“Is it my birthday today, or yours?” the young Christian asked, a twinkle in her eye. “Yours today,” said her father. “Mine was last week.”
For Christians in Communist nations, birthdays were a great excuse to get together with other believers. Some families would gather each week for a birthday party that was really an underground church service. Young people used these “parties” to strengthen their commitment to the gospel. In 1966 in Russia, three young boys and four girls were arrested for singing a hymn on a train.
In court, the seven young people fell to their knees. “We surrender ourselves into the hands of God,” they said in front of the judge and the gathered witnesses. “We thank you, Lord, that you have allowed us to suffer for this faith.” After their confession, other Christians in the courtroom began to sing the very hymn for which the kids had been arrested. They said, “Let us dedicate our youth to Christ.”
The Communists couldn’t stop the church from meeting and growing.
One Russian newspaper told of a pastor who had been sent to prison three times. Each time he was released, he immediately went and held Sunday school meetings. These believers used whatever means possible to express their loyalty to God. They risked and suffered the condemnation of their country in service to God’s church.
In order for our physical muscles to get stronger, they must first be broken down and stretched through exercise and hard work. Likewise, faith is a muscle that only grows when it is flexed. Suffering flexes the muscle of our faith. We are stretched and “broken” before God during times of trials. Yet we grow stronger as a result. Churches in restricted nations exhibit enormous strength because of their sufferings. Can the same be said of our faith in Australia? Exercise wears us out—we don’t want to do it. Similarly, the thought of suffering may disturb you. However, you cannot grow if you don’t flex your faith.
Taken from Voice of the Martyrs book Extreme Devotion:
When it comes to sharing the Gospel in hostile and restricted nations, front line workers must use wisdom and creativity. In Laos, travelling evangelists distribute VOM-provided radios to people in remote villages so they can listen to Christian broadcasts from a neighbouring country — and the villagers respond.
“Since we have received 2,000 radios, there are more people writing letters to us, especially from those we have never known before,” a VOM partner reported. “And there are more phone calls about people accepting Jesus through listening to the programs.”
In a single three-month period last year, 253 people professed faith in Christ. During the same period, front line workers baptised about 180 people and established three new house churches among the Khmu people. Virtually no spiritual leadership is available to these new believers, so they rely on the weekly radio program and visits from front line workers for encouragement and spiritual food. Visiting evangelists baptise new converts, explain difficult spiritual concepts and teach God’s Word.
In communist Laos, new believers face harsh persecution.
Front line workers are often the first to respond when believers are persecuted.
- Pray for wisdom, clarity and understanding for Christians preparing radio broadcasts for people from differing languages and cultural backgrounds
- Ask God to prepare more mature Christians who will commit to travel and disciple new believers in remote areas
- Pray for front line workers to have energy, faithfulness and strength as they depend on God in their demanding roles
- Pray for the provision of Bibles and clear, sound teaching so that converts can quickly become established and grounded in their faith
It took a horrific attack on her church for Emily to realise that her understanding of God was wrong. Three years ago, her bishop asked her to move to a new church plant near Mombasa, Kenya. The Joy in Jesus Church in Likoni was struggling, and the bishop thought Emily could help. Over the next several months, the church grew to 60 people.
On Sunday morning, 23 March, 2014, most of the faithful were scattered throughout the pews. Assistant Pastor Philip Ambesta was speaking that morning, and Emily was in the front row. In the middle of his sermon, there was a loud bang outside and heads turned to look, but Pastor Philip told everyone, “Ignore what is going on outside these walls and listen to what God has to say to you.” He continued to preach.
Moments later, two gunmen burst through the back door. One, armed with a machine gun, sprayed the congregation with bullets. From her seat at the front, Emily turned and saw the other gunman aim a hand gun straight at the platform. He fired, and Pastor Philip fell, dead.
It was chaos. The gunmen fled, everyone was screaming and people were running everywhere. Emily moved among the members, reassuring them and offering first aid. She also made sure ambulance and police were called. The ambulance couldn’t carry all the injured, so Emily helped them prioritise which victims needed the most urgent help.
Six people died that day, including Pastor Philip. Twenty-four others were injured, and VOM has helped four of the most severely injured with their ongoing medical care for the past two years. Emily herself wasn’t injured, but she was left with deep scars on her soul.
She struggled to understand why God would have allowed the church to be attacked. She believed that God must have been punishing them for their sin. Discouraged, Emily returned to her home church in Mombasa.
But she continued to read God’s Word. As she did, she realised God wasn’t punishing them. In the Bible, she read how Jesus promised His followers they would be persecuted for His sake. She saw that sin compels evil men to commit evil acts, especially against those who follow the God in whom there is no darkness. She realised that God’s promises to work for our good and to bless us meant not financial good, but spiritual good. Persecution is a promise, not a punishment.
Today, Emily describes the Gospel as a “bitter Gospel.” She says, “I teach the bitter Gospel of the cross and the blood. You have to accept taking up the cross.”
Former Islamic teacher, 30-year-old Malik Higenyi, was beaten unconscious by relatives when he spoke publicly about his conversion last month.
His mother, Aimuna, aged 60, became a Christian after seeing how Malik was persecuted and learning about his faith. Family members also beat her badly.
Relatives raided their farm in Butaleja district on 8 December as Malik and Aimuna were trying to gather cassava without being seen. They had been forced to abandon the farm last month, after Malik was warned he’d be killed if he returned.
Malik managed to escape and presumed his attackers were unaware of his mother’s new faith. But news of Aimuna’s conversion had spread too: she was attacked and left with a broken hand and head injuries.
Source: Morning Star News
- Pray that God will provide for Malik, his wife and children, and for Aimuna, and bring them to a place of rest (Psalm 18:19).
- Thank God that police responded to the family’s cry for help and made several arrests. Pray that officials will take tough action against religiously motivated attacks, to deter further violence.
- Pray that God’s people in Muslim areas of east Uganda will draw close to Him and place their total trust in Him.
Eight Nepali Christians were cleared of “proselytising” charges on 6 December, bringing a close to their ordeal.
“Praise the Lord!” a VOM contact said. “All eight Christians having court case got clean sheet today. We are thankful to all who continuously prayed and helped in many different ways.”
Police arrested a pastor, two school principals and five school staff members on 9 June, accusing them of evangelism after they distributed children’s books about Jesus at a Christian school. Under Nepal’s new constitution, evangelism is a crime. Please pray for Nepali Christians, who face increasing persecution under the new constitution.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Pray that the released believers will not be afraid to resume evangelising the lost with the Good News of Christ.
- Pray that this answer to prayer will give Nepali Christians great encouragement to remain faithful and to depend on God to do His work regardless of circumstances.
- Ask God to give Nepalis a deep curiosity about the Gospel they are forbidden to hear and to bring them into contact with believers who will witness to them.