Open Doors with Brother Andrew is the oldest on-going Christian ministry to the Persecuted Church, and will celebrate 50 years of service in 2005. The international non-profit ministry works in over 45 countries worldwide and is active in places such as China, Vietnam, Sudan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Colombia, Israel, the West Bank and Iraq. Since its establishment in 1955 by Brother Andrew – author of the best-selling autobiography “God’s Smuggler,” Open Doors has delivered Bibles and assisted with pastoral training, literacy training, Christian community development and prayer and presence ministry, all with the purpose of “strengthening the Persecuted Church”. Its network of underground, indigenous believers helped Open Doors deliver over 3 million Bibles, Study Bibles, Children's Bibles, hymnals and discipleship materials in 2002 and over 4 million materials in 2003. Open Doors also provides solid teaching and instruction to pastors and church leaders, training them to stand strong amidst persecution and lead their congregations effectively. Last year Open Doors trained 22,000 pastors and church leaders.
Dr. Carl Moeller, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, recently returned from trips to several countries, including China, Vietnam, and most recently Colombia, where he was part of a team that linked 24 pastors/church leaders from Denver, Colorado with churches and pastors in Colombia. On May 12, Dr. Moeller spoke with The Christian Post regarding his trips, his thoughts on the Persecuted Church, and its relation with Western churches. Below are excerpts taken from the interview:
We were informed that you returned recently from trips to China, Vietnam and Colombia. Could you tell me what your thoughts and feelings on those trips were?
China is an amazing place. Most Americans realize China has a great amount of potential and the Christian church is expanding there. We are very involved with the house church movement, which is growing strong as well as growing large. Our co-workers are involved with providing high-caliber training to instruct local pastors and lay leaders. We deliver Christian Bibles and materials in China. We make a lot of effort to deliver Children’s Bibles and Sunday school materials. There is no distribution other than through the underground movement. I met with some of our co-workers who supply 11,000 Sunday schools with Bibles. There are about 20 to 30 students in each Bible school, so if you calculate that, that comes out to thousands.
I heard some incredible stories of faith and persecution in China. I met with pastors and lay leaders who help us with literature. One told us his personal experience. His name is Timothy and he had been raised during the Cultural Revolution. All intellectuals, especially Christians, were severely harassed. When he was young, his mother was forced to stand in the middle of the town square and they threw fruits and vegetables at her and insulted her. He remembers standing there and holding her hand just so she wouldn’t be alone. He eventually became a pastor and a leader and overseer of many churches. We supported Timothy when he was arrested in 2002. He was jailed, put into detention. His imprisonment could have led to long-term confinement, but by the grace of God he was released early. His house was raided and most of the religious materials were confiscated. I believe he was released early because of the prayers of many Christians all around the world.
Many times Christians hear about the persecution in China, and there are many reports coming in about frequent arrests and beatings. What would you say about them?
One of the startling realities is that almost anything you say about China is almost always true. True, in some places the churches are untouched and worshippers not harassed. But the fact is in many places there is tremendous persecution.
Often times, China authorities explain their suppression of Christians as being directed towards “evil cults.” And with the astonishing growth of churches in China, one might expect some cults to be active among the churches in China. How is this being handled?
Part of Open Doors’ work is making sure the church, as it grows, is strengthened in Biblical knowledge, and understands accurately the Word of God. One of our highest priorities is to provide Biblical training for pastors and church leaders not only in China, but around the world. Christian leadership training is one of the greatest needs in the Persecuted Church today. Last year Open Doors trained over 22,000 pastors. Some of that training includes seminars on Christian living and dealing with cults, evangelism, how to thrive under persecution, family life, cell church principles and much more.
What were your thoughts on the persecution in other countries in comparison to the persecution in China?
This past month I was in Colombia. Colombia is a fascinating study in persecution. Fifty years ago we might have looked at persecution as a communist thing -- “Just get Bibles through the Iron Curtain.” It still happens in countries such as China, Cuba, etc. You’d think in Colombia they would be open to missions, but what's fascinating is two-thirds of the country is controlled by rebel forces or paramilitary forces. And they are incredibly violent and involved with drug trafficking. The churches in those areas are the only organizations speaking out against drug trafficking. So pastors are receiving a lot of opposition there and many church leaders have been martyred. This is a country whose government is open to missions. But what is going on is different.
When we're in that environment what we're doing is standing with pastors as they minister. We're not there as Open Doors telling them what to do. But we're standing alongside the churches in those countries asking, “How can we help you?” And then we go and get for them, in many cases it’s training.
In your opinion, what can the churches here do to help?
What we're engaged in is Kingdom work. And Jesus said he would build the church and the gates of hell would not overcome it. Even in the darkest places, God has been faithful in providing a light. Sometimes we as Americans cannot go over to some countries and effectively do mission work by ourselves. However, in places where there is intense persecution, the best thing we can do is serve our brothers and sisters, and be a support to them. Our work is to strengthen the Persecuted Church, encourage our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them. They know the language, culture and have experienced the persecution. In Revelations 3:2, it says to “Wake up and strengthen.” Our ministry is to wake up the church in the West to the persecution and to strengthen the churches in other countries.
What other projects are currently at hand for Open Doors?
We have some very exciting projects we are currently engaged in. We're using the project in Colombia as a model for other cities…having churches and donors support Open Doors projects in a particular country. There are many cities around the country we can target, in addition to Denver. And there are so many Christians who need our support in places like Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and many more. As we bring that message out to cities around the country, I have no doubt that we'll have many more countries involved. Also there is the International Day Of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church. This year IDOP will be Sunday, November 14. I encourage you and your church to get involved in IDOP. And Open Doors has many other opportunities – perhaps as a courier or prayer warrior – for Christians here to support our brothers and sisters in faith. Our web site at www.odusa.org lists many of those opportunities or call 1-888-5-BIBLE-5.