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Valentine Stories

Valentine’s Day is celebrated every year on February 14. But why? Many buy cards and candied hearts and do not know there was a man named Valentine. Who was the man behind this holiday that has become known for cupid, chocolate, roses, and love notes saying, “Be my Valentine?”
(Source: The Story of St. Valentine: More Than Cards and Candied Hearts)

Christian history describes several men named Valentine (or Valentinus), and even a women named Valentina. Legends tell about the courage of a Valentine who died for his faith on February 14th. The legends encourage Christians to boldly stand up for Jesus in the face of struggles.

Valentine and the Emperor
One of the legends tells of a harsh Roman emperor, Claudius. The emperor conquered tribes that tried to invade Rome. But more and more tribes were becoming a threat. Claudius needed more soldiers, but few men wanted to leave their wives and families to serve as soldiers for 25 years.
So Claudius made a law against weddings! If men did not marry, they would be more willing to be soldiers.

Young men and women who were engaged were heartbroken.

Valentinus (Valentine) secretly joined couples in marriage. “Marriage was God’s idea!” he said. “No emperor can hinder what God created!”

Valentinus was arrested, and just like Christians in many countries today, he continued to speak the truth ever after his arrest.

The Story of St. Valentine: More Than Cards and Candied Hearts is available at VOMBooks.com.

Read more stories about Valentine here  and here.


Unwelcome Visitors

Robert Thomas was a missionary to China, but he also wanted to go to Korea and share the gospel with Koreans who had never heard of Jesus. When Thomas heard about an American who was sailing to Korea to buy and sell goods, he offered to serve as a translator.

Thomas had learned some Korean while on another short visit to Korea. The captain agreed to take Thomas aboard, and the ship sailed into the Yellow Sea, then up a Korean river toward Pyongyang. Thomas took a case of Bibles with him on the journey.

Korea was called “the hermit kingdom” because Koreans did not like visitors or traders from other countries. (A hermit is someone who lives alone and does not spend time with other people.) The captain hoped to change their minds. But the Koreans did not welcome the men on the ship. Thomas translated while the captain talked with Korean messengers.

After a time, their peaceful discussion turned to anger. Then the ship got stuck on a sandbar and could not leave. The Koreans threw rocks and burning sticks onto the ship, and the ship’s crew fired guns toward the Koreans.

Precious to the Lord
Thomas threw Bibles to the shore and tried to talk to the Koreans about making peace. He asked God to help him. Then the Koreans filled a small boat with tree branches and set them on fire. They pushed the boat toward Thomas’s ship, and the ship caught on fire. The ship’s crew jumped into the river as the ship began to sink. Thomas made it to shore with a Bible. When he saw that he was going to be killed, he held out the Bible to a Korean man and said, “Jesus, Jesus.”

Robert Thomas was 26 years old when he died. Some might say that his life was wasted. But God’s ways are not our ways. The Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

Years later, an American missionary visited a guesthouse in Korea and noticed unusual paper on the walls. Many guests came to the house to read the writing on the wallpaper. The owner of the house, Mr. Park, had covered the walls with pages of the Bible that Robert Thomas had offered to his killers. Mr. Park had also read the walls and given his life to Christ. Mr. Park’s nephew attended a Bible college, and he later helped complete a Korean translation of the Bible that was easier to understand than the Bible that the Koreans had been reading up to that time.

(Source: Restricted Nations:North Korea, available from VOMBooks.com.)

Watch a video clip about Robert Thomas here.

Learn more about Thomas and 15 other Christian heroes in The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book and DVD set, available at VOMBooks.com. The book includes 144 pages of stories, devotionals, challenging coloring pages, extreme dot-to-dots, crafts, and activities related to the 16 heroes on the accompanying Torchlighters DVDs.


North Korea: First Words

North Korean baby

What were the first words you learned as a baby? “Mama” or “Dada” are the first words of many babies.

“But that’s not really good in North Korea,” said Dr. Eric Foley, the president of VOM-Korea.

The government of North Korea expects people to follow the teachings of Juche (JOO-chay). Juche teaches that human beings are the masters of everything. (Learn more about Juche here.)

Citizens of North Korea must honor:
*Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s first leader, who died in 1994
*Kim Jong Il, Kim Il Sung’s son, who died in 2011
*And Kim Jong Un, Kim Il Sung’s grandson, who now leads the country.

According to Dr. Foley, 43,000 centers across North Korea teach Juche beliefs. And 100 percent of the people must be involved in honoring the leaders. Following Christ is not allowed.

So, if a North Korean baby’s first words are something like mama or dada, the baby’s parents might keep it secret. They don’t want government officials to think their family members are more important to them than the Kim family. If friends ask about the baby’s first words, the parents will often not tell the truth. They will say, instead, that the baby’s words were words from Juche teachings.

(Source: VOMRadio.net)

Pray that North Korean babies will learn that Jesus loves them.


Refusing to Bow

Statue of a North Korean leader

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were zealous for the Lord. The king in their land set up a giant statue of himself and commanded everyone to bow to the image. (See Daniel 3.)

But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God had said: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” (Exodus 20:4-5a).

The three friends were more zealous for the Lord than for their own safety. They refused to bow to the statue, even though the king threatened to throw them in a fiery furnace. In obedience to God and trusting in His wisdom, they went to the furnace. (Read what they said in Daniel 3:17-18.) God miraculously saved them from harm.

Sometimes God is glorified when martyrs die for their faith in Him. At other times He is glorified when He delivers people from the hands of their persecutors. Our lives are in His hands.

In the 1930s when Japan was ruling over Korea, the rulers ordered citizens to bow to Shinto idols. (Shinto is a Japanese religion that does not agree with the Bible.) The rulers said even students in Christian schools must bow. The leaders of the school, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow, and many Christian schools closed.

Today in North Korea, the people are expected to bow to statues of their leaders and to honor them as gods. Zealous North Korean Christians are in prison, trusting God with their future, because they honor God above all.

To Talk About
• Were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego delivered from the flames because they had more faith than people who die for Christ? Or was their deliverance simply the way God wanted to use their testimony?
• Read Proverbs 3:5. Can you trust God when you don’t know what will happen as a result? Can you trust Him when you don’t always understand how He is working in others’ lives when they are having hard times?

(Source: The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book, available from VOMBooks.com)


Can Your Faith Be a Secret?

Do you bow your head and close your eyes when you pray? Do you know why Christians customarily do so? Many Christians believe bowing their heads and closing their eyes shows respect and humility, and helps those who pray become less distracted.

But in North Korea today, believers can go to prison if they are caught praying to God. So sometimes they pray with their eyes open to keep others from knowing what they are doing. They may look at the person they are with as if they are having a conversation with them. And instead of referencing God, they may use a phrase like “Dear Leader.” (“Dear Leader” is a title used for former leader Kim Il Sung. In this case, Christians are using the title to talk secretly about God.)

Instead of bowing their heads and closing their eyes, they might look at the person sitting next to them and say, “I am so concerned about Sister Kim, who is sick. But I am thankful that our Dear Leader will show special care for her as she needs love and attention.”

What do you think?
• Is it okay for North Koreans to pray without bowing their heads and closing their eyes?
• Is it okay if they are very careful to share their faith with only a few people who might be open to hearing the gospel?
• Is it ever okay to keep your faith secret when Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven”? (See Matthew 10:32-33, ESV.)

(Source: The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book, available from VOMBooks.com)


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