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Nigeria: Choosing to remain

Nigeria: Choosing to remain

Throughout the night and morning of 11 March 2019, Pastor Timothy Umaru and several other men stood guard at an entrance to their Nigerian village. They were watching for any sign of the Fulani Islamic militants who had attacked a neighbouring village days earlier.

As the sun rose shortly after 6am, they began to hear screams and gunfire in the village behind them. Villagers were running in every direction as the air filled with smoke from burning homes. The militants had attacked the village from another entrance, and Timothy felt helpless as he thought about his family, his church and his predominantly Christian village.

“In all honesty,” he said, “even though the Bible has told us that these things would happen, the first question I asked was, ‘God, where are You?’”

Timothy’s wife, Rifkatu, and their 3-year-old granddaughter, Uma, had just finished praying with their lead pastor’s family at the church parsonage when the attack occurred. Rifkatu heard the gunfire and screams when she stepped out with Uma to get some fresh air.

After scooping Uma up in her arms and running back inside to alert everyone, Rifkatu and the others hurriedly left the pastor’s home, which they knew would be a target of the radical Islamists. Running as fast as she could while carrying the toddler, Rifkatu stumbled repeatedly. As she grew tired, she became more afraid. Seeing another villager get shot only added to her terror. “The fourth time I fell, I could not get up because my body was weak,” she recalled. “I could not carry Uma.”

When a young man, also fleeing from the militants, saw Rifkatu struggling, he took Uma from her so they could both run to safety. The young man soon grew tired from carrying the child and decided to hide her in the bush and continue running on his own. Rifkatu had run on ahead until reaching cover in the bush. “I do not know how God did it,” she said of her escape. “I found a place and hid. I lay down there till morning.”

Rifkatu had run so far that she lost track of how to get home. When she felt it was safe, she started the long walk back, arriving at 10 the next morning. Once home, she asked if anyone had seen Uma.

That’s when she learned that Uma had been killed, her body discovered along with those of others shot by the militants. The lead pastor’s wife, with whom Rifkatu had been praying, was also killed as she fled. She and Uma were among the more than 70 villagers killed in the attack.

Thankfully, Timothy and Rifkatu’s four children, including Uma’s mother, were not in the village at the time. The family’s home, located on the outskirts of the village, was also unharmed.

Picking Up the Pieces

About a week later, the family travelled to another village, where they spent three months mourning Uma’s death and recovering from the trauma of the attack. Rifkatu suffered nightmares and anxiety as well as deep grief. Through prayer, reading God’s Word and spending time with family, she grew stronger and her grief became more manageable.

At the end of June, they returned home to help their church recover. Much of the church building had burned, along with all of the musical instruments inside, and the parsonage had been completely destroyed by fire. In addition, the lead pastor had left the village, grief-stricken over his wife’s death and overcome with guilt that he had survived.

Timothy has since taken over as lead pastor, but he has struggled with his mentor’s absence even as many in the church have continued to struggle with their own painful losses. Several church members lost their spouses, and many are now living in poverty. “People are tense and very scared now,” Timothy said. “If something small happens, people will start running. But we are encouraging them.”

Through it all, Timothy, his family and the church have found encouragement through Christ. “He helped us understand that these events are things that will pass,” Timothy said. “Whatever is happening today will pass tomorrow. What strengthened us in these events will become our story. We have faith that one day Christ will avenge us.”

Timothy’s family still grieves for those lost in the attack, but they’re also grateful for what they have gained. “Honestly, before this attack our faith was broken,” the pastor said. “Hearing about the attacks happening in other places shook our faith. But after it happened to us, our faith increased. Even if it happens to us again, we will not be afraid.”

They have no intention of leaving their home, despite the risk of another attack. “We stay here because this is where our faith is strengthened,” Timothy said.

Not Backing Down

Recently, another pastor from Timothy’s church was killed while visiting a neighbouring village. Timothy knows that working to advance God’s kingdom isn’t always safe, and he’s all right with that. In fact, the risk assures him that he is on the right track. “If you are in a peaceful place without any challenges, you will be far from God,” he said. “But if there is persecution, you will be close to God.”

VOM has helped pay his children’s school fees and provided his family with additional financial support since the attack. Timothy has used a portion of the support to start a farm, where he grows corn and rice for his family and also to sell for additional income.

“It is not by our doing, but it is by the grace of God that this help has come to us,” Timothy said. “If not for this support, we do not know what we would have done. We are incredibly grateful. All the help and support means so much to us. We are full of joy that we are part of a family who loves us and is praying for us.”

Pastor Timothy asks that we pray for his family’s courage and strength as well as for his village as they all continue to recover from the attack.

Indonesia: Mosque Confrontation

Indonesia: Mosque Confrontation

Mina always felt a deep sadness when the Islamic call to prayer filled the air. Growing up as a Christian in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, her heart ached for those who didn’t know Jesus Christ. Then, one day in 2010, she felt compelled to do something about it: she decided to love her Muslim neighbours and share the Gospel with them.

One of the first women she approached in the streets of Makassar cried as Mina shared her testimony. Mina, who was still a teenager, held out her hand and asked the woman if she could pray for her. After praying, she invited the woman to study the Bible with her. The woman not only agreed but brought six other women to the Bible study with her.

“We would sing and I would read the Bible,” said Mina, now 27. “I told my pastor, ‘I think this is what the Lord wants me to do.’”

A Growing Love for Muslims

Mina’s pastor connected her with a long-time missionary, who taught her the methods that she had used to effectively reach Muslims with the Gospel.

“The more I learned, the more my love grew for them,” Mina said. The work, however, was challenging, and Mina grew discouraged as many Muslims rejected her message of grace over the next few years.

In 2014, Mina met two other women from an evangelistic training centre in Makassar, and they made a commitment to sharing the Gospel together every day throughout the city. “We just try to meet as many people as we can until the late hour,” Mina said. “Maybe we will have 10 people we meet, and sometimes one or two.”

Mina also sought additional training in evangelism. As she completed her training in 2016 and gained more experience, she said she began to feel comfortable in nearly every scenario, and not simply because she had changed her approach.

“It was mostly because of prayer,” she explained. “There were fewer churches that were joining us in prayer, but then that changed. Praise God.”

Mina and other evangelists drive around the city together, praying that God will lead them to those with whom they should share the Gospel. She said God often leads them to mosques, where they wait patiently outside for the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Even when it’s not prayer time, people are usually sitting outside the mosques, resting and talking.

“The mosque is a place of worship,” she said, “so people who are going to the mosque are people who are more ready to talk about spiritual things because they are there looking for God.” Mina estimates that she and her team have helped lead 24 people to Christ since 2010. She has experienced persecution only once, and it occurred when she least expected it.

Mina’s ‘Big Problem’

In March 2018, as Mina was working with a new evangelism partner, she approached a woman outside a mosque to share the Gospel. As she talked with the woman, others nearby started listening to her message.

Suddenly, a man with a long beard struck her on the back so hard that she nearly fell into a nearby sewer. “The man wanted to know my identity and asked for my ID card,” Mina recalled. “He accused me of trying to brainwash the people.”

Recognising the confrontation as an opportunity, she sought God’s guidance in the situation. “I was very afraid,” Mina said. “It was a big man and me, a small lady.” Mina’s partner, unsure of what to do, watched silently.

“I just prayed in my heart that if it is time for me to die, I am ready,” Mina recalled. “This man was very mad and saying many things to me. My thoughts were just everywhere.”

As the man continued to berate Mina for trying to convert Muslims, others who had initially been receptive to her message also grew angry. Then Mina lost confidence. “It was like my bones wouldn’t hold me up,” she said. “I felt weak and wanted to collapse. I sent a text to my team, saying, ‘Please pray for me. I am facing a big problem here.’”

Eventually, Mina asked if she could speak. She sat down, reached out and calmly took the man’s hand. After the man also sat down, she began to share her faith. Although he continued to yell judgments at her, he listened to what she was saying, and they later agreed to exchange phone numbers.

But in the end, the man couldn’t contain his anger and threatened to post a video on social media of her sharing the Gospel with Muslims. “Don’t come back here,” he said. “If I see you somewhere else, you will have a big problem.”

Mina thanked the man for his time and promised to follow up with a text message. She then called a taxi, got in the car and started crying. Amazed that she hadn’t run away when things got heated, she suddenly had a deeper appreciation of Matthew 10:19–20, Jesus’ assurance that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say when we are brought before authorities to bear witness before them.

“I was crying because the Holy Spirit really helped me,” she said. “I wasn’t alone, and I knew that. I saw that it wasn’t me.”

Although Mina has tried calling and texting the man, he has never responded. She prays that God is continuing to soften his heart toward the Gospel. Today, VOM supports Mina as she continues to share the love of Christ with Muslims.

She said persecution has increased her faith and that the next time she experiences it, she knows for certain that the Holy Spirit will be with her. “Persecution is something that must happen,” she said, “and I am ready for it.”

Vietnam: Equipping for the Frontline

Vietnam: Equipping for the Frontline

Two thousand years ago, Jesus gave a warning but also a wonderful promise, “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18. Centuries later, we are still seeing the efforts made to prevail against the church globally. Yet, just as God’s Word says, it has not prevailed, and the church continues to grow in hostile nations through bold frontline workers who share the Gospel. One such nation is Vietnam.

Vietnam has a repressive communist government that actively restricts Christians’ worship in many ways. While Christian worship is legal, the government views Christians and churches as a threat to their power and control. Minority tribal groups, such as the Hmong, generally face the most violent and harshest forms of persecution. New Christians in tribal areas are often evicted from their homes and villages by local authorities. Officially recognised churches are harassed by the government in various ways and are expected to report their activities and teachings to the government. All churches face government opposition when they evangelise and attempt to conduct community events.

The following are recent reports from key tribal leaders in the high mountainous areas of northern Vietnam. Their goal is to grow and establish the church through evangelism, discipleship, training and other ministries. Upon the backdrop of opposition, the kingdom is being advanced by bold Christians with the support of Voice of the Martyrs:

Pastor Vale

“I prioritise sharing Gospel with the lost. I have witnessed to 138 people and 52 of them received Jesus Christ during five months in 2021. I also spend time visiting these new believers, especially those who are the only ones in their areas to believe in Jesus. These people are the target of persecution such as cursing, physical punishment and abuse and mental threats because of their new faith. I opened two classes to train church leaders and as well as youth, to help them understand the word of God.”

Pastor Daichi

Has conducted mission trips to Ha Giang, Lai Chau and Cao Bang. These rural areas are often difficult places to live for Christians as local authorities and community members violently persecute them. Through his ministry, Daichi has achieved much for the kingdom; 338 people have been given access to the Gospel, 165 placed their faith in Christ and 85 people were baptised. Throughout the course of his ministry, he has established a new church. In addition to this work in spreading the Gospel, Vale has undertaken the work of making disciples by teaching basic Bible doctrines and leadership training for existing leaders.

Pastor Mack

“I thank you that you supported and helped me to overcome many challenges during my time in ministry. I am a sinner and do not know much about God but nevertheless, He has saved me and is using me to be His tool to serve Him by obeying the Great Commission. I was able to share the Gospel with the Thai den and Nung tribal groups and provide training to 67 churches in Meo Vac and Bac Yen. We thank the Lord so much. Please pray for me as I do this ministry.”

Our frontline ministry fund directly assists pastors, evangelists and full-time Christian workers who courageously minister in the face of hostility and persecution. It includes provision to support underground Bible colleges, leadership training, evangelism resources, computers, transportation, small business equipment, pastor support programmes and equipping churches with resources.

The following testimony is a reminder that for our frontline workers, the mission field is not only in rural areas, but anywhere we encounter unbelievers.

Nguyen Thanh and her husband have dedicated their lives to advancing God’s kingdom among remote villages throughout Vietnam. During their ministry, they have experienced persecution, being beaten and detained for preaching the Gospel to many different tribal groups. Then, Nguyen was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and her cancer relapsed in 2020, requiring a complicated surgical procedure and hospitalisation. Due to coronavirus protocols, she was required to stay at the hospital for an extended amount of time.

During her stay, she shared the Gospel with more than 100 patients, and 32 have responded in faith. She has also been teaching the Bible to the new believers, and many of them have returned home and are sharing the Gospel in their communities. Pray for these believers to continue growing in their faith. Pray also for Nguyen and her husband, thanking God for their faithful witness for Christ and asking for their material and physical needs to be met as she continues to recover.

VOM responds to persecution and provides training for pastors and believers. We also distribute Bibles to tribal Christians and provide ministry tools for frontline workers. This is in line with Richard Wurmbrand’s plea: “The message I bring from the Underground Church is: ‘Don’t abandon us!’ ‘Don’t forget us!’ ‘Don’t write us off!’ ‘Give us the tools we need! We will pay the price for using them!’”

If you would like to donate to our Front Line Ministry fund, please go to:

CHINA: Chinese Authorities Interrupt Virtual Church Service

CHINA: Chinese Authorities Interrupt Virtual Church Service

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials reportedly interrupted a church service held virtually over zoom.

During the morning of 11 July, CCP security agents, police officers, and other officials raided the Shenzhen Trinity Gospel Harvest Church in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, where Pastor Mao Zhibin and Elder Chu Yanqing hosted the service.

Source: International Christian Concern

Authorities forced the two men to stop preaching as other CCP officials surrounded the church building. Shenzhen Trinity Gospel church strongly advocates for justice in China, and many dissidents of the CCP have joined the young church.

According to ChinaAid, ever since Pastor Mao and Elder Shen Ling supported Early Rain Covenant Church Pastor Wang Yi’s ‘A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith’, the church members have been increasingly targeted by the CCP.

Another incident occurred on 25 April, when CCP authorities raided the church’s Sunday service. Without presenting any legal documents, they banned the church, ordered those present to leave, and transported church leaders and seven congregants to the police station in Bantian.

Let us pray.

  • Ask the Lord to strengthen the resolve of His children in China to love, serve and follow Him even when faced with escalating opposition.
  • Praise God for the bold stand of the church in China. Pray they will be unified in their love of God and their desire to remain faithful to Him.
  • Continue to pray for Pastor Wang Yi, currently serving a nine-year prison sentence.
IRAN: Three Christian Men Sentenced to Five Years in Prison Under New Law

IRAN: Three Christian Men Sentenced to Five Years in Prison Under New Law

Three Christian men who converted from Islam were recently sentenced to five years in prison after they refused to renounce Christ.

In November of last year, Iranian authorities raided the homes of the three men and seized Bibles, mobile phones and computers, ordering the men to stop all Christian activities.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

When the men refused to stop pursuing their faith, they were charged under a newly amended law aimed at halting the spread of Christianity in Iran, which allows for hefty fines, the removal of basic rights and up to five years in prison.

When the Christians appeared in court last month, they were denied access to their lawyer and told that they had received the maximum allowable sentence. The believers are planning to appeal the decision.

Let us pray.

  • Pray that these brothers in Christ remain firm in their faith while they endure this trial.
  • Pray for their families to not lose hope as their loved ones face imprisonment for Christ.
  • Pray that the Iranian authorities overseeing the case will experience the love of God through the witness of these men and the work of His spirit.