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LAOS: Believer Evicted from His Village

LAOS: Believer Evicted from His Village

A man who was imprisoned for converting to Christianity has now been evicted from his village in Laos for refusing to renounce his faith.

Earlier this year, Bounyang and his family came to faith in Christ after experiencing a healing in their family following prayer by local Christians. When authorities questioned Bounyang about his Christian faith, he told them, “I insist on following Jesus and will not go back to worshipping the old traditional way.”

Bounyang was arrested on 12 September and detained for several weeks. Authorities then released Bounyang on the condition that he leave the village after harvest season.

Bounyang’s brother has given him land in another village, but he will have to build a new home.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord for the powerful witness to the Gospel when He answers prayer by healing.
  • Thank the Lord that though Bounyang and his family are young in their Christian walk, they have trusted faithfully in Christ and His promises, through great difficulty.
  • Thank the Lord for the provision of new land. Pray they will be used by the Lord to be His witnesses to their new community. Pray for those who live in Bounyang’s former village.
EGYPT: Legal Battle Ends with ‘Return to Islam’

EGYPT: Legal Battle Ends with ‘Return to Islam’

Mohamed Hegazy battled with the Egyptian courts for nine years to be officially recognised as a Christian. His fight has ended – with his apparent decision to return to Islam.

Please pray for Mohamed, who has endured relentless persecution since he tried to change the religious status on his ID card to ‘Christian’. He announced his return to Islam in a video posted on YouTube.

Mohamed, 34, had been behind bars intermittently since December 2013, charged with “protesting without permission” and “defamation of religion.” A court finally ordered his release on bail on 29 June. But it took a further month before he was freed: his lawyer, Karam Ghobrial, was deliberately ensnared in red tape and Mohamed was transferred between several different police stations.

In his YouTube video, he makes the Shahada, the Islamic proclamation of allegiance, and then delivers an apparently well-rehearsed statement: “I say this out of my complete free will. I am not being held by any agency, nor am I under any pressure of any kind.”

Mohamed Hegazy changed his name to Bishoy Armia Boulous after he became a Christian at 16. He has been imprisoned twice, tortured and beaten regularly in jail: his family were forced to go into hiding.

Paul Robinson, CEO of VOM’s ministry partner Release International, says, “We must pray for Mohamed Hegazy. We do not know what he has gone through recently, added to all that he has suffered since his conversion to Christianity. God knows his heart.”

Source: Release International, World Watch Monitor

Prayer Points

  • Pray that Mohamed and his family will know that the God of all love and compassion will never leave them or forsake them. Pray that Mohamed will find peace and rest again in his relationship with Christ.
  • Pray for Mohamed’s Egyptian lawyer, Karam Ghobrial, who has also paid a high price for defending his client. Pray that God will strengthen and protect him.
  • Pray for our Christian family in Egypt; pray they will not be worn down by harassment and persecution but stand firm in their faith.

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A Promise to Act

A Promise to Act

“When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” Psalm 91:15

In the bottom drawer of my dresser, carefully folded and organised by type, are stacks of clothes to mend. One blouse just needs its sleeves hemmed. Somehow, I can never find the time to fix the clothes. I am so busy staying up late to study for finals or rushing off to work at six in the morning that I struggle to make time for the little things I know need help.

In the timeline of eternity, the life of a human is a minute speck. Nevertheless, the Being who sustains all space and time not only knows about the smallest problems of one human, but also promises His children that He will take care of them. My “when I have to, I’ll do that” allows me to push away responsibility indefinitely. God’s “when he calls to Me, I will answer” is His commitment to His people. My “I will” is often a reason to forget. His “I will” is a promise to act.

God does rescue. He does answer, though not always as we expect. God has no bottom drawer stuffed with projects to complete at some later date. He is at work now, providing Bibles to those who long for His Word, safe passage to those who escape death, joy and peace to those who suffer, and grace to those who at times doubt Him. When I cannot understand what Christ Jesus is doing and when it seems that He has forgotten His people, in His promises I trust, for He will not go back on His word.

J G Spires

Confidence in the Face of Opposition

Confidence in the Face of Opposition

ConfidenceBlogBanner

Recently, 300 youth from churches across the Blue Mountains gathered at Springwood Anglican Church for a Thirteen Three Release event.

Dave McPhail, the Youth Pastor, gave a great message which raised the question: As Christians, how can we have confidence in the face of opposition?

This is a brilliant and relevant question for the youth of today. This generation of youth have a lot going on in their lives: school, peer pressure, puberty and parental expectations are just a few of the pressures that youth have to overcome. In such an environment we know that many youth struggle with life and might feel that the world is against them.

For a young Christian, there is another dimension of opposition where school, peers and even family can be against them because of their faith. Add this to the intense pressures young people already experience and it can feel impossible to have confidence in such a hostile world.

As Christians, the Bible tells us to expect times of opposition. Currently, in Australia, there are groups trying to stop Scripture being taught in New South Wales schools. On an individual level, you may face criticism from your parents for going to church, or you might be mocked by your peers for the moral choices you make when it comes to relationships.

This should not surprise us. The Bible is quite clear that we do not belong to the world – we belong to Jesus, and therefore we will face opposition (John 15:19) . However, many discard their faith because of the pressure and difficulties they face. It shouldn’t be like this; in fact, we can have great confidence in the face of opposition.

What can we learn from persecuted Christians?
Our persecuted brothers and sisters live in societies where they are always living with hostility. The opposition that they face is often physical and can even lead to death.

At the Blue Mountains Release event, Thirteen Three’s Jono Fox shared about the shocking persecution that Christians face in North Korea.

“Living in North Korea is tough,” he explained. “I met Stephen, who escaped North Korea last year. He described how the leaders would say, ‘North Korea is the richest country in the world,’ but in reality, he was driven to escape North Korea because he was so hungry. Stephen became a Christian when he read the Bible for the first time in China and realised that what he had been taught in North Korea was all lies. The Bible was actually telling him the truth.”

Despite severe persecution, many North Koreans continue to worship God. How can they do this when they know they could be arrested or executed for it?

As Dave said, “It is amazing what you can do when you know someone has your back.” It gives us confidence when we know we have support. As Christians, we have the living God as our support.

We can have confidence, even in the face of opposition, because we know that God has provided salvation and security for us in Jesus Christ.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” Romans 8:31-33.

God did everything to save us! His Son died for us so that we could be reconciled with God. No one can take that away from us. Therefore, there is no enemy we need to fear because we know that our God is on our side. The Apostle Paul says no one can take us from the love of God. He wrote, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39.

What a wonderful encouragement it is to know that the Sovereign God of the universe has our back and is with us through all the difficulties and problems we face. This is what gives our persecuted brothers and sisters confidence and will also encourage us to endure any form of opposition to our faith.

Reflection
What opposition are you facing today?
Where do you get your confidence from? Does this need to change?
What are you afraid of as you live for Christ in a hostile world?
How does what you just read impact your fears?
Which Christian friend will you encourage with the knowledge of God’s inexhaustible strength?

Remember this verse to help you in hard times: John 15:19

Finding God in a Refugee Camp

Finding God in a Refugee Camp

“Be careful! Slow down!” I call to the young Syrian refugee girl as she dashes after her friend, stumbling over rocks and trash as she goes. Not that she could understand my English; they all spoke only Arabic.

We’d had an interesting time explaining the game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” to the group of 20-plus refugee girls without a translator. They seemed to have caught on well, though, even if we did have to play the game standing up instead of sitting. There wasn’t enough room to sit between the tents, and the ground was littered with trash and sharp rocks.

My husband and I were with a Syrian VOM partner, “Samir,” at one of the schools they had opened for children in a refugee camp. My husband took the boys and I took the girls, and we played games until their lunch arrived. For many of them, I was told, the school-provided lunch was all they would eat that day.

The girls’ high-pitched laughter was contagious as they continued around the circle. “Daa, Daa, Gahh!” It didn’t quite sound like “Duck, Duck, Goose,” but throughout the rest of the afternoon, the girls had a great time patting each other’s heads and yelling “Gahh!” For a moment, they seemed to have forgotten they were refugees, that they have constant runny noses, dirty clothes, and have seen and experienced far too much for their young age.

On our way to the camp earlier that day, we passed multiple checkpoints. Samir told us that a month earlier a suicide bomber had blown himself up at one of those checkpoints. He explained that even though the Syrian refugees are now away from the immediate danger of Islamic State and other radical groups, they are still not in a good situation. The children aren’t allowed to go to the country’s schools, the adults aren’t allowed to work and, being so close to the Syrian border, they are still exposed to kidnappings and other violence.

Samir then told us that all of this has provided an opportunity for Christians to reach out to Muslims with the love of Christ like never before. That’s why they have opened a school in the refugee camp. The school welcomes both Muslim and Christian refugee children, giving them the only sense of normalcy they have in the camp, even if “school” is in a tent. They are taught the Good News of Jesus, and Muslim parents and guardians who see Christians as the only ones caring for their children also become curious, asking Samir to meet with them and tell them about this Jesus.

I left the refugee camp knowing one thing for certain: God’s light is breaking through the darkest places, and He is doing it through His church — the body of Christ of which we’re a part. I’m honoured to be in the same family as some of these incredible men and women of God. They value their pursuit of Christ’s calling over their safety or security. Samir knows he puts himself and his family at risk every time he goes to the refugee camp, boldly sharing the love of Christ with Muslims.

With everything we have heard about the Syrian refugee crisis, with everything we are hearing about terrorism and about IS, it’s important for us to remember that our God is never in crisis, that Jesus’ kingdom never falters or is afraid. Samir and his wife believe that when Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” that this is what He meant. “How could I not go?” Samir asked pointedly.

I could have left that trip wondering if I should even call myself a Christian compared with someone like Samir. But instead, I was inspired that this is who we are called to be as Christians, to “go and make disciples.” We are all a part of this kingdom; we are all ambassadors of Christ’s hope, love and freedom. When the world cries in confusion, turmoil and despair, we can remain steadfast because we know that our God is bigger, that His love is stronger than death and that there is always victory in Christ … even in a dirty refugee camp.

Brooke Parks works for VOM USA.