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Be Inspired by Those Who Came Before Us: Paul

Paul escaping prison

According to church tradition, June 29 is the date on which the Apostle Paul was beheaded on the Appian Way in Rome. This year, on the weekend closest to June 29, Christians around the world will gather to honor the legacy of those who, like the Apostle Paul, sacrificed their lives for the advancement of the gospel.

Paul: God’s Courageous Apostle
A review by Elise Wixtrom, KOC youth reviewer.
The book is part of The Voice of the Martyrs’ Courageous Series. The six books in the series are available at vombooks.com.

The apostle Paul was not always called Paul, nor did he begin his relationship with Christianity as an apostle. Paul, born Saul, was a Roman citizen by right of his Jewish parents, who were most likely granted citizenship by their former slave master. Paul became a Pharisee as his career. Jewish leaders at the time advised those under their jurisdiction to leave the Christians alone and to let them die out. But Paul pursued new converts to Christ with a furious, deadly energy.

Paul held an unmatched hate in his heart toward the Christian faith. But that all changed when he headed to Damascus to arrest Christians in their house churches and secret gatherings. Paul was nearing the city when a bright light flashed into his vision, and he fell to the ground.

He heard a voice ask, “Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the voice replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Saul stood up, but when he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see anything. He had to cancel his mission to arrest Christians in the area and instead was guided to a house in Damascus.

Meanwhile, a man named Ananias who lived in Damascus was praying to God. Suddenly Jesus appeared to him and told him to visit the Pharisee called Saul and that through Ananias, this man would regain his sight. Ananias, with apprehension, obeyed God’s words and visited the house where Saul was staying.

Saul, after being visited by Ananias, regained his sight and immediately stopped persecuting the early Church. In fact, he became a strong Christian and began a mission that would continue until his death at the hands of the Roman government.

Before Paul’s death, he was shipwrecked, imprisoned, stoned, and chased out of cities and synagogues. All the while, he did not ever hesitate to tell those around him about the Gospel of Christ. The Apostle Paul also wrote many letters to the early Church that are now translated and make up much of the New Testament.

Paul’s story of redemption reminds us that no matter who we are, God can do great things if we give our lives to His purpose. It also reminds us that no matter what a person has done, they can always be redeemed through God’s grace.


New Ways to Share

Syrian dad and son

Todd Nettleton of VOM Radio recently talked with Brother John, a Christian worker in Syria. Read part of their conversation below. (Edited for length, clarity, and age-appropriateness.)

Todd: What does the coronavirus mean for life in your country? How is it affecting the church?

Brother John: Well Todd, it has been really interesting to see how the Middle Eastern world and Syria responded to the coronavirus. Their culture is a culture of honor and shame.

So if somebody has the coronavirus they tend to hide it. For one thing, they don’t want to bring shame to the community or to be the weak link in the community. They don’t tend to get tested; they just tend to hide it.

From the church perspective it is really interesting to see how God has used this time. The church turned to house churches. People began to worship from home, they use social media like WhatsApp and Facebook, and the message has reached many more people. If you have a church of about 100 people and you are posting your message online and using social media, now you have more than 1,000 people listening.

Todd: A lot of the people would never go to a church because that would bring shame on them and their family. But in the privacy of their own home, watching a service on social media or watching a service online, they don’t have to deal with that shame issue because they are cut off from everyone else. People are being exposed to the gospel that would not have been exposed before the coronavirus came.

Brother John: There are more chances for them to share with their neighbor right now. They are going to their neighbor, they are praying with their neighbors, and the neighbors are watching their faith. They get to share why they are not afraid. Then their neighbors say, “Tell me more about your faith.”

That is opening doors for people to share within their own community about the Lord. It opens the door for people who are afraid of going to a church because of honor and shame.

To Talk About
Why are more people in Syria hearing the Good News of Jesus?
Why do some people in the Middle East keep it a secret when they get sick?
Why do their neighbors ask to learn more about their faith?
How would you answer if someone asked you to tell them more about your faith?


“Home Jail”

East Africa

You have heard about parents who homeschool their children, but have you ever heard about kids being home jailed?

Many Christians live on Tanzania’s mainland. But more than 95 percent of the people on Tanzania’s Zanzibar Island are Muslims.

Some youth on Zanzibar are learning the good news that they can have a relationship with God through faith in His son, Jesus. They have found out that God sent Jesus to save the lost from sin. And they are deciding to trust Jesus as their Savior.

Muslim parents want to make sure that their Christian family members return to Islam. The parents believe that their children should be severely punished for turning to Jesus.

But to show how loving they are, some Muslim parents do not hit the children. Instead, they force them to stay inside — all the time. Most people would not think keeping children inside is showing love, but Muslim the parents believe it is.

“Many youth have been denied permission to go to school, just because they changed their faith,” a Christian in Zanzibar reported. “Many are not allowed to go outdoors. Their parents tell them they must return to Islam quickly if they want to be free. If they can’t escape, their house will be their lifetime home jail.”

 


Myanmar: David’s Story

(The story and headline below come from Stef, the children’s publication of SDOK, a ministry that is part of The Voice of the Martyrs’ family of missions. The headline is in Dutch, the language of the Netherlands. The story, told by a boy named David, has been translated from Dutch.  On Father’s Day, remember David, his sister, and other children who hope to someday be as brave as their courageous fathers.)

My Father Loved the Lord Jesus Very Much
My father went to a Bible study. Buddhist monks waited for him and kidnapped him. My father used to be a Buddhist. The monks did not like that he believed in the Lord Jesus.

He was missing for four days. Then my family found him in the forest. The monks had attacked him because he loved the Lord Jesus, and he died. My mother Daw Cherry, two-year-old sister, Aye Nan, and I remained. My mother could only find work in China, so Aye Nan and I had to go to an orphanage!

Thankfully, we received help! We have a new house, furniture, and a water filter for clean water. My mother received a sewing machine so that she can sew clothes to sell. We also got vegetable seed for the garden. And the best part: chickens! Now we have a nice fresh egg every morning, and we can live at home again because my mother can now take care of us! She no longer needs to go to China to work.

I am sad that my father is no longer on earth, but I know that he lives with the Lord. I hope to be just as brave as he is later.
From David (7 years old)


Sara: Still Thankful

A previous post told the story of Sara Gomez, a 14-year-old in Colombia. Searching for meaning in her life, Sara joined a violent group called FARC. [Photo: A FARC fighter]

After a time, Sara left the group. She got married, had four children, and finally found meaning in following Christ. Today she shares the gospel with youth and others who need to hear the Good News of Jesus.

Lockdown Problems
Recently, FARC members took advantage of the lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis. They decided to find and attack former members of FARC who had left the group and had become Christians. They knew that fewer soldiers were on duty during the lockdown, so probably no one would stop their search. FARC members began going from house to house to look for Christians.

Sara and her family quickly fled the area. They are sleeping in a church until it is safe to go home. Sara told a VOM worker that she is thankful because “she has not been hungry or without shelter.”

To Think About
Can you find things to be thankful for in hard times?