Sunday, March 12, 2006

From the Diary of Don Iverson

Here is an ongoing struggle that continues to need our help. If you feel this is a work you wish to get involved, contact doniverson@juno.com - just thought you'd like to know. ~Kirk




Brethren, Cathy and I returned from India today to our nice comfortable home. Through tear-filled eyes I want to share the writings of my diary from February 15. Please take the time to read it.

Don Iverson

The India sun was setting on the evening of February 15. We stood beneath a cloudless sky one mile from the Bay of Bengal. On this eastern shore the stinch of death is still fresh in the nostrils of these folks who now divide their lives by "pre" and "post" tsunami.

Gathered before me are my brothers and sisters. More than 100 sit cross-legged on the sandy ground. Some are widows. Their skin is as black as coal from working daily in the fields in the hot sun. In the front of the crowd are more than thirty children. They have just eagerly sung for me their newly learned song about being "Sons of Abraham." Their faces were so happy! How could I have known they were hungry?

I preached from Luke 5 about Peter gathering multitudes of fish into his boat. At one point I pulled a man from the crowd. His skin was coarse and dark. I knew he was a fisherman. I told the crowd, "I love these fishermen!" How was I to know as I shook his hard calloused hand that I was shaking hands with a mighty warrior, a spiritual giant in the kingdom of God? As I preached about using our boats (or whatever assets we might have) for God I didn't know this fisherman had lost his in the tsunami. Furthermore, he had been told that if he would stop being a faithful member of the church of Christ he could have a new boat, motor, and nets. He chose to suffer with Christ (I Peter 4:13).

In the shed-type house behind me, dinner had been prepared for Cathy and me. We struggled to eat the fish-fried rice, but the hospitality warmed our hearts. From the other room they brought a Pepsi for us to share. I felt guilty and could hardly swallow the soft drink. We gave the remaining half to the children of the hostess. That seemed to please her.

This house owner is my new brother in Christ. As we visited I learned that this generous husband and wife had been feeding these thirty-eight children (biscuits and an egg) twice weekly, teaching them Bible stories and songs. The little ones come from tsunami affected families and do not have enough food. He went on to explain how the Bible had completely changed him. Since the tsunami he has been baptized and completed three months in our Open Bible School program. What money he had is now gone and he has stopped the twenty-dollar-per-month program for the children. I found out through the translator that he had recently received a phone call from a Catholic priest who told him if he would stop the church of Christ from meeting in his home they would give him boats and nets to support his family. He chose Christ over food. I asked this brother, "Have you ever thought of being a gospel preacher?" Before he could answer his wife affirmed in Tamil, "Kaandipaar" (definitely)!

Though he was not asking, I explained that if there was any way, we would help. I stared into his smiling face as he answered, "Thank you, but regardless of whether you can help or not, we will stand for Christ and his Word!" I love these new brothers and sisters and I marvel at the power of God's word working in their lives. We don't have to doubt the sincerity of our brothers words. He has been suffering for his faith for nearly a year. I thought to myself, "It is one thing to say we love Jesus, and another to watch our family go hungry."

In Trichendur (where 25 members were withdrawn from by the village) our new brothers are being mocked. The other fishermen in the village have had their professions restored with new boats and nets. They now chide our poor hungry brothers and sisters and try to get them to leave the church. I asked my brother, "Why did you refuse?" He answered, "I cannot sell my soul. Money doesn't last forever. All of the other people are making fun of us. They scold us and say, 'you have lost everything because of the church of Christ.' I told them all material things will be destroyed one day. God will care for us!"

Thus far I have discovered 109 families, our new brothers and sisters, who have been treated the same way. They have been denied because of their faith. This is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! So far, we have not even found one warrior who has broken ranks. They all continue firm on their newfound foundation, Jesus Christ. These are like those in Revelation who refused to worship the beast and had not his mark in their foreheads (Revelation 20:4). Their names, along with ours, are recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life.

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With a lump in my throat I send this e-mail. Our American brethren have been so generous to this cause, but we do not have funds to help these hungry saints who have given all for their faith. We feel responsible. In a way they are like our own spiritual children (II Tim. 1:2).Cathy and I have discussed the possibility of selling our own house (but that is unlikely at this point). Our initial survey shows we will need about $500 per family (109 families) to get them functioning again in their life-long professions. I am considering heading back to India next Sunday to deal directly with this problem.

Brethren, please share this with your congregation tomorrow. If there are those who can help, please send us an e-mail immediately, even before sending your check. That helps with the initial plan.

On behalf of our Indian brethren, Thank you.

Don Iverson

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