Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Remembering Those in Chains

The February issue of our publication is now available! In this month's issue...
  • Remembering Those in Chains: The Apostle Paul’s admonishment in Hebrews 13:3 becomes even more relevant after learning about the deplorable prison conditions in the African nation of Eritrea, where an estimated 4,000 fellow believers are being forcefully confined – many held hostage in metal shipping containers that are unfit for humans.  
  • Criminal or Hero?: The increasing demand for newly printed Bibles cost a high price for this dedicated pastor in China. Yet his arrest and subsequent suffering was used to pave the way for despondent criminals to discover the enduring hope and power of Christ for themselves.
  • Helping Families of Prisoners: God’s Word is never taken for granted by imprisoned Christians in Southeast Asia who will go to great lengths to share His never-failing truths, even if it requires secretly writing out verses on scraps of paper and tissue. This family is thankful that God actually honoured His Word through the help of VOM’s ministry and faithful partners!
  • Cries of Truth Behind the Iron Curtain: Richard Wurmbrand, founder of VOM’s international ministry, provides captivating insights on the topic of suffering based on a child’s intuitive perception, while also drawing from the valuable life-lessons he learned in solitary confinement.
  • Unashamed of His Chains: Early Christians like the Apostle Paul understood what it was like to be forsaken by others, especially when sitting alone in a windowless dungeon deep in the ground. Yet this particular friend of Paul’s was commended for proving himself faithful to the very end. 
  • Brighten Someone’s Day: Discover how you can be an effective carrier of God’s light to someone who right now may be languishing in a dank, dingy prison cell merely for following Jesus. Your words of encouragement can make a profound difference in a prisoner’s life and situation, giving them a ‘ray of hope’ for a brighter tomorrow. 
The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter is the flagship publication of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada. Published monthly, it is available free of charge to anyone in Canada who requests it. You can subscribe online here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Extreme Singing

North Korea: Soon Ok Lee

“I never knew what these prisoners were singing until I became a Christian.” 

Soon Ok Lee was a prisoner in North Korea from 1987 to 1992. She did not become a Christian, however, until she escaped to South Korea. When she first received Christ, she was overwhelmed by her memories of what she had seen and heard in prison.

It was the simple things, like the Christians who sang as they were being put to death. At that time, she did
not understand and had thought they were crazy. She was not allowed to talk, so she never had the chance to speak with a Christian. She does remember hearing the word, “Amen.”

“While I was there, I never saw Christians deny their faith. Not one. When these Christians were silent, the officers would become furious and kick them. At the time, I could not understand why they risked their lives when they could have said, ‘I do not believe,’ and done what the officers wanted. I even saw many who sang hymns as the kicking and hitting intensified. The officers would call them crazy and take them to the electric-treatment room. I didn’t see one come out alive.”

It was the singing that stuck with her. Perhaps it was the singing of these precious saints that planted a seed in her spirit and eventually led her to Christ.

Like spies, those who are curious about Christianity zero in on believers so that they can evaluate the truth for themselves. They observe. They watch. They take mental notes. Whenever Christians go through trials, these silent observers often hope to see the believers fall, so that they can assure themselves that Christians are like everyone else after all. However, when Christians smile through trouble, they are stumped. When believers clap instead of cry, they are amazed. When Christ followers sing amidst sorrow, they are drawn in by what they cannot explain. If you are going through a trial right now, you have an unprecedented opportunity to witness for Christ. Pray that your joyful example will inspire others. 

Excerpted from Extreme Devotion, a book of 365 true accounts of men and women who totally sold out for Jesus. You can order a copy of this book from our online catalogue or by contacting our office. You can also purchase Eyes of the Tailless Animals, a prison memoir written by Soon Ok Lee through the catalogue.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Government Harasses Christian Leaders and Their Families in Cuba

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Threats have been made by government officials to destroy a church property due to its affiliation with the Apostolic Movement, a fast-growing unregistered network of protestant churches. Pastor Bernardo de Quesada, a national leader of the church group, has publicly denounced an order from the Provincial Ministry of Housing that he and his wife demolish an outdoor covered patio, used by the church for meetings. The order directly contradicts written permission for construction of the patio issued by another government agency, which added that "permission for this type of construction is not necessary."

There have also been complaints that the Cuban government is targeting the family members of its leaders. In one particular case, the electricity has been cut off from the home of retired military officer Lieutenant Colonel Orlando Porfirio and his ill wife, in what they believe is an attempt to put pressure on their adult son who is a worship leader. The elderly couple have not had electricity supplied to their home since October 9, 2012, and have received no response to repeated written complaints to government officials.

Other affiliated churches have been subjected to repeated fines and had property confiscated or destroyed. A number of its leaders, including Pastor Omar Gude Perez, have been imprisoned for various lengths of time. (For more on Pastor Omar's situation, click here.)

Santa Clara
Church leaders in the Cuban city of Santa Clara have condemned the Cuban government's refusal to allow Trinidad First Baptist Church access to its bank accounts. The accounts for the historic local church, with funds amounting to approximately $27,000, were frozen by government officials in 2010. The majority of these funds were donated by churches abroad for essential repairs to the 105-year-old church, yet still remain inaccessible more than two years later.

Additional penalties applied to the church before the retirement of its former pastor included a prohibition on any foreigner travelling with a religious visa visiting the church, non-authorization of the purchase of a church van, and refusal to issue permission for the pastor to leave the country in order to attend religious conferences abroad.

Overall Increase of Persecution
There have been a total of 120 reported cases of religious freedom violations in 2012, up from a total of 30 in 2011, some of which involved entire churches and denominations and hundreds of people. One of the most severe cases involved the violent beating of Pentecostal pastor, Reutilio Columbie, early in the year. Pastor Reutilio suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the beating which he believes was orchestrated by local Communist Party officials. To date, there has been no governmental investigation into the beating carried out. (For other previous reports on events affecting Christians in Cuba, please check the Cuba Country Report.)

May our all-powerful God mediate on behalf of Cuban believers by moving the hearts of political leader Raul Castro and his government officials in favour of granting them religious freedom. Pray that the church will arise from oppression becoming a tremendous influence on the entire nation and that great exploits would take place in their midst, including the divine healing of Pastor Reutilio.

This story was originally published in our Persecution & Prayer Alert. Every week, The Persecution & Prayer Alert delivers specific prayer requests from restricted nations around the world directly to your inbox. You can also read the stories on our website. To sign up to receive the prayer alert, click here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

VOM speakers visiting Ontario and Alberta this February

Join us at a VOM event this February to hear reports about the persecuted Church, learn how you can stand with those suffering, and fellowship with other believers in Canada.

Saturday, February 2, 2013
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (8:30 for booktables)
Metropolitan Bible Church
2176 Prince of Wales Drive
Ottawa, ON
Speakers: Pastor Wagdi Iskander, Dr. Janet Epp-Buckingham
To register or for info: 613-230-5509 or helpandpray@gmail.com

Sunday, February 10, 2013 10:30 a.m.
Centre Fellowship Church
375 Hansen Blvd.
Orangeville, ON L9W 0C2
Speaker: Viji Roberts
Contact: 1-888-298-6423

Sunday, February 24, 2013 8:30, 9 & 11 a.m.
St. Albert Alliance Church
25416 S. Hwy 633
St. Albert, AB T8N 3X8
Speaker: Greg Musselman
Contact: 1-780-458-5335 (Jeremy Peters)

To view other upcoming VOM events or to request a speaker, please visit our Events page or contact our office.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Extreme challenge

Judea: J. Oswald Smith

The Lord Jesus Christ used a particular strategy when he fed five thousand people who had followed him on foot from the surrounding towns. It was near evening, and the disciples came to him, asking Jesus to send the crowd away for the night. Jesus had a different plan, however. He had the people sit in orderly rows on the grass. After Jesus took the food and gave thanks, the disciples started at one end of the front row and went right along the front row giving everyone a helping.

A preacher and writer, J. Oswald Smith, asks an unusual question at this point: “Did the disciples turn right around and start back along that front row again, asking everyone to take a second helping?

“No! Had they done that, those in the back rows would have been rising up and protesting most vigorously. They would have been saying, ‘Come back here. Give us a helping. Why should those people in the front rows have a second helping before we have had a first?’

“And they would have been right. We talk about the second coming of Christ. Many haven’t heard about the first coming yet. Why should anyone hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once? Not one individual in that entire company of five thousand got a second helping until everyone had had a first helping.”

Many Christians fear going to countries where no missionaries have stepped foot. It is far easier to remain in familiar territory. Yet Jesus commanded believers to go into “all the world” and find new locations where Christ’s name has never been proclaimed. Smith’s realistic interpretation of the feeding of the five thousand challenges our methodology when it comes to evangelism. Why are most of the people resources and financial budgets designed and directed toward people who have already heard the gospel? In fact, many of those nations are in danger of being overchurched, while other people groups lack a single Bible translated into their own language. Can your support help balance the scales? Can your life make a difference in tomorrow’s evangelistic efforts?

Excerpted from Extreme Devotion, a book of 365 true accounts of men and women who totally sold out for Jesus. You can order a copy of this book from our online catalogue or by contacting our office.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Missions Fest Alberta

“Reaching a World in Crisis”
February 22 - 24, 2013

VOM’s Greg Musselman will be one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Missions Fest event in Edmonton, Alberta. Greg will be presenting relevant issues concerning today’s persecuted Church, and the various ways we can effectively reach out to our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.

Friday, February 22
“The Call to Serve the Persecuted Church” (Pastors’ Luncheon)

Saturday, February 23

“Suffering with our Global Family” (General Session)

Sunday, February 24

“Closer to the Fire” (General Session)

For more information on this upcoming event, please contact Missions Fest:
Website: www.mfest.ab.ca
Phone: 780-451-0080

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Prisoner of faith: Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel

Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel, a leading figure of Full Gospel Church of Eritrea, founder and senior pastor of Southwest Full Gospel Church and member of the executive committee to the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea, was arrested on May 23, 2004. He was taken from his home in Asmara Gejeret, at approximately 5 a.m. Dr. Gebremeskel was a mathematics lecturer, department and faculty head at the University of Asmara until 1999, when he became a full-time pastor at the Southwest Full Gospel Church. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Chicago University. His wife and four children have not been able to visit him.

About 2,000 Eritrean Christians are believed to be under arrest because of their religious beliefs, held in police stations, military camps and prisons in 12 known locations across Eritrea. Dr. Gebremeskel is one of the 28 clergymen being held.

Jailed Protestants are routinely subjected to physical beatings and severe psychological pressure to deny their religious beliefs. Police and military authorities continue to demand the prisoners return to one of the three “official” Christian denominations recognized by the government. But even the legally recognized denominations--the nation’s historic Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches--have come under government disfavour, incurring threats and even jailing by security police officials.

Please encourage Dr. Kiflu by writing him a letter!

When writing, never mention the name of the source of your information or the name of any organization such as VOM. It is not dangerous for a prisoner to receive letters from individuals, but if an organization is mentioned they may be accused of links with “foreign organizations” and receive harsher sentences. Also, please do not state anything negative about their government.

To compose a letter in Dr. Kiflu’s own language, please visit www.PrisonerAlert.com. To learn more about letter writing, click here.

Please mail your letters to the following address:

Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel
Karsheli Prison
2nd Police Station Zone 7 Northern East
Zoba Maakel
Asmara, Eritrea

Monday, January 14, 2013

Family Visit to Iran Prompts Unexpected Imprisonment

Photo: ACLJ
While visiting his family in Iran, 32-year-old Rev. Saeed Abedini, now an American resident, was imprisoned without notice of any formal charges. He is currently awaiting trial at Iran's notoriously brutal Evin Prison, where he has been incarcerated since late September of 2012. Family members residing in Iran (also Christian converts) are currently under house arrest. Fortunately, his wife Naghmeh, and their two young children, didn't accompany him during this most recent visit.

Since moving to the United States in 2005, Saeed periodically travelled to the country of his origin to spend time with his family and oversee the development of an orphanage, a humanitarian effort he began years ago. Prior to this, Saeed was the founder of a house church movement in Iran. Over the course of his involvement, the movement had about 100 churches in 30 Iranian cities with more than 2,000 members. "It was just growing so fast," his wife Naghmeh explains. "[Governmental leaders] see the underground churches as a threat and Christianity as a tool from the West to undermine them."

Saeed converted to Christianity at the age of 20, after undergoing suicide bomber training by a radical Muslim group. The more he sought to be a devout Muslim and the deeper he went into training, the more depressed he became. "Christianity saved his life," Naghmeh adds. Yet when Saeed became a Christian, he became a criminal in his own country.

May God arise and work mightily on behalf of Saeed's situation. Pray that angels will guard over this young pastor and his family, protecting them from further attacks, and that the Holy Spirit will act as their advocate throughout the legal process. Ironically, those involved in this case of imprisonment are themselves held captive by the rulers of darkness. May these perpetrators witness first hand the reality of Christ's glory and His delivering power in their own lives!

This story was originally published in our Persecution & Prayer Alert. Every week, The Persecution & Prayer Alert delivers specific prayer requests from restricted nations around the world directly to your inbox. You can also read the stories on our website. To sign up to receive the prayer alert, click here.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Advocates Take Stand for Christian Beliefs in Pakistan

While minorities, particularly Christians, are deliberately oppressed in Pakistan, an emerging political leader is bringing greater awareness of the need for positive change in this regard. (Go to the Pakistan Country Report for more about the treatment of believers.) Albert David, Chairman of the Pakistan United Christian Movement (PUCM) launched his new political party this past October, becoming the most visible guest in the city of Isalamabad during recent advent celebrations. He firmly believes that Christians should actively participate in national politics "to ensure their increased visibility and importance."

Pakistani journalist and human rights activist Shamim Masih reports: "Mr. David was invited to 25 programs organized by different churches, social organizations and community groups, and the PUCM chairman availed himself during this wonderful time to not only share the message of Christmas, but also talk about the importance of the Pakistan Christian community being vibrant and visible in the national political scene. During his speeches, he focussed on the true message and spirit of Christmas, which he said included unconditional love, peace, hope and, most importantly, the sharing of joys with the less fortunate."

As advocates of God's justice and mercy through prayer, we can rejoice over the fact that He is equipping and raising up Christians in various areas of leadership, even in the political realm. Pray for the Lord to grant these leaders wisdom, insight, protection and favour as they represent Him and serve as a voice for the oppressed, including those typically persecuted or martyred for their faith. May Albert David's voice be heard clearly by both the Christian community and the general public of Pakistan, serving as a catalyst for greatly needed positive change.

This story was originally published in our Persecution & Prayer Alert. Every week, The Persecution & Prayer Alert delivers specific prayer requests from restricted nations around the world directly to your inbox. You can also read the stories on our website. To sign up to receive the prayer alert, click here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Interview on the persecuted Church

Tune in as Greg Musselman, Vice President of Outreach for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, candidly talks with 100 Huntley Street television host Jim Cantelon about the persecution of Christians around the world. Greg also speaks of his newly released book, Closer to the Fire, Lessons from the Persecuted Church. In Canada, you can order a copy of this book from our online catalogue. You can also purchase this book through Amazon.

Part 1 (Length - 11:50 minutes):

Part 2 (Length - 12:36 minutes):

For more videos on the persecuted Church, please visit our multimedia site at www.persecution.tv.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Extreme strength

Indonesia: Fritz

Fritz felt each crashing blow to his head and prayed for strength. The Muslim attackers surrounded him and took turns beating him in the face. One of the Muslim attackers brandished a large knife thinking this would rid them of the Christian pastor. The first time the blade went into Fritz, all he could do was yell, “Jesus!” He was stabbed repeatedly. And each time, he yelled, “Jesus!” The attackers grew frustrated at the pastor who just wouldn’t die!

The radical Muslims proceeded to pull the benches and pulpit from the church and set them on fire. Two of the Muslims grabbed Fritz and heaved him onto the blazing wood. Satisfied with their attack, they ran away. Fritz doesn’t remember much after that, but he knows one thing: Not a hair on his head was singed.

Shortly after the attack, Fritz was brought to the largest hospital in that area of Indonesia, but he was refused treatment when they learned he was a Christian. He was brought to another hospital, but the attending doctor said that if he happened to live through the night, he would have permanent brain damage.

After a long recovery, Fritz is now preaching again at a new church. To his amazement, one of the Muslims who attacked Fritz began looking for him, only to ask a single question: “Who is this Jesus?”

Who doesn’t enjoy being thought of as the resident “expert”? It may be mechanics, mathematics, tools, carpentry, art, stamp collecting, or sports – everyone can be thought of as an expert in at least one area. We love to field questions on a topic with which we are very familiar. But if someone were to ask, “Who is this Jesus?” would we be as prepared as an “expert” would be? Not every Christian is an evangelist, per se. But every Christian can evangelize by sharing the plan of salvation when the opportunity arises. If you were asked that question by a non-believing friend, how would you answer? If you’re not sure, talk to someone who knows. 

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have 
~ 1 Peter 3:15 ~

Excerpted from Extreme Devotion, a book of 365 true accounts of men and women who totally sold out for Jesus. You can order a copy of this book from our online catalogue or by contacting our office.

Friday, January 4, 2013

VOM speakers in Manitoba and British Columbia in January

Speakers from The Voice of the Martyrs will be sharing stories from the persecuted Church at various events this month. If you're in the area, please be sure to join us!

Sunday, January 13, 2013  10:45 a.m.
Bayview Evangelical Free Church
#8 South Beach Colonization Road
Gimili, MB
Speaker: Gerald Bankert
Contact: 204-642-9871 (Pastor Harv Janzen)

Sunday, January 27, 2013  9:15 & 11 a.m.
Calvary Baptist Church
1636 Regan Avenue
Coquitlam, BC
Speaker: Greg Musselman
Contact: 604-936-8242

For more information, to view other upcoming VOM events, or to request a speaker, please visit our events page or contact our office.