This past weekend I had the privilege of volunteering for the Kids of Courage (KOC) conference which ran concurrent with The Voice of the Martyrs conference on the Oklahoma Wesleyan University Campus here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It was such a great experience because I got to see the children’s excitement when they were being taught lessons about persecution and stories of courageous children from around the world.
The KOC schedule included some of the speakers from the adult conference who also came to share their experiences and testimonies with the children. I was especially impacted by two women who are living a life of faith and courage, Gracia Burnham, a missionary to the Philippines, and Maria, from Colombia. Even though their experiences are different, these women have endured so much and yet remain passionate about their faith and ministry.
Gracia Burnham told the children about her experience when she and her husband were kidnapped in the Philippines by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, and spent a year of terror in the jungle. Her descriptions of what they went through, and the constant communication they had with the Lord during that time, captivated the kids. What was incredible for me was how, despite what she has gone through, she has maintained her joy and focus on the Lord. When you hear her marvelous testimony you cannot help but focus on God’s love and faithfulness. She leaves you realizing that really, in the big scope of things, what matters is our vertical relationship with Christ and the love we should have for mankind and how we should ensure they, too, develop a relationship with Him.
Maria, on the other hand, shared her experiences about taking the gospel into areas heavily under the control of many different Colombian terrorist organizations. She detailed the many opportunities God gave her to share Christ with members of the group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It was interesting to discover that even though Maria’s husband is a pastor, she has had more opportunities to share the gospel with FARC guerillas. FARC is not as suspicious of a woman and they do not expect a woman to be doing what Maria does, spreading the gospel. As a result, Maria has gone where very few people have gone; giving literature and Bibles to FARC guerillas and they are coming to know Jesus.
Even though these women have diverse ministries, I am excited they are having such a great impact. I am also thankful they were able to share their experiences with the children at the KOC conference, because I believe their lives will be impacted for eternity. Pray for protection for Gracia and Maria as they continue to follow God’s call. What a great example of mighty women of faith and courage!
This is our friend and partner in ministry, Bob Fu who is the President of the China Aid Association. I had the blessing of meeting Bob and talking to him for a few minutes. Take a listen and hear more about The China Aid Association.
PAKISTAN – On June 21, 16 Christians were abducted by Muslim extremists when they gathered to pray in Academy Town, Peshawar, Pakistan.
According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts in Pakistan, “Salamat Masih and 30 of his family and close friends were gathered to pray and celebrate the birth of his daughter, when 12 Taliban [members] of the Lashka-e-Islam group broke into his house yelling and shouting. They held the believers at gunpoint. The Muslim house-owner, Haji Muhammad Saraj, was also present at the time to collect rent.”
VOM contacts added, “With machine and automatic guns, they forcibly separated the men from the women and children. Slapping the Christian men, they commanded all 16men, including Pastor Zulifqar and Haji Muhammad Saraj, to get into the five waiting vehicles.”
The 16 Christian men were held captive for an hour. “They were beaten and abused, and had all their money and mobile phones stolen from them. During this time, the Taliban attempted to persuade Pastor Zulifqar to convert to Islam, which he unquestionably refused. After sunset the Taliban took them to another place where they were kept in a cave until their release 10 hours later,” VOM contacts reported.
There are 100 Christian families living in Academy Town, in an area that was formally a madrassa (Muslim school). VOM contacts added, “A local Muslim renovated the madrassa into smaller homes and rented them out to Christians. Three months ago, and then, again, a week prior to this incident, Haji Muhammad Saraj was confronted by the Islamic fundamentalist group Lashkar-e-Islam and received a verbal notice to evict all Christian families from the homes. Magal Baz, the leader of the terrorist group stated, ‘Christians should not reside, pray, or celebrate in a place that was formerly a madrassa.’”
The Voice of the Martyrs encourages you to pray for believers in Pakistan. Pray God protects them and provides for all their needs. Also pray their courageous testimonies will draw non- believers into fellowship with Him.
With various speakers from the Middle East, the attendees of VOM’s National Conference this past weekend had the opportunity to get a picture of what God’s work in that region looks like, literally.
In the West, while we may hear stories of mysticism and abnormal happenings in the Middle East, these speakers brought proof that God is turning these things to honor Him. He is the one performing miracles and showing up right in people’s faces.
As a brother from the Middle East said, “Working in the Middle East, you have to believe in miracles.”
This same brother told a story about a woman, a non-believer, who saw rays of light and heard God say, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” After seeing this vision, the woman gave her life to Christ. Another brother from the Middle East told a similar story of God, or a “man in a white robe” as he described it, coming to a non-believer and speaking to him the entire Book of John. This man had never read the Bible before or heard of God, but God took form and sought him out. The phrase, “I saw Jesus Christ,” was repeated as a Middle Eastern brother spoke. He used this phrase to describe his impressions as he told about miracles such as when he went through customs with a suitcase of Bibles and upon seeing one of the Bibles, the inspector looked at it, covered it up and let the suitcase go through. Also, this brother took a Bible to the inspector later on, and he and his family are now saved. A brother from another Muslim country said “Many people come forward and say, ‘God gave me a vision or dream.’” By this, he meant Christians and non-Christians alike.
Wow! What faith!
I was so surprised and challenged by this. When I say “I want to see Jesus” or sing that in a worship song, I never actually mean that I expect God to stand in front of me. Whether He does or does not, the point is that He can. This has stretched my faith and inspired me to believe that God can show Himself to anyone in the world, and He is doing so all around me. It might just take me letting him out of my literal, scientific, American box, to see His face.
Grace Pennington is a summer intern in the news services department of The Voice of the Martyrs. She is from Hot Springs, Ark., and is a junior majoring in journalism at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark.
According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts in Indonesia, “Muslims blocked the alley leading to the church building. Pastor Anna and Huta Julu had to lead worship outside their church building and believers had to sit in the dirty alley to pray outside their church.”
VOM contacts added, “The sign outside the church building stated, ‘This church building is sealed,’ and it was written on a letterhead belonging to the Tambun Selatan district of Bekasi local government.”
This is the second time Muslims have closed the church in Bekasi. The church was first closed on September 10, 2005 when a mob of 100 Muslims nailed boards over doors and windows and prohibited believers from entering the building.
Despite the church’s closure believers in Indonesia rejoice in suffering for Christ. In 2005, Huta Julu said, “…we peered between the boards to check for damage inside [the church]. Three of us stood outside in the darkness and prayed. We thanked God that He allowed this to happen to us. We were very encouraged because we knew the Apostles experienced the same thing. We are never disappointed for being Christians.”
VOM has supported and encouraged believers in Indonesia and provides Christian books like Extreme Devotion to believers. Praise God for the unwavering faith of believers in Indonesia. Ask God to watch over Pastor Anna and Huta Julu as they continue to lead other believers in Indonesia. Pray for protection for believers as they couragesously live for Christ in the midst of hardships.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit with Dr. Tom White, the President of VOM and get his reflections on the conference and a little bit about his captivity in Cuba. Feel free to leave your comments for Tom.