“Will you consider printing Bibles in Iran?” Ahmed considered the question carefully. It had only been two years since he had turned his back on the emptiness of Islam and placed his faith in Jesus Christ. The Islamic government in Iran had made many promises but delivered only hopelessness and hate.
Within a year of coming to know Christ, Ahmed had begun sharing the Gospel and planting churches, an activity he knew could put him in prison. Although printing Bibles carried an even greater risk, Ahmed agreed to do it.
After receiving the funds necessary to purchase the printing equipment, he began his ﬁrst assignment of printing 100 New Testaments each week. Ahmed distributed the Bibles wherever they were requested throughout his country, knowing that God’s Word was the light Iranians so desperately needed.
Ahmed was arrested two years into his printing efforts, leaving the 14 churches he had planted without a shepherd.
He had only been a Christian a few days before beginning the Bible distribution that led to his arrest. Now, shackled and chained, Palani sat in a prison cell where the heat sometimes exceeded 37°C. But for Palani, going to prison was worth it.
Being introduced to Jesus had transformed his life. Palani had once wandered the streets of his village, caring for little more than his next drink. But when his brother, a pastor in Laos, invited him for a visit and shared the Gospel with him, his life changed forever. After placing his faith in Christ, Palani stopped drinking and began telling others what Jesus had done for him. He also started praying for the sick in Jesus’ name. “I was astonished to see many people healed after I prayed for them,” he said.
When Palani returned to his village, he met with a local pastor and asked him how he could serve in the church. “Can you get Bibles from your brother?” the pastor asked. Palani did get the Bibles and immediately began giving them to fellow villagers. “This Bible distribution and praying for the sick was all new to me,” he said, “so I was excited.”
A village leader, unhappy about Palani’s new Christian faith and work, confronted him and told him he could no longer talk about God or distribute Bibles. “You’re a fraud and a drunkard,” he scolded, adding that Palani shouldn’t be persuading people to follow “a foreign religion.”
However, Palani didn’t stop talking about the Good News, and three days later the police arrested him at his home. In prison, police beat him and demanded to know where he had obtained the Bibles. During the third interrogation, they offered to release him if he would deny his faith and tell them where all the Bibles were. He refused and was beaten more severely.
Palani saw three people die from starvation and poor medical care in the overcrowded prison. “Our legs would cross each other while sleeping at night,” he said. After two months in prison, he was released. Now Palani’s prayer is to receive more Bible training and to be used by God to advance His kingdom — even though he knows it could lead to another arrest.
The evangelist stood on a crowded city street in India with his load of New Testaments. The smell of exhaust fumes, raw sewage and spices ﬁlled the air. One by one, Swami handed out the small New Testaments, praying that those who received them would come to know the Saviour revealed on their pages.
Swami’s efforts came to an abrupt halt when members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) approached and began to question him. The RSS is a volunteer Hindu nationalist organisation associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Soon the questioning turned into a physical attack, as the RSS members hit Swami repeatedly on the head and back. Then they dragged him to the police station, where they ﬁled a report against him. He was held for questioning until that evening, when police allowed him to return home. After arriving at his home, Swami fell unconscious and was rushed to the hospital, where he went into a coma. A few days later, he suffered a stroke which has affected one side of his body.
Whatever It Takes
For Ahmed, Palani and Swami, the Bible is worth prison and beatings.
While some countries still ban the Bible requiring us to smuggle God’s Word in a variety of ways and formats, other countries, such as India, Nigeria and China, allow in-country printing. Still, the in-country printing does not come close to meeting the growing need.
As we learn of our persecuted brothers and sisters like Ahmed, Palani and Swami, we are challenged to ask ourselves, “What’s a Bible worth to me?”
I would not believe in a Bible if it would not be worth it to smuggle it in everywhere even at the greatest risk and if it would not be worth it to sit ten days and nights alone in the cold in order to be able to read its wonderful pages — Richard Wurmbrand.
Peter loved sharing the Word of God from his ‘photocopy Bible’. He boldly proclaimed the Gospel from this well-used copy of the Vietnamese Bible and many people became believers. But one day, Peter had his photocopy Bible taken away from him. He was arrested and sent to prison for preaching the Gospel.
Peter is a coffee farmer in central Vietnam. When he is not attending to his farm duties, he loves to preach the Gospel. With his photocopy Bible in hand, he leads a team into different provinces to share the story of salvation.
He clearly remembers 30 July 2008 – the day he was arrested for preaching the Gospel. As the leader of the evangelism team, he was given a nine-year jail sentence to discourage others from following his example.
Frequent interrogations and beatings were designed to try and force Peter to deny Christ and confess his crime. Some prisoners were given extra privileges if they beat prisoners at the guard’s direction. Often, they would start a fight, then blame the cause of it on any of the Christian prisoners.
The prison food was very poor. “I found it difficult to eat and keep the food down because of my stomach problems. Many of us suffered the same dilemma,” Peter shared. “Breakfast was a small bowl of rice and for lunch and dinner we had some vegetable soup; sometimes it might have a little meat in it. I remained sick most of the time.”
In 2009 he was sent to another prison to work on a rice farm. The conditions there were a little better but his stomach still caused problems and he experienced ongoing headaches.
One day in April 2010 a drunk prisoner attacked Peter viciously and beat him about the head until he was bleeding badly and fainted. The jail’s clinic gave him 10 stitches and kept him for two days, but on the third day he was forced to return to work on the prison farm. “Every time I moved my head I felt dizzy and I’d have to sit down or I would faint,” Peter recalled. He was still weak from the beating and his head pounded with the pain, but he had no choice but to keep going.
At night, Peter tried to remember Bible verses as the Word brought comfort to his soul. He bought a pen and paper from the prison and began to write down as many Scriptures as he could remember. “I was able to read my little paper Bible every morning,” he said.
There were 24 other Christians in the prison. They were able to meet and share in prayer on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and one of them would preach. The amount of freedom they had to share with one another depended on which officers were on duty.
Peter commented, “We tried to evangelise the officers and other prisoners, but many just pushed us away. We knew that all we could do was pray for them. Prison officers often came and watched our worship service. They’d even see us take out our handwritten Bibles. They knew we were Christians but they just did not want to believe in God.”
Today, Peter is working his coffee plantation with his wife. They try to make ends meet but are facing a drought in their area and their well has dried up. They don’t have enough money to drill deeper.
As with all released Christian prisoners in Vietnam, VOM provided a full medical examination for Peter. These assessments are completed at a private hospital through qualified doctors.
There are times when Peter feels that his mind is confused. The doctors are considering treatment options but are more concerned with his stomach problem, which has been diagnosed as Hepatitis B, which could lead to cancer.
VOM is assisting Peter with his treatment as well as providing a large amount of rice for his family and funds to drill his well deeper to reach water.
Despite his suffering, imprisonment and concerns about providing for his family, Peter is courageous in faith.
“Even though I went through all of these trials, I will remain faithful to God,” he said.
We thank the Lord for the extreme devotion and love for God of Vietnamese Christians like Peter. Please pray faithfully for these brave believers and their families.
“Oh Lord, what are you doing to our family?” cried the 20-year-old son of Pastor Stephen when he heard that his father had been killed.
His mother, Leah, collapsed on the ground, weeping in deep shock and grief.
“I find it too hard to believe that this happened to my husband. He was a good man,” she cried.
Her eldest son, at just 20 years of age, is a pastor like his father. The other children, aged 18, 11 and 9, also wept when they heard the sad news of their father’s death.
Before Stephen became a Christian, he was a Communist Party member for five years. His commitment to the party made him popular among the members.
However, a family friend was a pastor. He prayed for Stephen for some time and eventually led him to the Lord. Stephen left the Communist Party and his old friends behind to follow Christ.
As soon as he became a Christian, Stephen wanted to tell everyone about Jesus. He served faithfully in the church, and after a time he set about training to become a full-time pastor. He loved serving God.
Farmer and pastor
Tragically, Stephen had only been a pastor for 12 months when he was killed. His death shook the Christian community where they lived.
To support his family, like many pastors, Stephen worked on the family farm and continued his pastoral duties as well.
On 14 November 2015, Stephen was working on his farm when a large group of about 80 communists arrived, started a debate and finally bound Stephen up and dragged him away from his coffee plantation. Some of them were known to Stephen, regularly harassing him to return to communism.
One of the members of Stephen’s church was among some witnesses who hid nearby. They clearly heard the conversation between the communists and Stephen.
Keeping quiet for fear of being seen, they watched as one of the communists threatened Stephen with an AK-47 rifle pressed against his cheek.
“We will see if your God can help you today,” he menaced.
Stephen replied, “If you kill me right now, I will be with my Lord!”
Immediately, another angry communist, standing beside Stephen, shot him three times with his M-16 rifle. As Stephen slumped to the ground, he cried a single word with his dying breath: “Hallelujah!”
Stephen was 55 years old when he went home to be with his Lord. He paid for his faith with his life, and the communists ran into the jungle. The coffee plantation workers who had witnessed the event remember the final word of the man of God who never denied his Lord.
On the day of Stephen’s funeral, Leah determined, “I’m going to continue to serve the Lord.”
VOM Australia representatives met Leah at a pastor and leaders’ seminar in February of this year. She was encouraged to attend the event with one of her son’s friends, another pastor.
It was clear Leah was still grieving for her husband and struggled to participate in the seminar. When we realised the family’s poverty and lack of clothing, two of the senior pastors’ wives took Leah to the market where she could buy clothes for herself and her children. The next morning her whole countenance had changed. Although the clothing was a small gift, Leah was encouraged by the love of God’s family. VOM also plans to help Leah further with a small business that will provide a regular income besides the family coffee plantation, which requires a great deal of work.
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