“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.
Just recently, on 25 April, Australia commemorated ANZAC day. ANZAC day is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during the First World War.
As I was watching historical footage and documentaries on a soldier’s life in trenches and the courage and sacrifice made during that war, my thoughts flashed back to the ultimate sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for us, as well as the millions of Christians who are paying the ultimate price for following Christ. They work in church planting ministries, sowing the seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of unbelievers, as well as training the next generation of Bible college students to further advance Christ’s kingdom. They are bringing the message of hope and peace to a world that has been at war and chaos since the fall of man.
Reading back over VOM Australia’s April 2016 newsletter made me understand how important it is as a Christian to support our brothers and sisters standing on the front lines of persecution. VOM’s Front Line Ministry helps deliver resources and training to assist pastors with sharing the Gospel in hostile areas. Our prayer and support is needed.
These courageous individuals are bringing hope and change by sharing Christ’s love in these dark areas of the world. They are soldiers of Christ. Their weapons? Just their faith and their Bible.
Whenever I read about Christians like Hadi in our newsletter, who was beaten for sharing the Gospel in India, I compare them to the ANZAC soldiers who died for our freedom. These believers are the unsung heroes of Christianity. They are bringing the power of the Gospel and the freedom that comes from it to every corner of the earth. May we continue to remember them in our thoughts and in our prayers. May our faith continue to be strengthened by their testimonies and their stories.
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Boko Haram is seeking a ransom of nearly $75 million for the release of the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped from the Nigerian town of Chibok two years ago, sources close to the group have reported.
The terror sect is thought to have issued the demand during secret contacts with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has said he is willing to negotiate for the girls’ freedom.
The group’s leader, Abubakr Shekau, had previously demanded the release of jailed comrades in exchange for the girls. But a deal along those lines – brokered by the Red Cross – fell through after Nigerian prison officials said that commanders on a list given to them by Boko Haram were not in their custody.
Details of the new ransom request emerged ahead of the second anniversary of the girls kidnapping on the night of 14 April 2014, when they were abducted by Boko Haram gunmen posing as soldiers.
The Nigerian military has made significant gains against Boko Haram in the last 18 months, raiding a number of the sect’s camps in Nigeria’s vast Sambisa forest, and freeing at least 1,000 women and children taken in other mass abductions.
Yet in none of the raids have any rescued prisoners or captured fighters been able to give any convincing accounts of meeting or seeing any of the Chibok girls.
This indicates they are still being kept well away from other captives, and that their kidnappers see them as having huge symbolic value as hostages – thanks partly to the global attention the kidnappings received.
Recently, Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters launched “Operation Safe Corridor,” a program to rehabilitate repentant Boko Haram fighters through camps where they will be offered jobs and training in return for undergoing biometric profiling.
The military said some 800 fighters had already signed up for the program, and that other camps would open across north-east Nigeria in coming months.
Source: The Sunday Telegraph
- Pray the Lord will minister to and strengthen those who are being held against their will. Pray they will soon be liberated, restored to life and start the process of healing.
- Pray the Lord would help those involved in bringing an end to the violence and protecting the civilian population. May He bless them with wisdom, strength and discernment. Pray the Lord will lead them.
- Thank the Lord for the gains made so far; pray for the success of the rehabilitation program. May many more Boko Haram members leave their life of evil behind.
NIGERIA: Pray for Danjuma’s Upcoming Eye Surgery
NIGERIA: ‘Suicide Bomber’ Claims to be Missing Schoolgirl
NIGERIA: More Villagers Killed by Fulani militants
Islamic State has released the last group of Assyrian Christians being held hostage in the Syrian Province of Hasakah. Forty-three individuals were released, signalling the end of the hostage situation in Hasakah – namely, the members of the Assyrian Church.
Those released are now reunited with their families, many of whom are under 10 years old. The Islamic State-affiliated group in Hasakah kidnapped hundreds of Assyrian Christians last year, but has been working through negotiations with the Assyrian Church of the East to secure the hostage release in return for ransom. Although there are still hostages in the south-western region of Syria, this final release of the Hasakah Province hostages is an immense blessing to the Assyrian Christians who have been tormented by their loved ones’ kidnappings.
Sources: International Christian Concern, Middle East Concern
• Pray all those who have been released will know the Lord’s comfort, healing and restoration and those displaced will know the Lord’s care and provision.
• Pray those who remain captive will be strengthened and delivered by the Lord.
• Pray the violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria.
SYRIA: Assyrian Christians Released
Pastor Bongo Martin was brutally killed on 23 December when he and other members of his church resisted the efforts of local militant Muslims to take over their land in the Namutumba district.
The 32-year-old church leader was attacked with a sword after protesting about a fence that had been put up in an attempt to encroach on part of the church’s land in Nansololo village. The opposing locals had previously complained several times, believing that the church was not far enough away from their mosque.
Just days prior to this, five Christians in the Budaka district had died after eating food laced with pesticide following a Bible study meeting in Kachomo, a predominantly Muslim village.
The study group leader and host, Hajii Suleiman Sajjabi, is presently in a coma. Four of those who died were his relatives, and the fifth was a pregnant woman. Prior to the poisoning, Hajii had been reprimanded by a local imam for distributing Bibles in the community.
Sources: Morning Star News, Release International
- Please uphold Pastor Bongo’s wife and two children in prayer, as well as his congregation. May God sustain these believers in their time of shock and grief.
- Pray for Hajii that he may make a complete physical recovery. Pray the Lord will help him to come to terms with such a loss.
- May the militants responsible for both of these crimes come to repentance, recognising their own need of God’s mercy and salvation.
UGANDA: Young Woman Beaten and Disowned
UGANDA: Two Christians Killed
UGANDA: Abuse Perpetrated Against Women of Faith