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Stephen: The First Martyr

Parents and Teachers
The following excerpt is from Stephen: God’s Courageous Witness, a picture book for children about Christianity’s first martyr. The book, and other children’s books about Christian heroes, are available at VOMBooks.com. Preview is recommended before sharing the books with younger children.

Stephen
When Jesus returned to heaven, He left behind His followers. But they were not alone or without help. As promised, Jesus sent His Holy Spirit. He knew the Holy Spirit would give His followers the strength and courage they needed to do His work. One of those followers was Stephen.

With the Holy Spirit’s help, Stephen courageously told others about Jesus and performed miracles. He was so good at convincing others to follow Jesus that in the end the Jewish leaders tried to stop Him….

[A group of angry Jewish leaders had Stephen arrested, taken to court, and executed.]

“Silenced for good!” one sneered. Soon, the Jewish leaders would learn that they were wrong. They may have silenced Stephen, but his death pushed the gospel outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Saul, one of the many who had witnessed his death, decided to go after the church….Many fled the city…As Christians fled and took the gospel throughout the region, an amazing thing happened. Saul was traveling to another town to arrest more Christians when Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light. He later became known as Paul, one of Christ’s most passionate messengers..

Today, Christians are arrested and sometimes killed in countries around the world for telling others about Jesus. In Pakistan, where most follow a religion called Islam, one young boy was courageous when he defended the Bible at school.

His teacher told him that the Bible had been changed. Standing among his classmates, he declared, “The Bible has not changed, but whoever reads it is changed.” Radical students yelled at him. But like Stephen, he stood firm.

[Read more about the boy in Pakistan here.]

Telling others about Jesus is not always easy. We may not be arrested or hurt, but others may not like what we say and may want to find ways to keep us quiet. Just remember, we may be their only chance to hear about Jesus. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can be courageous like Stephen and pray that Jesus will change their hearts.


Back to School

 

(Photo: Two children at a school in Africa. Their faces are covered to protect their identity from people who may want to harm them or their families.)

This is the time of year when most American kids return to school for the fall semester. But Christian kids in some countries don’t always have the freedom to get a good education in peace.

*Cuba
Christian children are sometimes mocked, bullied, and not promoted to the next grade.

*China
Officials in China closed a Christian school last year, claiming that the children were “brainwashed.”

*Indonesia
Muslim parents warn their children not to play with Christian children or make friends with them.

*Uganda
In parts of Uganda, Christian children are not welcome to attend school in Muslim areas.

*Mexico
In Chiapas, Mexico, authorities sometimes refuse to let children stay in school if their parents become Christians.

*Egypt
Christian children in Egypt have been forced to sit in the back of the class, and some students are given bad grades just because they are Christians.

*Pakistan
Christians in Pakistan are often hired to do only low-paying jobs. They sometimes can’t afford to send their children to school.

To Talk About
*Will you thank God today for your school assignments and for the opportunity to get an education?
*Ask God to protect and provide for children in each of the countries mentioned above.


Courageous Christians’ Countries

(Source: Release International, The Voice of the Martyrs’ sister mission in the United Kingdom.)

Can you identify each of the countries below by their shapes? If you need help, click on the “Countries” tab above to find locations and shapes of each country.

The countries are a few of the places where Christians are treated badly because they follow Jesus.


Prayers for Healing

Pakistani girl

Release International, The Voice of the Martyrs’ sister mission in the United Kingdom, recently posted a prayer about a persecuted child in Pakistan. You can read the prayer below.

Dear Jesus, Please be very close to the young girl, aged 13, who was very badly attacked and hurt in Gujranwala, Pakistan. She was hurt as she looked after cattle. Please make her well by Your great healing power. Let her know how much You love her and give her peace and hope. Help her family who are so sad that she was hurt. Help them all to trust You. May the person who hurt her know Jesus’ love in his heart, too. Amen.

Psalm 30:2 is an encouragement to those who are praying for healing. The words below are from the verse, but they are out of order. Can you rearrange them and write the verse (NIV) in the correct order?

for healed You God help You me
Lord and O to I called my

Release International suggests the following prayer for all persecuted children.

Dear Father God, Lay Your all-powerful healing hands on all Your children who are suffering because they love You. Heal their bodies, comfort their sad hearts, remove painful memories, and fill them with Your love, hope, and joy. Amen.

Enter “Pakistan” in the Search box to find stories about Christians in Pakistan, or Download Bold Believers in Pakistan from the Downloads section.


Pakistan: “Spring Is Coming”

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. — Song of Solomon 2:11-12.

Today is the first day of spring. Spring is often seen as a symbol of new beginnings, joy, and hope. Read the story below, and talk about what the man meant when he said, “Spring is coming into my life.” Share a time when you experienced a new beginning in your life.

Hasan is a Christian in Pakistan. One day when he got up in the morning, he prayed, “Oh Lord, today I will not do anything until You lead me to someone or bring someone to me who has lost hope and wants to know You. I want to be used by You directly.”

For several hours, nothing happened. “Nothing is going to happen,” Hasan thought. Just then, a man knocked on his door. Hasan invited him into his house.

Houses in Pakistan

The man was a Muslim who had walked three miles from his village to visit Hasan. “Someone told me about you, and I have come to you for prayer,” the man told Hasan. The man said he had been looking for a job for five years, but could not find one. “I am tired of my life,” he said.

Hasan was grateful to Jesus for answering his prayer for guidance. He told the Muslim, “You did not come here by chance. God brought you here. He wants to give you peace.” Hasan shared the truth about Jesus with the visitor and prayed for him. “I want to come back tomorrow,” the man said.

The next day, he returned. Hasan told him more about the God who save people from sin. The man was very excited! He wanted to know more about the one who gives people peace.

Now the man is going to church regularly. “Spring is coming into my life,” he said.

Thank God for leading the man to Hasan’s house. Pray that more people in Pakistan will learn about new life in Christ. Ask God if there is any way He wants to use you to reach someone else.