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INDONESIA: SURABAYA BOMBINGS

INDONESIA: SURABAYA BOMBINGS

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, with a total of more than 225 million Muslims, or about 13% of the world’s Muslim population. While most Indonesian Muslims practise an animistic and superstitious version of Islam known as ‘folk’ Islam, proponents of Islamic extremism have encouraged and engaged in violence against Christians. The wickedness of these attacks has led many Muslims to question their faith and to be more open to the Gospel.  Bold evangelists are taking advantage of this opportunity to share the Gospel and lead many Muslims to faith in Christ.

 

 Pentekosta Church Central Surabaya May 2018

VICTIMS OF TERRORISM REMAIN STEADFAST

More than three years after suicide bombers killed innocent victims at three Indonesian churches, the survivors continue to hold fast to their faith.

 On 13 May 2018, 15 people were killed, dozens wounded, and the Pentekosta Church Central Surabaya was heavily damaged, in targeted church bombing attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia. ISIS claimed responsibility.

Fenny Suryawati was standing at the bottom of a staircase near the main entrance to the church when a black minivan rammed the church’s gate, striking two parking attendants. Five bombs inside the vehicle erupted into a ball of fire, igniting the petrol tanks of five cars and thirty motorcycles parked nearby.

As a result of the bombing, Fenny suffered burns to 85% of her body. She recounted to Voice of the Martyrs the horrific details of the event when her body was alight and how she scurried to find a tap to douse the flames. Her daughter, Clarissa, also sustained injuries, although relatively minor.

The generosity of many believers made it possible for VOM to respond to Fenny’s immediate medical needs, which included several skin grafts and medications.

Today, Fenny’s recovery continues and she has yet more surgeries to endure. The surgery to remove some large keloidal scars around both ears has had to be delayed because of the pandemic.

While the journey to recovery has been a long and challenging process, Fenny wants God to use her story and pain for the advancement of His kingdom. When sensing people staring at her scars, she prayerfully asks Him, “How can I be used in this situation?” In response to their enquiries, she eagerly tells them about Christ. Clarissa, who also has a heart for others, hopes to be a doctor one day so she can help those who suffer physically, as in the case of her own mother, whom she prays for daily.

Fenny in hospital 2018
Fenny today


A MUCH-LOVED BROTHER CONTINUES TO BE MISSED

Daniel, 14, attended church faithfully every week. Following car parking duty for the first service, he would then head off to the youth service. As part of the music team, he played the drums and taught other young people to play as well. He loved being a part of the team.

As the black van tried to force its way into the car park, Daniel commanded the driver to stop. The van continued to the front entrance of the church where it exploded with such force that force that the entrance awning disappeared; the whole building rocked violently, sending churchgoers everywhere with the impact. Daniel’s life was cruelly and instantly taken away that day.

Daniel’s sister, Novi, still struggles with the loss of her beloved brother. Every week she visits her brother’s grave with flowers. She no longer attends Pentekosta Church Central Surabaya as the memories remain too painful. John 3:16 is an ongoing comfort to Novi as it helps her to express her heart’s desire to be reunited with her brother. She knows how much Daniel loved the Lord Jesus and takes heart that she will see him again. Novi now attends another church near her home, where she is one of the worship leaders.

Novi and her grandmother
Pentekosta Church Central Surabaya today
RANSOMED ON CHRISTMAS EVE

RANSOMED ON CHRISTMAS EVE

RANSOMED ON CHRISTMAS EVE

Merv Knight, co-founder VOM Australia

Richard Wurmbrand grew up before and during the hardships of World War I. At times he stole to eat. Bright, with an education gained mostly from his father’s books, he became a sharp young businessman, making money in whatever way was possible.

Soon the young Wurmbrand was found to be suffering from tuberculosis. When Richard and his wife Sabina took their doctor’s advice and sought refuge in a Romanian mountain village, they had no idea what lay in store.

 

Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand

FACE TO FACE WITH CHRIST

In the village that the Wurmbrands chose for his rest and recuperation lived an old German carpenter, Christian Wolfkes. Wolfkes’s desire was to win a Jew to Christ. As it was not possible for him to leave the mountain to find a Jew, he prayed that God would bring a Jew to him. Soon the Wurmbrands arrived in the village.

Wolfkes and his wife prayed for Richard and Sabina and showered love and kindness on them. Wolfkes gave Wurmbrand a New Testament. Richard, an avid reader of other books, began to read the Bible – almost unwillingly at first. In the pages of the New Testament, he came face to face with Jesus Christ. So did Sabina.

Soon after this, the Second World War broke out, and it was not long before the Wurmbrands learned what it meant to suffer for the sake of Christ. During the Nazi reign of terror, they were repeatedly arrested and beaten as they sought to remain true to their newfound faith. The whole of Sabina’s Jewish family perished in the Holocaust. Their six adopted children were sent by ship to a place of safety but were lost when the ship disappeared.

But their sorrows were only beginning. A million Russian soldiers occupied Romania in 1944 – before World War II even ended – and the country became a part of the communist Eastern Bloc. A new tyranny was imposed, creating conditions hostile to Christian worship.

Wolfkes led Richard Wurmbrand to Christ 
Richard and Sabina
Soon the Wurmbrands and others took to secret meetings arranged by code to worship in safety.

In 1945 the new government organised a ‘Congress of Cults’, a meeting where all religious leaders would be expected to openly support the atheistic government and its aims. Intent on controlling every facet of life in Romania, including churches and pastors, the government invited the Wurmbrands and other church leaders to attend. One by one, other leaders, including some Christians, spoke out in support of the communists.

By this time Wurmbrand had become a well-known Romanian author and religious leader – first as an Anglican, then Lutheran, minister. He lectured on the Old Testament at the Bucharest Baptist Seminary and was a representative to the World Council of Churches.

Sabina turned to Richard and told him that when he had the opportunity to speak, he should “wipe the shame from the face of Jesus”. Understanding the consequences of such an act, Richard told Sabina that if he were to do so, she would be likely to lose her husband. Sabina replied, “I don’t need a coward for a husband.”

When Wurmbrand stepped forward to speak at the congress, there was a hush as everyone anticipated his endorsement of the new government. Into the electrifying silence fell Wurmbrand’s proclamation to 4,000 delegates that their duty as Christians was to glorify God and Christ alone. He was hustled from the podium and from that moment became a marked man. As he continued his ministry, the government watched him.

CEASING TO EXIST

On the morning of 29 February 1948, as Wurmbrand walked to church to prepare for the morning service, a secret police van pulled up beside him. Two men pushed him into the van, which quickly drove away. Thrown into prison, Wurmbrand ceased to exist as though he had disappeared from the face of the earth. His name was registered as Vasile Georgescu, and he was forbidden to utter his real name, even when speaking to the guards. When foreign ambassadors or family members enquired about him, ‘Wurmbrand’ did not appear on any list.

Richard Wurmbrand endured two terms of prison totalling 14 years. Sabina continued their underground church work but was also incarcerated for three years in Romania’s terrible labour camps. 

Wurmbrand became so ill in prison that he was put into what was called the ‘dying room’, where guards sent prisoners who were expected to live no longer than a few days.

Wurmbrand survived for more than two years before being released from the dying room. During that time, he ministered to many people before their deaths.

Finally, in 1965, friends ransomed the newly freed Wurmbrand family from Romania. The communists were selling prisoners to the West, most for about $2,000. The price on the Wurmbrands’ heads: $10,000. On a cold Christmas Eve, Sabina, Richard and their surviving son, Michael, arrived at the airport in Oslo, Norway. A few faithful friends met the freed family.

Out of these experiences, the Wurmbrands in 1967 founded a ministry called Jesus to the Communist World, which would spread worldwide and come to be known as Voice of the Martyrs. Its mission was to ask Christians everywhere to rise up and support their brothers and sisters facing terrible persecution under many anti-God regimes.

In Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand wrote, “The tortures and brutality continued without interruption. In the ensuing years, in several different prisons, they broke four vertebrae in my back, and many other bones. They carved me in a dozen places. They burned and cut 18 holes in my body. Doctors in Oslo, seeing all this and the scars of the lung tuberculosis which I also had, declared that my being alive today is a pure miracle! According to their medical books, I should have been dead for years. I know myself it is a miracle. God is a God of miracles. I believe God performed this wonder so that you could hear my voice crying out on behalf of the underground church behind the Iron Curtain. He allowed me to come out alive and cry aloud the message from your suffering, faithful brethren.”

INDONESIA: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

INDONESIA: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

In this issue, we are revisiting some of the people whose stories we have shared previously, to provide updates on them and their ministries.

DAVID’S SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH LEADS TO A FRUITFUL MINISTRY

David’s father was the local village Imam and held a strict Muslim regime in the family’s home. Like many young Muslim boys, when David turned 10, his father sent him to the local Islamic school where he was carefully instructed in the Koran and Islamic rituals. He studied at the school until he was 16.

One of David’s friends, a former classmate, had become a Christian. David’s curiosity about his friend’s faith encouraged David to start asking questions. David’s friend introduced him to an evangelist who explained the Gospel to him. At first, David refused to believe, as it went against everything his Muslim faith represented, but over time the persistent prayers of his sincere and kind friend paid off and David came to know Jesus for himself.

David was courageous enough to tell his father about his new faith; his father became very angry.

Taking a large walking stick, he angrily chased David out of their home and down the street, screaming as he attempted to strike him.

Neighbours were alarmed by the commotion: the Imam’s son had deserted his Islamic faith! David was now known as an apostate.

Though greatly hurt by his family’s treatment, David remained steadfast.

He started studying at an underground Bible training school. He quickly joined an evangelism team, using the powerful Jesus film as they travelled to share the Gospel.

Eventually, David returned to his family. He apologised to his father for hurting him but in spite of his father’s entreaties, he refused to renounce his faith. David went on to explain the Gospel to his parents; his mother heard with interest and she later became a Christian before her death in 2012. His father refused to be persuaded.

David continues in ministry; he works as a tour guide in a strictly Muslim area but he bravely uses his platform as a ministry opportunity. He has gone on to baptise many people and has started five Bible study groups in the area.

David did not give up on his father and prayed for him earnestly for 10 years. Praise God, David’s father finally received Christ and David’s new stepmother followed.

During the pandemic, David’s work as a tour guide has diminished, but he is not discouraged and he continues in his ministry work. VOM is helping to financially support this courageous frontline worker.

BOMB ATTACK BRING DELFIANA BACK TO GOD

Delfiana was the victim of a Muslim bomb attack upon her church in September 2011 in the central Java town of Solo. Many were injured in the attack.

Delfiana reluctantly attended church to keep her mother happy but deep down she truly wasn’t born-again. Instead of listening to the message from the pulpit, she would often play games on her mobile phone.

When the attack occurred, she was playing games on her phone less than two metres away from the bomb. Delfiana suffered head injuries and had to undergo an operation to repair her wounds.

Delfiana says the bomb blast changed her.

“When I look back to that day when the bomb went off, I can see how this incident has changed my life. I believe God gave me a second chance to return to Him.”

Since the attack she willingly and faithfully attends church. She has suffered no emotional trauma returning to the site of the attack; on the contrary, it is a continual reminder of God’s grace towards her.

Soon after, Delfiana became a worship leader in the church. “I long to serve Jesus and I thank Him for His redeeming love that He shone on my life. I have a desire to repay Him and one way I believe I can do this is by serving Him all my days.”

Today, Delfiana continues to live a life full of gratitude. Delfiana’s happiness has further been increased since she met Erik, a faithful Christian man, two years ago. They married in August.

Delfiana has asked for our prayers for her and her new husband, that the Lord would bless their marriage. She has also asked for prayers for the people of Indonesia

Delfiana, left, in 2014
Delfiana, second from the left

 

STANDING FIRM AMIDST THE STRUGGLES

Agus’s life has been one of constant rejection. He never met his father, and his mother did not want him. When he was still a baby, he was sent to his grandparents to be cared for. They fed and clothed him but showed no real love. In his adolescent years, Agus was bullied by locals for being a rejected son and consequently had few friends.

While Agus was growing up, although he hated it, his grandmother forced him to study the Koran. His rebellion grew against her. At times, when he refused to study, his grandmother would beat him in anger.

When he was 14, Agus was given the opportunity to make some money selling illegal alcohol. Eventually, he became immersed in the local drug culture. Three years later, a Christian cousin, who was worried about him, invited Agus to stay. While at his cousin’s home, Agus noticed a Bible amongst his cousin’s many books and felt inexplicably drawn to it. The cousin, a strong believer, readily granted Agus’s request to keep the Bible.

Agus read his newly acquired Bible eagerly and was filled with questions which led to many thoughtful and provocative discussions with his Christian cousin. Reading the Bible gave Agus a sense of peace as it lifted his burdens. Agus’s cousin took him to visit a VOM worker, who further explained to him what it means to be a Christian. He also explained the importance of leaving his old life behind. The VOM worker prayed for Agus.

Lying in bed that night, Agus felt a strange presence and beheld a dark shadowy figure; he was frightened but felt powerless to move or scream. The figure; he whispered to him, “I have been in you a long time, and now you want me to leave you?” Agus cried out, “Jesus help me!” Suddenly light filled the room and the shadowy form left him.

Only then was Agus able to move again and he felt a tremendous peace like nothing he had ever felt before. Since that remarkable night, Agus’s life has been transformed.

VOM worker prays for Agus in 2016
Agus and Jonathan


Agus started to attend a VOM-sponsored Bible school. He became interested in evangelism and became a strong witness for Christ.

In 2017, Agus married a Christian girl named Veronica. God blessed them with a baby boy in 2019 whom they named Jonathan. Tragically, Veronica died early this year. Agus now works as a labourer and his priority is caring for his son.

Agus stays in close contact with his grandmother who is determined to teach Jonathan the ways of Islam. Agus’s extended family and Muslim friends have also been trying to persuade him to return to Islam but Agus remains firm in his Christian faith, convinced that salvation can only come through Christ.

Agus has asked for prayer as he struggles with being a primary carer as well as a provider. Please pray for him and for Jonathan. Pray too for his grandmother.

AFGHANISTAN: Christians Fearful Living Under Taliban Rule

AFGHANISTAN: Christians Fearful Living Under Taliban Rule

On Sunday, 15 August, Taliban fighters captured Kabul, effectively asserting complete control over Afghanistan. For the country’s secretive underground church, the return to Taliban rule has filled many with fear and uncertainty.

We are telling people to stay in their houses because going out now is too dangerous, a Christian leader in Afghanistan, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, said. While a general amnesty has been announced by the Taliban, this leader fears that Christians will still be targeted by Taliban fighters patrolling the streets of Kabul and other cities.

Source: International Christian Concern

Afghanistan’s Christian community is almost exclusively comprised of converts from Islam. Some estimate the Christian population to be between 10,000 and 12,000, making it the country’s largest religious minority group. However, due to extreme persecution, the Christian community remains largely closeted and hidden from the public eye.

Their status as converts makes Afghan Christians direct targets for persecution by both extremist groups and society in general. In Afghanistan, leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts can face dire consequences if their conversion is discovered.

In many cases, known Christians must flee Afghanistan or risk being killed.

According to the Taliban’s ideology, Afghanistan is a Muslim country and non-Muslims must leave Afghanistan or accept second-class status. For Christians coming from convert backgrounds, the Taliban will consider them apostates and subject to Sharia’s deadliest consequences.

Some known Christians are already receiving threatening phone calls,” the Christian leader said. “In these phone calls, unknown people say, ‘We are coming for you.’

Following the Taliban’s victory, there have been no targeted killings of Christians reported in Afghanistan. However, Christian leaders fear that it is only a matter of time before killings are reported.

According to this Christian leader, life under Taliban rule is already very difficult for Christians in districts where the Taliban has held power. When the Taliban takes control of a village, they reportedly require all households to go to the local mosque to pray five times a day. Those who do not attend must provide a good reason for missing a prayer, potentially outing any Christian converts.

In some northern parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban is already enforcing its strict interpretation of Sharia law. Men are required to grow beards, women cannot leave home without a male escort, and life is becoming more dangerous.

In addition to death threats, many Christian families fear for the safety of their children.

Many Christians fear the Taliban will take their children, both girls and boys, like in Nigeria and Syria,the Christian leader explained. “The girls will be forced to marry Taliban fighters and the boys will be forced to become soldiers. Both will be sent to madrassas to be brainwashed.

To evidence this concern, the Christian leader shared a written declaration by the Cultural Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, another name of the Taliban, declaring their intention to marry girls and young widows to Taliban fighters. The declaration said: In order to eradicate the ignorance of irreligion and also social problems of the youth in these provinces in general, the officials of the Islamic Emirate are ordering all the people of these provinces, especially tribal elders, village khans and mullahs, mosques to list young girls. They are over 15 years old, and widows should be handed over to the Mojahedin Cultural Commission of the Islamic Emirate under the age of 45. God willing, these sisters will come to the religious marriage of the Mujahideen in order to learn pure Islamic lessons and accept Islam.”

With all civilian flights out of Afghanistan cancelled indefinitely and the borders controlled by the Taliban, many Christians in Afghanistan find themselves stuck in a dangerous situation. Uncertainty and fear of discovery dominate the thoughts of many Afghan Christians.

Let us pray.

  • Lord, we join with people all over the world praying for the nation of Afghanistan. We acknowledge that prayer is our most powerful weapon in this physical and spiritual battle.
  • We ask for your intervention in the situation. For the protection of the defenceless and those who fear they will be targeted. Bring comfort to those who are in distress.
  • Lord, please strengthen the underground church and by your transforming power, during this time of fear, suffering and uncertainty, draw many people to yourself including members of the Taliban
AFGHANISTAN: President Flees Country, Concerns Arise For Christians

AFGHANISTAN: President Flees Country, Concerns Arise For Christians

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country Sunday after Taliban fighters entered Kabul, the nation’s capital, demanding a transfer of power.

The insurgents were directed to refrain from violence and offer safe passage to anyone wishing to leave the capital.

“No one’s life, property, and dignity will

Sources: CBN news, International Christian Concern

be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk,” the group said in a statement also warning that no one should enter the area around the capital.

In just over a week, fighters have taken over nearly all of Afghanistan as thousands of people have fled the war-torn country.

A duty officer with the Defense Press Operations confirmed that roughly 3,000 American troops were heading to Kabul on Saturday to assist with the evacuation of US civilian personnel.

Afghanistan’s Christians are already mostly underground. The country has only one Catholic church, tucked away in the Italian embassy, and even that closed in response to the pandemic. The 2004 constitution of Afghanistan severely limits religious freedom, forbidding the open preaching of the Gospel and restricting conversion to Christianity.

Rescue Mission for Christians Leaving Afghanistan