42 posts categorized “Books”

April 14, 2014

Old Wrapping Paper Launches Mission Movement in India

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.” On This Day

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.


March 14, 2014

The Real Story of St. Patrick

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Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, a day Americans focus on good luck and all things Irish. But most of those celebrating don't know that the man for whom this day is named was a Christian persecuted because of his Christian actions.

The following comes from "A Note from the Author to Parents and Educators" that is included in The Story of St. Patrick: More Than Shamrocks and Leprechauns, a book for children published by VOM that tells the true story of St. Patrick’s Day.

Many celebrate Saint Patrick's Day on March 17th and hang pictures of shamrocks and mythical creatures called leprechauns. But who was St. Patrick, and why do we celebrate his life on this day?

Patrick lived a full life, but not without his share of suffering and adventure. He was born in Britain, in the fourth century A.D., during a time of great uncertainty for the Roman Empire. The Roman legions that once protected civilized Britain from barbaric invaders were called away to defend themselves in other regions of the Roman Empire. Therefore, Britain was left vulnerable to attacks.

Just before Patrick turned 16 years of age, he and his family were at their holiday villa by the sea, located outside the town of Bannaventa Berniae when Irish  pirates attacked it just before dawn. (Some say the villa was attacked during the day while Patrick played on the beach. Although Patrick's family escaped, Patrick and many of the family's workers did not; and soon they were en route to Ireland, where Patrick was sold as a slave to Miliuc of Slemich, a Druid tribal chieftain.

Patrick was given the task of a herdsman. Though raised in a Christian home (his father, Calpornius, was a civil magistrate and tax collector, as well as a church deacon), Patrick never made a decision to follow Christ until he was kidnapped and made a slave. In his autobiography called Confessions, Patrick wrote: “…‘the Lord opened my senses to my unbelief,’ so that though late in the day, I might remember my many sins; and accordingly ‘I might turn to the Lord my God with all my heart.’” He also wrote about how his faith in God grew as he prayed to Him while he shepherded the flocks: “But after l had come to Ireland, it was then that I was made to shepherd the flocks day after day, and, as l did so, I would pray all the time, right through the day. More and more the love of God and fear of him grew strong within me, and as my faith grew, so the Spirit became more and more active... In snow, in frost, in rain, I would hardly notice any discomfort, and I was never slack but always full of energy. It is clear to me now, that this was due to. . .the Spirit within me.”

But Patricks devotion to God did not go unnoticed. He soon earned the nickname "Holy Boy" among his fellow slaves.

One night Patrick had a dream, and in it he heard a voice saying do him, "You are right to fast, soon you will be returning to your own country." In another dream he received a response to the first dream, being told, “Come and see where your ship is waiting for you.” At the age of 22, Patrick escaped and traveled 200 miles to the coast of Ireland. Of his long journey across Ireland, he wrote: "I turned on my heel and ran away, leaving behind the man to whom I had been bound for six years. Yet I came away from him in the power of God, for it was he who was guiding my every step for the best. And so I felt not the least anxiety until I reached the ship.

When Patrick approached one of the men on the ship that was on the coast, he asked to board. The seaman scowled at him, so Patrick began to leave when the man called back to him, saying the other men wanted him on board as a passenger. Patrick wrote. "In spite of this, I still hoped that they might come to have faith in Jesus Christ."

The journey by boat was long, including a stop on land where they journeyed for 28 days. After having run out of food, the captain turned to Patrick and challenged him to ask his God for food. Glad to oblige, Patrick responded: "Turn trustingly to the Lord who is my God and put your faith in him with all your heart, because nothing is impossible to him. On this day, he will send us food sufficient for our journey, because for him there is abundance everywhere." According to Patrick’s autobiography, when the men turned around, a herd of pigs was standing before them. They feasted for days and gave thanks to God.

Two years later Patrick finally made it to his beloved Britain and into the arms of his mother and father who pled with him never to leave them again. Patrick began to settle back into his life in Britain and studied to become a priest and bishop. But one night Patrick had a dream of a man who seemed to come from Ireland and was carrying a letter with the words “The Voice of the Irish.” As Patrick began to read the words, he seemed to hear the voice of the same men he worked with as if they were shouting, “Holy broth of a boy, we beg you, come back and walk once more among us.”

But Patrick's plans to return to Ireland—the land of his captivity—were fiercely opposed by both his parents and the church leaders who, by the way, did not think the Druids were worth saving. His family shuddered at the thought of him returning to barbaric Ireland with the gospel, as the Druids were known to weave criminals and runaway  slaves into giant wicker baskets and suspend them over a fire. Of this opposition Patrick later wrote; “So at last I came here to the Irish gentiles to preach the gospel. And now I had to endure insults from unbelievers, to ‘hear criticism of my journeys’ and suffer many persecutions ‘even to the point of chains.’…And should I prove worthy, I am ready and willing to give up my own life, without hesitation, for his name…There was always someone talking behind my back and whispering, ‘Why does he want to put himself in such danger among his enemies who do not know God?’” Patrick had to sell his title of nobility in order to become the “slave of Christ serving the barbaric nation.”

While Patrick was in Ireland, he shared the gospel with his former slave owner, Miliuc the Druid. But instead of turning his back on his pagan gods, Miliuc locked himself in his house and set it on fire while Patrick stood outside the house and pled with him to turn to Christ. It is said Miliuc drowned out Patrick’s pleadings by crying out to his false gods.

But Miliuc's refusal to hear the gospel was just the beginning of Patrick’s challenges with the Druids as he spread the gospel across Ireland and taught the people how to read and write. One story that some believe is legend mentions Patrick challenging the Druid wizards in 433 A.D., on the vernal equinox, which occurred on Easter Sunday that year. Patrick challenged the wizards' power of control by starting a bonfire, which was central to the Druids’ ritual, on a hillside opposite of the barbaric idol-worshippers. Patrick was dragged before the Druid council where he had the opportunity to share about Jesus, the light of the world. Some Druids believed, and others tried to kill him.

Patrick continued his journey across Ireland. He preached at racetracks and other places of worldly indulgences, seeing many come to Christ. However, this was not without opposition. The Druids often tried to poison him. One time a barbarian warrior speared Patrick’s chariot driver to death in an attempt to kill Patrick. He was often ambushed at his evangelistic events, and it is noted that he was enslaved again for a short time. He had to purchase safe passage through a hostile warlord's land in order to continue on his journey. Another time Patrick and his companions were taken as prisoners and were going to be killed, but they were later released. In Confessions, Patrick wrote, “As every day arrives, I expect either sudden death or deception or being taken back as a slave or some such other misfortune. But I fear none of these, since I look to the promise of heaven and have flung myself into the hands of the all-powerful God, who rules as Lord everywhere.”

Patrick journeyed throughout Ireland, sharing Christ until his death on March 17th, around the year 461 A.D. Later Irish mythological creatures known as leprechauns would creep into the holiday celebrations, as well as the symbol of the shamrock, believed to have been used by Patrick to illustrate the Trinity as he preached and taught. Some legends have circulated stating Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Since there are no snakes in Ireland and snakes often symbolize the devil and evil, many believe the "snakes" were a metaphor representing his work of driving the idol-worshipping Druid cult out of the country.

Enslavement, torture, imprisonment and death for one's faith in Christ were not confined to Patrick’s lifetime. Today Christians in communist nations like China, Vietnam and Cuba are imprisoned if caught sharing the gospel with fellow countrymen. In Sudan, a Christian boy named Demare was kidnapped by militant Muslims and sold as a slave. And in Vietnam, when members of some tribal groups have come to Christ, they destroy the altars used to pray to their dead ancestors. When fellow villagers and even members of the government hear about this, these new believers in Christ are harassed and some even imprisoned for turning away from their empty religions of idol and ancestor worship.

We may never be enslaved, imprisoned or beaten because of our faith in Christ, but many may make fun of us for believing in Jesus’ promise of heaven and placing our faith in a God they do not see with their eyes and cannot touch with their hands. I pray this version of Patrick’s courageous life will inspire you to stand firm in Christ and stand strong for Him as you tell others about the greatest gift we can ever be given—salvation through Jesus!


March 6, 2014

Bonhoeffer: "Only at the Hour that God Has Chosen" (Repost)

The following is excerpted from a letter written by German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and circulated to a hundred or so of his former students during World War II:

...To be sure, God shall call you, and us, only at the hour that God has chosen. Until that hour, which lies in God’s hand alone, we shall all be protected even in greatest danger, and from our gratitude for such protection ever new readiness surely arises for the final call.

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Bonhoeffer is honored on The Martyrs Wall at VOM headquarters in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Who can comprehend how those whom God takes so early are chosen? Does not the early death of young Christians always appear to us as if God were plundering his own best instruments in a time in which they are most needed? Yet the Lord makes no mistakes. Might God need our brothers for some hidden service on our behalf in the heavenly world? We should put an end to our human thoughts, which always wish to know more than they can, and cling to that which is certain. Whomever God calls home is someone God has loved. “For their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness” (Wisdom of Solomon 4.)

...Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death.

...Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God’s power, and it must now serve God’s own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death.

In life with Jesus Christ, death as a general fate approaching us from without is confronted by death from within, one’s own death, the free death of daily dying with Jesus Christ. Those who live with Christ die daily to their own will. Christ in us gives us over to death so that he can live within us. Thus our inner ding grows to meet that death from without.  Christians receive their own death in this way and in this way our physical death very truly becomes not the end but rather the fulfillment of our life with Jesus Christ. Here we enter into community with the One who at his own death was able to say, “It is finished.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life on earth ended when he was hanged in Flossenburg Concentration Camp on April 9, 1945. To learn more about his life, ministry and death, read BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.


February 26, 2014

Extreme Weakness

RUSSIA: REVEREND MIKHAIL

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

"If you will renounce your faith and trample the cross, you will go free,” the Bolshevik gang said. “If you do not, we will kill you.”

Reverend Mikhail had seen eighty thousand of his fellow Russian Orthodox leaders and lay people murdered by the Communists. Amidst all of that pain and suffering, he decided that God, if he did exist, would not have allowed such misery. Ed_cover

“I don’t believe,” he thought as he faced the gang. “What does a cross mean to me? Let me save my life.”

But when he opened his mouth to go along with the gang’s orders, the words that came out shocked him. “I only believe in one God. I will not trample on the cross!”

The gang put a sack around his shoulders as a royal garment and used his fur hat for Jesus’ crown of thorns. One of them, a former member of Mikhail’s church, knelt before him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They took turns beating him and mocking his God.

Silently, the reverend prayed. “If you exist, please save my life.” As he was beaten, he cried out again, “I believe in one God.”

His show of faith made such an impression on the drunken gang that they released him. When he arrived in his house, he fell face down on the floor, weeping and repeating, “I believe.”

The Christian faith is full of paradoxes. Die to live. Lose to win. Be weak in order to be strong. In fact, unless we are willing to embrace our own failures, we cannot experience God’s strength. When we undergo hardship and trial or even witness the unjust suffering of others from afar, we may begin to doubt God’s goodness. That is a human, natural response. However, God does not reject our human weakness. He restores our weakness with his strength. Therefore, we can rejoice in our failures because they remind us that human strength is no substitute for godly power. We may fail, but our God remains strong. What are you learning about your own weakness? What does that teach you about God’s strength? 

This is one of the readings from the book, Extreme Devotion, available in print from VOM’s online bookstore. You can also receive devotional thoughts daily via email. Sign up here.


February 18, 2014

UN Report Opens Eyes to Abuse in North Korea

This week the United Nations released a comprehensive report of human rights abuses inside North Korea, including evidence and first-hand testimony collected from hundreds of North Korean defectors.

In graphic detail the report characterizes a regime that draws comparisons with the terrible evils of the Nazis under Adolph Hitler.

CNN prepared this report about the findings of the UN, and about what will now be done with them:

 

Naturally, the North Korean Government dismissed the report as a political plot by their enemies.

If you are a Christian, it is important to remember as you read the report that among those facing these desperate conditions and abusive treatment are some of our Christian brothers and sisters, who are singled out as enemies of the regime because they refuse to acknowledge the deity of the Kim family.

CNN warns you that some of the scenes in this video may disturb you. Our hope is that disturbance will drive you to pray for our North Korean family.

Learn more about the church in North Korea through two VOM books: These Are the Generations and Restricted Nations: North Korea.


February 14, 2014

The Real Story of Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day, a day Americans focus on love and romance. But most of those celebrating don't know that the man for whom this day is named was a Christian persecuted because of his Christian actions.

The following comes from the "Note from the Author to Parents and Educators" that is included in The Story of St. Valentine: More Than Cards and Candy Hearts, a book for children published by VOM that tells the true story of  Valentine's Day.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated every year on February 14th, but why? Many buy cards and candied hearts and do not know there was a man named Valentine. Who was the man behind this holiday that has become known for cupid, chocolate, roses and love notes saying, “Be my Valentine”?

Valentine, or Valentinus as he was known, was a leader in the church and lived in the Roman Empire during the third century. However, there are three Valentines who are noted as having lived in the late third century during Emperor Claudius II’s reign. One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy), and the third a martyr in a Roman province of Africa. Some believe the martyrdom of all three men named Valentinus occurred on February 14th. Many scholars believe two of them, the priest in Rome and the bishop of Interamna, are the same, suggesting the bishop of Interamna was a Roman priest who became bishop and was sentenced there and brought to Rome for his execution. It is believed Valentinus’ martyrdom occurred about the year 269 A.D.

Even though some have questioned the existence of Valentinus, many would agree his life is a mystery. History proved his existence when archaeologists unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to him. He is mentioned in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend, written about saints around the year 1260. (It is noted this was perhaps the most widely read book after the Bible during the late Middle Ages.) He was also featured in a woodcut in the illustrated book called The Nuremberg Chronicle, printed in 1493. St valentine Final

Sources indicate it was Emperor Claudius II who had Valentinus executed for secretly marrying Roman soldiers, defying an order from the emperor that soldiers were not allowed to marry. Claudius (also called Claudius the Cruel) was having difficulty recruiting soldiers and believed Roman men were unwilling to leave their loved ones because soldiers were required to fight for at least 25 years. Therefore, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements. However, Valentinus, along with Marius, secretly married couples until he was apprehended and brought before the Prefect of Rome. It is even believed Valentinus tried to convert Emperor Claudius. In The Story of Saint Valentine: More Than Cards and Candied Hearts, the conversation between Emperor Cludius and Velentinus is based on the one printed in de Voragine’s Golden Legend. Another legend says during Valentinus’ imprisonment, while awaiting his execution, he restored the sight of his jailer’s daughter. (In this story we call the jailer “Marcus.”) Yet another says on the eve of his death, he wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

In 496 A.D., more than 200 years after Valentinus was executed, a church leader marked February 14th as a celebration to honor Valentinus’ courageous life to replace a pagan Roman holiday. February 14th was the day the Romans honored Juno, the Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses and also known as the goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, started the Feast of Lupercalia, which honored Faunus, the god of fertility and forests. On the eve of Lupercalia, the names of Roman girls were written on pieces of paper and placed in jars. Young men would draw a girl’s name and be partnered with that girl throughout the festival. Sometimes this pairing lasted the whole year, and often they would fall in love and later marry.

And what about cupid? Why does his image appear during Valentine’s Day? Cupid was the Roman god of love.

Despite the mystery, legends and questions masking the man Valentine, this story was written to convey his courageous life and death. May The Story of St. Valentine: More Than Cards and Candy Hearts inspire children of all ages to boldly present Jesus Christ to a world in need of His hope (I Peter 3:15)!


February 13, 2014

Free Copy of Tortured For Christ

It was the book that shocked the nation. After surviving 14 years in communist prisons, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand came to America to proclaim the trials and testimonies of our persecuted brothers and sisters.

TFC_COVERIn Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand tells of his imprisonment for his work with the underground church and introduces the work of The Voice of the Martyrs. More than 45 years later, The Voice of the Martyrs remains true to its calling to be a voice for persecuted Christians, to serve with them in their time of need and to assist them in their efforts to proclaim the gospel.

We would like to extend this special opportunity for you to request a complimentary copy of Tortured for Christ for your Christian friends and family members. Help spread the message of today's persecuted church. Simply follow the link below.

I would like to request a complimentary copy of Tortured for Christ for my friend(s).

Note: this offer is only available to United States residents.


January 24, 2014

Silence

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. The following post appeared earlier this month on www.kidsofcourage.com.

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who started The Voice of the Martyrs, was in prison in Romania for his Christian activities. He spent part of his time in prison in “solitary confinement,” meaning he was by himself in a silent cell. RW

After he left prison, Pastor Wurmbrand wrote the following.

“Two thousand years ago a Greek man named Phocion waited his turn to get his beard trimmed by a barber. The barber talked on and on about current events to the customer he was shaving. Phocion waited wearily while the barber talked.

“Finally the barber turned to Phocion and asked, ‘How would you like to have your beard trimmed?’

“Phocion replied, ‘In silence.’”

Pastor Wurmbrand continued, “We are victims of a plot against silence. Every day we hear the noise of cars, trains, planes, radios, TVs, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, fans, chatter, clatter, and speech.

“I have known Christians who have spent years in solitary confinement in complete silence. When they once again heard humans speak, they wondered why so much of their speech was unimportant.

“If you wish to talk to God, create some silence around you. Turn off the noises that intrude on silence. You will learn more from God if you listen, as did Jesus when he spent whole nights in prayer on silent mountains.”

(Source: Reaching Toward the Heights by Richard Wurmbrand. Edited, paraphrased, and adapted.)

To Think About

  • Sit still and note all the noises you hear. Which noises would not have existed in Bible times?
  • Do you have a daily “quiet time” when you can read the Bible and pray without distractions?

January 22, 2014

Young Believers Killed in Peshawar

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:14b-15).

Sometimes children are able to see truth in unencumbered, refreshing ways. Jesus loved children, and even challenged his followers to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child.”

At VOM, we acknowledge the mandate of James 1:27 and have a unique interest in serving the underserved, especially children and widows living in areas that experience intense persecution. Pakistan is one of those places.

Pakistani Girls with The Story of Jesus (2)For several years, VOM has been in active partnership with David C. Cook, a nonprofit organization dedicated to publishing discipleship resources to help Christians all over the world grow in their faith.

Together, we have been able to distribute hundreds of thousands of “Story of Jesus” books in some of the world’s most difficult places. These colorful books, which are similar to “comic books,” introduce Jesus to children in a way that is very compelling. In fact, when I took a copy home to my own children, they were immediately drawn to it.

In July of 2013, two young girls in Pakistan received a copy of “the Story of Jesus” in their native language of Urdu. The Christians who distributed the booklets happily reported that these girls trusted Christ after reading these engaging booklets. Two more sisters were added to our family!

Just a couple of months later, on a sunny Sunday morning, two suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church compound in Peshawar, Pakistan. These Islamists waited until the services were over and the nearly 500 worshipers began to gather for a meal together. At 11:45, they detonated their suicide vests and killed 78 people and injured another 130. It was the deadliest attack on the Christian minority in the history of Pakistan.

In October, I received word that the two young sisters who received “the Story of Jesus” during the July distribution, and began to follow Jesus, were killed in the attack on that bright Sunday morning.

The death of children is especially tough, and many of the victims from Peshawar were women and children. There are never easy answers for difficult situations like this. They serve as vivid reminders of how fallen our world is. But, we do not mourn as those without hope! We believe that “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7).

As you look at the photograph of these two young girls, please remember their families in prayer, along with the other families who lost loved ones in this attack. Pray also for those who plotted this attack. May God’s glory be manifested in all of the chaos that continues in this area. Finally, please pray with us that God will guide us as we do our best to minister in that difficult place.

Bio_jasonpetersDr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He lived overseas for five years and has ministered in more than 30 countries as diverse as Cuba, Nepal, Iraq, Nigeria and Indonesia. He and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, count it a great honor to serve with the persecuted church.


January 20, 2014

Pain as God's Shout

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

― C.S. Lewis

CS-Lewis-Time-mag
TIME Magazine, Sept. 8, 1947

There are many well-known quotes from C.S. Lewis, one of the best-known Christian writers and apologists of the past century.

Do you agree with this one? Do you find that you hear God more clearly in times of suffering and pain than you do in moments of pleasure? And if you do agree with his statement, how does that affect your understanding of what our persecuted brothers and sisters endure? Does it affect the way you pray for them?

Share your thoughts in the comments to this post, and share the quote through social media and see what your friends think about hearing God’s voice in times of suffering.

And pray, often, that our brothers and sisters enduring persecution will clearly hear the voice of God speaking love and hope and encouragement to them in their suffering for His name.