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.
Ancient Israel comprised 12 tribes camping around the tabernacle. In the same way, Christianity has always contained various camps, tribes and denominations, often closely related and working together for the Kingdom. One of the fastest-growing in early America was the Freewill Baptists of New England, started when New Hampshire’s Benjamin Randall was converted in 1770. Freewill Baptists aggressively pursued evangelism and education in Northeast America and were among the loudest voices against slavery.
The extension of the movement overseas was ignited by a handful of old wrapping paper.
The General Baptists of England had sent Amos Sutton to India in 1830 as a missionary doctor. The load was too great, and his American wife, worried about his health, suggested he write to Freewill Baptists, appealing for help. Sutton immediately penned a long letter ending with, “Come, then, my American brethren, come over and help us.”
Unfortunately, Sutton had no address for the Freewill Baptists, so his letter rested in his desk many months. One day he received a package and, opening it, saw a fragile item wrapped in discarded newspaper. The paper proved more valuable than the gift, for it was the Morningstar, publication of the Freewill Baptists. Dr. Sutton immediately posted his letter to the listed address. The Freewill Baptist Foreign Mission Society was soon established, and Sutton made a dramatic visit to New Hampshire. Pale and emaciated, he told 3,000 assembled Christians, “As I arise to speak, I seem to see the millions in India with bended knees and tearful eyes, saying, ‘Sir, plead our cause—plead it effectually!’” He did, returning to India with 21 workers. Many of them died, others suffered greatly, but still more followed. And on April 14, 1839 the first small Freewill Baptist chapel in India was dedicated to Christ to accommodate the new converts.
“Could the friends of missions have witnessed our little assembly quietly seated on their mats, listening to the Word of eternal life with serious attention,” wrote a missionary, “they would have rejoiced with us, and would have praised the name of that God who had here made room for us.”
The person that mailed the gift to Dr. Sutton may have never known the impact of the discarded paper that he wrapped it in. Yet in God’s sovereignty that “trash” led to souls being won in India. Has God ever used something unique or something the world would see as rubbish to guide you or assist you in finding His will? Please share your story in the comments to this post.
Story excerpted from “On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes” by Robert J. Morgan. Disclosure: VOM is part of the Amazon Associates program. If you click on the links in this post and purchase the book from Amazon, VOM will receive a very small percentage of your purchase as a referral fee.