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Persecution in 2020,

It was not like the usual Sunday mornings. The excitement was far less at Norbert’s home and he was wondering if they should go to church at all. Persecutions had started to gradually grow in the city where Norbert lived with his wife Lucie and their two children, Nash, 15 years and Ashley, 12 years old.

“Can we skip Sunday service today, Lucie?” asked Norbert with little hesitation to his wife.

“Why, are you afraid, Norbert? You think we might get arrested if we are found in the church service?” questioned his wife who thought that wasn’t a good reason to skip the Lord’s Day which they had observed for several years. Besides what reason would they give to their children who they had talked often to stand for their faith.
Without further discussion, they went to church but found the church was not packed like other Sundays.

“Just imagine if we also skipped, how discouraging it would be for the pastor and other members” told Lucie looking at Norbert.

“Why so few people today Dad? I don’t see many children today. Where is Lewis?” Nash found it odd with few people and his friend missing.

The service progressed with worship songs but with fewer musicians. The base guitarist and drummer were missing. The numbers did not discourage the pastor who led the service with same vigour as every Sunday. In fact his passion for the Lord and the church was more than visible this Sunday as he spoke on the sermon on the mount- Matthew 5:10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

After the service ended, Norbert and Lucie went towards the Pastor and he greeted them with a smile.

“Pastor, this was one of the best sermons we ever heard. We are so encouraged today” was Lucie’s sincere response to a courageous man who did not just give a message full of theory but one who himself had experienced intense persecution many years ago.

Norbert and Lucie were still talking to the Pastor when one of the church members came running frantically with an announcement, “The police have just arrived and they have come in many vehicles, looks like they have come to arrest”. Norbert stood stunned for a moment and he felt as though he skipped a beat and his heart started pounding as his wife held his hand tightly.

Some members started hurrying up to the door but the pastor interrupted them saying, “Don’t panic the Lord is with us”.

Just then the police entered from all the corners of the church hall.
“Men don’t move, we have arrest warrants for you…. Handover your mobile phones to your families; women and children stay back.”

Norbert looked at his wife with regret and whispered, “I told you….I wish you had listened to me and we had skipped today”.

Lucie now with moist eyes about to break in tears looked intently into her husband’s eyes and said, “Norbert I love you and I know the Lord will be with you”.

“Please pray for me that I will be released soon” was Norbert’s humble plea to his wife as he started walking towards the police van.

Within 30 minutes Pastor and 35 men from church were in prison. The police handed over to each man a questionnaire to fill.

Even as all this questioning was taking place, Norbert kept praying in his heart, “Lord please let me get out of this prison cell... what will happen to my job? How will my family live without me? What about my children’s future? I never missed my quiet time. I was regular to church, bible study and prayer meetings. Why do you punish me then, Lord?”

It was 7:30 pm and getting dark. The prison cell started looking gloomier to Norbert after 8 hours and he was losing patience wondering how he will spend the night in the cell. Just then, he heard someone walking towards the cell and it was a policeman.

“You are released Norbert” told the policeman. It sounded like melodious music to Norbert. “Praise God you answered my prayers” Norbert exclaimed loudly as his heart jumped with joy.

But as he came out of the police station he was confused that other men were still in the prison including the pastor.

Norbert thought for a moment, “Looks like I am the only one who prayed sincerely. Maybe I am living a more obedient life compared to all my church men, after all, and God heard my prayer. ‘Ask and you shall receive’ and look I have received it”.

Norbert was already feeling proud as he started going towards home. His joy knew no bounds as he took a cab home singing ‘Blessed Assurance’ and thanking God. He couldn’t wait to reach home and kept thinking he had learnt to pray and get answers to his prayers and that too better than many others in the church.

As soon as he reached, he ran towards the home and rang the bell as hard as he could. He couldn’t wait to see the door open. Nash was at the door and shouted with a loud voice “Dad!!! …  Mummy look… who’s at the door…” Ashley too came running and hugged his dad’s waist. Nash too hugged him.

Lucie stood at a distance with just a tiny smile on her face.

“Why did they release you?” her questioning seemed as though she did not expect him to be released and to see him released was not the best thing to happen.

“I prayed so hard, they had to release. How can they refuse the sovereign, almighty God’s commands?” Norbert answered with a proud look on his face and he seemed at his best spiritual self.

“Why aren’t you happy I was released?” Norbert found his wife’s response puzzling.

“Who else did they release? What about the Pastor, did they release him too?” Lucie continued with her puzzling questions.

“You know I was the only one whom they released, not even Pastor” Norbert could not stop his excitement as he spoke.

Lucie’s tiny smile too disappeared and she started looking pale. She was still at a distance and Norbert now started moving closer to her. Lucie was now in tears and Norbert was starting to get annoyed with his wife.

“You know why they released you only and not others?” Lucie’s question was telling Norbert...
She had the right answers and Norbert got it completely wrong.
“There was a live coverage on T.V. about the arrests and this took place not just in our church but several churches in our city” she continued, “This afternoon the police carried out a complete background search of all men arrested…” she paused for a moment and then started speaking softly.

“They were happy to release you because they did not find any evidence to convict you. They have checked with your manager, colleagues and tried to find if you were a witnessing Christian or if your life was any different from others in your office. They also checked in our neighbourhood this afternoon to find out if you ever shared the gospel to them.”
Lucie’s voice started cracking as though she was choking and Norbert now understood the purpose of the questionnaire he had filled.

“They did not find you a threat to this city but they believe Pastor and others are the true Christians who are active in their faith and so they won’t release them” continued Lucie who knew the truth and Norbert with no choice kept listening without a blink in his eyes.

Lucie’s voice now becoming louder as she said, “God would have wished you were still in prison but as though even he was helpless to hold you back in prison. How I wish you were also in the prison like pastor and others. I am ashamed Norbert”

Norbert did not have words to mention even as his children looked at their Dad who was now hanging his head in shame.

“Dad you were never a witness in your office?” asked Ashley innocently because his Dad had taught him how to share the gospel to his friends.

Norbert by now was unable to bear the shame. Ashamed of being released from the prison, his heart was now feeling heavy, throat choked with emotions. But he was determined to salvage his respect before his family.

After a long pause, with eyes swollen with tears that were about to roll down, he blinked his eyes, tears started rolling down his cheeks and with a feeble voice he said, “Sorry my family for putting you all and the Lord Jesus to shame… Give me one more chance, will you, please?

Lucie could not stop her tears and bitterly cried as she hugged Norbert and the children too hugged their Dad, as though telling we are with you Dad.


- Written by Norbert


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