David Witt, Spirit of Martyrdom

“Jesus told his followers, ‘I came not to be served, but to serve’, so what we do in our mission work is internationally serve leaders who risk much for Jesus,” said David Witt, founder and CEO of Spirit of Martyrdom (SOM) International. SOM is an organization that equips and empowers followers of Jesus to boldly share their faith in places of extreme religious persecution around the world. David has personally visited more than 50 nations where leaders have been captured, imprisoned, tortured or killed for the faith. “When I ask them, ‘How can I serve you?’ that builds a bridge. Immediately they are warmed in their hearts, and they recognize that I’m not there to have my own agenda, I’m here for their agenda. It creates immediate trust and relationship and opportunity to share their hearts, so I can figure out how to serve them and know what their needs are.”

“Anything good that you see in me truly is my testimony of what God has done in maturing me, and what I have experienced of His grace, love and wisdom through the Word,” David said. “I am a young 56 now, and through those years I have learned that when we trust Christ, and the Holy Spirit is leading us, our confidence can be in Him. I am excited to share the ways God has refined me and the Lord wants to mature all of us to ultimately reflect his image and likeness.” 

“My father was very Jesus-focused and was truly one of the most godly men I know,” David said. He began his relationship with Jesus when he was in Pakistan. While he was there, he contracted hepatitis and was in a hospital bed for five weeks. His friend had given him a Bible and he read it, cover to cover. “The Lord got a hold of his heart and he became a Presbyterian pastor. I was 5 years old when I accepted Jesus in my heart. That’s the only thing I remember from being 5, so It must have been significant. And I have grown in the significance of that,” David said, “so, it’s not so surprising that my father, who was saved in an Islamic, unreached, persecuted nation, would have a son who serves persecuted believers.”

David developed a keen interest in the persecuted church when he attended a Promise Keepers conference in Colorado, and learned about Voice of the Martyrs. He was captivated by stories of Christians like Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), whose book Tortured for Christ, told of his suffering when athiestic Russians invaded his homeland of Romania and outlawed Christianity. “I had never read stories of modern believers being persecuted, forgiving their persecutors, losing their lives for the witness of Christ, their families continuing on, blessing their enemies, praying for their enemies… I was just floored,” David said. He and his wife began supporting VOM, and after seven years, contacted VOM and told them that they felt called to serve the persecuted church full time. VOM’s COO responded by inviting David to be a missions representative for VOM. “I worked for them for ten years and discovered the beauty of the overcoming, persecuted church.” Then, In 2007, he wrote his first book, Spirit of Martyrdom, and with the support of the leaders at VOM, started SOM. “We still do projects together and partner in the work. Starting SOM allowed me to do things God put in my heart,” he said. 

David continued writing. His books include the Witness Development Evangelism Workbook (with his wife Cindy), Fearless Love in the Midst of Terror (with Mujahid El Masih), and his latest release, God’s Global Grace Movement: Hope Rising From an Awakening in India. “The Global Grace Movement is how God is moving in grace around the world. A lot of people see India as the tail–so poor, unreached, idolatrous–but we are learning from them. Even Africans are copying things the Indians are doing, as are others around the world. The Dalits–the outcasts, low-caste and impoverished–are doing Biblically patterned revival, ‘Jesus community’, full of love. There are now more than 1,000,000 believers in India!”  

David also is a reader. “Leaders are readers,” he quips. His podcast, At Risk Radio, with host Mark Stafford, is all about leadership too. “We look at Christ and His leadership, and unpack Biblically what godly and mature leadership in Christ looks like.”

“I’ve always loved adventure, the fullness of life. The focus of my adventure is truly on advancing God’s kingdom,” David admitted. “I have been in a war zone, and places where the state department has issued red zone warnings. I have been threatened, and had to pull out quickly in places like Columbia and Sudan. I’ve had Bibles confiscated and told that wasn’t welcome. I have looked into the faces of terrorists and seen the darkness and ferocity on their faces. But I had a heart for them, I prayed for them. I understand their zeal. It’s light affliction. I’ve been with people who have been imprisoned for over 20 years. I have been with people who have been beaten to a pulp. I’ve met with dozens and dozens of widows who lost their spouses to persecution. To be in their camp is humbling, to say the least. My wife plans my funeral every time I go on a trip. I laugh and tell her not to; I can only possibly die once.  She says, ‘I have to do that. When I plan your funeral, I surrender you to Jesus, so that I know you’re in God’s hands, He’s protecting you. And every time you come back, it’s a gift from the Lord.’ It’s a beautiful sacrifice of participation from my wife.”

“It’s amazing how many times God has protected me,” David said. “When I was in Iraq, every day I counted 3-10 concussions, bombs that went off in the city. All day long we would hear gunfire in the distance. Every night instead of counting sheep I was counting bullets, yet I had peace, and I slept well at night. God grants sleep to those he loves, the Bible says (Psalm 127:2). If we are just pursuing adventure, that’s dangerous; but if we are pursuing God’s risks, then we’re in the safest place in the world.”

“As we mature in Christ, the Lord gives us wisdom about how to interact with people in different shape, form, personality and culture. In my immaturity, I was arrogant. I was a pharisee, zealous for the Lord, having much zeal but lacking knowledge. I became legalistic and self-righteous. God really had to break my pride. The way he did that was by using the persecuted believers to show me the true way of Christ,” David said. “I have seen these people choosing forgiveness, doing the right things, and loving their enemies. I have been with them, cried with them, prayed for them. It brings tears to my eyes even now. Bitterness and hatefulness was a choice, but somehow they chose to release it, and speak a blessing, and God gives peace and heals their hearts. They demonstrate the power of love and forgiveness and what the Holy Spirit can do in us when our decisions are fully submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ.”

“40% of the world is still considered unreached. They haven’t heard the clear gospel, they can’t get the gospel, they can’t get their hands on the Scriptures, and they have no idea about their spiritual inheritance in Jesus Christ. That 40% is the least reached and the most persecuted, yet only 3% of all Christian resources goes to reach them,” David said. “Pray about these things, start reading about these things, talk about these things, and as the Lord leads, give. It’s time to  consider diversifying the kingdom portfolio to go where the greatest need and the greatest return on investment is, where people are responding to the gospel today.”

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