Archive

  • Brexit: What will change?

    Well for now, we’re still in the Euros, sadly for the home nations teams a Brexit will probably soon take place. OK we’ve got the football out of the way, the other big issue up for grabs is the EU Referendum. The 23rd of June is nearly here. For weeks now our news feeds on social media, in the papers and the TV have been filled with Boris v Dave et al and also through the post we’ve been bombarded with mail, both sides claiming to have the right answer for Britain’s future. Personally I’m still undecided.

    One thing I do know come Friday morning little will have changed. And very little will change for the persecuted church. Whatever the outcome persecution against those who share our faith but not our freedom will still be hitting hard. Christians will still be on blacklists and hunted in North Korea; if discovered sent to Nazi style concentration camps. Christians will still be targeted and viciously attacked by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Christians will still be living in uncertainty and with very little hope in Iraq and Syria. Little will change for Christians whose liberty, livelihoods and loved ones are snatched from them. One thing can change though, whatever happens on Thursday, more of us can choose to speak up for the persecuted.

    Around the world the church is on its knees, battered, broken, but not abandoned, not forgotten, because you and I will make a choice to turn up the volume, to not remain silent.

    In times like these it’s hard to know how to pray. So join me in praying the prayer Jesus taught his followers, The Lord’s Prayer:

    Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as in heaven.
    Give us today our daily bread.
    Forgive us our sins
    as we forgive those who sin against us.
    Lead us not into temptation
    but deliver us from evil.
    For the kingdom, the power,
    and the glory are yours
    now and for ever.
    Amen.

    AWYP-Brochure-Cover

    Don’t know what to pray?

    Grab our free resource ‘And When You Pray’ for prayers and info on the ten toughest countries to live as a Christian. It’s free and we’ll even send it to you in the post!

  • Steering wheel or spare tyre?

    Prayer is at the heart of following Jesus. But it’s much more than we’ve made it. It’s so easy to trade a bit of specific devoted prayer time for some muttered, cluttered thoughts as we leave the house in the morning. We’re busy. Life is full and prayer is easy to forget. But, are we missing out on something vital? 

    Martin Luther, the German chap who redefined what the church was all about several hundred years ago, said: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” For many of us, when life gets hectic, prayer isn’t our first port of call, but an optional extra.

    “My husband left me because I did not want to renounce my faith in Christ. I did not know what to do so I prayed to God. I prayed until 3am. As I was about to fall asleep, I heard footsteps entering my room. I felt warmth from head to toe, and all my burdens were lifted up. Now I can face the world, even without my husband, because I have Christ!”
    Secret Christian from South East Asia

    This quote highlights some key things about prayer we could do with being reminded of.

    Firstly, she doesn’t give up. She keeps going – praying through pain, rejection, fear and tiredness. In fact, Jesus tells us to do the same (check out Luke 11:5-10).

    Secondly, God hears. And if he hears her prayers, he also hears your prayers, mumblings and silent mutterings. He knows what you care about and what you need. Spending time in prayer, focusing on Him, can help us re-learn that (see James 4:8).

    The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.

    Thirdly, and probably, most importantly, she’s changed as the result of her prayers. Jesus appears to her in an incredible way, and gives her fresh strength, passion, love and hope. He hasn’t taken her away from the daily pain and rejection she will face, but He’s given her the strength to change, and maybe even change those around her. She knows He’s with her and that is enough.

    The philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard said: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” This secret believer has got that. She’s prayed and God has responded, changing her in the process.

    How often do we pray trying to get God to do what we want? Would our prayers change if we knew God might call us to be the answers to what we are praying about? Will we be the kind of people who say, no matter what life throws at us, ‘I’m ready to face the world, because I have Christ?’

    Try praying now..

    Check news posts with specific prayer points…
    Watch this short video series on prayer with Pete Grieg…

    This article was taken from the latest edition of our printed Cost magazine. Take a look at the full edition here…

  • Faith on a leash

    One of my lasting childhood memories was Sunday night family walks by the sea after church. The best times were when it was stormy and the wild dark grey waves would come crashing in, inches from where we stood. There’s something strangely beautiful about the wild unrestrained sea flexing its power in a storm.

    Am I missing out on the strangely beautiful depth and richness of knowing the wild mysterious side of God?

    Nowadays though, I love curling up in a soft cosy blanket, preferably with the heating whacked up high, armed with a hot chocolate. These days I like my comforts. I want the door firmly shut on what’s potentially uncomfortable or a bit dangerous. Maybe this is a metaphor that sums up my life and even how I view my faith with God. Have I settled for the comfortable, the contained tame version of God? Have I chosen faith on a leash? Am I missing out on the strangely beautiful depth and richness of knowing the wild mysterious side of God?

    CS Lewis conjured up a powerful image of God in his epic Adventures In Narnia. ‘Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

    Yes God is good. And he is the King. But he isn’t safe.

    Most of the time in our comfort craving culture we keep God on a leash, try to keep him in a box; we like the safe cosy version of God. We prefer faith on our terms, and often treat God like our divine Santa, or our genie in the bottle – who will meet all our needs and wants, give us the quick fixes. The idea of a smiling, happy, safe and tame Jesus who gives us all we want, just doesn’t exist.

    Let’s accept that while God does speak in the stillness and the small voice God is equally wild, unsafe and unrestrained. He’s uncomprehend-able at times. He invites us to take risks, to tread a path that isn’t popular. Often he leads us into the place of the unknown; a place that might look bleak and barren. I’ve come to learn, like so many followers of the faith who have gone before, it’s not in a place of safety and comfort where we grow. It’s in the wild risk-taking barren experiences where my character is refined or where God teaches me deep truths that otherwise I would never know.

    I’m reminded of a real hero of mine. Hea Woo is a diminutive lady from North Korea, with an amazing bundle of energy and passion for Jesus. She met powerfully with God in one of the most wild, bleak and extreme places on earth – a North Korean prison camp. Hea Woo’s faith grew in a place of pain, suffering and hostility. Nowhere was safe. Hea Woo’s trust and faith deepened. Hea Woo shared the Gospel, she showed unbelievable acts of kindness to other inmates; washing their rags, sharing her meagre rations. She was fearless and started a church (in a country where Christianity is illegal). The secret church met fleetingly, singing in whispers, by the stinking toilets. Often the stench would make Hea Woo physically sick, and yet it was the safest place – the only place – to meet and encounter God together.

    Let’s choose not to avoid the wild side of God and where he might take us. Cling to the promise that faith really does grow in the wild, extreme places.

  • The crisis has a name

    The image of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach was everywhere in September; it was all over social media, the cover story in the papers, and headline news on the telly. That image shocked us all. We know horror and tragedy are constantly played out, but this was right in our faces; the refugee crisis now had a face, a name, and it was no longer something we could ignore.

    The grim reality is that Aylan Kurdi is not the only 3 year old to have lost his life to the conflict in the Middle East. There are thousands of children, like him, innocent victims of war and brutal injustice and their stories also deserve our attention. Sadly it’s too late to help Aylan Kurdi, but there’s still time to help those trapped inside Iraq and Syria; children who have had their lives put on pause and those who have had their childhood ripped from them.

    I heard a heartbreaking story of another 3 year old…

    In August 2014 Christine was snatched from the arms of her mum by Islamic State fighters. Her home town in northern Iraq on the Ninevah Plain (where Christians have lived for centuries) was taken over by Islamic State fighters who ‘cleansed’ the town of its Christian community literally overnight.

    Ayda, Christine’s mum, remembers having Christine ripped from her arms. The family were ordered onto a bus. She replays the horrifying moments in her mind, pain etched across her face: “Then one of the IS came and inspected the people on the bus. He walked up to us. He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away.”

    Ayda ran after the man, begging him to return her daughter, but he did not listen. Christine was taken into a building.

    He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away.

    Ayda pleaded and cried for the return of her daughter, but he would not listen. Suddenly an older, heavily-bearded man stepped out of the building, carrying Christine in his arms. He appeared to be the leader of the group. Christine was crying. Ayda was crying too, still begging for her return.

    “The man did not say a word, but only looked at me and made a despising gesture with his arms like he was saying get out of my eyes,” recalls Ayda.

    At gunpoint, Ayda was forced by another IS fighter to get onto the bus again.

    “From the cruel look in the eyes of the man, I realized that I had no other option but to go back. And so I did. The man holding Christine then walked away with her. That was the last time I saw her.”
    Then the bus drove off.

    Christine is now 4 and sadly there is no good news, there is no happy ending. Christine’s mum and dad are receiving regular support from Open doors through the church and local partners and the family have asked us to tell Christine’s story.

    “Please tell everyone to pray for Christine and for us, as we are living in the hope that someday Christine will come back.”

    For me persecution in Iraq and Syria has a face, and a name – Christine’s. And I can’t ignore it. There are so many stories like hers. You might feel totally overwhelmed reading Christine’s story, but use your thoughts and emotions to pray and cry out to God – the God who sees and the God who hears.

    Help now…

    We’ve put together a bunch of other things you can do to help speak up and act on behalf of families like Christine’s. They need you to do something:

  • Iraq: Hope in the face of devastation

    The situation in Iraq has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for large parts of this year. As the militant group IS target and attack all who don’t adhere to their strict views of Islam, Christians (and other religious minorities) have fled homes, fearing for their lives. Many churches have been destroyed and atrocities have been committed. Here, Emma catches up with Henry, an Open Doors worker who has been in and out of Iraq this year, trying to serve and support the remaining Christian community. 

    Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the current situation for Christians in Northern Iraq? In some senses it feels like the coverage in our media has dipped a little bit, so it would be great to hear what the current situation is.
    Henry: The situation is still very terrible. But then news goes on. That’s a very weird thing in our times that if the news is almost the same reporting of the situation dips. But it is pretty bad. I mean there are still 150,000 Christian refugees in Iraq. If you put that in perspective, in the early ‘90s, there were about 1.2 million Christians in the whole of Iraq – that number dropped to about 300,000. Of that number half of them are on the run, or displaced internally. Just picture how a church in your country would be with half of the population displaced, or going through severe difficulties. It’s a very sad situation. In brief, that’s the bigger picture.

    Also, when you look at the situation now, the summers in Erbil, that’s in Northern Iraq, are very hot, but the winters, they can also get quite cold. They also have wet autumns, like we do in the UK and here in the Netherlands. I’ve already seen pictures from Dohuk, that’s also in Northern Iraq, where a tent camp was completely blank with water. It’s also the situations and conditions that people are living in now that’s so hopeless. There seems to be no good solution for them. They’re still dealing with trauma, the terrible situations that refugees have experienced, it’s very sad.

    Q: Speaking about hopelessness, we have seen a few reports about people who, despite the hopelessness, are really being salt and light in these situations. Can you perhaps tell us about a person, or a group of people, who have really inspired you?
    Henry: That’s a good point you raised, because despite the hopelessness there is always hope. That’s a thing I was really encouraged by, just to see that there is hope. There is a tent camp which we have been to several times. The pastor inside this camp is Father Douglas who’s just a very inspiring, very great man. He’s really a man of God, filled with vison by the Holy Spirit to give people a place to live and feel welcome. He was in the military when he was younger. He says that in the military you have to give soldiers something to do so they won’t get bored, or so they won’t sink away into sadness. He really knows how to motivate people and keep up the spirits in this camp.

    Actually, I’m saying camp but that’s a habit. I also did it when I was there and he always corrected me. “This is not a camp, it’s just a temporary place for people to be; a temporary home for people. So we call it a Church Center.” He has a passion that’s mind-blowing, and it’s been going on for months already. It’s very inspiring to see this man of God serving his people, but also other people who need food and materials.


    See Father Daniel in action…

    This center has a child friendly space. It’s a big tent specifically for children, because Father Douglas knows they need a place for themselves. They also have paddling pools. It’s fun in the hot summer, but he also uses them to give the children a good bath. They go round with a big bottle of Dettol, to keep the hygiene in a good state. At the end of the day Father Douglas always invites the children to join him for his ‘daily garbage moment’. He gives the children responsibility for keeping the center neat and clean.
    He’s really a very inspiring person. He’s also doing the church services and encouraging people to have hope. I think he’s an amazing person and I would love to see many more church leaders like him.

    Q: Linked to that Henry, what do you see God doing in the lives of believers? Obviously they’ve seen horrific things, and yet you say there’s still hope. So what’s God doing in their lives?
    Henry: It varies a little bit from person to person. Some indeed do have hope, others have lost hope. There are people who fled from Baghdad in 2003 to Mosul, and then from Mosul for a short time in 2006-7. Then back to Mosul, and now again they have to flee to Erbil. So there are a lot of people who have lost their hope. Who think it’s just enough.

    But others, remarkably, keep their hope. We visited a primary school where there are three to four families living in every classroom. The daughter of a lady in this school had gone through a very nasty car accident. They were pushed off a fly over by terrorists who wanted to kill her, and she was severely injured. Her mother-in-law said “It’s not a good thing and we are going through lots of terrible things, but we do have hope… We will be compensated in heaven. It’s not good here. It’s not good now, but we have hope that God will give us a better future.”

    Others who have not had to flee several times already, really have hope. They say that “it’s terrible now, we have had to leave everything… But I trust that one day this will be over and we will go back to Qaraqosh [one of the cities that is empty now] because that is where I was born, that is my home soil , that’s where my family has lived for centuries, so we are not leaving, we are not giving up.” I pray that people will maintain their hope and not let the church die in this region.

    Q: Speaking about prayer, what would you say would be the key things that we in the UK should know and pray about specifically?
    Henry: I think the first point would be to pray for those who don’t have that hope yet, for example the Muslims and the Yazidi. We went to a Christian village, where they were also hosting Yazidi families. I saw a huge difference between Christians and those Yazidi. Some people were living in unfinished concrete structures, so people are very happy that they have a roof over their head, but when you look in the eyes of those Yazidi women and men, then you see this emptiness, and they really didn’t express any hope. So one of the key things to pray for is for those who don’t know Jesus yet. I really hope that they will see the light of Jesus in their lives.

    I pray that people will maintain their hope and not let the church die in this region.

    Another key thing to pray for is for Christians themselves to stay encouraged, that they will keep hope. Many are losing their hope, or don’t know what the future will hold for them. One man said “I’m 58 now, but 50 years of my life my country, Iraq, has been involved in some kind of war. So this should stop at some point.” It’s also a point for prayer for Christians to remain hopeful and to be able to deal with the trauma and traumatic events they have gone through. Some refugees are living in houses, but most of them are living in unfinished concrete houses, or camps near churches. That’s a lot of people in a very crammed area, which means it is a very stressed situation. Let’s pray for peace in people’s hearts, for Christians to be able to live in peace with each other in their current circumstances.

    And another key thing to pray for is for the people hosting these refugees. Church leaders, church workers or NGO’s who offer relief. Let’s pray for more people like Father Douglas, with a very great vision for the people they are hosting, and that the hope of Jesus will touch people.

    Q: We’ll definitely use those and we’ll pray. What’s the biggest faith lesson you learnt from you recent trip to Iraq?
    Henry: When I first went to Iraq it was just after America had their first involvement with some ISIS posts. It really was uncertain what was going on and how fast ISIS would advance. So I went there with fear in my life. It was mid-August, and I was thinking, maybe they had only just started. But in being in Iraq and meeting those Christians who are so full of hope, and especially some church leaders so full of hope, I learnt you can fear, and ISIS can bring fear, but we don’t have any reason to be frightened because God is hope. For me that is a very strong and very solid foundation.

    I learnt not to let my self be talked down by these rumours or these terrible acts that may bring fear into our hearts, because we have Jesus. It sounds very simple, but that’s one of the key things that I learnt, that I don’t have any reason to fear, because we’ve got Jesus on our side.

    Q: From here in the UK we can feel a bit helpless – what more can we be doing?
    Henry: It’s good to let you know that in July, in London, there was a big rally to support Iraqi Christians. We took pictures of this event with us on the first trip to Iraq to let people know ‘ You are not forgotten’. I could only go there with one or two people, just a very small team, but we showed these pictures to show them, reminding them that they are not forgotten. We told them ‘this event was especially for you’. We try to take photos and videos of the things we are doing in the west over with us as encouragement.

    About a week after this interview another Open Doors field worker was in touch with Father Douglas, who Henry spoke about. As the situation continues and refugees cannot return home, the situations in church centres are getting worse.

    The conflict has been going on for months already and tensions where refugees are staying grow. The weather is getting cold and it sometimes rains for days in a row. Refugees realise there will not be a quick solution. Father Douglas mentioned frequent occasions of aggression, especially amongst the men in the Church Center, resulting from trauma, hopelessness and bereavement. The past four months have also taken their toll on Church leaders like Father Douglas, so they really need our prayers.

    Please pray…

    • For those caught in the conflict and displaced who don’t yet know Jesus, or have his hope.
    • For Christians who have been displaced. That they will stay encouraged and hopeful, and that they will be able to live peacefully in the uncomfortable conditions they are living in.
    • For those hosting refugees, that they will have vision, wisdom and patience.
    • For a peaceful and God filled resolution to the conflict.
    • For those involved with ISIS to come to know Jesus.
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  • Thankfulness is an art

    I don’t know about you, but I am loving the weather at the moment. Days of blue sky and sunshine. It’s good to wake up to, and kick start the day. But even with the glorious sunshine I’m hearing people say ‘it’s too hot!’ Let’s be honest us Brits like a bit of moaning, don’t we? And we love griping about the weather… It’s too wet, too dull, too cold… And now it’s too hot!

    I’m on a mission. And I hope you’ll join me. I’m on a mission to rediscover the Art of Thankfulness. Let’s kick back against the moaning, the culture of entitlement and discontent and start living out a life of thankfulness. It’s an art – an art each of us can live out.

    The Art of thankfulness starts with a big admission:

    I ask God for a lot. I thank him for very little.

    I heard these words and felt the challenge deeply. That’s me, that’s what I’m like. I reel off my prayer requests to God, expecting instant answers. I feel I’m entitled to stuff and all too easily feel discontent – the hit of a retail purchase doesn’t last long, I’m there looking, casting my eye for what’s next on my wish list.

    ‘God had a plan and a purpose to place us in that dark place. Evin prison became a church for us. We were able to speak to more people about Jesus there than in freedom.’

    The more I hear stories from the persecuted church, the more it sinks in that they know all about the art of thankfulness. They thank God for almost everything and in comparison they ask him for very little. In the darkest of places, in the most painful of circumstances they choose to be thankful. They look for God’s hand in it all, they seek out the small things and whisper ‘thank you‘.

    So the next lesson in the art of thankfulness is recognising who God is, and all he’s done for us. In light of that we have so much to be thankful for. It’s living with that knowledge that can make a prison a place of Joy and gratitude…

    I recently heard the story of two women from Iran who were locked up in a prison known for its horrific human rights record. During their first night in custody all they had for blankets were smelly course sheets, stained with sweat, and damp with urine. Still they thanked God for what they had. In the days that followed they were locked up in solitary confinement, the threat of execution hung over them, and still they lived lives of thankfulness.

    Their words are still ringing in my ears:

    ‘God had a plan and a purpose to place us in that dark place. Evin prison became a church for us. We were able to speak to more people about Jesus there than in freedom.’

    The key is to look out for the small things to be thankful for. It seems to be what persecuted christians do all the time. I go running, and when I’m not dying of a stitch and out of breath, I try to thank God for stuff, just stuff that comes into my head… The smell of freshly mown grass (anyone with me there?!), the cool breeze as I’m running, people who I do life with…

    I’m on a mission. Will you join me? Let’s go and live the art of thankfulness.

    “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
    Colossians 2:6-7

  • I wish I was a risk taker

    When I was 10 I was a fearless gutsy evangelist. A Billy Graham in the making… OK maybe not quite on that level.

    To be honest I was a bit forceful with it. I had a friend called Lisa and she used to come round for tea regularly. I’d make her play football in the garden, and one time I remember telling her about being a Christian and believing in God. I suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders and said ‘Lisa, you’ve got to become a Christian. You’ve just got to!’ I eventually let go of her after leading her in a prayer.

    The poor girl must have been scared stiff, and I dread to think what she told her parents when she got home. I’m cringing now at the thought. A soul shaken into the kingdom! Bible bashing got a result, well sort of.

    My motives were spot on, but my methods were on the aggressive side. I look back and smile at the 10 year old me so keen so urgent in wanting to see my mates hear about Jesus and accept him. Fast forward a couple of years and things were a bit different, the risk taking was gone. I was quieter about my faith. A lot quieter. No more shaking people to accept Jesus. No literal bible bashing.

    I had a friend at school, who was a year or so younger than me, who also attended my church. And one day, I remember her words really vividly – they cut pretty deep, she said, ‘Emma you’re really different at school to how you are at church.’ Ouch. I thought about it, and had to agree. I wasn’t keen on letting my mates know about Jesus. I fell into a habit of using words my mum would have been horrified at, just to look cool.

    I was kind of living two lives. I had fallen into the trap of having just a Sunday Jesus. I rattled off all the Bible quiz answers in Sunday school, I memorised bible verses til they were coming out my ears. I even earned a fiver for learning the 10 Commandments off by heart. Knowledge was all there. But I didn’t what to share it. In fact I was embarrassed by it all.

    But that simple honest provocative statement by my friend began to do something. I began to change. A fresh resolve. At secondary school I helped lead my school CU. Numbers were low, and most weeks the cooler kids didn’t make it along. Yes I even put up little posters to advertise it.

    At sixth form college I surpassed that by plastering the CU notice board with a massive poster I made with the verse ‘What must I do to be saved? Believe in The Lord Jesus and you’ll be saved.’ Style wise maybe not the best moves, and yet a few of my mates from school and college did become Christians. I even dragged a teacher along to church a few times.

    Now I’d quite like a bit of the younger me. The raw innocence, simple faith and the desire to see people changed. I took more risks – small steps and choices – and believed that God could do way more and multiple those efforts.

    It’s a bit like that with the persecuted church. In the world’s eyes they’re an ordinary, foolish bunch of nobodies and yet their risk taking changes lives.

    I remember when I first heard about Nurta. I was left pretty much speechless. She was 17 and from Somalia, one of the craziest and dangerous places on earth. If you become a Christian there you pretty much write your own death sentence. Nurta did just that.

    When her Muslim parents found out about her new faith they were livid. They were so angry they made her a prisoner in her own home. They snatched her freedom, but they couldn’t take away her love for Jesus. In the day time Nurta was shackled to a tree in the blazing sunshine, at night they locked her up in a shed. For the next few months they beat Nurta, they gave her drugs to alter her mind.

    But Nurta refused to deny Jesus! She wouldn’t go back. In the end gunmen were hired and they shot her dead. Nurta risked everything for Jesus.

    I want to be like a Nurta, I want to be like a younger me. I want to to take this risk taking Christianity seriously because it really matters. But don’t worry no one will be physically injured in the process (my bashing days are over).

  • Hello world!

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    Testing sub title for Dan

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  • We support people who are beaten, tortured,
    imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.