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A Letter From Prison

A Letter From Prison

What’s it like to hear from your pastor husband, who has spent over a year in prison? Pastor Yang Hua was abducted by Chinese police 9 December 2015 and accused of “divulging state secrets”. Yang has not yet gone to trial, but his words to his wife reveal both a glimpse into a man concerned for his wife and a man whose confident hope rests in the Lord.

My dear wife: Greetings!

I have received all of your letters: the first on 5 October and the second on 8 November, which were written on 4 and 14 October.

My scabies were healed. Around 20 September, I was taken to a doctor who applied sulfur ointment all over my body. Finally, it healed. I have the same experience as Job. My fatty liver disease was diagnosed in prison. The suffering is bearable. The Lord has grace. The canker sore has not returned since May of this year. Thank God. There is not anything wrong with my eyes or waist either. You need not worry about my health. Now, I sleep well.

The reason why I did not reply to your letter in a timely manner is that I wanted to answer them together after the second letter arrived.

Pray and wait for God. My heart is calm and quiet, and it has no anxiety.

I can use sulfur soap inside the detention centre, because God is kind in this way. I have enough clothes, as well as winter clothes, and I don’t feel cold at all. I have 3,500 Yuan ($675), which can last for a half year. It’s no use worrying about these things. You need not come to deposit money for me any time soon. It is not convenient for you to take a bus, and you won’t be able to see me. Some brothers and sisters came to deposit money for me. You just take care of our sons and our home. Mu’en’s birthday is on 17 November and should be celebrated. Buy his favorite cheesecake and share with Xiangen. Wish him well on my behalf.

When using electricity this winter, pay attention to safety and remember to shut it off before you leave. My mum would always forget.

After reading your letter, I know some of your concerns. Praise the Lord by singing the song “The Sun above the Clouds.” The Lord has prepared this song for you and me. I sang it many times and am so joyful. I am sharing it with you. Never see the dark clouds covering the sky and always see the sun above the clouds. When you take a plane, you will see the sunshine all over the world, after it breaks through the clouds.

Never be dejected and despondent, always look up at our Lord, and always keep the spiritual life above the chaos of the real environment. Rest in God’s arms. “Some rely on chariots, some on horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord,” Psalm 20:7. Be upright and take care. Be prepared for the rest of the road. I will go with you. If the Lord doesn’t allow it, not a single hair from your head will drop to the floor.

You need not take sermon notes when you copy the hymns; the Bible, which I memorised by heart, always comes to me. I have plenty of time inside for meditation and prayer. This is the best preparation. Recently, I’ve often been reciting Nehemiah, Ezra, and Esther. Esther could have gone back to Jerusalem in order to build the city wall, travelling from the alien country to which the Israelites were carried off. Esther didn’t become extinct but turned into a safety net, turning those days into a time of celebration.

God is so great and wonderful; who can be like Him? Our wonderful God, our Lord forever. Who can guess His wisdom and mystery? Our faith is built on His words (He never changes and never does wrong; this is the unchangeable maxim). Sometimes, somebody will decide something by guessing and then testing their theory, but we don’t. We listen more to God and less to human beings, especially to nonsensical noise.

Greet everybody on my behalf and thank them for worrying about me. Encourage and give hope to each other in the days that God has prepared for us.

Your husband, who is always missing you.

8 November 2016

Motto:  We should have this feeling every day. Proverbs says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” Proverbs 17:22. Spend every day that God gives us with a joyful heart. May it be common wisdom to encourage ourselves. Amen!

(The next time you deposit money, please ask the cadre how much money is left in my account, but do not come soon. It has become cold, and I have enough money for daily use. I am guessing there is a lot in my account. If you have something to tell me, please write to me. You do not need to write until you receive my reply, I will write back when it is convenient for me).

Translated and edited by China Aid. Emphasis added by VOM.

ALGERIA: Christian Imprisoned for Blasphemy

ALGERIA: Christian Imprisoned for Blasphemy

On 6 September Slimane Bouhafs (49), an Algerian Christian man, was convicted of blasphemy and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

Because of Slimane’s deteriorating health, his family and the Algerian Human Rights League (the LADDH) made a public appeal in October for a presidential pardon, but without success. A support group organised a demonstration on Saturday 19 November in front of the Ministry of Justice building. The police asked the demonstrators to return another day, explaining that no officials were available to deal with their demands. The LADDH is planning to organise another demonstration on Sunday 4 December.

Slimane was initially imprisoned in Sétif and was then transferred a month ago to the prison at Constantine in the east of the country. Earlier this month Slimane’s daughter, who has visited him in prison, stated that other inmates had attempted to assault him after he reacted to a talk by an imam who is strongly opposed to non-Muslims in the country. His family have asked the authorities to transfer Slimane to another prison to ensure his safety.

Source: Middle East Concern

 Prayer Points

  • Please pray Slimane and his family will experience the peace of Jesus and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Lord to grant Slimane physical strength.
  • Ask that attempts to attack Slimane will cease, and that his safety will be ensured. Pray the Lord will use the efforts of the demonstrators to help Slimane’s situation.
  • Pray the Lord will strengthen His church in Algeria; may they be unified in their faith and bold in proclaiming the Gospel.

 

UZBEKISTAN: Prisoner Alert Prisoner Set Free

UZBEKISTAN: Prisoner Alert Prisoner Set Free

Tohar Haydarov was quietly released from prison in Uzbekistan on 8 November. He had served nearly seven years of his 10-year prison sentence and was released for good behaviour. He may face parole conditions, and authorities told him not to get in trouble or he would return to prison. Authorities had told him earlier this year that a parole in his case “would not happen.”

Tohar was imprisoned in 2010 for allegedly selling large qualities of drugs, although fellow church members say the charges were falsified, and he was accused only because of his Christian faith.

Fellow Christians told Forum 18 News, “We are thankful to everybody who prayed for him and sent letters to him while in prison.” They ask for continued prayer for him.

Tohar was one of the prisoners featured on VOM’s web site for Christian prisoners, www.PrisonerAlert.com. Christians from all over the world wrote letters to him at the prison where he was held, and also wrote to Uzbek government leaders on his behalf.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

 Prayer Points

  • Give thanks to the Lord for this wonderful news for Tohar and his loved ones.
  • Pray the Lord will guide and strengthen Tohar as he adjusts to life outside of prison.
  • Pray the Holy Spirit will be at work in the hearts and mind of Tohar’s former prisoners and guards. Ask the Lord to give opportunities for Tohar to speak His testimony and use His witness for the Gospel.
IRAN: Pastor Behnam Irani Freed from Jail

IRAN: Pastor Behnam Irani Freed from Jail

Behnam Irani was released from prison last week being jailed for six years for leading a house church and sharing his faith.

Behnam Irani of the self-styled Church of Iran was given a five-year suspended sentence in 2008, after he was charged with action against national security.

He was re-arrested in 2010 during a house church service, and in May 2011 he was summoned to serve a one-year prison sentence for new charges of action against national security, to which the suspended five-year sentence was later added.

Behnam was detained in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, and suffered serious health issues, many related to physical abuse he received at the hands of fellow prisoners. On 22nd February 2014 he was taken to hospital for an operation to staunch bleeding from the stomach and colon.

In September 2014 he was charged with “Mofsed-e-filarz” – a capital crime translated as “spreading corruption on Earth”. The Mofsed-e-filarz charge was dropped later that month and replaced by charges of “action against national security” and “creating a network to overthrow the system”, and he was put in solitary confinement. On 19 October 2014 Behnam was sentenced to a further six years in prison and exile to Zabol on the Afghanistan border. On 9 December 2014 the additional charges and sentence were dropped following an appeal.

In August 2016 Behnam was informed that he was due for release in October.

Sources: Middle East Concern, Release International

 Prayer Points

  • Rejoice with Benham, his wife Kristina and their children Rebecca and Adriel along with their family and friends; thank the Lord for this answer to prayer.
  • Pray the Lord will help Behnam to adjust to life outside prison and to recover physically and emotionally from his difficult time in detention.
  • Commit to the Lord those still detained in Iran, those awaiting verdicts, and those expecting to be summoned to face charges related to their Christian faith and activities.
UZBEKISTAN: Prisoner Granted Asylum

UZBEKISTAN: Prisoner Granted Asylum

Three years ago, Pastor Dmitry Shestakov and his family fled Uzbekistan after he had spent four years in a labour camp and subsequently received numerous death threats.

The family’s journey of freedom officially ended on 30 August as they arrived in the United States, where they were granted asylum. Mission Eurasia is assisting the family as they make this transition.

Nearly 10 years ago, authorities arrested the pastor after they raided Full Gospel Church in Andijan, Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan’s Religious Affairs Committee claimed Shestakov was not an authorised leader of any officially-recognised religious organisation. He was labelled an “imposter” and sent to a prison camp more than 640km from his home. The distance made a visit from his wife, Marina, and their three daughters, Maria, Alexandra and Vera, difficult.

After his release on 21 January 2011 – exactly four years since he had entered prison – the government still closely monitored and forced him to obtain written permission just to leave his house. Following two years of living under these restrictions and receiving death threats, Shestakov moved his family to Ukraine, where the United Nations Human Rights Council granted them refugee status.

Today, Dmitry, Marina and their youngest two daughters, Alexandra, 20, and Vera, 16, are starting a new life in the United States. Their eldest daughter, Maria, 22, remains in Ukraine with her husband.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

 Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord for providing safe passage to a new home for this family.
  • Pray the Lord will lead them to find a new home church where they can continue to grow in faith and serve the Lord.
  • Pray the testimony of the suffering experienced by Dmitry, his wife and children may be used by the Lord to encourage believers in the West to also live out their faith boldly.