Moving Mountains

Moving mountains is not, as you might expect, an everyday occurrence. In fact, recorded instances of mountains being moved are not plentiful.

However, Marco Polo (1254-1354), a Merchant Venturer from Italy, did appear to have had one notable occasion when he saw an actual mountain being moved.

This is – supposedly, anyway – a true story.

In his capacity as a Merchant Venturer he travelled in China with the Emperor, Kublai Khan, who was the grandson of Genghis Khan.

In their journeys, Marco Polo and the Chinese Emperor came upon a small village in which there lived a group of Christians.

The Chinese Emperor was known for being very sadistic and cruel and he ordered his soldiers to execute them all.

But before his orders could be carried out he said, “Before I kill you, I will prove that your God is dead and that nothing in your Bible is true. Your Bible says that if you have faith like a mustard seed, you will be able to move a mountain by commanding it to go. Just a little way from your village is a mountain – I am going to give you three days in which to move it”

On the first day, all the villagers cried out, ‘Oh God, we’re going to die! Move the mountain!’ But the mountain did not move.

On the second day, they found one man, a shoemaker, who was more spiritual than the rest and they made him do all the praying. He prayed all day, ‘Oh God, we’re going to die! Move the mountain!’ But still the mountain did not move.

Come the third day, the Chinese Emperor returned and ordered his soldiers to line up the Christians and behead them.

But first he said, “I gave you three days to move that mountain and it’s still there! You have no God, your Bible must be a lie. You must pray one more time whilst I watch you! Then you will be beheaded by my soldiers!

This time, however, the village Christians began to pray differently. They looked at the mountain and they began to command it to move in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth.

And as the Emperor watched unbelievingly, the mountain began to MOVE!

And from that time onwards the Chinese Emperor became a Christian and he sent Marco Polo back to Italy to bring missionaries back with him to evangelise China.

Never under-estimate the Power of Prayer!

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

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A Life of Hard Labour: A Pastor’s Sentence

A life of hard labour: A pastor’s sentence

Lim Hyeun-soo, a Korean-Canadian pastor from Toronto, has been sentenced to a life of hard labour for numerous charges – including attempting to overthrow the government and establish a religious state in North Korea.

“Pastors like Lim, who have seen so much of how North Korea treats its prisoners, cannot easily be released,” said an Open Doors field worker. “I don’t see Lim returning home anytime soon.”

Pastor Lim, aged 60, has travelled to North Korea over 100 times to do humanitarian work. Though he was not involved in the country’s underground churches, the harsh sentencing has come after several of months of crackdowns on Christians by the North Korean regime.

“A case like this does outrage the North Korean government,” says the Open Doors field worker. “North Korean believers could be dealt with even more harshly if they are exposed.”

Please Pray:

  • For Pastor Lim and his family, that they will be strengthened and comforted by God, and that Pastor Lim may be freed
  • For tens of thousands of Christians incarcerated in North Korean camps and for the underground church, that they will feel God’s protection and that they will shine like lights to those who do not know Christ
  • That Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean regime will come to know God’s love and power.

Conditions in the camps

Sources in North Korea have confirmed that, in the recent crackdowns, Christians have been murdered and others have been incarcerated in prisons and labour camps. In both detention facilities, people are starved, tortured and the death rate is extremely high.

“I was locked up for years,” said a North Korean refugee. “I will never forget the prisoners who were too weak to continue their work. The guards would pick them up and put them on an automatic belt that threw them in a large oven while the prisoners were still alive.”

Christianity in North Korea

Christianity is seen as a threat to the North Korean regime: they believe Christians spy for the enemy, meet in secret and, at most, only give lip service to the North Korean government. Such disloyalty deserves severe punishment.

Despite this tragic arrest and others, the church has survived almost 70 years of severe persecution. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians still secretly profess their faith.

If you receive the Open Doors Magazine, please look out for some inspiring letters written by North Korean pastors in the next mailing.

For more information about Open Doors and the many Christians who are being persecuted in many countries throughout the world please go to:-

http://www.opendoorsuk.org

Please join me  in praying that our Father God blesses mightily all the Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in Him and to give them the strength to endure all the atrocities perpetrated against them.

In Jesus name

Amen

God’s Faithfulness

From Dr Micha Jazz:-

A couple of years ago I was driving along a city street, cars parked either side of the road, enjoying the first really warm sunshine of the year. Slowing for a crossroads, the car in front of me appeared to pull out and so I merrily drove forward to take my turn, when ‘crunch’! I experienced that stomach-churning moment when you realise you have hit something solid and damaging. Nothing but my pride, car bumper and no claims bonus was injured as I admitted liability.

This is so like the Christian walk. All appears well and we are relaxing in the blessing that is God’s grace when suddenly, wham! – our life accelerates into a brick wall. The biggest challenge is how well we are able to accept this new, unwelcome reality. We can grow resentful, having been faithfully walking with God and now unwelcome news disturbs our comfortable world.

Faithfulness has at its heart three critical requirements. The first of these is acceptance. Am I willing to accept God’s will into my life? I remember great anger towards God when Katey and I discovered that we had fertility issues. We both wanted children and felt it most unfair that we had difficulties in conceiving. Disappointment in God led to criticism of other parents as we observed their parenting styles, believing we would have parented so much better.

The challenge each one of us faces in following God is adjusting to the path that the spirit directs our steps along. It is of no value comparing ourselves with anyone else’s experiences. God has selected a journey for us and we are to walk it in faith, knowing that it is one part of God’s purpose for enabling each of us to grow into the person God is inviting us to become.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Islamic State Continues to Kidnap, Ransom and Kill Thousands of Christians to Fund Their Terror Campaign Across the Middle East

Hundreds of kidnapped Arab Christians have been ransomed, tortured, beheaded and killed over the past year, including a priest who was chopped into pieces, in attempts to raise funds for radical Islamic terror groups and to strike fear into the hearts of Christians across the Middle East and throughout the world.

“Christians have become a form [of] currency in this tragedy,” John Newton told The Christian Post. Newton is spokesman for Catholic relief agency Aid to the Church in Need. “I know of one priest who was kidnapped for two months … they asked for a ransom of $120,000, which the family managed to raise and deliver. … But hours later, the priest was killed and his body cut up, with pieces of him sent in a box to the family.”

The process of trying to free kidnapped priests poses a difficult challenge. In many cases, Christian organizations are left in the dark with little information on who the kidnappers are or where the victims are being held.

The Syriac-Orthodox and Greek-Orthodox Metropolitans of Aleppo, Archbishops Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, were kidnapped on the road between Aleppo and the Turkish border in April 2013. At the time they had been negotiating for the release of two other priests, Michael Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz, who were themselves kidnapped in February 2013. “No one knows who took the archbishops, nor what their fate was, but the two priests they were trying to free have since been executed,” explained Newton.

  • Displaced Iraqi Christian girl
    (Photo: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah)
    A displaced Iraqi Christian girl who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, eats an ice-cream at a mall still under construction, which is now used as a refugee camp in Erbil, September 6, 2014.
Catholic Franciscan Priest Dhiya Aziz is another clergyman who was kidnapped by armed men in the Idlib Province of Syria last month. He was released a few days later; however, the whereabouts of his companions, Catholic Priest Jacques Mourad and a colleague kidnapped with him, are still unknown.

In 2006, Catholic Priest Father Douglas Bazi was kidnapped by Islamists who struck his back, broke one of his legs, shot him, punched his teeth out, and deprived him of water for four days until a ransom was paid. He understands the trauma that many families have experienced and how stress and depression can deprive people of hope.

Sharing his testimony in a BBC documentary titled “Kill the Christians,” Douglas opened up his church grounds to refugees last year and created the Mar Elias Centre in Northern Iraq’s Ankawa where he cares for around 135 Christian families.

“We are Christian, so we are used to having our luggage always prepared. We always have to run away, escape from place to place,” he told the BBC.

Islamic State has openly proclaimed its plans to drive Christians out of the Arab world, prompting U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to declare that Christianity is now the “most persecuted religion around the world” and that Britain should be “unashamed” in standing up for religious freedom, as reported by The Telegraph.

However, it is the vast majority of indigenous Christians in both Syria and Iraq, who can trace back their heritage to the very earliest centuries of the Church, who are suffering the most as they witness Islamic State’s plans to wipe Christians off the Middle Eastern map.

In Iraq, things are getting worse as each day passes. Before the Islamic State offensive against the Nineveh Plains in 2014, there were fewer than 300,000 Christians left in Iraq.

Since then, at least 120,000 Christians have been driven out of their homes with many leaving the country. Thousands had already been targeted by repeated waves of extremists’ attacks, which had driven them to the north, where they now live as refugees in their own country, according to a report by Aid to the Church in Need.

Islamic State has also routinely detroyed holy sites and torn down crosses, including the 4th century Christian Monastery of the Martyrs (Mar Behnam) in March of this year, forcing the resident monks to flee to surrounding villages, as reported by the Daily Mail. Close by, the monastery of Saint Matthew, which is one of the oldest on Earth, survived thanks to Kurdish fighters who were able to push back Islamic State fighters who are now only 4 miles away, as reported by CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

As for Syria, Newton said that around 700,000 Christians have fled so far. “There were only 1.75 million Christians before the war began, that means around 40 percent of Syria’s Christians have left,” he told CP. Ancient Christian communities found in cities like Malula – where residents still speak the language of Jesus –are dwindling. There are only a few hundred left from 3,000, following the al-Nusra attack on the city in September 2013.

In northern Iraq’s Kurdish capital Erbil, there are around 70,000 people living in temporary tents, rented rooms, or pre-fabricated units. Newton says that most of the Christian refugees in Erbil are reconciled to the fact that this will be there home, at least for the foreseeable future. “We’ve been working with the Chaldean Church to set up schools for refugee children, so they can continue their education,” he explains.

Christian workers on the ground say that most of the help being received by the Christian community in Erbil is coming from Christian charities, including both Catholic and Evangelical churches in the Middle East, America and across the world.

The UNHCR estimates that around 5.2 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian and protection assistance due to ongoing violence and insecurity.

(Information supplied by the Christian Post)

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Please join me in praying  for all the persecuted Christians throughout the world.

May our Father God bless them mightily and give them the strength they need to overcome and endure all the terrible atrocities being perpetrated against them.

With many heart-felt blessings

Geoffrey

Iran Sentences 18 Christians to Prison for their Faith

It is being reported by the Christian Post that Iran’s revolutionary court is believed to have sentenced 18 Christian converts to prison for their faith in a new crackdown on Christianity in the Islamic Republic, a report said.

Fox News noted that the charges include evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith. It added that the total sentences come close to 24 years, but it’s not known how many years each individual received, due to the lack of transparency in Iran’s judicial system.

“The cruelty of Iran’s dictatorial leaders knows no limits,” said Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin.

A number of the imprisoned Christians were arrested in 2013, and sentenced in accordance with Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, which penalizes threats to Iran’s clerical leaders.

Morad Mokhtari, an Iranian convert to Christianity who fled the Islamic Republic in 2006, added: “Iranian religious authorities prefer that they [converts to Christianity] leave Iran because the authorities can’t control them,” Mokhatari said. “Just their name is evangelism. Imagine someone says he’s a Christian and has a Muslim name.”

Christians in Iran make up a tiny minority of the 78 million-strong population, and often face persecution from the government. Watchdog group Open Doors lists the country at No. 7 on its World Watch List of nations where Christians are most heavily targeted for their faith.

Open Doors points out on its website that almost all Christian activity in Iran is considered illegal, “especially when it occurs in Persian languages — from evangelism to Bible training, to publishing Scripture and Christian books or preaching in Farsi.”

It added: “In 2014, at least 75 Christians were arrested. More Christians were sentenced to prison and pressure on those detained increased, including physical and mental abuse.”

Iran’s human rights record has faced great scrutiny, especially in light of a historic nuclear deal it reached earlier this year with the U.S. and other Western nations, which promises to lift international sanctions on Iran in exchange for restricting its nuclear program.

The American Center for Law and Justice and other groups have said that the deal should not be finalized until Iran shows clear signs it is willing to improve its treatment of Christians — and release the American Christians it currently holds in its prisons, including pastor Saeed Abedini.

U.S. Senator Mark Kirt, R-Ill., has added in a statement: “The Iranian regime’s systematic persecution of Christians, as well as Baha’is, Sunni Muslims, dissenting Shiite Muslims, and other religious minorities, is getting worse not better,” Kirt said.

“This is a direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to de-link demands for improvements in religious freedom and human rights in Iran from the nuclear negotiations.”

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Pray for true freedom on Eritrean Independence Day

Eritrea will celebrate 22 years of independence from Ethiopia on Sunday – but the people of Eritrea are far from free. The Eritrean regime tolerates no dissent of any kind: there is no free media, no university, and even the ruling party (the People’s Front for Freedom and Democracy) has not held a party conference for years. Eritrea is number 9 on our World Watch List, and more than 1,000 Christians are currently imprisoned in horrific conditions.

Despite this, the church in Eritrea is growing. “Recently the church saw the release of 11 long-time prisoners,” said one church leader. “All of them say the Lord has kept them despite their difficult circumstances.”

Please Pray:

  • That God’s presence will comfort and sustain imprisoned believers, and that they will have the strength to remain faithful despite their suffering
  • That the UN Commission of Inquiry will increase awareness within the international community of the plight of Christians in Eritrea, and lead to greater freedom for all Eritreans
  • Praise God that the Eritrean church continues to grow, and ask God to glorify Himself through it.

Defeating the strong man

When Senet* was arrested for refusing to put the state before her faith in Jesus, she was put in a small cell with 55 other women.

“We were so tightly crammed in that we could not sit properly, let alone lie down to sleep. We were forced to work long hours without rest. My immediate commander was especially cruel.

“But in a dream one night I saw myself fighting with and defeating a very strong man. In the dream I was surprised by my strength and wondered how I had managed to defeat him.”

The strong man of persecution in Eritrea may seem impossible to defeat. And yet many faithful believers have been surprised by the strength God has given them. Senet was asked to recant her faith several times, but refused; as a result, she spent over six years in prison. But she says it was an honour to suffer for the name of Jesus: “May the Name of the Lord be glorified!”

Please join with me in praying that God gives Senet all the strength she needs as she faces tremendous deprivations.

And also let us pray for all persecuted Christians, in whichever country they live

With many peaceful and prayerful blessings

Geoffrey

PS For further information about Open Doors please visit:-

http://opendoorsuk.org/

Boko Haram Captives Released

For months Open Doors has asked you to pray for the rescue of countless women and children abducted by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, in northeastern Nigeria. We are thankful to report that around 1,000 men, women and children, have been freed from Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa forest – said to be the militants’ last stronghold. Those rescued included many Christians, but there was no sign of the 232 school girls abducted from Chibok in April 2014.

Please Pray:

  • Thank God that these men, women and children are finally free again
  • For healing and restoration for those who have been freed from Boko Haram – they are often brainwashed and traumatised
  • For God to work through churches and Open Doors staff to provide them with support

For the protection and safe return of those who remain captive, including the Chibok girls.

For more information about Open Doors please go to:-

http://www.opendoorsuk.org

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey