in the capital city. Then, three days later, I got a sudden visit from my mom. As she walked in, she fell to her knees and said: “Thank You, God. Now we can start a church here!” My response was something along the lines of, “No, mom, this is my place. It’s my space that I have always wanted.” She then sat me down and taught me one of the greatest principles of the faith. She said, “The best thing you can do with what God gives you, is to give it back to Him.” This is how God is glorified. And that is how this church was planted. Today we are 15 families who come together to worship and pray.
I have a special message on my heart for parents. Dear parents, don’t let the world shape your children. It is never too early to start telling your children about Jesus and what He is doing in your life. Your impartation in their lives is what will shape them. I am thankful that I had parents who loved God first and foremost, and who always pointed us to Christ. Seeing my parents’ love for Jesus made me fall in love with Jesus. They would always tell us, “No matter how much we love you, we cannot always be with you. But if you have a relationship with God, He is always with you.” By their impartation, when I was in Grade 4 (I was 11 years old), I could boldly stand up to school authorities, saying that I would not bow before idols because I believe in the God of the Bible. Children are a gift from God. We are to shape and steward these gifts wisely, even more so in these days where the subtle ways of the world try to entice hearts away from Him.
Please pray for us. Even though we are a small population, there are so many people who still need to be saved. Please pray that God will raise up Kingdom-hearted leaders who will take the Gospel to the unreached areas. I am sad about the lack of a missionary heart in our country. Please pray for our people to grow in a heart for missions. It is such an inspiration and encouragement for our youth and young working people to hear of your testimonies of missions – raising funds, saving money, making personal sacrifices to go on missions.
So I would like to extend an open and loving invitation to come visit us. I know it’s more expensive than going to other nations, but hey! Nothing is impossible for those who believe. Our people need to learn and know about missions and we need to get out of our houses. God can use anyone with a willing and obedient heart; if you are willing and obedient you will have the best of the land.
I delight in the fact that Father God is the same in my country and in yours. He is so faithful and so committed to shaping us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.