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Message From Pastor Leon

posted Jul 25, 2016, 9:07 AM by Tracey Morris

    Last month I attended a one day conference sponsored by an organization called The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). VOM was founded by Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who was arrested in the 1940's by Romanian communists for preaching the Gospel. He spent fourteen years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, and was often tortured. He continued to proclaim the Gospel in prison, even converting some of the prison guards and interrogators. When he was finally released he was allowed to come to the United States, where he started this organization to serve our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. VOM is very busy these days.
The speakers at VOM conferences are always Christians from other nations who have suffered for their faith. The first speaker was a young man from Syria where Christians are facing genocide in many areas at the hands of Muslim extremists. He had many incredible stories of courage, forgiveness, and witness in the face of severe persecution. He asked for prayers for his parents who have chosen to stay and serve their church, risking their lives to share the Gospel with many Muslims who want to hear more about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The second speaker was a Christian Arab pastor who was born in Jerusalem and is now a pastor in Bethlehem. He told stories of living with terrorism as a child, such as walking through blood and stepping over body parts as he walked to school after an attack by a suicide bomber. Now, in his church, at times they have had to keep several buckets of water throughout the church during worship to put out fires caused by Molotov cocktail bombs tossed through the windows. If no one is injured, they put the fire out and continue the service. The third speaker was a woman from China who was arrested on her 30th birthday, severely beaten for not giving the names of the other Christians in her church, and then kept in prison for six years.
We can learn much about following Jesus from hearing the stories of these Christians. VOM has produced many books and video resources to tell these stories. Their most recent resource for churches is called "I Am N". The letter 'N' is short-hand for 'worshipers of Jesus, the Nazarene.' In many places that letter 'N' is spray-painted on Christian's homes and businesses to target them for persecution. The book is divided into six sections, with several stories in each section that teach us about various aspects of the Christian life: Sacrifice, Courage, Joy, Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Faithfulness. There is also a DVD with 15-minute segments on each topic containing interviewers with Christians facing persecution.
This course will be one of Adult Education opportunities at St. Paul's this Fall. I will lead a course using these VOM resources two Thursday evenings a month, beginning September 15th. Small group opportunities will also continue. There will be more details in the September newsletter and Sunday bulletin announcements. Let me know if you have any questions, or want to hear more about the small group opportunities.
--Pastor Leon