Join us as we look back on some of the most-impactful testimonies shared with us this year on VOM Radio.
We’ll hear from Dale Rhoton of Operation Mobilization—one of the first Westerners to visit VOM’s founder, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, after Richard’s release from prison in Romania. We’ll hear how God used a nameless woman walking along a road in Kenya to grab the heart of an American woman, Jami Staples, to reach Muslims for Christ. We’ll hear from Bob and Kasey, who left behind an American-dream retirement to serve Muslims half-a-world away. We’ll hear from two gospel workers—Hannelie Groenewald and Nik Ripken—who experienced gut-wrenching loss while serving overseas, yet found God faithful even in that loss. And we’ll hear how a passion for God’s Word kept John and Karen Short connected to Him and to each other, even while John was detained in the world’s most-closed country.
Your faith will be inspired by the faithfulness and courage of these brothers and sisters—and by how God worked through each of them to further His Kingdom aims. (Note that you can hear our entire conversations with each of these guests by searching in the VOM Radio archives.)
In one of the most-listened-to episodes of VOM Radio from 2016, "Sister Amber" shares how Christ was with her even as she was being tortured and abused in Tibet.
After more than a decade in Tibet, Amber watched as God orchestrated a great ministry breakthrough: people who'd been totally closed to the gospel message were now asking to learn more about Jesus. But just days after that breakthrough Amber experienced persecution as police came pounding on her door.
Listen as she tells the story, including how God ministered to her in the most painful moments of her suffering. You'll hear how God showed her that her persecution wasn't the end of the story. You'll also hear how God laid on the hearts of people around the world to pray for Amber, including one who drew a remarkably-accurate picture of Amber and the policemen in the interrogation room--and how God’s plans included those policemen.
Your faith will be challenged as you hear Amber's thoughts on what the New Testament calls the "honor" of being persecuted.
Quoted from Live Dead Joy: 365 Days of Living and Dying With Jesus by Dick Brogden
Editor's note: This post originally appeared on the blog of Eternal Perspective Ministries with Randy Alcorn. It was written by Tami Yeager ahead of this year's International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).
“Suffering is not a new truth, it is an old truth.” — Sarah Liu imprisoned and tortured for her Christian witness.
This coming Sunday the 6th day of November, 2016 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Christians from around the globe will set aside time to honor, remember, and pray for our persecuted family. I am grateful for the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with those of whom the world is not worthy. I pray that this day is the beginning of a deeper fellowship with our persecuted family.
I rarely approach IDOP without remembering my introduction to those who suffer for their faith. I was reading for the first time a Voice of The Martyrs newsletter. The stories were disturbing and intriguing. I found myself face to face with a reality I couldn’t reconcile. The suffering and pain was too difficult to fit into the sterile package I had stuffed my understanding of God into.
The journey I began by reading the true life stories of persecuted Christians would eventually land me at a VOM regional conference in Bartlesville, OK. It was there that a more disturbing truth came to life. That first evening I listened as a man from Pakistan described the road of suffering Pakistani Christians walk. He told of the torture and eventual murder of a young boy—someone's son, brother, and friend. This child died at the hands of his torturers—his crime? He was a Christian. For the first time in my life I contemplated the possibility that God would not always intervene--that perhaps suffering was part of His plan.
Being shaken by the very thought of suffering of this kind, I went back to my hotel room and had a heart-to-heart talk with my God. You see, it was up until that time that I had cried “send me!” Now I was asking Him to not honor my requests. The weight I felt upon my heart was great. Standing securely in my “mirage” of comfort, safety, and control, I laid out “my” plan for my life. He graciously listened to me try to tell Him what to do.
Day two of the conference began with me feeling assured—certainly my one–on-one talk with God had sealed the deal. I had effectively canceled out all those “send me” prayers! It was then that a young man from the Middle East began to share about his work, which includes traveling great distances into hostile territories controlled by Islamic extremists. These were places where Christians die for their faith. Pictures were displayed on a screen behind him of people receiving the Bibles he delivered. Their expressions of curiosity and delight captivated me. As he spoke, he seemed puzzled by those who ask why he goes to such dangerous places. His response was simply, “Since when has the gospel been safe?”
I felt as if I were alone with the Lord in that room. I knew He was speaking directly to me. I recalled the list of demands I called “a prayer” the night before, and heard Him say, “I did not create you that way.” I’m so glad He didn’t “create me that way.”
Since then I’ve learned that God’s love trumps suffering. Those who walk the road of suffering for Jesus Christ—never really walk alone. Their substance for the journey? An intimacy with God reserved for those He counts worthy.
“So, instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering—which we simply won’t be very successful at anyway—perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able—entering the mystery and looking around for God. In other words, we need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them and if they will let us—join them in protest and prayer.” — Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction to Job, The Message Bible
There’s a beauty in martyrdom that one can only see through spiritual eyes. Perhaps this is why Hannelie Groenwald can say God prepared her before the Taliban attacked, killing her husband and two children. She and her family had left the comforts of home to serve God in Afghanistan. They knew the risks and refused to deny the call of God. Her family gave it all for Jesus in Afghanistan. You can listen to her story at https://secure.persecution.com/radio. Pray for Hannelie and others who are living martyrs.
“We die only once. We might as well die for Christ.” – Werner Groenwald
The church in America can join with the body of Christ around the world to pray and remember the persecuted church on November 6th. To learn more please visit www.persecution.com/idop.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand (Revelation 8:4).
“It was not easy for me to say that I forgive the killers.” Semse said later at the memorial service. “To be honest, my heart is broken and my life feels shattered. I really loved Necati. He was the love of my life, my closest friend. But there is no one I love more than Jesus. Only because of this, I can bear it.” — Semse Aydin from Faithful Until Death.
Tami Yeager was first introduced to the ministry of VOM through a newsletter she was handed in 2003. As she began to read the stories shared within those pages she was confronted with a reality that did not fit into the package she had unknowingly wrapped her knowledge of God in. As she began to learn of the suffering of Christians around the world a desire grew to serve them.
Quote for the day:
"God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to."
“But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9 (ESV)
Every day of this internship, I encounter stories beautifully marked by God’s grace. God is pruning hearts, ripping out roots of bitterness and despair, and nurturing buds of compassion and hope. He is working for His children’s good. I had managed to hold in tears…until one Monday.
That day, I couldn’t stop myself. I found a journal entry written last September after my aunt lost her long battle to cancer. Although losing her still hurts at times, what finally made me cry was a reminder about our “gracious God who knew this would happen and died to save her.” God knew my precious aunt’s body would betray her, so two thousand years ago, He took on a body and suffered to provide her with life that no disease or scheme of man can destroy. In His great love, He endured the cross so that she would have eternal peace.
In the lives of persecuted Christians is the same reality. Though we have pain, we have hope, for Jesus, who has conquered death, is with us. Aware of our hurts, He has provided the means of hope and strength: He has given Himself.
The only thing that explains my aunt’s bubbly joy, gentle strength, and constant sweetness even while in pain is the presence of Christ. He was with her during her cancer. He is with us in trials and suffering, working a plan that is not easy to understand but is always good. And the tender grace in His plan make me cry with joy.
J.G. Spires is a college student studying English and Broadcast Media on the east coast. She grew up in a Christian family and came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ while in middle school. Over the years, the Lord has developed in her a passion for His people and His Word. Her goal is to write for the edification of the Church and the evangelization of the lost. She loves being outside, writing fictional short stories and serving the Church.
People love seeing their name in print.
During my days as a reporter for a small daily newspaper, people who had been featured in the paper would often stop by to pick up extra copies. They wanted to send them to family or friends, or cut out their story to display on their refrigerator. Some would even frame it.
Seeing their name, story and photo included among the day’s top news and feature stories was a validating experience. They felt, maybe for the first time, that their story mattered.
Given the opportunity, I think we all would feel the same way. We all want to be known on a deeper level. We all want to be remembered.
In January, a field worker and I traveled to Bangladesh to collect new stories to share with our readers across the United States. During the trip, we met “Fani” Bitan, 44, a pastor living in northern Bangladesh. That night, he sat in a plastic chair across from us and, in front of a room full of other pastors sitting on a dirt floor, shared the story of the persecution he had experienced.
In our American context, his story was remarkable. It included him being shut off from the Muslim society and suffering multiple beatings. In the context of the other pastors in the room, it was somewhat ordinary. In fact, he started his story by saying, “As a believer of Christ, we have to go through lots of persecution every single day.” In Bangladesh, pastors often receive death threats and have been attacked conducting VOM projects for persecuted believers.
As I listened, I waited for something that made his story stand apart from the rest – those details that were unique to him.
Suddenly, his eyes grew big. He remembered something. He put his hands in his right pants pocket and pulled out some crumpled pieces of paper. Under the room’s single light bulb, he handed them to me.
I unfolded the papers to discover copies of newspaper articles. Although I couldn’t read Bangla, I knew why he was excited.
His story was print-worthy.
The articles discussed a Top 10 list created by the Islamic extremist group Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. The list ranked the most-wanted Christians in the region – those who were working among Muslims.
Fani was No. 8 on the list for living a bold Christian life, sharing the gospel and baptizing former Muslims.
“Oh my goodness, I saw this news on TV, but I didn’t know he was one of them,” our translator said after Fani explained what he had just handed me.
Fani’s inclusion on the list didn’t bother him. He was actually thrilled to see his name in the paper.
“I am very happy because my name is on the list,” he said. “How many people can get their name on the list?”
I then asked him if he was worried since his name – and Christian faith – were now in print, for potentially thousands of Muslims to see.
“No, I have no worry,” he said. “I am not nervous. If God wants me to die in this way, why not? It is up to God. What can I do?”
One of our many goals at The Voice of the Martyrs is to tell the stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters standing firm in their faith in the 68 countries where we serve. And they are not spiritual superheroes. They are regular believers, like you and I, who, after remaining faithful, were empowered by the Holy Spirit to stay strong in their faith during persecution. The strength of their story is found in its ability to be shared as a testimony to God’s work in their lives.
Another goal of VOM’s is to inspire you, as part of the American church, to live a better faith story by hearing those of our persecuted family members. After reading how they’ve overcome fears to stand Christ, we hope you’ll be moved to do the same in your own unique circumstances.
Not all of us will experience the thrill of seeing our stories told in the pages of a newspaper. Thankfully, we don’t need that to happen to be known on a deeper level or to be remembered.
God already knows our stories intimately. He knew them before we were born (Psalm 139:16), and is recording the stories of those who look to him in a “Book of Remembrance” (Malachi 3:16). Your story matters to Him. What a validating thought.
In the meantime, we must allow Him to continue writing our stories while prayerfully and courageously following his lead. Then, when the time is right, we’ll be able to reach into our figurative pockets, pull out our testimony of his work in our lives and be able to share it with others, printed or not.
Darren Sanders is a writer on staff with VOM. He learned about VOM as a teenager after reading Jesus Freaks and began receiving the newsletter. He continues to be inspired by those living out their faith despite persecution.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“Hurry, get into the closet. Do not make a sound unless you hear my voice. Do you understand?” Rose heard the two small voices of her preschool children say, “Yes, Mommy,” then she bolted out the door and headed toward her daughter’s school, praying that it was not too late.
At the proclamation of Sharia, or Islamic law, by the Nigerian government, pockets of violence broke out against Christian groups because they had opposed the laws. Rose’s oldest daughter was still at school during the rioting, and Rose was sure she would not be safe there. When she arrived at the school, her daughter had been taken to a military base for safety. Eventually, Rose found her, and they returned home where the two younger children were waiting safely.
The following day, when her husband left for a Christian gathering, it was the last time she saw him alive. Roughly 260 churches were destroyed during these riots, and more than 460 Christians were killed.
In the months since her husband’s murder, Rose has drawn comfort from the book of Acts. She said, “The same God that allowed Stephen to be stoned also allowed Peter to escape from prison. God has been faithful, and his grace has been sufficient.” Today Rose continues to work in the church where her martyred husband pastored, and she busily raises her three children.
It has been said God will never lead us where his grace cannot keep us. We must realize that sometimes his plan does not include a miraculous deliverance from illness, death, or oppression. Yet his grace is sufficient, and he has not abandoned us. We must trust that God would not lead us to a place of ministry or work without an adequate measure of his grace to make it. Sometimes his plan involves simply seeing us through an ordeal instead of delivering us from it. Have you come to a point where you are willing to entirely rely on him? You’ll likely never say that God’s grace is all you need until his grace is all you have.
This is one of the readings from the book, Extreme Devotion, available from VOM’s online bookstore. You can also receive devotional thoughts daily via email. Sign up here. Daily devotional readings are also available in the PRAY TODAY app for your smartphone or tablet.