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Posts Tagged ‘Persecution’

I was ushered into an ornate waiting room adorned with huge portraits of men wearing turbans. A heavily armed guard stood by me with a look of pure hatred on his face, I knew he would much rather have killed me than to look at me, but he was under orders. After an uncomfortable 30 minute wait he grabbed my arm and roughly pushed me toward the huge wooden door carved ornately with middle-eastern scenes. The door opened and two finely suited men the size of gorillas stood aside and motioned for me to enter, so I did.

There he sat behind his massive desk, his hands folded confidently before him. He didn’t bother to greet or welcome me but pointed to a wooden chair before his desk and said “sit”, refusing to make eye contact as he did so. When he finally did look at me, it was the same look you would have if you poured a bowl of cereal and noticed a cockroach as you were about to pour the milk, a look of disgust. The man is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran.

My aides tell me that you have been causing dissention among the people of my country. They tell me that you are speaking with authority, foretelling my downfall as the leader of this country, is this true? I looked at him solemnly and said “yes, I have told the truth that you will fall as will your government and all who support it”. He slammed his fist down on the desk and jumped to his feet. Do you know who I am, do you know that I could clap my hands and have your head on a platter in less than 60 seconds? He gained his calm again and then asked if the Americans had put me up to it, if I was a spy for them or the Zionists? No I answered, I represent only the Lord God, and I have a message to deliver to you from Him. He began to laugh, are you serious, you must be joking. You represent the god of the infidels and are willing to lay your life down for no reason other than that? Fine, what does your god of the infidels want you to tell me then, I might as well hear it, I am sure they will be your final words then, so go ahead.

I cleared my throat and stood, the Lord placed it on my heart to inform you that your regime will not last another week. He has heard the cry of His faithful in your land, the faithful that you punish, imprison, torture and kill for their faithfulness to Him. He has heard the cry of Israel whom you promise to destroy, He knows your plans to make a weapon capable of their destruction, and He wants you to know that He will never allow that to happen. The children of Israel will crush you because He has given them dominion over you, your very life will be taken by the Jews you despise and hate, and that all the world will know that God has protected them from you, you will not win. Your very bones will be picked clean by the crows and you will be forgotten as though you never existed. The Lord has had enough of your forcing your people to worship false Gods or face death. This land was once populated with people devoted to His service and you have filled it with minarets and idol worship.

The dictator began to look anxious and nervous as I continued, the Lord wants you to know this in advance, so that when all of this unfolds just as I have said, you will know it was foretold. You will run and hide in caves like an animal, but you will not get away, your reign is over. You may certainly kill me for this news, if that is what God wills, but your future is set. I then stepped around the chair as the dictator said “wait, just a moment”. Is it true that you met with Saddam Hussein? Yes, I answered, right before his empire fell, and I also met with Bin Laden a week before his demise, and when I leave here I will be going to speak to your ally in Venezuela. He will die a painful death of cancer because he too hurts God’s people, and they have cried out. 

Mahmoud’s face reflected fear now, as I turned and walked through the door unhindered. His guards looked to him for orders, but the confidence that was on his face when I entered was replaced by fear and he told them to let me go. I left the presidential compound without incident and headed for the Imam Khomeini International Airport, with not a little fear and trepidation flooding my soul. As the plane left Iranian airspace I began to feel slightly more relaxed, but still wondering why God had chosen me to deliver this dangerous message to the tyrants of the world.

Of course the above is fiction, but it too is based on fact. This has really happened in the same way I just described, but to different people. In 1st and 2nd Kings, the various kings documented there were regional tyrants in their own right. After each king would be killed, the scriptures would state whether they were good or evil in the eyes of the Lord, and unfortunately most of them did evil. Those who were good in the eyes of the Lord with one exception always tore down the altars and idols of false gods, it seemed to be a large part of whether they were judged good or evil. The prophets Elijah and Elisha on several occasions were summoned under similar circumstances to those above and asked to prophesy for the evil kings of the world. They would foretell the death and destruction that the kings were headed toward; always knowing that doing so would probably lead to their death. But it did not, God protected them through it all, and their prophecies were fulfilled.

Elijah was such a man of God; he had a direct line of communication with the Lord. He was protected time and again as he went into danger, yet he still had fears and doubts. 1kings 19:10  And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”  Even though he had been tried and tested, had seen the power of the Lord displayed over and over again, he still feared for his life. In 1 Kings 19:18 the Lord tells him he is “not” the only one left,  Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Elijah was truly a man of God, so much so that God just lifted him up into the heavens when his time was up, he never died but just ascended into heaven. It makes me feel good to know that an amazing man of God such as he still faced fears like the rest of us do, that despite being so close to God he still became discouraged. That being so close to God he still had doubts and questions, and still needed a pep talk from God once in a while, even he wasn’t perfect. God Bless-JFT

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It is late at night, a time when I seem to be alone with my thoughts most. My world and those precious to me snuggled safely and soundly in their beds, as I sit alone with only the illumination of the laptop guiding my fingertips.

I have just read the testimony of one who has known fear, one who has met secretly for her faith and worship to God, and has immigrated to this country. The testimony I recently read was from a Russian immigrant, a young lady who gets it, who understands the gift that we have in this country.

I try to write about those who face persecution daily around the world for their faith in Jesus, whose blood redeems their sin. The decisions they make come at great cost to themselves and their families. But in the end, I am just an American, raised in a sheltered world like the rest of us, who does not fully comprehend the price our foreign siblings in Christ pay to carry the cross of Christ. So, here are her words, copied and pasted for you to more fully understand what a gift it is that we have.

I am still becoming comfortable with the idea of being able to express myself openly about two topics which have not been so openly discussed in the country I have immigrated from, politics and religion.

I do realize these are the most fundamental and important things about life and so, being silent about them or facing reprisal, seems to be one definition of tyranny which eludes Americans. They have simply not experienced the fear which the rest of the world lives with, the penalties which may happen to you and your family for any beliefs which are openly expressed. If anyone who reads this wishes to learn more about the subject it is easy enough to obtain a copy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (or other works).So, I am Christian.

 

You have but to study the history of Russia to know the alternative – the authoritarian, government knows best philosophy that ruins countries, destroys culture and religion, submerges the will of the people for the dictates of the government masters who run everything.

 

Our freedom to practice our Christianity is not a God given right because we were born into America, it is a privilege. As followers of Christ, we must know that persecution is our cross to bear. Even in our country, there are those who will despise us because of our belief. But our persecution is under most circumstances minor compared to our brethren in the rest of the world, where people are imprisoned, tortured, and executed for being followers of Christ.

The scriptures quote that “there is nothing new under the sun”, meaning governments will rise and fall. And the question I ask myself and those who worship the one and only God, what will you do when things change and you have to make that choice. Will you stand and face the persecution, boldly claiming Jesus as your Lord and Savior, will your faith be that strong? Or will the sense of comfort you have felt in the false security of freedom keep you silent. A storm is coming, will we be ready for it or will we find our faith is weak. There are lessons to be learned from our brothers and sisters in Christ who have lived under tyranny, we need only to listen to their stories. If we have never seen persecution, how will we respond then it arrives at our doorstep?

God Bless-JFT

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We wept quietly.

The flames blew out the windows and doors of the ancient church I have worshipped in since I was a boy. The same church my father worshipped in since he was a boy, and the church he met my mother in. The weapon-wielding mob screamed and shouted in a crazed frenzy of sick happiness as they dance in front of our church, firing rifles and pistols into the air to celebrate their accomplishment for Allah.

When we saw what was happening, we didn’t dare go near the church or try to stop the vandals, there were hundreds of them and they were seeking blood. So we gathered across the street and watched. It didn’t take them long to spot us though, we were the only ones who showed sadness and distress, everyone else was partying at a fever pitch, so we stood out from the crowd.

At first there were about sixty or seventy of us gathered together, and we huddled together and began to pray quietly. Spectators from the apartment building above us were leaning out the window watching the mob destroy our church and set it on fire. They were the first ones to notice us below, and they quietly prepared to attack us from above. While our attention was focused across the street, they began dropping bricks on us from above mortally wounding several of us before we even knew what was happening. Like arrows from a coordinated team of archers the bricks were dropped on us as we prayed together, and we began to fall. As we ran and dragged our wounded and dead away, I counted seven of my brothers and sisters that were killed instantly, many others wounded with broken bones, concussions, abrasions, many unconscious.

A few days prior, a bomb was placed in a church in Alexandria and was detonated during services, killing many instantly and wounding the rest. The church building was destroyed additionally, and once the church is gone, the government takes it over. It will not be rebuilt.

We are Copt’s, also known as Coptic Christians (Arab Christians) in Egypt. We have been tolerated in Egypt by the government and allowed to continue meeting. Although we are discriminated against in all facets of our life by the Muslims, who would just as soon kill us as to look at us. Lately though, they are trying to purge us from Egypt. Copt’s have been allowed to practice their faith generation after generation in the same family, but we are forbidden to evangelize outside of our church. New converts are not allowed, especially converts from Islam. They will be labeled apostates, and a Fatwah (blood order) will be issued by the mullah’s. After that they will be hunted down and killed by anyone who wants to be involved. . The authorities will also turn a blind eye and no-one will be charged in the killing, as no-one will be charged for the burning of our church, or those who killed or maimed my spiritual siblings by throwing the bricks.

This is Cairo, and it is a powder keg now, a pressure cooker just waiting to explode, and when it does it will be us who will pay. A Holocaust is coming if things continue to progress as they are. We know our God is faithful, we know we will have a home with Him when we move on, but as humans, we fear pain and torture like anyone. Our plight is not unlike being a wounded antelope in a herd of hungry lions, waiting to be devoured.

Our hope is that we can be helped by our siblings in Christ from the west. We pray for deliverance, as did Daniel in the pit of lions. Surely our friends in America with all of their vast resources will come together and help us. In the end though, we just pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

God Bless-JFT

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkoYDeApNxk

This story was written based on “facts” of the Copt’s persecution in Egypt. A Coptic Christian friend in Cairo has given me these facts, and the following video of the destruction of his church. The video was shot by one of the Muslim raiders, and shows what is “really” going on in Egypt, and that they are crying out to the USA for help. I ask you as your Christian brother to think about and pray for your fellow Christ followers throughout the world.

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We have been meeting in secret for months now, six to be exact. The other villagers think we may have crossed over to “the Way”, but they are not certain. We meet in the huts with the white men in the middle of the night, reading the words of “the way” by candlelight so as not to provoke suspicion. There are seventeen of us who have seen the light. We have discovered the truth after so many years of reciting the satanic manuscripts, agreeing with people who told stories of killing the infidels to the glory of Allah. Now we gain our strength through the stories that the white men tell us. There are also others from our village who have followed “the Way” privately, who have become learned at the scriptures, and they help us to understand in a way that the white men can’t. They study diligently to become proficient in the verses so they can spread stories of “The Christ Man” to villages far and wide. We used to only have hate and hypocrisy, now we have love for one another. We meet each other’s needs regularly now, and show kindness to all.
We have set out as a group of seventeen tonight. There are two of our village pastors that will be meeting us outside the village near the large stand of trees. No lights of any kind are allowed, no talking as we move through the bush. After moving silently toward the rendezvous, we will meet up with the others near the small brook a kilometer outside the village. My son and daughter are so happy to be going to the river to openly profess their commitment, they have a sack with white robes inside that they want to wear when they arise from the water. They wanted to wear the robes on the journey, but it is too dangerous, there are still roving bands of killers who are just lying in wait for a group like ours.
We are at the trees now, under the canopy nearest the side where the branches droop to the ground, taking cover. Our village pastors were a little late, but then we pushed on to the brook to meet the other villagers. After confirming the coast was clear, we moved on toward the river.  We walked in silence by the brook, the babbling water giving us cover of noise. For a while we do not have to worry so much about snapping a twig under foot. The cool air near the brook refreshed us, some stopped to drink deeply of its fruits, sating our thirst. Then we travelled on, nearing the river, and not long until sunrise.
The river is slow moving, this is the place we come as a family to swim on warm summer days. We bring food and several families will spend the day lying on the grass under the trees, enjoying the cool breeze. This is where my wife and I would come to sit beneath the trees when we were courting, planning of our life together. Tonight, it is where we will be immersed in Baptism for remission of sins, an outward expression of our inward faith. We are all so happy, yet somber at the same time, reflecting on the sacrifice that was made that we may know salvation. My wife and I delight in the knowledge that our children will know “The Christ Man” Now, instead of later in life like us, how much better their lives will be for it, knowing “The Way” now. My son wants to be a pastor, like Umar the villager. Umar found “The Way” several years ago and takes great risks to spread the Word far and wide. Umar is now taking the first of us into the river, the sky is getting light in the east as he immerses the first few. As one after another of our brothers and sisters comes out of the water, we embrace. We are forever joined in eternity as children of the living God. Now twelve of us have gone, and soon my son and daughter go, my heart is singing. Next my wife, my best friend, my lover goes, as tears of joy flood my eyes. Now it is I, the last to go, and then I am immersed. I feel so light and perfectly spotless as I arise from the water. I embrace with my family, my friends, my relatives, we are one.
There is noise at the shore, I look and see Sani and his men at the shore, they wait with angry expressions showing in the early morning light. They are silent, they just stare as we begin wading toward the shore, our  son and daughter dressed in their white robes, look like angels as the sun breaks the horizon. Sani and his men shout curses at us and wave their machetes at us, commanding us to curse “the Way” or die. Umar the pastor is the first to reach them, he holds his arms out and looks beyond them as they slaughter him in cold blood. Next comes my sister and her two girls, they calmly walk toward Sani’s men and are cut down like the stalks of sugar cane we harvest. My friends and family are crying gently as go forth, leaving this world for the Promised Land as they bravely walk forward. As I look at my wife, son, and daughter, I see their sweet faces and feel the impending pain of our loss from this world, calmness surrounds me, and then I see Him. Beyond Sani and his men, “The Christ Man” awaits, a smile of love and warmth on his face, but also of pain and sorrow, sorrowful of what awaits us, but rejoicing for us that we will soon be with him. As my wife reaches Sani, she looks back to me, and her face reflects a peace that surpasses all understanding, then she crosses over and stands with “The Christ Man”. My daughter reaches Sani’s captain, then over his shoulder I see her Jump into the arms of her heavenly father, my son then steps up to one of Sani’s soldiers, and bravely stands his ground, as the coward sends him to stand to the right of his heavenly father. They are all wearing the robes now, whiter than ever, my friends and family standing behind the marauding killers. But they are not sad, they are all grinning, some are beconing me, laughing, and “The Christ Man” is now grinning ear to ear, waving me on. As I reach Sani, I reach out, place my hand on his shoulder, and give it a squeeze and tell him it is okay, I forgive him. He backs up, has a look of horror on his face at what would make a man who has just lost his family say something like that, then his face changes back to the Sani I know, and finishes it for me. I look around, and “The Christ Man” is with me now, he places his arms around me and says, come go with me to meet my father now. And all of us begin the journey together, the journey of a lifetime, in a place of eternal Bliss.
Sani and his men throw our remains into the current of the river, there will be nothing to show what happened here. As he and his men start back into the bush, he thinks for a moment about Manase and what he said in the end. How could a man, albeit an infidel, forgive the killer of his children, the killer of his friends, the killer of his wife? Allah offers no peace like the peace in the eyes of Manase as he walked to his slaughter. I know to think such thoughts are an affront to Allah, but Allah rewards killing the infidel, but does not offer peace to those who are going into slaughter. Sani will think of this later when away from the others, Sani will have to consider this more deeply, find the secret to their peace. As he plunders their belongings, he finds a small book which he immediately pockets. He will look at it tonight in the privacy of his hut.

God Bless

JFT

This ficticious story was inspired by real events that occurred in Jos Nigeria in early 2010

(Previously posted but re-edited)

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Sergey was hanging out with all of his fellow Russians, laughing and cutting up. As I approached he turned to me and said, “pardon me, are you free?”. I said sure, what do you need, to which he replied “if you are free, why aren’t you smiling”, then all of the Russians busted up laughing as though they had never heard something so funny.

At first I didn’t get it, although I chuckled along with them as though I found it as funny as they did, and it was only later in the night during a reflection of the day that I understood the gravity of the joke, and a larger lesson came to me.

I did notice how all of the people from the former communist countries were smiling, really all of the time. I would see them walking by the pond, looking around at all of the beauty smiling pleasantly when they thought they were alone. I thought of Vlad from Moldova who was always grinning, Heldar the jokester from Estonia, BeQ  (Bayger) from Kosovo who always made you feel as though you were royalty when in his presence. All of a sudden things began to come together in my mind a bit more, as the understanding of a book on the persecuted church I had recently read began to make sense. The author wrote that he had never seen joy in the free world like he had seen in the underground church. When I read that paragraph two weeks before my trip, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that statement, but now I knew, I had seen it.

I first met Sergey on Tuesday the 26th of October on the bridge over the creek that runs through the property at the Haus. He told me that he is fifty-six years old, and that just a month ago, his granddaughter obeyed the Gospel, and became the first person in the sixth generation of his family that are Christians. A smile of pure happiness then spread across his face. His grandfather (a pastor) had died in a Russian prison under the Stalin regime because of his faith. His father (also a pastor) was in prison for fifteen years before communism fell, and although he didn’t offer any explanation, I noticed there were a series of number tattoos under his wrist. He then said he was also a pastor and an advocate for a group called “open doors” that works to help those enduring persecution in countries where Christianity is illegal. He told me about the persecutions going on in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and the rest of the “Stans”. He told me of atrocities that went on in a place I had never even heard of called “Belorussia, also called White Russia”. I was later to learn he was referring to Belarus. I asked him if it would be okay if I wrote about his story, and he said it would be fine, as long as I don’t show pictures or full names. Even though Russia is free now, Christians must still be careful. One of his fellow pastors in open doors went to a church a recently to tell his brothers and sisters about persecution of the church, and as he was getting into his car after the meeting, he was shot and killed.

By and large, all of these people have lived under communism and not been able to practice their faith freely until the iron curtain fell, but now they can freely worship, and they are giddy about it, but they still proceed cautiously. The Moldovans (former USSR) are working very hard to evangelize far and wide in their country because they feel their days of freedom are numbered, and they want to win as many souls to Christ as they can before the country falls under the control of the next dictator. They actually really practice urgency in their spreading of the Gospel, because they do not take freedom for granted. The lessons I have learned from all of these dear brothers and sisters I will carry with me from now on. So I ask you, “are you free? Then why aren’t you smiling. God Bless and  dasveedAnja!

JFT

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Manual is so excited, the local leader of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) spoke to him on the phone, and requested a meeting with him for this afternoon. Manual has worked so hard establishing the church in Chopal village. A few months back, he decided to take a bold new step for Christ, and come out of the underground, opening the church publicly to all who will attend. When he did, we were surprised when three members of FARC and seven members of the paramilitary militia of Columbia and their families, gave their lives to Christ and afterward were immersed in Baptism. It was a festive day, everyone happy, the kids playing, much food and fellowship for all, God has blessed us. The FARC and militia families that came to The Lord that day have been faithful followers ever since.

Manual is expecting an approval by FARC of his plans to build a new church building and to be able to legally meet in the village. You see, Christianity here is outlawed and many have had to die for their faith. My dear husband has prayed day and night for this day, an opportunity at real church growth, legitimataly. My son and I have been cooking all morning to have a nice lunch ready for the troops when they arrive to set the tone for talks with Manual. We hear the sound of the jeeps coming up the road, as manual looks nervously at me and asks me for the third time this morning if he looks okay. I tell him to relax, that he looks great as I kiss him on the nose. He smiles and kisses me back then turns and heads for the front door as I tell my son they have arrived and I need his help serving.

Our oldest son is ten, and he comes in as I place several glasses of cold water on a tray, ready to be served. The jeeps stopped in front of the house, and I hear Manual speaking quietly with them. The front door opens and I turn to see if Manual is wanting us to bring out the refreshments, but it is not Manual, it is a large FARC soldier, and he has a machine gun aimed at my son and I, as he orders us to stay put. I hear loud angry talking as I hear Manual say “no, please” then I hear the loud explosions of gunfire. Five shots ring out as I try to go outside, but the soldier holds the gun on us, as he shouts over his shoulder “make sure that dog stays dead”, referring to my husband, my Manual. My sons eyes are huge and welling with tears, as the guard turns and starts to go out, one more shot is fired, I would later learn into Manuals neck, to insure he was dead.

I run outside, seeing Manual lying on the ground, unmoving, his face covered in blood. I run back inside, get a moist cloth, and begin to clean the blood off of my husbands face. He is lifeless and gone now, so I drag his body up under a tree, the one we used to sit under in the evening. FARC is still there, lingering at their jeeps, as the other villagers come to see what happened. I decide to do what Manual would do if he could, I run to the house, get my Bible, and begin to preach the Word to all who will listen. The FARC looks on incredulous at me, as though I have a third eye on my forehead, but they take no action on me, just sit there and listen. I read to all who would listen the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus spoke to so many, I don’t know why I chose that, it just seemed right at the time. The FARC men listened to it all, they were scowling, clear look of defeat on their faces that they had not silenced us, but they listened, even the angry soldier who guarded my son and I. You could tell, they all wanted to know how I could preach the word to my husbands killers while his body cooled under the tree.

When I had finished, they left without a word. As My children and I began to make preparations to bury their father, my oldest son spoke these words to me. “Mum, don’t worry, Dad died for Christ, and now he is with Christ. My tears flow freely as I acknowledge that my son is right, and think Manual would be so proud to hear his son speak those words.

Two weeks later, it was late in the evening, and there came a knock at the door. I opened the door, and it was the Soldier, the one who guarded us with the gun while manual was killed, but he is not wearing his uniform, he is wearing no guns, just street clothes. He has a look of sadness as he asks if he may speak with me, and I warily agree and step out on the porch. I now see he is crying, tears streaming down both cheeks as he gets down on both knees and begs my forgiveness. It is hard, but I place my hand on his head, and tell him “it is forgiven”. He then says that my strength after the killing made him listen to me, and that he gave his life to Christ just yesterday, and would like me to be at his Baptism in the morning. I agree to come, as the sobbing man walks off into the dark.

I will continue here, teaching others until either this country is freed or until another band of  FARC comes to silence me. God watches over us, and will bring us home when He wants too, and I am good with that. My oldest son has also said he would like to follow in his daddys footsteps, and be a pastor too. What more could a mother ask for.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

This story was written based on real events that occurred in Columbia

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