The bright colors that gracefully adorned each woman stood out in stark contrast against the dark spiritual background of the beautiful nation they call home.
The nation is India, where the heat of violent persecution is rapidly rising for Christ followers.
These women are not unlike you and me in many regards. They are daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, ministry leaders - passionate women who carry bold dreams in their hearts, yet manage many realms of life and responsibilities in order to nurture, protect, love, and disciple the ones God has placed in their influence. Like us, they balance great joy in the Lord, mixed with the pain that the world can so often bring because we're not home yet.
But unlike most of us, these women wake up each day in a nation where precious lives could be on the line simply because they identify themselves as Christians.
In 2013 India ranked 31st on the list of the top 50 countries where it's most dangerous to follow Jesus. In just five short years, India has surpassed more well known persecuted nations by earning an astonishing rank of number 11 in 2018.
Let that sink in. India just surpassed twenty of the most highly persecuted nations in the world.
News of increasing government restrictions and the violent influence of radical Hindu groups flood today's headlines. There is talk that their goal is to eradicate both Islam and Christianity from this second most populous country in the world by the year 2021. School curriculum is denouncing the name of Jesus, and Bibles are being burned in the streets. It's more and more common to hear of pastors being beaten and martyred for their faith. Most recently, an eight year old girl was targeted, abused, and tragically killed at the hands of Hindu extremists.
These are real stories reported to us from our very own partners on the front lines in India. These dear brothers and sisters in Christ need our support now more than ever.
This is why Global Advance is unwavering in our commitment to go to the most unreached places to empower frontline leaders to fulfill the Great Commission. This is what took us to Ludhiana, India this month for our second Esther Initiative training conference for women leaders in ministry.
To say that these incredible women - most of them first generation believers - are hungry for spiritual training on the next level would be an understatement. They have a strong desire to be intelligent women of the Word. They need to be encouraged to persevere in hope in an environment that rejects the one true God whom they treasure more than life itself. They long for someone to believe in them in a culture that often devalues them; someone who will lift their arms and empower them to go into the hard places - despite the many challenges stacked against them - to light this predominantly Hindu nation with the gospel.
And so we went with great JOY.
With connected hearts and our common bond in Christ, we trained, encouraged, believed in, and empowered these modern day Esthers. We challenged them to shine the light of Christ in their spheres of influence, and zoned in on intentional discipleship multiplication. We showed up to remind them that they were created for such a time as this, and that they aren't alone in this battle.
And as all Global Advance conferences go, corporate biblical training paved the way for profound personal impact.
Don't you love how God is such a personal God like that?
One delegate named Phoebe had miscarried just two days before the conference. This was tragic for this sister and her husband as they had been praying and waiting anxiously for this baby for the past six years. Phoebe knew that she had to attend this conference - a rare opportunity for women - in spite of the pain and agony. Through the teaching and testimonies of our team, the Lord spoke to her specifically, bringing much needed healing and comfort. Through tears she whispered, "This conference was just for me. God has provided for me through this training at just the right time."
She was comforted, and found healing and wholeness in the arms of her Savior.
Comforted, so that she can comfort others with the comfort she has received from God.
Comforted in the hard places, so that she can rise up and shine His light in the darkness around her.
Phoebe's personal testimony was just one of many heard throughout the conference. These women are now fired up and on mission for God. As their time together concluded, ninety-one of them stood to proclaim that they will go into the hard places - into the most remote villages of North India and beyond - to reach those who have yet to hear the good news of the gospel.
Now that's a story worth telling over and over again.
What a privilege it is to remind you that YOU are a crucial part of this story.
Your prayers matter.
Your going matters.
Your giving matters.
We'll keep telling what great things God has done because your partnership has significant Kingdom impact, and because He deserves all the glory.
Friends, we can't tire now.
Thank you for praying, going, and giving as we lock arms with these frontline leaders in the hardest, most unreached regions of the world. There's nothing better than knowing, loving, and serving Jesus together.