Friday, May 31, 2013

Help Me Carry This Cross - Part 2

Help Me Carry This Cross - Part 2
Yesterday, we shared discussions during an Iraq Trauma Counseling workshop. Today, we continue.
Trauma training, from Open Doors Ministry, is designed to equip church leaders to help believers in their community survive the emotional and physical shock of the hell they are living in; especially in places like Iraq and Syria. Supporting one another is a big part of the training sessions.
“What can you do when you yourself are overwhelmed?” asked one of the trauma teachers. “As a spiritual leader, sometimes events are just too much for us to handle.” 
The first to hear that a father of five has been kidnapped for ransom; the first to visit a young girl who has just been returned to her family from her captors – raped and tortured; these church leaders have stayed, while thousands of Christians have left. Choosing to stay, these brave church leaders walk the streets each day, proudly displaying the cross and opening their churches to worship, despite the targeted attacks on them.
One pastor adds, “I was called to a house that was set on fire by terrorists. I ran inside and saw a woman and a child in the flames, dying. I carried them out of the house, but I broke down and wept afterward. I can still taste the fire on my lips, and sometimes I wake up in fear.”
“The burdens you carry can feel very heavy.  It is good to share, to experience the respect and love from each other, and to acknowledge that it is hard, and to find places to grieve,” says the trainer.
One With Them
Open Doors sees the need of good support and counsel to suffering Christians in Iraq, and around the world. Please stand One With Them as you pray that all church leaders will support one another, and be able to comfort, and strengthen, the churches in war torn and persecuted regions on the world!
Consider writing a short letter of encouragement to these pastors; then join in this prayer for pastors:
Our Father, who art in Heaven, Holy is Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Thank You, Father, for raising up pastors and church leaders. They help us get to know You better. They help us in our walk with You; to become equipped to take on those things You laid out for us before the beginning of time. Father, please unleash the Holy Spirit in the leaders of Your church, everywhere around the world, so that they speak the words You want heard by Your children, and by those who don’t yet know You. As You make them more like Christ, please shower them with extraordinary blessings in their marriages, with their children and other family members, and in their ministries. Please hear these prayers offered in the Name above all names, Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

“I Did Not Believe in Myself”

“I Did Not Believe in Myself”  
“This is a special day,” Hoa*, already in her 40’s, responded with a smile that exuded joy and excitement.
Seventeen other ladies regard that day on March 2012 as “special”, since it was the day that they graduated from Open Doors’ Priscilla Program, a three-year discipleship course for Vietnamese women believers.
In the tribal villages of North Vietnam, pressure to recant the faith, imprisonment, interrogations, and beatings happen to believers. Husbands and pastors are often the first to suffer. When jailed for the faith, their wives—the women—are left with the charge of looking after the home and the church. The Priscilla Program is a way to prepare Vietnamese Christian women, like Hoa, for such situations.
A few hours before the graduation ceremony started, some of the women could be heard practicing their graduation song. Their husbands, too, were dressed for the occasion and took pictures of their wives. Giggles, chuckles, and enthusiasm filled the room. Other women were putting the finishing touches on their faces and dresses, so that they were extra beautiful that day.
“Three years ago, I did not believe in myself. But now I am much stronger,” recounted Hoa. “Now, I know the value of women. In my church, half of the 700 members are women, but there is no ministry focusing on them... but not for long." Hoa has decided to start a Priscilla class in her church.
In 2012, 4,500 women attended Open Doors’ Priscilla classes in the different districts of Vietnam. Since it started in 2002, more than 6,000 women have finished the course, and many of them are holding Priscilla classes in their respective local churches. 
One With Them
Hoa has asked for our prayers. Please stand one with her as you pray:
Father, there are many concerns on Hoa’s heart as she prepares to start women’s classes in her church; she asks for courage and Your wisdom to guide her. And Father, we pray for all Priscilla graduates, that they continue to grow in the faith, and to have the same desire as Hoa to teach other women in their communities.  In the days, months and years ahead, may the pastors in North Vietnam see the value and wisdom of providing discipleship opportunities for women, opening a door for many more to come into the kingdom, through the faithfulness of these women. Amen
This two-year course empowers female Christian leaders, in Vietnam, to embrace their role within family, community and the church. Through intensive training and fellowship, women grow in self-esteem, biblical knowledge, relationship skills, unity and other abilities. Open Doors aims to train 3,000 of our sisters this year-and your gift of $56 can train one of these leaders.
*Name has been changed for the believer's protection


He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important.
(1 Corinthians 1:28)

Help Me Carry This Cross – Part 1

Help Me Carry This Cross – Part 1  
"We have not come to make your burden heavier,” proclaims the Open Doors trainer at the beginning of the workshop. “And surely we have much to learn from you. We are grateful for the church here in Iraq, and the fact that you have kept the faith. Many here are going through the valley of the shadow of death, and we want to help and encourage you.”
In the room, was a myriad of Iraqi church leaders – priests, archdeacons, monks, and pastors – some in black gowns, some in white robes, others in regular street clothes. Several had beards, some were clean-shaven. Caps, in a variety of colors, were on their heads. A few look strong and full of life, but most looked weary and worn from years of war and persecution.
“Just today I heard of two men killed in the Nineveh plains,” one weary pastor said, as they exchanged news. “This has become normal for us,” another says. “It used to be that when someone died, we had time to mourn and grieve. Now we do not grieve, and most of us have nobody to talk to. Who do you talk to when everybody views you as the shepherd?”
Many nod in agreement. Another pastor adds, “What can you do when you, yourself, are overwhelmed? Even as a spiritual leader, things are sometimes just too much for us. We are often confronted with our own grief and our own questions.”
Tomorrow we will hear more from an Iraqi Trauma Counseling group.
One With Them
Church leaders in persecuted lands face trials and stress on this profound level. Become One With Them as you pray for them in their service to Jesus and His body. Being a shepherd under good conditions involves burdens, but in persecuted countries, the load can be unbearable. Your prayers work miracles. 

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
(1 Timothy 4:10)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Largest Persian Speaking Church in Tehran Closed

Largest Persian Speaking Church in Tehran Closed

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- The Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran was closed on Thursday due to pressure from Iranian security authorities.
The Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran.
According to a story by Mohabat Iranian Christian News Agency, a well placed source said that a sign is posted on the main entrance of the church saying that the church is temporarily closed. Mohabat News said the source also said that the church staff have not gone to work for two days.
The source also told Mohabat News, "The Islamic regime's intelligence forces have been pressuring the church to close down since six months ago. The authorities also announced two days ago that anyone who tries to enter the church will be arrested."
Mohabat News reported that its source believes the main reason for closure of the church is that the Iranian security authorities wanted to limit the church service to just the Armenian language, and prevent any Farsi services.
In another incident on May 21, security authorities arrested Pastor Robert Asseriyan in the middle of a church service and transferred him to an unknown location.
Asseriyan is one of the leaders of the Assemblies church in Tehran.
Dr. George O. W ood, the General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the U.S., released a statement after the pastor's arrest.
Mohabat News said he expressed concern over the pressure on Persian-speaking churches in Iran, and appealed that the persecution and pressure exerted by the Iranian authorities on the country's Christians be lifted.
Elsewhere in Wood's statement, Mohabat News reported he said that closure of the Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran is a beginning of the end for all other Farsi speaking churches across Iran.
Mohabat News reported Wood commented, "Such a move would essentially remove all open witness of the gospel of Christ in the country."
Mohabat News said Central's congregation was told to attend this Sunday's service to hear the final decision of the church council regarding the situation. It is unclear at this point whether or not that service will be held.
Mohabat News said for some time the Central Assembly of God and other churches affiliated with it, have been under pressure to cancel their Farsi language services. For their church services to continue, they were told that all services be held in Armenian.
Mohabat News said Iran's Islamic regime has had anti-Christian plans for a long time.
They include pressuring pastors and church leaders to prevent Farsi speakers from entering their churches, arresting members of the congregation and pastors and closing churches.
Mohabat News said house churches have also been raided, and new Christian converts have been arrested and terrorized.
There's a reason for this, Mohabat News said.
The news service commented, "The Iranian regime has done all (this) ... to stop the growth of Christianity in Iran, and put more pressure on Iranian Christians and (new) Christian converts."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cristina’s Precious Treasure Box

Cristina’s Precious Treasure Box
“These people do not even know us, but they care about us!” marveled Lucia, as she smiled at her five-year-old sister, Cristina.
Cristina’s story, featured on the One With Them website, deeply touched our hearts, when we read that she had been orphaned and wounded in June 2011, during the fatal shooting of her parents and 13-year-old brother. Almost two years later, Cristina is finally doing much better.
Recently, an Open Doors member visited Cristina and her sister, bringing letters of love and encouragement. Opening up one colorful card after another, she waved one to her older brother, exclaiming, “Look Arnulfo, how cute this one is!” Turning to her sister she added, “We have many who love us!”
Arnulfo shared that Cristina has a box which she calls “my treasure,” where she keeps her favorite cards. Sometimes, her sister Lucia cannot find her because she is hiding in a special place where she can look through all her cards. This is a huge improvement. After the attack he shares, “She had stopped talking and her mood was not good. Due to serious bullet injuries in her arm,she had nausea whenever she ate.”
Eventually, Cristina’s older brother sent her back to pre-school, which greatly helped. “Now Cristina once again has a sparkle in her eye, and a beautiful smile,” the Open Doors staff member added. “She is talking again and can eat without nausea. Praise God!”
Despite physical therapy, Cristina has not fully recovered the use of her injured arm. In addition to medical assistance, Open Doors has been able to extend other practical support for Cristina and her family. “We can only be grateful to know how much our God loves us,” her brothers exclaimed. “We think it’s wonderful to have a great family that prays for us!”
One With Them
Be One With Cristina as you pray for full healing of her arm. Also pray for God’s ongoing comfort and emotional healing for Cristina and her siblings, as they slowly recover from the shock and consequences of this trauma.


I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
(Ephesians 6:22)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Praying with your heart

Praying With Your Heart
Located in northeast Iraq, somewhat removed from the mainstreams of war, the mountains of Kurdistan are used by many as places of refuge. 
Makruhi, a Christian teacher and servant of the Lord, knows the roads through the mountain passes well. But this year an early storm has made the trek more difficult. As her humble vehicle traverses the muddy ruts, she works hard to arrive on time.
High in a mountain village, 30 women are assembled, waiting for Makruhi to arrive. Some are ethnic Kurdish; others refugees, displaced from various cities in Iraq. All have suffered the ravages of war. Some are widowed, having lost not only their husbands, but also the provision they provided. Some have lost children. War is no discerner of persons. All suffer.
Arriving late, Makruhi quickly begins the Bible lesson with prayer. The women join in by repeating a rote prayer. Unaware they can talk to God directly from their hearts, Makruhi realizes what she needs to teach first.

“At home, some women kiss their Bible and put it near their pillow, but they don’t read it” Makruhi says. Demonstrating how to learn God’s Word, Makruhi picks up her Bible, and together they read several verses. Realizing the value of scripture, many women said that they wanted to pass on Bible stories to their children. Makruhi happily adds, “After several lessons some are now bringing their Bible to class.”
As Makruhi prepared to end the session, a woman approached showing her hand; on it was a small ring. “I rescheduled my engagement party so I could be here to learn from you today.” Another stood up saying, “I was going through depression, but I was encouraged to read the Bible. I will go back to my church and teach the children.” One student quietly added, “Please end our time with prayer. We love it when you do that!” Makruhi was delighted to show them how to pray… with their heart!
One With Them
Become One With Them by praying for these beautiful servants of God, in Iraq, to be enriched and enlightened deeply by God’s Word and His Spirit; that they may continue to carry it forth with boldness.


This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.
(Psalms 119:50)