December 28, 2009
December 24, 2009
This Christmas as we enjoy the freedom God has given us here, I can't help but remember how God calls us to pray for our fellow believers and brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering persecution for the sake of the gospel:
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Heb 13:3)
Here are just a few things going on right now that you can pray for as you celebrate and worship this week:
Pakistani Christians living in tents, left homeless by violence labeled "the worst against minorities in the country this year". (CNN)
The thousands of families in the Phillippines who have been violently run out of their homes in an ever-growing persecution/violence against Christians by neighboring Muslims.
The ongoing genocide of the Karen people and Christians in Burma as the government seeks to wipe them from the country.
North Korean Christians, considered one of the communist government's "most vile threats", with some 154,000 in prison concentration 'death' camps and others regularly disappearing (CNN).
The 70,000 Indians who are living in shelters after intense persecution from militant Hindus in Orissa state.
The 50,000 member church in China that was recently shut down by the government police and its leaders who were sentenced to years in hard labor camps. Also, the unimaginable beatings/torture/persecution of China's house church leaders and members. More Christians are in prison in China than in anywhere in the world.
Churches in Iraq that are being targeted and blown up.
Iranian and Iraqi Christians in prison simply for refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus...
for everyone who cannot celebrate Christmas openly for fear of persecution.
For believers in countries that experience heavy persecution:
Indonesia, China, Tibet, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Morocco, Turkey, Nigeria, India, North Korea, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Maldives, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Mindanao (Phillipines), Azerbaijan, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Bhutan.
If this type of knowledge makes you cringe and your tendency is to look the other away or want to ignore it, that's ok. But take it to God, and ask him to show you how he feels about his people. He will break your heart for his suffering church... and this is a beautiful thing. We need not be afraid of this kind of compassion. It softens our heart and leads us closer into God's heart.
And there are so many practical things you can do to help, also... write letters to government officials to pressure them to release innocent prisoners, give money to the incredible projects going on by Voice of the Martyrs to support persecuted Christians by providing them food, supplies and medical treatment for wounds and scars. Go to www.persecution.com if you want more information on each country's situation (click on Restricted Nations tab at top) and info on how you can help!
December 1, 2009
We went to KGF last week (two hour train ride from us) to meet up with some people we know and minister with a church there. Our church in America is connected with this ministry through a man named Jimmy, who married the pastor's daughter and goes back and forth between KGF and America. It was a really great way for us to end our time in India. The ministry was warm, welcoming, and full of love. The place holds the pastor and his family, as well as some orphans and widows who they care for. We really liked being there- the community among the Indians was so rich that the more rustic conditions (from what we were used to) faded into the distance. KGF is smaller and less developed than the city we live in, so we were able to see a whole other side of India which we also really enjoyed. We loved spending time in people's homes, eating and drinking tea with them, praying for them, and being a part of their lives. We loved what we got to do and how we were included as part of the family, even if only for a short time.
Here's a quick rundown: we went with the team and church to villages and shared Jesus with them, some for the first time. We talked about the difference between putting your faith in idols made of stone and clay and putting your faith in the one true God. We prayed for people who were sick, and saw God heal! One time a few of us prayed for a baby with a burning hot fever. Ten minutes later, the baby's forehead felt as cool as mine! The people began to believe because they saw God move!
We also helped the church encourage some of the local village churches. Ben was able to share a word God had spoken to him about someone there that night, and when he was finished a man came forward and publicly gave his life to Jesus!
I was able to ride on the back of Laban's motorcycle (the pastor) out into the country to a village the church had spoken in earlier that week. At that time, a woman there said she was being "tortured by an evil spirit". When prayed over in the name of Jesus, she said the spirit left her and she wanted to give her life to Jesus. Upon our visit she had stripped her home of all its idols and whitewashed the walls. She wanted us to pray for her home and her family as they put their trust in God alone.
Each of the villages that the church ministers to has one person from the church that lives there. One of these men, Solomon, has a huge hole in his tin roof where the water pours in and runs through his home every time it rains. The hole has been there for 6 years now because every time he has some extra money, he gives it to the widows in the village for food. I've never met anyone so selfless. That's what many of the people we met here are like.
We also brought with us some audio-recording devices that play the New Testament in Tamil and Kannada and run on solar power (for those who can't read and don't have electricity). The widows of the village who had already received one would get together and listen to the 'black box' every Monday. One of these women (in the pic) gave her life to Jesus after listening to the words. The others gave their lives to Jesus while we were there!
(Picture: Pastor Laban, Solomon, and some of the widows)
There's a lot more to say, but overall we are really thankful for the encouragement of this church and for allowing us to be a part of what they are doing.
Ben wearing a lungi- I think he looks pretty good, don't you?
In ending about KGF, here's a little piece of Indian culture for you:
The train stop at the town we were staying does not allow reserved seats and the train is always packed, so Arvind had two of his friends ride from the previous stop to save seats for us. When the train came we quickly found them in a window and Ben and I struggled to push our way inside the train. It was so packed that we couldn’t get through before the train took off, so we passed our bags over everyone's heads to the friends, and then we climbed up over the seats. The two men then climbed over and pushed their way to the door to get off (but didn’t make it before the train left) so they jumped off the moving train and waved goodbye to us from the street. On the ride home I held a baby for a standing woman, and Ben held a little boy, who's first word (pointing to Ben's arm) was "White?"
We also returned from our trip to Thailand. We went there to renew our visa (it's one of the countries closest to south India), but we took full advantage of the trip and enjoyed biking around Chiang Mai and seeing Thai culture. We flew into Bangkok but spent almost all our time in Chiang Mai, a northern city. Ben's dad had been there the previous week on a medical mission trip, so it was a perfect opportunity for him to leave us some things we needed. Chiang Mai was perfect. Beautiful, not intimidating, and authentic. The Thai people are so approachable and friendly, laid back, and hospitable. Many of the people we met had hilarious personalities. To make it even better, the food is so good. You can step outside your door and buy any type of food imagineable in fresh markets (which were ultra clean). We loved our time in Chiang Mai.
(the Grand Palace in Bangkok)
When we came back to the home, there was an adorable new member of the household! 4-year-old Vetry was taken in after his mother committed suicide (in front of him) by pouring kerosene over herself and lighting a match. He is a wild child, but a real cutie. It's fun to see him start to learn English words as he only speaks Tamil. Last night, he told Tammy that he was having horrible nightmares at night and was being visited by demons (every time he slept he would wake up afraid/crying). Not sure what was going on, everyone prayed over him for the nightmares to stop. He slept perfectly last night, and said that "Jesus came and helped him". Isn't that awesome?
We'll be saying goodbye to India and leaving for America next week. Please pray for us as we have some big, specific needs and uncertainties.
We can't wait to see you! Signing off from India (but not from blogging)....