In 2017, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association organized the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C. Mr. Graham’s youngest daughter, Ruth Graham, attended that conference and came away with one question the Lord put on her heart: What can you do to help persecuted Christians? Ruth shared her response to that question with Decision during a recent interview.
Q: What were your impressions coming away from the Summit?
A: I realized I couldn’t just go home and be the same. I began to think and pray about what I could do. I called together some pastors and some ministry leaders I knew, and we met over lunch. We began to talk about what we could do to raise awareness of the plight of the persecuted. We thought we could make our efforts area-wide, but we narrowed it down to our county—Augusta County, Va. We have a place here where we hold our county fair. We were able to secure that place, and we began to plan what we called “A Gathering for Prayer for the Persecuted.”
We started meeting monthly to pray and plan. We sent out messages and wrote to pastors. We took out two full-page ads in the local paper, which local businesses paid for—and others gave generously. Our local Christian radio station was generous with their time and promotion. God provided everything we needed.
People got excited about it. Congressman Frank Wolf, who has worked around the world on behalf of persecuted Christians, agreed to come and speak at the event. We were able to arrange to hear from some Christians who had endured persecution. One man from Africa shared how he had persecuted believers until he saw how they responded, and then he repented of his sins and surrendered his life to the Lord.
We spent most of the time in prayer, and God showed up in a mighty way! It was phenomenal. People want to help the persecuted but just don’t know what to do. This was something they could do that was positive and tangible.
We made prayer cards with the statistics of each country from Open Doors’ World Watch List, which lists the 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus. We put a map of the country, the population and percentage of Christians, the majority religion and the ways of persecution. We made those available, and we handed out little rubber bracelets that look like barbed wire that people could wear as a reminder to pray for persecuted Christians.
Q: How has God grown this mission?
A: As we continued to meet, word spread to Maine. A church in Auburn asked us to come do the same thing there. So Frank Wolf and a group of us went, and about 500 people gathered to pray. It was extraordinary to be there and to hear the prayers and see the tears and know that people had caught the vision to pray for the persecuted. It was powerful.
Then in November, we came back to Virginia and held our second gathering here. Every month I write a letter to each pastor in this county, just to keep them informed. To make them aware.
Q: What resources do you use, and what do you ask people to pray for?
A: Open Doors is a big resource and so is the Persecution Project and Samaritan’s Purse. We know these are trustworthy. I think people are drawn to the fact that they can do something. They hear about persecution, they feel bad about it, but what can they do? They think, If I pray, how do I pray? What do I pray? This is really sort of an awareness and education process just to get them to see how bad persecution really is. I read “The Insanity of God” (by Nik Ripken)—that is a powerful book about persecution of the church—and I’ve been recommending it left and right. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
As Western Christians, we want our brothers and sisters to be spared from persecution, but they report they are growing spiritually and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being spread. So they’re rejoicing in that. They ask that we pray, not that persecution ends, but that they will be steadfast.
We need to be aware that our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering simply because they love Him and call on His Name. They are suffering in real time. We pray for each country—the leaders and those who are doing the persecution, that they would see Christ in the lives of those they are persecuting and come to faith in Him. When we pray, we are marshaling the very powers of Heaven. We want people to realize they have that kind of power and they can use it, they can call on it. And God will intervene. We don’t know how He will intervene, but He will. He is the God of faithfulness and goodness.
Q: When you look back at the conference in D.C., who are some of the speakers who really affected you?
A: I think it was Robert Cunville, my father’s associate evangelist in India. He spoke about the crucifixion; what Jesus did for us; this is the least that we can do for Him, to pray for our brothers and sisters who are living under persecution. When I left the Summit, I remember thinking, I’m going to go home and bring this front and center if I can.
Q: If another church is interested in doing this, how would you encourage them?
A: The first thing to do is simply start praying. Ask God what He would have you do in your community. Gather with your friends, pastor and ministry leaders and begin to pray. We cannot do this in our own strength, so pray and ask for God’s wisdom and guidance.
I was reading in Hebrews recently, where the Bible tells us to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated.” (Hebrews 13:3). In Hebrews, those in prison were there because of their faith. They were arrested because of their testimony. And so many of our brothers and sisters today, right now, are in the same situation.
When you realize how many people live under persecution in the world, it’s heartbreaking. And we can do something about it.
The Scripture Quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.