4 posts categorized “Travel”

April 17, 2014

VOM Team in Nigeria

Recently a VOM team visited with persecuted Christians in Nigeria, where they met with and ministered to persecuted Christians, including children and widows. Included in the team was a group of women specially trained to minister to and encourage widows.

Here are some highlights of their trip.

 

Please pray for Christians in Nigeria.


February 4, 2013

Middle East: budding spirit of unity

29 January 2013, Near the Mediterranean Sea

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another." Romans 12:15–16a

I love Romans 12:15. As I meditate on it, it seems to capture many of the ways I try to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. One never knows quite what to expect when arriving in the field, but my limited experience has taught me that, before I board my return flight home, I will have both rejoiced and mourned—a lot.

I imagine few are surprised that our field workers serving in the Middle East mourn. We mourn with widows when they share how they lost their husbands. We mourn with those who long to have their loved one freed from prison. We mourn with those who've gone into hiding, often to evade their own family who would rather murder them than endure the "shame" of having a sibling or child follow Jesus Christ. Yes, we mourn with our spiritual family in the Middle East.

But oh, how we rejoice too! In fact, even amidst mourning, we can find ourselves caught up with our brothers and sisters rejoicing. I remember sitting with a widow who—before she could even wipe her tears away—broke into a beaming grin as she recounted how her husband regularly hid Scripture verses around the house for her and her children to find. She laughed as she shared how he loved to dance and sing songs about our Lord. What joy it is to rejoice with dear believers like her!

MosqueOn this trip I encountered yet another reason for rejoicing: a renewed spirit of unity is emerging among local Christians in some stretches of the region. Recently, we spoke with a family of believers actively involved in evangelism and discipleship throughout the Middle East. They shared how, in certain areas, the church is beginning to truly see itself as one body. "The increased pressure around us is purifying the church," they explained. And through purification, those who passionately seek and follow Jesus Christ are gravitating toward one another. Some recently began joining together for prayer every month. They not only lift each other up, but also pray for those who try to intimidate them. These Christians are increasingly presenting a more unified witness to the surrounding communities.

I love Romans 12:15. I am also struck by how well the subsequent verse speaks to this renewed spirit of unity—to "live in harmony with one another." Perhaps this budding unity will spread throughout the region and allow the church in the Middle East to present an increasingly powerful witness, that many more will be saved. For now, we continue to rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, and lift up before the Lord our brothers and sisters in Christ—along with the lost.

Editor's note: This blog entry comes from "Brother A," who oversees VOM's work in the Middle East. If you'd like to help VOM provide spiritual and physical aid to Christians in Muslim countries, you can give online here.

YOUR TURN: Do you find a spirit of unity among Christians from different backgrounds in your community?


January 30, 2013

Meeting Saints: a good trip

Editor's note: a version of this story appears in VOM's February newsletter. U.S. residents can request a free subscription to the newsletter here.

There are good trips and bad trips when you go on the road to meet the persecuted church.

Bad trips where you come home with malaria (Sudan) or get so sick you actually consider going to a local doctor (Pakistan). But the good trips far outweigh the bad: trips where you meet a pastor and his wife eight days after the pastor was shot by Muslim radicals (Iraq) or watch as God opens door after door so you can meet widows of Christians martyred just a few weeks before (Turkey). Good trips where you are "smuggled" late at night to an underground Bible school and meet the future church leaders of a huge nation (China), or are tossed up in the air (literally!) by brothers in Christ as they thank you for coming to encourage them in their trials (can't say where for security reasons). Good trips where a kindly pastor's wife, seeing jet-lag overcoming you, invites you to take a nap in one of her children's beds (Uzbekistan).

I am often sobered by the fact that brothers with whom I've laughed over coffee and popcorn are in prison today because they follow Jesus (Eritrea). I am humbled and incredibly grateful God has allowed me the sacred privilege of meeting, interviewing and hopefully encouraging His beloved children who suffer so much for doing things most of us take for granted.

Visiting Nepal late last year was definitely a good trip. For one coworker it was the first time he'd been to meet the persecuted church, and seeing the trip through his fresh eyes was a great reminder of the blessing of our work. I was encouraged to hear from a Nepali brother that two books I helped write – Extreme Devotion and Hearts of Fire – are among their favorite tools to strengthen Nepali Christians to stand amidst persecution. And it was amazing to step out of my hotel room and look up at four of the 10 tallest mountains in the world!

Danmaya_Blog
Danmaya
The person I'll remember most from the trip was a sweet, joyful, pretty lady who gave up everything to follow Christ. After she got baptized, her high-caste Hindu husband threw her stuff out of the house, kicked her out and married another woman. Instead of taking her in after that, her own parents also turned her away when she refused to denounce her faith.

When her earthly family kicked her out, her spiritual family opened their doors and took her in. We met Danmaya in the stifling heat of a one-room brick house that belongs to her pastor and his family. They gave me a plastic chair to sit in while the pastor sat on the bed and his wife and Danmaya sat on the floor.

Danmaya couldn't stop smiling. She's lost every family relationship she had in the world because she followed Jesus. She's sleeping on the floor of someone else's house. But she couldn't stop smiling. She told us that she's forgiven her husband…and even prays for his new wife.

Danmaya and her pastor thanked us repeatedly for coming, as if we'd done something special. We thanked them for sharing their stories, and for their faithful witness. We rode almost two hours in a taxi with a/c that couldn't quite keep up with the heat to meet Danmaya. But after hearing her story, and seeing the joy of the Lord literally radiate from her face, I thought on the two-hour drive back to the hotel that I'd happily drive eight hours to spend one hour with such a Godly saint.

P. Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM almost 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1850 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.


January 24, 2013

DEVOTIONAL: God is a fortress

"He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken" (Psalm 62:6).

Do you ever feel assaulted by life? Life is difficult. As human beings, we all experience physical challenges, emotional upsets financial tests and deep spiritual questions. Others willingly suffer persecution because of their readiness to take risks for Jesus. I have met many sisters and brothers who report that their hope is secure in Christ alone and that they experience spiritual security, exceptional peace and lasting significance He offers to those who fully trust in Him.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to India to meet with persecuted members of our "extended family." In Bangalore, I met a man who had almost all of his teeth knocked out in a vicious attack. In spite of intense personal suffering, he continues to boldly serve in an influential ministry. His wife shared that even though she is sometimes scared when he travels to minister in dangerous places, she is learning to trust in God. In Psalm 62, David was learning how to trust as well. He refers to God as his "fortress" twice, as a "rock" three times and as his "refuge." Clearly, David believed that God would be there for him in the midst of the assaults he faced.

Elephant Gate
A part of the "Elephant Gate" at Agra Fortress in India.

I was reminded of this Psalm when our team visited Agra Fortress, a few hours south of Delhi. It was overwhelming to walk through the massive "elephant gate." To get to the heart of this amazing fortress, you must cross two moats. When the fortress was built, the outer moat was filled with water; the inner moat was filled with tigers. As you cross a giant drawbridge, you encounter an inner gateway called Hathi Pol, the "Elephant Gate." This gate was specifically engineered to defend against attackers using elephants to crush the gates of a fort during a siege. The drawbridge, slight ascent, and 90-degree turn between the outer and inner gates made the entrance impregnable by preventing the elephants from gathering enough speed to crush the gates.

David is remembered as a warrior, but he is also remembered for the deep intimacy he shared with our Father, as reflected in so many Psalms. One of the essential elements of this deep intimacy was his absolute reliance and rest in the Lord. David felt free to go to the Father, to openly share his most personal struggles, to process his pain and to receive healing and hope from his "fortress" God, Who is able to withstand any assault. Agra_Fortress 

Martin Luther expressed this shared hope beautifully in one of the Church's most beloved hymns, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Throughout Christian history, millions of other followers have run to God to find spiritual security, exceptional peace and lasting significance. "Resting" in Him is like placing your soul in an impregnable fortress, so place your trust in Him alone today!

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.