Home Cannot Be Used for Church

Nov. 12, 2020 | Indonesia

A Christian in Indonesia has been told by local officials that she cannot renovate her house if she intends to use it for Christian purposes. The local village council of Ngastemi village sent a letter to the believer telling her that her Christian activities had caused unrest in the village. “It is prohibited to hold Christian meetings and/or prayer meetings … in order to create a harmonious atmosphere between people, especially in Karangdami colony,” the letter said. Pray that this woman along with other believers in her village will come to an agreement with authorities about practicing their faith.

Click here to find out about Christian persecution in Indonesia and learn how to pray.

Pastor Jailed

Nov. 12, 2020 | Kazakhstanpastor zhetis jailed

A pastor in Shymkent spent 10 days in prison on a false charge of breaking pandemic quarantine requirements, the latest in a string of harassments. Zhetis Raulov is the pastor of New Life Church in the city of Shymkent and is familiar with how local authorities pressure Christians in this former Soviet Republic. During quarantine in April, Zhetis was summoned to meet representatives of the Religious Affairs at his church building. Aware of the predilections of authorities, Zhetis parked his car outside city limits and took a taxi to the meeting so he could not be accused of breaking quarantine driving restrictions. No one showed up for the meeting, so he returned to his car; minutes later, he was pulled over by a police car for breaking quarantine. After a five-minute trial, Zhetis was sentenced to 10 days in prison, and authorities harassed his family during that t ime. A VOM field worker writes, “Pray that God would give strength, courage and wisdom to Pastor Zhetis and his family in dealing with the local authorities. Pray that the Justice Department and General Prosecutors’ office in the capital would pay attention to the lawlessness being committed against a Christian pastor.”

Click here to find out about Christian persecution in Kazakhstan and learn how to pray.

Missionary Jasek Imprisoned 14 Months, Part 2

Petr Jasek

CLICK HERE to listen to Part 2 of Petr Jasek’s radio interview.

Another Month in Prison

On the 10th of each month, which marked another month since my arrest, I struggled with discouragement and depression. “How long, oh Lord, will You leave me here?” I asked. “How long will you keep me separated from Wanda and our children? How much more can I endure?”

God answered my questions on April 10, 2016, by which time I had been moved from the NISS prison to a regular prison. That night, when 14 new prisoners were added to my already overcrowded cell, God distinctly led me to talk with these new prisoners and share my testimony with them.

The new prisoners were from Eritrea, a country I had visited for VOM. They had been captured while passing through Sudan as they fled their oppressive homeland. After getting to know them a little, I shared my testimony and introduced them to the gospel. Several of the Eritreans listened closely, and two of them made a decision to follow Christ. The next morning, all 14 were transferred out of prison, and I never saw them again. But I’m confident that I’ll see at least two of them also in heaven.

The Lord turned the 10th day of the month, usually a day of discouragement and depression, into a day of ministry and celebration. From that day onward, I dedicated my prison time to the Lord. “If You will allow me opportunities to share the gospel, I will stay here as long as You want!” I prayed.

I experienced a radical change of heart, no longer fretting about my trial and how long I would be in prison. In fact, I even stopped praying that I would be released from prison. I simply focused on the people God placed in my path each day and asked Him to use me to build His kingdom while I was in prison.

Later in April, I received a Czech Republic embassy official visit, who brought me a much-appreciated Czech Bible. After almost five months without God’s Word, I was hungry! Finally, I could dive into the Scriptures.

I could read my Bible only in the daytime when natural light entered my cell, so I read it from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon every day. I had to read standing up, leaning against the prison bars so the light would fall across the pages. I was so hungry that I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in three weeks, just reading for hours each day.

As I came across different passages that God had brought to mind during my long months without a Bible, it was like finding a pearl or receiving a loving embrace from God. I scratched those references into my cell wall to quickly return to verses like 1 Cor 10:13.

Two Sudanese pastors, Kuwa Shamal and Hassan Abduraheem were being tried with me. They were in a cell across from mine. We called out verses to each other across the hall.

Eventually, another Sudanese man and we were transferred to a prison where there was a Christian chapel. The Christians in that prison met almost daily, so the pastors and I had many opportunities to minister and study God’s Word together. What sweet fellowship it was!

I worried that my Sudanese friends might view me as the cause of their imprisonment and separation from their families, but they quickly put my mind at ease. “This is God’s plan,” they said simply.

Our trial dragged on, month after month, and hearings occurred only once a week. We were loaded into the back of a truck and driven for one hour on hot, dusty roads to the courthouse in the center of Khartoum. Sometimes we would arrive as scheduled only to learn that the judge had canceled the day’s hearings or that there was no electricity in the courthouse. Then we would turn around and drive back to the prison.

Our Sudanese Christian brothers and sisters were a great encouragement at these hearings. Often they would gather outside the courthouse, risking their own arrest, to sing hymns as we were led into the courthouse. I will never forget Pastor Kuwa’s tears as he heard the hymns sung in his tribal language outside the courthouse. Not only God but also His body, the church, was standing boldly with us during our trial.

The lawyers told me that I would be going home soon. When the prisoners heard that, they began asking for my clothing and blanket. But I didn’t believe it; I felt sure the court would find me guilty, and I would remain in prison.

Life in Prison

On January 29, 2017, we gathered in the courtroom to hear the verdict in our case.

My assumption was correct. I was found guilty on multiple charges and sentenced to life in prison, which under Sudanese law means 20 years. The additional convictions, however, added another four years to my sentence.

Pastor Hassan and my translator were found guilty of helping me commit espionage and sentenced to 12 years each. Pastor Kuwa, who wasn’t even in Sudan during my visit, was set free. It was pretty clear that he couldn’t have “aided and abetted” me in committing acts of espionage.

While I had fully expected to be found guilty, hearing the judge say “life in prison” hit me hard. Would I survive 20 more years in prison? Would I ever see my family again? What would they think when they heard those terrible words? But I also took comfort in the promise I had made to God. I had told Him that I was willing to stay in prison as long as He would use me. Clearly, He had a plan for me there.

The Lord Has Done Great Things for Us

After our conviction and sentencing, we were moved to Kober Prison, the preferred site for “political” prisoners.

On February 23, 2017, I sat in the prison yard, reading Psalm 126:

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,

We were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

And our tongue with singing.

Then they said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us.

And we are glad.

Within seconds of finishing the Psalm, the prison commander approached me and said, “Petr, you are getting released today.”

I felt like I was dreaming! When my fellow prisoners heard the news, they rejoiced with me and shouted for joy. A prisoner release is always encouraging news in prison.

That was a moment of joy as the other prisoners hugged me and rejoiced over my release. In God’s faithfulness, He again had prepared me for the happy news a few seconds earlier in the Psalm.

The first letter I had written to my family had included these words of encouragement: “Please be strong in the Lord and trust Him that He is in control. He is the One that has keys for my cell.” After 445 days in prison, God used those keys to open my cell door.

Three days later, I was sitting on an airplane next to the Czech Republic’s foreign minister. We were in the same airport where I had received that tap on the shoulder 14 months earlier.

I’m so thankful for those who prayed for my family and me during my time in prison. I’m grateful to God that Pastor Hassan and my translator have also since been released. Returning to my home after being sentenced to life in prison has given me an interesting perspective. Although I gave my life to Christ when I was 15 years old, I think it has more meaning now when I say, “Lord, the rest of my life is Yours. You brought me out of prison. You saved me from a life sentence. The rest of my life is Yours; it is in Your hands. Here I am. I want to serve You for the rest of my life.”

This is my decision: I will seek the will of the Lord and do whatever He wants me to do until I go to meet Him one day.

Via Voice of the Martyrs

VOM Petr Jasek Spends 14 Months in Sudan Prison | Part 1

Petr Jasek

CLICK HERE to listen to a radio interview of Petr Jasek.

When the airport security officer tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow him, I didn’t think much of it. On December 10, 2015, I was heading home after spending four days in Sudan meeting with Christians and evaluating how Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) could help the church there. I assumed I was merely being given extra security at Khartoum airport with my boarding pass in hand.

Everything seemed routine until the officer spread several photographs before me on a table. I stared in shock at photos taken of me outside my hotel and other pictures of me at a restaurant where I had shared a meal with a Sudanese pastor. Clearly, I had been under surveillance by the Sudanese police ever since entering the country.

I looked nervously at my watch. My plane was about to take off, and I wasn’t going to be on it. Instead, I was being falsely charged with multiple crimes, including espionage and entering Sudan illegally.

Prepared for Suffering

When I was a teenager.my father handed me a book one day and said simply, “You should read this.” And that was how I got to know Richard Wurmbrand.

The book, Pastor Wurmbrand’s In God’s Underground, had been smuggled into our native Czechoslavakia by Christians providing aid to the underground church. My father had already experienced harassment and arrest as a pastor. My brothers and sisters and I were all harassed at school for refusing to join the Young Pioneers and wear the communist group’s telltale red scarf.

As I read about Pastor Wurmbrand’s suffering, I couldn’t imagine that I would one day meet him and work for the organization he founded in 1967. Nor could I imagine that I would read another of his books in a Sudanese prison almost 40 years later.

When Pastor Wurmbrand launched their ministry called Jesus to the Communist World, I grew up as the son of a pastor in the communist world. Czechoslovakia had become a satellite of the Soviet Union after the Communists seized power in 1948. By the time I was born, in the 1960s, the country was firmly entrenched in the Eastern Bloc.

Pastors and their churches were closely monitored, and authorities pressured families to enroll their children in communist doctrine classes. While my father’s official job was pastoring a state-approved church, he and my mother unofficially trained Christians through a network of underground churches across the country.

I’m ashamed to admit that as a boy, I was embarrassed by my father’s occupation and that it wasn’t honored by our government or culture. By God’s grace, however, I came to know Christ at age 15. Suddenly, I didn’t care what others thought. I spoke openly about my faith, even in the classroom. Teachers called me to their office, sometimes to punish me for speaking out but other times because they wanted to know more about Christ!

Although both my father and mother were, on occasion, detained because of their Christian work, we felt that it was an honor to suffer persecution in the name of Christ (Phil 1:29). Despite the pressure we faced as Christians under a communist government, we always knew that our brothers and sisters in other countries—free countries—were trying to support us. We never lacked for anything.

Years later, it became evident that God prepared me for that tap on Khartoum airport’s shoulder since I was a young boy.

In a Cell with ISIS

After confiscating my camera and laptop, authorities at the Khartoum airport questioned me for almost 24 hours. They wanted to know about every photo and every person I had met in Sudan. Finally, I was taken by car to a building that I later learned was a prison run by the National Intelligence Service of Sudan (NISS). The guards took my picture from the front and side before conducting an entry interview.

I was led to a cell at about 1:30 a.m., and when the guard opened the door, I could see one man on a bed and five more sleeping on the floor. I stepped into the cell, trying not to step on my new neighbors, and turned as the guard pulled shut the cell door. To my amazement, I felt sure I had seen that door before.

More than two years earlier, I had dreamed that I was in prison, which is not that surprising considering my work with persecuted Christians. However, in that dream, I clearly saw my prison cell door and heard the lock click into place. The dream affected me so much when a friend noticed the anguish on my face the next morning at church and asked me what was wrong.

The door in my Sudanese prison cell was the same door I had seen in my dream—it was the same color, it had the same window in the middle of it, and it made the same clicking sound as it locked shut. I realized immediately that my visit to the prison cell in Sudan was not a surprise to the all-knowing God I serve. The dream He had sent me two years earlier was a comforting reminder of His sovereign control over whatever I might face.

The five prisoners on the floor squeezed a little closer together and pointed toward a sliver of empty floor space. I lay down, without a blanket, trying to ignore all the questions racing through my mind: How long will I be here? What is my family thinking? What have they been told?

The next morning I met my cellmates, who immediately asked about news from the outside world. When I told them about the ISIS attack that killed 129 people in Paris, they jumped to their feet and started shouting, “Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!” Their joy at hearing this news shocked and frightened me, so I decided not to share any further information with them.

My cellmates became increasingly demanding, especially during the five times each day when Muslims must pray. At first, they told me to stand behind them while they prayed so their eyes would not have to fall on a Christian. Then they told me I had to stand in the bathroom while they prayed. Finally, they ordered me to face the toilet and not even turn toward them.

They read the Quran aloud throughout most of the day, and I began to wonder how long I could stand the constant droning of Quranic verses without losing my mind.

Although I didn’t have a Bible in those early days of my imprisonment, God was faithful to remind me of verses that I had read or studied in the past. It seemed like every couple of days, He would remind me of a particular passage of Scripture.

The hardest thing was being away from my family and not knowing whether they knew where I was or what had happened to me. I quickly broke down in tears when I thought of them, so I worked hard not to think about them because I didn’t want my cellmates to see me crying.

Holy, Holy, Holy

After a few weeks in that cell, God brought Revelation 4:8 to my mind: “The four living creatures . . . do not rest day or night saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” If those four living creatures could say those words, “Holy, holy, holy,” then I could say them for one minute, or five minutes or an hour.

In my mind, I began to repeat that verse over and over.

As I recited the verse, I began to focus on specific attributes of God. And I would pray for the healing of Christians who had been injured in attacks in Nigeria. Then I prayed for Christians in Eritrea who had been imprisoned for more than a decade. I began to focus on God’s holiness and power instead of my own situation.

Then things in my prison cell changed for the worse.

My cellmates made it very clear that as a Christian, I was an infidel of little value. They called me “filthy rat” or “filthy pig.” At first, I refused to answer. That’s not my name, and I won’t dignify it with a response. But when I didn’t answer, they hit me with a broom handle and forced me to stand in the corner of the cell for hours at a time. Then they began to punch me and kick me.

They also questioned me about the Christian work I was doing in Sudan. If they didn’t like my answer, they hit me. As they slapped and kicked me, I thought of how Jesus was beaten with wooden sticks by the Roman soldiers. One particular beating was so bad that I thought I had a broken rib; a 400-pound guy kicked me with his shoes on, so it was excruciating.

Despite this physical abuse, I realized God was performing a miracle. I had peace! I could even think about my family and pray for them without breaking down in tears. God was with me!

My cellmates soon increased the pressure on me. One of them slowly sharpened the edge of a metal plate while threatening to slit my throat. They also attempted to torture me with “waterboarding” because the Czech Republic had cooperated with the United States in waterboarding Muslims. As they collected water to pour on my face and prepared to tie me up, a guard who had overheard their plans opened the cell door and moved me to another cell. I believe that the guard was sent by the Lord to save my life that day.

Via Voice of the Martyrs

11-1-20 Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians

persecuted christians

CLICK HERE to download the above slides.

I want to speak to you today about the Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. Then we will observe the Lord’s Supper.

Open your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 13. We begin with verse 1: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them and them which suffer adversity as being yourselves also in the body.”

How can we fulfill this command and what does it mean for us?

First of all, “let brotherly love continue” is imperative; it is a command. It’s not a great suggestion. There is a big difference between suggestions and a command. Commands are things we must do. God commands us to do this. Suggestions are options. So, how can we fulfill this command of let brotherly love continue?

Did you know that every 11 minutes a Christian somewhere in the world is killed because of their faith in Jesus? That’s right. Every 11 minutes. By the time this sermon is over, three Christians, somewhere in the world, will die because they believe in Jesus.

So, how can we let brotherly love continue when this happens all around the world? Well, first of all, for us to love them, we’ve got to know something about them. It is imperative that you and I learn something about the conditions of our brothers and sisters around the world. Would you let me ask you a question? Would you hide and help Christians fleeing persecution? Let me ask you something else: would you risk your family’s lives to help persecuted Christians?

Remember what the Bible says in verse 2: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” We know that the word “angel” can be translated as “messengers.” And that is what we are as Christians. We are witnesses for Christ; we are His messengers. And yes, there are angelic beings and it may be referring to angelic beings, supernatural beings, but let me pose the question this way: if it was illegal to hide Christians, would you hide them?

Remember what happened in the late 30s and the 40s in Germany and Poland? Nazi Germany was in charge, it was illegal to hide Jews. Those who hid Jews were imprisoned in concentration camps. The most notable persons were Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie ten Boom and her sister and her father. Would you do that if we’re going to let brotherly love continue and be expressed to our brothers and sisters in Christ? We need to be willing to help them. Well, I know what you’re thinking. “Pastor, we don’t have persecuted Christians here and there’s no way we can hide them.”

But there are some things that you and I can do.

Let me ask you another question: would you continue your financial support of missionaries who were executed by Muslims?

I’ve been a leader of Baptists churches for many years, and I know that we’re always trying to cut corners. We look at our finances and think about cutting budgets for missions. But cutting missions is the worst thing we can do.

What if we found out our missionary was executed because of his faith and his faithfulness in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Would we continue our financial support for their families?

I want you to think about that.

Let me give you some facts. Every month there are 322 Christians who are killed for their faith. Somewhere in the world, there are 214 churches and Christian properties that are destroyed.

Imagine that would happen in America. You’ll say, “Pastor, that’s impossible!”

Is it? I thought it was impossible for a lot of things to happen in our country, but I see sin accepted as good, every day.

Did you know there are 772 forms of violence that are committed against Christians every month? That includes things like beatings, rapes, arrests, forced marriages, children taken away from their parents, because they happen to be Christians!

Don’t think that can’t happen in America! It’s very possible.

Did you know that there are at least 100 million Christians that are being persecuted for their faith worldwide? Yet, there are 125 million Christians in America that claim to attend church every week.

What would happen if 125 American Christians stood with those persecuted Christians, prayed for them, and advocated for their release? If you want to stop persecution, you and I have to act.

There are various degrees of persecution: normal, moderate, and severe. In American, we may experience some normal persecution, like ridicule, being laughed at, and harassed. We might even be slandered, maligned, we might be a bullied, we might lose our friends, and we might even be ignored and shunned by our family.

But then you move into the moderate persecution. This is where Christians are being threatened, getting threatening phone calls, having threatening graffiti painted on their houses and their churches, they lose their jobs. What would you do if you lost your job because of your faith, losing educational opportunities? How about your children, your grandchildren being denied an education just because they’re Christians? How about physical abuse, false accusations, being arrested falsely, and falsely accused, being disowned, being dislocated, ripped up out of your home and put into a concentration camp?

Then there’s severe persecution where Christians are being kidnapped, forced into slavery, being imprisoned in re-education camps, experiencing physical torture, beatings, burned, dismembered, flogged. Some of them are murdered, executed, and then many of them are undergoing genocide, just like the Jews did in the late 30s and the 40s.

What does the Bible say that we are supposed to do? Verse 3 says: “Remember them that are in bonds.” This is not a flippant suggestion. This is an active command.

How can pray for them?  Thankfully, the Bible tells us how to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. In the Second Thessalonians, chapter 3, verses 1 through 3, the Bible says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you.”

We can pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters that the word of the Lord will have free course, that it will not be silenced, even in the prisons, that they would remain bold and courageous and continue to tell others about Jesus Christ.

I was in Romania on a mission trip. We were taken to tour one of the local prisons. It turned out it was the prison where Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned. Our translator was talking to one of the prison guards. That guard began to tear up. He was one of the guards who tortured Wurmbrand. When Wurmbrand visited Romania after the fall of communism, he visited the prison. This guard had to take Richard down the into the dungeon where Richard spent years in a cramped cell. The guard said that Richard kissed the filthy cell floor and thanked Jesus for the experience of being faithful, even almost to death, to be a witness for him. Then he turned to the guard and said, “Jesus loves you and I forgive you.” That day, Richard led that guard to give his heart to Jesus Christ. Today, that guard is a bi-vocational Baptist pastor.

We need to pray that the word of the Lord will have free course to do what it intends to do.

Look at verse 2: “that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, for not all men have faith.”

We need to be pray that there will be somebody in that country where our brothers and sisters are that will stand up for them, defend them, intercede for them in the face of the government, and that they can be safeguarded from all kind of harm. Our prayers can certainly decrease the severity of their persecution, or even end it. Why? Because the Lord is faithful, who will establish them and keep them from the worst of the worst of the worst evils. That’s how we pray for our brothers and sisters.

What else can we do?

We can write. You can go to www.persecution.com and send written prayers to these persecuted Christians, so that they will know that they are remembered by somebody.

Imagine being in a dungeon, beaten, harassed by Muslim prisoners, and you have little contact with the outside world. Would a short note or prayer encourage you?  Let them know that somebody is praying for them.

We can also write our elected officials and tell them what’s happening to a fellow Christian in another country. We can ask them to check on them. Imagine 100 million Christians writing or calling our elected officials! Asking them to see what they can do, and then our federal state department starts calling on these countries. They’ll get the message. Folks, we have power if we stick together and every one of us work together. We can lessen and reduce the persecution that’s going on around the world.

There’s something else we can do. We can give. We can support these families of persecuted Christians. We can also give presents to their children for Christmas.

We can also send Bibles in their own language to these persecuted Christians. Did you know $7 will provide a Bible to our brothers and sisters? What a tremendous gift to feed and encourage their souls!

I’m calling on you to pray. I’m calling on you to write. And I’m calling on you to give. That’s what God commands.

As we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, let us remember our brothers and sisters.

Let’s pray together: “Heavenly Father, we love you and we thank you for the privilege that you’ve lavished on us that we get to live in a free country. We are indeed a lot freer than many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Lord, I pray that you will call upon your people and impress upon your people the need for us to pray for the Peter Jaseks of the world who who spent 14 months in prison being abused and beaten by Isis Muslims. Help us, oh Lord, to remember that women like Janelle, who was poisoned by her own family because she became a Christian. She left two young children. Lord, our hearts are broken at these stories and we know it breaks your heart. I pray that the presence of your Holy Spirit will visit them today right now, increase their faith and strengthen them. Let them know that you are with them and you’ll walk with them through that trial that they’re in. Lord, I pray that you will call and impress upon your people here in America to write words of encouragement to their families and to intercede with our elected officials for them. Lord, I also pray that you will impress upon us to give to those of our brothers and sisters less fortunate than ourselves. May we continue our support of these persecuted Christians and may we give them the Word of God, the most precious gift in all the world. The Word of God to feed their souls! Now Lord, we are gathered here at your table as we prepare to celebrate the great sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. May you accept the sacrifice of our lives to your glory, in Jesus name. Amen.

In Matthew 26, verse 26, the Bible says: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and break it, and gave to his disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body.”

Lord Jesus, you told us in the gospels that you are the bread of heaven–that the bread that feeds our souls. Lord, we are thankful for the brokenness that you experienced on Calvary’s cross that broke our bondage to sin. Thank you, in Jesus name. Amen. Take, eat.

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

The contract that Jesus made for those who trust in him would receive eternal life–He signed it in his own blood.

Let’s pray: “Lord, we thank you for the sacrifice of Christ, for as the remission of our sins, through his shed blood. May we, as we receive these cups of grape juice, be reminded that the blood of Christ was broken and spilled out for us. Thank you, in Jesus name. Amen.

Take it, drink you all of it. “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.”

I invite you to sing the first verse of Heaven’s National Anthem: “Amazing Grace.”