A long time ago I had realised that seeing pictures and hearing stories of suffering when there is nothing that you can do can often be damaging.
Strangely, it was this very awareness that nearly caused me to miss the first step in the way we were led which eventually resulted in PPSC. Someone in the family was planning to read Corrie Ten Boom’s ‘The Hiding Place’. I had never read this myself, not wanting to be upset reading of horrors that are no longer happening, so I was rather discouraging.
The feedback I was given after the book was finished was surprising. I was told that the reader had a strong feeling that this kind of thing was still happening now, and that we needed to find out about it.
I no idea what I would find when I typed “persecution” into a search engine, or that it would be a step from which there could be no going back.
I had often been at a prayer meeting where someone had regularly mention persecuted Christians. I am ashamed to say that I thought these prayers were just repeating a formula, and never asked about it.
Years later, it is difficult to recall the questions and feelings of those early discoveries: Can this be real? Why doesn't everyone know about it? What can we do? Where do I go from here?
At first everything was just overwhelming and confusing. I checked out organisations dealing with persecution, ordered information and tried to find my way around the websites. At this stage my computer skills were very limited, and the scale of the problem was frightening. I felt very lost.
Then one day I came across one of those leaflets from Open Doors which tell you what can be done with specific amounts of money. This one was for the 2005 celebrations of Open Doors...
Probably nobody would remember the date, because life changing moments often pass unnoticed at the time.
This really stood out, and the idea came to me that we should try to raise enough for one house here in Pembrokeshire.
I am so grateful that we are blessed with a fellowship of genuine and quite amazing people. When I presented this idea at our weekly meeting, nobody said it was impossible, or tried to be in any way discouraging. One lovely lady said we should try, and it was just agreed at once that we would.
Probably nobody would remember the exact date, because life changing moments often pass unnoticed at the time. We do know it was in May 2005.
Although the name had not been thought of then, and it was to be a while before the monthly meetings began, this was really the conception of PPSC. That act of faith and commitment grew, and has brought blessing to everyone.
One of my very favourite people (although we have never met) is Adrian Plass. In one of his famous “Diaries”, he is going out evangelising with his friend Leonard. When Leonard suggests having a drink instead of showing inspiring enthusiasm for their task, Adrian says that when he writes the book of his successful ministry, Leonard will not be in it.
It is sometimes tempting to speak only of the high points and successes, but to do so would be unreal and, I think, discouraging to those who find that doing what you are sure is what God wants does not always go smoothly.
When we set out to raise money for a Safe House, we calculated that if 100 churches or individuals gave £70 each, we would have the £7,000 needed. This made the target seem reachable, and we sent out letters and emails to every church in the county for which we could find a contact number. We were very hopeful that this would give us at least a good start.
This is where I would like to give encouraging news, but the only response was from one pastor who sent his personal gift of £60.
This was a big disappointment. At the time I could think of many reasons why our appeal was ignored. We were just a tiny church, and probably many of those who received the letter had not heard of us. Lots of us, very sensibly, plan our giving and only use known channels. Sometimes people are just too busy. I can understand these things...
Only just now, sitting at my desk many years later, I wonder – Did anyone pray about it? Do we always act as cautious professionals instead of asking the Lord? I hope I will remember this next time we are asked for money or help.
It has always been our hope that other fellowships would follow Hesed’s example in giving up one meeting a month to join with us regularly. One did this for a short time, but this was abandoned when the pastor left.
There have been times over the years when we have been invited to a church by the pastor or a member who is committed to the persecuted church and found that apart from the person who invited us there is nobody from the hosting fellowship with us.
There have been several occasions when we have been let down or refused support for reasons which are shameful to the body of Christ. On the whole, however, the problem seems to be that people just don’t know what’s happening to our brothers and sisters, and find it hard to believe when they are told. At times, it is frightening to think about it all. I can certainly understand how that feels.
When God plants a seed He does not usually present it in a brightly coloured packet with growing instructions, a guide on how big the plant will be and when it will bear fruit, and a clear picture of the desired result.
When He wants us to build, He does not often give us exact plans and dimensions, and add finishing details complete with gold bells and pomegranates.
The late Bishop Haik Hovsepian, Iran
Rebekka, Ratna and Eti, Indonesia
On a sunny evening in May 2006, 12 people met in a small, dusty room in Pembroke Town Hall.
The Open Doors area rep, Clyde, was there, and his knowledge and commitment helped to shape our prayers.
We prayed for Iran, Burma and Indonesia, probably not much helped by sheets of information about the situation in each of those countries... but the basic structure of PPSC was in place, and we had something to build on.
Iran had a wonderful website "Pray for Iran", and we were able to listen to the haunting voice of Bishop Haik Hovsepian to lead us into prayer.
The situation in Burma was grim reading, but we were able to encourage ourselves by learning about the Good Life Club and taking leaflets that told us how to assemble survival packs for families hiding from the Burma army in the jungle.
We heard about the three ladies in prison in Indonesia because they were Sunday School teachers. Again, there was something we could do as well as pray; there were “Sign and Send” letters to post on their behalf.