As I found Easter fast approaching, I was busy with all the preparations that were necessary for the special day. In the hustle and bustle of preparation, I came across a startling fact concerning my missionary friends.
"Easter is different Everywhere!"
Everyone realizes that when a missionary ventures off to unknown lands to take the gospel, they will be introducing people to many new and different things including new holidays, such as Easter. What I failed to realize was that for every missionary the Easter season is vastly different in every area. You maybe thinking, "What could possibly be different? Easter is Easter right?" While the celebration of Christs death and resurrection is taught and equally enjoyed everywhere around the world, the struggles, environment and reception to the message varies greatly.
Generally, the biggest differences I saw were due to the majority religion of the area and how modernized the culture had become. So with some missionary ladies help, I have compiled a view of how Easter looks in a few different countries with varying religions and view of how these faithful families are serving and loving. Also we will see the blessings that accompanied this years celebration of the "Risen Saviour".
Sadly, the most challenging fields at Easter time seem to be those "proffessing godliness but denying the power thereof". The predominately staunch Catholic countries face a dark time of religious oppression and sadness. I spoke to ladies in Bolivia and the Philippines who have personally experienced the darkness the Catholic Church casts at Easter. In Bolivia, they believe that the three days following "Good Friday", the death of Christ, that God truly is dead. So for three days they can commit any sin imaginable without consequence. This makes it a very dangerous time in the country.
In the Phillipines, a missionary lady spoke of how the Catholics will parade down the streets whipping themselves while carrying a cross. Instead of embracing the amazing sacrifice and gift that was given by Christ they heap upon themselves the same punishment. A time that should be spent in rejoicing and thankfulness is turned into a time of pain and self-punishing.
Then there are countries who are more Protestant in their beliefs. Some are true believers who take the time to glory in Christ and his sacrifice at Easter and others are just followers of a religion who find this a mere time of celebration.
In Kirabati (a small island found off of Fiji), you will find the majority of Protestant churches gathering in a time of competition of the arts; singing, drama, etc. The real message of the Resurection of Christ is not the priority.
In Uganda, you will find many Christian like in the states who dress their best to come to worship Easter at church. However many of the countries "Christian" churches teach salvation through baptism and works.
In both the Domincian Republic and France you will find Catholics who will most definitely be recognizing the holiday of Easter. It will not be celebrated with the mayhem or large displays of self-denial you will see in other Catholic countries but with comfort and ease. Many take the time to go to mass and all will have time off from work to celebrate with family with large meals and relaxation.
In Scotland you will find remnants of religion whose power has long been denied. While Easter isn't a new custom to them, you will not see excitement or celebration.
Hindu/ Buddhist countries
In Asia and Southeast Asia, you will find millions of Hindus and Buddhists. Each country varies greatly by culture, modernization and thought process but many things are very similar. In Hong Kong you will find many people who are Buddhist and many who believe in worshipping their ancestors. Hong Kong is an extremely modern and developed country. Due to this they have mixed in the western holiday of Easter with their own culture. You can find them on one day worshipping their ancestors and only a few days later buying Easter eggs and having their picture taken with the Easter bunny. They enjoy the "TV" version of Easter but wouldn't know the first thing about the Christ who died and rose for them.
In other countries in Southeast Asia, you will find the country filled with millions of staunch Hindus and Buddhists. They are generally slow to attend church but most always if you invite them enough times they will come and come with a smile. Barely a soul on the streets would even recognize the name, Easter and commerce does not even pause for any form of holiday. However you will see a growing number of many different forms of Christianity in this slowly modernizing country. In the newspaper, it was seen where hundreds of Christians were seen marching through the streets chanting,"He lives" and wearing shirts saying "I serve the risen Saviour". This is monumentous in a country where not too many years ago it was illegal to change your religion, proselytize, hang church signs or hand out Chrisitan literature and even recently they revoked Christmas from the country's recognized holidays. Many are confused by the invitation to attend an Easter service, but if they have a relationship with the person inviting them they will come to find out what the fuss is about.
In Indonesia, you will find a predominately Muslim country. Other religions do however receive some freedoms to worship as they please. Each religion is allotted 2 holidays on the calendar. The small sector of Catholics chose Easter to be one of their holidays but it is seemingly non-existent. You will not find many people out to celebrate in a spiritual or secular way.
Atheist/ Non-Religous Countries
In some areas of the world people are not devoted to a religion. They have lost faith in any religion and have instead placed their faith in their own selves. Some trust in money and education. Others simply rest in the Catholic name but their lives are completely unaffected by any of the religions tenants. Ladies from both Spain and Hong Kong spoke of this type of environment. in some areas of Hong Kong people celebrate by embracing the Secular Easter traditions such as Easter bunnies and eggs, they are as far as anyone from understanding the true meaning of the holiday. While in Spain there is very little resemblance of the Christian holiday at all.
So now you have seen the challenges and environments many missionaries face in the midst of one of Christians most beloved holidays. We can also see how the message "He Lives" is exalted in all of these countries no matter the opposition or challenges. Also how the joy that exudes from a Christians heart when he thinks of his all-powerful God who rose from the grave to defeat sin and the devil will not be squelched by any culture or religion.
These were some of the quotes taking from the ladies serving in the aforementioned countries describing their Easter services.
"Sweet time of worship" - Bolivia
"This is my first Easter on the field. We had some visitors and they heard the gospel! It was a wonderful service all together."- Scotland
"Those of us who come for Easter services LOVE the fact that Jesus rose!!! It is always a blessed time."- Spain
"On Resurrection Sunday we had over 100 attend, including 15 families. It was such a blessing and totally worth it!"- Hong Kong
"Easter is such a powerful and amazing time. We are able to present the One true God who rose from the grave, to a nation who worship millions of gods who are neither real or have long been dead. We had a wonderful service with many visitors and a wonderful spirit."- Southeast Asia
Many programs across the globe consisted of cantatas, the Lords Supper, and also many have visitors due to different forms of children's ministries the church has. No matter where these ladies and their families minister, whether no one knows of Easter or everyone does, His name was lifted high and one message was clear,
I hope this article gives you an appreciation for all those across the globe who not only faithfully serve every day but faithfully fight the devil and his devices to lift up Christ and proclaim the message,
HE IS RISEN
It definitely has given me a new appreciation for Christians and missionaries around the globe. It has also encouraged me to lift them up in prayer upon special days like this where the devil fights but the victory is the Lords. As one of the ladies said, "Easter is the wonderful part about the gospel. We serve a risen Savior. Because he died and rose, there's hope. Praise Him!"
I encourage you during special holidays to lift up your missionaries. Pray that Satan would be bound. Pray grace would abound. Pray their outreach attempts would be prosperous and Gods power would be real and present.