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Susan Persecuted at age 13 in Uganda

Susan Persecuted at age 13 in Uganda

The thin, 13-year-old girl shifted painfully in the dark, trying to remember how long she had been locked up. Although she wasn’t exactly sure, she knew it had been months. Her stomach rumbled with hunger, and she hoped that her brother might soon slip another roasted banana under the door. Her father hadn’t fed her since locking her in the cramped space.

Soon after Susan Ithungu came to know Christ in 2009, her Muslim father began to beat her, once even threatening to kill her with a knife. After trying for months to persuade Susan to deny Christ, he finally locked her in a small space in their mud shanty. Six months passed before neighbours realised what was happening to Susan and notified the police, who rescued her and took her to a hospital.

A pastor who visited her immediately after her rescue said she was extremely thin and unable to walk or talk. “Her hair had turned yellow, she had long fingernails and sunken eyes, and she looked very slim, less than 21 kilograms,” he said.

Abused and rejected
Sadly, Susan’s story is not unique in Uganda. While 85% of the country’s population is Christian, those who convert from Islam to Christianity face persecution and physical abuse from family members.

Susan suffered from untreated malaria while locked away in the small room, and the months of calcium deficiency affected her growing bones. After two major operations on her left femur, she can now walk with crutches.

VOM paid Susan’s medical bills and provided funds that enabled her to travel to a hospital in Kenya. We also provided living expenses for her and her Christian caregiver, Dreda.

She and Dreda relocated to another village, where Susan is protected from her father.

Through all of her difficulties, Susan has held onto her faith. “I feel very well,” she said with a smile, “because I’m now with Christ.”

A VOM worker who visited Susan said she remains faithful but is experiencing some new challenges with her bones. She is scheduled to return to Kenya for a review of her condition and additional care.

“This girl has gone through a tough time,” the VOM worker said. “She has, however, stood firm no matter what she had to go through, including rejection by her father and subjection to walking with crutches. She has pulled through and is growing stronger in the Lord every moment.”

I am still strong
Those who have cared for Susan have helped her realise that God will never leave her in her time of need. Thanks to VOM supporters, she is finishing Year 7 at a school equipped to handle her special physical needs and getting her life back on track. Susan shares her story in churches around the country and encourages other believers to continue to pray for persecuted Christians. She hopes to someday be able to share the Gospel with her father and others who hurt her.

“I am happy with life now,” she said.

“I did not know that I will be back to school. Whenever I was taken to hospital, I knew my life would be even harder, but God is great. I am still strong. Thank you so much for looking after my life. Your money and prayers are so good to me. Please continue praying for me. I want to study hard and get to university so that I can also help other people who are like me. May God bless you so much.”

Dreda, Susan’s caregiver, said that she, too, is grateful for the help VOM has given Susan.

“Since VOM came in to support her, we have been so fine,” she said. “We have been to the hospital many times because of Susan’s health, but God is faithful because the support we receive has been sufficient to cover us. Thank you for the love, and may God be with you always.”

VOM continues to help children like Susan, who are abused or abandoned by their parents after coming to faith in Christ.

THIRTEEN THREE Resource Kit

THIRTEEN THREE Resource Kit

Thirteen Three is committed to encourage the next generation of Australian youth to be bound with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. We want to empower and inspire youth to live out the importance of Hebrews 13:3 by remembering the persecuted church.

To help your youth group achieve this, we have enclosed our new Thirteen Three Resource Kit for 2017.

Included in the resource kit you will find:
Games booklet
Activity booklet
Map
‘Gifts of Change’ money box
‘Gifts of Change’ poster

As a bonus, we have also included a USB drive which contains video resources.

These resources have been designed to equip you to run individual activities or entire programs for your youth group which focus on a deeper understanding of the cost and worth of following Christ, develop a commitment to upholding the persecuted church in prayer, and provide an opportunity for youth to make an impact through giving.

ENGLAND: Extreme Love for God’s Word

ENGLAND: Extreme Love for God’s Word

In the sixteenth century, King Philip II took a hard line against those who would try to interpret Scripture for themselves. Anyone found studying the Bible during this time was hanged, burned at the stake, drowned, torn in pieces, or buried alive. The inquisitors from the king were sent to inspect the house of the mayor of Brugge to see if any Bible studies were taking place there. In their search, they discovered a Bible. All present denied knowing anything about it. Then a young maidservant came in. When asked about the Bible, she declared, “I am reading it!”

The mayor sought to defend her saying, “Oh, no, she doesn’t know how to read.” But the maidservant did not wish to be defended by a lie. “It is true, this book is mine. I am reading from it, and it is more precious to me than anything!” She was sentenced to die by suffocation, sealed in the city wall. Just before her execution, she was asked by an official, “So young and beautiful and yet to die?” She replied, “My Saviour died for me. I will also die for him.”

When finally one single brick remained to complete the wall, she was told again, “Repent! Just say a single word of repentance!”
Instead she voiced her single desire to be with Jesus and added, “O Lord, forgive my killers!”

To some it is simply a book—a best-seller for years running at that. To others it is merely a family tradition—given at weddings, births, and funerals. Still to others, it is God’s holy and inspired Word. These believers cling to the words as if they were letters from a lover, pouring over them again and again. What do they see in the truth of God’s Word? What makes them willing to risk death to read it? Ask God for the answer. If its truths remain a mystery to you, ask God to open your eyes to see his words more clearly. Without his help, the words will remain marks on a page. But God can bring them to life.

Taken from Voice of the Martyrs book Extreme Devotion:
http://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/

RUSSIA: Extreme Birthday Parties

RUSSIA: Extreme Birthday Parties

“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:
http://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/

 

ROME: Extreme Saint St Nicholas

ROME: Extreme Saint St Nicholas

“Don’t do it,” Nicholas yelled as he saw the executioner lift his sword to kill another prisoner. “He’s done nothing to deserve this.” The man was about to be executed for his faith in Jesus Christ. Nicholas bravely grabbed the executioner’s sword before it penetrated the prisoner’s flesh.

“Have it your way Nicholas . . . I have many others to kill today.” The executioner spat as he walked away and resumed his duties elsewhere. Nicholas boldly spoke up for Christ at a difficult time in history. In the year 303, Emperor Diocletian began one of the most brutal persecutions
of Christians. So many Christians were killed that the executioners were exhausted and took turns at their work.

Nicholas was branded with hot irons. He survived terrible beatings from the guards. And he endured other torture as well—simply for refusing to deny that Jesus is the Son of God. How could he deny the one who was so real to him? Nicholas remained resolute in the midst of great injustice.

After being released from prison, he spent the rest of his life establishing orphanages and protecting poor children. He was committed to advancing the gospel of Christ in creative ways. Once, he even threw money wrapped in a stocking through the window of a home of two very poor girls so they would not be sold to a house of prostitution.

Many years after his death, Nicholas was affectionately called St. Nicholas. For many children, the night before Christmas is the most magical night of the year as they await a visit from Santa Claus, a caricature of St. Nicholas. The real life story behind St. Nicholas is much more heroic and loving than most children could even dream. Think about your own life’s story. Do people know the truth about your faith in Jesus Christ? Or do they merely know you as an affectionate and unusually moral person? Although Santa Claus is not real, St. Nicholas was and you must be too. You may not feel like a saint, but the world needs real examples of resolute Christians. What will you do today to live your faith in a real way?

Taken from Voice of the Martyrs book Extreme Devotion:
http://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/