"You need to build yourself a cell so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me"

The Lord has been doing something in my heart lately that I want to share with you. Perhaps it’s best to start with a story…

Wang Mingdao was locked away in a Chinese prison cell. His crime? Telling his fellow countrymen about the love of Jesus. More than 23 years passed in Wang’s lonely cell. His only interaction, besides the hands of the jailor passing his food though a hatch, was with God. 

Most men would have gone crazy. Not Wang. When asked his advice for other believers, his response was:  “I was pushed into a cell, but you will have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God. You need to build yourself a cell so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me—simplify your life and know God.”

Reading Wang’s story came during a point in my own journey when God had been calling me to know Him more through simplicity. Recently He showed up during a run I took on a trail system near our home here in Colorado. I came to an overlook of the valley and could see my finish line just a short half mile below. Before I could take another step, I heard the Lord say, “STOP." Feeling a little irritated at the disruption, I paused to see what He would say next. 

Nothing more came and I began to realize that was the very point. I’d been running so hard that I almost missed the beauty around me, and the Creator who wanted to enjoy it with me. Failing to stop would have made me a better runner, but it also would have made me miss Jesus.

This simplification, this sudden awareness of God and His invitation to know Him more is showing up in other ways as well. I can feel Him asking me to let go of distractions, possessions, or ventures which have stolen my focus from what I’m called to. This isn’t easy, and quite frankly I’ve not surrendered without a fight. But as my white-knuckled grip begins to loosen, I’m feeling more and more beautiful space. 

Beautiful space. What would that feel like in your own life? What if you had permission to lay aside all but the basic things the Lord has called you to? Doesn’t that space feel like a rescue in this day and age?

David said it this way: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19).

In the space of my own rescue, I’m finding the things my heart truly beats for ... a deeper intimacy with God and a passion for aiding in the rescue of His bride, the church. 

It’s funny how these personal revelations can bring new insight into opportunities that were right there all along. For years, Alpha Relief has invested in Safe Houses to support displaced families and underground church leaders. These houses are operated in secret by local believers who are dedicated to offering food, shelter, discipleship, and restoration counseling for those who have experienced persecution. But the houses also offer something else to guests: a singular focus on Jesus. With everything stripped away, those seeking refuge at the safe houses spend their days in the Lord’s presence, understanding Him in deeper ways while their souls and bodies heal.

Let me share the stories of two lives you have impacted through the safe house projects:

Nathan is a leader for a small underground church inside North Korea, an entire country forcing it’s people into false worship of their leader. But Nathan knows secret ways to slip through the borders of this “prison cell” nation. What does he do when he escapes? He comes to a safe house. Though he must stay within the walls of the home to protect his identity, the time allows incredible days of discipleship and growth in the Lord, spiritual food he then brings back to his family and church.

Isaac was a revered leader in Islam, but after an incredible conversion to Christ, many of his fellow teachers and students suddenly turned on him. For almost six years Isaac lived a life on the run, away from his wife and four children, persecution waiting at every turn. But he has finally found a refuge in an Alpha Relief supported safe house in Africa for Middle Eastern families who have fled. Just a few months ago, Isaac was reunited with his loved ones at the house. The whole family is together, safe, and surrounded by a community offering a season of restoration-counseling and time with the Lord.

Wang Mingdao was not alone in finding his life’s purpose in knowing God. David writes a similar manifesto in the Psalms; “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

David found closeness with the Lord in the grandeur of an extravagant temple. Wang Mingdao found it in the quietness of a dirty cell. Nathan, Isaac, and all those who have visited Alpha Relief sponsored safe houses are finding the Lord somewhere in between, in simple homes missing lavish gold decorations, but rich in freedom to worship and seek God.

What About Us?

What kind of cell do you and I need to build for ourselves? What kind of safe house we need to retreat to? What extravagantly beautiful temple might we find as we seek to know God with our whole hearts? Maybe it’s as simple as clearing some clutter from our schedules, trusting the Lord to provide rescue in the space.

My prayer is for you to find Him in new ways. It’s also my prayer that time with God might reveal your calling to serve the persecuted church where she is hurting most. Supporting the safe house projects through Alpha Relief's Discipleship Fund is an amazing way to stay involved. We’d love to continue journeying beside you.