On Thursday last week we were meeting in a makeshift church building on the edge of the refugee camp known as the Jungle, in Calais. On Monday of this week, I received a message from James, who went to Calais with us and stayed on: “Church is being bulldozed.” The pastor and congregation were given one hour’s notice, before the timber frame around the meeting tent was hauled out of the ground by the digger bucket. The pastor; a quiet man from London, originally from Ethiopia looked on; clutching one of the blue painted crosses made from roofing baton which had been fixed above the entrance.
For a few evenings we had enjoyed the presence of God in that chilly tent, huddled around a portable gas heater. We had seen men and women receive the peace and joy only available through the Holy Spirit: people who each had fled countries and regimes completely hostile to them and the message of Jesus. Iran, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, this small church was providing a respite and comfort from tales of tyranny and brutality. Through this church and its networks, French pastors were supplying gas bottles to the residents of the Jungle: Middle Easterners and Africans trying desperately to keep warm in our North European winter.
Throughout history, many regimes have opposed the influence of Jesus; sometimes with open violence, sometimes with stealth. Communist China imprisoned countless pastors and followers of Jesus. Some were only released after more than 20 years of imprisonment, because they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. Church was forced underground, as the official church was full of informants to the secret police. It was against this climate that one persecuted Christian mad the now famous comment: “Christians are like bamboo, when you cut us down, we grow back taller and stronger.”
Christians in China today are estimated at around 100 million, although official figures do not exist; China prohibits the baptism of anyone under the age of 18. It is thought that more people are part of a church in China than are in Europe. China is on track to become the most Christian nation in the world in 15 years, according to the Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10776023/China-on-course-to-become-worlds-most-Christian-nation-within-15-years.html
Demolishing a temporary church building in the Jungle is mean spirited and short-sighted. It will not, however, make the slightest difference to the miracle that the Holy Spirit is performing in the lives of the men and who were attending the meetings in that tent. No regime will ever be able to resist the power of the love of God the Father as expressed through Jesus Christ. At the all time low point in history for Jesus, when his human life ebbed away on the cross, he was winning the most staggering victory on behalf of the human race.
Persecution, intellectual isolation, torture and martyrdom have been part of the deal for following the Carpenter from Nazareth, since the days when the ink was still wet on the pages of the New Testament. France just adds its name to the list of those responsible for the futile attempts to hinder the spread of the unstoppable love of Jesus Christ.