Published on March 18, 2024 by Neal Embry  

When Nik and Ruth Ripken arrived in Somalia in the 1990s, there were 150 Christians in the country of roughly 10 million people.

After seven years in the country, when they were kicked out, only four Christians were left alive. In a 25-year span, Nik Ripken said only one Christian died of natural causes. Ripken said the bodies of Christians were thrown into trash heaps or into the ocean by those who, in keeping with their religious beliefs, believed that by destroying their bodies, they were denying them entrance into paradise.

In a journey lasting more than 30 years and stretching across the globe, serving in countries with high rates of persecution and spending countless hours with the persecuted church, Ripken testified that persecution is what happens when Christians are obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As part of the Global Voices lecture series at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School on March 14, Ripken shared lessons he and his wife learned from the persecuted church after interviewing more than 600 persecuted believers in more than 70 countries.

There are three “non-negotiables” all Christians need to understand from their brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer greatly for their faith, Ripken said.

The first is that in the Bible, persecution is normal. The question before all of us, he said, is “how do we know when to leave Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison, especially when we can get him out?”

Rather than seeing persecution as something to be overcome through political or similar pressure, Christians must understand that God often uses persecution to lead Christians to share the gospel with those persecuting them, the longtime missionary said.

Secondly, the number one cause of persecution is people turning to Jesus. While many people might say they’re grateful to live in a country where persecution isn’t the norm, the dividing line of countries where persecution is more common than not is the witness of the church, Ripken said.

“When did it happen that it’s okay to die for your country, but it’s not okay to die for Jesus?” he said.

Lastly, obedient witness leads to persecution.

“Obedient witness involves going across the street and going across the ocean to share with those who are lost. Learning language and cultures, going as teams and families, and breaking bread with those in need of Christ is paramount to faithful evangelism. And the end result is persecution,” Ripken said.

The Ripkens have used everything they’ve learned from persecuted believers in service to the church in the form of books, a CD, a documentary, workshops and more, aimed at challenging believers to boldly follow Jesus, sharing their faith with others, no matter the cost.

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