As we walked up the steep hill and crossed over the final wooded path, the Anabaptist cave came into full view. Almost five hundred years ago, early Anabaptist leaders from Zurich were chased out of the city and found refuge in the neighboring villages. Each Sunday they would climb into the hills to worship in seclusion and in conviction of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Gathering to worship in this sacred location marked the opening of the 2018 Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering. It was a powerful moment as we prayed together and sang the Anabaptist favorite, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

Standing in that cave my thoughts returned to Judges 6 and the story of Gideon; a story rooted in the reality of oppressed people seeking refuge in caves. What must that have been like?

How does one express the fear of a village that never knows when the next attack will come? The trauma of being trapped in cycles of victimization. The reality of galloping horses suddenly cresting over the hill and men, women and children dropping their tools, abandoning their crops and rushing to the hills.

Echoes of what Gideon experienced, as did the early Anabaptists, continue today. Several years ago, I was in Nigeria and listened in dismay as Arit shared her story. As Boko Haram swept through her village killing the youth working in the farmlands, Arit and other members of the community fled to the hills to hide in the caves. Those who could not climb into the strongholds were captured and forcibly converted. Those who resisted were killed.

For two months they hid and scavenged for food. Forgotten in the caves, Arit did not know if five of her seven children had survived the attack. It would be months and only after multiple refugee camps that Arit would discover that her children had survived. Her husband, however, was killed. 

In such situations – just as Gideon must have felt and just as the early Anabaptists must have felt some may be tempted to ask, “what good can we do?”

Indeed, the voices of this world all too often want us to hear the voices of denial, defeat and doubt. They want to tell us that we belong in the caves, that we deserve the oppression, that we cannot make a difference. The voices of this world want to keep us in the caves.

But we need not listen to those voices. For God called Gideon to step out of the cave and pursue justice in the strength that he had. God provided a way for the Anabaptists. He can do the same today for we serve a risen Savior who turns tombs into transformation, caves into new creation, death into resurrection. But we must choose to step forward.

As we begin the 2018 BWA Annual Gathering, would you pray for this week and would you pray for Baptists around the world? Would you join with us this week in asking the question:

When the faithful are forced to the caves, how will we respond?