As I look back over 2013, I am filled with a deep gratitude for the opportunities Voice of the Martyrs has had, in partnership with you, to serve the persecuted church in many ways.
Worldwide persecution continues to increase as we draw closer to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily I receive news reports and correspondence from our national contacts of the hardships that believers endure for the sake of His name. More churches are being burned down, more Christians imprisoned, more villages attacked, more restrictions imposed and more children abducted than ever before. Each story remains with me and I grieve over the atrocities God’s people experience.
But rather than be discouraged, I am filled with hope in Christ for these believers to stand firm in Him despite their difficult circumstances. May I encourage you to join me in standing with them.
Each person’s story is a testimony to their faithfulness to the Lord in the midst of trials and reminds us that we are waiting for a better, heavenly home. And each of these stories is a wonderful reminder that we are not alone; the Lord Himself is with us through it all. We will be filled with joy when He comes, all the more because of the suffering we have endured for His sake.
While we wait, it is a privilege to stand with you in support of our brothers and sisters. Your support has enabled us to complete 156 projects in 26 restricted nations in 2013 alone. Here are some of the highlights:
Persecuted believers in Burma, India, Laos, Nigeria and the Philippines received a Bible plus a life pack containing food and other essentials. In Vietnam, a special pack was developed to provide Christian leaders with Bibles and equipment for evangelism and discipleship. We provided packs 3600 packs to needy families, with each Bible potentially reaching many more.
Children in Laos received a backpack filled with two Gospel storybooks, educational material, clothing and some toys. Our contacts worked hard to prepare and distribute these backpacks to children who have already experienced persecution. Many children were amazed to receive this gift and were encouraged to share the second Gospel storybook with another child.
In Islamic nations around the world, new believers face harsh opposition. They are beaten, evicted and pursued by family members, neighbours and authorities for their conversion and for sharing the Good News with others. Last year, VOM supported safe houses in restricted nations where believers could stay in safety while they were cared for, equipped with Bible teaching and vocational training and assisted to find a safe place of their own to live.
Over the years, many Bible College students in Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, China and North Korea have been sponsored by Australian supporters, enabling them to complete a full year of study at accredited Bible colleges. This continued to be a strong focus in 2013. Many of these students have already experienced persecution but are still preparing to become the future pastors, leaders and evangelists in their countries.
In India, pastors who work tirelessly evangelising, making pastoral visits, teaching and preaching in their churches received monthly support, enabling them to spend more time in ministry without having to work to provide for their families as well. In addition, in Nepal and Vietnam, we purchased bicycles and motorbikes for pastors so that they could visit churches and spread the Gospel to remote villages more effectively.
Our youth initiative, Thirteen Three, ran youth events throughout New South Wales with the theme ‘Fearless’. These well-attended events raised money to equip Nigerian pastors with Bibles and resources for evangelism which included gumboots to protect them from any snakes as they walked to the villages. Young people were challenged at the events to take the Fearless pledge to pray for persecuted Christians and to be fearless in sharing the Gospel themselves.
Thank you for touching the lives of many thousands of brothers and sisters through your donations to our mission. It is a privilege to partner with you in serving the persecuted church. Please continue to pray with us for the many believers who are persecuted for their faith. Together, we can thank the Lord for supplying all our needs to achieve the funding of these projects in 2013. Thank you.