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Persecution Blog
The Voice of the Martyrs' blog, sharing powerful stories and timely information that invites and inspires American Christians into fellowship with their persecuted family around the world.

Living Testimonies in Bangladesh
2016-05-16T13:03:00-05:00

Brother Sean oversees VOM's work in South Asia. As he prepared for a recent trip to Bangladesh, word came that a pastor there had just been martyred for his Christian witness. Listen as Sean discusses his thoughts as he went to meet members of that pastor's family and the challenges they and other families of martyrs still face each day.

You'll also be encouraged and amazed by the story of "Stephen;" he was shot in the face, stabbed and had his throat slit, but survived to continue preaching the gospel in his village! Learn how VOM helped Stephen and helps other persecuted Christians in Bangladesh, how our international staff members make decisions about the best ways to provide help, and how you can pray for a nation where less than one percent of the population knows Jesus.

 

Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the VOM Radio podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

 

 

Tuesday Prayers
2016-05-13T13:19:45-05:00

Prayer_Requests
By now, I hope you know that prayer is foundational to VOM. We're constantly asking for it on behalf of persecuted Christians, but did you know that we're also praying for you?

Every week, staff members in VOM's Readers Services department compile a list of everyone they talk to who may have a need. Every Tuesday, that list is printed and distributed to staff during our weekly chapel time. As we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, we also pray for our readers. Then, those lists are posted in the breakrooms, elevators and other common areas '" all so we can continue to pray.

We serve a God who knows our every need, and yet we're also encouraged to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) and to be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). So please: if you have a need, let us pray for you. You can send us an email or call (877) 337-0302. And don't forget to remember our brothers and sisters, too.

Dory P. has worked with VOM for nine years. Dory tells the stories of the persecuted through VOM's newsletter, and her husband serves in VOM's international department. Between Dory, her husband, five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, the family shares seven passports, though they know their ultimate citizenship is in heaven.

Finding God in a Refugee Camp
2016-05-11T14:28:00-05:00

'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.

BrookekidsThe 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 ISIS 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 honored 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 ISIS, 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 serves on the staff of VOM as the leader for women's ministry and student outreach. She has worked in 16 different countries and is passionate about helping expand God's kingdom throughout the world.

Pray for India
2016-05-10T15:49:00-05:00

The prayer focus for Secret Church this year was on the nation of India. Why choose India? India's 1.2 billion people include members of all of the world's major religions, and the country also been a hotspot for Christian persecution in recent years.

LalMohar-JPEGThough there are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists in India, more than 80 percent of the population is Hindu. For many Indians, to be Indian is also to be Hindu. Hindu radical groups throughout the country reinforce this notion by beating Christians, burning churches, trying to force believers to undergo Hindu reconversion ceremonies and throwing Christians in prison. Many pastors and evangelists have also been killed.

The rise in persecution at the hands of Hindu nationalists is related in part to the nationalists' perceived fears of 'loosing' India. They see Christianity spreading and offering hope to people trapped in a caste system. They see the gospel giving Indians a way to know God by his grace only, not by works.

Please pray with us for India. Believers there know to expect persecution. Pray that they will remain bold. Pray that they will stay faithful during persecution, and that they would share the gospel with their neighbors without fear. Pray for good teaching and good leadership to help train new believers in their faith, so they grow deep roots that will sustain them in difficult times.

And pray for the persecutors: members of government, community members and family members, who make things difficult for new believers. Pray that the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to the truth about Hinduism and to the goodness of our loving God. We've heard many testimonies about Hindu extremists who've been completely changed through Jesus; pray for more of these conversions.

Dory P. has worked with VOM for nine years. Dory tells the stories of the persecuted through VOM's newsletter, and her husband serves in VOM's international department. Between Dory, her husband, five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, the family shares seven passports, though they know their ultimate citizenship is in heaven.

"When You Carry a Cross" in Pakistan
2016-05-09T21:45:24-05:00

Brother "Samuel" leads a media ministry in Pakistan, reaching out to Muslims with the gospel of Christ. It isn't always a popular message: Samuel has been threatened, his staff has been beaten and his office has been attacked. Charges under Pakistan's blasphemy law are a constant threat.

But God is at work! Muslims are accessing ministry resources and meeting Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Listen as Samuel shares the challenges of serving Christ in Pakistan'-"anything can happen at any time"'-and how he constantly re-commits himself and his family to the ministry that God has called them to, whatever the cost may be.

In spite of the danger, Samuel says it a privilege and joy to see God standing with them and see Muslims coming to faith in Christ. Your faith will be strengthened as Brother Samuel shares this week on VOM Radio.

 

Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the VOM Radio podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

REPOST: The Only Intercessor
2016-05-06T12:54:00-05:00

Kris kept a little notebook on hand. The Name Notebook. On her trip through several Muslim countries, she met dozens of people. At a salon, Kris took the names of the beauticians she met. From bathroom cleaners to teenagers sitting beside her in a coffee shop, if she got to know them personally, she asked their names and wrote them down in the Name Notebook. Why? To pray for them.

Muslim_girl
As believers, we have many people praying for us: perhaps Bible study leaders, parents, and friends from church. But most Muslims don't have that privilege. If you know a Muslim by name, have you ever considered that you may be the only praying Christian in his life? Perhaps no one else but you is bringing him before our Father God, interceding for him in prayer.

If Jesus has made you right with God, you are particularly poised to intercede for Muslims in a powerful and effective way (James 5:16). Petition, prayer, intercession and praise in the name of Jesus draws on the authority of His Name as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Don't know how to begin praying? Like Kris, you could record the name of any Muslim you meet and begin to pray for his salvation. Or, if you meet a Muslim, you could pray with him right then and there! First ask his permission then pray aloud a simple prayer of blessing upon him, his business, or his family. 

If you know a Muslim by name, have you ever considered that you may be the only praying Christian in his life?

Or maybe your new friend has an immediate need, like Abdullah did. I met Abdullah on his way home to visit an ailing sister. After listening with concern, I asked for his sister's name. Sara. 'I will pray for Sara to be well.' I went on to explain, 'Jesus the Messiah has power and authority to heal our bodies as well as our hearts.'

Perhaps you don't know any Muslims personally? Then pray through the Middle East news, naming specific Muslim dignitaries, authors and artists. Or pray through VOM's newsletter. As you come upon the name of a Muslim persecutor, or someone's hostile family member, could you find it in your heart to pray for him? First repent of any hatred you might be harboring (Psalm 66:18) and then pray for his salvation.

I heard of a man who walks around a mosque in his city once a week, interceding for the Muslims who worship there. He prays for Jesus to reveal himself in an undeniable way in their lives. Quietly and simply, with no banners or megaphones, he asks the Lord for a harvest of souls among Muslims in his city.

There are many ways to go about praying for Muslims. You might even start a Name Notebook like Kris. However you pray, know a unique privilege is yours: you could be the first believer to truly intercede on that Muslim's behalf.

Your turn: What creative ways have you discovered for intercession? Are there specific Muslim friends you pray for regularly? Please share in the comments to this post.

"Anna" blogs about friendship, culture, and Kingdom-living from her home in the Middle East. She loves Jesus and wants to see Him cherished by her neighbors and people everywhere. Anna is a pseudonym, and all names in her posts are changed for security reasons.

Jesus Freaks Radio: Psalm 13 Lament
2016-05-05T13:40:00-05:00
Each month VOM produces "The Jesus Freaks Minute," a daily radio-PSA that shares the stories of the persecuted church with Christian radio listeners all over the United States and around the world. Here's the script for one of the recent spots, a spot entitled simply, Psalm 13 Lament.

Old_Radio
[LYRICS:]
  What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak?  What will people do when they find that it's true?   (:09)

[TOBYMAC:]  Hey, this is TobyMac with truth every Jesus Freak should hear from The Voice of the Martyrs.

[TODD:]  A word for persecuted believers everywhere:  More than half of the Psalms confirm that God wants us to cry out to him '" even in despair.  And then ultimately to trust Him.

Psalm 13 begins with this lament:  'How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?'

Psalm 13 ends with this:  'But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me.'

For more from The Voice of the Martyrs, go online to persecution.com.

[YOUR TURN:] Have you ever echoed the Psalmist's cry: How long? Did you also come to the Psalmist's conclusion? "But I trust." Share your story in the comments to this post.

Photo credit: Vintage beauty II - Radio by monogatari via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

When Being Persecuted Means Staying Up All Night
2016-05-04T13:38:00-05:00

How does six-plus hours of Bible study on a Friday night sound to you?

As someone who works at a ministry dedicated to serving persecuted Christians, the first time I heard of Secret Church, I assumed it was an underground church simulation. Maybe you've participated in something similar. You know '" meeting in a 'secret' location, under the cover of darkness, singing softly so 'authorities' don't hear, possibly getting 'raided' by other church members dressed up in fatigues' that's what I thought Secret Church was.

And while those simulations are valuable to help us understand how Christians worshipped behind the Iron Curtain for many years, and even how some Christians worship today, that's not what Secret Church is. Instead, it's much closer to how most persecuted Christians actually practice their faith today. Those who work with persecuted believers recognize a need for these believers to be firmly rooted in God's Word and in good, Godly teaching. VOM is supporting these efforts in nearly every one of the 68 nations we work in.

The organization behind the Secret Church studies is dedicated to helping believers in American know God just as deeply as their persecuted brothers and sisters long to know him. It was born after founder David Platt found himself spending all-night teaching sessions with persecuted Christians.

VOM workers and contacts report similar stories. One particular partner regularly holds trainings for Khmu believers in Southeast Asia. Because their locations are so remote and so restricted, the believers' only regular Bible teaching comes via radio programs. They have few other resources. So when a group of 20 men and women come together in a secure place for study, they are eager.

Often the reports of these training sessions read: I taught from 8 a.m. with a 1 hour break each for lunch and dinner. As I started to wrap up the teaching at 9 p.m., the believers begged for more. Though I was so tired, I kept on teaching until 1 a.m. At 6 a.m., the students were already knocking on my door and pleading for me to start again.

What if you didn't have a study Bible? What if you didn't have a seminary-trained pastor? What if you had no access to thousands upon thousands of other Bible study resources available on the Internet?

That's reality for many of our persecuted brothers and sisters. And so when they have opportunity, they take it. Even if it means sequestering themselves in a rented house in the countryside for a week. Even if it means crossing borders to a less-restricted country for training. Even if it means meeting with other house church Christians and risking being found out by authorities.

We have those resources. Let's not squander them. Let's train ourselves and let's keep our persecuted family at the forefront of our mind by praying for them, by standing with them, by encouraging them and by helping them get the training they need to stand strong under pressure.

Dory P. has worked with VOM for nine years. She grew up in Ecuador, met her husband while working with another mission organization and now lives in Oklahoma. Dory tells the stories of the persecuted through VOM's newsletter, and her husband serves in VOM's international department. Between Dory, her husband, five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, the family shares seven passports, though they know their ultimate citizenship is in heaven.

Honoring a Martyr
2016-05-03T13:40:00-05:00

This post first appeared on the blog of our sister mission in Korea, VOM-Korea. It is written by Dr. Eric Foley, the CEO of that ministry.

I want to tell you about one of the great men of North Korea ministry upon the occasion of his martyrdom in Changbai, China this past Saturday, April 30, 2016.

His name was Pastor Han Chung-Ryeol (íì ©ë ).

He was 49 years old.

He was married, with one son and one daughter.

He was ethnically Korean but Chinese by birth and citizenship.

He was a pastor in the Three Self-Church.

He graduated from the East-North Theological Seminary in Shenyang, China.

When he was finishing seminary, elderly people called him to come visit Changbai to preach because they had no church. So he went there to preach a little bit. But he never stopped preaching there. He planted Changbai Church in 1993.

Changbai borders North Korea. And in 1993, North Korea was gripped by famine. North Koreans flooded across the border, looking for food, clothing, money, anything. It was rumored along the border in North Korea that if you went to a building with a cross on top, they would help you there.

In Changbai, there was one building with a cross on top. That was Pastor Han's church.

Pastor Han never sought to start a North Korea ministry any more than he sought to start a church in Changbai. He simply responded faithfully to whatever God gave him to do. So as North Koreans knocked on the door of his church, he gave them food, and clothing, and Christ. When North Koreans began to knock on the doors of the homes of people all over Changbai, Pastor Han trained ordinary people how to help North Koreans also.

There was a time when it was possible for Korean Chinese people to visit North Korea to see their relatives. Pastor Han's wife did. She even went to jail in North Korea for evangelizing North Koreans. But providentially in the same jail cell with her was a fellow prisoner, a kotjebi, or North Korean orphan, whom she and Pastor Han had once helped in China. The kotjebi was wearing layers and layers and layers of clothing, because every time the kotjebi needed to buy something, off would come a layer of clothing as payment. So the kotjebi provided Pastor Han's wife with enough clothing to stay warm in the cold prison cell, as a way of saying thanks.

What North Koreans always said about Pastor Han was that they could see his heart. That is far rarer in ministry than you might imagine, and it is especially rare in North Korea ministry. You can share food with North Korean people. You can share clothing. You can share the Gospel. You can give them lots of money and rice cookers. And you can throw big parties for them. But unless North Koreans can see your heart, unless the gospel is embodied in your life and not only your words or your business cards, they will never cross over the scary, shaky rope bridge over which we each of us must cross in order to move from the ideologies that enslave us, to enter the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Han was devoted to helping North Koreans enter the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of South Korea. He insisted that the North Koreans that he helped should return to their homes and their family and their country, not abandon them. He told us, 'Whether this person dies or not, they have to go back. If they die, God will honor them. But if they go to South Korea, they will turn their backs on God.' I believe this is why the Chinese authorities continued to permit Pastor Han to help North Koreans, no matter how frequently the North Korean government complained about him. Pastor Han was not a broker, not a human rights activist, not a guest on radio programs, not a speaker in pulpits. He was a pastor, and all he was doing was pastoring anyone who came to him. And then he would send them home.

In this and many other ways he was a wise man. Frankly, most workers in North Korean ministry end up losing their souls in this work. Bitterness inevitably corrodes their insides after they are betrayed by North Koreans and other North Korean workers enough times. They come to hate the North Korean government and start praying for its collapse and for North Korean officials to die. After a while they stop praying at all. They have to spend all their time on the phone, talking to North Koreans who need help, raising money, doing radio interviews, and, eventually, trying to cover up the sinful behavior they fall into because the work eats them up. They stop talking about the Messiah to North Koreans and instead become a messiah to the North Koreans they agree to help. Paradoxically, these North Koreans then become their god, because they serve them every waking moment as faithfully as a person can serve any idol, hoping to gain some sense of peace from placating the idol's wrath.

But Pastor Han did not fall into this trap because he started each day in morning prayer. He said that if he didn't pray, he couldn't do the work. God gave him a piercing sense of discernment, and people often commented about his sharp eyes. Those eyes kept him focused on Christ, and this kept him alive for a lot longer than anyone else could have survived in his situation.

Pastor Han was our partner in Changbai, and over the years he helped many other North Korean ministries as well. But I also appreciated that there were people whom he would not help. He would not help North Koreans defect. He would not help governments with their spying. And he would not accept money from ministries or individuals whose motivation was to 'buy' testimonies and stories from him that they could use for fundraising purposes. This happens a lot in North Korea work, and I note sadly that one of the people whose money Pastor Han consistently refused is already making the rounds this week, seeking to raise money ostensibly to help Pastor Han's family.

There was only one disagreement I ever had with Pastor Han, and I always wonder if I should have pushed it further with him. One of Pastor Han's deacons was kidnapped from inside China by North Korean agents in November 2014, taken back across the border to North Korea, imprisoned, and interrogated. I told Pastor Han that my experience with North Korean work has been that the best thing we can do in such a situation is to bring things to the light as quickly and loudly and broadly and publicly as possible. We go to the Lord, to the media, to the governments, and we say, 'Remember our brother who is in chains!' It's part of our Voice of the Martyrs heritage that we try to keep prisoners alive by advocating for them publicly. We never pay bribes or cut deals to get our workers out of prison.

But Pastor Han thought it best to try to deal with the situation quietly, through private channels. He knew that if we went public with the news about the deacon, his North Korean work in Changbai would have to close down or be transferred to someone else. I know he prayed about it. And I know he told us he would handle things himself. But he did agree to a whole new set of security precautions on which we insisted. He agreed not to drive along the border, not to go meet North Koreans alone who crossed the border and called, asking for his help.

When back inside North Korea the authorities started rounding up the North Korean people Pastor Han had helped in Changbai, we knew that information about the work had leaked. The last time we met in Korea, over the Chinese New Year holiday, we knew that North Korea had issued an order for Pastor Han to be kidnapped, brought to North Korea, and interrogated. But Pastor Han was his usual self. He talked soberly but without fear about returning to Changbai at the end of the holiday, and he was quite cheerful as he hung around our office and caught up on his phone calls. I can still recall him standing there, staring out the window in my office at nothing in particular as he talked very casually on the phone.  

On Saturday, April 30, 2016, at 2PM, Pastor Han left his church building in Changbai.

At 8PM, his body was found on the China side of the Changbai mountain, mangled nearly beyond recognition. There were multiple knife wounds on his stomach from repeated stabbings, and his head was chopped by an axe.

All of his belongings were confiscated, including his phone.

The North Koreans who killed Pastor Han returned to North Korea, as everyone who encountered Pastor Han always did. They reported their story about their encounter with him. I am sure their superiors were eager to receive this report, in every detail.

But all over North Korea tonight, there are others, countless others'

They are the North Koreans who every day since 1993 encountered Pastor Han. Kotjebi. Sex-trafficked women. Soldiers. Professors. Housewives. The famine-starved. They heard a story from Pastor Han and saw his heart. And this enabled them to accept his invitation to cross the rickety rope bridge in their mind that led them to the Kingdom of God. And this enabled them to return to North Korea with the story about their encounter with him. They shared it with their friends and family members, who I am sure were eager to receive their report, in every detail.

It is the story that is continued.

As Pastor Han would describe it, it is a story about how though you may die, God will honor you.

A story about how God never turns his back on you.

A story about how even when at last you are compassed on every side by your enemies, bloodied, and left to die in this world

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out.

Widow Shares How God Gave Grace to Forgive
2016-05-02T12:54:00-05:00

Semse Aydin's husband, Necati, was one of three Christian men martyred for their faith and ministry in Turkey. The next day, on national TV in Turkey, Semse offered forgiveness to her husband's killers, along with the widow of one of the other martyrs.

Listen to VOM Radio this week as she shares how the Holy Spirit enabled her to forgive, and how God has sustained her and her two children since she gave Necati to Jesus. You'll also hear how Necati dealt with family members who were still Muslims, and how he went to meet with his killers, even though he thought their motives might not be pure.

You'll be inspired by God's faithfulness and equipped to pray more for the nation of Turkey and for the families of martyrs this week on VOM Radio.

 

This interview with Semse was recorded live at a VOM Advance Conference; to find a conference in your area, visit VOMEvents.com.

Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the VOM Radio podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

 

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