For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
As you remember Christ's sacrifice and celebrate his resurrection, please pray for our persecuted family around the world.
Recently a VOM team visited with persecuted Christians in Nigeria, where they met with and ministered to persecuted Christians, including children and widows. Included in the team was a group of women specially trained to minister to and encourage widows.
Here are some highlights of their trip.
Please pray for Christians in Nigeria.
Pastor Behnam Irani has endured a number of trials and suffered during his imprisonment at Ghezel Hesar Prison located in Iran. After nearly two years of suffering from an intestinal disorder and being very ill, Pastor Behnam was finally taken for surgery on Feb. 22 and he is reported to be doing well as he continues to recuperate in his prison cell — where he was taken about four days after the operation. And as he has been in recovery, secret police seized his only Bible as well as other Christian books.
Just a few days ago, we also heard from readers who have reported that the letters they have sent to Pastor Behnam are being returned. Although marked “insufficient address,” our contacts assure us that the address is correct. They implore you to continue to write to the pastor.
But why write if my letters aren’t going to get there?
Even while your letters may be returned, we know from other prisoners like Maryam and Marziyeh, who were held in the women’s ward of Evin Prison, that the guards may report the volume of letters to Pastor Behnam. Though he may not be able to hold the letter and read it for himself, news of your love will encourage him.
The letters also tell officials that Christians are watching how the pastor is being treated. The letters and your prayers may have helped to convince authorities to ensure that Pastor Behnam was treated for his abdominal problems, where medical problems are often overlooked. Prisoners, especially Christians, are treated poorly.
The pastor has a wife and two young children. His daughter and son both miss their father, who has been in prison since May, 2011. Prisons in Iran are dark places. In a letter to the church dated October 2012, Pastor Behnam wrote, “Here in the jail, most of the prisoners are addicted to many types of illegal drugs, especially crystal meth.” Very few have hope of any kind.
He goes on in his letter and exhorts the church to remember, “No matter how dark it is around you, it is important for you to keep shining, and to let the light of your love be generously offered.” This light, he says is truly found in Jesus.
Pray that although Pastor Benham’s Bible has been taken he will continue to be a light to those in a very dark place, both his fellow prisoners as well as the guards. Pray that guards would report to him the letters he is getting and would take notice that Christians are watching.
Write a letter today at prisoneralert.com in hopes that he is able to receive encouraging words from you.
“Ann Kay” is a writer for VOM. She learned about VOM five years ago when she read Tortured for Christ and began receiving the newsletter. She is passionate about reaching the world for Christ and sharing stories of the persecuted church.
Leah stood among the congregation in the church in South Sudan, singing beautiful praises to God. Christian workers visiting the church noticed her right away. They saw that Leah was blind and sickly, and she wore old clothing.
“Leah is a strong Christian,” the pastor later told the visiting workers.
“Why don’t you help her more?” one worker asked some of the Christians in the congregation. “She’s blind and sick, and she needs clothes!”
But God has not left Leah alone. He has given her a very special helper. Leah has a 5-year-old daughter. Leah’s daughter has learned to lead her mother around. She is her mother’s guide.
The visitors saw Leah’s daughter standing faithfully by Leah’s side. The girl held onto her mother with one hand, and she clutched a Bible in her other hand. Close to her mother, she is learning to sing praises to God even in the most difficult circumstances. That can be a hard lesson for any Christian to learn, but God has given Leah’s daughter a very good teacher.
What We Don’t Tell Children
VOM’s Kids of Courage resources have told the story of Leah and her daughter. From the story, children learn that people don’t have to live in comfortable circumstances to joyfully sing praises to the Lord. They learn that God cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), often through others, even children.
When children have already learned about bold believers who suffer, they may not be any less grieved by harsher stories of persecution when they are adults. But they may be less likely to blame God and to have their faith shaken when they encounter the persecution.
After they get older, they can learn more about how Leah’s village was attacked by Muslims from the North about six years before the visiting Christians arrived.
Most of the people in the village fled, but Leah couldn’t see where to run. Her daughter—her guide, her blessing—was the result of the Muslims’ attack on her that day. “Love your enemies” and “Pray for those who persecute you” surely take on new dimensions when you’re forced to bear your enemy’s child.
We don’t tell children that part of the story. But we can help prepare them to hear it later when they can again be reminded that people don’t have to wait until they are in comfortable situations to praise the Lord, and that God cares for us in our struggles.
VOM’s Kids of Courage resources help parents and educators teach children ages 5 to 13 about persecuted Christians around the world, and provide opportunities for children to serve and pray for them. Learn more at www.kidsofcourage.com.