Within the past 48 hours VOM workers have received good news about two of the prisoners that have been listed on www.PrisonerAlert.com.
First, we heard that Chhedar Bhote was released from prison last week in Nepal. On July 17, a court declared Chhedar not guilty on the charge of eating beef (remember that Nepal is a mostly-Hindu country).
Then, this morning, we learned that Meriam Ibrahim and her family had landed safely in Rome, Italy, after finally being allowed to leave Sudan. They are on their way to the United States, where Meriam’s husband, Daniel Wani, is a naturalized citizen.
We praise God for these victories! And we are thankful for all those who logged on to Prisoner Alert and wrote letters to the Christians in prison, as well as to government officials in their countries asking for their release.
This is truly a day to praise the Lord! It is also a day to remember those still being held captive for their faith. May the great, positive outcomes of these two cases remind us to keep praying and keep writing and keep speaking out on behalf of those still in prison.
“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3
Children carry loads of joy into our lives. Their zest for life, their uncontained excitement when receiving a gift and their willingness to quickly make friends all produce a remarkable sense of wonder!
I love meeting children in the field. Maybe it’s because my five children are not that young anymore. I miss the days when they would run down the hall when I returned from work, almost knocking me over with excitement and hugs.
Nearly every parent remembers a day when they first realized that their “baby” really wasn’t a baby any more. They grow up fast!
But, how many of us testify today that it was sometime during those young, formative years when we first trusted Christ?
By God’s grace, The Voice of the Martyrs has delivered tens of thousands of children’s resources to some of the most difficult places on earth, specifically reaching children between the ages of four and fourteen.
This month, I was in Nepal as part of one of these distributions. As we neared our destination, a brother met us on the side of the highway, climbed into our vehicle and asked us to turn into the jungle.
As we drove through the dense foliage for several kilometers we encountered a different type of traffic jam—women carrying bundles of sticks on their backs, bicycles loaded with leafy brush, cows, goats, and even a monkey scurrying across the road!
We turned a corner, entering into a cleared area and saw people moving in one direction. The guest that we picked up earlier on the side of the road began calling out the window announcing our arrival.
With knowing glances, as if they had been anticipating this visit for some time, men and women climbed onto bicycles and began to pedal behind us for the remainder of our journey. Children began running down the road with giant smiles on their faces.
After the driver determined that it was unwise to drive any further down the path, we piled out of the vehicle and began to unload boxes. It wasn’t a problem getting the boxes to the meeting place. There were plenty of ready hands!
After a few lively songs, I stood up to remind these dear sisters and brothers that they are not alone. I told them that many Americans are praying for Nepal, because we know how difficult it is to be a Christian there. We will continue to stand with them.
I also asked them to pray for us, because it is also difficult to be a Christian in America, although in different ways.
Finally, I told them that it was a joy to meet them face-to-face and that I long for the day when we will share eternity together, swapping stories of how God was at work in each of our lives.
With that, the distribution began! Children beamed from ear to ear as they each received a gift that will draw them back to God’s Word again and again and that will also be shared with many other children…
Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He has ministered in 35 countries, as diverse as Cuba, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Nigeria. Before joining VOM’s team, Jason was a faculty member of the Air Force Chaplain Corps College, where he directed Crisis and Trauma training. He also completed a one-year residency at a Level I Trauma Center and has utilized his experience as a trauma responder to offer practical and spiritual assistance to those who are suffering. Jason and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, consider it a great honor to serve alongside the persecuted church.
When Jesus said “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24), he had a specific thing in mind but Christians over the centuries have broadened it to the point where it has lost its original meaning and intent. Christians tend to think of any trial or difficulty as “their cross.” Usually this means that life has thrown them a curve and they are suffering because of it. For some, being mildly discomforted is to bear their cross!
What Jesus was referring to was the intentional acceptance of some difficulty or likely suffering to fulfill the mission God has called us to do. In other words, we choose to do something that has not been thrust upon us by life, but we intentionally choose to accept it because it is our calling. Immediately the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer comes to mind. He was in the United States teaching when things were deteriorating in pre-World War II Germany. He could have stayed—safe and secure in his teaching job and no one (at least Americans) would have questioned his wisdom. But, he chose to go back to Germany to suffer with the church during very difficult years. As a result of that choice, he died as a prisoner in a concentration camp.
One of the prisoners in VOM’s Prisoner Profiles (www.PrisonerAlert.com) is Gao Zhisheng, the human rights lawyer who intentionally takes on cases on behalf of Chinese Christians. He has suffered greatly and intensely for his choice. Still, in spite of all his imprisonments and beatings and deprivation, he continues his campaign. He says: “Not only is it now extremely difficult for me to make my voice heard, but it is also extremely dangerous.” So why doesn’t he back off and be quiet? Because he has chosen to take on this mission and the consequences of it are part of his commitment. He has truly taken up his cross.
I once overheard a church official speak disparagingly of a decision of a pastor of a large and successful church resigning to begin a ministry in the inner city. The pastor was a great success and his life was safe and secure. Why, the official thought out loud, would a person give up such a great ministry for an extremely difficult and perhaps dangerous one? The pastor intentionally followed God’s will for him even when it seemed (to observers) to be a bad career move! He took up his cross and followed Jesus. In God’s sight, a bad career move is not following Him!
I wonder what mission does God wish you to intentionally take on?
YOUR TURN: In the comments to this post share a time you chose to sacrifice something or take a difficult path to answer God's call or take on a special mission for His Kingdom.
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.