Above: Photo by Sheridan Voysey
Some days I wonder why I am a Christian. In a secular age, it isn’t great for your career (as someone told me last week, “Admitting you’re a Christian in my circles is professional suicide”). In some countries, claiming the faith can literally sign your death sentence. And there are so many alternatives in the religious marketplace now.
So, why do I believe? A memory of a close call in the Dominican Republic helped bring my reasons down to two. Here’s the story.
Here I Stand
A few years ago I found myself in a rough part of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Homes were made of scrap wood and corrugated iron. Electricity wires hung above us, some dangling live. It was a community marred by high unemployment, drug use and violent crime.
I was there to interview families about their lives and how local churches were helping them. In one alleyway I climbed a rickety ladder to a small room to meet a mother and her son. About ten minutes into the interview our Dominican assistant, Chris, came up and asked me to finish up. As the interview was going well I asked him for more time. Chris agreed and left, but returned a moment later saying, “We have to go now.” I found later that a local gang leader was gathering a mob to ambush us. He was carrying a machete.
We left quickly!
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We went to another area that was just as impoverished, but there we had no problems. I discovered why: whichever home I went to, another gang leader, the most feared in the area, stood outside guarding us. It turned out his daughter was being fed and educated by the local church. He stood by those doors because Christians stood by his daughter, raising her out of poverty.
Sometimes I ask people unfamiliar with church about their impressions of it. If they mention archaic hymns in cold stone buildings, I think of the lively services I’ve attended in homes and warehouses. If they mention some scandal in the news, I think of the small Pentecostal church I recently visited that’s helping drug addicts. Or the evangelicals I met last year helping settle refugees and free trafficked women. Or the churches I know fostering troubled children. Or others I’ve seen in India, the Philippines, Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic standing in places of pain and poverty changing lives through unreported acts of service.
Having hung around churches for twenty-five years now, I’ve seen hypocrisy too—not least in myself. But to me Christianity rises or falls on two things: who Jesus is (his life, claims, the little matter of his resurrection), and what happens when he is followed wholeheartedly. And I’ve seen enough of the real thing in the men and women of Santo Domingo and elsewhere that today I can say:
Here I Stand. Because of them, I am a Christian.
Article supplied with thanks to Sheridan Voysey – writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His books include Resilient, Resurrection Year, and Unseen Footprints. Get his FREE eBook Five Practices for a Resilient Life here.