Content adapted from Fresh tales of persecution and answers to prayer by John Sandeman.
Dan Ole Shani, CEO of Open Doors International, recently visited the Open Doors Sydney office, bringing with him stories of current persecution and the impact of Open Doors’ ministry on the global Church.
Dan Ole Shani, who has led Open Doors International for five years, splits his time between his homeland, Kenya, and the Open Doors International hub in the Netherlands.
He was born ‘in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro’ into a traditional Masaai tribe, and found Jesus through the example of his father. He studied in Nairobi and the USA before embarking on a successful career in the international non-profit industry.
After working with World Vision for 34 years in countries like Mauritania, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, Dan has brought a passion for serving the vulnerable into his role as CEO of Open Doors International.
He is husband to Nellie, with three adult children and two grandchildren.
Courageous Faith in Chechnya
Shani had lots of fresh news to share with the Open Doors AU/NZ team, and members of our donor base and partnerships.
He introduced a story about Artur* from Central Asia by describing him as a modern St Paul. It soon became clear why.
“Artur said that, when he was praying and asking the Lord to use him in the way he wanted, his prayer once went something like this:
‘Lord sent me to a place where no one else wants to go.’
“And so one day, Artur happened to a news broadcast on television. And the broadcaster said, “Chechnya is the place no one wants to go.” Shani laughs.
“So, he went and served in Chechnya. Some of his stories are almost too hard to believe, but they did happen. The miracles go on. He’s been jailed multiple times. He’s been threatened with death multiple times. Yet, the man’s resilient, spiritually resilient, smart.
“God always provided for him whether he was, and when he would go into jail, he would needly start telling other Christmas about Christ in places like Chechnya, hardened people, as you know, right?
“And when people turn to Christ, the prison warden would get upset, saying, ‘Hey, we locked you up because you are a Christian, and now you are talking to us about Christ in jail!’ So, they’re turning to Christ.
“He labours honestly; he’s a sort of person [of] whom I say to myself privately, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day I hear Artur is no longer alive because he’s so bold, he’s so courageous, you know, he just goes where no one else wants to go.”
Holding On to Christ in Chains
“I’ll tell you another story about a young man, 22 years old, whom I met in a simple African country. His story was stunning because he said he was the only Christian in his family when he became a believer in Christ. And they were so angry with him. First, they beat him. He didn’t change. He said, ‘I’m holding on to Christ.’
“Then they decided to send him to a neighbouring country to other relatives. Those relatives were brutal because they made chains, like the old chains that were probably used in the days of slavery, with a clasp around his ankle and chained him to a tree. They denied him food and gave him some water. He suffered.
“But some believers in Christ, heard about this. They came there at night, cut the chain, and then he walked for three weeks to return home. There he was, seated in front like you now, telling us his story. But somehow, he wasn’t bitter. He was… tender.”
Where We Fit in the Story
“The comfort we get from the body of Christ is profound. What stuns me when we sit with people like those persecuted Christians, they say,
‘Your visit here means so much to us.’
“Not because we have travelled from overseas to be there, they say the same thing to our local partners too. They are just grateful that they are not alone, that someone cares for them and will pray with them.
“It is the most important thing because they begin to understand the concept of the body of Christ. They start to realise that you, people like you who have never seen them, can pray for them with love.”