Strengthening the Persecuted Church
Believers who live under constant threat and discrimination face intense temptations to grow weak and discouraged. What they need more than anything is the strength that comes from an ever-deepening faith in the gospel (Eph 3:14–19), and that’s why Christ equips His Church with local pastors who can help His body grow (Eph 4:11–16). These indigenous pastors are critical to the strength and maturity of the persecuted church, and God is connecting TMAI with dozens more of them through a student who lives in an undisclosed part of the Middle East.
Riding the bus through town, Jacob  was sitting at ease when a stranger came and sat next to him. Unexpectedly, the man turned and said words that he had no business knowing.
With studied clarity, the man recited the names of Jacob’s children and where they went to school. He also revealed the name of Jacob’s wife and the address of their family’s home. Then—so as to leave no room for doubt about his intentions—he revealed a gun and said, “Stop sharing about Jesus.”
When he heard this, Jacob was disturbed, but not entirely surprised. He knew that following Jesus came with a cost, but he also knew it was the right thing to do. He knew that God had shown His love to him in Christ, and he wanted others to know that love too. And so, thanks to a network of churches that he had served over the years, Jacob and his family went underground before he emerged somewhere else to continue his work—sharing about Jesus.
For over a decade, Jacob has traveled the country to plant churches and train them while they struggle under oppression. In this country, Christians are made to be some of the lowest members of society. They are those who work with sewage and those who work like slaves. They are those with poor nutrition, weak healthcare, miserable living conditions—and a ruling class that largely wants to keep it that way. On top of all that, believers are subject to abuse, abduction, imprisonment, and violent execution.
It’s these men who deserve our earnest attention and prayers, and it’s why indigenous men like them are our focus and joy.
During a visit, one TMAI professor met a Christian man who had been abducted, taken to a field and beaten severely before being shot and left for dead. Remarkably, the man crawled back to his house and recovered.
Other stories of oppression and persecution abound, and the fact that we can hear about them is sobering.
It all hit home for the professor during a church service in the desert with a group of day laborers. “I saw this little girl. She had a cute dress on and came to greet me with other kids and sing for me. Her eyes were the same shape, she was the same age, and she had the same expression that I often see from my granddaughter. My heart was so heavy. I was just hit with the realization that she’s stuck there in that village as an indentured servant.”
As Jacob and his professor traveled from congregation to congregation and saw the desperation firsthand, the professor asked Jacob, “What do you want me to preach on?”
In an earnest voice, Jacob replied, “God’s compassion.”
Our fellow believers in countries like this are desperate for the encouragements of the gospel. They need fresh reminders that God is sovereign over their suffering and that He works everything for their good. And from Jacob’s years of serving, he has discerned a great need for training local pastors to handle the word with accuracy.
This is why TMAI trains pastors in these contexts.
“Training men like Jacob makes so much more sense than me trying to go out to these remote areas,” the professor said. “[Jacob is] obviously more culturally connected than me, and he’s able to do so much more to impact those areas.”
Thankfully, TMAI has been blessed with an opportunity to train dozens of pastors here, and they are men whose faithfulness is simply extraordinary. One student pedals a beat-up bike miles out into the desert to shepherd churches there, though they can’t afford to give him much in return. Another student learned 10 languages in order to communicate the gospel to villages in his vicinity, whom he visits on foot. Still another student is a witness for Christ in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Beside these men are hundreds more church leaders who have expressed a desire to be trained. TMAI is currently working with some of these men in 31 of the 50 countries ranked highest for Christian persecution.  It’s these men who deserve our earnest attention and prayers, and it’s why indigenous men like them are our focus and joy.
How to Support Indigenous Pastors
If you would like to financially support the training of indigenous pastors around the world, please know you can do so HERE. To learn more or get your church involved with what TMAI is doing on various frontiers, please contact us HERE.
1 Name changed for security
2 Open Doors World Watch List