The following true story comes from Stef, the children’s ministry of Stichting De Ondergrondse Kerk (SDOK), VOM’s sister mission in the Netherlands. The story took place before the current unrest in Egypt, but it gives a glimpse of what life is like there for Muslim converts to Christ and children of families who are in danger.
Demyana is an ordinary ten-year-old who loves nice colors and all the other things that girls of her age like. Something less ordinary about her is that Demyana is always at home. Youʼll never have any problem finding Demyana at home if you want to go to her place and play, because sheʼs never outside. Or at least, you’d never find her away from home if you knew where to visit her — and not many do, because where she lives has to be kept secret.
Demyana lives in a small apartment somewhere in Egypt with her mom, two little sisters and a little brother. As long as nobody knew that her dad had become a Christian, they had no trouble — but that changed a couple of years ago.
A young girl in Egypt.
Brought up as a Muslim, Demyanaʼs dad studied the national language, Arabic, at a university. He got to know the Quran very well and was eager to prove that it was a much better holy book than the Bible. So he asked the neighbor’s daughter for a Bible. He began to read at Matthew, and he was so deeply impressed that he wanted to start following the Lord Jesus. From that time on, he went to work in a foreign country. He was baptized abroad and later came back to Egypt to live. And he married an Egyptian Christian girl. He told absolutely nobody in his family that he had become a Christian.
But somehow or other, someone must have found him out, because one day Demyanaʼs dad got an invitation to go and have dinner with his relatives. Suddenly, his relatives stood all around him and started yelling, ‘Youʼre an apostate!’ (meaning one who has ‘fallen away’ from Islam). They beat him up and locked him in a room for four days to try to get him to deny Jesus Christ. When that failed to work, they dragged him to a car. Demyanaʼs dad thought, “This is the end for me.”
At a police checkpoint along the way, the relatives pointed a knife at him and hissed that he had to keep his mouth shut. But Demyanaʼs dad told the police officer that he was being abducted. The policeman ordered him out of the car, slapped handcuffs on his wrists and assured the relatives that he would make sure this apostate would be suitably punished. He led Demyanaʼs dad away with him. But once they had rounded a corner, the policeman took the cuffs off, handed him money for a bus fare and said, “Flee!”
One night, Demyana overheard her parents talking about the danger they were in. Sheʼs often been afraid since that night. Now, she understands why they keep moving from one apartment to another and why her father acts so nervously. Eventually, her dad managed to escape the country — leaving Demyana, her mother, and the three younger siblings behind in a sparse, cramped apartment.
Always at home
Demyana misses her dad terribly. Happily, he is able to call them on the phone often. But in every call, he tells her mom, ‘Never step outside; itʼs far too risky!’ So Mom and the children keep indoors. They often read the Bible, pray and play with each other. Mom is trying to teach them some English. They make drawings to put on the walls to make it not so gray — but the drawings are not happy ones. They draw sad dolls and planes flying away that tell the story of four children who want nothing more than to get out of that situation. If Mom is feeling brave, they might go to church at Christmas. But however boring her life might be, Demyana is quite sure that sheʼs safe in Godʼs care and that He will never ever abandon them!
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. www.kidsofcourage.com