Church Bombings, Terrorist Attacks: Preparing Disciples for Persecution in Congo
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Episodes

  • Church Bombings, Terrorist Attacks: Preparing Disciples for Persecution in Congo

    “When people are not discipled, they are frail. Their faith is not strong.”

    Dr. David Kasali, founder and president of Congo Initiative, is determined to disciple more Christians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a place where they are being specifically targeted for persecution by terrorist groups and radical Islamists.

    Listen as David tells about recent attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), including one where a Christian man was murdered on the spot just for acknowledging his faith in Christ and another where a nearby church was bombed during services. Such attacks are becoming more and more common in DRC.

    Born into a pastor’s family, David shares about his heritage and his father’s love for the Lord and for his people. He’ll tell of his father’s efforts to win an entire village to Christ and plant a church there.

    David shares how he helps prepare Congolese Christians for persecution and the importance of standing strong in Christ during hardship and suffering. Desiring to see the next generation equipped for spiritual victory, David disciples Christians to read the Bible and pray everyday. He says when we take the Bible and apply it into the context of where we are living, then we can face any challenges of the culture around us.

    When you do that, David says, “You’re creating disciples and creating people to know what they believe and why they believe it.”

    Hear David share how the ADF knew a Christian pastor was praying against the activities of their forces, and learn how you can pray for the church in the Congo and how The Voice of the Martyrs is helping provide Bibles and serve persecuted Christians there.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or listen each week—and receive daily reminders and specific ways to pray for persecuted Christians—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    27 MIN
  • Going Back to the Bible, Sri Lankan Christian Shares Gospel with Buddhists

    Seventy percent of Sri Lanka’s people are Buddhists, and Buddhism is given “foremost place” in the nation’s constitution and laws. Officially, there is religious freedom for people of other faiths, including Christians. Yet new believers in Christ often face pressure and persecution from family members or their local community.

    Mayukha Perera, managing director of Back to the Bible Sri Lanka, joins VOM Radio this week to share about the challenges facing persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka and about his work sharing the gospel with Buddhists and preparing new Christians to face persecution.

    Mayukha encourages Christians to be deeply rooted in Scripture and to know that persecution for following Christ has been commonly endured by believers for centuries. Their response to that persecution is key: Perera has seen Buddhists drawn to know more about Jesus after seeing Christians stand firm in their faith despite persecution.

    Mayukha explains the work he and others do with Back to the Bible in Sri Lanka, including sharing the biblical gospel through radio broadcasts and resources, equipping believers to understand and apply scripture, and training church leaders in a country where 85-95% of pastors have no training in biblical leadership.

    “We want to get the people into the Word,” says Mayukha, “and get the Word into the people.”

    Learn how Back to the Bible prepares pastors and leaders for persecution and how they share the gospel lovingly with people of other faiths. Listen as Mayukha explains stumbling blocks in the Buddhist religion to the gospel and offers advice as you share Jesus with Buddhists you know. He’ll also share specific ways to pray for Sri Lanka this week.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or listen each week—and receive daily reminders and specific ways to pray for persecuted Christians—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • Mali Pastor, Raised Muslim, Now Encourages Christians to Stand Firm Under Persecution

    Pastor Nouh Yattara was born into a nomadic Muslim family. He became a believer through the work of missionaries in his home country of Mali—and through his desire to own a ball-point pen. After living in fear of superstitions, demons and death, Nouh found new life, and an end to fear, in Christ. “I knew if I accepted Jesus that he has the power against all of that,” Pastor Nouh says.

    It wasn’t an easy path. Nouh experienced Christian persecution from family members, teachers, kids at school, and his community. In spite of the pressure against him, Nouh stood firm in God’s grace and moved forward in faith.

    Today, Nouh is the pastor of a church and leader in Mali’s evangelical association. He uses his own story—and the stories of other persecuted Christians—to prepare new believers to endure in their faith despite pressure and persecution.

    Listen to hear what Christians in Mali are facing and learn how you can pray for them. You’ll also hear Pastor Nouh’s encouragement to be in fellowship with other believers, encouraging each other on in faith. He’ll also give advice on how you can share the gospel with Muslims in your community.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or listen each week—and receive daily reminders of specific ways to pray for persecuted Christians—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • Former Iran Prisoner: “I Never Regret My Testimony for Christ”

    “By God’s grace, I endured a few years in prison in exchange for an eternity with Him.”

    Ebrahim Firouzi, a Christian convert from Islam, spent seven years in prison in Iran. Now he is enjoying eternity with the Lord, experiencing the fulfillment of that promise following his death in February.  

    This interview was recorded about four years ago—after Ebrahim’s release from prison while he was serving out two years of “internal exile,” living in a remote area along the border of Iran and Pakistan. We’ve chose to re-air it on VOM Radio to commemorate our brother’s faithfulness and honor his memory.

    With the recent death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian in a helicopter crash, this is a particularly strategic time to pray for the nation of Iran.

    Ebrahim Firouzi was first arrested in 2011 and given a ten-month sentence. After his release, he continued boldly sharing the gospel at every opportunity. He was always looking to bring hope to the people of Iran through sharing the gospel.

    “My only priority was that people would be able to hear and receive the Word of God.” Firouzi said.

    He was arrested again in 2013, ultimately serving a total of seven years in prison, followed by two years internal exile, during which time he was required to regularly check in with local police.

    While he was in prison, the stories and examples of persecuted Iranian Christians before him encouraged and impacted Ebrahim to remain faithful.

    This interview was originally conducted in Farsi by Joseph Hovsepian, the son of martyred Iranian church leader Haik Hovsepian. We are thankful to Joseph and our friends at Hovsepian Ministries for allowing VOM Radio to broadcast this interview and share Ebrahim’s testimony.

    Please pray for pastors and other Christians imprisoned in Iran and other nations.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get reminders to pray for persecuted Christians—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • Forced to Leave Myanmar, Gospel Workers say, “The Lord has Not Released Us From this Place”

    Last week Luke and Kate, medical gospel workers who’ve served in Myanmar, shared how God called them to Myanmar to share the hope of Christ. This week, in Part 2 of our conversation, they reveal the loss and devastation their family experienced as they were forced to leave the place God had so clearly called them to.

    “It was devastating,” Kate says, “and we still sometimes have to process through that again.” While returning to their village home is not an option right now, Luke and Kate are clear that the Lord has not released them from their calling to the people of Myanmar.

    Listen as they talk about wrestling with what God’s will is, and how they have walked through this disappointment and displacement alongside their children. They’ll also offer advice for others feeling a call to serve as missionaries or other overseas ministry service.

    Though there has been deep grief in leaving their home, there has also been joy. Since Luke and Kate left Myanmar, three people in their village have been baptized as new believers. They are thrilled to see local believers taking the reigns of ministry and leading others to Christ.

    Please pray for Luke, Kate and their family as they consider two opportunities—outside the country—where they could continue to serve the people of Myanmar.

    The Bible commands us to remember those in prison as if we were with them (Hebrews 13:3). Please pray for freedom for Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel and Pastor Haile Nayzgi, two pastors in prison in Eritrea. May 23rd, 2024, marks the 20th anniversary of their arrest in Asmara. Pray also for the release of 350+ other Christians imprisoned in Eritrea right now—including more than 80 arrested so far in 2024. Speak out and share their story with others who will stand with these persecuted Christians in prayer.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get reminders to pray for persecuted Christians—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    30 MIN
  • “This is Where I Want You:” Husband and Wife Medical Team Hears God’s Call to Gospel Service in Myanmar

    Luke and Kate had both felt God’s call to missions. But they were still waiting to know where that call would take them. They went through training. They travelled to serve in different countries. And all the while, they asked God where he wanted to send them long-term. His answer finally arrived after a 12-hour bus ride to a rural village in Myanmar where there were no other foreigners.

    Kate and Luke both felt it clearly: “This is it. This is home. This is where I want you.”

    God put a deep love for the local people in their hearts. Their calling was confirmed when a village elder asked them to stay and serve with their medical skills. That clear sense of God’s calling would prove vital in helping them stand firm in serving through challenges, Christian persecution and even the 2021 coup.

    In Myanmar (formerly Burma), each person’s religion is printed on their ID card, and it is illegal to change one’s religion. It’s illegal for a Buddhist woman to marry a man from another religion. Ethnic divisions are baked into everyday life as each person is expected to look out primarily for their own people.

    In the midst of that challenging environment, listen to how Luke and Kate shared the gospel and how Jesus brought people from different ethnic and tribal groups together as fellow members of the Body of Christ as their house church includes four different ethnic groups unified in Christ.

    Luke and Kate also share the story of a Buddhist background believer who was severely persecuted by her own mother, but endured faithfully and eventually led her mother to Christ. They’ll also share how they talk about persecution while sharing the gospel so that those who respond and become new believers are ready to count the cost of following Christ.

    Pray for followers of Jesus in Myanmar and for Luke, Kate and their family. Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get reminders to pray for persecuted Christians—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • Kidnapped by Terrorists, Interrogated by Police, Church Worker says, “God Was With Me”

    Brother Job thought it would be just another day. He was walking to work at a church in North Africa when he was accosted by four men with knives. The terrorists forced him into a vehicle and drove him away.

    “It’s my last day on this earth,” Job thought to himself.

    Growing up in a Muslim family in North Africa, Job knew there would be persecution when he left Islam to follow Jesus. He came to faith—along with other members of his family—after seeing a satellite TV program where a former Muslim from Morocco named Brother Rachid answers the questions of Muslims and points them to Jesus. (Hear more about Brother Rachid’s testimony and ministry in this episode of VOM Radio.)

    After coming to Christ, Job felt a passion and calling to tell others about Jesus. He became involved in church ministry, including media ministry. He knew there were risks, yet he boldly put his own face and testimony online. Angry Muslims saw him as a traitor and an apostate.

    Kidnapped by terrorists, held at knife point with a hood over his head, Job believed he would soon be killed. He was at peace with losing his own life, but was concerned about his wife and young children who would be left behind. Who would care for them?

    Thankfully, the terrorists did not kill Brother Job, but released him. But his trials were not over. Reporting his kidnapping to local police, Job was treated as a criminal instead of a true crime victim. He was interrogated repeatedly about why he’d left Islam and become a Christian. He took advantage of the opportunity to boldly share his testimony and explain the gospel message—right in the police station, with 20 officers listening.

    Whether kidnapped by terrorists or interrogated by angry police officers, Job says, “I never felt alone.”

    Listen to Brother Job recount his kidnapping and the lessons God taught him through his first-hand Christian persecution experience. Today Job prepares new believers with the understanding that persecution is to be expected in the life of a Christian. He will also help us pray for persecuted Christians in North Africa.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • Missions Starts with Encountering God

    There are 500,000 evangelical churches in Latin America, but only 6% of Latino congregations are involved in missions. As executive director of COMHINA, and in his previous work with Operation Mobilization Latin America, Brother Julio wants to increase that percentage! He desires to bring about collaboration between churches and missionary organizations to equip and send out Latino missionaries.

    Listen for the story of Julio’s own call to missions while living and working in Japan, and how he returned to Brazil and ended up working with and training workers for OM.

    Hear also how God eventually called Julio and his family to the United States to inspire and commission Spanish-speakers for international cross cultural gospel work through COMHINA, a network of churches and mission organizations. He says that as Latinos are trained and informed about unreached people groups who’ve never heard about Christ, they encounter God and ready to go on mission for Him.

    Julio has sent many to be witnesses in restricted nations and hostile areas. Listen for the story of how one man used soccer to open doors for ministry in Afghanistan, and how a church leader in Iran told Julio not to feel sorry for persecuted Christians.

    As Julio sends workers to the harvest, persecution is a reality. “If people pass through those situations,” he says, “they will experience God’s grace in ways that we cannot even train someone on.” Living for Christ in restricted and hostile nations comes with risks, yet the grace of God is ever present with the persecuted church.

    You can learn more about Julio’s work sending out Spanish-speaking mission workers at the web sites for COMHINA and COMIBAM.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • CENTRAL ASIA: Muslims Ready for Truth

    A Christian and pastor from Central Asia, Brother Silas constantly interacts with Muslims. He says many are seeking truth and looking for answers to their deepest spiritual questions.

    Brother Silas and Tom Houser, executive director for People International, share this week what new Christians in Central Asian nations—including Muslim background believers—experience when they become followers of Jesus. “The moment you make that decision,” says Silas, “you will be oppressed on every side.”

    Persecution follows those who come to Christ in Central Asian nations like Türkiye, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. The persecution may come from different sources: the government, their parents, relatives, neighbors, or the broader community. Persecuted Christians face isolation, broken friendships and being targeted by police or other authorities.

    Silas shares some of his own experience as a persecuted Christian, and the encouragement he found in knowing other Christians were praying for him and that he was not alone. Organizations like People International and The Voice of the Martyrs, which take time to sit with persecuted Christians and know what they really need, bring encouragement as they share that others around the world—like VOM Radio listeners—are praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

    Hear how we can reach our Muslim neighbors, coworkers, and friends for Christ. Tom will also share more about People International’s mission to be present where there is no church presence and what leaders of the group have learned in more than forty years of ministry. Also hear how social media, broadcasting and other evangelism tools are reaching people in Central Asia. And learn how you can pray for the people of Central Asia to know Christ, and for the persecuted church in these nations.

    Listen here to Silas’ testimony of coming to faith and the persecution he faced as a new Christian.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • MIDDLE EAST: Christians Intentional About Sharing Jesus

    Many Muslims are ready to hear the gospel and experience the love of Jesus Christ. For more than two decades Peter Smith has prayed for the nation of Iran and connected with ministries reaching people and supporting persecuted Christians in the nation he and his wife “adopted.” Seeing the gospel go forth in the Middle East reminds Peter of the good soil that produced 30, 60 and 100-fold harvests in Jesus’ Matthew 13 parable.

    Persecution is rising in restricted nations across the Middle East; despite that risk, more Muslims are becoming followers of Christ. Listen as Peter shares the stories of how God worked in the heart of an Uber driver and a divorced woman.

    “When you adopt a country,” Peter says, “sooner or later you get to adopt the people.”

    Peter’s wife also has an international ministry—from their home in the United States. She asks the Lord each day for divine appointments and looks for gospel opportunities at the grocery store, in her neighborhood and wherever else the day takes her. Hear how she’s had gospel conversations with women from 54 different countries.

    Learn how you can pray specifically for Christians in Iran and across the Middle East as Peter shares what current events mean for Christians there and how to pray for what God is already doing. Go to TheRealStoryOfJesus.com to see one resource people are using to share the gospel in the Middle East—a resource also available in English.

    Hear the story of Peter “adopting” the nation of Iran during his first visit with VOM Radio.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    29 MIN
  • CHINA MISSIONS: “Your Ministry is Over”

    Last week, Brother Kevin shared how he came to Christ and how God gave him a passion to reach the 13 million Hui people in China. For members of this people group, to be Hui is to be Muslim. Those who become Christians are considered traitors, bringing shame to their family.

    Hui Christians face social, psychological, and sometimes financial persecution, typically enforced by members of their own family. They may lose their job, be kicked out of the family home, and even renounced as a member of the family.

    Kevin came to see the communist authorities as ordinary people doing their jobs and providing for their families. He intentionally chose to see police and other authorities as worthy of his respect and compassion.

    When Xi Jinping ascended to the leadership of the Communist Party and the Chinese nation, things changed. By 2017, most foreigners were having a hard time renewing visas. By 2018, hardly any foreign gospel workers were able to remain in China. Members of Muslim minorities—including the Hui and the Uyghurs—received “reeducation” enforced by the government.

    Listen as Kevin shares how his family’s ministry in China ended and how tension grew during their final weeks in country as authorities searched for legal reasons to detain or deport Kevin and his family, including a late-night drive to the airport. Choosing to focus on God’s sovereignty allowed Kevin to shepherd his family and others struggling with their forced departure.

    Gospel outreach to the Hui did not end with foreign missionaries being kicked out of China. Today they are reached through social media gospel outreach and multifaceted church planting by local Han Chinese believers as well as Christians from non-Western countries.

    Pray for the Lord to continue moving among the Hui through dreams, visions and divine appointments with followers of Christ. Pray for Chinese brothers and sisters to boldly preach the cross and to prepare new Christians for persecution.

    Richard and Jeannette had a similar experience in China as Kevin’s family, yet Richard found himself detained by the authorities. Listen to their story.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    April is Bible month at VOM! Please consider giving online to help deliver Bibles to Christians living in restricted nations and hostile areas.

    24 MIN
  • CHINA MISSIONS: “That’s When We Felt the Call”

    Within two months of Brother Kevin and his wife beginning gospel work in India, more than a thousand people had come to Christ! The fruit of the gospel was immediate. Local missions leaders asked them to stay on and help disciple these new believers. They saw the opportunity, and the incredible growth of the ministry. But Kevin couldn’t dismiss an urge to visit China before agreeing to stay and minister in India.

    It was on that first visit to China that Kevin was asked a question which would change his life and guide his mission efforts going forward: “Have you heard of the Hui people?” Kevin and his wife had not heard of the Hui, and they began to ask questions about this mostly-Muslim unreached people group of 13 million people.

    They were told that, in the area they were passing through, the Hui people had no church, no missionaries, and that there was no church or organization committed to sharing the gospel with them.

    “That’s when we felt the call.” Kevin says now. Today Kevin and his wife have spent more than a decade living among and serving the Hui people.

    Listen as Kevin shares his testimony of coming to Christ as a young adult, and about his calling to be a missionary in a restricted nation where Christian persecution is common and fierce.

    Kevin opens up about some of the struggles they faced as cross cultural gospel workers, and how their clear calling from God kept them in obedience to Him. Be sure to listen next week as Kevin shares more about their work in China and how they experienced a sudden forced ending to that chapter of their ministry.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily reminders to pray for the persecuted church—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    34 MIN
  • SOUTH ASIA: Children are Included in the Great Commission

    “For us, it’s not AWANA, it’s ‘Can we disciple one more child?’”

    Gajendra Tamang is the Regional Director of AWANA in South Asia, coming alongside pastors and local churches to help reach and disciple children from many different religious backgrounds.

    Gajendra knows first-hand how a life can be changed through a simple invitation to a Christian activity. He came to faith while attending college in India, where a Christian classmate invited Gajendra to come to church with him every Sunday for a year. Finally Gajendra decided to see why his classmate loved going to church. He didn’t understand everything being said, but he loved the music, and a few months later he came to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.

    As seminary students Gajendra and his wife were recruited to serve as AWANA volunteers. They continued serving in AWANA throughout their seminary training. After graduation the couple became AWANA missionaries, and today they are tasked with training volunteer leaders to help serve in local churches in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

    In most AWANA groups in South Asia, 20 to 25% of the children come from non-Christian homes, including Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. Some parents restrict their children from coming after they learn that Bible stories are being shared, while others accept the care and blessing their child receives even though it is coming from Christians. Gajendra will help us understand and pray for the training process to equip more leaders and ultimately to tell more children about Jesus.

    Listen for the story of an entire family coming to Christ through one child's prayer for healing and learn how you can pray for the salvation of the next generation—and their parents—in South Asia. Pray for more AWANA leaders willing to be disciple makers on the front lines and for believers and local churches facing persecution for their faith in Christ.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • CUBA: Pastors Willing to Pay a Price

    Fidel Castro, leader of Cuba’s communist revolution, died in 2016. But has Castro’s death changed the level of Christian persecution in Cuba? “No difference at all,” Pastor Mateo, a church leader in Cuba, says emphatically.

    The Cuban government attempts to restrain the gospel in many ways. Yet despite persecution, the church in Cuba is growing—stretching beyond buildings and homes and gathering on the streets and in open fields to pray and worship and share the gospel. Listen as Pastor Mateo shares the many restrictions Cuba’s communist leaders enforce on pastors, church buildings, ministry efforts and families. Even pastors’ children become targets for persecution because of their parents’ ministry.

    But government efforts to curtail church growth are failing as the church continues to multiply. Large events in Cuba are bringing together thousands of believers for prayer and fellowship. Mateo reminds us, “In Matthew 16, Jesus says, ‘the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.’” Cuban Christians are experiencing the reality of Jesus’ promise.

    “You will never be able to stop the movements of the church.” Mateo says. Today, he encourages young pastors to remain faithful and never renounce Jesus, even as they encounter government threats.

    Listen also for ways you can pray specifically for Mateo and persecuted Christians in Cuba to remain strong in the Lord as they face hostility and persecution.

    VOM Radio host Todd Nettleton will also give a recap of the recent I Am N Virtual Event. If you missed the event, it is now available for viewing on demand.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • HOSTAGE’S WIFE: “Look for the Promises of God and Pray”

    It was four in the morning when Els Woodke answered the phone to hear the words she’d been praying for and waiting on for six-and-a-half years: “Jeff has been recovered!”

    The last two weeks we’ve shared the story of Jeffery Woodke, American gospel worker in West Africa captured by Islamists and held hostage for more than six years. Now, Jeff’s wife, Els, shares her side of the story of waiting and wondering and praying through that long ordeal—and how God helped her never to hate Jeff’s captors.

    “The moment I heard Jeff was kidnapped, I cried out to God,” Els says.

    Shortly after Jeff’s abduction, Els felt the Lord saying to her, “I want you to love the enemy.” She answered that call, never letting bitterness or anger toward the terrorists holding Jeff find a place in her heart.

    “I lived in the Psalms,” she says, often taking the prayers and promises recorded by the Psalmist and making them her own prayers for Jeff. Among those prayers was, “Keep him alive in famine” and “deliver him from death,” based on Psalm 33:19. After Jeff’s release in March, 2023, Els learned that his circumstances in captivity had been even worse than she could’ve imagined.

    Listen in as Els speaks to the people all around the world who prayed for Jeff’s release and for her. It strengthened her faith to hear that people were fervently and faithfully praying for Jeff—for years—without knowing his condition. “Thank you for your faithfulness,” Els says as she shares how peoples’ prayers encouraged her to keep the faith. Please continue to pray for Jeff and Els Woodke as they continue to reconnect and recover from their experience and forced separation.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders for persecuted Christians—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    25 MIN
  • MISSIONARY HOSTAGE: “Prayer Works; I’m Proof”

    “Hope is the first thing to go” Jeffery Woodke says, speaking about his six-and-a-half years as a hostage held by radical Islamist terror groups. He says he started out, after being kidnapped, praying eight hours a day. But over the years his hopelessness increased and his prayer time faded to twenty minutes daily. Suicidal, he beseeched his persecutors numerous times to take his life, knowing heaven would be much better than his existence as a hostage chained to a tree.

    Despite his doubts, God was always with Jeff. He found he couldn’t abandon prayer altogether.

    Listen as Jeff shares more about his time as a hostage; his hunger and water strikes to get better treatment and the ongoing trauma he deals with after his experience as a captive. He’ll tell the stories he heard about the Covid pandemic—and how he assumed his family must have all died and mourned their loss.

    Jeff will also tell about his release, from getting a “fruit basket” from the leader of his terrorist captors to being taken to the largest gathering of jihadists and Mujahadin he’d ever seen. It was there, under a tree, he met the French journalist Olivier Dubois. The two men were released together in March, 2023.

    Jeff spent several days in medical care after his release as doctors tried to stabilize his health before he could get on a plane to return to the US. One of the first things he asked for was a Bible. “It’s good to have the Word of God,” he says. He quickly turned to the gospel of John and began to read.

    Jeff’s testimony of forgiveness is powerful. After being chained physically, Jeff asks why anyone would chain themselves up willingly with unforgiveness? Forgiveness, he says, can cut those chains.

    Jeffery Woodke is still learning to process his years of hostage trauma. Pray for healing as he and Els explore what this season in their life will be. Jeff was amazed and humbled how Christians around the world prayed fervently for his release. “Prayer works,” he says. He’ll help us continue to pray for persecuted Christians still held hostage in West Africa and other parts of the world.

    Join VOM Radio host, Todd Nettleton, for the I-Am-N Virtual Event on March 8. Registration is free. You may also want to talk to your pastor or church leaders about hosting this inspiring event at your church. More details at www.IamNevent.com

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • KIDNAPPED GOSPEL WORKER: Forgiveness is the Best Weapon We Have

    “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

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • SOUTH ASIA: “It’s Not an Easy Calling”

    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

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    31 MIN
  • TRAUMA CARE: There’s a Place for Mourning

    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.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or listen each week—and receive daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN
  • PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS: Witnessing Their Pain, Caring for Their Trauma

    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.

    Never miss an episode of VOM Radio! Subscribe to the podcast. Or you can listen each week—and get daily prayer reminders—in the VOM App for your smartphone or tablet.

    24 MIN