I have had a number of opportunities lately to reflect on the idea of freeing captives. I am continually stunned by the warfare analogies in ministry. I think we often pass over these too easily. War? Do most of us even have an idea what that looks like? Not if we’re American – perhaps if we have military experience – especially 40 years ago or more, when war was fought much more often man-on-man.
Isaiah 61:1-4 is a passage that the Lord has indelibly burned on our minds as we go about the ministry of Women of Hope. There is a reason for that. The ministry of Women of Hope is not about changing the income status of women with disabilities. It is not about making them productive members of society. It is not about moving them from begging or selling their bodies to earning a working income. It is not about educating them and giving them information. The Lord has called us in Women of Hope to set captives free.
Captives? Captives of whom? Why are they in bondage?
Let’s talk about war for a minute. I happen to like war movies – WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Bosnia, African conflicts – it doesn’t matter. It’s not that I’m a jaded masochist. I cry through most of them. I consider them training videos really. I’ll never be in the military, but I realize that as a follower of Christ, we are all in His military. So, I learn a lot about war tactics from those movies. And I need it. I do have some first-hand experience with war. During Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war, I did relief work, both in Sierra Leone and in refugee and displaced camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone. I have had the need for 24 hour guards armed with live AK-47 rifles for my security and that of my team. I have come face-to-face with a truckload of armed, inebriated rebel soldiers on a deserted bush road at twilight. I have traveled into rebel held areas, been searched at checkpoints, had RPGs pointed in the window of my car during questioning and been evacuated on a C130 US army plane not knowing if I would ever see the people I loved again. And I’ve come back from that evacuation to find my house burned and the interior walls used for firewood. So, I probably have a little more experience with war than the average American woman. But even that pales in comparison to real front-lines combat.
But see, that’s the thing. We ARE in real front-lines combat. We just don’t realize it. And we have been given a mission – to free the captives. Our enemy has taken prisoners, and we are called to take them back. The problem with freeing prisoners of war is that they are heavily guarded, often brain-washed into thinking that staying in captivity is better than freedom, and hidden in places that are perilous and life-threatening to access. But, we have been called to proclaim liberty to the captives. Do we really believe that?
Did you ever watch Rambo? Those POWs were not brought to freedom in a sweet, transformation story. It was rough, and it was bloody, and it was risky. There were casualties. There were even fatalities. The women we are called to free are not much different. Their captor is not a tired, old Viet Cong captain with an ax to grind. Their Captor wants them dead. Forever. In order to release them from their bondage, there are things that need to be blown up and destroyed:
• the barbed wire of animistic and Islamic belief that embeds itself in the heart through fear
• the guard towers of wrong thinking that disallow Truth to penetrate the borders of the mind
• the shackles of exploitation and abuse that ensure continued bondage
• and the victim mentality of hopelessness that says “I will die in this hole and that’s just the way it will be.”
This is not an easy job. This is war! People shoot at you in a war!
These captives are not in bondage because they have made poor choices. Their problem is not poverty. It is not a lack of access to resources. Their main challenge is not disability. Those things are true, but they are not the root. Their primary threat is that they are being held in bondage by the enemy of their souls – Satan. Their bondage is their sin.
Freedom and liberty… From what? Disability? Poverty? Exploitation? No! May God allow those to come as well – but the real battle is for the submission to their hearts to the lordship and sovereignty of Christ! Make no mistake – there is an enemy – and he wants to keep them bound. He will not let them go easily.
As we move toward the opening of a new field in Nigeria we have already seen visible evidence of the rallying of enemy troops. The scouts have alerted the POW camp guards. There is already resistance to the idea of freed captives. For the mission to be accomplished, there needs to be a good supply chain (isn’t that why they always blow up the railroads??) and intact communication with command central. Will you join the troops? Will you be part of freeing captives? These POWs have suffered in enemy hands long enough. Will you answer the call to proclaim their freedom?