Archive

  • China: Underground youth groups!

    What do you know about China? Despite being the home of TikTok and Zoom – two things many of us can’t live without, it’s also home to nearly 100 million Christians. And the government is actively trying to stop the spread of Christianity. Did you know that since 2018, it’s been illegal for anyone under 18 to join in with any church events? Crazy, right?

    Why would the government be opposed to Christianity? China is a communist state, so the country is officially an atheist state (a place where no one believes in God), but religion is allowed, with some restrictions. However, the Communist Party wants to maintain control and order, and Christianity is seen as a threat to that control and order. In the 60s and 70s there was intense persecution of Christians – but that seemingly led to a massive revival in the 1980s. After relaxing restrictions during the 80s and 90s, more recent times have seen the Communist Party become increasingly concerned about the number of Christians and the power and influence of churches. Laws are being tightened, churches being closed and services monitored.

    But, despite all this, many teenagers are still committed to meeting together to grow in their faith – even if it’s illegal.


    Image: Small gathering of young people worshipping in China

    A secret youth camp

    Simon*, an Open Doors worker, was helping a church to run a youth camp when it was raided. He says, “On the second day we were interrupted by the authorities. They raided the camp and stopped all our activities. They asked all the participants to present their ID cards and they recorded all their ID numbers.”

    Running the camp had always been a risk. Simon explains, “The church leaders could get into trouble and be fined or have their properties confiscated if they are found to be organising church activities for young people.”

    Thankfully, the pastor was able to persuade the authorities that this was just a gathering for a group of young people who had met online – a holiday. They left and the camp resumed. But the young people were quite disturbed by what had happened.

    “Some become very scared, afraid, while some were rather confused. In their minds, we are just a group of peaceful young people who are just trying to have a good time. Why would the authorities stop us?

    “There were a few young people who got frustrated or even become very angry. They felt that there was no reason for the authorities to do this to us, and that they were abusing their power and their force.”

    Simon and the pastor gathered the young people together so they could talk about what happened and how they felt. Simon shares, “I remember one of these young girls… she didn’t know what to do. She was a little scared. But then after the whole event she said, ‘I now know that I can be peaceful and calm because I know that I am following the one true God. I know that there are a lot of different ways to face persecution.’

    “There was another young man who got angry and even almost turned to violence. Looking back on the whole evening, he felt he knew that his emotion, his anger, was not justified. He realized that he has a weakness in his temper, and that it is only when he is willing to repent and submit to Jesus that he can really get a true sense of peace in his heart.

    “We kept on sharing until 3am. It was more educational than a training class talking about persecution, because this was a real life event.”


    Image: Small gathering of young people worshipping in China

    Going underground

    Before 2018, most of China’s young Christians had limited experiences of persecution. In the early 2000s, the church in China enjoyed relative freedom, and for most young believers, secret meetings and church raids were only stories told by older believers.

    But when the laws on religion were implemented with new determination in 2018, China’s young Christians began to experience persecution more directly. The secret meetings older believers talked about became a reality – their youth meetings had to go underground. “They use different locations, such as coffee shops, parks or even homes of the believers,” Simon says. “The meetings are smaller so they can be more mobile, and can stay invisible to the authorities.”

    They also began to experience more persecution at school. “Whenever there is a registration or enrolment when they need to fill in forms, the teachers try to persuade them to fill in ‘non-religious’ whenever they are asked about their religion. For those who insist on putting down ‘Christianity’, they may be threatened that they may not be able to get a good grade or they may not be able to get a graduation certificate.”

    This is a huge challenge, as young people in China face a lot of pressure to get good grades. Even some Christian parents would prefer for their children to stay at home and study rather than attend Christian events, the pressure is so great.

    How is Open Doors helping?

    Open Doors is helping to train youth workers and pastors to connect with young people in fresh and innovative ways. From underground youth camps to secret youth groups and new youth focused Bible studies and materials, our partners in China like Simon, are helping to keep faith alive!

    Pray now…

    Simon says: “I wouldn’t pray that persecution would be removed, but I would pray that all these young people will rise to be better, stronger, and more faithful Christians when they have gone through persecution.” So pray that now!

    Limit what you you love to help Christians who face restrictions and limitations!

    Join the Blackout and raise money by getting sponsored to give up something you love for a short time. Sign up and we’ll send you an awesome pack to help you raise money and pray for change.

    *Name changed for security reasons…

  • Syria: ‘Is it possible that I can become a Christian?’

    “Let the world see that I love the Lord Jesus. He said whoever is ashamed of Me, I will be ashamed of him in front of My Father. So why would I be ashamed of Him? He is my refuge and the shelter of my children!”
    Nisreen, Qamishli, Syria

    Nisreen is a believer from a Muslim background in Qamishli, northern Syria. Her journey to faith in Jesus started in childhood: “The love of Christ was planted in me since I was little,” she says. “I used to see how Christians behaviour is better than ours. I’ve always liked Christians and I used to say to my parents, ‘There is something connecting me and Christians’.”


    Image: Street scene in Qamishli, where Nisreen lives

    Encountering Jesus at a Centre of Hope

    But Nisreen had yet to fully encounter Jesus and choose to follow Him. That happened when she came to a Centre of Hope in Qamishli, run by Open Doors partner Pastor George and supported by your incredible gifts and prayers.

    Her family were struggling because of both the pandemic and the decade long war. She came to Pastor George’s Centre of Hope looking for food.

    “I was in desperate need at that moment,” she remembers. “My children had nothing to eat. I was very tired, I was emotionally exhausted.”

    The church gives out food packages to the community, both Christians and Muslims. While she waited for her package, she got chatting to a volunteer at the church. When she mentioned she wasn’t fasting even though it was Ramadan, the conversation deepened:

    “Don’t you believe in God?” he asked.

    “I have faith in God and feel that He is always with me – but not in the way Islam teaches,” she replied.

    They talked for about 30 minutes. Nisreen explains “At the end, I asked: ‘You talked about Jesus and you said that He came for all people, is it possible that I can become a Christian?’ He replied ‘Of course, Christ came for the whole world!’.”

    Nisreen left with the food package she’d gone for. But she also left with something far more precious. She puts it simply: “I met Jesus…. It is indescribable, millions of things have happened. Faith gives me strength. I am not afraid of life anymore.”


    Image: Nisreen in her home

    Supporting vulnerable believers

    Thanks to your prayers and gifts, Open Doors partners in Syria are able to offer hope to their community. That includes persecuted believers who have fled from elsewhere in the country – but they also offer the good news of Jesus to people like Nisreen, who have never properly heard it before. And they stand with believers from a Muslim background after they have decided to follow Jesus, because they are often the most vulnerable to persecution. Often believers from a Muslim background are ostracised from their families and communities, targeted with violent persecution or even killed.

    Pray now…

    • That Nisreen’s family would also discover the truth of God’s love for them
    • For strength and resilience for Nisreen and other vulnerable believers in Syria
    • That Open Doors partners would be equipped to support their communities during the Covid-19 crisis.

    Give up something you love to help Christians who have nothing…

    Join the Blackout and raise money by getting sponsored to give up something you love for a short time to raise money for brave Christians like Nisreen who have lost out because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up and we’ll send you an awesome pack to help you raise money and pray for change.

  • Laos: Young Christians forced to meet in secret

    This is a photo from of a secret church. It’s from northern Laos and shows a group of young people worshipping together in the middle of a forest.

    Two months ago, these believers were threatened – other members of their village said they would kick them out of the community because of their faith. So they can no longer meet to pray inside their village. But instead of giving up, they are finding other ways to meet as secretly as possible.

    One of our local partners, who is in contact with the group, says, “Please pray for them. Although they are safe for now, worshipping outdoors is still risky.”

    Pray now…

    • Thank God for these amazing young believers! Ask that they would be able to continue to meet together and strengthen each other through God’s Word and prayer.
    • Ask that the Lord will continue to protect them and keep them safe.
    • For the people in their village. May the Lord transform their hearts and they too will accept Christ in their lives.

    Get a glimpse of the secret church

    Want to know more about what it is like having to do church in secret? Grab our free Secret Church resource and run a session (which will work online or offline) to find out how hidden Christians worship, learn from the Bible and pray together.

  • India: ‘You are a Christian. Get out of here…’

    Since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, the generosity of Open Doors supporters has enabled our partners to distribute emergency aid to 163,000 persecuted Christians in more than 10 countries across Asia. That is over 33,000 families.

    In India alone, 14,750 Christians been given vital aid. For one poor and vulnerable Christian and his family that has been absolutely essential.

    In their area, all the shops were closed except for one, where government food had arrived for people without work. This man and his family hadn’t eaten for two days, so he queued to get the government supplied aid.

    Nobody spoke to him – no one ever did – but that was okay because in a few hours he’d have a bagful of supplies. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the smile on the faces of my wife and children,” he says.

    Finally, it was his turn. He took out the ration card and gave it to the shop owner behind the counter.

    “Why are you here?” the owner said, ignoring the card.

    “What do you mean, sir? I’m here to collect food. Look, I have government permission. I qualify.”

    “No, you don’t. You are a Christian. Get out of here.”

    “I am a Christian, but I have a ration card.”

    “Get lost. Or I’ll call the police. Do you want to spend a night in jail, too? Go!”

    The rejected man put the ration card back in his pocket and left the store, ignoring everyone who stared at him. “I didn’t go home, but walked to the river instead,” he explains. “My mind was racing. I prayed. I thought about a thousand ways to get food and about a million ways to tell my family that I wasn’t sure if we’d ever eat again. I wondered if I should jump from the bridge.”

    Your support helps…

    Brother John*, the Open Doors director for Asia explains that “the Covid-19 crisis and the ensuing lockdowns have led to harrowing situations. My teams and our local partners have received an incredible number of text messages and phone calls.”

    And thanks to your generosity and the work of Brother John and Open Doors partners, people like the man in this story have been helped – he came home one evening to find bags filled with rice, cooking oil, vegetables and much more. The smiles on the faces of his wife and children had never been so bright.

    Pray now…

    • Thank God for the huge amount of people helped across Asia
    • For wisdom, protection and strength for Open Doors partners in their role distributing aid to Christians
    • That God will raise up individuals in local governments who will boldly plead the cause of Christians often last in line for aid.

    Give up something you love to help Christians who have nothing…

    Join the Blackout and raise money by getting sponsored to give up something you love for a short time. Sign up and we’ll send you an awesome pack to help you raise money and pray for change.

  • Nepal: “This was the answer to our unceasing prayers”

    Around the world, Christians are persecuted for lots of reasons, and in different ways. In Nepal, where it’s illegal to tell other people about Jesus and leaving traditional beliefs is seen as a complete betrayal of national identity, persecution can come in a number of ways. For Bhukima, a young mum in her 20s, it means not being able to access the local water pump to get essential water.

    Her story started when she was suffering with an ongoing illness and her Christian sister-in-law started sharing about Jesus and praying with her. Eventually she became a Christian:

    “We also started going to church together and although I did not understand much of it, with my sister-in-law’s encouragement I learnt how to pray. I also became much better in health and haven’t had any health issues ever since.

    Her husband was’t so keen though – he was worried about what people would think if the family became Christians. But, after an accident at work left him injured and in need, he realised Jesus was his saviour.

    Since Deepak was unable to recover and stand up on his feet, things were extremely hard for Bhumika. But Bhumika recalls that God was with them. One day, she had mustered up the courage to go to the shop and ask to buy rice on credit. Without saying a word, the shopkeeper gave her the rice. She says that she was astonished as she did not expect this. She then realized that God was watching over her and her family. Their local church also donated clothes for their family members as they couldn’t afford new ones.


    Image: Bhukima’s land and goats (see below)…

    New faith, new pressure…

    But their new faith also led to persecution. There are a few believers in other villages in the area where Bhumika and her family live, but the rest of the people there are mainly Hindus. Most are against Christianity, as they see it as a foreign religion and a betrayal of the traditional beliefs and culture and traditions. Bhumika says, “In my village they do not allow me to fetch water from the village well, and we are not allowed to even touch the handle of the water pump. Often I went secretly at night to fetch water.”

    There were times when people would take the handle of the water pump out and keep it with them so Bhumika couldn’t use it. At those times, she used to cry out to God, “Lord, we don’t have our own hand pump and my neighbors do not allow us to fetch water. But we look to You and hope in You. Please provide for our needs.”

    Whenever there was a prayer or worship gathering at Bhumika’s house, their neighbors would cause disturbances and try to disrupt their meeting. Bhumika also faced persecution from her in-laws. Whenever someone from the family was ill, they blamed Bhumika and Deepak’s faith for it.


    Image: The new water pump provided by Open Doors partners!

    ‘The answer to our unceasing prayers’

    When Open Doors local partners heard about the family, they were able to help through the local church. Your prayers and support provided a water pump, installed outside the family’s house, and a few goats to help the family support themselves until Deepak is able to fully recover and find a better job.

    Bhumika smiles as she says, “This was the answer to our unceasing prayers and of many others who prayed for us. Now, we have a hand pump of our own and that has made our life better. I neither have to fear being caught by my neighbors nor be afraid of depleting the water that has been stored. We no longer have a shortage of water in our house.

    “When my family was despised by our relatives and isolated from our village, my family came together and prayed and as a result, God filled us with his joy and gave us strength to face this kind of persecution. He also provided for our needs whenever we prayed. I always felt God near us in the storms we faced.”

    Amazing – thanks again for your prayers and support!

    Pray now

    • Thank God for Bhukima and her family. Thank God for his provision and their faith.
    • For the local community and that Bhukima would be able to share Jesus’ love with others.
    • Pray this: Father God, please protect Your children in Nepal. We pray that You would provide Nepalese Christians with opportunities for work and community, and stem the tide of attacks by Hindu extremists. Particularly we ask for safety for Christian women and girls, who are often the most vulnerable.

    Give up something you love to help Christians like Bhukima who given up everything for Jesus

    Join the Blackout and raise money by getting sponsored to give up something you love for a short time. Sign up and we’ll send you an awesome pack to help you raise money and pray for change.

  • Syria: “Jesus wanted me to be in that place”

    Alya and her husband have had a tough few years, living through war and terror in Syria. But thanks to the love of a local church, her life has turned around, and now she’s come to know Jesus too.

    Her story is pretty tough – she’s from a Muslim background and when the war broke out, her, her husband and their five children had to flee home because of the fighting. They ended up in Raqqa, the Syrian capital of the land grabbed and run by the extremist so-called Islamic State. Even though they were Muslims, they weren’t protected.

    In Raqqa

    “We saw a lot of terrible things,” says Alya. The violence and intimidation experienced by those in Raqqa has been all over the news – shocking things happened. Worst of all for her family, one of her sons went missing. They only found out seven months later that he’d died in a bus bombing.

    The tipping point came in 2016 when an IS soldier came to the house to complain that their daughter had been seen at school without being fully covered in the mandatory black robes. “They said that we should bring our daughter to them the next day,” says Alya. “They would have given our daughter to one of their men; she would have become one of their slaves.”


    Image: Waiting for aid and supplies

    Fleeing from IS

    Alya knew they couldn’t stay and they fled to Qamishli. At the airport, their baggage didn’t arrive. A nearby man noticed the family’s panic and offered to help. Alya didn’t know whom to trust, and so declined – but did take his business card.

    Life was hard and after a few weeks things reached a tipping point. Alya decided to phone the man she’d met at the airport.

    “Yes, of course I can help,” was the response she heard. The person she’d called was Pastor George – an Open Doors partner who leads a Centre of Hope church in Qamishli and has stood with his community for many years.

    But Pastor George doesn’t just look out for people in his church’s congregation. Even though Alya and her family were Muslim, and he didn’t know them, Pastor George arranged a house for the family to move into.

    “When we were in that house, I was in peace,” Alya says. “I saw the pastor was an honest man, and I wanted to know more about that church. So I went for the first time to a church service. The preacher spoke about forgiveness. It made me cry.” Pastor George was preaching from Matthew 5:39: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

    Life changing

    Alya was curious. She went to a mid-week Bible study. As Pastor George and his wife explained more about the Bible, they also showed the love of Jesus practically, Alya remembers. “They were helping me, asking me how I was doing, taking care of me. The church felt like one big family.”

    They gave Alya a audio Bible – the more she heard, and the more she tried praying to Jesus, the more she saw God was working in her life. “I just couldn’t pretend that I was a Muslim. I started to talk to Jesus. I started to see that it wasn’t by accident that we came to Qamishli. Jesus wanted me to be in that place.”

    She became a Christian – and her brother cut off financial support in response. But Alya didn’t have to look far for support – her new church family were quick to help. And it’s your gifts and prayers that enable Pastor George’s church to help vulnerable believers like Alya.

    “I said to God: ‘Now you are responsible for me. As your child, I only have you,’” she says. “Jesus Christ is helping us. Without the help of God and of the church, we would have nothing.”


    Image: Life on the streets of Qamishli

    The future

    Currently, Alya’s husband and children remain Muslim and haven’t encountered Jesus. But Alya is patient and she has faith.

    “Jesus is my life now,” she said. “I was blind; now I see. I hope my family will be saved too.”

    “We lost our son,” she said, “but I saw how God gave His only Son for us. I became so rich because I found the real treasure, a treasure I didn’t have before.”

    Pray now…

    That Pastor George and his church will be well equipped to help his community during this crisis
    Praise God that He brought Alya and Pastor George together
    That Alya’s husband and children would discover the truth of the gospel and turn to Jesus.

    Give up something you love to help Christians like Alya who given up everything for Jesus

    Join the Blackout and raise money by getting sponsored to give up something you love for a short time. Sign up and we’ll send you an awesome pack to help you raise money and pray for change.

  • Syria: ‘They are ready to die for Jesus’

    Pastor George Moushi leads a church in Qamishli, northern Syria. His church responded when the region was invaded by Turkish forces last autumn, providing vital aid for many vulnerable Syrians. Many of you generously gave and faithfully prayed for his community, and your support kept them going as they faced a very visible threat – bombs, soldiers, Islamic extremists.

    In 2012, a year after the war broke out, Pastor George’s church began sending out food packs for those in need. Pastor George explains:

    “Through our relief and support programmes, we tried to build relationships with people, opening doors for them to know Jesus. The best hope we can offer is the hope that Jesus Christ offers.” People are helped without any conditions attached. “But we offer always the message of Jesus too, depending how open the door was. We didn’t only want to fill the stomach of the people.”

    Church growth and growing persecution

    Because of this work, the church began to grow. “A lot of people accepted Christ and were added to the church. Although the war was so awful, God turned ashes into beauty – a lot of people came to Christ.

    “The war made people from a Muslim background question their faith. When the church started visiting them, they began to understand about God’s love. We show them that God is love and that God loves people. Some came to faith and they now come to church.”

    About 30 per cent of Pastor George’s church, now, are Christians who have converted from Islam. They are among the most vulnerable to persecution.

    “When a Muslim becomes a believer, of course they are persecuted,” says Pastor George. “They face persecution from their family, because Islam forbids a Muslim to become a Christian. It even says that a person should be killed.”

    Pastor George has seen astonishing courage from new believers in his church. These Christians from Muslim backgrounds are well aware of the dangers, but still choose Jesus. Pastor George continues: “They are not afraid to be killed. A lot of them openly declared their faith, though they knew they might lose their inheritance, their properties, they might be threatened.”

    And it isn’t just threats. “Some were beaten because of their faith,” says Pastor George. “In one family, the parents threatened to kill the new believer. Because of that, the person had to flee. But they stayed firm in Jesus. Persecution leads to believers who abide more in God. They are ready to die for Jesus.”

    Reaction to the pandemic

    Now they face the invisible threat of a pandemic – and the dangers of starvation, poverty and isolation that come with it.

    “Covid-19 has a big impact on Qamishli; normal life is almost non-existent,” Pastor George explains. “The number of poor people has increased. Especially those people who are daily labourers who, if they don’t have work today, receive no wages. The need to provide for their family members and especially their children is bigger than ever. Due to the restrictions that prevent the virus spreading, the damage is huge for those families who were already needy in Qamishli.”

    “Thank you for your help to make that possible,” says Pastor George to Open Doors supporters. But his message is simple: “Please continue to help us.”

    Religious ministers have been exempted from travelling restrictions in Syria throughout the crisis, and so Pastor George is able to distribute aid to vulnerable members of his church – and to people outside it. “When we saw the increased need, we restarted relief distribution,” he says. “We gave people food and washing detergent coupons. Our church saw that now was a time to stand by the people, support them and show Jesus’ love in difficult times.”

    “I wasn’t sure if the church would help me because I’m not Christian,” says May, a young woman displaced from Hama with her husband, toddler and baby. “But I had to ask, because my daughters are getting hungry and we are unable to support them.” The church in Qamishli gave her food and money for nappies – and showed her the love of Jesus in doing so.

    People are hungry

    The widespread need is clear. “People are hungry,” says Pastor George. “Some called me crying because they have no food for their kids and families. Especially displaced families who have no relatives here, so they can’t even ask to borrow money from anyone, just to keep them alive until this crisis ends. I see men, women and children crying of hunger. It’s tragic. We’re in dire need of funds to support a larger number of families.”

    With your support, churches such as Pastor George’s can make hope visible in the Middle East. Relief projects will build resilient families and resilient communities, enabling believers to shine the light of Christ into the region and into the world. Pastor George and other Open Doors partners will still be in Syria long after this crisis is over, responding to the needs they see, welcoming new believers to the church family, and building a strong community of Syrians worshipping God and making Jesus’ love visible to their neighbours.

    Pray now…

    • For God’s provision for Syrian Christians who urgently need food and aid
    • That God would protect believers from a Muslim background facing persecution
    • That Pastor George and his church may be able to bring hope and love to their community

    Act now…

  • Sheona clears out to help out!

    Sheona (Sheo) is a 23-year-old Open Doors supporter who took to Instagram with a fresh way to raise money for the persecuted church during lockdown – here, she shares what she did and why. You can find Sheo on Instagram @sheosclothes.


    Image:
    Sheo, an Open Doors supporter, in the Scottish Highlands

    I have been in the most beautiful part of the UK, the Scottish Highlands, for the whole of lockdown and I have enjoyed the slow pace of life during this time. It has been an absolute joy to go for walks, read, bake and try a random mixture of new creative projects – turns out embroidery is actually really difficult but so worth the effort!

    I have found it hard not being able to see my parents and there have been big life changes which have been sad, but ultimately I have so much to be thankful for. I have remained healthy and so have all my loved ones. In many ways I have felt phenomenally guilty for how much I have enjoyed lockdown, especially when you hear stories of how hard it has been for so many.

    Clear out to help out

    Reading stories across the world of people struggling due to lack of finances, struggles with physical and mental health, and abuse in a variety of forms are really heart-breaking to read. It left me feeling totally helpless in what I could do to help and how I could share Jesus while I do it. During lockdown I was able to clear out my closet, piling up clothes I have accumulated over the years that I no longer wear, no longer fit or no longer need.

    With charity shops still closed and nowhere to drop them off I thought I could maybe use them to make money for organisations who were doing the work I wish I could be doing personally. I love how Instagram makes it so easy to connect with people and so I decided to use that platform to sell my clothes, on a donation only basis.

    Supporting persecuted believers in India

    Through talks with my sister I started looking into the work of Open Doors. It broke my heart reading stories of Christians in India being refused basic human needs due to their faith in Jesus Christ. In India, many Christians already face persecution for their faith. I can’t get my head around how someone can be refused food and aid during a global pandemic because of their faith. India is a place very close to my heart, as I grew up there in Ludhiana and Mussoori and still have many friends living there, so this seemed like the perfect place for my fundraising to go towards.

    “It is so easy to feel like you are helpless and that you can’t make an impact but it has been a joy to remember that God uses everything for good.”

    The response to my Instagram sale has been phenomenal. I am amazed by how generous people are and how willing people are to get involved. In just two days we had made about £350 from clothes that had been in my cupboard. Now it’s over £750! Not only that, I had messages from friends saying they loved the idea and asking if they could donate their clothes to the project too. I had set out with the idea of making a little money for Open Doors and getting rid of some old clothes. Somehow along the way it became a little bigger and I am so excited to see where it goes from here.

    Being an offering

    My middle name is actually Arpana which is the Hindi word for ‘offering’. I aim to live a life that reflects that, offering up my time, talents and, in this case, my clothing to the work of the Lord. It is so easy to feel like you are helpless and that you can’t make an impact but it has been a joy to remember that God uses everything for good. What can seem like such a small act, God can turn into something much bigger.

    Please keep praying for the work this money is going towards and give thanks for the generosity people have shown at this time.

    Want to raise money?

    Up for raising money for Open Doors too? Amazing, get in touch and send us your ideas and plan, or get involved in Blackout and get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time to raise money for people who have lost everything because of their love of Jesus.

  • Brunei: Choosing Jesus over love

    Going against the grain and standing your ground in your faith can be wearying – especially if the pressure to change and follow the crowd is coming at you from all directions. For 25-year-old Elora*, a Christian from Sharia-governed Brunei, this pressure – to renounce Christ and turn to Islam – has been rising since her schooldays. But her faith in God has won out over the years and become stronger.

    As the only Christian in her school, Elora was constantly bombarded with questions from both her fellow students and her teachers. “Why do you want to be a Christian? Why is being a Christian so important to you?” But even then, Elora was resilient – thanks to the firm foundation she received from her parents and her church.

    At university, she got into a relationship with a Muslim man; after wrestling with God over the relationship for a year, she eventually broke it off – she knew if the relationship was going to end in marriage then she’d legally have to convert to Islam. Instead, she chose Jesus. “So many tears were shed in that year,” she said. “But that year was the year I truly encountered the love of Christ.”

    What is Brunei like for Christians?

    In Brunei, which is number 37 on the Open Doors World Watch List, conversion from Islam is illegal, and Christians from Muslim backgrounds come under intense pressure to return to their original faith. Sharia (Islamic law) was fully implemented in the country in April 2019; under these laws, sharing the good news of Jesus with anyone outside of a church is completely forbidden. The sultan, who is seen as the protector and defender of the Muslim faith, has the power to close any existing church at any time.

    Since the introduction of Sharia, Elora has noticed the passionate faith of her Christian friends cool out of fear:

    “Believers are not willing to take risks,” she says. “Parents choose not to send their children to public church events either. Some of my friends have even said that they don’t see a place for themselves in the church anymore.”

    One church pastor in Brunei sadly told us that if the church cannot share the gospel, Christianity will die within one generation. But the faith, hope and love of Christ are not easily extinguished.

    There is still hope. The Lord can do all things, and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Standing firm on Christ’s foundation may not look or feel the safest place to be – but it is the only ground which will not topple or crumble when the waves of oppression and opposition come against us.

    Elora currently serves the young adults in her local church. She is passionate about teaching them to listen to the Holy Spirit and treat everyone with kindness. “My heart beats faster when it comes to Brunei,” she says. “There is a burden I can’t explain. Pray for the salvation of the people of Brunei. Pray for the sultan, the governments and authorities of this country as well. Please pray that the glory of God will shine in Brunei.”

    Pray now…

    • For Elora. Ask God to give her boldness, courage and new faith that God would move in Brunei.
    • For the church in Brunei. That it would find ways to share Jesus, stay strong and be a light to the people of Brunei.
    • For Brunei and its leaders. Pray for tolerance and a change in laws so Christians can worship freely.

    Learn from the Secret Church

    Inspired by Elora’s story? Want to grow deeper in your faith? DWant to connect with the persecuted church around the world? Download our Secret Church resource, where you can experience something of the underground church in your own home, with exciting activities and session plans designed for youth and small groups…

  • August activities: Week four – Speak to your friends and family

    At the start of August we posted out to you a series of postcards with a challenge to do each week during August. We’re now at our final week, and we want you to do something amazing – to choose to lose something you love to stand with those who have lost everything because of their love of Jesus.


    Week four: Speak to your friends and family

    God has given you talents, skills and passions to be used for Him. What do you love? Football, your phone, dancing, X-Box, eating, reading, gaming, cooking, running, YouTube, baking, swimming, skating, music? What is it for you?

    It might seem weird calling these things talents. You might think,  ‘It’s just something I can do, no big deal.’ But to someone else, your passion could be an inspiration. The guy who started Open Doors, Brother Andrew, began smuggling Bibles by recognising a need and doing what he could to meet that need. It’s was just something he did, but he’s changed millions of lives through his actions.

    Could you use your talents and passions to help raise awareness and money for God’s global church? Many people do not know that Christians are persecuted for their faith. You could help others learn. You could help change the lives of our persecuted family.

    Challenge

    Sign-up to Blackout and get sponsored to lose what you love.
    Persecuted Christians often have to give up everything to follow Jesus: their families, homes, jobs, friends, freedoms and, sometimes, even their lives. Could you give up something you love for a weekend and ask people to sponsor you, raising much-needed funds for our persecuted church family? Every year we run Blackout, challenging young people and youth groups to raise money together for persecuted Christians.

    Activity

    • List the things you love and thank God for them now.
    • Then ask God how you can use these things you love to raise awareness and money for the persecuted church.
    • Sign up for Blackout here, and we’ll email you a graphic you can post on social media – tagging three friends  challenging them to get involved in Blackout too.
    • Set yourselves a fundraising target, or compete to see who can raise the most!
  • We support people who are beaten, tortured,
    imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.