Mojtaba from Iran was imprisoned for leading a house church. Discover how God used his imprisonment to share the gospel with the least and the lost.
“Look, I took you through these doors and gates… to talk to people about Jesus”. Mojtaba shares that, understandably, in prison he felt he had done wrong. He was down. But God showed him that there was a purpose. Can you look back on tough times and see how God used you? Are you in a tough place right now? Ask God to help you see a way through – a way where he may even use you.
God sent help from a completely unexpected source – a Muslim Iman smuggled pages of the Bible into the prison for Mojtaba and his friends. Do you limit how God could use you or where His help could come from? Ask God to help you see where He is working, and ask Him to help you get involved.
As Mojtaba says, pray that those in prison because of their faith in Jesus would be released, but also pray that they would be used where they are now.
Pray for yourself, that God will use you where you are and you’d be able to see what He is doing, even in tough times.
Xiang En was a member of a large house church in China that was raided and shut down by the government. But the persecution the church experienced helped to fuel the faith of its members*.
Would you go to church if you it could get you in trouble?
How would you feel about going to church, knowing the authorities could watch what you were doing?
Look up Revelation 3:7-8. Where doors seem closed, sometimes God opens new opportunities. How does that relate to you? Has Covid-19 closed some doors for you? Have any new paths been opened up?
Heavenly Father, thank you for the remarkable growth of the church in China, despite years of opposition and hostility. We praise You for the power of the gospel. Fill believers with wisdom, discernment and courage as they seek to serve You in an increasingly monitored environment. Empower their witness and continue to build Your church. Strengthen and sustain Your children through all challenges. Amen.
What you can do now…
Want to respond and help your persecuted family around the world? Try these things:
Get our World Watch List prayer map and resources to learn more and pray regularly. Do that here…
Blackout during lent – get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time in the run up to Easter and raise money and prayer for those who have lost everything because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up here…
*This is the personal account of a Chinese Christian from a large house church in China. Persecution in China differs by region and church context.
Over the last few years, Christians in China have been facing ever increasing restrictions. Churches are closing, services monitored, and there’s even efforts to re-interpret the Bible to make it more Chinese. Watch this explainer video with persecution expert, Ron Boyd Macmillan to get the bigger picture and understand the issues facing China’s 100 million Christians.
Heavenly Father, we are astounded at the remarkable growth of the church in China, despite years of opposition and hostility. We praise You for the power of the gospel. Fill believers with wisdom, discernment and courage as they seek to serve You in an increasingly monitored environment. Empower their witness and continue to build Your church. Strengthen and sustain Your children through all challenges. Amen.
Christmas is all about the start of a new family: Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
But that first Christmas is also the start of another, worldwide family. As followers of Jesus, we’re connected, not by biology, but by belief. As Christians we’re part of God’s global church family. And that all started with the birth of Jesus.
Now, we know family isn’t an easy thing for many people. And we know Christmas is usually when we spend a lot of time with immediate family. That looks to be especially true this year with Covid-19 restrictions continuing. For some that is a great thing, for others of us, it’ll be harder.
But whatever your family looks like, let’s spend time thinking about and hearing stories from our global church family. We know this Christmas will look a bit different – we’re facing limitations on gatherings, festive services and parties. So, maybe this year, we’re able to identify just a little bit more with those Christians around the world who can’t openly celebrate Christmas.
Watch this vid
Have people ever been mean to you? Have you ever been excluded or left out?
Have you been laughed at or left out because of your faith?
Think more broadly now, who in our society do we leave out? And why?
Read out Luke 2:8-12
What do you know about the shepherds? How were they viewed by other people?
Tradition says that shepherds were despised and unclean. Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, wrote: “the laziest are shepherds, who lead an idle life, and get their subsistence without trouble from tame animals”. It seems that shepherds were, at best, looked down on; at worst, viewed as impure, lazy and not very clever.
Why would God reveal the birth of Jesus, the most incredible good news, to people who were looked down on and excluded? People who might not even be listened to?
Chat about Jesus coming for those society rejects and leaves out.
Who else turned up to visit Jesus? How were they different from the shepherds? What does this say about Jesus?
Think about the contrasting characters mentioned in the first Christmas story – shepherds and wise men. One group from the top and one from the bottom of society. Jesus has come for everyone, He doesn’t care about who is most or least popular – He sees way beyond the labels we put on each other, and loves us no matter how we or others view ourselves.
The Christmas story offers hope to all like Bijli who know what it is to be looked down on and left out. At that first Christmas, it was the shepherds who first heard about the birth of Jesus. We’ve seen that the shepherds were social outcasts who were most likely uneducated and excluded by society. But God chooses to reveal his amazing good news to them first. They are the first to visit Jesus and see that God has changed everything.
They are the first to understand the true message of Christmas: that God is now with us.
Despite rejection and bullying, and even though she can’t safely celebrate Christmas in her own home, Bijli still knows the truth of Christmas – that God is with her. And Open Doors partners have made sure that Bijli and her family could celebrate Christmas in a safe location, with around 100 other Christians.
Lord Jesus, we thank You for our church family around the world. For Bijli and her family, who are willing to change how they live just to have the freedom to celebrate You at Christmas. As we face a different Christmas this year, help us to know how to be family to people, how best to love them and show them You. Amen.
Share this Christmas with your persecuted family!
Many Christians can’t openly celebrate Christmas, like us due to Covid-19, they face restrictions and limitations. This year, why not share Christmas with some young persecuted Christians. Learn their stories in our youth sessions and videos, write a Christmas card or message to encourage them and even send a gift.
Check out this video reflection from Naomi and Jamie (and a few others too) on the theme of family. As Christians we see the Church as a family – we’re brothers and sisters in Christ, united through our faith in Jesus. This video is an insight into the persecuted church around the world and the real challenges some of our church family are going through.
Once you’ve watched the video, think through these questions:
1. What defines family for you? We’ve all got different families. Some of us might have grown up with just one, or no, parents, whilst others of us have mum, dad, brothers, sisters, pet dog and a massive extended family too. Think through your experiences of family and how they have impacted you. What would your ideal family look like?
2. What is God’s idea of family? Being a Christian gives us a massive shift in our understanding of what family means. 1 John 3:1 says ‘See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children
of God’. Accepting Jesus means we get a new Father, but that also means we get a new family too. Our love of God, and His Spirit in us, gives us, as Christians, a connection or bond that Biblical writers liken to family. God’s idea of family isn’t simply about biology, or even a geographic proximity. It goes beyond all of that… it’s something much bigger.
3. How does this effect how you view your own family, and your church family? We all know that we don’t get to choose our families. We have to stick with what we’ve got, through good and bad! That’s true of our church family as much as our biological families. Think about Hadija in the story. Her biological family rejected her, but a lady from her church family adopted her – and gave her a whole new life – amazing. Her idea of family has been redefined and changed. Is God also calling us to widen our perspectives and see our global church family as important as the people we see each week on a Sunday at church! What do you think?
Thank God for the good experiences you have had of family. Pray for those people you consider family/like family and the good influences and ways they have impacted you.
Ask God to help you see and care for His Church – the family He is building.
Pray for Hadija and Melina. Thanks God for their family and ask that many others risking it all to follow Him would know a loving, caring and supportive church family.
Want to do something to support your church family?
Join the Blackout and get sponsored to give up something you love for those like Hadija who are prepared to lose everything for Jesus. Raise money and prayer. Choose what to give up, for how long and when! Sign up and we’ll send you an awesome fundraising pack in the post!
Watch our live event, Standing Strong Online 2020, to hear and see inspiring stories of courageous faith from Syria, Nigeria and China, with worship led by Tim Hughes. The evening was aired lived on Saturday 3rd October, but you watch the stream below to stand with the persecuted church in prayer and hear first-hand how God is working. Catch up below with all the testimonies, worship and prayer during evening.
Want to do something in response? Choose to lose
Could you get sponsored to choose to lose something you love for a short time to raise vital funds for Christians like those featured in Standing Strong Online who have lost out because of their faith in Jesus? Sign up and we’ll send you an awesome fundraising pack in the post!
Your gifts and prayers have meant a milestone has been reached in Asia – 100,000 believers have been given crucial Covid-19 food and aid so far! Many of these Christians are left at the back of the queue when aid is distributed.
Thank you so much for your support and prayers.
Here are some things you can do now as a response…
One of the things we’re going to miss most over the summer is going to a bunch of festivals and camps where we get to hang out with mates in all kinds of venues and get inspired to follow Jesus with greater passion and depth. With festivals and camps cancelled loads of our friends are hosting their events online, which is great – we’ll see you at some of them – but we will massively miss not being able to be in a big tent or venue with hundreds or thousands of others, singing out our love of Jesus.
And we’re not alone in that. Around the world, young Christians spend time away at camps to learn more about Jesus, many of which will have had to be cancelled too. For us in the UK, these events may seem like a bit of a lifeline – a high faith point in our years. But just imagine how important they would be if you would normally never be able to speak about your faith, or even had to go to a secret church.
In Malaysia, a largely Muslim country where the minority of Christians face discrimination when it comes to accessing government services, it is technically illegal for Malay people to leave Islam. Pre lockdown, Open Doors partners were running youth camps to help encourage and strengthen the faith of Christian young people.
If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic about old times at Soul Survivor, New Wine, Dreaming the Impossible or Limitless, then check out the video to see what camps for Malaysian young people look like…
What will you miss most about not going to a festival or camp this summer?
What differences could you see between the Malaysian camp in the video and a camp or festival you’ve been to?
Did you hear how some of the young people reacted when seeing a Bible (they kissed it)? How do you view your Bible?
Did you hear what Pastor Lukas said about having access to a Bible? If we don’t read it for ourselves, if we rely on hearing what others think about it, we may never live our ‘true life’. What do you think he meant by that? How can reading the Bible help you live your true life?
Jump to the final section of the video and pause on the prayer points screen. Pray through the different prayer needs.
New, free resource: Secret Church!
Want to experience just some of what it’s like to be church as a secret community of believers? Get our new version of Secret Church to journey with hidden believers, seeing how they worship, learn from the Bible, pray and be community together. Plus, we’ve created the resource to work over a video chat – so it’s completely lockdown friendly!
Paul* from Eritrea was imprisoned for his Christian beliefs and spent ten years behind bars, where he was put under pressure to sign a document renouncing his faith. He tells his story in this short animation.
What’s it like in Eritrea?
Eritrea is ranked at number 6 on the 2020 Open Doors World Watch List. In Eritrea, anybody who is believed to have criticised the government is likely to be severely punished – and following an unapproved Christian denomination is considered to be anti-government. This means that hundreds of Christians are arrested and imprisoned, including 141 in May 2019 and 30 the following month. Some prisoners are held in shipping containers in scorching temperatures.
Thank God for Paul’s release and pray he would know God’s comfort and guidance.
For strength and courage for the hundreds of other Christians in prison in Eritrea.
For a new era of religious freedom in Eritrea so Christians will be able to meet and worship without fear.
Kim Sang-Hwa* became a Christian as a teenager in North Korea. She grew up knowing just how dangerous following Jesus could be: “We have a saying in North Korea, ‘When three of us are meeting, one of us is a spy and will report to the government.’”
Many North Korean Christians can’t even tell their families about their faith – it’s just too dangerous, and teachers sometimes ask students about their parents activities. You see, if the government finds out that you’re a Christian, it’s likely that you’ll be sent to a labour camp. Most prisoners never leave, and the conditions are worse than we can possibly imagine. Following Jesus takes extraordinary courage in North Korea – it’s been at the top of the World Watch List since 2002. It’s the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian.
When she was 12, Sang-Hwa found her parents’ secret Bible. “I threw the book across the room. I had shivers throughout my body. And I was so very afraid. I thought: ‘Wow, we’re all dead now.’”
She didn’t know what to do – tell the police, her teachers or confront her mum and dad. She put the Bible back to buy some time to think.
After two anxious weeks, she made the brave decision to ask her father about his faith. And he shared the truth of God’s Word with her.
As her father talked about the Bible, Kim Sang-Hwa felt the Holy Spirit come over her. Eventually Sang-Hwa made the decision to follow Jesus. She knew how dangerous it was, but she also knew it was the best choice to make, once she was convicted of the truth of the gospel.
The underground church in North Korea
More and more North Koreans are making the same courageous decision that Kim Sang-Hwa made. Despite living in a police state and the enormous dangers of being a believer, there is a massive underground church and it is growing. Open Doors estimates that there are 200,000 to 400,000 secret Christians in the country. Tens of thousands of believers are in concentration camps.
Open Doors secret workers are keeping 60,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid, as well as providing Bibles, broadcasting Christian radio programmes and running safe houses at the Chinese border for those who are able to escape.
Pray for faith, resilience and courage for Christians in North Korea facing unimaginably harsh conditions, and pray for the continuing growth of the secret church. Please pray for Christians in all the countries on the World Watch List, particularly those in the top ten, where following Christ comes with enormous cost.
Hidden Word: Learn to value the Bible like Kim Sang-Hwa…
Our innovative resource to help you get inspired by persecuted Christians and learn God’s Word by heart! A series of six weekly devotionals, along with leader guide, challenges and a bunch of awesome memorisation aids!
We support people who are beaten, tortured, imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.