I know several need-greaters in Myanmar, both past and present. For weeks after the February coup, the US Embassy said they were monitoring the situation but there was no immediate danger to American citizens. As things deteriorated, they began advising Americans to leave. Presumably other embassies did the same.
The Branch made clear to need-greaters that to leave or not leave was entirely a personal choice and that there was no stigma in either course. Some did leave. Some stayed. In either case it was their own decision. It was not a matter of one party being “more faithful” than the other. One of the need-greaters in Myanmar was a native Russian. She decided to stay where she was.
To oversimplify (and apply to Russia), the reason you might stay is to attend to the needs of the local friends now under increased pressure. This you can do, unless and until they throw you into the hoosegow, and you don’t know they are going to do that until they do. Some have not the financial means to flee, even if they had the inclination to do so.
Dennis Christensen was the very first one arrested—a foreigner! as though Russia was sending a signal to the world that it was playing for keeps. It’s a good thing we don’t do anti-types anymore for someone would surely seize upon this one as a whopper. Even his name points to the one he follows. Even his carpentry profession lines up. He must have his moments of discouragement. He must. ‘They are trying to breaking him,’ a Witness spokesperson said of one onerous situation. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen him down. Witnesses could not ask for a better public face. Jehovah keep him strong.
The reason you might leave in the face of persecution, on the other hand, is rather obvious, and some have done that. For those that do, it’s hard not to think of Acts chapter 8, in which persecution became so intense that “all except the apostles were scattered…..However, those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word,” so even that served to magnify the message.
People have different circumstances, different obligations, differing senses of how to meet those obligations, different assessments of their own wherewithal and the wherewithals of those whom they have obligations to. There are some who view wherever they happen to be as “their assignment.” I think of a local brother who turned down a job that would have required relocating with the observation that (he said it to me): “I’ll move for Jehovah. But I’m not moving for Satan!” (the “god of this system of things”—2 Corinthians 4:4) Others would have taken the relocation in a heartbeat—there was nothing else disagreeable about the job, only that it was elsewhere.
One of the Russian brothers sentenced to prison thanked the court for it. Doubtless there would be people in his new “assignment” that needed to hear the good news from the Bible, he said. Or was he just making the best of a bad situation? Or was he doing both?
Many moons ago I was a young elder in a city congregation with a horrendous public school system (which still is that way—they’ve been promising to turn the corner for decades). If we can successfully homeschool, my wife and I decided, we will stay in our present congregation. With minor caveats, the course worked out well—there were far more pluses than minuses (though there were minuses). Parallel to the decision to stay or leave during times of opposition, not all families would have the circumstances, resources, or wherewithal to do as we did.
Did I come to think too highly of my “holiness?” Years later, working with the circuit overseer in the ministry, I began to expound on how rough it had been on the congregation during that time. This was my favorite CO, a man of much wisdom, a man near retirement age, and probably older. I told him how elder after elder with young children had departed for the suburbs or rurals where better schools were to be found. As they left, they would say, “Don’t worry—Jehovah will provide!” But as for me and my household, we would stay faithful to our assignment and we would….
Right in the middle of my sanctimonious speech, he cut me off with: “You always do what is best for your family.”
Just to clarify, did he mean you should always do what youthink is best for your family?
Yes. My bad. It wasn’t praise he offered me. It was reproof. And yes, again, I used a little hyperbole on my own speech. It wasn’t that sanctimonious—but it leaned in that direction. After all, what is putting others down other than a means of lifting yourself up?
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