33 posts categorized “saints and martyrs”

March 20, 2014

Murderers Set Free in Turkey

This week I received an email from a Christian contact in Turkey. He shared the news that, under authority of a new Turkish law, the five men who murdered three Christians in 2007 were being set free. Their court case has dragged on and on and on, and the new law says that if a court verdict is not reached within five years, the accused should be set free until the verdict is reached.

Malataya men[8]
The story of the deaths of my three brothers— Necati Aydın, Uğur Yüksel and German national Tilmann Geske—is a story that has gripped me deeply. Seven weeks after the murders I went to Turkey, where I met the widows of the two married martyrs, as well as the fiancé of the third man. I listened in awe as these ladies told me how God had enabled them to forgive the young men who brutally killed their husbands.

The young men were captured at the scene of the crime. They had notes in their pockets that they were defending their nation and their religion, Islam. There really isn’t much question as to their guilt or innocence. The questions that have arisen in the trial have much more to do with who put the men up to the killing. Did they act on their own, or were their powerful men behind the scenes that ordered the killing?

According to my contact, another new law in Turkey raises the possibility that the Malatya murder case will be assigned to a completely new court, which would mean starting the trial over and maybe many more years before a final verdict is rendered.

Christians in Turkey are understandably frustrated. They see the freedom of these men as a clear signal that they are not safe in their own country, that their government will not protect them and will not punish those who harm them.

Yet their hope does not rest in the Turkish government, or any other worldly power. Their hope, as the song says, is “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Whatever the court or the government may do, the foundation for these Christians is secure.

When I met Susanne Geske, widow of Tilmann, she told me that her young daughter had asked when they would go to see the men that killed her father. She wanted to take a Bible to them, in the jail, in the hope that someday they might be reunited with Tilmann and the other men—in heaven. Will you join me and the families of these courageous martyrs in that prayer, that—whether in jail or not—these five men will come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord?

For further information on this case, read Faithful Until Death by Wolfgang Haede. You can also watch a video interview with Haede and Semse Aydin, his sister-in-law and the widow of Necati Aydin.

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 2000 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.


March 14, 2014

The Real Story of St. Patrick

SSP

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 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)!


January 30, 2014

Send Someone Else Immediately

Henrey Stanley, the biographer and convert of David Livingstone, was the first Christian to reach Uganda, in the 1870s. He arrived to the court of King Mutesa and showed him a Bible. The king explained that Muslims had arrived previously to his court, and they also had a book to show him.

“How do we know which is better?” Mutesa asked. “I am like a man in darkness. All I ask is that I be taught how to see.”

Stanley published the words of the King in London’s Daily Telegraph, along with a call for a “pious, practical” missionary who would go to Uganda to bring the gospel message to the king and his people. “What a harvest ripe for the sickle,” Stanley wrote.

His call was answered, and soon the Church Missionary Society appointed Alexander Mackay, a 27-year-old Scottish bachelor, to lead a party of eight mission workers to Uganda. Mackay went forward with his eyes wide open:

“Is it likely that eight Englishmen should start for Central Africa and all be alive six months after? One of us at least will surely fall. When the news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.”

—Alexander Mackay

Mackay was injured in an accident before the team even reached Uganda. Two team members deserted the team; another was murdered. Yet another one contracted a terrible fever. Only three of the eight would set out from Zanzibar to Uganda, the final leg of the journey.

The three arrived in Mutesa’s court on January 30, 1877. But two of the three were soon killed, leaving only C.T. Wilson to start Sunday services. Mackay, recovered from the accident, soon arrived to help, but the two labored for years before seeing their first convert baptized.

As their work began to flourish, Mutesa’s son succeeded him and promptly tortured a group of converts when they wouldn’t agree to his demands. Mackay survived the threats of the young tyrant, but died of malaria at age 40. He was working on a translation of John’s gospel when he died.

The fruit of Mackay’s life and work lived on, and the church in Uganda became one of Africa’s strongest.

Source: On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes by Robert J. Morgan.

Full disclosure: VOM is registered with the Amazon Associates program. If you click on the link above and buy the book, a portion of the purchase will be paid to VOM.


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 14, 2014

Pakistan: For God’s Glory

Khalid was one of the more than 78 Christians killed in the suicide bombings at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan on Sept. 22, 2013. A portion of Kahlid's story was included in VOM's January newsletter. More of his story is below, as recounted to VOM workers by Khalid's wife, Shakeela Bibi:

Khalid had been sick and bedridden for several weeks. He was very weak and had lost a lot of weight. Khalid had strong faith in Jesus Christ, though. He was always praying to be healed. Many times, he called pastors for prayer meetings for his healing. My children and I would also fast and pray for Khalid to become healthy again.

After one and a half months, Khalid began to recuperate. It was a miracle. He was finally able to leave his bed if he walked slowly. He was putting on weight once again; a sign of improving health. Khalid always told me, “Shakeela, when I am healed, I will go to church to give thanks to the Lord!”

On Sept. 21, 2013, Khalid was looking better. His face was shining and looking beautiful. He looked like a healthy man again. I was also very happy that now God had blessed him with good health. That evening, Khalid said, “Shakeela, now I am fine and healthy. Tomorrow is Sunday, so I will go to church to give thanks to the Lord.” I said, “Yes, this is good, and you also promised the Lord that after healing you would go to church.”

Khalid_Peshawar_Pakistan
Khalid

On Sept. 22, Khalid woke up early in the morning. He gathered his clothes to iron them. I said, “Give them to me. I will iron your clothes.”

Khalid said, “No, Shakeela, let me iron them myself. God gave me health, so I will get ready for him by myself.” I smiled and told him, “Go ahead and get ready for church.”

After Khalid was ready to go, our younger son said, “Papa, I will go with you.” But Khalid reminded him, “Dear son, you have promised your auntie to go to her home. So, go there and I will come there after the prayer service.”

At 11:45 a.m., I was informed by people in the street that there was bomb blast at the church. My children and I ran to the church. We searched for Khalid everywhere. Somebody told us that Khalid was injured and that people had taken him to the hospital. At the hospital, we learned that Khalid died on the way there.

Though no words from others could bring peace or patience to me, the Bible  has words for my peace. The Lord gave peace and patience to my children and me.

We wondered, “If God wanted Khalid’s martyrdom, then why did he heal Khalid?”

God watched over Khalid during his illness. Khalid had a strong faith in the Lord, and he was faithful to the Lord. He always asked the Lord for his healing without losing faith that it would happen.

The Bible says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10)

Khalid never lost faith in the Lord, so the Lord gave him the crown of life.

If Khalid had died as a result of the illness, then he could not be a martyr. Nobody would remember him except for his family members. But now, Khalid is a martyr and the whole world will remember him. It is a witness for the whole world that Khalid is a martyr for the Lord.

Khalid’s martyrdom was for the Lord’s glory.

If you missed it, read the story of another of the All Saints Church martyrs, Saba Pervez, in yesterday's blog post. VOM provides help and support to the families of martyrs, like Shakeela Bibi, through the Families of Martyrs Fund. We invite you to make a gift online to support those like Shakeela Bibi who have lost a family member because of their witness for Christ.


January 13, 2014

Pakistan: The Real Wedding Day

Saba Pervez was one of more than 87 Christians killed in the suicide bombings at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan on Sept. 22, 2013. A portion of her story was told in VOM's January newsletter. Here is more of her story, as told to VOM workers by her sister, Sumble:

Sept. 21, 2013 was a normal Saturday evening. Saba and I decided to go to church services in the morning. My sister and I were very excited to go church as we had not made it the past few Sundays because we had university examinations. We missed being able to go to the prayer services. We went to bed early so that we could get up the next morning to go to church.

Saba_Pervez_Pakistan
Saba Pervez

That next morning, Saba got up early to iron our clothes. When I woke up, I saw her ironing her red dress. Both that dress and color were her favorite. I was surprised to see that red dress because it had been a long time since she had worn the color at all.

Last time she wore the red dress, she was embarrassed by all the attention she received. She looks very pretty in red and everybody was looking at her. After that day, she never wore red.

We went to church. The prayer service started at 9 and finished at 11 a.m. The message delivered was from Matt. 6:24, which says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”

We have a great choir in the church. They sing very nice worship songs. On this Sunday when they started the last worship song, it was a different atmosphere. The Holy Spirit was moving. All the people joined the choir and were singing with them. They were clapping and dancing.

The song was:

Who loved Him,

They drink happily the cup of martyrdom,

They are never afraid of any difficulty,

They took persecution on their body.

The choir and people were repeating these lines again and again. It seems that the Spirit of the saints was moving in the church. 

After the song, we went outside the church building. One of the church members brought rice for the congregation as thanksgiving to the Lord. Saba said, “Come, we will eat rice.” Saba brought some rice on a plate and gave me one bite with her hand. As I took the bite, the bomb exploded, and my sister’s red dress became even redder.

Saba was engaged and would be getting married soon. That moment, my sister went with her real groom, Jesus.

In our culture, weddings include the color red, rice, music and songs as well as fireworks. Saba went to church wearing a red dress that morning. There were songs and music, rice and the great firework (the bomb blast). My sister, Saba, went to her real home with her groom, Jesus, that day. I am happy that my sister was ready to go with Jesus.

Come back to the Persecution Blog tomorrow to read the story of another of the All Saints Church martyrs, Khalid, as told to VOM by his widow. VOM provides help and support to the families of martyrs through the Families of Martyrs Fund. We invite you to make a gift online to support those who have lost a family member because of their witness for Christ.


December 16, 2013

"The Grain of God"

“The life of man is a continual death, unless it be that Christ lives in him.”

—Ignatius

Ignatius was a disciple of the apostle John and had publicly reproved Emperor Trajan Antioch for worshiping idols. However, Trajan swore to take public revenge on Ignatius in return for his embarrassing rebuke.

Ignatius was arrested and brought to Rome. As he was led away to the pit of lions, he told another believer, “My dear Jesus, my Savior, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped into pieces, the name Jesus would be found on every piece.”

When the multitude of people was assembled to witness his death, Ignatius boldly addressed the cheering crowd. “I am the grain of God. I am ground by the teeth of the beast, that I may be found a pure bread of Christ, who is to me the Bread of Life.” Extreme Devotion

As soon as he had spoken these words, two hungry lions devoured him. He lived up to his surname, Theophorus, “the bearer of God.” To the very end, he bore the name of God and his Savior on his lips. He had often said, “The crucified Christ is my only and entire love.” And to the end he found solace in this simple truth: “As the world hates the Christians, so God loves them.”

Marriage tradition holds that a wife should bear her husband’s name as a symbol of their union. They are no longer two people, but one. As a couple grows old together, they begin to share more than just the same last name. They share the same friends and interests. They begin to finish each other’s sentences. And some begin to even strangely resemble one another . . . such is their long-standing intimacy. In the same way, those who bear the name “Christian” or “little Christ” develop the same intimacy—a oneness with the Savior. Are you wearing well the name of Christ? Like Ignatius, does sharing Jesus’ name inspire you to share in his sufferings, his ministry, and his life?

This is one of the readings from the book, Extreme Devotion, available from VOM’s online bookstore.


December 6, 2013

FOXE Voices: Thomas (ca. AD 70)

With the exception of Peter and Paul, we have more information on the subsequent life of Thomas than on any of the other apostles. Most of the material comes from tradition. For a disciple with a doubtful reputation, he certainly left behind a variety of regions that name him among the founders of their ancient traditions of faith.

The account in John’s Gospel gives us the most glimpses of Thomas, but they come within the last few weeks of Jesus’ ministry. Apparently his character traits became more obvious under the growing pressure of opposition. Keenly aware of the danger waiting for Jesus in Jerusalem, Thomas voiced the outlook that must have been on all their minds when he said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16). Perhaps more clearly than the other disciples, Thomas thought that if their hopes of a kingdom with Jesus as the leader fell through, death would result. Jesus’ frequent references to His death may have confused some of the disciples, but it seems to have unsettled Thomas.

Our next glimpse of Thomas comes during the Last Supper when he reacts to Jesus’ comforting words about His Father’s house. Thomas reveals that his heart is indeed troubled when he blurts out, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). We can be grateful for Thomas’s boldness, for it allowed Jesus to make one of His clearest claims about His role as Lord and Savior: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Thomas’s third outburst came the evening of Resurrection Sunday (or very early on Monday). Jesus had appeared to ten of the disciples on Sunday evening, with Thomas as the only absentee. Perhaps he was reacting differently than the rest of the disciples to the news that Jesus had arisen. They gathered, but Thomas stayed away. When informed of Jesus’ visit, Thomas responded with daring doubts:

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

A week later, that dare was met. Jesus appeared before all of them, and Thomas’s doubts vaporized as he declared, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Jesus used the occasion to make another crucial point about the nature of faith: “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). FOXE_Thomas

The passion Jesus awakened in His disciples drove them out to bless thousands who would not have the privilege of seeing, but would believe the testimony of those gladly willing to lay down their lives for their convictions. Once Thomas left Jerusalem, there’s no evidence that he ever returned. He left his doubts behind. He headed for the ends of the earth. He undoubtedly found that Jesus was true to His promise of companionship to the end.

Thomas traveled north and east from Israel, passing through Babylon and Persia and making an impact for the gospel as far as the southern regions of India. Long-standing traditions about his journeys far beyond the boundaries of Roman control remain even today. Many of the places and kings associated with Thomas that were thought to be merely legendary have been confirmed by independent historical and archeological studies. Undeniably, developed civilizations lay beyond the horizon to the east, and Jesus’ words, “to the ends of the earth,” must have constantly echoed in the apostles’ minds. The trade routes he would have used have existed for thousands of years. Portuguese mariners and explorers in the sixteenth century reported evidence of Thomas’s ministry, including a sizeable band of believers known as the St. Thomas Christians. The fact that Thomas has been so uniquely connected with India among the apostles makes a strong case for his ministry there.

Various versions of Thomas’s martyrdom agree that he ran afoul of the Hindu priests who envied his successes and rejected his message. Thomas was speared to death. The location of his toFOXE2_Covermb can still be visited in Mylapore (Meliapore), India.

This is just one of the stories told in VOM’s new book FOXE: Voices of the Martyrs (Second Edition). CLICK HERE to order your copy.