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South America today, and we join Nilton in Bolivia. He shares how he came to the Lord and a little of his mission work in both Bolivia and Angola. Even in the midst of the pandemic, mission work and outreach continues! Pray for Bolivia: that believers would have freedom to worship and evangelism would not be restricted that Bolivian people affected by the coronavirus lockdown would receive the assistance they need that Bolivian mission partners, like Nilton and his wife Lizzi, would be able to serve again overseas in places like Angola.
Carmen serves in the media team at her local church in Peru and didn’t realise what challenges 2020 would bring to her ministry. Listen to her testimony of how she has used her time in quarantine to support the Peruvian church move online. Pray for Peru: that the church in Peru would be supported by its media teams to reach out, both in physical buildings and engaging with people online that many more Peruvians would hear the good news and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ that fellowships in Peru which have been badly affected by Covid-19 would be comforted by God’s peace at this time.
Today, our Advent calendar shares Katie’s story, one of our recent FirstServers. They spent their gap year on our FirstServe programme, run by Echoes International, Counties and GLO which offers 18-30-year-olds an opportunity to serve through mission. Pray for FirstServe: for young people take part in FirstServe, that, through studying, they might grow in love for God’s Word for everyone involved in running the FirstServe programme, from the three organisations working together to deliver it (Echoes International, GLO and Counties) to placement coordinators both in the UK and overseas, as well as mentors for the young people and training at Tilsley Bible College that in the midst of disruptions due to coronavirus, FirstServers would be able to have a fulfilling and worthwhile opportunity to serve.
Bhutan isn’t always an easy place to be a Christian. Nearly 90 per cent of the population are Buddhist and persecution of believers is high. This morning’s Advent calendar video features a drug smuggler from Bhutan whose life was turned around (his face is hidden to protect his identity). Pray for Bhutan: for Bhutanese people to be freed from the trap of Buddhism for local workers and small, local churches who are sharing the gospel amidst persecution for Bhutan to open up to mission partners, to help local believers grow strong in their faith.
Today’s Advent calendar window opens up on India, and we hear a local church leader's story of what the Lord has done in his life and his church. Pray for India: for evangelists who witness throughout India, that they may be faithful in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ for the work of churches like the one we saw in today’s video, who are training and discipling believers, as they study God’s Word together for the nation of India, with over 1 billion people, which faces many pressures and difficulties.
For our last story, we travel with Tony and Edna Jones, who are mission workers in the mountain region of Haiti, associated with MSC Canada. Tony shares this beautiful story of how God pursues us with His love and grace throughout our lives. It’s never too late to witness to someone. One Saturday during the summer of 2014, I was sitting on my front porch when I was approached by two men from the mountains. Because we are the only ministry in our area working in the mountains the mountain people always come to me for help. The two men asked if I would come see this elderly woman that was not feeling well. I got on my motorcycle and went with them to see her. The house was a typical mountain shanty and, when I went inside, I could not believe my eyes - there, laying on the ground, was Joseph Jean Gina Louise. She had been lying on a mat on the ground for one and a half years and had never left the house during that whole time. She was very old and frail and instantly our Lord put on my heart to want to help this dear soul. On Monday I went back to her place with a new bed and got her off the ground, I then brought up a team of American doctors who were in our town on a medical mission trip. They checked her over and thought that she may be in the early stages of pneumonia. If so, in her condition, she would die. It’s never too late to witness to someone. Joseph Jean could see, hear and talk so we started to witness to her about Christ, I took her hand and said in Creole that ‘Jesus loves her’ but she pulled her hand away from me. I then found out from the local village people that she was a voodoo practitioner all her life and therefore did not believe in God. The next day I took her the last ‘Proclaimer’ I had ( A recording of the New Testament in her own Creole language), placed it beside her head and played it to her. As the Scriptures are read, they are combined with soft music in the background and she really liked it. That Thursday, the two mountain people were back at my house telling me that Joseph Jean was having trouble breathing, I went to the doctors and they said there was nothing they could do. I jumped on my motorcycle and went to see her immediately. As I approached the house, I could hear humming and I thought it was a villager in the room with Joseph Jean. When I stepped into the room, I felt this peace I had never felt before during my previous visits there. The mountain people told me they had noticed something different with Joseph Jean’s demeanour. They said she had been singing to herself, which she had never done during the one [...]
Today’s story comes from GRNUK. Many people in Benin are trapped by witchcraft and voodoo, and today’s story shares how that entrapment can be broken by the Lord Jesus Christ. At a gathering, a team spent a night sharing the story of Jesus. Sixty-two people expressed their interest in knowing the Lord personally and, among them, a man named Amidou caught their attention. He lived some distance away but was visiting friends. He came to the outdoor evangelism event out of curiosity. Praise God that he confessed Jesus as his Saviour and Lord. Amidou is a trader by profession. The night he turned to the Lord, Amidou told the team that his business was down and he was having great difficulties in his life. For him everything was over and he had lost hope. During the gospel preaching, they told Amidou that Jesus is the Light of the world, the one who shines on all people. Therefore, all that is hidden will be revealed by His light. There is a strong belief in the area that someone is behind Amidou’s misfortunes, using witchcraft to impoverish or even to try to kill him. In many instances, this belief is proven to be true. The team prayed for Amidou before he left. Two days after returning home, Amidou called a team member to say that he felt the presence of something in his room. Four days later he went out to buy food. Upon re-entering his room, he again felt the presence of a ‘force’ that frightened him. When he sat on his bed, the Holy Spirit directed him to look under his bed. When he did, he saw a calabash (bottle gourd) tied by a black rope and there was a big needle tied to the gourd. It is used in witchcraft. Very surprised and frightened, he took the calabash and brought it to the team’s office where it was burned. Later, after some investigation, one of his relatives confessed, ‘When I went to the village, my mum gave it to me to place under your bed because you are having all sorts of problems. Your wife and child are dead, you are in debt, always worrying, and never in peace.’ It turned out that the calabash was used so the witchcraft could cause him misfortunes and destruction. After the calabash was burnt, Amidou got a call from the village where it was reported that his grandmother and stepmother confessed that they were the ones who killed his wife and child. They had planned to kill him too. The two women’s plan backfired: they suffered torment continuously. They confessed, day and night, all the harm they caused Amidou and could no longer keep quiet. Now Amidou is released from the evil plans against him. He regrets not having received Jesus Christ early in his life. He knows the Lord protected and saved his life. He lost all of his savings, his business, his wife and child, and it would have taken very [...]
Today, our advent calendar moves to Tilsley College, Motherwell, as we hear from a couple William and Mary, who are studying there on an Echoes International scholarship, as they consider God’s call on their lives for mission overseas. Mary: I was brought up in a Coptic Orthodox family so I would attend mass on Sundays and go to Sunday school as a child. However, it was not until I was at University, and through joining the Christian Union as well as a Bible study class, that I made the decision to believe what Jesus did for me on the cross and surrendered my life to Him. My journey with the Lord has had many ups and downs since then but He has always been faithful and good to me. William: I grew up knowing about Jesus through my mother. Although we did not attend church, as a child I had always prayed to Jesus. I spent most of my childhood in Africa. Into my mid-teens I started knowing more about Jesus and joined a Christian youth club. As the years went on, my faith grew and at around the age of twenty I got baptised. Growing up I faced many trials and some extreme challenges, but God carried me through it all. God has blessed me abundantly being married to Mary and having our two children. Both: Even before getting married, we both shared a desire that one day we would serve the Lord, maybe overseas. But as the years went by and life took over, we started to doubt and question whether this desire was really from the Lord. But God was gracious and gave us some words along the way which confirmed what was in our hearts and reassured us of His calling on our lives. We are trusting that God will make His path clear for us for the future. Last year, God really began to move in our lives soon after we decided to step out in faith and go abroad to seek His will. Within a few weeks, He quite unexpectedly opened a way for us to get in contact with Echoes International. Through our discussions with them, a door was opened for us to come to Tilsley College in Motherwell, Scotland, through an Echoes International scholarship, to take a year out to study and seek God regarding where He wants us to serve Him. So, in September we moved to Motherwell with our two children (ages 8 and 6), whom we home educate, to begin an open access programme of study at Tilsley College. Things are going well, and we are enjoying our time here. We are still trusting that God will make His path clear for us for the future. Please pray that God will make our path clear to where He wants us to go and serve and that He will use us to reach many for Him. Please also pray for God’s protection and provision for our children, and that they [...]
Dilshad’s* story is an outstanding demonstration of the sovereignty of God over one life in Central Asia, one of the least reached regions of the world. This story is shared today with us by People International. Dilshad will turn 40 this year. As a teenager in a remote region of one Central Asian nation, she had mastered the English language to such an extent that she was employed as an interpreter by missionaries. She embraced the gospel message through this contact. Although she was a Christian, she was expected to marry a Muslim man with all the ceremony attributed to her culture. Moving in to live with her husband’s family she became the daughter-in-law required to serve her new family. Her mother-in-law retained a large degree of influence over her husband and would call him away from Dilshad whenever she felt the need. This was often difficult and great unhappiness grew in her heart. One night when she was alone in her bedroom she had a vision of the Lord Jesus, clothed in white, with a radiant face. She was assured of His great love for her – a love that would never cease, no matter what her circumstances. From that moment Dilshad’s life was anchored deeper in relationship with the living God. Her first child was born with injuries to her head necessitating her being in intensive care for some months after her birth. When the doctors released the baby from hospital Dilshad was given a long list of instructions for the baby’s 24-hour care. Following these instructions diligently Dilshad was able to bring her daughter back to the hospital for a check-up at 12 months and there was told the doctors had never expected her baby to live. As the families celebrated that the child had lived to one year, Dilshad’s parents attributed this good health to skilful doctors. Her husband’s parents also attributed their granddaughter’s health to the skill of doctors. ‘No,’ said Dilshad, ‘it is the Lord God who has given life and health to my daughter. He is to be praised.’ Neither family would accept this and she was immediately rejected by her own family. They chose never to speak with her again, her father saying, ‘I no longer have a daughter.’ One year later, while remaining in her husband’s family home, Dilshad gave birth to a second daughter. But only three months later her husband moved away for employment and she was literally thrown onto the street with her two children. There she stood in the snow, abandoned by man but not by God. Dilshad soon found a home to rent. Only hours after being kicked out by her in-laws, she returned to her former home to find her possessions already on the street, thrown into the mud and melting snow. ...it is the Lord God who has given life and health to my daughter. With determination, Dilshad soon found employment teaching English in a nearby school where there were also nursery and kindergarten [...]
The Azerbaijanis are considered a ‘least-reached’ people group. Thirty years ago, there were hardly any Azeri believers. Now, conservative estimates range from 7,000 to 17,000 Azerbaijani believers worldwide. A growing number have recently come to faith in Christ. Many understand the unique role they have in reaching their own and other peoples. They play an important part in the work of God. Idris grew up into a life of violence and crime in Azerbaijan. The night before he was about to commit a serious crime, Christ appeared to him in a dream, exposing his life and the consequences of his path. He informed the gang he had changed his mind; he even warned them not to commit the crime and why, but they thought he was crazy and went ahead without him anyway. All of them were arrested. Idris gave his life to the Lord, and over the years God has used him to help lead a group of small churches reaching his own people, as well as Azeris in Georgia, Iran and Russia. God is at work among the Azerbaijani people and others through them. The Alov (Flame) Network, which Idris helps to lead, has been modelling a new way of church planting. Many of the older established churches were formed on the model of a main leader and a church built to be as large as possible. However, smaller house-based churches can be more easily moved if needed, they have smaller overheads, and are more kinship-friendly and natural for Azerbaijanis. By this model they have seen their fellowships grow to over 60 in number in recent years. Through plurality of leadership, they have developed a system where younger leaders are welcomed to take part in the decision-making process. Recent events have brought new challenges and diminished the free flow of people and ideas in the region. Nevertheless, we continue to see growth and maturation in Azerbaijan’s church. God is at work among the Azerbaijani people and others through them. Pray for Azerbaijan: that God would embolden and empower Azerbaijani believers to reach others for Christ for growing unity among the few Azerbaijani churches, and for local believers to be strong in faith and patient in trials that believing mission workers who bring needed skills and professions to Azerbaijan would be given gospel opportunities. For the full story, read Gateway to the Muslim world here.
We travel to Myanmar today for a short testimony. It isn’t easy being a believer in Myanmar but, in spite of suffering, people are turning to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. One new convert, Thura,* testified, ‘I was brought up in a nominal Christian family, but I did not have the assurance of salvation. I had been an alcoholic for a long time. I was in the army for 14 years but, due to health problems, I had to resign. My health was so bad that I was in hospital. 'My wife, who is a born-again believer, and other believers prayed for me. The Lord graciously answered their prayers and I recovered. After understanding the truth about sin and salvation, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I dedicated my life to be a faithful follower of Christ and was baptised. To God be the glory! Please pray for my spiritual growth.’ I dedicated my life to be a faithful follower of Christ *names changed to protect identities Pray for Myanmar: for believers like Thura, who are brought up in nominal households, that they would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ for evangelists who share the gospel, at great personal cost, to the Buddhist majority in Myanmar for leaders in Myanmar, that they might grant Christians freedom to worship in peace.
We are close to home today in the United Kingdom with Counties UK, which supports evangelists in England and Wales and equips churches to share the Good News. Read on to find out how God has transformed one sailor’s life in a remarkable way. Seafarer Dustin Mathews has a lot to be thankful for – he met and married his wife Melissa last May, and earlier this year the couple celebrated the birth of their baby son Elijah. But only a few years ago, Dustin’s life had reached a very low point because of the dire working conditions on the ship he was on. Thanks to the prayers of his family, his life reached a turning point when he met Counties evangelist and sea chaplain Steve Loader at Bristol docks, who, with the help of others, helped Dustin get his life back on track. Dustin said: ‘The Lord has moved mountains in my life, I wouldn’t be here today without Him. I thought I had lost everything and could see no way forward, but my life has now changed so much!’ Originally from Goa, India, Dustin moved to the UK when he was 25 to be closer to his mum and sister who lived in London. He looked for a job for almost five months and was delighted when he was offered the role of Deck Officer on board a Turkish cargo ship carrying empty containers travelling between Cardiff, Bristol and Belfast. Dustin explained: ‘I grew up in India in a Catholic environment, but I wasn’t the ideal Christian, living in sin and feeling quite far away from God. When I moved to the UK, my mum took me to an evangelical church in London and I fell on my knees, prayed and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. ‘Not long after this I was offered the ship job, but this turned out to be my worst nightmare. From day one they never paid my salary - my employers said if I complained about my circumstances, they would sack me, and I would not get my sea time experience. They never sent me out on shore leave, I never got any money to call my family and I kept questioning why this was happening to me. But my faith in Lord Jesus was strong and I kept going on. ‘I was living without any proper food or clean water and I felt like I was in a prison but with no proper utilities. I didn’t have any money to call my family, I was malnourished, and I desperately wanted to leave the ship - but the captain said I would get a bad record if I left and wouldn’t get a job in the UK. I kept praying for a miracle to happen and for things to change.’ Jesus has given me my life back and so much more Unbeknown to Dustin, his mum and her church family were all praying for him and for a breakthrough. Dustin continued: ‘Just as [...]
Day 13 of our Advent calendar and a different testimony from Echoes International mission partner Christine Reid, who tells of her lifelong journey with God and how He led her to serve in Tanzania. ‘I’m a retired teacher from Greenock, Scotland, serving the Lord at Making Children Count For Christ (MCCC) in Moshi, Tanzania. ‘My testimony began as a nine-year-old, when a school friend took me to a children’s meeting held in a local school on a Thursday night. It was an outreach work organised by people from Cruden Hall in Greenock, now known as Ardgowan Evangelical Church. One Thursday night, an elder from the church, Mr William Church, taught a simple gospel message using two apples which looked identical; however, when he opened one, it was black inside. He explained that is what our hearts look like to God because of sin. He opened the other and it was white, and he explained that if we acknowledge that we have sinned, believe that Jesus died for our sins and confess our need of a Saviour then we could be forgiven and have a relationship with God and eternal life. It was thus a very simple ABC of the gospel which led me to trust Christ as my Saviour that night. I wasn’t from a Christian background but l understood clearly this message of salvation. I can testify that God has never left me nor forsaken me throughout life. ‘Now, I’m a mother of two grown-up children and granny to two granddaughters. My interest in Africa and mission work began at the age of nine, the same year I trusted Christ as my Saviour. The Bible Society of Scotland came to school and gave us a project to research Scottish missionaries. I chose David Livingstone and Mary Slessor, who both made an impact on me. ‘I attended Hamilton Missionary Fellowship while at college. I was involved in our local camp work and went on SCEM summer outreach teams. I continued to attend mission days and report meetings, and read mission newsletters, all of which had an influential part in my desire to serve the Lord overseas in mission. Throughout the years I continued with camp and outreach work linked to my local church. ‘About 15 years ago I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Uganda. That was the first of many opportunities in Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and India on mission and educational visits. While attending a mission day at Hamilton College in 2017, I was encouraged by the testimonies of mission workers. I heard how God can use us despite our age, background or ability, and how He wants us to be available to serve Him. At that meeting, my friends Ian and Marilyn Campbell (Zambia) invited me to teach at Amano Christian School in Chingola. After a sleepless weekend thinking over my call to mission, I handed in my resignation as I knew I had to be obedient to God’s calling. I can [...]
Mission partners in France share this interesting story of a young French couple, whose encounter with the Living Word changed the whole trajectory of their lives. ‘I studied philosophy at my local university in France. After qualifying, I began to teach in a High School. Every pupil must study philosophy in their final year at school. During my first few years as a teacher I came across a Bible for the first time in my life. I began to read – devour – this amazing book. I understood that I was a sinner and that I could receive forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the Cross. ‘I started attending church every Sunday morning, thanks to their website. I was made most welcome and grew in my faith. Having understood the need to be baptised, I started to attend discipleship classes. My wife, although unconverted, asked if she could also come. Through these Bible studies, she also got converted and asked for baptism. ‘What a joy to be baptised together on the last Sunday of 2019. Although all the members of our families refused to attend, we were thrilled to obey the Lord in front of over 100 people in our church. During my first few years as a teacher I came across a Bible for the first time in my life. I began to read – devour – this amazing book. ‘Since I was to teach atheistic philosophies to my pupils, I felt less and less at ease in my job. I decided to study for another degree to teach French literature. The Lord has opened a door in another nearby town. We moved this summer and live close to friends from our church and nearer to the place where I work. Meanwhile, my wife is a busy mother of three young children.’ Pray for France: for this historically Catholic country, which often displays indifference or hostility towards organised religion for young people to encounter the saving grace of the risen Lord Jesus and for their lives to be transformed for Christians who are serving through church planting, friendship evangelism, outreach to immigrants and many other ministries.
In this war-torn, hungry and weary land, Yemeni people long for true peace. Here is one story from this nation. Fawzia* grew up fasting and praying as a dutiful Muslim, but she never felt that her fasting and prayer connected her to God. As the years passed, she got married and then divorced. She had two children and suffered to raise them. She prayed to God a lot and did everything she knew to get closer to God and to get Him to respond to her prayers. But the road kept getting tougher until she could barely see any hope at all. She began to hate God, religion and people, and even hated herself. Fawzia would wake up before sunrise to prepare her children for school and then head to her workplace. At night she’d return home exhausted with barely enough to feed her children. She asked questions that she couldn’t find convincing answers to. ‘Why does God like to torture me? Why do my children go to sleep deprived and crying? Why don’t I feel an inner peace? Why do I feel that I’m not on the right path? Why am I afraid of the unknown and of tomorrow?’ While she was asking all these questions, she began to browse the Internet on her phone until she came across a verse on a Yemeni Christian Facebook Page that stopped her: ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’ (Mt. 11:28). She read it again and again, and with every reading she felt the years of pain and sadness being erased from her exhausted soul. Her inner turmoil was being replaced with peace and reassurance. The next night, before she went to sleep, she checked her phone again. That night she wasn’t complaining as she normally did or resenting her circumstances and poverty. She felt only tranquillity and peace in her soul. Her inner turmoil was being replaced with peace and reassurance The third night she read even more, and she got to know more about God. He touched her tired soul and made her rest and took her heavy burden and gave her peace, comfort and hope. The Facebook Follow-Up team started to disciple her and study the Word with her. We pray that God will continue His work in Fawzia’s heart. *name changed to protect identity Pray for Yemen: for the people of Yemen, who have suffered much over the past decade from civil war, cholera and famine for more Yemeni people like Fawzia to find the true peace of salvation for the small, Yemeni church facing persecution and for ways to reach people with the gospel, using radio, TV or social media.
Slovenia is a challenging mission field. It has been said, ‘The soil is so dry that, if you spit on it, you make a difference.’ Globally, it is one of the countries with the smallest percentage of believers; there are more believers in Bristol than in the whole of Slovenia. At 17 years old, Sebastian heard of an evangelical church in Ljubljana and visited with his mother, who was Czech and a strong Catholic. Sebastian was impressed by the joy and contentment in those he met. After three months both he and his mother were converted. While Sebastian served in the army for nine months, God put a burden on his heart for the youth of his country. He was involved in youth work in his local church in Ljubljana while working as a postman. He had been shy but his work transformed him into a more outgoing person. As a young man Sebastian had a brain aneurism. The medics said they could promise nothing but, amazingly, he fully recovered. This has been a great witness to his non-Christian friends. Sebastian was impressed by the joy and contentment in those he met. Sebastian met and married Gloria in 2002, after which they spent two years at Belfast Bible College training to be equipped for God’s work in Slovenia. When they returned, they moved to a new town, Radovljica, to start a youth ministry. From this group they planted an evangelical church in an area where there were no believers. Sebastian and his wife have a heart to reach the northwest region of Slovenia, home to 200,000 people. Pray for Slovenia: for Sebastian and Gloria as they reach out to the northwest region of Slovenia for humble, patient mission workers who are needed to plant churches in unreached areas that the local church and mission workers will serve together to reach the 2 million Slovenians who have not yet heard the gospel. Want to read more about Slovenia? Read our full article here.
Today’s story is shared with us by Brian and Debbie Howden serving in Angola. They are involved in Bible teaching, evangelism, Emmaus work, printing and the running of Camundambala Primary School. One of the students from this school tells his testimony. Horano says, ‘I started attending Camundambala Primary School in 2008; I was nine years old and could not read or write. At first, I was happy to go to school but I soon started getting bored and skipping lessons. My parents were continually called to the school to explain why I was missing lessons. My parents decided to take me to school each day but after an hour or so, I would run away. I spent my time fighting, stealing and doing many other bad things, whether I was in school or not. Sadly, I even fought with my teacher in school. ‘Thankfully, the school had teachers that were patient and loving, even with delinquents like me, and they never gave up trying to teach me. This caused me to think, “Why do they still want to teach me even when I’m so naughty?” So, I tried to make an effort and go to school but I kept making excuses and skipping lessons. ‘Before starting lessons, we read the Bible each day. This caused me to be curious and gave me a desire to learn the Word of God. I decided to attend Sunday school and from there I began to hear the gospel. I realised that God did not like my sin and that whoever did not believe in the Lord Jesus was lost forever. This began to affect me and I decided to no longer practise the things that dominated my life. In 2014, having completed 6th grade, I finally trusted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. It was at Camundambala Primary School where I was loved, where I learnt to read and write, where I heard the Word of God and, where as a result, I believed the gospel and my life changed completely. I was 16 years old and I will forever give thanks to God for the privilege He gave me to learn His Word.’ I believed the gospel and my life changed completely Brian and Debbie: ‘We started giving Horano odd jobs to do in the garden when he was 14 years old and still causing trouble at school, in an effort to draw near to him and help. Horano has become a tremendous help in the practical work needed around the school. He has learnt a lot from skilled tradesmen from the UK who have visited us over the years. Recently, he single-handedly installed electricity in 34 houses, supplying power each night for his community using a generator that we provided. He has also proved to be very capable at mechanics and is now responsible for maintaining the vehicles that we use day by day. He is now 21 years old and active in the local assembly. Pray for Horano, that he [...]
Welcome to Egypt for our Advent calendar today, where we visit Hadad and his family. They have been helped through a Bright Hope World project, supporting local churches in Egypt. Life for Hadad* was very difficult as he grew up in Upper Egypt. His family were very poor and with his five brothers and sisters he struggled to get to school. When he was quite young his father died and he was sent to Cairo to live with his uncle. Life was tough there too, with many mouths to feed and not enough money to go around. Hadad’s family was Christian and, when it was time leave school, there were few jobs available. He always found others getting the job ahead of him and he lost heart and became very sad. Finally, when he was 15, a man from his church gave him a job working in his vegetable stall. Hadad was a good salesman and did very well at the job. By the time he was 17, he had his own stall. He gave his life to Jesus during that period and, soon after that, met Phoebe,* the girl who would become his wife. Fifteen years later, Hadad is married with three children. About three years ago he got a loan from a programme organised by his church and started a business ironing clothes. The business went well and grew quickly, and he quickly paid back his loan. A year later he took out a second loan and purchased some washing machines and a dryer. This has boosted his business and recently he told us with pride and dignity in his eyes that he was ‘a businessman’. Every day he thanks God for his family and for the church that loved him enough to share resources with him. Hadad’s life is very different from what he imagined it would be as a boy. He thought he would never own anything and would be as poor as others in his family. But he is now able to send his children to school and look after them well. He sends money to support his mother and other family members. His wife does not have to work full time, and she can focus on caring for the children. Hadad is an active member of his church and loves to tell the children about Jesus. His eldest son, Samy,* comes to work with him in his spare time and during vacations. There are large festivals from time to time in Egypt, and Hadad is very busy during those times. Christmas is a big event, even though most people in Egypt are Muslims. During the Christmas season, it is possible to tell anyone about Jesus, and Hadad makes the most of those opportunities. Samy is very proud of his father and the business and hopes one day to become a schoolteacher. Hadad smiles as he thinks about this and the way God is blessing their family. Every day he thanks God for his family [...]
A prisoner trapped in bondage, convicted of train robbery and facing 15 years of imprisonment. Read John Derks’ story of incarceration in a Zimbabwean prison: ‘How many times have you been given a second chance? We would yearn for such an opportunity, yet we are often wary of giving others one – especially if the person has committed theft or murder. How likely is it then, that we would give an ex-convict a second chance? ‘In 1983, my wife of 17 years, Sheila, had filed for divorce on grounds of cruelty and shortly afterwards I was convicted of train robbery. That dreadful day, as I stood before the judge, I could barely lift my face out of shame and fear of seeing the distress on my aged mother’s face. I was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. I heard cries from my family as the handcuffs bit into my wrists and officers led me away.’ Broken ‘At Khami Maximum Prison we were marched down a narrow corridor. The heavy steel doors opened and then banged shut. I found myself in a small, dark cell covered in the scribbles of former inmates. On the floor was a thin mat with filthy grey blankets and a bed pan. This was to be my new home. Under such conditions, sleep was rare and the daily routine was often interrupted by screams. My emotions were beyond anything I had ever felt and I sometimes wanted to end it all. Did I deserve this torment for stealing? ‘One morning, two guards took me to a pleasant-looking young man who instructed the guards to remove my restraints. For the first time since coming to this place, I felt like a human being and not an animal. On his desk lay a newspaper with the headline, ‘National Railways of Zimbabwe Train Saboteur Jailed’, and I was pictured in handcuffs and leg irons. This man said, “Fifteen years in prison can almost be an eternity, depending on how you use that time … I feel led to assist you in ensuring that your time is not wasted here … I propose to transfer you to Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare because it has education facilities and other programmes that may help you.” ‘I entered Chikurubi a broken and dejected man. Here we spent most of our time locked down, except for a 30-minute break every second day in an open courtyard for exercise. The only form of entertainment was playing cards made out of cigarette packs. The 29 prisoners in our cell related their stories, some of which were gruesome. The offender often showed no remorse, the victims did not seem to matter. ‘Every three months, the regional magistrate visited to hear grievances. One prisoner requested reading materials and the magistrate agreed. I got an old, battered Gideon Bible, with not more than 60 pages. Although disgruntled by its condition, I casually began to read those few soiled pages.’ A New Dawn ‘Then came the day. The sun was [...]
Not many outsiders get to travel to the remote and mainly Buddhist region of Tibet, but that’s where we get to visit today as part of our Advent calendar. Read how one man’s testimony changed the lives of many. Sonam* travelled from his Tibetan village, perched on the Himalayan mountains, to the city to attend Buddhist school. He left his wife and family behind and set about preparing himself to become a lama (Buddhist priest). While studying, Sonam met a Christian man and started hearing the gospel for the first time. He was confused about the different things he was learning about Buddhism and Christianity. He soon met a second Christian who told the same story as the first and Sonam decided that he needed to understand Christianity. He took a two-month break from his studies to investigate the gospel more seriously. Sonam put his faith in Jesus Christ and never returned to Buddhist school. He then volunteered to work in a Christian children’s home. Sonam returned to his village and was keen to share his new discovery with them. The villagers knew that he was now a Christian and would not allow him to come home. So Sonam went back the city. Some of the villagers were unable to keep their children and Sonam soon had four children living with him. It was at this point that Sonam met a Christian mission organisation. They found he was unable to support himself but was caring for these children. He was also going back to his village, taking clothes and medicine, and trying to take the gospel as well – without success. The mission agency had recordings in Sonam’s own language. Sonam returned to his village with medicine, old clothes, and this time with recordings in his village’s own language, along with picture books to illustrate the message. Hearing the good news in their own language, the villagers welcomed Sonam home and listened with great interest. It was the first time he had been welcomed back. The villagers gave him a place to stay. They were so keen to have their own MP3 players and picture books that they traded eggs and chickens to get their own copy of the gospel message from him. Sonam went back to his village soon afterwards with vegetable seeds, clothes, medicine, and more recordings and picture books. Donkeys were hired for the long and arduous trek along narrow mountain trails. Two donkeys lost their footing and fell off the trail – they and their loads were never seen again. Sonam put his faith in Jesus Christ and never returned to Buddhist school. They arrived in the village and were welcomed along with their cargo. People continued to hear the good news with great interest. Soon the chief lama realised that Sonam was bringing Christianity into his village. He was angry with Sonam, and once more he was banished from the village. However, 11 young men wanted to learn more. They left the village and met [...]
We’re in Mozambique today, with Augusto, who shares his personal testimony and how an accident as a teenager led him to care for other people with disabilities through the Helping Hands ministry. Pray for Mozambique: that people in Mozambique would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, to understand that He is the only way, the truth and life that the church in Mozambique would be strengthened by godly leaders, by men and women who are active in serving their Lord and Saviour that people with disabilities would know that they are not forgotten but loved by their Creator and that the church serving people with disabilities would see something of the heart of God for those so often rejected by the rest of the world.
A Covid-19 story from Christian Missions in Many Lands (CMML) today, as we follow Echoes International mission partner Rosemary Sheldon’s coronavirus illness during 2020. ‘My greatest joy in life is serving God. My husband, Colin, and I are full-time workers in Dublin, Ireland. Colin is an elder in our assembly, and for the past 22 years, he has taught Bible Explorer to children, ages 10 to 12, in primary schools. I help with the women’s ministry in our assembly and, for the past 17 years, I have been involved in ladies’ Bible studies in the assembly and with a local group of women. A troubling diagnosis ‘For many years, I have suffered from chronic lung disease, Sjogren’s Disease. I must be careful not to get sick. If I do, I need an antibiotic, extra steroids, a nebuliser and, more than likely, a five-day stay in the hospital because it affects my lungs. Near the end of 2019, Colin and I praised the Lord that I had not been in the hospital that year. But, on 28 December 2019, an ambulance rushed me to the hospital because I had trouble breathing. After five days, the hospital sent me home, and I didn’t start to recover until the end of January. ‘By early March, the Covid-19 pandemic reached Ireland, so I decided to self-isolate. On 23 March I didn’t feel well, and the doctor prescribed antibiotics. I didn’t improve, and on 26 March the doctor suggested I go to the emergency room. After a few tests, the doctor felt I didn’t need to stay, so I went home. That night, my condition deteriorated, and I showed Covid-19 symptoms. ‘The next morning, the doctor sent me back to the Accident and Emergency department, and I tested positive for Covid-19. I sent Colin a message telling him not to worry because I was in God’s hands. The amazing thing was during my brief time in A&E, a young Christian doctor whom we both know came and prayed with me. When God is in control, we can trust Him, even if the way is difficult. When God is in control, we can trust Him, even if the way is difficult. A worsening condition ‘The diabetic consultant told me how serious my condition was. I remember responding, “If I recover from Covid-19, it is all for God’s glory, and should God decide to call me home, I have a place ready and waiting for me to be with Him.” ‘On Sunday, I watched a televised church service, and the preacher spoke on the revived dry bones in Ezekiel 37 and Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. As I thought through the message, it was as if God said, “I will bring you through this.” By Tuesday 31 March my condition had deteriorated more, and the medical staff put me on a five-day drug programme. The doctor phoned Colin to explain my situation. A healed woman ‘Colin called Echoes International and MSC Canada for [...]
Welcome to the Philippines today for our 2nd Advent testimony. The Philippines is a unique and colourful place. To the casual visitor, the Philippines appears a wonderfully happy place to live, but there is rampant poverty, corruption at every level of society, natural disasters and other challenges that the people face daily. Many young women turn to religion for help, but in a metropolis like Manila, it is not easy to find the narrow way that leads to everlasting life (Mt. 7:13-14). Here, one Philippine young woman, Ren, shares her story: ‘I was born to hard-working parents and raised in Tondo, Manila. Due to the nature of their work and our financial need, my parents were rarely home and I was raised by my grandparents. I grew up shy, finding things to do within the home and was around seven when I was first exposed to pornographic material. ‘Family life was difficult. Though my parents did the best they possibly could to financially provide, the few times we spent together were times of non-stop fighting with abusive language thrown around. Shouting and fits of rage became the norm. For years I locked myself in my room or threw myself into my grandparents’ embrace, crying in anguish each time a rare family dinner would turn into a war-zone, sometimes with furniture being thrown. ‘As I grew up, my loneliness and hurt turned into hidden rebellion and I began what would become more than a decade of immorality and sexual promiscuity. Desperate, I even contemplated taking my life. ‘In the darkest time of my life, I begged the God of all creation to prove Himself to me. I wanted to know if He was real and to show me that life was still worth living. Sure enough, the Lord answered. Shortly after I challenged God, an acquaintance invited me to a retreat. Hesitant but running out of options, I went along. It was then that I heard the Lord speaking directly to me. I felt the void in my heart being filled and my biggest questions being answered. ‘Understanding Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross for someone like me both broke my heart and changed the way I saw my life. God’s sinless Son allowed Himself to be beaten, spat on and nailed to the Cross to die in the place of sinners, so that I could be saved. I felt both unworthy and deeply loved. It was then I made the decision to repent of the sin I had committed against my body, against others and ultimately against the Lord, and accept God’s gift of salvation. I committed to leave the old life that I had tried desperately to control and welcomed the start of a new, full life in Christ. Since then, my life has never been the same. I felt both unworthy and deeply loved. ‘Today, only and unimaginably by God’s grace, I am smoke-, alcohol- and drug-free, pursuing a life of purity. I am blessed to be plugged [...]
It is often challenging to be a Christian in the Middle East. Today, we hear from a Christian leader called Hassan,* who was sent to prison because of his ministry leading others to Christ. Here, he shares of his experiences in prison. ‘In prison with me was one of the worst, most restless prisoners, a man named Reza.* He was a murderer and was soon to be executed. He was very wild, uncontrollable and bad-mouthed, a real nuisance to everyone and no one liked him. When I spoke to him about Christ, he observed a spirit of love and peace in me. He exclaimed in a loud voice: “My friend, what are you doing here? How come a good person like you is here? I have committed murder and deserve to be here, but what have you done?” ‘I immediately said: “I am in here just for you, so that today you can hear the gospel and be saved and set free!” Tearfully Reza embraced me and said, “Do you think God puts such value on a bad, wicked person like me that He would send someone like you as His representative to me?”’ He was told the story of the lost sheep and how the angels in Heaven rejoiced over this one sheep that had been lost, but was now found. He was also told the story of the thief on the Cross and how, in the last moments of his life, he committed himself to Christ and was told that today he would enter the Kingdom of God. Reza embraced Hassan again, saying loudly and with tears: ‘Please pray for me and help me to find salvation like that thief.’ That day, Reza fully committed himself to Christ and received the new birth. His behaviour, speech and even his appearance changed. Reza was grateful to the Lord that He had sent Hassan to the prison for the salvation of such an unworthy sinner like himself. He also apologised to the other prisoners for his behaviour and gave his testimony to all of them. Then, after two days, he was transferred to another prison where he was executed the following day. But that is not the end of the story! A few years later, another Christian leader met up with a believer named Masood,* who turned out to be Reza’s brother. Masood’s Story ‘When Hassan was in prison he witnessed to my brother, Reza, who had been sentenced to death for murder. Two days before his execution, Reza became a believer and found salvation. On the day of his execution, as a family we were granted permission to see him. The rest of the family were not willing to actually witness the execution, but I went to see him and spent some time with him alone. ‘Contrary to how I thought I would find him, worried and upset, he was very peaceful, and greeted me with a smile and a face full of hope. I wanted to comfort him [...]
Our mission partners Heber and Fiona work in Argentina, evangelising, training, producing resources and church planting. Read how Luis and Isabel were reached by the gospel through their ministry. Luis’ sister is a Christian and asked a man in her assembly if he knew of anyone who could visit her brother in Paraná. He called us to see if we could go. We met Luis, aged 26 and Isabel, aged 23 for the first time on Saturday 18 May this year. They have four children (two are his, one is hers and one in common). They received us into their house and we were able to preach the gospel. Isabel gave her life to the Lord that very day, as she had some biblical knowledge but Luis didn’t know anything about Christianity, even who Adam and Eve, Moses, etc, were. They both came along to our Family Service on Sunday and at the end Luis said to Heber: “I don’t understand much but this repenting and being saved seems important”. After talking for a while with Heber, Luis also accepted the Lord as Saviour. They received us into their house and we were able to preach the gospel Since May, we have visited them once a week with a Bible story, presenting different aspects of the Christian life. They are reading the Scriptures and anxious to be obedient in baptism and serve in the church, but they realised they needed to be married first, so they got some dates in place: 20 December - civil wedding 21 December - ceremony in the church hall 22 December - baptisms (today) All their idea!! Another testimony of the Lord's Grace, and a reminder that discipleship takes time but is worthwhile! Pray: for Luis and Isabel, as they start their married life, get baptised today and commit their lives to the Lord together for the Argentinian church leaders and elders, as they evangelise and disciple new believers for the church, as they reach out to the many people in Argentina who are living in poverty, in city slums.
Today, we share a testimony from Forum Wiedenest, a Christian charity which aims to carry God’s love into the world and support Christian communities. This story tells of a Muslim refugee in Germany, who worked as an imam, but who found Christ! Achmed* is now a fruitful disciple-maker in Germany. His story is a miracle. Originally, he was sent out as an imam from an Asian country to start new mosques in Europe. He worked in a European capital and was successful over the years in planting two mosques. But he became more and more dissatisfied with his own religion. He experienced Christians totally differently than he was told about at home. As he was searching for truth and talked with a lot of people, the biggest change happened in his life when he had two dreams about Jesus. These were so powerful that he went to church, got a Bible and became a follower of Christ. Back in his country of origin his family became very upset about his change of religion, as his father is a well-known mullah. His relatives hired a murderer who tried to kill him three times. But Achmed survived all attempts and later fled as a refugee to Germany. Even here radical Muslims tried to kill him in a refugee home when he shared the gospel. He recovered after two weeks of intensive care in hospital and was welcomed by a German church to be their guest. For three years he worked in a restaurant to earn a living and faithfully went to church services like other Christians do. But then the Lord spoke to him again: ‘Achmed, what is your real calling? Have I called you just to fill a seat in a church on Sunday mornings? What are you doing with your talents?’ He remembered the times when he was planting mosques. And then he felt the calling of the Lord to become a church planter. But there was a challenge: refugees move around the country even after receiving asylum. Many churches were lamenting: ‘We invested so much time in reaching out to refugees, they even were baptised and came to church, but now they are gone. And we as a church don’t see the fruit of our work.’ But then the Lord spoke to him again: ‘Achmed, what is your real calling?' Achmed got an idea: if refugees don’t come to church, the church needs to come to them. He started a project called ‘the moving church’.* His perspective is that any refugee as a new follower of Christ, when he moves to another city, can become a bridgehead at that place for a new church plant. He also faced the challenge that quite a number of refugees are repatriated to their countries of origin, like Afghanistan or Iran. When they have experienced the common way of church life in Germany, they will think that if a church needs a building and a congregation of 50 to 100 people, then they can’t [...]
An isolated island 400 kilometres from the coast of East Africa, Madagascar suffers from poverty and the majority of people practise old folk religions. This story comes from Bright Hope World, a Christian-based humanitarian organisation working in partnership with indigenous people, which has a vision to see the poorest of the poor become spiritually and physically self-sustaining. Sonia’s mother was 15 years old when Sonia* was born. She has four sisters and four brothers. Her father’s third wife is younger than her. She grew up in a little village in the south of the country. At 14 years of age Sonia was married. Her husband involved her in witchcraft and she began to suffer with demon possession. She had constant visions of demons in her head and this blurred her vision. Sometimes they struck her down and threw her to the ground. She became fearful and always had to have someone with her for protection. Then, one day a team of Christians visited her village and she heard a woman share her testimony. This was the first time she had heard about God. She wanted to know more and soon became a Christian. When she told her husband she did not want to be involved with witchcraft any more he became very angry. He had given the witchdoctor a lot of money over an extended period of time. But, despite her husband’s anger, Sonia threw away the necklace-charm the witchdoctor had given her, and her life changed completely. Her bad dreams ceased. This was the first time she had heard about God. She wanted to know more and soon became a Christian. At first Sonia’s husband was supportive, but he became hostile as she was constantly sharing the gospel. Frustrated, he told her he had married her to look after him and then returned her to her parents. They welcomed her home and were very thankful she was healed and not with her husband’s family who had been persecuting her. Sonia now stays in town with the Christian team and is completing an internship with them. She makes regular visits back to her village to share what God is doing in her life and teaching her through the Scripture that she loves. Her 15-year-old brother now leads the small study Bible study in the village. Sonia has been taking sewing classes and would like to own a sewing machine so she could start her own business. She is so happy to be free and wants many more to come to Jesus. *name changed to protect identity Pray: for people in rural areas, like Sonia, to hear about the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ for growing churches to disciple young people in biblical truths for the leadership of the country to help lift their country out of poverty.