Beaten Body, Bolder Witness

indian pastor beaten

At 9 p.m. on Feb 7, 2016, Pastor Kabir finished leading a prayer service at Savior’s Church in the heart of one of India’s slums. He then left his congregation of 40 believers and boarded a bus to travel home to his wife, Ishita, and their two daughters, just as he did every other Sunday evening.

This time, however, four men followed the 37-year-old pastor home. The men, all members of a youth militia called Hindu Yuva Vahini, stopped the bus three miles from Kabir’s home, dragged him off the bus and kidnapped him.

They took him to an old, empty building, where they planned to force him to deny Jesus on video. Like other Hindu nationalist groups, such as the prominent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Hindu Yuva Vahini seeks to forcibly reconvert those who leave Hinduism.

The men surrounded the pastor, brutally kicking and punching him for 15 minutes. One of them repeatedly hit him on the head with the handle of a knife, and with each blow Kabir pleaded with God to spare his life. He pledged to serve Him more zealously if he survived.

As the pastor lay on the floor bleeding and writhing in pain, one of his attackers started recording him with the video camera on his smartphone. Another man ordered Kabir to say that he would no longer follow Jesus and that he would return to Hinduism and worship its idols again.

“I am going to serve the Lord only,” Kabir replied, “I am not going to worship idols. I am going to serve Jesus.”

The men again beat the pastor and demanded that he deny Christ for the video. And again, he refused. The pattern of demands, refusals, and beatings continued for 90 minutes, until the men finally grew tired and frustrated with Kabir’s stubbornness.

“You are [supposed to be] a Hindu!” one of them shouted. “You are converting everybody to Christianity here. Tomorrow, if I see you again holding a Bible and going like this, I will kill you!” They then burned Kabir’s Bible and let him go.

Justice and Grace

One of the attackers put Kabir on his motorcycle, took him about a mile away and told him to get off the bike. Disoriented, bleeding and in severe pain, Kabir called a friend to pick him up and take him home.

“God has spared my life, so I will forgive them,” Kabir thought. “I will not go to [the police] station. I will not get any case on them. What I am doing presently I am going to do double work for the Lord.”

When Kabir returned home around 11:30 p.m., his wife and daughters were shocked to see him bloodied and in pain.

“I was scared,” Ishita admitted. “Our children, both of them, thought, ‘God has saved my father’s life.’ They were grateful to Him.”

Still in pain the next morning, Kabir decided to go to the hospital, where he learned that he had a ruptured eardrum in his left ear, a tear in his right ear and a fractured skull. He would need multiple surgeries.

“I felt like my ears were gone,” he said. “There was no sound and my head was very heavy.”

As Kabir recovered from his injuries, a friend discovered that the attackers had posted video of the incident on a closed Hindu Yuva Vahini Facebook page. The video had been edited to make it appear that Kabir had reconverted to Hinduism.

A pastor’s network that supports Kabir reported the video to authorities, and the four men were eventually arrested. “I am praying for them every day,” Kabir said, “that they should be saved, come to church and accept Christ. If I see them, I will go and tell them, ‘God loves you and I am praying for you. How are you?’”

A New Perspective

Kabir pastored some of India’s poorest Christians for 12 years, and he had never experienced persecution before this attack. Now, having stood boldly for Christ in an attack by radical Hindus, he is ready to do more for God’s kingdom.

“I have grown in my faith and I will do double the work,” he said a month after the attack. “If it happens again in the future, I am not scared. Whatever God wants, let Him do. If I am here, I will keep doing the work. If I die, I go to His kingdom.”

Kabir has been faithful to his word. His church has grown to 60 members, his outreach ministry has doubled and he now ministers in two villages. Earlier this year, Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) gave him a bicycle to help him keep up with his growing ministry.

Like Kabir, Ishita knows that God will be with her family if they face more persecution. “There is persecution in Christian life, so I know that God is there with us,” she said. “I am not scared because God has told that He is always with us and He is going to protect us and He is strengthening us.”

The couple’s daughters also have gained a new perspective on their faith since the attack.

“Whatever happens, God is there; He will protect us,” said 15-year-old Vanya. “I am not going to put my faith down. I am happy that dad is safe.”

“I am happy with my father’s faith,” added 13-year-old Myra. “I want my father to do more work. We are not going to lose our faith. We are going to serve the Lord in the future.”

VOM has helped pay for Kabir’s medical care. While surgery helped restored his left ear, doctors were unable to repair the damage to his right ear and he now requires a hearing aid. Kabir asks that readers pray for his family and for the very poor people who live in the area where his church is located.

Kabir is committed to pastoring and serving the poor, following Jesus’s example. And he is grateful for the persecution he has faced because it has deepened his relationship with his Lord.

“In the Christian life there is persecution,” Kabir said. “Now God has allowed me to taste it.”

Via Voice of the Martyrs

Reluctant Bible Smuggler | North Korea

north korean Bible smuggler

Each time a new customer walked through the door of the small coffee shop in South Korea, where Min-Jae shared his story, he hesitated or stopped talking completely. The middle-aged North Korean studied each person’s face anxiously, searching for clues to his or her intent.

Min-Jae knew from experience that he could never be too careful, even outside North Korea. Spies often cross the border into South Korea to find defectors and report their names to the North Korean government, punishing their relatives still living in the country.

“In North Korea, no one trusts each other,” said Min-Jae, who even suspected his wife of being a spy. “We have to be very cautious about how we think and always careful with our words. I still have that kind of tendency. I get a little nervous, looking back and forth.”

With the coffee grinder in the background, Min-Jae grew more comfortable sharing the story of how he became a Bible smuggler in the most restricted nation on earth.

Dangerous Cargo

Min-Jae became a believer during a lengthy business trip to China in 2004. While there, he visited a friend’s church. He loved the Bible and all its “weird” stories. Five months later, after being baptized, he received his own small Korean Bible. He grew in his understanding of the Scriptures, Min-Jae had to return to North Korea. But as he prepared to leave China, someone from the church made a bold request: Would he accept a shipment that included 10 hidden Bibles once he returned to North Korea?

At first, he declined. He was already nervous about bringing his own small Bible into the country. If border guards caught him with even a few pages, he could be tortured or killed. And Min-Jae knew that receiving the shipment of Bibles could results in his imprisonment in a North Korean concentration camp.

As he agonized over the decision, he remembered that he had given his life to Christ, and it was no longer his own. He decided to trust the Lord.

“Now I believe in God, and in God, everything is possible,” he thought. “I can do anything He wants. Even if it looks difficult, maybe God will just do His work.”

The shipment arrived a few months after Min-Jae’s return to North Korea. At 1 a.m. on a morning in November 2005, he approached a boat along the Yalu Riverbank, praying for God’s protection and guidance with every step.

After retrieving three large vinyl duffle bags, he hoisted them onto his back and ran toward his home in the dark. Once inside his house, he opened the bags to find them tightly packed with pants. But wrapped randomly within the clothing were 10 small Korean Bibles.

“I was afraid and nervous,” he said. “Receiving them was fine, but when I actually opened the bags, I began to wonder, ‘How can I distribute these at this time?’ I began to have doubts.” Min-Jae decided to keep the dangerous books hidden until God led him to the right people.

Then, as he walked through his village one day in February 2006, he heard a man whistling a Christian hymn; he had learned the tuned, “The Trusting Heart to Jesus Clings,” during his time in China. Min-Jae made a note of where the man lived and decided to deliver some Bibles to him that night under cover of darkness.

After midnight, Min-Jae rewrapped eight of the 10 Bibles in the pants and left them at the man’s front door.

Behind Bars

Months later, Min-Jae returned to China with the intent of defecting. Still, in November 2006, he was arrested and extradited to North Korea.

In prison, he met a former friend who had been arrested because of his Christian faith. And as they talked, Min-Jae came to realize that the man he gave the Bibles to was his friend’s uncle. That man also had been arrested and was being held in a different cell in the same prison.

Min-Jae’s friend told him that his uncle had given the eight Bibles to relatives, who had then committed their lives to Christ. The entire family of 27 people began to gather secretly at night to worship God and to read and discuss the Scriptures. But one night, a neighbor overheard the believers singing hymns and reported them to authorities. The secret police raided their home and arrested everyone.

Although he couldn’t interact with them in prison, Min-Jae often heard some of the family members praying in their cells. He never told his friend that he was the one who had left the eight Bibles on his uncle’s doorstep. It was still too risky for anyone to know.

A month later, all 27 family members, including Min-Jae’s friend and his friend’s uncle, were sent to a concentration camp.

Set Free

Min-Jae was released after seven months in prison, and in 2014 he successfully defected to South Korea.

He remains concerned—even feeling a bit guilty—about the Christian family suffering in a concentration camp. He supplied the Bibles that helped lead to their imprisonment. Still, he knows that God provided the Bibles and that He is with them as they suffer in His name. “I believe that these 27 people are children of God and that God will somehow release them miraculously,” Min-Jae said.

VOM has provided some support to Min-Jae. Today, he serves in various ways at his church and participates in a one-on-one discipleship program. He continues to pray for a job that will enable him to support himself and asks Christians in the United States to pray that more North Koreans will learn of God’s love for them.

“I just want for North Korean people to hear the gospel and share the gospel,” he said. “That is my only prayer.”

After his conversation in the coffee shop, Min-Jae pulled out the hand-sized Bible he received in China when he first came to know Christ. The outside looks like a notebook, but its pages contain God’s Word in a near-microscopic font. He had hidden the Bible from everyone, including his wife, and it had sustained him when he was a lonely Christian fearful of his work as a Bible smuggler.

Like the family of 27 believers imprisoned for their faith and countless others secretly following Jesus inside North Korea, Min-Jae depended on God’s Word, too.

Story via Voice of the Martyrs

Richard Wurmbrand Tortured for Christ

richard wurmbrand

The Voice of the Martyrs began with a dream and a prayer in a solitary cell in Communist Romania. For three years, Richard Wurmbrand sat alone in a prison cell 30 feet below the ground. But in that dark, lonely, cold cell, he cried out to God and dreamed about starting a ministry that would serve Christians in Communist countries. God heard his prayers.

“In the year 1948, on a Sunday while I went to church, I was kidnapped by the Communists. I knew that even in the van of the secret police I am in the hands of the Almighty God, and this gave quiet to my heart.” –Richard Wurmbrand

Several years later, Christians ransomed Richard and his family from their Romanian homeland for $10,000. This was more than what others usually pay for political prisoners.

Within days of his release from a Romanian prison and arrival in the West, he wrote his bestselling book, Tortured for Christ. Soon after that, he established a mission called Jesus to the Communist World, which later became The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM).

Richard’s message was not always welcome. When war protests and pro-Communist rallies were occurring around the United States, Richard boldly took the stage. He spoke out against the crimes being committed by Communist regimes. Although often booed and jeered, he remained undeterred. When asked about his qualifications to speak out in this way, he would strip to the waist to show his 18 torture scars and say, “These marks are my credentials.”

Many Christians found his message hard to believe, and others didn’t care. But he was not seeking approval and applause. He was seeking Christians who were willing to stand with their persecuted brothers and sisters. And over time, he found them.

Every month, Richard published a newsletter. The newsletter shared stories of courageous Christians beaten, imprisoned, and killed because of their faith in Christ. Some refused to read the newsletter, saying it was too depressing or graphic. But Richard had a different perspective. “What will you profit by reading this newsletter? It will enlarge your vision. You need to enlarge your horizons, sharing the joys and sorrows of your fellow men.”

He believed their stories would spur American Christians to a more profound commitment to Christ and His Great Commission.

50 years later, Richard’s dream of helping persecuted Christians and sharing the gospel with their persecutors lives on. The ministry Richard and Sabina set up aids families of martyrs. VOM also equips front-line workers, provides Bibles to Christians in restricted nations, and inspires Christians in America with testimonies of our courageous, persecuted Christians.

Each week a story of one of our Christian brothers and sisters will appear here. I pray that you will be inspired and challenged in your faith.