Grace Episcopal Church
Voice of the Martyrs: Extreme Devotion
By Cheryl Arnold
Just before Christmas, my Journey group went to a concert by Keith and Kristyn Getty, who wrote some of the hymns we sing at Grace, including In Christ Alone. During a break between sets, Kristyn Getty shared that she and Keith are ministry partners with Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit, interdenominational missions organization that serves persecuted Christians around the world. The organization was founded in 1967 by Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand. Richard was an evangelical minister who was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured in Communist Romania for his underground church ministry. He was eventually released as part of a general amnesty program but still in great danger of being imprisoned again or even assassinated, so a group of Norwegian Christians worked to negotiate his family’s emigration to the United States through payment of a ransom to Communist leaders. Richard was reluctant to leave his homeland and ministry, but the underground church leaders persuaded him to go and become a “voice” to the world for persecuted Christians.
You may already know Voice of the Martyrs from their radio program, global prayer guide, or book Jesus Freaks, which they cowrote with members of the Christian rock band DC Talk (TobyMac, Michael Tait, and Kevin Max). DC Talk had previously released both a song and Grammy and Dove award-winning album titled Jesus Freak, with the song lyrics proclaiming a bold love for Jesus in the midst of persecution. The book was released a few years after the song and album, and it is collection of stories about martyrs written for teenagers, to challenge their faith. It was widely read in church youth groups, along with companion books that included Live Like a Jesus Freak and Promises for a Jesus Freak.
The Voice of the Martyrs later released their own book called Extreme Devotion. This book is a collection of 365 daily devotional stories about believers and martyrs from ancient times through today, and Kristyn Getty shared that she and Keith have included this book in their family devotions to teach their children about the persecuted church and the cost of faith--which is sometimes mistreatment and sometimes one's life. The book has sold more than 1 million copies in 36 languages and retails for $18, but the Gettys announced that it is currently available at no cost through the following link:
Each daily entry has a title that begins with the word extreme—extreme choice, extreme costs, extreme difficulties, extreme courage, extreme forgiveness, and so on. It names the person and place and sets the context with an introductory paragraph, followed by a short story and then a reflection paragraph with applications for our own lives. A related bible verse is also included.
A book like this does not make for cozy, comfortable reading. As I read a sampling of the daily entries after receiving my free copy of Extreme Devotion in the mail this week, I found some of the stories were quite painful to read. I had to acknowledge that my own faith is often far too comfortable, given what other believers around the world have faced and continue to face. So why read a book like this? These stories will help us think through how we should respond when faced with opposition and evil, and they will challenge us think through what we are willing to risk to share God’s love with others. The writing team points out that these stories are not accounts of hopeless situations or “super” Christians. Rather, they are accounts of ordinary Christians facing extraordinary circumstances and choosing to follow Christ—no matter the cost.
To learn more about Voice of the Martyrs, subscribe to their free magazine, partner with them in prayer, or support them financially, visit their website at www.persecution.com.