150 posts categorized “encouragement”

January 27, 2014

From Nepal: Thank you!

On behalf of the children and pastors in Nepal who received Christmas Care and Village Outreach Packs, thank you to all who gave to support this ministry project! Your gifts blessed these Christians — and their families — who pay a steep price for representing Christ in this Hindu nation.

“The children’s packs [mean] God loves all the children. … He knows our needs.”

— Pastor S.

“It brings encouragement to serve the Lord more. … I feel valued.”

— Pastor K., who oversees 50 other pastors

We hope you'll be encouraged by this video shot during Christmas Care distributions in Nepal:

 


December 9, 2013

"I Love My Bible So Much!"

Recently, The Voice of the Martyrs sponsored a Bible distribution in western Uganda. I hope you'll be encouraged by the excitement of this young woman, one of those who received a Bible:

 

With the help of faithful, generous supporters, VOM will distribute more than one million Bibles into restricted and hostile nations in 2013. If you'd like to be a part of deliving Bibles to Christians like this young woman, CLICK HERE to give online.


October 23, 2013

"Because of His Grace and Your Prayers"

In yesterday’s post, we told you about two former prisoners in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. Today we bring word from a current Evin prisoner: Farshid Fathi.

Earlier this week our friends at Elam Ministries released a new letter written by Farshid in prison. The letter was written after he heard of an internet story that he'd written a letter complaining about the “agony” of his suffering in prison. In fact, Farshid has never complained about the persecution and suffering he has endured, even to friends and family. He wrote this new letter to set the record straight:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Farshid

Recently I heard about a letter which was published on the Internet on behalf of me about a part of my suffering that I went through during the time since I was imprisoned in December 2010. Although I did not write the letter, it tells the truth. But I would like to tell you that after all the things that have happened to me it would be a shame for me to speak about my suffering.

How can I complain about my suffering when my brothers and sisters are paying a high price for their faith all over the world? I recently heard about many people killed in front of a church in Pakistan. I also heard a young sister in Christ sharing about how she lost her family for the sake of the Gospel and still she is willing to return to share the good news.

How can I complain about my suffering when our dear brother Haik gave his life and was killed with more than 20 knife-stabs to preach to sinners like me? And what about our dear brother Dibaj who spent 9 years and 27 days in prison and was finally martyred after that much suffering?

How can I complain about my suffering when I think of our lovely brother Soodmand who had four precious children (and was martyred)? And dear brother Michaelian and Ravanbaksh, whose blood is still crying out from the land of Iran to heaven? And finally what about the apostle Paul who was many times in prison, suffered countless beatings, was stoned, and often near death, but served the Lord with all of his heart? But after all this Paul says: ‘This light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.’

So when I look at all these heroes of faith, how can I complain about my suffering?

Thank you so much for your prayers and for your support and for your love.

And I am sure I have this joy in my heart here because of His grace and your prayers.

Your brother in Christ,

Farshid

Praise the Lord for His sustaining grace for Farshid. Please continue to pray for him and other Christians imprisoned in Iran. You can write letters of encouragement to Farshid and others through www.PrisonerAlert.com.

Source: Elam Ministries


August 5, 2013

When Does Forgiveness Come?

For Agnes, forgiveness was a long time in coming. Agnes is a Christian widow, living in northern Nigeria. In 2004, her shop-keeper husband was caught in a religious riot in Kano. Muslim rioters entered his shop and shot him with arrows. Bleeding, with arrows hanging from his chest, he ran home. The mob chased him and broke down the door. He was killed in front of Agnes and his four kids, who were barely able to convince the mob not to kill them, too.

After the riot, Agnes stayed in the community. She had nowhere else to go. When she saw her husband’s attackers on the street, she crossed to the other side. She was able to move on with her life, but she still resented the men who had taken her husband away.

Nigeria_MapIn January of this year, Agnes was invited to a prayer conference through The Voice of the Martyrs in Nigeria. She spent three days with several other widows and some trained facilitators. They listened to teachings on several subjects over the three days, including forgiveness. They also spent time in prayer every day.

While praying with a group of women on the second day, Agnes felt a nudging in her spirit. She realized she needed to forgive her husband’s killers all these years later. She prayed, “Father, I need to forgive. Help me to know how to do so.” As soon as she prayed, she felt a shift in her emotions. Suddenly, she had compassion for her persecutors, and she felt sorry for them.

Today, when she sees the men on the street, she doesn’t need to cross to the other side. She can walk by calmly and even offer a greeting. Her attitude has changed so much that she was able to forgive another man who stole from her. She was given a rooster to raise for an income, and a Muslim man stole the rooster, sold it, and donated the money for construction of a new mosque. But with her new-found compassion in Christ, Agnes can smile at the man when she sees him.

For some, forgiveness is a long process. For others, it’s quick. For Agnes, it took almost 10 years for her to reach forgiveness, but now that she has, it’s a practiced habit.

YOUR TURN: In the comments, share a time in your own life where you had to forgive someone. Was it a long process or did it happen instantly for you?


July 17, 2013

Is There Any Good News?

I remember the day I first learned about the magnitude of evil at work in this world. I was about 8 when the lady across the street, the mother of three of my friends, tried to commit suicide. She was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and had seen her entire family die in a concentration camp. My mother later told me the neighbor was watching a TV show about the Nuremberg Trials and had a flashback. Her 5-year-old daughter walked home from kindergarten that day after her mother didn’t pick her up. The little girl found her mother on the kitchen floor and ran to get the neighbor. Medics were able to save her life.

That's how I learned about the Holocaust. I couldn't imagine anything so awful. I couldn’t understand how that much evil could exist in the world and how so many people could allow it to happen. My mother told me evil people have always existed, and that's why my daddy and so many other men went to war — to try and fight that evil. She also told me that no matter how much evil exists in the world, God is always at work protecting us. If God could use a little 5-year-old girl to save her mother's life, he could use each of us. 

That night after I went to bed, I thought about what my mother had said, and I told God that I hoped he could figure out a way to use me. One of the reasons I became a journalist is because I believe that if people know about the evil going on around them, they will try to stop it. I really do believe that.

IMG_2860
VOM workers comfort a persecution victim in Nigeria.

I am in wrapping up the fourth week of my volunteer internship with The Voice of the Martyrs’ communications department. When my friends back home have inquired about VOM and the work I am doing here, I have described VOM’s mission of serving the persecuted church in more than 50 countries.  

Then, many of my friends grow silent. Accounts of arrests, beatings, torture and killings are not pleasant to hear. One friend commented, “I don’t think I would want a job where all I did every day was relay bad news.” It is similar to the reaction I have gotten from many over the years when they learn I am a journalist. “I don’t even read or listen to the news anymore,” people often tell me. “It’s too depressing.  Everywhere you turn there is only sadness and tragedy.”

It is true there is much “bad news” in the world. But I believe there is also “good news,” the gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is only when we allow ourselves to learn about the wicked nature of human beings that we can begin to grasp God’s incredible gift of salvation.

Today, volunteering for VOM, I read and edit stories about people fighting evil every day. As heartbreaking as some of those stories are, it still amazes me how God is at work in the world. He never gives up on us. It has been a privilege for me this summer to help tell his stories of redemption.

Linn Ann Huntington is a journalism professor at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. A former newspaper reporter, editor and columnist, she likes to spend her summers “having adventures.” This summer, she is doing a six-week volunteer internship at The Voice of the Martyrs, one of her best adventures to date.


July 16, 2013

Use Your Words

“Preach the gospel always: when necessary use words.” This famous quote by St. Francis of Assisi is compelling, but it is also easy to hide behind in the current culture we live in.  

I remember the first time I was asked to “use my words” and share the gospel with a stranger. It was during a youth conference I was attending. We were going door to door in the projects handing out food items and sharing Jesus. I was absolutely terrified. I remember my youth pastor telling me to “go for it” after watching his example. I’ll never forget the way I awkwardly shoved the food at the gentleman who opened the door, mumbling and stumbling my way through the message of Christ’s saving love.

Today I ask myself the question — why was I afraid? I wasn’t afraid for my safety; most likely I was afraid of offending someone, of being rejected, or of the reputation I was trying to uphold as a teenager. If you read the stories in VOM’s newsletter of our brothers and sisters around the world, the reasons they would have to be afraid would far outweigh any of mine. They face far more than to offend; often they must take into account that the response to their words could be violent and lead to dangerous reprisals.

We can agree with the quote above, but not if it’s used as an excuse not to ever “use our words.” Both actions and words are important, and they often complement each other. Here in the United States, with our right to freedom of speech protected, we won’t face the kind of persecution a Christian in Pakistan might, but we do face the possibility of rejection. Old or traditional tactics of evangelism are often frowned upon. Sometimes it’s tempting just to stick with more generally accepted things like social justice or kindness; after all, these are Christian traits as well. However, the Bible says that it’s when we confess with our mouths that we are saved (Romans 10:9). And you don’t have to worry about what to say; you can just be obedient to make yourself available and the Holy Spirit will lead you (Mark 13:11, Exodus 4:12). Although good deeds can point others to Christ, it’s not to be a replacement to speaking the truth of Jesus, and by God’s grace we even live in a country where we are free to do so.

St. Francis of Assisi himself regularly preached, or verbally proclaimed, the gospel. Pray for opportunities, and don’t let fear hold you back from speaking the truth. You might be surprised how many people in your neighborhood, community or workplace have yet to hear the true gospel of Christ. And more often than not, it will be necessary to “use your words.”

Your Turn: Do actions or words come easier for you? What things hinder you from “using your words” to share the gospel? How can we overcome this?

"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.


July 9, 2013

Impressions of a VOM Conference

A few weeks ago I attended my first VOM Conference in Amarillo, TX. A friend invited me along, so I agreed because she spoke so highly of the conferences. I thought it sounded like a fun little road trip mixed with some volunteer work. Since I have worked at VOM for almost six years now, I expected it to be like an extended chapel service, with stories I had read in the newsletter.

Gracia_Signing
Gracia Burnham greets a visitor and signs a book at a VOM Regional Conference.

As we arrived at the host church and began setting up tables and preparing for the conference, many volunteers came to help. Although they were the ones who were sacrificing their time and energy, they seemed genuinely honored to have us, as representatives of VOM, come to their church. They showed great hospitality to us and the conference attendees by setting up tables of free bottled water, coffee, donuts, and homemade goodies on the day of the conference.

The people who attended the conference amazed me as well. As I helped people register, some would share about themselves and their motivation to come to the conference. Many rose before dawn to drive in from a neighboring state. It was incredible to talk face-to-face with the people who support VOM and partner with us to help the persecuted church. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and the atmosphere of the church was intense, yet joyful. The attendees were amazed by what they heard from the speakers, and they were hungry to learn more by talking to the speakers and coming to the resource table to get books and resources.

Amy Shreve’s music set the tone for the conference. Her passion to help the persecuted church revealed itself in her song lyrics, and she led the conference attendees in genuine worship. As I listened to the speakers, including Eric Foley, Matt Rose, and Gracia Burnham, I felt reenergized and inspired hearing about the courage and faithfulness of our brothers and sisters in chains. I heard the stories as if for the first time, and I had a renewed sense of purpose about my own work at VOM.

The next day, Sunday morning, Matt Rose spoke at the church service. During Sunday School, I was given the opportunity to share about VOM with the Teen Sunday School class. I don’t normally do any public speaking, but after the things I had learned from the conference, I knew I couldn’t turn down a chance to talk about it. The teens listened earnestly as I shared about North Korea, and they took the newsletters we gave them.

Looking back, my expectation for the conference was misguided. I went to the conference prepared to serve and teach; I was the one who received and learned. I would encourage everyone to go to a VOM regional conference.

Naomi J. works in VOM's Partner Account Services department.

Register online to attend upcoming VOM conferences:

Check www.VOMMeetings.com for other scheduled conferences later in 2013 and into 2014.


June 20, 2013

Links in the Chain

Recently during a meeting of VOM’s department directors and executives, the following devotional was read from “On This Day” by Robert J. Morgan. The story was the entry for June 17 in the book.

Edward Kimball was determined to win his Sunday school class to Christ. A teenager named Dwight Moody tended to fall asleep on Sundays, but Kimball, undeterred, set out to reach him at work. His heart was pounding as he entered the store where the young man worked. “I put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoebox. I asked him to come to Christ.” But Kimball left thinking he had botched the job. Moody, however, left the store that day a new person and eventually became the most prominent evangelist in America.

On June 17, 1873, Moody arrived in Liverpool, England, for a series of crusades. The meetings went poorly at first, but then the dam burst and blessings began flowing. Moody visited a Baptist chapel pastored by a scholarly man named F.B. Meyer, who at first disdained the American’s unlettered preaching. But Meyer was soon transfixed and transformed by Moody’s message.

At Moody’s invitation, Meyer toured America. At Northfield Bible Conference, he challenged the crowds saying, “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?” The remark changed the life of a struggling young minister named J. Wilber Chapman.

Chapman proceeded to become a powerful traveling evangelist in the early 1900s, and he recruited a converted baseball player named Billy Sunday. Under Chapman’s eye, Sunday became one of the most spectacular evangelists in American history. His campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, produced a group of converts who continued praying for another such visitation of the Spirit. In 1934 they invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to conduct a citywide crusade. On October 8th Ham, discouraged, wrote a prayer to God on the stationery of his Charlotte hotel: “Lord, give us a Pentecost here…Pour out thy Spirit tomorrow…”

His prayer was answered beyond his dreams when a Central High School student named Billy Graham gave his heart to Jesus.

And Edward Kimball thought he had botched the job!

YOUR TURN: Have you ever felt that your ministry wasn’t accomplishing anything of value for the Kingdom? How did God remind you that His call is for us to be faithful and leave the results up to Him?


June 17, 2013

Angelic Interventions

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels (Hebrews 13:1-2).”

There have been several dramatic interviews with persecuted Christians which I will never forget. During one interview I learned about an Indonesian evangelist who encountered several boys in a remote area after he ran out of gas. The boys eagerly pushed his disabled vehicle to a gas station while singing a Christian hymn and then abruptly disappeared—leaving him wondering whether they were angelic helpers!

VN_Motorcycles
Motorbikes like these are common in Vietnam.

Another remarkable Vietnamese evangelist shared excitedly about God’s specific and dramatic intervention in his ministry work. Vietnam is one of the restricted nations VOM has been working in for many years. In spite of intense restrictions, we are honored to hear miraculous accounts of God guiding His people as they faithfully follow him there.

I interviewed a leader from Vietnam recently who told me an amazing story about boldly traveling into an area that he was not authorized to be in. Every step he took was bathed in prayer as he encountered various checkpoints and obstacles, knowing that he was risking imprisonment for talking about Jesus in this difficult region.

As he prayed on the side of the road, asking God for wisdom about his next step, he was surprised when a man stopped his motorbike and asked him if he needed a ride. He gratefully accepted the man’s offer. Just a few minutes later he was shocked, and more than a little bit worried, when the man drove directly to the local police station. The driver ordered him to wait outside. As the evangelist waited for the next 10 minutes, he prayed and wondered what to do—even though I am sure it felt much longer than 10 minutes at the time!

The evangelist believed God was leading him to patiently wait, and a few minutes later the driver of the motorbike emerged from the police station wearing a police uniform with insignia reflecting an influential rank on his shoulder. He hopped back on the motorbike and the police officer and his nervous passenger eased through several checkpoints with a salute and a wave. They were never even asked for identification!

The police officer eventually dropped the evangelist off near his destination and left. Following this bizarre incident, the evangelist decided that God was asking him to follow up and to try to locate the driver. When it was safer, he returned to the same police station and inquired about the driver. As he described the man, his motorbike and his rank, the local police had no idea who he was talking about—the man simply did not exist!

This Vietnamese evangelist is convinced that he was delivered by an angel on a motorbike—and it’s not the first time he’s experienced angelic intervention!

May God guide us as we faithfully follow him with our eyes open to see and our hearts willing to welcome these types of angelic encounters in our own lives.

YOUR TURN: Have you had what you believe to be angelic encounters in your own ministry or life? Share your story in the comments to this post.

Dr. 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 28 countries as diverse as Cuba, Nepal, Iraq and Indonesia. He and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, count it a great honor to serve with the persecuted church.


May 20, 2013

Powerful Partnership

“…a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12b).

As I meet with Christians who are suffering around the world, I am acutely reminded that our King has shaped us to partner together with others members of His Body.

In fact, at VOM, our belief is that we have family members who are suffering persecution because of their faith and that God has called us to stand with them. That is the heart of VOM's mission.

The international projects that enable us to “stand with them” always involve partnership. We pursue partnerships with indigenous leaders who are already faithfully ministering within their own context and ask them how we can join them in their ministry. We love to meet with these types of bold believers and to help them take the ministry God has gifted them with even further.

Powerful Partnership

Last year, I met one of these faithful sisters in South Asia. This lovely lady has been ministering within her own culture since 1926. Many of those years she served former Muslims who chose to follow Christ—even though it cost them dearly! Nobody knows exactly how old she is (birthdays are not commonly celebrated where she lives), but her colleagues believe she is more than 100 years old. I had a difficult time communicating verbally with her because of her advanced age and the language barrier. But, I couldn’t help but reflect on how exciting it will be one day to sit with her in heaven and hear how God used her to enrich the lives of the countless people that she served. She has made incredible spiritual investments and I want to celebrate the harvest with her!

When we partner together, with all of our feeble individual strands, there is an incredible “Return on Investment” for our King and His Kingdom.

None of us are extraordinary. We are fragile, weak human beings. And we work with normal human beings overseas—there aren’t any supermen out in the field. But, in God’s economy, our weakness is made into strength—for His glory. As we join together on our knees, and as we show up each day ready to serve wherever our King has called us, we experience His power and the fruit of some very meaningful work!

Dr. 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 28 countries as diverse as Cuba, Nepal, Iraq and Indonesia. He and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, count it a great honor to serve with the persecuted church.