In our evening worship the other night we sang the hymn “All to Jesus” with its repeated refrain “I surrender all.” It has proven an apt prayer for our time here, as those we have been with truly have surrendered so much to follow Jesus.
Many have spent time in prison. I have spoken with a young man and his mother who were both arrested, along with his Father, on the same night, leaving his 10-year-old sister passed around between her family of faith and her biological family who alternately blamed her parents for being too bold and tried to turn her back to Islam. This young man was 17 when he was arrested and was held for 37 days without being sentenced even though this was illegal, as he was a minor, so the authorities forged papers to claim he was 21. His mother was sentenced to 8 months and his father to 3.5 years.
As I regularly visit with prisoners at our jail and see the stigma associated with those who have spent time in prison, I can only imagine what this must have been like. I have spoken with others at this conference who have experienced persecution by having their children bullied and still others who are afraid to have children because of the persecution they would face. Thus these brothers and sisters have surrendered their freedom and in very concrete ways, their families for Jesus.
Other things these brothers and sisters have surrendered include their homeland and their future. All are in Turkey because they had to flee persecution and request asylum and this meant not only surrendering their homeland but also any future plans as the asylum process puts them in a kind of limbo. Being granted asylum in Turkey means being confined to a particular city where they are not allowed to pursue employment and where they receive no official aid. All are hoping and even expecting to eventually be granted permanent asylum here or preferably in another nation but politics have put that process on hold indefinitely and so they have had to surrender their future.
I could go on and on but even this has forced me to ask what I have surrendered for Jesus. I know I’ve sacrificed some, but my time here has helped me see that I have a long way to go before I get to all. How about you?
The reality is while these brothers and sisters have sacrificed more than I, what most inspires me is that many of them, at their best, see their sacrifice as nothing compared to Jesus, who really is the only one who has given all for us and our salvation and thus their surrender is motivated by gratitude rather than guilt, and I pray that will be true of me as well as all of you.