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Tilsley Student – Emma

Today, our story comes from Tilsley College. Emma shares her story of salvation, and how God has led her from Cumbria to Italy and now to Tilsley College, as she looks to grow deeper in her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Pray: for Bible College students, like Emma, as they study God’s Word and learn how to handle the challenges they will face in this world for tutors to effectively teach the Bible to the students, disciple the students and encourage them to grow spiritually for the opportunities to serve in various ministries, such as cross-cultural mission and local church ministry.

Lebanon

Today, we journey to Jordan with Raj, as he shares his childhood memories of his troubled home country, riven with war. Watch his testimony, as he recounts how God has cared for him and his family in the midst of civil war. Pray: for the country of Lebanon, scarred by the aftermath of war and violence for the church reaching out in love to refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East for believers in Lebanon, as they share the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ with their Muslim neighbours.

France

The largest country in western Europe, France often displays indifference or hostility towards religion, but today, Jean-Luc shares about the transformative power in his life of a personal relationship with the living Lord Jesus. Pray: for people experiencing spiritual hunger in their lives, that they might find the true ‘Bread of Life’ for new church plants to reach out to the French people and share the gospel for mission workers to serve through friendship evangelism, outreach to immigrants and many other ministries.

Colombia

Sisters Anita and Kathleen have worked in Colombia for years, counselling and mentoring and sharing the gospel with many people caught up in violence, corruption and drugs. Here is just one of the many stories of salvation that they can share. Read Solomon’s full story on our website here. Solomon was a young man brought up in a Christian home. Wayward and rebellious, he had begun trafficking women, drugs and firearms between Colombia and Europe. He lived a Jekyll-and-Hyde lifestyle. Were the church elders aware that during the closing hymn after the Lord’s Supper he would slip out and snort cocaine? No! Did the members of his weekly Bible study for Spanish-speaking people in Germany know he was a drug trafficker? No! Solomon was far away from God, but God had not abandoned His prodigal son. While in Germany, one of Solomon’s drug couriers landed in hospital with a stomach full of drugs. The wrapping had burst and his life was in danger. There was a strong possibility that he would reveal Solomon to the authorities before he died. Taking one of his guns, Solomon slipped out of the security of his luxurious apartment. Deep in the forest behind the village, he knelt down and put the gun to his head. In that split second between life and death he felt two strong arms grab him from behind and stand him up. Trembling, he forced himself to look around. There was no one else there. In a cold sweat he decided to hand himself in to the village police station. To his amazement, no charges had been laid against him; the ‘mule’ had not died. Solomon wasted no time; in a matter of hours he was on a plane back to Colombia. Solomon arrived at our home when our counselling ministry was just beginning. We had no track record, no success stories, nothing but the assurance that this was the path God was asking us to take: to walk alongside bound and broken people. ...but God had not abandoned His prodigal son The more he concentrated on the truth of his sin, the more bound he became. John 8:32 reads: ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ The truth Solomon believed about himself was not setting him free. Something was dreadfully wrong. He needed a new identity. His mind needed to be renewed. It was slow work because human truth was firmly entrenched in his mind. His new identity sounded strange to his ears and proved even more strange to his mind. Solomon had difficulty believing that, in Christ, he was who God said he was: redeemed, justified, righteous, chosen, a citizen of heaven, holy, loved, forgiven, a new creature. His new identity was to him unbelievable, too good to be true. Slowly, very slowly, he started to believe. And as he believed, his behaviour and lifestyle changed. One day something happened that Solomon found hard to explain. He was alone in his bakery. Foul language spewed from his mouth. He swore, blasphemed, [...]

Myanmar

The land of Myanmar in southeast Asia has gone through upheaval over the past few years. It is a difficult place to be a believer and much is done to stop Christianity spreading - but nothing can hold back the true gospel. A* testified: ‘I was brought up in a nominal Christian family. My father told me that, as Christians, we did not need to attend the church as we will automatically get to Heaven. When I was sick and almost died, I worried that I would go to Hell. In Yangon Hospital, B* shared the gospel with me every day. I realised that I am a sinner and invited Jesus Christ into my heart. Ever since, I have had peace, joy and the assurance of salvation. I am praying for the salvation of my family and friends. By God’s grace, I have recovered from my sickness. Praise the Lord!’ Ever since, I have had peace, joy and the assurance of salvation *names changed to protect identities Pray: for protection of new converts in Myanmar, particularly those from Buddhist families, who face opposition and persecution for believers who are evangelising and planting churches in unreached areas for ethnic minorities in Myanmar, like the Rohingya people who still face discrimination and exile.

Lesotho

Mission partner Mark has developed a ministry to athletes in Lesotho, through sports administration. Here he shares a story of faith from a Lesotho athlete, Lerato. To read the whole story, click here. Mark: The Lord opened the door for us to share His love in Lesotho. In 2014, I established a small team of exceptionally talented cyclists and am now helping them develop to their full potential. As the riders are able to compete at a higher level, they earn a little money to feed themselves and their families, making a huge difference to their lives. We managed to build the team from nothing to a high level that even eclipsed Great Britain in the mountain bike rankings for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Along the way, we have organised national and continental championships and I have managed teams to the World Championships, and the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Spending so much time with this small group of athletes gives me a great opportunity to share my faith with them. We often encourage each other with biblical advice and pray together, particularly at the big races when they feel outside their comfort zones. We often encourage each other with biblical advice and pray together Lerato Lerato is one of our young upcoming athletes. She finished just outside the medals with fourth place in the triple-jump at the Commonwealth Games and has a bright future ahead of her. Unfortunately, she recently lost her father and was devastated. At that time, she found great comfort through the daily Bible devotional readings tailored to athletes and relates that the strength she found in God, in the midst of suffering, empowered her to win a bronze medal at the African Championships. She continues to read her Bible daily. Pray: that the members of Lesotho Olympic Committee will set a godly example in the midst of widespread corruption in sport for the people of Lesotho, where many regions are inaccessible, and the population is mostly poor for opportunities for mission and gospel work in Lesotho, and for believers bringing vocational skills in agriculture, care work with orphans, education, health and technology.

China

In recent years, China has seen a huge increase in believers, which now number more than communist party members. However, even as we give thanks for people coming to Christ, we are aware of difficulties that local believers are facing. Many churches have been closed or restricted in terms of worship, particularly unregistered or house churches. Peter* is a key leader in our house church plant. He and another brother are candidates to be appointed as elders. Peter came to know the Lord when he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. He prayed to the Lord for healing. God graciously healed him of his cancer without medication, without surgery; ever since he has faithfully devoted his life to the Lord’s work. We are grateful that God brought him to our fellowship and, the Lord willing, he will serve as one of the elders in the future. *names changed to protect identities Pray: for members of house churches in China, which are illegal and often targeted by the government, to meet safely for leaders of China and communist party leaders to turn towards the one true God and acknowledge Him for individual believers to know God’s comfort and guidance in the midst of suffering.

United Kingdom

Here is a story of salvation from right here in 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. When mum of two Lynda lost three of the most influential men in her life over a matter of a few years, her ongoing battle with depression worsened. Her dad, step-dad and grandad all died and she says she felt utterly lost until she found God. Lynda met Counties evangelist Ruth through a mutual friend, and she encouraged her to go on an Alpha Course, which then led to her faith in Christ. Lynda said: ‘Finding the love of God gave me hope. It restored my ability to be unafraid. It’s helped my outlook, which helps me cope with the depression. You find the simplest things to smile about. God changes the way you see everything.’ Here, 32-year-old Lynda describes her journey to faith and how it has changed her life for the better: ‘When my children were at holiday club I met a lady called Wendy and we got chatting about a scheme at the school called Open The Book. They desperately needed people and Wendy asked if I would be interested. I explained that I was a pagan and she said that was absolutely fine. ‘As I acted out scenes from the Bible, it awoke something and taught me things I didn’t know. I had so many questions. Wendy suggested I did an Alpha Course. She explained that it would be a good starting point for answers, and I admit part of me did it to disprove it. ‘Around this time my friend Kim suggested I go to church with her; I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed this. I believe God put us together to help each other. Finding the love of God gave me hope. It restored my ability to be unafraid. ‘I started Alpha and it started filling in the jigsaw pieces. Discussing powerful things helped me understand it all. I started feeling less and less alone. I began to pray. ‘It was about five weeks into the video, and it discussed making a personal dedication to Christ if you felt ready. With all my heart and mind, I made my personal dedication. I felt lighter knowing I would never be alone again. John 8:12 comes to mind. ‘Following God has given me meaning in my life. I am no longer wandering, alone and lost. God can lead me and show me how to make my life count for Him and His kingdom. I finally feel that I have found the light. Through Jesus Christ I can be saved. I feel the Holy Spirit filling me up and I know with God in my life I can do anything. ‘I realised God sacrificed the biggest thing with Jesus dying for us on the cross. I realised how important my relationship with God is and how it would [...]

Spain

We’re travelling to Spain today, as Jesús Ortiz shares his testimony. Mission partners Jesús and Helen work in Spain, where their outreach includes Bible teaching, discipleship of women, English conversation classes, evangelism and camp work and a charity clothing ministry. I was born in a very Catholic home. I liked to go to mass and I became an altar boy because I wanted to please God. But I never felt satisfied in my heart and, as I planned out my future, I thought of the examples around me: study, do military service, get married, have kids and grandchildren...and in the end die...and what then? These thoughts oppressed me a lot. At 12 years of age I became very ill and was sent to my sister’s house in Barcelona. At that time, I did not know that my sister and brother-in-law had found Christ. He was a taxi driver and he took a client to some conferences. The client was a believer and left him a tract to read and through the tract he believed in Christ. My brother-in-law then led his wife, my sister, to Christ. But I never felt satisfied in my heart... When I was in their home, they told me about Him although, at first, I was opposed to it all. They gave me Christian books to read and then I realised Christ died to give us hope of eternal life, and that the fear I had of death was irrational in the light of what He had done. I went with them to church and John 3:16 gave me the certainty that I had eternal life in Christ. I returned to Soria and became one of the first members of the church there and this has been my spiritual home until today. Pray: for mission workers, like Jesús and Helen, who are sharing the gospel through Bible teaching and evangelism, and caring for the community through charity clothing mission for opportunities in Spain to witness to minority groups, such as Basque, Muslim and Chinese communities for the gospel to shine through in the midst of current spiritual confusion, traditional Catholicism and secular materialism.

Belize

Today we have two stories for the price of one! Supported through our sister organisation, MSC Canada, Sean and Vera live and serve the Lord in Belize. Located on the Caribbean coast, it is the smallest and only English-speaking nation of Central America. Through Bible teaching, teams, mentorship, literature and camps, they are working towards equipping saints of Belize to be strong members of Christ’s body in the region. Through teams, a church plant and a local youth ministry ‘Overflow’, Sean and Vera’s favourite work is among inner-city youth. Here are two examples of how God is reaching the people of Belize. This is Carmelito. He was a camper at one of the sports programmes. He has grown in the Lord so much in the last couple of years. A young man now, he is studying God’s Word and is now taking an active role in his local church, leading singing and working with youth. He is always sharing his joy in the Lord. Keesha is a mother of ten children. She and her family live on the edge of town and the edge of existence. Contact was made with them because the children were begging on the street and in danger of the sex trade. Through Vera’s kids’ club in their shantytown, and loads of love, the mum was saved. Pray that her husband gets saved! The kids were sponsored for camp and some were saved. Now they all have school uniforms and love coming to Sunday school. Sometimes the oldest boy attends our Saturday Boyz club for Bible and basketball.     Pray: for Belize, which has such a young population, and where many live in poverty and without hope for people affected by violent crime and drug trafficking, as Belize is associated with drug cartels that the Lord would continue to save and raise up the next generation of leaders needed to build up the church and reach more of the lost.

Chad

Getting the Bible to rural areas of Chad can be a difficult task, carried out by faithful Chadian men and women. The rapid spread of the gospel in Chad is the fruit of evangelism by local believers. Here, we read Obed’s story. If you want a longer read of Bible translation and outreach in Chad, you can read the full story on our website here. I was born in 1955, the fourth son of Christian parents, in Bembaitada, Chad. Our village was blessed with an outreaching assembly and I trusted the Lord as my personal Saviour at a young age. After my baptism in 1971, I sensed the Lord calling me to serve Him and in 1984 the Bembaitada assembly commended me and I was enabled to study at the Bible Institute in Doba and then at the Theological College of the Evangelical Church of West Africa in Kagoro, Nigeria. Once these years of training were completed, I was appointed to lead two large Chadian assemblies before taking up my present role here with the assembly in Bebedjia. My wife Rahab and I have had eight children, five of whom are still living. With the abundance of tropical diseases such as malaria, few, if any, Chadian families are spared the loss of children. I sensed the Lord calling me to serve Him... In the Lord’s goodness I was elected to serve as Vice President of the National Committee of Assemblies situated in N’Djamena from 1994 to 2004 and then again from 2008 to 2017. At present, in addition to my responsibilities in Bebedjia, I teach regularly in village assemblies with brothers Eloi Mbaissanadje and Yosolloum to edify the Christians. Brothers and sisters from other local churches participate with joy and insist that we come back and do it again! The Lord has called me, prepared me through different stages of my life and is using me in His service – may His name be glorified!’ Pray: for the spread of the gospel in Chad, through local outreach, literature distribution and assembly work by people like Obed for tensions to ease between farmers and travelling cattle herders for the ongoing translation of the Bible and Christian literature into Mbai and other local languages.

Brazil

Something a little different this morning. Read Gerson’s story, as he shares about his family’s call to mission in Brazil, and how he, like Jonah, resisted for a long time. Dear Brethren in Christ, Grace and peace be with you all. My family and I came here to serve the Lord in January 2005. We have been here in the state of Amapá for 15 years and currently live in the town of Mazagão Novo, which is 35km from the capital of Macapá. My name is Gerson Cesar Rubini and my wife is Nádia. I have three children: Leandro, Gislaine and Patricia. Patricia is our youngest daughter, not yet married, and helps us a lot in the work here. When the Lord called me to full-time work, I was a lorry driver, self-employed and driving all over Brazil. One day I was driving in my lorry and passing through the state of Bahia when I saw a very poor village, a place where life was very difficult and miserable. At that moment I prayed that the Lord would send one of His missionaries to that people because I felt so sorry for them and cried to the Lord on their behalf. It was then that the Lord started to speak to me. "YOU preach the Word to this people,” He was saying. For several years I struggled against this calling, yet those words continued to burn in my heart. One day my cousin, who had terminal cancer, arranged a meeting in her home and she said she wanted to give some advice to the young people there. This she did, and then she turned to me and looked me in the eye and said: ‘…and you, who received the call of God and haven’t obeyed, don’t be negligent with regard to His calling.’ I started to cry as only I knew what had happened that day. I hadn’t even told my wife about it. When we arrived home I told Nadia, my wife, already knowing her response as she has always been very keen as far as the Lord’s work is concerned. Then I went to my father’s house and told him that we would be leaving to go and serve the Lord in a distant state. I knew beforehand that they would be against it, as they always had a different viewpoint with regard to the mission field. My mother panicked and started to cry, pleading with me to stay. I relented to her wish. Shortly after this my mother discovered she had pancreatic cancer and passed away. Around four years later the Lord started to speak to me again and I was determined that this time I wouldn’t leave the state of São Paulo since my work was everything to me. However, I realised that God was working in my life because I started to lose things that I thought were very important to me. Thieves stole my lorry, my only means of making a living. At first, [...]

Poland

Our story today is shared by Pat and Cindy Hughes, mission workers who serve in Poland and are associated with our sister organisation in America, Christian Missions in Many Lands (CMML). Magda is a Polish lady who has been a good friend since we met in 2015. One day she attended a church service where my husband and I worshipped. In visiting with her she stated she was raised in the Catholic Church, which is the predominant religion in Poland by well over 90 per cent. It is said ‘To be Polish is to be Catholic.’  However, Magda expressed restlessness in that environment, stating it felt empty. She did not feel that her need and desire to know and grow in the Lord was being met. Magda was seeking. Shortly after I met Magda, a friend and I began planning an evangelistic retreat for Polish ladies looking to improve their English skills and, more importantly, to explore the Bible. Magda was invited to join us, where everyday a message was shared from the Bible in a short talk followed by small group discussions. She willingly took part in the discussions and even returned for a second camp the following year. Over the next few years, Magda stopped attending the catholic church. She attended different Bible studies and was growing in faith. Magda accepted Christ as her Saviour and was baptised in March of 2018. After her baptism, she still meets one-on-one to continue the discipleship process and to be encouraged as she grows in Christ. Over the past two years she has committed to attending weekly Bible study and has begun to serve on occasion as a greeter in our local assembly. God works in the heart, and His timing is perfect! It can take a long time, sometimes years, for someone to find Christ as their personal Saviour. “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15) We should be encouraged to keep doing our part, sharing and planting His word. God works in the heart, and His timing is perfect! Pray: for Magda to continue to grow in her walk, knowledge and love of the Lord and that she will be a light for her family and friends for the people of Poland to know the joy of a personal relationship with Christ the Saviour for wisdom in the growth and development of churches in Poland to better serve and disciple others.

South Africa

South Africa is a large, diverse country, which has high rates of poverty, crime and inequality. There are opportunities to witness, but many people have a limited understanding of the gospel. May Fahiem’s story today encourage us that God loves to welcome us into His family, through the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. My name is Fahiem from Cape Town, South Africa. I was born into a Muslim family. I had a very tough life as the eldest of four children. We had a very abusive father, but I do give him credit for working hard to provide for the family. I always heard about Christianity, but ignored its claims. I had the kind of friends who led me in a wrong direction. Stealing, gambling and smoking drugs became a way of life for me. I met a young lady who was from a Christian background. She had once made a profession but was not living the Christian life. Six months after meeting her we were married. She invited me to attend a Breaking of Bread meeting and what I heard about the Lord Jesus Christ there impressed me, so I continued to attend this meeting from time to time over a five-year period, but also continued with my sinful lifestyle. I lost my job as a consequence of stealing. I became very unhappy in my sins and I was afraid that I would lose everything. My marriage was on the verge of ending. I knew that my life needed to change, but I couldn’t do it myself. ...what I heard about the Lord Jesus Christ there impressed me... I tried to improve by staying sober and looking for employment, but I could not find a permanent job, because of my record. I kept trying my best, but from time to time I went back to smoking drugs. I wanted God to help me with my problems. I also was afraid to die knowing that there would be judgement afterwards. I believed that attending church services would be helpful for me, but still I knew I was not right with God. This continued for almost six years. I was praying that God would show me the right way. One Sunday evening, very burdened with my sin, I went to Belhar Gospel Hall and said to the believers that I had come to get right with God. The brothers explained the gospel to me and that evening I trusted Christ as my personal Saviour. A few weeks later I was baptised and received into fellowship at the Belhar Assembly. As I partake of the Lord’s Supper, knowing what it means brings tears to my eyes as I think of the high price that Christ paid for my sins. As I continued with the Lord, He opened the door for me to get a permanent job, for which I am very thankful. I give God all the glory for the amazing things He has done for me. The Lord has [...]

Laos

This communist country is ethnically and linguistically diverse, but mainly closed to outsiders. Christians are in a tiny minority. Believers face persecution, from officials and their local communities, but the church is growing. Mrs P.V.* grew up in northern Laos, in a home where they followed the spirits. She was a bright girl and did well at school. She met Mr Bright-Shining* and the two fell in love and marriage was arranged. He is a photographer and, together, they opened a shop for people who want family and wedding photos taken and where all the necessary forms for births, weddings, divorce, funerals and sales of house, car and motorcycles are photocopied and sold. About twenty years ago, Mr Bright-Shining’s eldest brother became a Christian, down in the capital, Vientiane. The brother soon found an opportunity to go north to visit Bright-Shining and P.V., in order to tell them of his new-found faith. The Lao government opposes the Christian faith and discourages people from committing themselves to Christ, calling it ‘a foreign religion’ that should have no part in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos. However, P.V. and Bright-Shining were deeply impressed by the change in their brother’s life and the more they listened, the more they were attracted to faith. Some little while later, the older brother led them to Christ, prayed with them and baptised them. Mrs P.V. knew of no other Christians in their town (though there is a church comprised of people of another language group). So, attending a church was impossible and for ten years or so they quietly trusted in Christ, but were frightened by the attitude of the authorities and so kept quiet about their faith. Then a family came to live in their town who knew the older brother in the capital. They sought out Mrs P.V. and her husband and every Sunday evening, they met together for worship, Bible study and prayer. Mrs P.V.’s faith grew in leaps and bounds and very soon she began to talk to customers at their shop about her faith. Some of them were intrigued by what they heard and asked if they could become Christians. Some little while later, the older brother led them to Christ, prayed with them and baptised them. Mrs P.V. once said that in the course of a year, half the town passes through their shop because of the photocopied forms they need to buy. One of the comments that her listeners made was that becoming a Christian was illegal (because of the attitude of the authorities). So, Mrs P.V. bought a copy of the country’s Constitution and read that Lao citizens have the right to follow no religion or one of five listed, including Christianity. She photocopied this and, from then on, always had some copies available to show people. Mrs P.V.’s warm personality and friendly manner are attractive to visitors in her shop and last year she witnessed to over one hundred people and led forty people to faith. Her [...]

Somalia

With a population of around 14 million, Somalia is almost 100 per cent Islamic, and it is often dangerous to be a mission worker there. In the midst of suffering, the Light of Christ is shining through. I’m Abdul* from Somalia. From five years old till I was in high school, I lived as a Muslim and did my obligations according to the expectations of my parents. I went to the mosque to practise my Islamic obligation, reading the Quran and Sharia law. I believed that the world would become good, if all people were Muslims. My father is a devout Muslim who practises Islamic teachings a lot on a daily basis. My mother, as an avid Muslim, made sure her children recited the Quran and abided by its teachings. I grew up in this environment and understood the world from an Islamic viewpoint. I knew that the world was divided into two, those of Islam, and the infidels. The idea of accepting Christ was remote because there are almost no Christians in Somalia. They used to tell us that we should not accept Christians or deal with them, because according to an Islamic point of view, they are evil. The Quran and prophet Mohammed told us to be careful and fight until we finish them! In 2014 I arrived in Uganda for university. There I saw Christians for the first time. They were friendly, welcoming, and they didn’t separate themselves from Muslims. They were faithful and well behaved. I was introduced to Christ and Christianity. I began to meet with some of them and I read and discussed the Bible. I was surprised to read in the book of Matthew, God says, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself,’ and that Jesus says in John 14:6, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.’ As a matter of fact, I gave myself totally to Jesus. I gradually parted ways with my Muslim friends and community in Uganda after I received Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I started to connect more often with Christian friends. My Muslim friends at the university took notes, as they also saw some of my posts in my Facebook page. They never saw me back in that mosque again. So, they concluded that I had left Islam. ...I saw Christians for the first time. They were friendly, welcoming, and they didn’t separate themselves from Muslims. When my family and community came to know about that, they wanted me back to Islam or they would rather kill me. They tried to have me arrested several times in order to deport me back to Somalia. My family intensified the hunt for me through my former Muslim friends, the police and my landlord. One August a group of Somali youths came with policemen, arrested and jailed me for a night on the pretext that I owed them money. In September my mother arrived from Somalia to take [...]

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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