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Posts Tagged ‘Children’

Her hands had hurt as she had pulled bark from the trees, stuffing it into her pockets and looking around for anything else that might be edible. There was some grass in clumps beneath a tree, so she grabbed that too, and brought that home. Her children were starving to death, as was her mother and husband, to think of it, she was so weak she could barely walk herself, but they sat and ate the grass she had pulled up. It had come down to this; they were eating grass and bark, anything to keep alive.

During the summer, they had been able to catch rats, frogs, and even snakes, but still barely enough to stay alive. There had once been corn to eat, how wonderful that had been, but now that was just a distant memory. Before it was over, they had ground the cobs and husks down and made tasteless cakes out of even that. She still remembered when she had found the handful of baby mice under a rock, she brought them back home, one of her daughters was near death and needed to eat. She had boiled them, but no matter how long, they stayed together and doughy. Even her husband Jo asked her if she would eat that, but her daughter had been brave and eaten it anyway, and it had saved her life.

Jo had a nephew across the river in China, and there was food there, they knew it was a huge risk, but they had to try, or the whole family would die. They set out and snuck across the border, fording the Tumen River to China. They made it and were stunned at the abundance of food, they had never before seen a rice steamer, and there was so much food they didn’t know what to do. One week later they returned home with many bags of bulging rice for their family, they would make two more trips for provisions.

A few days after returning from their third trip, Jo was arrested, she suspects a neighbor informant told the authorities on them. The following day Han was arrested also, she never saw her husband Jo again. They kicked and beat Han with wooden rods and crushed part of her skull, then placed her hands on the hard concrete floor and stomped on them. Then, without further explanation she was released, she was three months pregnant.

She would later be told Jo died on a train after having his wrists tied above his head without food or water for ten days. She returned home to find all of the rice they had hidden had been taken by the police. The kids were hungry, and her mom had been watching them.

Han gave birth to a boy, but he starved to death two months after he was born. In desperation, her oldest daughter left to find food and never returned, they believe she was caught up in human trafficking and taken to China, and then her mother died. In less than a year, her family of eight was reduced to four. In North Korea, if someone has been arrested then the neighbors no longer trust you and they suspect you of something. One night in July 1998, two policemen came to their door, and told them to leave, and if they didn’t they would burn the house down.

On July 18th, Han, with her two daughters JinHye, then 11, EunHye, 7, and  son BoKum, 5 set out on a 100 mile walk for the Chinese border. Weak from malnutrition, Han could barely walk, and the first night they stopped at a friend’s house to lodge for the evening. She looked at Han with wide eyes, how can you do it, two high mountain crossings and the river still lay ahead? Everyone was too weak to carry BoKum and he was too small and malnourished to walk. But how could a mother leave her son behind? But if they stayed, they would all be caught. She took a night to think things over, she didn’t know what to do. The next morning, her friend said “leave him, I will take care of him”. Han agreed, and planned to return for him in five days after getting the girls safely into China, she promised to bring back food for her friend. “Why aren’t you taking me too” BoKum asked, and she explained that she was going to go get some food and bring it back, and then she would take him, then she gave him a ground corn cake, she wishes she had given him more. They walked for two nights, then crossed into china, hid in fields and stole squash to eat. Then heavy rains came and they could not cross back over, Han didn’t know how to swim, and the river was at flood stage.

Then Han heard Kim Jong Il was executing anyone who hadn’t voted for him in the election, Han hadn’t because she had been in China at the time. She got jobs in China, and earned money to get BoKum back, but it took her two months before she earned enough to hire a man to go get him. Sadly, he returned empty handed. The woman had abandoned the boy, and he was seen wandering aimlessly in a field singing “when is my mother coming”. A neighbor gave him a bowl of porridge out of pity, he died immediately afterward, common when people who are malnourished eat too fast. When she heard about BoKum, her heart was ripping out of her chest.

They spent 10 years in China, and were deported several times back to North Korea, but were always able to bribe their way back into China. The last time a Korean-American pastor paid $10,000.00 to North Korean guards to sneak them back. They went to the United Nations in Beijing and asked to live in the U.S.

After 16 months, they were given a home of freedom in the U.S., one that came at a very high cost. There are only 130 refugees from North Korea who have settled in the United States, but you never hear from them because they have families. If a defector speaks out, it will be taken out on the family they left behind, Han has no one left, they are all dead. That is why they are speaking.

Crosses adorn the walls of their home, they carry bibles with them everywhere, they are on a mission to educate the world about what goes on in North Korea. You see the polished military parades, but you don’t see the people disappearing, the Christians dying. Please take a moment to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, for all those suffering in that poor country. And tell Han’s story over and over to everyone you know. God Bless-Jim

This Story is True

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I sat in my room looking out the window, watching the sun race for the horizon, a darker shade of gray already settling down over the scene before me. Night was coming, and with it, another boring evening in my room surfing online, watching TV, or listening to my IPOD.

I can hear my mom and dad downstairs in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, laughing and talking as they load the dishwasher. I think briefly about going down there and just asking him, but what’s the point? I know what he is going to say. Megan is going, Danny is going, everyone will be there dancing, hanging out and having a good time.

The football game is every Friday night, and most everyone at the school goes. Megan says everyone hangs out on the home team bleachers and cheers the team on. Actually, she says the truth is they only cheer when the parents cheer and draw their attention to the field, most of the time she says they are talking and having fun up in the stands, not usually even really paying attention to what’s going on out on the field. The best part of the football game is hanging out with your friends, the game is secondary.

Every Friday now, all of my friends begin to talk about going to the game, what they are going to wear, what is going on afterwards. After all the home games there is a dance, and week after week, my friends ask me time and time again if I will be there. Week after week, I tell them no, my dad won’t let me go, and week after week they ask me why, and I tell them “because he won’t”. They look at me strangely, and usually let it go, but today was different, Megan wouldn’t let it go, she just kept pecking at me about it.

“Andrew, what is the deal, are you like grounded for life or something” she asked me and waited for an answer? I just stared back at her, not knowing what to say. In case you don’t know, I like Megan!  Actually, I “Really Really” like Megan and would love nothing more than to spend every Friday night for the rest of my life up on the bleachers with her. I love talking to her, I love being with her, I think I love her, and I never run out of things to talk about with her. Never that is, until now.  I’ve got nothing as she stands there looking me in the eyes, waiting for my answer. Finally, I just blurted out “because he won’t, that’s why”.

She looked back at me with concern in her eyes, and said “why, why won’t he let you”? You haven’t been to a game since you started high school, and we only have one more year left after this one, you are missing out on so much fun. I know you want to go, and I want you to be there with me, I want you to be my date, so will you ask him one more time, for me? I leaned up against the wall and considered my response carefully, and then I began slowly, measuring my words.

I looked at her and said Megan, I don’t know what the point in asking is, because his answer is going to be no. Last year, when we had the first home game, I went and asked him if I could go, and the answer was no. He said that he wasn’t comfortable with me going out in a car with other kids driving. Do you remember a few weeks after school started last year, those kids from the next town got in a car wreck and two of them were killed, well that happened the week before the first home game. So my dad said no, he didn’t want me ending up like one of them. That was the last time I asked him if I could go to the game.

Megan looked at me like I was crazy, “you haven’t asked him since then”, and I shook my head slowly side to side. He said no then, he doesn’t want me to go out, he doesn’t want me riding around with other kids, and nothing has changed, so why would I ask him again? His answer was no then, it will be no now, the circumstances have not changed. Why can’t you understand that’s just how it is I ask her? Why can’t you just leave it alone?

She shakes her head in frustration, and says “I think you are making a mistake, unless your dad is a psycho, he loves you and wants you to be happy”, don’t you think he wants you to be happy? Yes, I nod. You have to give him a chance, just because he said no once doesn’t mean he will never change his mind, that was over a year ago. You have grown up a lot in the last year, in many ways you are a lot more responsible than you were a year ago, but you have to give him a chance, so promise me you will ask him Andrew, c’mon now, promise me. I stare back at her, wanting to go, knowing he will say no yet wanting to please her, so I said okay, I promise.

The sun is beginning to turn the thin clouds a fiery red, sunset is beginning, as I stand up and turn away from the window, resigned to keeping my promise. I head down stairs into the kitchen and head towards the den where dad is watching Seinfeld. Hey pops, you got a second, I ask as he pauses the TV, muting George Costanza in mid rant. Sure son, what’s up he asks. Well, I know you are going to say no, but I thought I would ask anyway. Can I go to the game tonight, and the dance in the gym afterwards, and I brace myself for the response. He asks who is going, how late I think it will last, and then shocks me beyond belief and says “Sure, I don’t see why not”, and he fishes out his wallet and extracts a twenty and hands it to me. He hands the twenty to me and says “have a good time son”, then un-pauses the TV again, and George resumes his rant. I bolt for the door, so excited I don’t know what to do with myself; it will be the best night of my life!

Okay, sounds a bit odd for a story, right? A kid knowing his dad will say no, so he doesn’t even bother asking. For a while, I have had some questions concerning prayer going around in my head, and strangely enough, they resemble the story above. We pray for guidance in life, we pray for things like jobs, promotions, and other situational things in addition to people being ill and praying for healing. When I pray for things like this, I always will say that I want God’s will to be done, that I want Him to put me where He wants me. But am I not in fact asking Him to put me where “I” want to be. So there is the quandary, do I pray for my will, or God’s will.

A dear friend and I discussed prayer the other day, and this viewpoint, and his opinion was that God’s will is going to be done no matter what, if your request meshes with God’s will, then you’re in luck. Things are going to be as they are going to be whether you pray about it or not. While I hold this friend in very high regard, I do not agree. If this is the case, God is going to do as He wishes no matter what.

We are in fact encouraged to bring our prayers and protestations to God, He wants to hear from us, and in my opinion, He considers our communications with Him very seriously. The scriptures leave me with the thought that He craves open dialogue with those He has created, and this is why I think so. His Son was sacrificed for us, and God was the one who chose to tear the veil/curtain between us and the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. Without tearing the veil, only the priests could enter, only the priests could intercede on our behalf’s, only the priests could talk to Him. He didn’t like that, He tore the veil, He wants to hear from us. The Bible is full of examples where God has granted changes to the course of someone’s life because they prayed about it. Lazarus course was changed, the thief that hung next to Jesus, his course was changed, the woman at the well, her course was changed.

The best way for me to understand my relationship to God is as that of a Father and a child, and if the fathers mind is made up all the time, and is solid and unchangeable, then it is not an intimate relationship they have. I believe there are things that are always going to go according to God’s plan, but I believe there is also much that can be changed, if you take the time to go to Him in prayer. I can’t help but think about the example of faith, and what would be possible if our faith were only the size of a mustard seed. The problem has never been with God not being there, it has always been with getting us to take the time to just talk to Him.

God Bless-JFT

The above story is fiction, written to underscore a point.

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The view from the bottom is completely different than anything I have ever experienced before. When you have been surrounded by the gray cloud that has enveloped you for so long now, and the life that you knew and even loved is gone, it is quite an adjustment.

When you are at rock bottom, and you rise by just an inch from the bottom, you will find joy in the strangest things. When life has been really bad, you will find yourself feeling happy because someone smiled at you in the grocery store. Your mood can even be buoyed by a beautiful sunrise. It would console me to put Ivy, my little one on my chest and rock her to sleep, and for her to still be there on my chest in the morning when the sun rose.

I made a lot of mistakes in the first couple years of my new and different life, but every step I took was a fraction of an inch higher from the bottom, but my heart was not yet changed toward God. I went to church regularly, but there was just still a huge separation from God, I still felt forsaken.

As my girls and I went through the seasons of our lives, the years began to build. After a couple of years, when I would look over my shoulder at the past, I could not even recognize the man that I once was. He looked the same, perhaps younger and more naïve, but the face that stared back from the mirror at me was a more seasoned face, one who had seen things, one who knew that everything can blow up in your face when you least expect it.

As the years since my old life began to build up, without realizing it, I began to engage in reckless behavior. I began to push the envelope in many ways, engaging in activities that are meant to get your adrenaline flowing. God was not visible in my witness yet, my example was not laced with the Holy Spirit, It was laced with Jim. When I didn’t have my girls, I lived a life on the edge. Besides trying to check off a bucket list before the term was even born, I would confront dangerous situations with excitement. I wouldn’t say I had a death wish, but I acted like I didn’t have anything to lose either. I was so wrong.

God knows everything there is to know about us a thousand years before we are conceived. When Jesus walked the earth, God knew I would be born, and he knew the challenges I would face. That just sends shivers up my spine. God knew I had a purpose long before I did, when I walked through the valley of self-pity and cried “why me God”, He didn’t get angry. When I ran into dangerous situations because I embraced my recklessness, He put a bubble of protection around me, He had a plan. And somehow, I fit into that plan, I was being protected and groomed for Kingdom work that lie ahead, work that I had no idea of.

Then I asked out this pretty little gal who was different than anyone I had ever met. She was a new Christian, and had been divorced at the same time I had. Single a couple of years, like me. I tried to take her somewhere impressive for dinner, and then afterward for a walk in a pretty area. I thought I would be smooth and try to hold her hand, she yanked away and gave me a look. Wow, who was this woman with scruples that wouldn’t even hold my hand on the first date, I wanted to know more. We dated for a couple of years, she was a single mom of one daughter. She was independent and a warrior woman at heart, with a great sense of humility built in too. She was a controller in her company, ran all the finances and a small staff. Yet, when the company lost its janitor to another job, she stepped in and said “I will do it”. It paid a few hundred a month extra, just what she needed to send her young daughter to Christian preschool. She would run the company’s finances all day, then brush the toilets and empty the trash, clean the break room in the evenings. What a hard working woman of humility. Her co-workers nicknamed her “Shasta” the Dutch cleaning woman, and they would all laugh, her included.

As a legalistic guy who had been trained to remember scripture my entire life, I tried to explain to her my much more legalistic views. She didn’t know the Bible like I did, but she had something about her that I didn’t have, a simple Faith. I thought she needed to know things the way I had, after all, my faith had really carried me through the hard times, right (gimme a break). But she had a simple faith in God, and Jesus the Savior, and that was all she needed, she knew her Savior.

We were married in January of 2001, and off toward our new blended family life we went. A few things we forgot to discuss first though. We never discussed where we would attend church, I liked my church, and assumed that is where we would go, and she thought the same-strike one. We didn’t discuss the finances, I assumed we would have a separate account with a little personal spending money, she assumed the “what’s mine is yours, we’re married now, one account approach”-strike two. And there were certain issues with the family blending that we did not even think of, Strike –three. Also, four and a half years of being single for both of us had made us very independent people, sure we loved one another, but I was my own man, she was her own woman, strike four, wait, there is no strike four, the batter was out at three right. Now you see what we faced, second marriages have the cards stacked against them in the first place, and then we had all of this. Six months into the marriage, we met with the Christian counselor for the first time.

God Bless-JFT

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Norris and Geri, now there is a couple who were meant to be together, I thought as we hung out in my living room. They were six or seven years older than we were in their early thirties. He was an Instrument and control tech at a large nuke plant, she was a homemaker, and they had a preteen boy and girl at home. Norris was one of the kindest people I have ever met, and his life revolved around God. He loved the Lord with a passion that I had not yet discovered, and his love for God made me want to be closer to God. She lived with the same level of devotion to God and her family, and the happiness of the Lord glowed through her too.

Somehow, we got onto the discussion of death and whether we would remarry in the event we lost our spouses. I of course stated that if I lost my wife, that was it, I would never remarry. Geri laughed, and said “If I ever kick over, Norris will be remarried within six months. I sat shocked, thinking it was not so, he would not be over the grieving process, he would in no way be over the loss, there is no way he would dishonor your memory by remarrying that fast. Geri, in her beautiful smile and deep Tennessee accent waved her hand and said, Oh yes he would, and then she chuckled.

My first reaction was “what was wrong with her”, and then she explained. Norris and I have the most wonderful marriage we could ever possibly ask God for, I love being married to Norris, and Norris loves being married to me. He loves having a partner so much in fact, that if anything ever happened to me, he would be lost, heartsick, and would probably have trouble functioning. He would fall in love with someone else and want to get married again fairly soon, because he couldn’t stand not having a best friend. Jim, our marriage has had its ups and downs, but through it all, we have grown closer, and if I hadn’t passed away, I would consider it a compliment that he loved what we had so much that he couldn’t live without it. There I sat like a deer in the headlights, not mature enough at my early age of twenty four to fathom that kind of selfless love. I was too immature; they were wiser than their years.

Norris, my new mentor at the time, took me deer hunting with him that fall, but fell ill with stomach pains while we were out. Tests several weeks later would diagnose him with inoperable terminal Lymphoma. He began intense chemo and radiation, and through time, treatment and prayers, he went into remission. After the grueling treatments were complete, he became cancer free, he had beaten it.

The dust from their hard trial had not even had time to settle before Geri felt a lump, He had beaten cancer, and her biopsy now told them that she had cancer. She had surgery and then began the same grueling treatments, chemo, and radiation as Norris lovingly tended to her. Through prayer and treatment, she too became cancer free, both of them in their mid thirties. They recovered, Norris went back to school and got his bachelor’s in bible, and was ordained as a minister, something he had always wanted to be. He was the teen leader at church, and I was his tag along. Everyone that interacted with Norris saw the love of the Savior reflected through his eyes. Shortly before his fortieth birthday, a test came back bad, the cancer had returned. Norris laughed about it and said it was his own fault. He had asked God to let him see his kids grow up, and they were now legal adults. He said he should have asked God to let him see his great grandkids grow up, then he chuckled, and I chuckled too, for him, but there was a huge lump in my throat.

I bawled like a baby as I spoke to him on the phone for the last time, and he actually tried to comfort me, reassuring me that until he was gone, any miracle was possible with God. He died later that week.

Geri was heartbroken, but was leaning on God as her strength and her shield. He carried her through the funeral and three memorials she did, one in Phoenix, one in Texas, and the final one in Tennessee, places where they had lived and touched so many lives. Not too far down the line Geri began a friendship with an amazing man at church, a bachelor we had all known forever. He was the only true cowboy I have ever known, but he was known much more for his being an honorable and Godly man. Their friendship blossomed into love, and they became husband and wife, they have been married for over fifteen years now, and they have something wonderful together, different I am sure, but equally great. This is a great story, and true as true gets, but what is the endpoint you may ask?

We have a local Pastor, he and his wife worked in the ministry together for thirty years, and led many people to God. His precious wife passed away a year and a half ago, and he mourned her savagely. But now, after a year and a half, he has become engaged to remarry, and people have attacked him for dishonoring the memory of his wife by getting involved in what “they” deem as an improper amount of time. Who is qualified to judge another person’s heart, who is qualified to judge how long someone should wallow in grief before the sun rises in their life again? Without Geri’s explanation of the unselfish understanding of loss and remarriage, an understanding she had prior to the onset of their own trials, I might have had a different opinion too. But God sends us lessons throughout our life, lessons he needs us to put to use in the future that we may have compassion on those who are hurting, and joy for those who are recovering

In the end, we will all stand before God in Judgment, So let’s all cut each other some slack and leave the judging to God. God Bless-JFT

This story is factual

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The woman sat in her small apartment and looked around, the boxes were fewer than before, she seemed to travel lighter these days, made things easier when the end came. She knew she needed to be setting up home, but she just didn’t have the heart. They say home is where the heart is, well then she was homeless, because her heart wasn’t into this place. She leaned back in her chair, the only one in the apartment, closed her eyes and wondered what had happened to the little girl she used to be, the one who had it figured out, had a plan. Her third marriage had just ended, and she was alone again.

She used to play house with Polly Pockets all the time with her sister who was two years older than she was. A cute girls game, it was something she loved doing. Pretending to cook meals for her family, play with the babies, and keep house, silly I know, but it was so fun. Her sister had been married for twenty years now and had three kids, and her life had been a fairytale. Met a good man who embodied the same values her sister did, didn’t seem to have a double life like everyone she had been with. Her sister was happy, and so she was happy for her sister, but she also ached, because that was all she wanted too.

She got up and began to open the boxes of kitchen items and put them where they go, and as she did she thought about her first husband. They had fallen in love at first sight, and just knew they were going to be together forever. Mom and dad had been against it from the start, it was moving too fast and they were afraid it wasn’t right, so they did what any sensible young lovers would do, they eloped.

They got a cheap apartment, and they both worked jobs, her as a cashier at the local grocery, he worked in a video store. They made enough to scrape by, but it wasn’t long until they began to fight over money. She had discovered a discrepancy in what was coming in and what they were actually using to live off of, money was missing. It turned out that he had developed a drug habit and was using their income to stay high most of the time. They never saw their third year anniversary, he left shortly after the second one. The divorce was straightforward, no kids, no support, just a parting of ways, and the first of several large scars on her soul.

It would be five years before she would remarry, she had finished nursing school since and become more gainfully employed. She actually had started a savings account and it was building up this time. She hoped one day it would be used to help put her future children through college. He was a radiology tech from the hospital, and they courted more formally. He too had a short marriage in his past, no children, and was a very attentive man, sensitive to her needs. She knew he was her soul mate, and after a year of dating, they tied the knot.

They began trying to have kids in the first couple of years they were married, but it just didn’t happen. They went to several doctors before discovering that she was not able to have children. They were crushed beyond belief. They looked into adoption, but the waiting lists were long, it could be years. He was supportive of her at first, and they consoled each other over this painful discovery. They did their best to move past it, but it was tough. It was right after their fifth anniversary that he told her he was in love with a nurse in of all places pre-natel, and she was pregnant. This was the beginning of a huge down spiral for her. She couldn’t even look into the mirror for her own self loathing. She became clinically depressed, and took a long medical leave from the hospital. She knew she would never be able to go back there, she couldn’t see him, she couldn’t see her, carrying the baby that should have been hers. She requested a transfer to another hospital across town. Her soul deeply scarred this time.

The divorce was not contested this time either, in fact, she never even saw him after he left, she made sure of it. She moved to the other side of town and began a new life, but with much scarring and baggage now. In her mid thirties, twice divorced, who would want her?

It was three years before she met him, her last husband. When he suggested they should move in together, she thought “why not, what is there to lose”. They lived together for six months, and then she began to know it wasn’t right. They went to Vegas and made it legal. He was a car salesman, and things were good. The economy was soaring, and he was raking in the bucks. They bought a home, then the economy began to turn south. He had wanted more home than she had, and they had purchased one at the upper end of their income bracket. As the economy turned, they began to sink quickly into the quicksand of debt. She exhausted all of her savings trying to keep the house payment current as he was laid off, and he began to drink. She worked her fingers to the bone as he began to go out to bars at night and come home drunk after midnight. They lost the house, and he moved in with a woman he had met at the local oasis. So here she was, a three time loser starting over again.

As she unloaded the last of the second kitchen box, she grabbed the Laundry box, and when she did, the box under it tipped and fell, spilling the contents on the floor. A book fell out and fell open, and there was a section highlighted in pink. It was the Bible her sister had given her, complete with highlights. She looked down at the book, something told her to read the highlighted section, so she picked it up, and sat in her chair. It was John 4, the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.

She was shocked that of all places in the Bible that the book could have fallen open to, it would have opened to a story of Jesus interacting with a woman like her, I mean, there are over 1800 pages, what are the odds. Only this woman had been married five times, and was living with a man who was not her husband, yet Jesus loved on her. He offered her, a five time loser, the water of eternal life. It was just what she had needed to hear as she read the whole chapter from beginning to end, and then read it again. A wellspring of hope began to trickle into her heart again, as she picked up the phone to called her sister, she wanted to know more about God. Maybe there was hope for her yet, maybe it was in this Jesus her sister had always tried to tell her about.

God Bless-JFT

This story is fiction

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Youcef Nadarkhani was troubled. He looked at the curriculum that was recently released by the school system his sons attended. The boys were eight and nine now, and were very impressionable, as any kids that age are. He showed the curriculum to his wife Fatemah, and she agreed with him. It was just plain wrong, and they needed to say something. It required all children study the Quran, and as followers of Christ, they couldn’t allow this, they had to make a stand.

It was early October 2009 when he launched his opposition to the rule with the local school officials. After all, Iran’s constitution called for freedom of religious practice, so how could this be forced upon them? Youcef is a Pastor himself, and although the constitution says one thing, Iran is ruled by the Clerics and Imams, so as a pastor, he kept things under the radar to reach Muslims and tell them about Jesus. He was good at that, because he used to be one himself, converted to Christianity from Islam.

He kindly protested the forced feeding of the Quran to his boys, both followers of Christ, but his protestations were not well received. The Iranian secret police were called in and he was arrested for “Apostasy” (apostasy is leaving Islam and becoming a Christian, about the worst crime you can commit in Iran) and also seeking to evangelize Muslims.

During the year he languished in prison awaiting trial for apostasy, they experimented on him with drugs aimed at getting him to recant his faith and return to Islam. They were unsuccessful in their attempts, so next they hit him where it hurt. Fatemah was arrested and placed on trial, the boys were sent to live with relatives. She was tried, and denied representation by an attorney. She too was found guilty of apostasy and sentenced to life in prison. Her conviction was later overturned after an attorney appealed her sentence, and she was released from prison.

In September of 2010, Youcef was found guilty of apostasy and seeking to evangelize Muslims and sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was able to be carried out at any time, as his appeals were over.

On July 3rd, 2011, The Iranian Supreme Court overturned Youcefs death penalty and sent it back down to the lower courts for review. They stated that Youcef is to repent of his Christian ways and be restored to Islam as a condition of the annulment of his death sentence. It is unclear what will happen to this young and courageous man if he refuses to recant his faith. He has now been in prison since 2009 because he took a stand for his faith. It is also noted that the Iranian Supreme Court took action against Nadarkhani’s attorney, a man named Mohammad Ali Dadkhah was sentenced to nine years in prison for representing Christians, the charge levied as “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime.” It is clear from all of our brothers and sisters languishing in Iranian prisons that “freedom of religious practice” cited in their constitution is not given a second thought.

The hope we have in God is a very powerful thing, the prayers we offer up for our brothers and sisters in persecution throughout the world are heard by God the father. Maryam and Marzieh were in a similar circumstance imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison for the same charges, apostasy. They were ill and things were not looking good, they quoted Jesus to the judges and clerics when they were brought before them for trial, and they were threatened with the death penalty also, but they refused to recant their faith. The judges and clerics were furious that these infidel women would dare to quote Jesus to them. That offense alone warranted execution. But in the end what happened one day, they were taken from their cells, led through the prison corridors on what they thought might well be their walk to death, but instead, were deposited outside the prison gates with no further explanation. They were freed, and they fled Iran, and now worship freely. Miracles still happen daily in our world, Prayer for deliverance for our persecuted brothers and sisters’ does help.

The God that closed the mouths of the lions Daniel faced, the God that allowed a boy to slay Goliath, the God that guards and delivers us from evil daily can also deliver Youcef Nadarkhani and his family from persecution. I ask you as you kneel in prayer, that you would pray for this courageous warrior of Christ that he may be freed to preach again, and to have his family restored.

God Bless-JFT

This story is all factual.

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She was in the corner on her knees facing the wall, her body shaking and heaving with each sob. I couldn’t help but glance over at her after I had prayed with a man whose wife had just filed for divorce. After he stood, I told him he was welcome to stay as long as he would like, and he shook his head and nodded toward the woman. Someone needs help more than I do.

After he left, she rose and walked toward me as I greeted her and asked her if there was something I could pray with her about. She glanced nervously out through the large glass windows that overlook our overflow room at church. When someone would walk by she would quickly turn her head away and down so that she could not be seen. She was constantly shaking and sobbing, and I must admit I cannot remember a time when I felt more helpless.

As I tried to talk to her, she kept looking over her shoulder to make sure no-one she knew had noticed her in this room. She was desperate, her marriage of twenty five years was in danger, she had lost a job, and they were foundering financially. Her husband held her responsible for their financial woes, and she was at the end of her rope. As she recalled the story over and over again in rapid fire desperation, her demeanor was that of a wounded animal, and my heart was filled with compassion.

She then told me that she had gone to church here for twenty years, and knew a lot of people, but in a church our size, you can still get lost in the crowd. The reason she kept looking over her shoulder was because she was afraid someone she knew would see her in the prayer room and tell her husband. I tried to encourage her that it doesn’t matter what people think, it only matters what God thinks, but she found no solace in my assurances. She was desperate for spiritual rescue, yet afraid someone would see her in her weakness and think less of her, and pass that on to her spouse.

She went on to detail that she wanted to go to counseling because they were going through this hard time, and her husband told her that they would not be baring their dirty laundry to anyone, they would settle it on their own. She would not even tell me her first name, so I did the best thing I knew how to do, pray. We prayed for her family for all they hard times they were experiencing. We prayed that God would mend their family and give her the peace and comfort that surpasses all understanding, the peace that only Jesus Christ can provide. As I closed with Amen, she turned without another word and left out the door immediately blending with the crowd further down the way, once again lost in anonymity. Almost….

The One who counts knows her name, and she will never be anonymous to Him. As I left and went home, I felt really troubled by the experience though. God is my strength, He is my shelter, and I know I can always go to Him and find refuge. But the church should also be a refuge. The people of the church, not the building. I cannot fathom feeling so desperate and afraid of my fellow followers of Christ. I know there are other issues at play here, but I believe we all need to have a “safe place” to go to where we will be loved and not be judged. In the song Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns  I feel the same message being proclaimed.

Stained Glass Masquerade

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

*Chorus*
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is CONVINCING
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay

Chorus x2

Well if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

I guess the question is, is church a “safe place” for you? Do you make it a safe place for others?

God Bless-JFT

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