Kidnapped Swiss Missionary Dead

Nov. 19, 2020 | Mali

Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockli arrived in Mali in 1998 as part of a missions team. Beatrice grew close to a local pastor’s family, staying in Timbuktu for several years and becoming known for distributing tracts. She was kidnapped in April 2012 during an Islamist insurgency in the country and held for 10 days before being released. She briefly returned to Switzerland but returned to Mali in 2013 against her family’s wishes and the advice of her government. She cited Galatians 2:20 to local Christian leaders as her reason for returning: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live…” She stayed until June 8, 2016, when she was taken from her home by armed men in pickup trucks. Along with other foreign hostages, Beatrice was held by fighters of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In early October, a hostage who had b een released reported that Beatrice had been executed just weeks before by members of the Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim group. “Her death, in our opinion, is that of a martyr who resisted in her Christian faith and surely refused to reject faith in Jesus,” wrote a VOM contact. Pray that her witness for Christ might lead her executors to salvation, and pray that those she led to Christ in Mali will remain bold in their faith.

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

Nov. 12, 2020 | Laos

Khampang came to Christ after witnessing God’s goodness and being healed.

Khampang

Only two others in his village were Christians, and both had experienced harsh reactions from their families. One young man was disowned by his family, and a teenager was kicked out of his family home. As a result, both young men were forced to leave the village. Community leaders were reluctant to punish Khampang, who is an elder, but they still worked against him, convincing Khampang’s wife that his decision was illegal. She refused to sleep in the same bed as him and gave him small portions of food or nothing at all. When Khampang recently met with VOM partners, large tears rolled down his cheeks as he shared how his family had rejected him. Pray that he will be reconciled with his family while staying faithful to Jesus Christ.

Click here to find out about Christian persecution in Laos 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

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.

Victor’s Crown through Temptation

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him,” (James 1:12).

Louisa Stead stood on the beach with her four-year-old daughter and watched her husband drown as he tried to rescue a child in the waters off Long Island, New York.  The loss of her husband and persistent health problems kept her off the mission field and brought a testing time in her life. Left without sufficient support, she and her daughter experienced poverty and hunger.  One night, she sent her daughter to bed, knowing that there was no food for breakfast. She prayed for a miracle. The next morning someone left food and money on her doorstep. The Lord answered her prayer. In joyful response, she wrote these treasured words:

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word;

Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him, Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;

And I know that He is with me, Will be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!  How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!  O for grace to trust Him more!

Riches and worldly security may fail, but Jesus never fails!  Every time you win a victory over temptation, there is a victor’s crown awaiting you.  But more than that, there is a loving Heavenly Father who watches and provides for His own.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” (James 1:17).

Genuine Healing

The Book of James deals with genuineness in the Christian life.  In his final instructions, James addresses three groups of people: the persecuted, the happy, and the sick (James 5:13-20).

The word translated “afflicted” refers to the hardship of persecution (v. 13). The apostle instructs the persecuted to pray.  There is no promise that the suffering will stop, but as a saint prays, the persecuted receives new strength from the Lord to endure the hardship faithfully.

To those who are “happy,” James says they should “sing psalms of praise.”  Notice that psalms are not “blue-bird-on-my-shoulder” songs, but songs about the faithfulness of God.

The word translated “sick” does not refer to colds or the flu, but to a disabling illness.  Notice that it is the sick person’s responsibility to call the elders!  The elders do not possess the gift of mental telepathy; they cannot read our minds!  A literal translation of verse 14 is important: “having anointed him with oil, let them pray over him.”  There are two different words often translated “anoint.”  In this verse, the word refers to applying medicine.  Taking one’s medicine precedes time spent in prayer!  The results of healing are then left in the Lord’s hand.

Notice that healing in this passage is more than physical.  It includes spiritual and psychological healing as well.  Often there is a direct relationship between personal sins and physical diseases, e.g. smoking and lung cancer.  The prayer of faith first of all cleanses one from sin within before healing.

James gives four principles for healing.  First, confession of sin is healthy—do it.  Only full confession can lead to full restoration.  Second, praying for others is essential—practice it.  Third, medical assistance is imperative—obey it.  Fourth, when healing comes, praise God for it.

Genuine Riches

“Your riches are corrupted,” (James 5:2).

The Book of James teaches that genuine wealth is not found in money (verses 1-6).  The Apostle is not condemning making or accumulating wealth, per se.  What the Apostle condemns is ill-gotten gains on the backs of the poor and a person’s absolute trust in those riches.

First, hoarded wealth is destructive.  When the accumulation of wealth is one’s ultimate goal, it will be a hollow victory.  Wealth has a way of corrupting a person or of disappearing like rust to metal.   The Great Depression, the Great Recession, Runaway Interests, the Mortgage Meltdown, etc, all point to the fact that material wealth can disappear in an instant.  If all you’re trusting in is your financial portfolio, where will you be if it all disappears?

Second, tainted wealth can be confiscated (verse 4).  Even Christians can get caught up in the whirlwind of fraud, all to accumulate that million-dollar portfolio.  The Bible teaches that Christians who get their wealth by fraudulent means will be judged by Him.

Third, self-indulgent wealth is enjoyable for a season, but God will be the judge of whether you deserved it or not.  The Apostle does not condemn vacations or retreats.  What God condemns is wasting His blessings solely on self.  God blesses us to bless others, not indulge ourselves.

How we accumulate and spend our finances is important.  The Bible extols hard work and God blesses honest labor.  God will not bless get-rich-quick schemes.  God wants us to depend on Him, not just our ingenuity.

Where is your trust?  Is your trust in God, or in cold, hard cash?

Genuine Relationship with God

“Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God,” (James 4:4).

The fourth chapter of the Book of James concerns the genuineness of one’s relationship with God.  A right relationship with God teaches us how to relate to others differently.   We no longer act the way the world taught us to act.  Changing a behavior pattern learned over tens of years is difficult, but not insurmountable.

Instead of fighting, we pray (verse 3).  God teaches us that it is better to wrestle with Him in prayer than to wrangle with men.  God can do more through prayer than we can through fighting.

Instead of lusting and envying after worldly things, we can find contentment where we are in our journey with God.  That does not mean that we stop and retreat forever.  It just means that we enjoy the scenery as we journey through life.  God’s Spirit will not dwell where there is worldly lust (verse 5).

Instead of being conceited and looking out for number one, we need to be more interested in God’s Kingdom and will (verse 8).

Instead of criticizing and tearing people down, we should encourage and build people up (verse 11).

Instead of living our plans, we should live and do God’s will.

Genuine humility is swallowing my preferences to obey God’s will.  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (verse 17).

Genuine Wisdom

“[The tongue] is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison,” (James 3:9).

A hotheaded woman told John Wesley, “My talent is to speak my mind.”

Wesley replied, “Woman, God wouldn’t care a bit if you buried that talent.”

Our tongue reveals a lot about us: what we think, how we spend our time, and where we live.  James deals with the tongue in his chapter on wisdom.  Why wisdom?  Proverbs 12:18 says that “the tongue of the wise brings healing,” and in 18:21 that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  Words have the power to heal or destroy.

The tongue guides life (verses 2-3).  A small piece of metal in a horse’s mouth can guide and make a horse turn.  A farmer once said, “Horse sense is seldom hitched to a waggin’ tongue.”  A small piece of wood or metal can turn a massive ship around.  And our little tongue can change a person’s life.

The tongue harms life (verses 5-8).  The tongue is like a tiny spark that can destroy a whole forest in flames.  The tongue can rip a person to shreds, as surely as a wild animal.  A tongue lashing can poison a person’s whole life.  A sharp tongue is no indication of a keen mind.

The tongue blesses life (verses 11-12).  Words can refresh a person like a fountain spring on a hot day.  The tongue can give encouragement and strength, like the sweetest fruit from a tree.

Did you ever notice that it takes a child two years to learn to talk, yet it takes a man his whole life to learn how to keep his mouth shut?

A wise person’s words are not laced with profanity.  Rather, they are laced with purity, peace, gentleness, mercy, friendship, and integrity (verse 17).  What do your words reveal about you?

Genuine Hospitality

“If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin,” (James 2:9).

The Book of James is about genuineness in the Christian life.  Chapter two deals with hospitality in the church.  The ushers kowtowed to the “needs” of the rich and powerful.  

They could not see beyond the superficial, “the goodly apparel.”  A person may wear the latest fashion, yet his soul may be clothed in filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  An evangelist illustrated this point.  He said, “I look pretty good,” as he showed his new suit.  Then he took off his shoes to reveal that his socks had holes.  He removed his coat and revealed that the back of his shirt was torn and ripped.  From appearance, he looked good, but a closer inspection revealed that his rich appearance was riddled with holes and tears.  It is more important to be clothed with spiritual apparel: the robe of righteousness, the garment of praise, the clothes of humility, the whole armor of God.

The ushers also could not see beyond the material, “the gold ring.”  A person may be rich in material possessions, but poor and pitiable in spiritual treasures.

The ushers also could not see beyond the temporal, “sit in a good place.”  A person may have all the right connections today, and be indicted for fraud tomorrow.

Let’s examine our own judgments about people.  How quick are we to size someone up based on their appearance or speech?  I was born in the South and my accent is thick.  My resume often rises to the top for a job interview until they call me on the phone. When they hear my southern accent, they assume that I am dumb, slow, lazy, and not intelligent.

But thanks be to God.  He does not look on the outward appearance or hear the southern drawls.  He looks at the heart, and He wants us to look deeper into the souls of people.