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Hajj 2012

Al-Haram mosque

Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is a holy city to Muslims. By law, non-Muslims may not enter the city. Highway signs direct non-Muslims to exit before reaching it.

Once a year, Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca for a pilgrimage called “the Hajj,” which happens during the Muslim calendar’s month of Zulhijjah. Muslims can go to Mecca for “the lesser pilgrimage,” known as “Umrah,” at other times during the year.

In 2012, the Hajj will occur in late October. The Hajj ritual lasts several days. As part of the ritual, visitors enter a large mosque and walk several times around the Kaaba, a cube about the size of a house. A special black stone is inside the Kaaba. The pilgrims kiss the stone or point to it.

Later the Hajj visitors gather pebbles to throw at walls. The walls are the symbol of Satan.

Muslims believe that Allah asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. (The Bible tells us in Genesis 22 that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.) Abraham, Ishmael, and Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, are remembered in the Hajj rituals.

For many Muslims, the Hajj is the high point of their lives.

Six-year-old Hamza, an American Muslim, said, “You go to the black stone and kiss it to take away all your bad deeds, and that gives you new life.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, and ask a mature Christian to explain the verses to you if you don’t understand them. How does the Bible say we receive “new life?”

Photo credit: Al Jazeera English / Wikipedia (CC BY SA 2.0)


The Story of Jesus in Pakistan

Pakistan

The Voice of the Martyrs recently distributed booklets that tell the story of Jesus to schoolchildren in Pakistan where most of the people are Muslim.

As you look at the photos of some of the children, pray for all who received the booklets.

Pakistan Pakistan Pakistan Pakistan Pakistan Pakistan

North Korea: Then and Now

Scripture balloons

Then
A story for children published by The Voice of the Martyrs in 1998, “North Korea: Christians Not Forgotten,” told about a girl in North Korea finding a Scripture balloon. Read the story below.

Soon Hee (not her real name) looked around her as she walked home from school. Like most North Korean children today, she had a lot on her mind. Floods and droughts have ruined the crops and many people have no food. The dogs, cats, and even rats have been eaten by the hungry people.

Suddenly Soon Hee saw something strange in her path. She had never seen anything so bright! Soon Hee took the big, shiny, orange square home to her mother. “Let’s take it to Grandmother,” her mother said. “Maybe she will understand what it means.”

Grandmother’s eyes were weak, so Mother read the words on the plastic square aloud while Soon Hee listened. Soon Hee watched Grandmother’s eyes fill with tears as Mother read words like “God” and “Jesus.” Finally Grandmother said quietly but joyfully, “I thought they had forgotten us.”

Soon Hee had found a Scripture balloon. Every year The Voice of the Martyrs launches the balloons from South Korea. Each balloon has over 200 Scripture verses telling North Koreans “How to Know God.” Christianity has been against the law in North Korea since before Soon Hee’s mother was born. Anyone found owning a Bible can go to jail for 15 years.

Like Soon Hee’s grandmother, many Christians there believe that no one outside of North Korea cares for them. Pray that North Korean Christians will know that their brothers and sisters in other lands care about them, and that North Koreans hungry for food will be fed.

Now
The Voice of the Martyrs is still sending Scripture balloons into North Korea. Read a story about today’s Scripture balloons here.

Children at a 2012 summer VBS in Kentucky raised money to help sponsor some of the balloons. They sent the following letter to VOM.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our VBS theme was “Super Heroes,” and thus our family of the persecuted church seemed the best choice for our mission project. We told stories from Kids of Courage and the VOM monthly magazine. The children were enthusiastic and curious, wanting to give. Our prayer is that these funds would go for…the helium Scripture balloons project.

Several of our kids are from Korea, so they are very excited to give the gospel to the people on North Korea. In Him, Grace E.


Tanzania: Eva Update

Eva

Eva, a 17-year-old Christian in Tanzania was sent to prison for two years. Muslims accused her of damaging a Quran. Read her story here and here.

The Voice of the Martyrs has received an update saying that a lawyer has agreed to help Eva. The lawyer has filed an appeal to the High Court of Tanzania. Eva hopes the High Court will change her prison sentence.

Please pray for Eva, her lawyer, and for Christians in Tanzania. Go to www.prisoneralert.com to find out how to write a letter of encouragement to Eva.


Faith More Precious Than Gold

Fire

A Christian from a Muslim country recently visited The Voice of the Martyrs. The visitor’s family has suffered from serious persecution by radical Muslims.

“There are lots of goldsmiths and silversmiths [where I live],” the visitor said. Goldsmiths and silversmiths work with precious metals. For the metals to be useful, they have to be refined. Refining takes away less pure substances and leaves the metal purer. Heat and fire are often part of the process.

“We don’t refine what is worthless,” said the visitor. “You only refine what is precious to you. God wants to refine our faith. He wants to make it purer and deeper. So maybe we need to prepare for more persecution.”

The visitor talked about 1 Peter 1:7 and 4:12–19. “First Peter 1:7 is about the testing and refining of our faith,” he said.

The verse explains that “trials” come so that our faith may be proved genuine. It says that our faith is more precious than gold. Gold can be destroyed even though it has been refined by fire.

First Peter 4:12 talks about the “fiery trials” that some Christians have to go through. The visitor says that after his family suffered persecution as Christians, “We are closer to what it really means to be a Christian.”

Read 1 Peter 4:12–19. What do these verses say about suffering?