Short highlights from Christians around the world
“It’s better to be dead than taken hostage.”
When Jeff Woodke said those words, he didn’t know that he would be taken hostage from his home in Niger in 2016. But Woodke, a long-term relief and gospel worker in West Africa, did know there were risks.
Risk wasn’t such a big issue in the early years of the ministry of Jeff and his wife, Els, in Niger with Youth With a Mission (YWAM). They worked in church planting, discipleship, and evangelism among the Wodaabe people. Niger was an open country, with churches throughout. What Christian persecution there was came from family members or neighbors who opposed following Jesus. However, over time the rise of Salafist Islam changed Niger—and increased their risk.
Listen as Jeff recalls the night he was kidnapped and how the image of orange flashes from the guns which killed his guards are seared into his memory.
Naked and bloody, Jeff was forced into the back seat of a truck and driven away, not knowing who his captors were or how long his captivity might last. Over the years, Jeff was transferred into the custody of multiple terror groups, beaten and mistreated. As a Christian who refused to embrace Islam, Jeff was seen as an animal. Some of his guards were only 12 years old.
Yet Jeff says renouncing his faith in Christ and becoming a Muslim to get better treatment was never an option. Jeff shares what helped him during those difficult days and how he knew the Lord was with him. Listen as he tells why forgiveness was key and how he took opportunity daily to express it to his captors.
Please pray for Jeff and Els as they continue to recover from the more than six years of Jeff’s captivity and come back next week as Jeff continues to share more of his experience being a hostage and his eventual release and freedom.
Register now to join VOM Radio host, Todd Nettleton, at the I-Am-N Virtual Event on March 8. You may also want to talk to your pastor or church leaders about hosting this inspiring event at your church. More details and free registration at www.IamNevent.com
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David Paul fell in love with Muslims as a college student visiting Turkey (now Türkiye) to share the gospel. After getting married, he and his wife thought they’d go where Muslims are — the Middle East. God changed their plans, reminding them that millions of Muslims live in South Asia, yet very few mission workers go there. They knew God was calling them, and without ever visiting, they moved to South Asia more than a decade ago. Their focus is on reaching Urdu speaking Muslims with the gospel message.
Listen as David shares difficulties from those early years of ministry and how we can encourage and pray for missionaries to push forward through their early challenges to reach maximum fruitfulness. Today David’s challenges are different; one is the great need to develop more Muslim background believers (MBBs) to be leaders in the Urdu church.
Listen to David tell stories of Urdu speaking Muslims who have come to faith in Christ and how different understandings of Islam can affect how much Christian persecution believers face for leaving Islam. David is also training Hindu background believers to reach their Muslim neighbors.
“Every time I encourage a believer to go into the face of persecution, I lose a lot of sleep.” David says, “It’s not an easy calling to ask people to do that.” Yet, Davd knows it’s what Jesus would do.
Pray for Urdu speaking believers—especially those facing persecution right now—and for God to raise up Christian leaders and mentors among them.
Register now to join VOM Radio host, Todd Nettleton, and be a part of the I-Am-N Virtual Event, coming up March 8. You may also want to talk to your pastor or other church leaders about hosting this powerful event at your church. More details and free registration at www.IamNevent.com
Last week, Brother Philip, a field minister for The Voice of the Martyrs in West Africa, shared how witnessing stories of trauma from persecuted Christians and addressing their spiritual needs is a gift. He shared the characteristics of resilient individuals who coped well after persecution and how scripture can bring healing to their hearts and minds. This week, you’ll hear how Christians may exhibit more resilience than non-believers, stories of persecuted Christians and how The Voice of the Martyrs empowers pastors in Africa to help persecuted Christians find healing after trauma.
Listen as Philip explains the need for believers—in Africa and elsewhere—to have a good theology of suffering to thrive in a broken world where persecution is promised. You’ll also hear how the fruit of the Spirit is central in providing trauma care for persecuted Christians, and the vital role forgiveness plays. “Forgiveness is absolutely indispensable for healing,” Philip says.
You’ll hear the story of a pastor in Africa who suffered incredible loss when Islamists attacked his village. The pastor ran from the invading rebels to hide in the church. However, they followed him. When the attack was over, the pastor’s wife, his brother and his two children had all been killed. Yet after attending a trauma care workshop sponsored by VOM, the pastor said: “I have begun to forgive those perpetrators totally.”
Philip and his team train pastors and other Christian leaders to care for persecuted Christians dealing with trauma in their communities. Partnering with pastors in Africa and other parts of the world—people who already understand the culture and know the language—creates greater impact as they share the training further and reach out to more persecuted Christians.
Pray for Philip and his team as they train pastors to care for persecuted Christians. Pray for persecuted church members in restricted nations and hostile areas to hold fast to their faith—even in suffering. And please consider giving online to support VOM’s ministry serving persecuted Christians around the world.
This episode will be a little different than most as we have two conversations instead of one. First, we’ll hear from Steve Lisby about a group of pastors and church leaders imprisoned in Nicaragua after being part of a large-scale evangelism effort. Next we’ll hear from Brother Philip, who helps The Voice of the Martyrs provide trauma care for persecuted Christians in Africa.
Steve Lisby is the risk management director with Mountain Gateway, a ministry helping train and send gospel workers. Last year, with the approval of the Nicaraguan government, Mountain Gateway held evangelistic events in multiple locations around the country. More than one million people attended these events, including 300,000 at the final event in the capitol city. After the success of these events, it was a shock when one of the Mountain Gateway national directors was imprisoned in December. Days later, his wife and nine more pastors were taken to prison. Since their arrest they have not been allowed to see their families or have contact with the outside world.
Pray for these eleven Nicaraguan Christians, for the ongoing court process and for leaders in the ministry and in the Nicaraguan government. For updates on the situation visit mountaingateway.org.
For persecuted Christians and others who have gone through trauma, that trauma can affect all aspects of their life. Brother Philip is a field minister in Africa for The Voice of the Martyrs, specifically focused on training Christian leaders to provide trauma care for Christians who have endured persecution.
Listen as Philip shares how trauma rewires the brains of victims. For persecuted Christians, that affects how they relate to God and experience faith. As a trained trauma-care provider and brother in Christ, Philip believes it’s a gift to listen to the stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters and bear witness to the pain they’ve experienced. It is important to address physical, emotional and mental needs. But the great blessing of VOM’s work is to be able to address spiritual needs for trauma survivors as well. Hear how Philip and his coworkers structure trauma care efforts for persecuted Christians and the benefit of designing this care around the truth of God’s Word.
Paul Dangtoumda, a part of the global eldership counsel for Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and the leader for YWAM’s work in Nigeria, comes from a family with a history of Christian persecution. In fact, he bears the scar of persecution his parents faced even before he was born. Listen as he shares the amazing testimony of God’s protection over him and his parents—and how their example inspires his ministry even today.
Hear how Paul began working in Nigeria and how today he and YWAM are helping widows—Women of Honor—to persevere in life and faith despite the loss of their husbands. “We had to teach the [women] how to go to the cross,” he says. “Because when they realize that it is God who can save them, then this is the beginning of true counseling.”
Paul will also share about a Bible translation effort called Oral Mother Tongue, an effort that YWAM founder Loren Cunningham focused on in the final days of his earthly life. Listen as Paul describes the process from start to finish—and the reaction of people hearing the Bible in their own language for the first time.
Paul will suggest ways listeners can pray for this translation effort. Also visit Pray OMT to learn more about the process of making the Bible available to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
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