Somewhere between the overnight train rides, I had lost count of how many days we had been in India. But there I was, with three other team members, shooting a documentary for the MOVE 2011 tour. I was no longer interested in seeing this beautifully vast country through the window of a train. The only way to see the true India, as a romantic might say. I was done being romantic. The novelty had worn off. However, in spite of my exhaustion, the appreciation for the people we met had not. Three weeks later, it still hasn’t.
Naveen, a man who has lived more life than the wrinkles around his dark brown eyes suggest, is a perfect example. We met him early in our trip before a church service, one that meets in his house, began. Even though Naveen is the pastor of this small but growing church, his life used to look completely different.
You see, Naveen has always been a religious leader, just not always in the Christian circle. Years ago, he was a Hindu priest and a prominent leader in the community. He spent a lot of time persecuting Christians. He was good at it too. He told me, during our conversation while people poured into his house for worship, that he couldn’t estimate how many Christians he had persecuted.
Much like the apostle Paul, Naveen’s life changed when he encountered Jesus. No, there wasn’t a bright light on a deserted road. But the encounter spurred a change that was just as drastic. The God he previously hated, he now proclaims. His enemies, he now considers family. And, in an ironic twist, he too is now persecuted alongside the people he once hunted.
Naveen’s story is proof that the church is strong in regions of the world where Christianity is opposed. It is our desire that this film, which will premiere at MOVE 2011, will open people’s eyes to Christian persecution around the globe. Persecution didn’t die out with the close of the New Testament. It is just as much of a reality today in places like India, Colombia, and Egypt as it was during the reign of the Roman Empire.
Yet even in the face of severe threats, this is not a story of defeat. It is rather a story of perseverance and extreme faithfulness. It is a story of hope and commitment regardless of the costs. It is a reminder that following Jesus is worth it all. And perhaps most importantly for you and me, it is a call to live faithfully in our own context.