The brass shackle is called, in Arabic, a bacle. Peter held it out as if it were a sacred object. It was a reminder of his familys past and of Peters great blessing.
His grandfather had made the bacle, but it was not a craft project. In fact, he was forced to wear it by his Islamic masters. Peters grandfather had been captured in Southern Sudan and taken to Northern Sudan, where he was bought and sold as a slave.
Peters grandfather, though harassed and tormented by his Muslim masters, would not join their faith. He held fast to his faith in Christ, and his body bore the scars of his refusal. Because he was not a Muslim, he was seen as nothing more than an animal.
Shortly before he died, Peters grandfather had the bacle removed and gave it to Peters father. Our family will not always be slaves, he said, but we must never forget.
Later Peters father gave it to him, and he carried it with him when he escaped from his Muslim owner and fled to freedom. Today, it is no longer a sign of ownership, but a sign of Gods overcoming power. It is a symbol of Gods hand on a family, working through three generations to bring them to freedom.
Never forget my people, he urged. Never stop praying for persecuted Christians in Sudan.
| 2008/2/19 14:25|
It was almost midnight as the women prisoners heard the Communist guards arrive. They quickly gathered around the condemned, a young woman of twenty who had been sentenced to die for her faith in Christ. They whispered hurried good-byes. There were no tears from the young Romanian woman, no screams for mercy.
Earlier that evening, the prisoners had listened to the young woman, her face glowing with love. For me, this grave is the doorway to a heavenly city, she had told them. Who can tell the beauty of that city? There, sadness is not known. There is only joy and song. Everyone is dressed in the white of purity. We can see God face-to-face. There are such joys that human language cannot express. Why should I weep? Why should I be sad?
She was engaged to be married, but this night, she told them, instead of being with her earthly fiancé, she would meet her heavenly bridegroom.
The pitiless guards entered the cell, and the woman stepped toward them, ready to go. As she left the cell, surrounded by guards, she began to recite the Apostles Creed. Minutes later, with tears streaming down their faces, the remaining prisoners heard shots. The executioners thought they had ended the young womans life, but they had only sent her to live forever in a much better place.
| 2008/2/20 12:30|
My dress, the young girl murmured, her words slurred through swollen lips. Please give me my dress. I want to hold it.
The Christians surrounding the girls bed were sad. Because of her extensive internal injuries, doctors could do nothing for her. Weeks ago, the believers had bought her a white dress to celebrate her new life and pure heart in Christ Jesus.
Her father had not been pleased with his daughters decision to follow Christ. One night, in a drunken rage, he attacked his daughter, beating and kicking her. He left her lying in the muddy street to die.
When she did not show up for church, her Christian friends went looking for her. They found the girl unconscious, lying in a heap, her formerly snow white dress now covered in blood and mud. She was brought to a doctor, but her injuries were severe.
Now she was asking for her dress.
The dress is ruined, her friends told her. They tried to talk her out of it, thinking that seeing the ruined dress would break down the girls spirit.
With the simple faith of a ten-year-old, she whispered, Please, I want to show the dress to Jesus. He was willing to bleed for me. I just want Jesus to know that I was willing to bleed for him.
Shortly afterwards, the young girl died.
| 2008/2/21 12:16|
Collect some wood! the soldiers snarled. Young James Jeda assumed that the soldiers were about to cook their dinner. Earlier that day, he had watched, horrified, as the radical Muslim soldiers killed his parents and four siblings in Southern Sudan. They spared James only to use him as a worker.
When the fire was well lit, James was surprised and terrified when they suddenly grabbed him, and he tried to flee. But the soldiers were too strong, and soon they had tied his hands and feet.
Good news for you, young one, said a soldier. We are going to let you live. But you must join us by becoming a Muslim.
I cannot become a Muslim, James said simply. I am a Christian.
Infuriated by the young boys faith, the soldiers picked him up and hurled him into the fire. They packed up their gear and left the area, assuming James would die.
Young James didnt die. He managed to roll out of the fire and find help.
Doctors were able to save Jamess life, but he will always carry reminders of that day. His body bears skin grafts and scar tissue, and one arm is partially deformed by the burns. In heaven, those scars will be honor bars, a reminder of the day when James Jeda refused to turn his back on Christ.
| 2008/2/23 22:08|
I had the physical sense of being prayed for. Even when I knew nothing and received no letters, I felt warmth as if sitting near a fire. Sometimes this happened in punishment cells, which are very cold. It was like hearing someone pray for me and think about me. This supported me so much. It is difficult to explain. . . . I felt and knew I was not forgotten. This was sufficient to make me resist the most difficult moments.
IRINA RATUSHINSKAIACHRISTIAN POET IMPRISONED
IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION UNTIL 1987
| 2008/2/24 14:39|
Pastor Florescu couldnt bear to watch his son being beaten by the Communist officers. He had already been beaten himself, and he had not slept for two weeks for fear of being attacked by the starving rats the Communists had forced into his prison cell. The Romanian police wanted Florescu to give up other members of his underground church so that they, too, could be captured.
Seeing that the beatings and torture werent working, the Communists brought in Florescus son Alexander, only fourteen years old, and began to beat the boy. While Florescu watched, they hammered his sons body unmercifully, telling the pastor that they would beat his son to death unless he told them the locations of other believers.
Finally, half mad, Florescu screamed for them to stop.
Alexander, I must say what they want! he called out to his son. I cant bear your beatings anymore.
His body bruised, blood running from his nose and mouth, Alexander looked his father in the eye. Father, dont do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Stand strong! If they kill me, I will die with the word Jesus on my lips.
The boys courage enraged the Communist guards, and they beat him to death as his father watched. Not only did he hold on to his faith, he helped his father do the same.
| 2008/2/25 6:42|
When the black hood was placed over Tom Whites head, he didnt know if he would see the light again. Where are you taking me? he asked the Cuban guards. The guards said nothing.
Tom had been secretly delivering Christian literature to Cuba for seven years. He and others had dropped gospel tracts out of planes into the ocean around the Communist island. But he had never heard from a single Christian in Cuba that the materials had arrived.
Please, God, Tom had prayed, give us some confirmation that our work is helping.
Now, six weeks later, he was taken to meet a Cuban intelligence officer, Captain Santos. Their plane had crashed in Cuba, and Tom and the pilot, Mel Bailey, had been captured and charged with compromising the stability of the nation.
Our people have found thousands of these on the beaches and in the fields! Captain Santos shouted, holding one of the sea packages that had been dropped years before.
Tom tried not to smile. Thank you, Lord, he prayed, for answering my prayer. Thank you that our work has not been in vain.
The answer to Toms prayer was costly. He spent twenty-one months in Cuban prisons. But in Castros prison, he met many members of the church and learned that even under Castro, Christs body was prospering. God answered his prayer.
| 2008/2/26 8:12|
When Communists took over Vietnam, Pastor Nguyen Lap Ma refused to relinquish the Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Can Tho. For this crime, he and his entire family were placed under house arrest in a tiny, rural village with no travel and with no mail for the first twelve years.
Finally, when authorities loosened the mail restrictions, Pastor Lap Ma was thrilled to see letters arrive at his home. The Voice of the Martyrs published Pastor Lap Mas story and his address. Students, housewives, pastors, and businessmen wrote letters of encouragement to the pastor and his family. Vietnamese police were shocked when Pastor Lap Ma received more than three thousand letters from all over the world.
I read every letter with prayers and tears, Pastor Lap Ma said. I devour every letter and meditate on the Scriptures shared in them. I then share these words of encouragement and the Scriptures in Vietnamese with my family. We are glad and encouraged by the messages in them.
God has strengthened and helped us, the pastor continued. So we keep hoping in him and fixing our eyes on Jesus. We follow him to endure the cross, scorning its shame to the point of death. While we are living, God uses us to comfort the other suffering Christians. The letters encourage them as they happily encourage other believers.
[i]Encouragement is a necessary fuel for the Christian race. Without encouragement, as a runner without water, no one could endure the often grueling stretch for long. As we make our journey, we learn that encouragement is a two-way street. We give encouragement to others and so receive it ourselves from other believers and even from God himself. A little encouragement goes a long way in strengthening the weary and motivating those whose faith is languishing. We often find that the spiritual encouragement we receive from the prayers of those around us rejuvenates us for the second mile. In some cases, that is another twelve years in prison for our faith. In other cases, it is merely the ability to endure another day.[/i]
| 2008/2/27 11:44|
Exreme Letters - Part 1
Dear Mom and Dad,
I greet you with the love of Christ. I am doing well and feel very blessed. One of my schoolmates, Varia, is a member of the Communist Youth Organization. I have been witnessing to her, and I think I am finally starting to get through to her. Recently she said, I cannot understand you at all. So many of the students insult and hurt you, and you love them anyway.
I told her that God has taught us all to love, not only those who are kind to us, but especially those who are unkindthat they might see God within us. Varia has been one of the ones to join in the mocking and insults, but that has only made me pray for her even more.
Today, she asked me if I could really love her too! We embraced and both began to weep. I believe she is very close to receiving Christ. Please pray for her.
When you listen to those who loudly deny God, it seems like they mean it. But life shows that many of them really have a great longing in their hearts. And you can hear the groaning of the heart; they seek something and try to cover their inner emptiness with their godlessness.
I will write soon. Please send my love to everyone at home.
God created human beings with a spiritual space within them that can only be completely filled by him. When we run across someone who is hostile to Christianity, we can remind ourselves of the tremendous needs in that persons life. Imagine a cavernous space in the chest cavity of your enemya body without a heart. This inner emptiness is what drives many people to a spiritual search. They either respond in faith, wanting to accept Christs offer to fill the void, or they respond with bitterness, rejecting Christ altogether. Often, a Christians presence simply reminds those who reject Christ what they are missing in their own lives. They are not resenting you personally. They resent what you represent.[/i]
| 2008/3/7 10:28|
Extreme Letters - Part 2
Dear Mom and Dad,
In my last letter I told you about the atheist girl, Varia. Now I am so happy to tell you the exciting news: Varia has received Christ! She is so different and is already witnessing openly to everyone.
When Varia first believed, she still felt guilty inside. I think she was unhappy because for so long she believed and made a point of telling others that there is no God. She felt that she needed to suffer and pay for this.
We went together to the assembly of the godless (Communist Youth Organization meeting). Although I warned her to be reserved, it was useless. After refusing to join in the singing of the Communist hymn, Varia went forward to address the whole assembly. She courageously told everyone about accepting Christ as her Savior!
She begged everyone to give up the way of sin and come to Christ, and the whole place was silent. When she finished speaking, she sang with her incredible voice the old hymn, I am not ashamed to proclaim the Christ who died, to defend his commandments and the power of his cross. I could only watch helplessly as they took her away. Today is May 9, and we havent heard anything about her.
[i]The greatest enemies of Christianity are prime targets for prayer. Like Saul of Tarsus, it is possible for a former enemy to become one of the greatest spokespersons for Christ. However, without prayer, it will remain only a possibility. Instead of being afraid of them or resenting them, we should pray for those in our community, country, and throughout the world who are vehemently opposed to Christ. Whenever we pray for nonbelieverseven atheistswe can envision the changes that would happen if their energies were redirected toward Christ instead of against him. They could become the next evangelists to share a powerful testimony of Gods grace. None of our enemies are beyond Gods reach, and prayer keeps them within his grasp.[/i]
| 2008/3/8 10:47|