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A tunnel under a highway overpass, a haymow accessed through a trap door, an old barn, and a cabin deep in the woods aren’t exactly typical spots for youth groups to meet. But recently the youth group leaders of Second Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Mich., chose those spots as meeting sites for their group. The impact? “I can definitely say I was moved by what we talked about that night,” youth group member Ben V.  reflected.

What they talked about was the persecuted church. As the young people met in dark, hidden places that night, Vlietstra recounted how youth pastor Fred De Young and the other leaders “hit us with a very real subject,” exposing teens to a taste of what life is like for Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith and have to meet in secret.

The teens were divided into four groups; each was taken to one of the “secret” sites. By the light of candles and flashlights, the leaders presented actual stories of bitter persecution faced by early believers and by many Christians still today. They talked about Christians freezing to death or being shot with AK-47s while at worship. Vlietstra added, “It was a very cold night, and it helped make the experience more real.”

Speaking for fellow youth group members as well, he noted how thankful they all were to return to a warm, safe place, but also how thankful they are for the freedom to worship openly in heated and air conditioned churches. The things they learned that night “won’t be easy to forget,” he said, and asked fellow believers to take some time to pray for persecuted Christians.

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