Sometimes Christians in the West can get so caught up in the stories of miracles taking place overseas that we forget to be grateful for what we enjoy at home. Do miracles even happen in America?
In this episode, Nik Ripken reminds us that America is blessed with an overt miracle. We’re talking about the freedom to worship in a land of abundance.
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Are Bibles Allowed in China?
When Nik visited 150 Chinese pastors in a network of persecuted house churches, he was shocked to see them tearing the Bible apart. After ripping each book of the Bible into individual portions, they handed each pastor one book to take home as a resource.
However, Nik noticed their frustration at once:
[The Chinese pastors] got upset with me. They said, “Nik, you’ve got to explain to us…. Why is it that God loves his children in America so much more than he loves his children in China?” I was just dumbfounded.
In China, there are restrictions on how Bibles can be obtained and distributed. For example, only state-sanctioned churches can stock or sell bibles. Any other attempt at distribution may face consequences such as fines or imprisonment.
Believers cannot vocalize praise songs. Instead, they sit knee-to-knee and mouth the words without making sounds. If their voices were to be heard outside their homes, the military police would swiftly arrive to enforce Chinese government policy and shut down the practice.
The pastors helped Nik to better understand the challenges of the persecuted church:
They said, “Nik, you’ve watched us tear our Bibles into shreds and let people go home with the Book of Genesis, or John, or Psalms…. You’re telling us that in Ethiopia, where you and your family live right now, you have seven different translations just for you?”
Nik recalled that these pastors had been denied access to Bibles for so long. Yet, they were still so devoted to teaching from the Bible that they physically divided God’s Word among themselves.
Tearing the sacred text apart was the Chinese pastors’ response to scarcity within the persecuted church. This incredible example of solidarity and commitment to faith despite religious persecution moved Nik deeply.
Religious Freedom in America
On one Sunday morning, Nik took a Muslim-background believer to an American church for the first time. The newcomer was thrilled to see that the service started with a baptism of an entire family.
She surprised Nik with her reaction:
I can’t believe it! You’re telling me that an entire family is baptized in public, and [the father] is not going to be beaten, put in prison, and killed? His wife and his daughters are not going to be forced to marry a 60-70 year old man in a mosque, and disappear in another wife’s house? His son is not going to be put in a conservative Muslim village and disappear and never be found again? I think I’m going to stand up and shout! I’ve never seen America like this!
Nik Ripken asserts that miracles do happen in America. We enjoy an abundance of religious freedoms and resources unlike anything that exists in the Muslim world. Therefore, the peace we experience as a result is an overt miracle in itself.