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Mukomba Interview

Listen here to an interview with Evans and Janey who serve the Lord in Zambia

Strength & Dignity

Anne tells us about her ministry of reaching out with hope for abused women

Led to Paraguay

Read of one family's journey to Paraguay and how they adjusted to serve the Lord there

Radical: Mission

Young people join us for our Mission Bible Course on 5-9 August at Tilsley, Motherwell

The Mission of Teaching

Are we mindful of the need to train the next generation to be able to teach others after them?

Intercession

An encouragement to intercede for those serving on the mission field

France

Before you read this last testimony, we'd like to thank you for being part of the Echoes International advent calendar 2018, and praying with us for countries around the world. We hope you have been encouraged and inspired by the testimonies of God’s grace to His people. Different countries, different people - but One Lord and Saviour! As Advent is a time of anticipation, Christmas is a time to celebrate: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14). Blessings to you all this Christmas from everyone at Echoes International. Five years ago, Morgane was an atheist, living in France and had no concept of God. Today she is looking to serve God in Italy. What an amazing God! My name is Morgane, I am 27, I am a Christian, I am French. I was brought up in France, a secular country, and in a non-Christian family. I was brought up to believe that there is no God, I never had religious education, never went to church, and didn’t know any Christians. It was when I was at university that - by God's Grace - things changed. I had just met a friend who, one evening, sent me a text when I was on the bus to say she was depressed. I replied offering my help and I was immediately filled with love and joy at the idea that I could help her. My heart was overjoyed but in my head I was rationalising it and thinking ‘I only met this girl last week and I have plans for the weekend, why would I want to sacrifice that for her and why does it bring me so much love and joy?’ As my mind was trying to make sense of it three distinct words came to mind: ‘God is Love’. I was surprised by those words, I didn’t know they were in the Bible and I felt the presence of God - the God I thought didn't exist! I said a prayer shyly in my head - ‘God, if you exist give me a sign’. I got off the bus and I didn’t tell anybody about that experience, but I was searching for God and didn't know where to find Him. I started to see my life differently and was worried that I was living for my own enjoyment and pleasures. I was wondering what this God of love would think of my life. The next year one of my classes at university was Religions in America. The teacher - an atheist - taught us about evangelical Christians and born-again Christians. I wanted to talk about this to someone, but I didn’t know any Christians. A few months later I met a man at work who, out of the blue in conversation, said: ‘I’m a Christian’. How grateful I am that he was [...]

Cambodia

We pray for Cambodia today. This majority Buddhist country is a difficult place for Christians to live, and new converts often lose contact with their family and community. My name is Heng Sok Leang,* a 21-year-old university student and the youngest of five. My mother sold vegetables and my father worked on a farm. My sisters made their living through a weaving business. Ever since I was young, I faced family problems. My parents fought almost every night. I used to cry in secret in fear of my father’s violence. I felt helpless but couldn’t do anything. Sometimes, my mother and I had to flee to our neighbour’s house to hide from my father. I had dreadful fear every night because of my parents’ ongoing conflict. I first started to go to church with my friend who told me about the free English classes offered there. I was invited to come to church services so my friend and I started to go to church. I heard a Bible verse from Matthew 11:28 which said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” That’s when I started to seek God and told Him about my problems. However, I went to church for a long time without really knowing who Jesus Christ is. I read the Bible and kept listening to messages preached until I was in Grade 9a . After experiencing God answering my prayers when I had high school entrance exam, I fully put my trust in Him and was baptised. While I was in high school, I decided to get a job to earn money for my studies. I started to backslide and got far from the Lord with the worries of this world. I worked night shifts since my family couldn’t support me. I thought I had to do all I could to help myself without trusting God. I started to get bad results at school and felt very lonely. Then I realized God loved and cared for me, and would not leave me alone. I repented for living without fully trusting in Him. God taught me that I should not worry but seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness. I made time to go to church and teach Sunday school. Although I had difficulties in paying my way to university, I trusted God to meet my needs. I stopped worrying, knowing that God is powerful and gracious. Now all I want is to know Him more and give my life for His service and for the glory of God for the rest of my life. Then I realized God loved and cared for me, and would not leave me alone * name changed to protect identity Pray: that Cambodian people who are under the bondage of traditional beliefs, growing materialism, and worldliness would find true hope and freedom in Jesus Christ that Cambodian churches that are growing in number would be established through sound gospel preaching and Biblical teaching [...]

UK

Here is a story of salvation from the United Kingdom, shared to us by Counties, a charity which aims to share the good news of Jesus Christ with communities, through evangelism, training and resources. I’m Justin (left, in photo). At school I was intelligent and in the top class for most subjects, but I struggled to interact with people. In my last ten years at school I rebelled because I felt let down and harshly treated. I started hanging around with teenagers older than me, smoking cigarettes, which soon led on to cannabis. I left school at 15 and started work. My drug addiction began to take over; I’d get jobs but couldn’t hold on to them due to the drugs I was taking. My life was now in a downward spiral as I started taking speed, acid and ecstasy. Drug addiction took me into prisons and mental hospitals and I nearly took my life on many occasions. The drugs stripped me of all morals. I didn’t value my life; I actually loved the drugs more than life itself. I met my wife to be in 1999. At this time my drug taking had stopped and when my first child was born, I was happy. We were married, and I thought great, I’ve finally fixed my drug issues. But then my wife started drinking heavily and taking drugs again. She committed adultery and we split up, which totally derailed my life. I ended up in a secure physical unit where I almost lost touch with reality. When I came out, I never managed to take control of my life. I loved my wife and kids dearly, but they felt far from me. After we separated, I fell deeper into the darkness of drugs using heroin and crack cocaine on a daily basis. I’d almost lost contact with all of my original family and everything I said I would never do, I did; such as injecting drugs and stealing from my family. I brought nothing but shame and misery to them and I was no longer fit to be a dad, son or uncle. I could only see as far as my next hit and I would go to any length to get it, turning to burglary and petty crime to feed my addiction. I was in and out of prison and going round and round in circles, getting nowhere. One day at a court appearance in Bury, my father spoke up for me and said that I needed help, rather than being sent back to prison. I was given a drug treatment and rehabilitation order. One morning I woke up and watched with amazement as the sun rose in a beautiful blue sky. A change started to take place in my life and I know it was because people in my church were praying for me. I spent my first drug-free Christmas and in the summer last year, my mother took me to church. At the end of the service, after Victor, a Counties evangelist, had been speaking, I committed my life to Jesus. I love [...]

Argentina

We follow the journey of faith of the Palacios family today. Juan Emilio Palacios is a medical doctor specialising in tropical medicine and his wife Adriana Palacios is a gynaecologist and diagnostic medical sonographer. They are members of the Christian Evangelical Church, Tucumán, Argentina, and serve as mission workers in Angola. Juan: I grew up in a Christian home in the north of Argentina. We always hosted mission workers in our home. My family planted in me a love for God above all things, and so, my calling was a process that culminated when I was 18 years old. At a conference, the Lord called me using the passage in Isaiah 6 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' I decided to study medicine and serve the Lord using my profession. Adriana: I was brought up in a Roman Catholic home. When I was 15 years old, a person spoke to me about the love of God and I received Christ as my Saviour. Together with a Bible, they gave me a biography of the missionary Isobel Miller Kuhn. The story of this women impacted my life, and I wanted to be like her. The book mentioned her lack of medical knowledge, limiting her ability to be able to meet people’s needs. That made me decide to study medicine and serve as a mission worker. Both: We met each other at university (and married shortly before graduating) and on discovering that we had the same concerns, we began to study, pray and give to missions. As we used our gifts in our local church and worked in hospitals in our city, the Lord confirmed our calling.  He gave us the opportunity to serve Him in Equatorial Guinea, Africa, replacing a doctor who had to leave the country for a year's break. I decided to study medicine and serve the Lord using my profession God used this short experience to bless our lives, to grow our love for mission and to give us Didier, our adopted son who was originally our patient. We have worked with a medical missionary project in Amazonas, Brazil, travelling along numerous rivers taking God's Word and medical help to the river communities, and ministering in various villages in Mozambique. Today we live in Luena, in the Moxico province of Angola. Angola has profound spiritual and social needs. We minister through evangelism, discipleship and Bible teaching and serve as doctors at the Jesus Saves Medical Centre. The Lord says ‘…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded' (Lk 12:48). We believed and responded 'Here am I. Send me'. May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands. (Ps 90:17) Pray: for church leaders in Argentina to train others in ministry and for the country, as it faces economic struggles for the medical help, which the Palacios, and others like them, provide in remote [...]

Algeria

Today we read a testimony from Algeria, as told by Ali Arhab, founder and leader of Channel North Africa (CNA), a Christian TV station since 2001. In this mainly desert country, over 95% of the population are Muslim. Ali: ‘When I met Samir,* it did not take long for us to get on well, since both of us share the same faith and hope in Christ. Samir’s testimony, which follows, stresses the power of the Holy Spirit in Algeria.’ Samir: ‘I had worked for many years in one of the largest cities in the country. At a routine medical check, I was diagnosed with cancer and was given only a couple of months to live. I was laid off with early retirement and was sent home. The doctors were unanimous in telling me that my days were short. My heart was restless, and I could not find peace. I had wished for and worked hard for a better life, but now my future awaited me dreadfully. I visited all the sorcerers and healers in the region, and I was ready to go anywhere to find hope for my life. I didn’t care about the cost if only I could find someone to heal me. I knew it was unrealistic, but I had to make room for hope or else I was already dead. At home, I collapsed in the chair in front of the TV and there was a show on about Jesus. I was not particularly interested, but then a man called for people to receive salvation. I was ready to give my life to Jesus who can heal me. With a desperate sigh, I gave Him this body, which had become a curse to me and to my family. I did not feel anything spectacular except my eyes, which seemed to be closed, were now open to a new way of perceiving things. An indescribable joy entered my life! I never considered being healed, but I seemed to have gained some authority to live and not fear even if I died in the next minute. The first time I heard about Jesus, I didn’t understand. I thought He was too far away to be real or to reach out to me. That was the moment the Holy Spirit touched my heart and the emptiness turned into a full life. I was overflowing with joy, with peace, and with a great sense of being loved and cared for. It gave me a feeling that I was made better, even though I had cancer. I was lifted from a state of being dead to a new life. I did not know what to say, but I knew that I was given hope and happiness like I had never had before.’ The weakness I had in my flesh was lifted and did not feel the pain anymore. One week later, the doctors told me that I had nothing to worry about. I was not convinced until I did some other tests and [...]

Thailand

In Thailand Buddhism and the worship of spirits is evident in daily life. Every building has a shrine and the local shrine shop is never far away. In the midst of these traditions, today’s story shows how a life course was changed by Jesus. My name is Amnart, I am 48 years old and married to Ponsri. I was born into a poor Thai family in a rural area of Krabi Province. My father died when my mother was three months pregnant.  As a child I lived with my grandparents who sold vegetables for a living. My grandparents had enough education to teach me to read and write without needing to go to nursery. My grandparents were very staunch Buddhists, they went to the temple every day and took me with them. My grandfather was an official at the temple near our home. Every night before going to bed and early every morning he would lead me in chanting Buddhist prayers. When I moved to Phuket for further education I did not go to the temple often, however, I never forgot to say the prayers that I had been taught. When I was in high school aged 13, my teacher and grandmother advised me to become a monk during the long summer break. After three months studying Buddhism in the temple I passed an exam on the teachings of Buddha. At that time, I really loved life in the temple and did not want to return to school at the beginning of term. The chief monk in Phuket saw that I had advanced in Buddhism and he wanted me to dedicate my life to Buddhism. However, in the end, I decided to return to school. My time in the temple taught me to depend on myself and to keep to the middle path of Buddhism. I first became interested in the Lord Jesus through the life of a friend. We had been at high school together and at that time I was a very well-behaved person, but he was quite wild.  When we met again I was amazed at the change in his life. He seemed to be a different person altogether, able to pass exams with ease and respected by both students and teachers. I learned later that he had been a Christian for one year. Every day during the school break he led a cell group that sang Christian hymns and read the Bible together. There were three or four other Christians in the college. I was amazed at the way his life had changed and I became interested. It was the first time I had met someone who was better than me. I thought I was good because I said prayers and went to the temple, I did not drink alcohol, smoke or go in for sex like others. I asked my friend, ‘How did you manage to change your life around?’ He answered, ‘I believed in Jesus’. I further asked ‘Who is this Jesus who can [...]

Syria

Today, we are joined by Ayham, from Syria, who is currently studying at Tilsley College in Scotland. Ayham shares his testimony and talks about the suffering faced by the Syrian people. Pray: for peace in Syria, which has faced civil war for seven years, with more than 350,000 people killed by this conflict and around 14 million people either refugees or internally displaced for refugees fleeing violence, as they face traumatic journeys and difficulties settling down to a new life, far from friends and families for churches in neighbouring countries, as they sacrificially care for refugees and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

How Long?

An encouragement and challenge to think long term when serving the Lord

Peru

Peru today, and we share a story of how God has worked in Claudia’s* life. I'm Claudia from Peru and I came to know the Lord 27 years ago. After many years of serving in my local church, and with a desire to leave for mission work outside my country, in 2016, God opened the doors for me to go to Africa. This process took many months and was an answer to prayer. I was in Africa and content, but I experienced various trials, one after another. I had a kidney stone, scabies and a giant tear in my retina which needed various surgeries, long periods of recuperation and a change in activities, including a return from Africa to Peru. My vision has improved, but one eye is permanently affected. Through all of this, many questions went through my mind: ‘What is happening to me? What is God doing in my life and what is the purpose of all this? ‘ It made me think of Job, his trials and his faith, even when he didn't understand everything. I have learned that God is always good I still don't have the answers, and maybe I never will, as the mind of God is infinite, and his purposes are sovereign and good. He opens the doors and sets us in each place for his purpose. Doing His will is the priority for all who want to serve Him; to lead people to Christ for salvation and for His glory. It could be in one country or another, but the mission continues the same. I have learned that God is always good. God knows that we pass through trials of our faith which He permits. In the same way He uses us with our weaknesses for His glory. Another thing God has shown me in these years, is that it is important for our faith to trust and to rest in Him and to draw strength from him to live joyfully in the midst of any circumstance. For me, it has not been easy to maintain my joy while experiencing constant pain and physical discomfort. However, this joy comes from the Holy Spirit and His Word. This has helped me to continue serving in Peru. I hope to return to Africa and the process of returning has begun, but I know that His plan and His timing is what counts and comes first. * name changed to protect identity Pray for people, like Claudia, within Peruvian churches reaching out to their own communities, to other parts of Peru that haven’t heard the gospel and to other countries in the world for cities in Peru, some of which face poverty and are struggling to cope with the influx of Venezuelan refugees for young Christians in their walk with God, to be discipled with solid Bible teaching.

Uganda

Today, we hear a story of hope in the midst of adversity from Uganda. This story is shared with us by Bright Hope World, a Christian-based humanitarian organisation, which has a vision to see the poorest of the poor become spiritually and physically self-sustaining. Angela* lived in Uganda and had a good life. Her husband was a lawyer, they had three children, they owned two properties and she employed someone to help her with the housework. Carol* lived on the neighbouring property, in a small shed with her husband who was drunk all the time. They had six young children and Carol was HIV positive. She barely eked out a living selling charcoal. Her husband died, leaving Carol to care for the children. From time to time, Angela would help Carol with food and clothes, and would buy charcoal from her. One day Angela noticed Carol coming home with a large cardboard box. Her children were carrying smaller boxes; they were happy and smiling. They went into the shed and, after some time, strange noises began to emerge. Curious about this new development, Angela visited a few days later; she found Carol sitting at a knitting machine making pullovers, with a large pile of completed products in the corner. As her hands flew back and forth skilfully, Carol told Angela that she had been trained to use this type of machine some years ago. She had joined a women’s loan programme and had bought the machine. Carol managed to find a job making pullovers for school uniforms, knitting three or four each day and receiving a reasonable payment for them. Angela was fascinated by this arrangement and visited the group’s leader, wondering how she could help. She was invited to the next meeting and came away stunned by the positivity, encouragement and love she experienced among these Christian women. However, she did not qualify: she was too rich and not a widow. Sadly, a week later, Angela’s husband dropped dead at work. Within a couple of days, the husband’s family came to her house and took everything. Her assets were frozen, and she was told she had to pay rent or move out of her own home. Overnight, Angela was destitute. All the accounts were in her husband’s name, which she could no longer access. A month later, Angela was living in a shed about the same size as Carol’s. She now qualified to join the loan group and quickly did so. This group saved Angela’s life. It gave her hope and a way out of her situation. Three years later, she still does not know if she will get to keep the houses or get any of the money from the banks. The case remains bogged down in the local courts while the assets are locked up in red tape and corruption. She...came away stunned by the positivity, encouragement and love she experienced among these Christian women Due to the love and influence of the loan group, Angela has [...]

Faroe Islands

On our round-the-world prayer tour, we move to the Faroe Islands today. With a total population of around 50,000, this North Sea archipelago is a self-governing country within the Kingdom of Denmark. Today we read Rogvi’s life story. My name is Rogvi Joensen. I am 54 years old and have been married to Anna Maria for 30 years. We had three children, although our first-born, a daughter, passed away in 2009. We now have two grown-up children and three grandchildren. I grew up in a Christian home where I heard the gospel for as long as I can remember. When I was eight or nine years old, I was born again, putting my faith in Jesus Christ, His complete work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. I became a fisherman aged 15, which involved calling in at many foreign ports. I started drinking alcohol and through time, I became addicted and in bondage to this disease. In 2000, through mixing drugs and alcohol, I was poisoned and near death. In the hospital, I experienced a miracle; people prayed for me and I was healed instantly in body, soul and spirit. I was not only sober, but free from addiction. My whole life was touched by God’s healing power – my marriage, my relationships, everything. An inexpressible fire started to burn within me, at the realisation of God’s everlasting grace. I could not be silent! When I was eight or nine years old, I was born again, putting my faith in Jesus Christ, His complete work on the cross and His resurrection At first, I travelled round the Faroe Isles giving my testimony. In 2007, I became a full-time evangelist. Currently, I visit homes, hospitals, ships and schools, preach and speak on the street, and participate in many gospel events in the Faroes and in Iceland and Denmark. I also use the internet and Facebook to spread God’s amazing message, and have seen many transformed lives through God’s grace given to us in Christ. However, the greatest transformation I have witnessed is the one that occurred in my own ‘inner landscape’, in the invisible workings of my heart; I now see myself in Christ through God’s eyes and look with wonder at Christ’s ministry in my own life. Pray: for the churches in the Faroe Islands, and give thanks for the heritage of the evangelical work carried out by mission workers throughout the years that leaders in the churches will have insight and wisdom to lead God’s people for evangelists like Rogvi to share the gospel in this northern region of the world.

Myanmar

Today we are praying for the country of Myanmar. In this largely Buddhist nation, Christianity is not welcomed by the government, and Christians often face persecution and suffering. However, today’s story is one of joy in the midst of suffering! Celebrate with us, as Mr Aung Khiang* was recently baptised. A Myanmar Christian, brother Thura* who is working in a predominantly Buddhist region of Myanmar, shared the gospel with Aung. Aung, who is from a Buddhist family, realised that he was a sinner and could not be saved by good works, but that Jesus Christ had already paid the penalty of his sins on the cross. He accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord and was baptised in February 2018. Give thanks for his public commitment to Christ. Pray for Aung’s walk with the Lord, in this difficult country for Christian converts. Aung...realised that he was a sinner and could not be saved by good works *names changed to protect identities Pray: for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Myanmar, where churches are not allowed to be registered and are often destroyed for evangelists like Brother Thura who are reaching out to their non-Christian neighbours and friends in this isolated and remote country to share the gospel with them for the Rohingya people who have fled to neighbouring countries, and for peace to come to Myanmar amid growing racial segregation.

Greece

Although we are in Greece today, our advent calendar tells the story of one of the many refugees who have fled conflict and violence in their home country and arrived in Europe. Like Paul in the Bible, we share the story of R,* whose whole life was turned around by an encounter with the living Saviour! R, a devout and radical Muslim, came to know the Lord in Greece eight years ago. He had been raised in a Qur’anic school from the age of seven and had become an imam by the age of 17. As a young man, he moved to Greece to start mosques and to win people to his radical brand of Islam. In the Greek capital, he had a supernatural encounter with God and was saved. Back in his home country, his family wanted to kill him when they found out about his faith in Christ. Following repeated attacks on his life, he managed to flee elsewhere in Europe. He started to evangelise in his refugee camp and again was brutally beaten by other refugees. He was in intensive care for a few weeks, as they had stabbed him in the stomach and broken his skull. None of these drawbacks could stop his zeal to share the gospel with other refugees, and to train young believers from Afghanistan and Iran to become disciples of Jesus, and to share the gospel among their kinsmen. Over the last two years God has used him to establish over 20 small churches among Afghan and Iranian refugees. He regularly trains and coaches the leaders of these small church plants. Some of these groups of believers meet in coffee shops; others in side rooms of restaurants, in the open air or in private flats with believers sitting on a carpet. None of these drawbacks could stop his zeal to share the gospel *name changed to protect identity Pray: for the opportunities to share the gospel with refugees from a Muslim background entering Europe via Greece for more people from Europe to serve in this mission field, and for churches to seize the opportunity to love and serve refugees for new believers as they come up against opposition from their families or fellow refugees.

North Africa

Today, our story comes from North Africa. For security, we can’t mention the specific country where Fatma lives, so we’ll be praying for the region as a whole. Fatma,* a poor 12-year-old girl, was sent by her Muslim parents to live with a Christian family to work as a servant. Fatma was much loved by this Christian family.  As she lived with them she noticed how they love and respect each other.  This was very different from her family where her father treated her mother badly, despised her and beat her. She also noticed how this family had a personal relationship with God and enjoyed going to worship at church together.  All these differences bought many questions to her mind. After a few months, she started asking them many questions about God and how she can have a true relationship with Him. It was a wonderful opportunity for the family to share God’s plan for salvation.  A year later, Fatma made a decision to accept Jesus as her Saviour. She also noticed how this family had a personal relationship with God When Fatma’s family found out about her new beliefs, they started to punish her.  Fatma was afraid to cause any problems for the family she lived with and so she escaped from the city where she lived and went to another family who opened their house for her. Eventually, Fatma married a Christian man who loves her.  She now serves the Lord among young people and is very gifted in responding to the many enquires by people from her original faith. *name changed to protect identity Pray: for Christian families and new believers, like Fatma, who are witnessing to their neighbours in challenging circumstances in Muslim-majority countries for small Christian churches to have a big impact on their communities and nations, and for the translation of Scripture into local regional languages for digital communication, such as social media, which allows Muslim people to hear the Gospel.

Italy

Today we hear from Alec who one of our mission partners serving in Italy with his family. Alec shares his story of living a life exposed to drugs, alcohol and revolutionary politics and his journey to salvation. Pray: for people trapped in lives of addiction and homelessness for more people to come to know the saving power and grace of Jesus Christ in their lives for Italy, where Alec serves, which needs mission workers to serve through church-planting and evangelism For more inspiring stories of salvation and faith from around the world this Christmas, sign up here for our Echoes International digital advent calendar, to read personal testimonies and pray for countries still unreached by the Gospel this advent season.

Albania

Today, join us in the Republic of Albania, in Southeastern Europe. Albania, which for many years was shut off from the rest of the world, is now more open. Hello, my name is Bajram.* I was brought up in a Muslim home. As a teenager, I rejected Islam and became deeply involved in the Orthodox faith – in fact, my priest thought I had great prospects of becoming a priest. However, through a friendship with a Christian on the internet, I was invited to attend an evangelical church while attending university. After hearing the good news, I was saved and baptised this year. I am serious about my faith, studying the Bible and my desire to serve the Lord. Pray: for Albania, which was closed to the gospel for so many years due to communism, and give thanks for the people who are serving in Albania now that the country is more open for more people to be reached with the saving news of Jesus Christ, in a country where nearly 70% of the population identifies as Muslim for new Christians in Albania, who have come from families who are communist, atheist or Islamic in tradition.

Pakistan

Pakistan is an increasingly difficult country to live in for Christians. There are many who, in spite of challenges, live and serve the Lord in Pakistan. Today, we hear the story of Shahbaz Masih Boota. He is the new Principal of Zarephath Bible Seminary, is married to Sylvia and they have three children. Here, he shares his testimony of how he came to Christ: I was born in 1978 into a nominal Christian family in the province of Punjab. My village was a Muslim village with very few Christian families. There was no school in our village, so I studied at a Mosque with other Muslim children for which I am thankful. I did not know that God would bring many people from this community to my life and that some years later I would be used by God to show them the love of God. There was no church in our village or the surrounding area, so I was unable to attend in my childhood. However, I was interested in spiritual things. My grandfather and father were good and moral people, and I had a firm belief that I was a good person and I would go to heaven. I felt there was something missing in my life and it wasn’t until much later that I realised it was Jesus. Our family moved to Rawalpindi when I was nine years old, where I began to attend a small church regularly. It was here that I heard the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. But I always said to myself that I am fine because I am a good person. The word of God began to work in my life, giving me a taste of God’s goodness. I realized, no matter how much I attended church or did religious things, how much I boasted of my moral life, something was still missing. I was ready to ask Christ to forgive me of my sin and receive Him as my Lord and Saviour, but no one shared this with me at that time. I felt there was something missing in my life and it wasn’t until much later that I realised it was Jesus When I finished secondary school, I met a church leader who invited me to a Bible study class. It was a life changing course for me. I studied John 1:12 deeply and at the end of this study, I knew I was wrong, because even though I am morally good person, I am a sinner and my righteousness is like dirty cloths before God. I bowed before God, confessed my sin and received Christ as my personal Saviour and Lord on 18 November 1995. This was the happiest day of my life because Jesus came into my life and saved me. Through Christ’s salvation, I received peace and eternal joy. God provided many opportunities to serve the Lord in Pakistan. God used me to serve as a mission worker, church planter and trainer. Recently I became principal [...]

Colombia

Sisters Kathleen and Anita Keith-Gillon have a counselling ministry in Colombia, where people from all walks of life who are searching for hope and freedom receive answers and they come to know personally the One who is the Answer. The puma tattoo Milton’s* years in the paramilitary had left their mark. A grotesque tattoo, shaped like a big cat, stretched from his shoulder to his wrist. The puma was his protection. He told us that during the nights spent in planning the strategy of the next massacre he and his mates would hear the roar of his protector. He would sense its presence as it guarded the perimeter of their property. Milton prayed and renounced his dependency on the puma’s protection. He now depends on the protection given by the blood of Jesus. Satanic armour versus the armour of God Milton also used satanic armour as his protection. ‘I’ve got armour on,’ he blurted out one day. God had shown him what he was wearing. It had to come off piece by piece. In prayer he renounced the helmet of destruction and put on the helmet of salvation. The breastplate of ungodliness was replaced by the breastplate of righteousness. He exchanged the belt of deceit for the belt of truth; the footwear that spread sin was removed and he shod his feet with the gospel of peace. He discarded the snare of the hunter and took firmly in his hand the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Lastly, he renounced using the shield of anxiety and took up the shield of faith. Freedom would be his when he believed The curse Milton then looked down at his hands. He didn’t see his hands. He saw blood. Blood on his fingers, blood encrusted on his fingernails. He would do anything to be free from the terrible memories. He had shed blood, innocent blood. Freedom would be his when he believed; when he believed Jesus was made a curse for us when He gave His life on the Cross. Milton believed and now enjoys the blessing of freedom. *name changed to protect identity Pray: for Colombia, which has been affected by violence between various groups over the years, and for those, like Milton, suffering trauma from conflict for the poor in Colombia, especially in inner-city areas where many children live on the streets for a government who will stand against corruption and the influence of drug cartels.

Serbia

We are travelling to Serbia in Eastern Europe today, as we hear a story of freedom. Eight years of hard drug use and his closest friends said that Andrej’s* only future was to die on the heroin that enslaved him. That was until he met a group of people who claimed to have a similar recent history, yet were now free of drugs. As he pressed them for their story, they explained about Jesus Christ and the liberation He brings... Soon, as part of a Teen Challenge rehabilitation programme, and growing in his new-found faith and redeemed life, Andrej thought of the friends who remained addicted. After completing rehab and settling into a local church, Andrej studied at a Bible school in Belgrade. As he studied and travelled around the country with the team, a growing conviction came that he should spend his life sharing about the One who says, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ (Jn 10:10b) Following his studies, Andrej moved back to the town in Serbia where he had become addicted and to which he had intended never to return - and began to plant a church. Ten years on, and a thriving group is growing around him and his wife Malina,* including some of those who years before had taken drugs with Andrej. *names changed to protect identity Pray: for Serbia to heal from the divisions and violence of the past and the tensions of the present for people who are unemployed and in poverty, that they follow Jesus rather than turn to drugs for the church in Serbia to be a witness to their neighbours and groups within Serbia, such as the Roma people.

Laos

Today, we focus on the story of a girl called Noi,* born in the country of Laos, in Southeast Asia. Laos’ citizens have faced much persecution over the past forty years. Foreigners left the country in the 1970s after the Vietnam war (and even now there are travel restrictions within the country). The Laos church faces many difficulties in sharing the Gospel in this poor and landlocked country. This is the story of one young Laos woman, Noi. She is a believer in her early twenties and decided to go to university to train as a teacher. Her ambition is to graduate as a teacher and work in one of the Northern provinces, near the Chinese border. This is a dangerous area for Christians, but she wishes to teach the Laos people both education and about God’s love for them, through Jesus Christ. She is bold in proclaiming the gospel and says that she is willing to sacrifice everything. *name changed to protect identity Pray: for courageous believers in Laos, like Noi, and for boldness and wisdom as they share their faith in difficult circumstances for the persecuted church in Laos, and for mission workers who are reaching out creatively to the Laos people in many ways for the current training and discipleship of church leaders, which is desperately needed.

FirstServe

Today we hear from Lizzie who is spending her gap year with FirstServe. Lizzie shares her story of coming to faith and her hopes for her gap year and beyond. Pray: for young people, like Lizzie, who are willing to listen to God’s call on their lives and respond for training colleges, like Tilsley College, which equip God’s people to serve Him throughout the world for gap year programmes, like FirstServe, which enable young people, like Lizzie, to gain insight into mission through serving in local and overseas placements. For more inspiring stories of salvation and faith from around the world this Christmas, sign up here for our Echoes International digital advent calendar, to read personal testimonies and pray for countries still unreached by the Gospel this advent season.

The Bahamas

This collection of over 700 islands in the Caribbean, with their beautiful beaches and coral reefs, are popular with tourists, but the wealth of those in banking and tourism contrasts sharply with the poor. Today, we’ll read a story from The Haven ministry in Nassau, which offers a one-year residential programme of Bible study, devotion times, life-skill lectures, group therapy and one-to-one counselling for people with alcohol and drug addictions to lead them to a saving knowledge in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some who leave The Haven programme prematurely relapse back into their old addictions. Such a man is Marcus.* Marcus comes from an abusive background whose wealthy siblings left him to nurse his senile mother. His siblings would not financially support either their mother or Marcus. Marcus would be found in the streets of Nassau washing cars to fund his addictions and to support his mother. For 13 years we picked Marcus up off the streets time and again, after finding him in desperate physical need, and of course spiritual need too. Just over a year ago we saw Marcus and shared how the Lord was still waiting for him to give up his old ways and ask Him into his life and be free of alcohol and drugs. We invited him to return to The Haven. Two weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, much the worse for wear, Marcus appeared at the gate surrendering himself to The Haven programme for the eighth time. Meeting Marcus at the Sunday morning service, with the other ‘students’ from The Haven, he said he had something to share with us. He said that, when he went up to the dormitory and before he unpacked his few processions he had laid on the floor, he implored the Lord to come into his life and asked for the Lord’s forgiveness for stubbornly keeping Him out of his life all these years. Marcus is still with us in the programme and struggles with his Bible study and grasping the joy and freedom of his new life in Christ. He also struggles with literacy and longs to be proficient in reading and studying his Bible for himself. Reguarly, we see evidence of fruit in his life as the Holy Spirit gently but powerfully changes Marcus before our very eyes. Recently he asked me if he could go and visit his mother who was dying in hospital, as he had to be certain that she was not just religious but had in fact truly give her life to the Lord. ...he implored the Lord to come into his life and asked for the Lord’s forgiveness for stubbornly keeping Him out of his life all these years *name changed to protect identity Pray: for Marcus, and other students in The Haven programme, especially over the Christmas period when the attraction of the party season could provoke cravings for their old lifestyle that the Lord will not only continue His work of grace in Marcus’ life but that all [...]

Ethiopia

Today’s story from Ethiopia is told by Robert Revie, an Echoes International mission worker. He and his wife Sheena were mission workers in Ethiopia from 1969, leaving in 1978 when the ‘red terror’ of the communist regime took over the country. Robert often travels back to Ethiopia to support the local church. A new military government came to power in Ethiopia in 1991. Around this time there were still many bandits roaming around the countryside, causing great fear among the local villagers. One of the bandits was a man called ‘Love’ (a literal translation of his Amharic name - ፍቅሩ). A small group of believers lived in a village called Asgori. They were afraid, because Love and his accomplices made it impossible for them to meet in a public hall. Some time later, for some crime, Love was sent to prison. While in prison he heard the gospel. He repented of his sins and received the Lord Jesus as his Saviour - he said later that he was imprisoned to ‘experience the real freedom that comes by trusting in Christ’. After his release from prison he visited the Christians in Asgori and explained what had happened in prison. He asked to join their fellowship. As a result of Love’s transformation, they were able to worship freely in a hall, which they built together. ...he was imprisoned to ‘experience the real freedom that comes by trusting in Christ’ This year Love shared his story with a large audience in Ethiopia. He told how God had not only changed his heart and had been with him during these past 25 years, he is now a respected elder in his own village, Asgori. He is a living testimony of what God can do in a life when someone trusts in Christ and discovers the love of God. Pray: for the safety of small, rural churches to worship in freedom, like the fellowship in Asgori for churches to work together to minister to the poor for workers to minister alongside the local church, to encourage them in bible teaching.

China

The challenges and encouragements of the church in China

Congo DRC

Welcome to Day 1 of the Echoes International Advent Calendar! Today we visit one of the poorest countries in the world, which has faced much violence and tension over the past few years. This powerful story is told by an Echoes International mission worker who travels regularly to the country. A few years ago, we were travelling door to door with a local evangelist when we came to the house of a man called Kikunda. He told us that he wasn’t a Christian, but he listened to a short explanation of the gospel and took a gospel leaflet. The following day we visited him again and he was holding the leaflet when we arrived. He said, ‘This message is troubling me, I want to believe, but I have a problem.’ He then told us that he served Satan and worked as a witchdoctor. After reading the Bible together, Kikunda got down onto his knees and started praying. ‘God, I am an evil man and cannot see the light. But I believe that Jesus died for me, and I’m asking you to come in to the darkness and walk with me into the light.’ Kikunda then brought us a pile of items used for practicing witchcraft, including animal skin, bones, horns and stones. He explained that evil spirits worked through these items and that he was able to heal sickness and divine futures. This was how he made a living. The following day after the gospel service at church, Kikunda burned all of these items as a public testimony that he was turning away from witchcraft. After this Kikunda had no means of income and struggled to buy food and other essential items for his family. It was in these difficult days that the reality of his faith shone. When he managed to get a small amount of money, the first thing he bought was a Bible. Months later, we provided fishing nets for him and he now provides for his children by working as a fisherman. The elders at his church speak highly of his spiritual zeal and he is now an active member of a fellowship in Luanza. He has recently led a local man to the Lord. It was in these difficult days that the reality of his faith shone One great sadness for Kikunda is that his wife separated from him before he got saved. After months of prayer and waiting on God, in November 2017, his wife Kombe trusted the Lord and came back to him. During their separation she had a baby with another man but Kikunda took them in and is raising the boy as his own. In his own words, ‘I have been forgiven much by Christ and therefore I must forgive much’. Recently, Kikunda had a major health scare and his family thought he was dying. A group of witchdoctors got together and told him his sickness was a result of forsaking the spirits and pressured him to offer sacrifices to them. From [...]

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