Franklin couple gives a voice to the persecuted

Published 12:53 pm Saturday, August 27, 2016

Moved by the plight of Christians in other parts of the globe, Anthony and Sonya Ray are sowing the seeds of compassion.

The Franklin couple refer to themselves as church planters, and have become involved in the organization The Voice of the Martyrs.

Anthony said the couple’s mission started about five years ago when they were talking about the events in the world, such as the terrorism waged by ISIS.

“We began to pray for Christian being persecuted in these hot spots around the world,” he said. “Recently, we just felt compelled to take that to another level. We heard of the Voice of Martyrs ministry having a convention in Norfolk.”

They decided to understand the training.

“We’re honored and privileged to become a community,” he said. “We look forwarding to engage our neighbors about exactly what the ministry is involved. We make ourselves available to speak to church group, Sunday Schools, Wednesday night Bible study and youth groups.

We view ourselves as the voices of those Christians who can’t speak.”

Sonya said that she view her role as a supportive one.

“I’m really helping him to get the message out,” she said, adding that includes setting up the visual aids. The couple will do a tag-team approach, each handling about 15 of their 30 minute presentation.

Also, Sonya has found that as a woman she can connect easier with other wives in the audience.

They also have a section called “Kids of Courage,” which is stories about children in hostile territories. The listeners are encouraged to write letters to the youngsters and let them know they’re not forgotten.

“It’s interesting to see the impact on other children,” she said.

The Rays added that many people will say afterward that they had no idea of the level of persecution other Christians are enduring.

The couple asks the listeners for both spiritual and material support. The first can be a commitment to pray for those who’ve been hurt or imprisoned. The second can be care packages of basics such as blankets, Bibles, toiletries and even financial help for imprisoned religious leaders that could get them legal aid.

A graduate of Southampton High School and Norfolk State University, Sonya said she worked for IBM in North Carolina before moving back home and meeting the man who would become her spouse.

Anthony brings a unique feature to his background. Born in Portsmouth, he lived for a time in Newfoundland, Canada. Returning to the United States, he said he’s witnessed cross burnings, church bombings and the like.

“In college, I found myself becoming a student of Islam,” he said, and lived as a Muslim for 13 years.

But it was during an intense and lengthy conversation in his aunt’s backyard that Anthony had a conversion experience, and returned to Christianity.

“Here I am. In the flesh,” he said with a smile.

After completing studies in a seminary, Anthony’s first church was in Georgetown, Ohio. The site is a historic one; abolitionists gave property to runaway slaves in 1864 to set up their own congregation.

He said he pastored their descendants.

The Rays’ ministry continues in this region by visiting a different church every Sunday.

Their goal is to plant 100 churches over the next three years.

To learn more about The Voice of the Martyrs, visit