20 posts categorized “education”

October 17, 2013

OKWU Offers One-Week Class on Persecuted Church

“Preparation for underground work begins by studying sufferology, martyrology.”

—Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), Founder of VOM

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) partner together to offer mini-term courses within OKWU’s Global Studies program.

OKWU_Campus
The beautiful campus of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
The mini-term courses offer some of the curriculum from OKWU's award-winning Global Studies major (also known as the Persecuted Church Ministries major), providing advanced learning in the areas of Christian persecution and biblical response to worldwide suffering.

Each one-week mini-term offers an intensive, three-credit-hour, advanced college course that takes place on the campus of OKWU in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The course also includes a service project with VOM at the ministry’s Bartlesville headquarters. The total cost of the program is $600, including academic credits, housing, books and meals on the campus of OKWU. Academic credit can be transferred to other academic institutions.

Here’s what previous mini-term students have said about their experience:

“Not only was I able to gain valuable information about Christian response to secular powers but I also had a great time meeting new people!”

—Cynthia C, Florida

“The faculty members facilitated a great learning environment. The God and Government class stretched my mind and challenged many of my preconceived ideas concerning God and secular Government. The instructor guided the class through scripture and academics as he enabled us to form more than just opinions on matters at hand. The university that I attend accepted the transfer of OKWU's credits without any hesitation. I would recommend the class to anyone able to take it.”

—Aaron L, Louisiana

“The mini term was an intense course, yet with a heart-felt worship session drenched in biblical truth, countless hours spent in the word of God, essays after essays, debates, and unforgettable fellowships; it was a week very well spent with my brothers and sisters. The historical and theological studies of the topic “God and government” with Dr. Jarmola helped me find the answers to my questions as a Christian service member, and further brought me to my knees in worship to the Lord in His sovereignty.”

—Jeff K, New York

OKWU will offer the “God and Government” mini-term course Dec. 28, 2013 through Jan. 4, 2014. Click here to apply for the mini-term program, or send an email requesting more information.


September 12, 2013

Grade B Christians

Grace, Not Grades

My parents used to give my siblings and I money for what types of grades we got in school. We got the most cash for an A, a little bit for a B and nothing for a C or below. At the time, I think it was a good motivation to excel in school.

However, I noticed that this carried over into other areas of my life. I think that sometimes we view our Christian walk like a grading scale. The Christians who get A’s have either been through a lot, they’ve led a lot of people to Christ or they’ve done something else spectacular. Mother Teresa or David Livingstone would surely get an A. Growing up, I would also view persecuted Christians, those who have really stood their ground in the midst of a fiery trial as A+ Christians.

It became easy for me to think that in the United States, with the life that I had been given, I would be a grade B Christian at best. I thought I wasn’t a superhero Christian and even if I wanted to be maybe I would have to move to the Middle East or something.

Then I learned some good news: God doesn’t give out grades like the school does. God shows no favoritism. Jesus shows this when he tells a parable about workers in a vineyard. Each of the workers was given the same payment even though they started working at different times. (Matthew 20:1–16) In fact, God doesn’t like grades, he likes grace. Ephesians 2:8–9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

This grace is an enormous relief to me and it purifies my motives. However, it doesn’t give me the right to coast in apathy simply because I’m not being threatened for my faith or undergoing severe persecution. The Christian walk is about intimacy with Christ and advancing God’s kingdom on earth. Both of those things are not dictated by the circumstances around us or the country we live in.

In the United States though, you might have to fight to keep your edge. You might have to look for people who are in need, you might have to pursue Christ and read his word even when you don’t feel like it. God doesn’t want us to just look at what is happening overseas and feel sorry for people and other Christians who are suffering. He wants us to stand with them. And He wants you to pursue Christ here, where you live; He wants you to reach out to your neighbors, co–workers, family and friends with the love of Christ.

Discipleship should still cost us everything, even if we are never put to the test to give it all away for Christ. So my encouragement to you is to pursue Jesus and His heart for the world recklessly, no matter where you are at or what you are going through. And don’t do this to get an A, but do this because Christ is worthy.

Now it’s your turn: What are ways you can live with passionate abandon for Christ in the United States?

“Grace Taylor” serves on the staff of VOM. She was first introduced to the ministry of VOM by her parents and grandparents, who received the VOM newsletter, and through the VOM book Jesus Freaks. She has served in 12 different countries and is passionate about helping expand God’s Kingdom throughout the nations of the world.


February 8, 2013

“I had prepared myself…”

I knew that I faced questioning, ill-treatment, possibly years of imprisonment and death, and I wondered if my faith was strong enough. I remembered then that in the Bible it is written 366 times—once for every day of the year—"Don't be afraid!": 366 times, not merely 365, to account for Leap Year. And this [the day of my arrest] was February 29—a coincidence which told me I need not fear!

The interrogators showed no hurry to see me, for Communist jails are like archives, to be drawn on at any time when information may be needed. I was questioned again and again over the whole fourteen and a half years I spent in prison. I knew that in the eyes of the Party my connections with the Western Churches were treasonable, but there was much else of importance which they did not know and must not learn from me. Richard_Released

I had prepared myself for prison and torture as a soldier in peacetime prepares for the hardships of war. I had studied the lives of Christians who had faced similar pains and temptations to surrender and thought how I might adapt their experiences. Many who had not so prepared themselves were crushed by suffering, or deluded into saying what they should not.

Priests were always told by interrogators, "As a Christian you must promise to tell us the whole truth about everything." For my part, since I was sure of being found guilty whatever I said, I decided that under torture I might incriminate myself, but never betray friends who had helped me to spread the Gospel. So I planned to leave my interrogators more confused at the end of their investigation that at the start. I would mislead them to the hilt.

My first task was somehow to get a message out to warn my colleagues and let my wife know where I was. I was able to suborn a guard to act as intermediary, for at that time my family still had money. He received about 500 pounds for carrying messages over the next few weeks. Then everything we owned was seized.

In God's UndergroundExcerpted from In God's Underground, written by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. You can order a copy of the book here; it is also available for Kindle and Nook e-readers.


February 7, 2013

Why send the children away?

If you've followed VOM for any length of time, you might have seen reports about a children's home in Nigeria. The Stephen Centre, run by a VOM partner, is home to more than 300 "Nigerian Special Children."

Almost all of these children lost at least one parent in religious violence in northern Nigeria. So they have come to the south, to a safe place where they live together on a small campus, have all their needs met and attend school. It's a long, expensive journey back to their homes in the north, and the children make that trip just once a year, during the July-August summer holidays. The rest of the year, they have to make do with a few phone calls to help connect them to the rest of the family. Pray for Christian children in Nigeria.

To our Western ears, this may sound like an awful situation for a child to be in. It's not ideal, obviously. We'd prefer that these children's parents were alive and able to care for them. But the reality is that when these men are killed (it's usually the men who are killed, though not always), the mothers struggle to support their families. VOM helps address this through job training and small business creation, but often it's still not enough.

One of the driving principles of VOM's international work is to come alongside the persecuted church, ask them what they need and help them accomplish it. In the case of the children of martyred parents in Nigeria, that need is education, room and board. Their remaining family members were willing to send them to a safer place to study while they maintained their Christian witness in the North. For many, it wasn't an easy choice, but it was a necessary choice.

In Africa, there's a strong tradition of children being sent to live with relatives far away to gain a better education. Africans, and especially Nigerians, who have to pay for even elementary-level schooling, understand the crucial importance of an education. Many of the mothers of children at the Stephen Centre work as "petty traders," selling produce, cloth, grain or wares in a small market. Today, their children are dreaming of becoming doctors and lawyers. And through the help of the Stephen Centre, those dreams can be fulfilled.

YOUR TURN: Can you imagine having to live apart from your children in order for them to be safe and get an education? How will thinking about that separation affect the way you pray for Nigerian Christians?


January 25, 2013

Engaging the Mind

It is very appropriate to have an emotional response to persecution. That is how many of us began in ministry to and with the persecuted church. We deeply identify with their pain and loss, and we are driven to help.

As good as that emotional response is, there is more we can do. More than likely, if we have an emotional response to persecution, it will set our bodies in motion to do something. That is the Western way—we are, by and large, 'activists.'

But there is still more we can do. We need to have an intentional, intelligent response to persecution as well. We need to engage the mind to understand the biblical and theological aspects of persecution so we can have a competent and mature understanding not only to be able to articulate this clearly to those who are skeptical but also to approach persecution with wisdom. When the emotions cool and the body gets weary, we will still be engaged in the very important ministry to the persecuted church because we are fully committed to it. We are focused, determined, and relentless in our ministry. That kind of spirit comes with concrete devotion based on a rational choice and is much more than a mere emotional response. It involves an intentional, willful decision based on the realization that it is the will of God and that we are to be about his business.

Be assured that I am not talking about a cold, rational approach that inspires no one. God wants people with long-term passion, fully engaging every aspect of our being to do what he calls us to do. Elevel_main

One way to develop a sound, disciplined mind is to complete one or more of the online courses on VOMClassroom. The site includes material on many aspects of persecution and is ready to help you engage your mind. Courses on the site include history of persecution, preparing for persecution, New Testament studies on persecution, and evangelizing Muslims. Each study is a wonderful resource for you personally and for your church, and they are available at no charge.

These courses are making a difference. Here are comments from current and recent students:

"I recommended the classes…[if] people want to know about Biblical perspective on persecution and learning about history of persecution, they can check your website out."

"VOM classes appear to be so valuable, that they should be offered more widely."

"I am really enjoying the online classes. I'm enrolled in the classes to get more information that may be of use for me in the ministry. I'm also developing a Bible study curriculum for my church's small groups to introduce them to VOM and the persecuted church and a deeper meaning of the cost of following Christ."

As we charge out into the world, we need to be sure that we truly have a sound, disciplined mind capable of being mightily used by God. Developing our minds is a part of being about God's business.

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.


January 22, 2013

Teaching children about persecution

"I have concerns about materials that might introduce pain, torture, and death to a young child without a context for them" — Scottie May, author and professor of Christian Spirituality, quoted in Christianity Today

There is widespread recognition that teaching children skills and academic subjects should be done in an age-appropriate and kid-friendly manner. But some Christians seem to doubt that the same approach is possible when teaching kids about persecution. Kidsofcouragelogo

Certainly it would be inappropriate to "introduce pain, torture, and death to a young child without a context for them." The following are just a few of the concepts that ARE, in general, appropriate to introduce to children that can help them learn to "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also" (Hebrews 13:3).

Children can learn that:

*Some people do not know that the Bible is true, so they oppose Christianity. (See John 16:3.) Christians can stand strong in the face of such opposition.

*Christians can praise God even when they are afraid. (See Psalm 56:3-4.) We can trust God in the middle of trials and struggles.

*Following God may sometimes mean being in the minority. (See 2 Timothy 1:15.)

*Christians can continue to do good even when rewards are not immediate. (See Hebrews 11:39-40.)

*It is difficult to reach some countries with the gospel. Christians around the world witness boldly and in creative ways. (See Ephesians 6:19-20.)

The Voice of the Martyrs' Kids of Courage materials, many of them available for free download at www.kidsofcourage.com, provide resources to introduce these and other appropriate concepts to children.

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.


November 29, 2012

"Very Much Disturbed" - VOM Intern Looks Back

From the minute I stepped into VOM’s offices for a college internship, I felt welcomed and loved – and very much disturbed. While a warm lady greeted me and an office manager gave me a tour, I couldn’t take my eyes off the pictures on the walls. A young boy whose limbs were burned. An Asian woman smiling brightly, her face disfigured beyond recognition. A man and his family standing outside what used to be their home. A lump caught in my throat. I shifted in my sandals. My life was about to be turned upside down. Muslim_Woman_ForBlog

On the second-floor news department where I spent three months copyediting, transcribing and writing, the peace of Jesus prevailed with an undercurrent of urgency. As a college sophomore, it was thrilling – breathtaking! – to have a front-row seat to the most important news on the planet. Popular syndicates do not cover it, but this breaking news from our persecuted family was precious to VOM staff. A pastor was released in China! We would celebrate. A Christian village was ransacked and burned. We would pray. I came to realize that it was good to be disturbed by those pictures lining the walls and stories filling my inbox. Because when we are disturbed, we do something about it.

It was in this environment of communion with the persecuted church where God got my attention about His agenda for my life. As I heard stories from Indonesia and Nigeria and Iran I started piecing things together. What was the common thread running through these nations and their persecutors? It was like a light bulb came on for me: Islam.

One of the best things about working at VOM was staff chapel. Each week, chapel was an encouraging time of worship and prayer, as well as a refreshing break from my cubicle! That summer, an Egyptian sister spoke about living in the heart of the Muslim world with “Kingdom mentality.” In her ministry she sought to plant the attitudes and mindset of the Kingdom of God, preparing the way for the Good News. She explained that Muslims must first be won to the mentality of a Christian before they are ready to receive the truth of the Gospel.

That got me thinking. Could I live among Muslims with a Kingdom mentality? Like this sister from Egypt, could I relate and respond to Muslims in a Christ-like way, clearing a space for the Gospel to take root and grow? God was developing in me a love for the most frequent persecutors of Christians. He was clearly calling me to be a laborer among Muslims.

After that summer at VOM, I returned to my university deeply changed and motivated to make my life count for the Kingdom. Walking into a packed lecture hall that fall, I took a deep breath and scanned the room.

One. Just one woman wearing a floral-print headscarf. She was sitting near the back of the hall, and there was an empty seat beside her. There was no mistaking the Spirit’s voice. You are my witness. And there is your seat.

That was ten years ago. Today, I am privileged to continue ‘taking my seat’ among Muslim women by living and ministering in the Muslim world. Whether from a mat on the floor or atop an ornate sofa, I laugh with my friends, hear their stories, and share Kingdom values little by little. Yes, the stories of the persecuted church disturbed me as I walked the halls of VOM, yet they inspired me to action. Perhaps we could all use a little more of that kind of disturbance.

Editor’s note: The author of this post was one of the first college interns to spend a summer working and learning at VOM. Because she is involved in gospel work in the Middle East, we cannot share her name. VOM’s internship program is available to students who have completed at least their sophomore year in college. CLICK HERE for more information.


October 18, 2012

The Pastor's Wife Book & DVD Set - The Canal

Screen shot 2012-10-18 at 4.09.58 PMIN 1951 MORE and more Communist women began appearing in the camps and prisons. At Cernavoda I met Marioara Dragoescu, who’d been imprisoned by the old regime as a leading revolutionary. Now she was sent to forced labor by her comrades as a “counterrevolutionary.”

 But she would go on fighting for the Communist ideal. The Great Marxist Society was around the corner. In Mislea, the big women’s prison, she had nursed her two-month-old child—then he had been taken from her and put in a State orphanage. She didn’t know if she’d ever see him again.

 She had commiserated with George Cristescu, one of the Party founders, who’d served his first prison sentence for Socialism in 1907. He’d also been the first Secretary-General of the Communist Party. Now, at seventy-two, he worked alongside us in the fields from sunrise to sunset, in snow, rain, and wind.

Sometimes I filled his barrow with earth. He had hitched himself to it like a beast. It was easier to pull than to push up the slopes. I remembered something Richard said shortly before his arrest and repeated it to him: “Under a tyranny, prison is the most honorable place to be.”

A smile lit his face. A guard shouted at him and he hurried off, yoked to his load. The next day when we were out together, I whispered, “I’m sorry to get you into trouble with my speaking.”

“No, speak! It’s like music to hear something different after so long. I’ve hungered to hear a gentle voice as I hunger for color after so much gray.”

Later he told me of his disillusion. “This communism they practice is not the ideal I fought and suffered for. I felt it would be dishonest on my part not to protest.”

Those of us who had faith realized for the first time how rich we were. The youngest Christians and the weakest had more resources to call on than the wealthiest old ladies and the most brilliant intellectuals.

People with good brains, education, wit, when deprived of their books and concerts, often seemed to dry up like indoor plants exposed to the winds. Heart and mind were empty.

Mrs. Nailescu, the professor’s wife from Cluj, said one day, “How happy you must be to be able to think and keep your mind busy and pray! I can’t. I try to remember a poem, and in comes the guard shouting. At once my mind goes back to this everlasting camp. I can’t concentrate. I can’t discipline myself.”

“Society” women were often the most pitiful. Life was harder for them than for anyone. They’d lost the most, in the material sense; and they had the fewest inner resources to fill the gap. A rubble of old games of bridge, hats, hotels, lost weekends and lovers rattled about in their heads like junk in the back seat of a car. Their nerves gave way first, as did their soft white hands.

After work, women came to religious prisoners and asked, begged even, to be told something of what we remembered from the Bible. The words gave hope, comfort, life.

We had no Bible. We ourselves hungered for it more than bread. How I wished I’d learned more of it by heart! But the passages we knew we repeated daily and at night, when we held vigils for prayer. Other Christians, like me, had deliberately committed long passages to memory, knowing that soon their turn would come for arrest. They brought riches to prison. While others quarreled and fought, we lay on our mattresses and used the Bible for prayer and meditation, and repeated its verses to ourselves through the long nights. We learned what newcomers brought and taught them what we knew. In this way an unwritten Bible circulated through all of Romania’s prisons.

This is an excerpt from the book The Pastor’s Wife. To purchase this book, please click here and to purchase the book and DVD, please click here.


August 13, 2012

A Special Offer from VOMBOOKS.COM

Screen shot 2012-08-13 at 4.39.49 PMIf you're looking for some good family entertainment that is not only edifying, family friendly and inspirational, but will also help support the work of The Voice of the Martyrs and the persecuted church, then I would like to tell you about a special offer we having going right now in our VOM bookstore, at http://www.vombooks.com

Right now we are offering our highly acclaimed DVD series The Torchlighters for only $60.00 - this set includes highlights some of the heroes of the Christian faith on nine DVD's.

Created specifically to introduce children to heroes of the Christian faith who withstood persecution, these nine animated stories will teach children the stories of bold Christians throughout history. This set includes the stories of Perpetua, Richard Wurmbrand, Eric Liddell, Jim Elliot, Gladys Aylward, William Tyndale, John Bunyan, William Booth, and Amy Carmichael.

These DVD's also make a great way to learn about the persecuted church with your family, or church or even Sunday School class, by showing you in a beautiful visual way the stories of those who have gone before us.

Buy yours today before they are all gone!  Click here!


January 25, 2012

Ask a VOM Worker: The Only Security

If you have children, I really want to encourage you to become well acquainted with our Kids of Courage website because there is a wealth of wonderful information for you to use with your children at home, in your church and even in your school.

A few days ago there was a wonderful blog post titled Ask a VOM Worker: The Only Security that I wanted to share with you because it will give you insight about where security is truly found.

VOM

VOM intern Kelly C. interviewed a VOM worker who grew up in another country. She asked him the following:

Question: Were there things that you learned as a child that helped prepare you for your work now?

Answer: My mom died when I was 13, and she was my best friend. I realized that if even your best friend can be gone from one day to another, nothing in this world is sure.

When I finally found Jesus, or he found me, I found the only security in life. When I joined the mission field, people asked me, “Why are you going to the mission field where you don’t know anyone or anything? You will leave everything behind you that is secure.”

I thought about it and I realized that the only thing that is really secure is already here. He goes before me, and he’ll be there to take care of me. Not just my childhood, but also how I came to faith helped prepare me for this work.