I’ve received a message from the wife of a prisoner in one of my countries asking for prayer. Her husband, a pastor, has been in prison for 3 1/2 years. He is serving a seven year sentence on trumped up charges and was targeted, we believe, because of his leadership of a rapidly growing network of non-denominational churches. They have two pre-teen children who have spent the past two years growing up without their father present.

Over the past few months, in an attempt to improve relations with the outside world, the government of that country has been releasing political prisoners. The catch is that the political prisoners who have been freed and their families have had to leave the country permanently. Some prisoners have refused freedom if it means going into forced exile.

Over the past few days, the pastor and his wife have both received phone calls from government officials, offering them this “deal”. The messages came as a surprise given that the pastor was not a member of the group of prisoners originally discussed. They are now forced to make an extremely difficult decision. Accept the freedom offered to the pastor but leave behind their ministry, their extended family, community and country; or stay and remain in prison in awful conditions, separated from each other for the next four years.