They pulled my hands behind my back, they tightened the ropes and tears began to flow down my cheeks. As they led me away into the jungle, I thought this was going to be my last day on earth.
Pastor Victor is a slightly built man but he has a big heart for the lost. Since he was ordained a pastor in 1984, he has served the Lord faithfully on the Philippine island of Mindanao where he has seen many attacks on churches by Muslim extremists. Even his church has been attacked and pulled down but this has not deterred this pastor from going back to where God has sent him and rebuild the church. The Muslims have told him “You must not preach here in this church anymore, otherwise we will kill you!” However, Pastor Victor would rather obey God regardless of the threats on his life.
One day while at church, one hundred Muslims came and surrounded the church calling for Pastor Victor to come out. When he appeared, they announced that he had violated Muslim law by continuing to preach in the church despite being warned.
Go and kill him quickly
“They pulled my hands behind my back and tied a rope around my hands. Some Muslims stood in front of me tormenting me by placing the barrel of their gun in my mouth but I experienced an incredible peace at that time” Pastor Victor said.
“They took me away from the church and I was forcibly pushed toward a clearing in the jungle. I heard them discussing my fate. Pastor Victor heard one of them say, “If we are to kill him, we need to do it quickly before the military comes.”
Surprisingly, his captors gave Pastor Victor a small amount of rice to eat but he found it difficult to swallow. All he thought about was how much time he had left on earth.
“Someone told me, ‘if you don’t eat, then get up and walk into the jungle.’ I felt the rifle pressing into my back to get me moving. I was thinking about God and that He was with me during this time but I could not stop the tears flowing down my cheeks. I thought this was going to be my last day on earth.”
Where had they gone?
Trusting God with his life, Pastor Victor continued walking into the jungle. To his surprise, Pastor Victor felt as if a shield had been placed across his back, coming between him and his attackers. He kept waiting to hear a shot, but there was nothing. Everything was quiet and as he carefully turned around, the Muslims who had been standing behind him, had disappeared. Where they had gone, he did not know and immediately he ran deeper into the jungle to hide. This was a miracle, and Pastor Victor says he will never forget how God had watched over his life that day.
On 28 January, Pastor Victor’s church was again attacked by Muslims. They fired bullets into the church but no one was there at the time. The military intervened, coming to his village to try and resolve the conflict. There was a confrontation from 4pm to 8am the following morning before things were resolved and the Muslims finally left the area.
Pastor Victor is continually being threatened by his Muslim neighbours. They want the church destroyed and the Christians evicted from the land, but the land is owned by Pastor Victor’s family and if they leave, there is nowhere they can go. So, in spite of the constant threats and danger to his own life, Pastor Victor will remain and continue to serve the Lord in his local community.
As a front line worker, Pastor Victor is supported by VOM to advance the Gospel.
Please pray for Pastor Victor and his congregation that God will protect them as they face a future overshadowed with trials and persecution.
On the island of Sulawesi, in Indonesia, 16-year-old Yolanda was rebelling against her father. Her relationship with her family had broken down and at an early age, she began drinking alcohol and getting herself into all kinds of trouble. Eventually she ran away from home.
It was 2015 and Yolanda was aimlessly walking the streets when a man approached her and started to speak to her about God. “I’m not a Christian. I am a Muslim” was Yolanda’s response. But the man was persistent and told her it didn’t matter, he just wanted to tell her about Jesus.
The more he talked, the more Yolanda’s heart softened and she began telling the man her story. Yolanda told of how she was constantly beaten and this was the reason she had left home. “I don’t want to go back, they hurt my heart” she said.
Yolanda was invited to stay with the evangelist and his family and for four days they ministered to her. The more she heard about Jesus the more she realised she needed to have this new life. With the help of the evangelist, Yolanda joined the local church and was soon baptised. It wasn’t long before Yolanda was serving the Lord as the church’s youth coordinator but she wanted to evangelise and teach others about Jesus.
Returning home, Yolanda told her parents she had become a Christian. They were immediately hostile toward her and family members rejected her but Yolanda has no hatred towards them. She knows God’s love and this has given her peace.
Yolanda is now at a Bible school in response to God’s calling. Once she has graduated, Yolanda will go back to her home town. As they are one of many unreached people groups in Indonesia, Yolanda plans to share the Gospel and be a teacher.
VOM sponsors the students as well as provide support for the needs of the Bible school. Please pray that God will fulfil the plans He has for Yolanda’s life.
One day as he watched a movie about unreached people groups, tears rolled down Andi’s cheeks. “I couldn’t hold back my emotions. Both compassion for the people and a passion to serve flowed into my heart.” This was the beginning of Andi’s journey of faith to find the truth.
Andi was born into a prominent Muslim family, over time he became disciplined to follow the daily Islamic rituals and to obey Allah. As the population on the Indonesian island of Madura are all Muslim, Andi never heard about Christianity apart from one fact – Christians were infidels.
The first time someone told Andi about Isa Almasih (Jesus) was when he was eight.
He became very curious and opened the Koran to read Sura 10:94; “So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which we have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters.”
This confused Andi so he asked the Imam to explain the meaning but was told, “It isn’t important. You don’t need to know the meaning.” This brought more concern into Andi’s heart as he was earnestly seeking the truth.
Andi always held his father in high regard until one day he discovered he was being unfaithful to his mother. This added to Andi’s confusion and he felt let down. He started to change, his unrestrained anger caused him to become rebellious and as a result, Andi started getting himself into trouble. Together with his gang, they set fire to a market and the police added his name to their wanted list. He also started using drugs and Islam was pushed aside in his life.
Sleeping under the pulpit
Through a friend, Andi was introduced to a pastor who invited Andi to live with him and his wife. The pastor was very poor and his house small, but if Andi was willing to stay in the church, he could sleep under the pulpit.
One night Andi heard a voice telling him that his father will soon be in financial trouble. At the time, Andi didn’t know whose voice it was and in his heart, he said, “Oh please God, let me sleep.” But then the voice came again, saying the same thing.
In the morning, Andi went to school and by the afternoon he received news that his father was bankrupt. Andi received a phone call from home advising him creditors had come and taken all the furniture from their house. Now Andi was curious to know who or what that voice was. Andi had read that Jesus is the Word of God and this convinced him that it had been Jesus but he felt it was too late as he had done nothing about it.
Over the next two years, the pastor helped Andi learn more about Jesus and in 2010 Andi decided to reconcile with his father. Andi wanted to share about Jesus and hoped his father would seek Andi’s forgiveness for his infidelity. Instead his father chased Andi out of the house wielding his Madurese sickle with the intent to harm Andi. Fleeing the area in fear of his life, Andi lived with a Christian family who would eventually support him to study at a school of theology.
Reaching out to the unreached
After watching a movie about unreached people groups and being challenged by the reaction it produced in his heart, Andi began to understand that God’s plan for his life was to minister to the Muslim world. Immediately he started to share about Isa Almasih (Jesus) and many Muslims became believers. Jesus was now their Saviour and many miracles followed. “I know He lives!” shouted Andi.
This was the beginning of Andi’s journey in serving the Lord.
Miracles in the name of Jesus
Today, he has seen many Muslims believe in Jesus. He has prayed for the sick and they have been healed, for the possessed and they have been set free. When asked, “What power are you using?” Andi says, “There is only one power that can defeat evil and it is Isa, the Son of God.”
Andi had recently returned from a trip evangelising to the Javanese people. A father whose son was sick approached Andi and asked him to pray for his son and his son was healed. The father then asked Andi to teach him about Isa and after four weeks this father was born again and was baptised.
However, Andi carries a heavy burden in his heart. One day as his father was dying, he asked him if he would believe in Isa but his father said no. As Andi’s father closed his eyes, he said, “It’s so dark, I can’t see the way” and Andi understood that he couldn’t find his way to heaven. For Andi this came as a great sadness.
VOM is supporting Andi in his front line work of evangelising to the unreached people groups in Indonesia. Please pray for Andi as he seeks to preach the Gospel to his Muslim neighbours.
When North Korea was established as an independent nation after World War II, its leader, Kim Il Sung, outlawed all religions except the worship of himself as the ‘Great Leader.’ Churches were destroyed, Bibles were confiscated and teaching children about Jesus became very dangerous.
For Hae-won, however, Gospel seeds planted at an early age would not remain dormant.
Something roused 10-year-old Hae-won from her sleep. When she raised up from her sleeping mat and looked around the one-room apartment, her eyes fixed on her grandfather’s white Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) glowing in the moonlight. His legs were crossed, his eyes were closed and he was swaying back and forth. “How strange,” she thought as she watched his quiet movements. “That must be something old people do.” It was the early 1960s, more than 10 years after Kim Il Sung’s communists had taken control of North Korea, and decades would pass before Hae-won would learn the significance of what her grandfather was doing that night.
As a young girl, Hae-won struggled to understand the conversations she overheard between her two grandfathers. They frequently used unfamiliar terms like resurrection, second coming and Red Sea, terms her teachers never used at school. “They are just old and foolish,” she thought. Hae-won also remembers puzzling over why her grandfather sometimes left the house without saying where he was going. And she distinctly remembers hearing a recurring argument between her father and grandfather: “There is something in the galaxies,” her grandfather would insist. But her father’s reply was always an emphatic, “There is nothing!” Though she couldn’t know it at the time, these mysteries were planting seeds in Hae-won’s young heart. When Hae-won was 16, the secret police broke into her family’s small home one night and ransacked the apartment. They looked carefully through all of the books they found, even school books that belonged to Hae-won’s older brother. She couldn’t imagine what they were looking for. “You cannot hide bombs, explosives or weapons inside a book,” she thought. “This is nonsense!” After the police had finished their search, they issued orders for her grandfather’s arrest. Instead of taking her 83-year-old grandfather, however, they took her father because he was better able to endure prison. Hae-won later learned that about 140 others were arrested at the same time, and her grandfather knew them all. As she watched her father leave the house with the secret police, she worried that she would never see him again.
Released and exiled
Hae-won barely recognised her father when he came to the door six months after his arrest. “My father is so skinny, like a skeleton,” she thought. Only his eyes looked familiar to her. As enemies of the regime, Hae-won’s family was exiled to a remote mountainous area. Although her family never spoke of her father’s imprisonment, she learned that half of her grandfather’s friends were killed after their arrest. Prison had changed her father. Whatever he had experienced and witnessed had shaken him, and he no longer praised the ‘Great Leader,’ Kim Il Sung.
In the early 1990s, North Korea was plunged into a devastating famine as a result of floods, drought and economic mismanagement. Four years later, Hae-won, by then married with children, attempted to flee North Korea with her family. Her oldest son had already left for China in search of work, and her grandfather and father had passed away years earlier.
One cold January evening, Hae-won and her family packed as much as they could carry and began the dangerous trek across the frozen Tumen River. But their hopes of a better life in China were quickly dashed when they were caught and sent to a prison camp. Hae-won and her family were assigned to different barracks in the camp, where they were forced to sit day after day on the hard floor and stare at the other prisoners. Any movement resulted in a beating, and they were fed only corn husks. The only chance Hae-won had to see her husband was when the prisoners were allowed to go outside each day. After he failed to show up for several days, she came to the realisation that he had died. “Almost half of the prisoners died because of hopelessness and depression,” she said.
Hae-won was released six months after her arrest. “I thought I would be sent to some kind of political camp,” she said. But to her surprise, she and her surviving family members merely received a warning, “We are merciful to let you out of prison. Behave yourself.” Hae-won and her family were exiled to an area far from the Chinese border, but several months after their release they again attempted to flee the country. This time their flight across the frozen Tumen River succeeded, and Hae-won was reunited with her son, who had relayed a coded message of his whereabouts through a friend.
After safely reaching China, Hae-won found a job at a restaurant. A Christian co-worker soon invited her to church, where she was overwhelmed by the beauty of the hymns. “I didn’t know the lyrics,” she said, “but it tremendously touched my heart just hearing the songs; I wanted to cry.” She placed her faith in Christ, and some years later she and her family made their way to South Korea. As Hae-won read the Bible and learned more about God, she came to understand what she had seen that night when she was 10 years old — her grandfather had been praying silently while the family slept. The discussions she had overheard between her grandfathers were about the Bible, and the arguments between her grandfather and father were about the existence of the one, true God — Hananim. The secret police, she now understood, were looking for Bibles when they ransacked their home. Her grandfather’s mysterious meetings were with Christians, and the 140 people arrested were members of her grandfather’s house church. Hae-won’s father, who despite being an atheist went to prison for her grandfather’s faith, was forever changed by seeing Christians executed for refusing to deny Christ. Hae-won hasn’t forgotten about her homeland. Through VOM’s office in South Korea, she shares the love of Christ today with North Korean defectors in South Korea and across Asia. Although her grandfather kept his faith from the children in order to protect himself and the house church, he planted seeds in her heart that bore fruit decades later. “I realised that I came to Christ because of my grandfather’s prayers.”
After spending 445 days imprisoned in Sudan on false charges that included “espionage” and “waging war against the state,” long-time VOM staff member Petr Jasek is finally home with his family in Prague.
For nearly 15 months, Petr was moved among five prisons in Khartoum, each worse than the last. Along the way, the Czech national shared a cell with drug smugglers, violent criminals and ISIS fighters, and he experienced physical and emotional abuse because of his Christian faith. Despite everything, he continually shared the Gospel with Sudanese, Eritrean and radical Muslim inmates, leading several men to Christ.
Just before being released, Petr spent three days in a cell without running water. This, he said, challenged him more than anything. He was sleep deprived for three days, as guards banged on his cell door to keep him awake, and mice crawled across his bed and body every time he lay down.
Petr recited Philippians 1:12 as he considered everything he has endured: Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. “This is amazing how the Lord has used my imprisonment for spreading His Gospel,” he said, “encouraging many believers, those who were prisoners for various reasons, but who dedicated their lives to Christ while we were there in prison and who are now serving the Lord.”
For more than 15 years, Petr has served persecuted Christians as a field leader with VOM, travelling regularly into the world’s most hostile areas and restricted nations.
Though he lost 25 kilos in prison, an intensive medical examination following his release revealed no health problems whatsoever. Petr considers this to be a miracle. He didn’t expect this considering several fellow inmates had contracted malaria, and there was a cholera outbreak in the prison.
Authorities arrested Petr in December 2015 after he visited Sudanese Christians and provided a small gift to help with a man’s medical treatment. Three Sudanese men, Rev Kuwa Shamaal, Rev Hassan Abduraheem and Mr Abdulmonem Abdumawla, were also arrested. Petr received a life sentence, which in the Sudanese system amounted to 20 years for espionage and four years for additional charges.
Rev Shamaal was released on grounds of insufficient evidence. Rev Abduraheem and Mr Abdumawla remain behind bars, each serving a 12-year-sentence.
Petr saw evidence of the Sudanese church being emboldened by their circumstances in prison. Christian brothers and sisters from Khartoum, the Nuba Mountains and elsewhere in Sudan came to the courthouse during their trials. As police tried to prevent them from approaching the building, the believers sang Christian songs.
“While we were waiting for the court hearing, we were in the court prison and we could clearly hear the voices and we had tears in our eyes, especially the pastors from the Nuba Mountains, while we were listening to these songs behind some walls and barbed wire,” Petr recalled. “It was really great encouragement for us.”
Petr also found comfort knowing Christians around the world were praying for him. He is grateful for all who prayed and fasted for his safety, health, ability to witness and release.
“I can tell you how important it is for a prisoner to know people are praying,” he said. “I personally have made the commitment to the Lord that I will be praying daily for those who are prisoners, everybody, because it is so important. We all needed prayers from you.”
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Thank the Lord for the way he protected and strengthened Petr while he was in prison.
- Praise God for using Petr’s imprisonment to penetrate the darkness of the prison and bring several men to an understanding of the Gospel. Pray these men will grow in faith.
- Pray for Pastor Hassan Abduraheem and Abdulmonem Abdumawla; pray they too will be released from prison. Ask God to strengthen and protect them.