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Bold Believers in Syria

Bold Believers in Syria includes stories, history and culture facts, activities, and recipes that help children understand the daily lives of people in a country where civil war has driven more than 750,000 Christians from the country. The 48-page book is available free from the Downloads section of this site.

Activities Story

Couscous

Couscous is a common food in North Africa. North Africans may serve couscous as a main dish with meat, vegetables, and sauce on top, or they might eat it as a dessert.

Try the couscous recipe below. Share the couscous with someone else. Tell them a story about North African Christians from recent posts on this site.

Instructions
Cook the couscous following the instructions on a package of couscous. Then mix in honey, cinnamon, and almonds, or sprinkle dates or figs on top.


Spotlight Story

Perpetua: What Do You Think?

(The story below and and the image of Perpetua and her friends are from The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book)

Like Cyprian (see the previous post), Perpetua lived during a time when Roman emperors persecuted Christians.

Perpetua and fellow believers bravely refused to participate in rituals that honored the emperor as if he were a god. A few decades after their death, a stricter emperor passed even harsher laws against Christians who refused to sacrifice to false gods.

Sometimes Christians who did not have the courage to oppose the emperor found ways to keep themselves out of trouble with Roman authorities. Anyone who sacrificed received a certificate stating that they had obeyed the law, so some paid their servants to go in their place and bring them back a certificate. Others bribed an official to get the certificate.

What do you think? Was it OK for some Christians to pretend to sacrifice to false gods in order to stay out of prison and continue taking care of their families? Why or why not?

Read Matthew 10:32. Could Perpetua and her friends have offered a small sacrifice to get out of prison and still believe in Jesus in their hearts?

Perpetua’s witness and courage brought many to Christ. Her story continues to challenge believers today to give themselves more fully to Him. If they had sacrificed, do you think others might have said, “Perpetua sacrificed to false gods and she’s still a Christian, so maybe I can do the same?” The Apostle Paul said, “Give no offense [or cause to stumble] to Jews or to Greeks, or to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32).

What do you think that verse means? How might it apply to the early Christians and sacrificing to false gods? Are there ways that Christians today can cause others to “stumble” by their actions (for example, doing careless work, repeating rude jokes, watching certain movies, or playing certain games)?

(Enter “Perpetua” in the Search box to read more stories about Perpetua.)


Spotlight Story

Cyprian: An Early Voice of the Martyrs

(Source: The March 2019 The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter. Photo: The Roman Empire’s Colosseum.)

Cyprian, a church leader in Carthage, had a decision to make. Should he stay in the city and face persecution, or flee to a safer place? He decided to flee.

Carthage was part of the Roman Empire in Cyprian’s time. The emperor, Decius, blamed Christians for wars, plagues, and a bad economy. To please the false Roman gods, he ordered all citizens to offer a sacrifice to the gods. He believed his empire would be better off if the gods were happy.

Everyone who made the sacrifice received a certificate to prove their loyalty to the gods. Some Christians paid others to make the sacrifice and to get a certificate for them. Others sacrificed, saying it was meaningless because the gods didn’t really exist anyway. But many Christians went to prison because they refused to sacrifice to idols.

From his safe place far away, Cyprian sent money, aid, encouragement, and other assistance to Christians living in places where they risked persecution. After a while, the persecution began to die down, and Cyprian returned to Carthage. He and other church leaders allowed Christians who had bought certificates, but not sacrificed, to return to the church. Those who sacrificed could return only if they proved their faith during future persecutions. Cyprian continued his work of sending aid to needy, sick, and persecuted Christians.

Several years later, a new emperor started another wave of persecution. This time, Cyprian did not flee. He was sentenced to death as an enemy of Roman gods and laws. When he heard the sentence, he responded, “Deo gratias!” (Latin for “Thanks be to God!”)

Cyprian died in the year 258.


What You Can Do Story

China: Remember Cao

On March 5, 2017 — two years ago today — Pastor John Cao was arrested. Cao is a Chinese pastor known for his work helping poor people in Myanmar (Burma). Pastor Cao is married to an American citizen, and they have two sons, Benjamin and Amos. He lives with his family in North Carolina when he is not on mission trips or in prison. You can read more about Pastor Cao here.

The story of his arrest and imprisonment is told on prisoneralert.com. If you want to write a letter of encouragement on the second anniversary of his arrest, the site also provides instructions for writing to Cao and other prisoners.

Please pray for Pastor Cao and his family.


Spotlight Story

Algeria: Chaima and Ali

Chaima and Ali now serve the Lord together.

Chaima had never met a Christian. Most of the people where she lived in Algeria followed Islam, the religion of Muslims. So how did Chaima decide to follow Jesus if she didn’t know any Christians and had never been to church? She listened to Christian radio stations and wrote down the Bible verses she heard on the program.

Ali
One day, Chaima met a young man at a bus stop. The young man, Ali, was attracted to her. “May I talk to you?” Ali asked her. Chaima knew it could be dangerous to be a Christian in her country. But she answered Ali, “No. Don’t talk to me. I am a Christian.”

Still hoping to find favor with her, Ali said to Chaima, “My brother is a Christian.”

“Really?” Chaima asked.

But there were many things he DIDN’T tell Chaima. For one thing, Ali was a strict Muslim and he had been trained to fight alongside radical Islamists. He had forbidden his own mother and sisters to watch TV because he wanted them to be stricter Muslims. As for his Christian brother, Ali thought he deserved to be dead because he had left Islam to follow Christ.

The Bible and a Dream
But Chaima didn’t know any of that. She asked Ali if he could please get a Bible from his brother for her. Ali was eager to please Chaima, so he did get a Bible for her. But before he gave it to her, he read it to see what it said. He began to compare its teachings with the words of the Quran, the Muslim holy book. (Read about the differences between the Bible and the Quran here, here, and here.

Then one night he had a dream that Jesus spoke to him and said, “Come to me all who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” (See Matthew 11:28.) Ali woke up. He felt as if a load had been lifted from his shoulders. “Lord, forgive me,” he prayed. “You are Christ, You are God, and I believe.”

Chaima and Ali Today
Chaima and Ali are now married. They work as a team among Muslims, and they have led many people to Christ. They meet with other Christians secretly in homes, cafes, and parks, because police officers are watching them.

Ali is not worried. “When I die, I know where I am going,” he told a worker from The Voice of the Martyrs. Ali and Chaima teach new believers to expect persecution. But they encourage them to trust that Jesus will always be with them.

(Source: The March 2019 The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter)