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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.

Spotlight Story

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.


Spotlight Story

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?


Spotlight Story

“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.”

 


Activities Story

Following in His Footsteps

Parents and Teachers
The Witnesses Trilogy includes three animated, feature-length films that cover the time from the birth of Jesus through the birth of the early church. Following in Christ’s footsteps, early Christians spread God’s message to the ends of the earth while facing pressures and persecution from every side.

Learn more and watch a trailer here. Help your kids remember the message of the films by completing the activity below.

Following His Footsteps Craft

Needed
Foam shoe cushions
Map-themed scrapbook/craft paper
White glue
Lacing or twine, or peel-and-stick magnetic tape
Bible verses or references written or printed on craft paper

Instructions
*Cut the cardboard guide in the shoe cushion package to the size you desire. (Alternative: Use your foot as a guide to make a footprint out of cardboard.)

*Use the cardboard pattern to cut the foam cushions to size.

*Trace around the pattern on the craft paper and cut out the footprint shape. Glue the shape to the foam cushion.

*Glue a Bible verse, or part of a verse to the footprint. (See the suggested verses in the photo.) Ask an adult to punch holes near the top of the footprints. Use lacing or twine threaded through the holes to hang up the footprints. Or attach a piece of peel-and-stick magnetic tape to the back and display the footprints on a refrigerator or other magnetic surface.

*Talk about what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.


Activities Story

Iranian Prisoners: What You Can Do

[Photo: Iranian prisoner Hossein Kadivar]

The Voice of the Martyrs has recently added several Iranian prisoners to the prisoneralert.com website. Officials arrested nine of the prisoners last year. They were accused of “acting against national security.”

 

In fact, the men were helping lead their church after their pastor was put in prison. The government of Iran does not want Christianity to spread in their country.

What You Can Do
Read the suggestions below. Ask God to help you choose which ones to follow.

*Go to prisoneralert.com and click on “prisoners,” then on “Iran.” Choose one of the prisoners to pray for and to be a voice for.

*Click on the name of the prisoner, then click on “Write a Letter.” Follow the instructions to send a letter of encouragement to the prisoner. Find more instructions here.

*Click on “Petition Official” on the prisoner’s Prisoner Profile page. Send a letter to an official listed. Find more instructions here.

*Go back to the prisoner’s Prisoner Profile page and click on “Print Fact Sheet.” Print one or more copies to share with your family or class, or other Christian friends.

*Learn more about Christian in Iran here and here. Share what you learned with someone.

*Watch a short video about a Christian boy in Iran here.

*Many readers have been blessed when the prisoners they prayed for were released. Pray daily for the prisoner you chose, but be prepared to continue praying for an extended time. You may not find out how your prayers were answered for a long time. Be assured that God does hear and answer prayers. Check VOM publications and websites for updates on the prisoners.