Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yet Will I Praise Him

From, one of the few blog sites that I check out almost daily. Always good for a chuckle and a good long thought.

How to Write a Letter That No One Will Read

Today I received a letter from a concerned supporter in which she included a copy of a letter that she sent to a local politician. For all of her good intentions, I can guarantee that he will never see it. Why?

Is it because the politician is callous and uncaring? Is it because politicians do not read letters from constituents? Is it because politicians are evil doers and ignore letters from Christians?

In truth it is because the letter is so filled with Christian presuppositions, accusations, slander and self-righteousness that it will never make it past the first trash can before finding a permanent home there. Does that sound harsh? It isn't meant to be, but it saddens me that this politician (or his aids) could receive this letter and his impression of Christians will be influenced by what is written. The letter was meant to address a serious and important issue but it will likely never be taken seriously simply because of how it was written.

Over the years, I have seen a number of such examples of well-intentioned but ultimately useless correspondence. To that end, here are a few tips on how to write a letter that no one will read:

1. Quote the Bible. As much as I respect the Scriptures, using biblical passages in a letter to a politician will almost guarantee that it will not be taken seriously. You will appear to be a religious fanatic and not someone who has seriously thought about an issue.

2. Express your anger. Want your letter to be dismissed as hate mail? Use exclamation marks liberally, write in a preaching tone and include veiled threats of divine judgment.

3. Write to the wrong person. Not all letters of protest about federal policy should be written to the Prime Minister. Sometimes it is better to write to your local Member of Parliament or to a Minister. Find out who is the best person to receive a letter before you send it out.

4. Use a form letter or a petition. Personal, handwritten letters are better received than form letters and especially a petition. VOMC typically avoids making these available because of their relative ineffectiveness. The only person that they really benefit is the person writing is because of how easy they are to use. But is this really the point?

5. Write long letters. Enough said. Letters to politicians should be no more than a page long. Anything longer and you may be wasting your time and ink.

6. Cover many topics. Hey, while you have his or her attention, why not address a number of things that are bothering you? Instead, stick to one subject, write on it well and succinctly and then finish. Avoid the temptation to sneak other concerns in the back door.

7. Don't identify yourself. Keep your identity a secret. Surely this will add an air of mystery to your letter. Right...all the way to the paper shredder.

8. Refuse to use proper titles. Show disrespect for them by referring to them by their first name. Address your letter to "Dear Scumbag." This will really get their attention! In truth, remember that politicians, ambassadors and all other government leaders are entitled to the respect that you can give them even if they make you angry sometimes. If you want to be taken seriously, address them by their proper title and salutation.

In the next few weeks, we are going to be totally rewriting our advocacy pages on our website so as to assist you to write more effective letters. Watch for more details.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Prayer and Letter Writing

I was happy to learn yesterday from Compass Direct that Egyptian authorities have released Bahaa el-Akkad, a Christian convert from Islam who had been jailed without charges under Egypt's controversial emergency laws for the past two years. Officials at the Wadi el-Natroun Prison released him on April 28, and he was reunited with his wife and three children by nightfall.

El-Akkad reportedly told his lawyer after his release, "While I was in prison, my family told me thousands of people was praying for me. I was sure that was true, because Jesus was with me all through my ordeal." He found hundreds of letters and cards waiting for him when he got home, mailed over the past few months in a concerted letter-writing campaign from Christians around the world.
This is why I often encourage people to subscribe to both the monthly Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter and the weekly email Persecution and Prayer Alert. Both provide significant ways in which you can serve the persecuted without actually having to leave home. Prayer is doing something! And letter writing is not a waste of time. Consider how you can step up, stand up and speak up for the persecuted in your life.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Spreading the C-Virus

According to a report in Reuters yesterday, computer specialist Didier Stevens put up a simple text advertisement on the Internet offering downloads of a computer virus for people who did not have any. Surprisingly, he found as many as 409 people clicking on the ad saying "Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!" during a 6-month advertising campaign on Google's Adword. There was no virus involved but only an experiment aiming to show these kinds of advertising systems can be used for malicious intent. I will leave you to decide what else this campaign revealed about the kind of person who would actually click on such an ad.

I am just putting the last touches on our June newsletter today. The feature article is entitled, "Spreading the C-Virus" and focuses on the persecution facing Christians in Burma (Myanmar). According to a Burmese pastor who is interviewed in the article, there is a saying that if you are Christian and you are Chin (a minority tribe) you have the C-virus. "As a Chin and a Christian, you are automatically considered a second-class citizen," he says. "You will not get promoted in any government employment, so you do not have much hope."

How many of us would remain faithful to our faith if we had to live daily with the pressures that Burmese and other persecuted believers do? Being viewed as sick, infected with a virus. second-class, disposable....

You will want to read the June edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter. Those who agreed to be interviewed for this article risked their lives and safety to do so. They wanted you to know what it means for them to follow Christ in this restrictive nation. You should subscribe today if you are not already receiving our monthly newsletter so as not to miss it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Video Footage of Christians Being Attacked in India

Recently, two attacks on Christian leaders by Hindu militants was televised on Indian television. The links below show news clippings of the attacks from CNN-IBN television news channel:

Please remember those who are active in sharing the gospel in India. They are increasingly doing so at the risk of their own lives.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Prayer Request

As many of you know, since mid-December I have been recuperating from a bone-marrow transplant. I am grateful that things have gone as well as they have, but the last few weeks have been a struggle. I have been fighting a bronchial pneumonia brought on by an infection of the cytomegalovirus (CMV). This has not only tired me out, but consumed a tremendous amount of my time as it has required that I travel to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto 2-3 times a week. As a result, I am falling further and further behind in some of the ministry responsibilities that I have as CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs here in Canada.

In particular, I have two events upcoming that I would really appreciate your prayers for.

First, next weekend my wife and I travel to Sarnia, Ontario where I will speak briefly on Sunday morning at Temple Baptist Church and then at a fund-raising concert for the mission that evening. Please pray that I will have the strength for the trip and for these events. This is the first time that I have spoken publicly since my transplant. Please pray, too, that I will have time this week to prepare what I need to say.

Second, on June 4-8, I am scheduled to teach at Toronto Baptist Seminary. Again, I need prayer that I will have time and energy to prepare and that God will sustain me during that week. I love teaching and put everything into it and so I am often exhausted at the end (even when I am in better health). So your prayers would be greatly appreciated during the next three weeks. I know that God can and will be my strength during these days of weakness. May He be glorified!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Assumptions That Conservatives Make About Persecution

A couple of weeks ago, I took a shot at liberals and I make no apology for that. I am a conservative, though not as far right as many. Hence, I am also not above critiquing fellow conservatives and tendencies that we tend to demonstrate.

Recently, a conservative reporter wrote an article based on an interview that I did with Mission Network News on the persecution facing Christians in Eritrea. I was amazed to read his story, as it had almost nothing in common with my interview. Somehow, he was under the mistaken impression that Eritrea was a Muslim country and that the Christians were being persecuted in this east African country on this basis. He claimed that the Christians had been arrested in Eritrea by Muslims and wrote, "This country used to be divided almost evenly between Muslims and Christians. Now Muslims have Islam World Rule as their prime priority; therefore infidels must be eliminated."

Frankly, this statement has absolutely no basis in fact and I was astonished by such incredibly poor journalism.

But it did get me thinking about assumptions that conservatives tend to make about persecution:

First, they tend to want to blame Muslims for most of the persecution facing Christians today. This is unfortunate because the world's greatest persecutor, as far as what impacts the greatest number of believers, is Communism. What is forgotten is that the Christian population in many Muslim countries is really quite small. This is not to minimize the growing, serious, and violent persecution facing Christians in Islamic nations, but we need to keep it in perspective. We also need to remember the growing persecution of Christians by Hindus in India and by Buddhists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Second, conservatives tend to think that persecution must inevitably hinder the spread of the gospel and so where there is persecution the church must be struggling to survive. The corresponding assumption is that religious freedom is necessary for the church to really function properly. I am often asked by conservative reporters, "So how will this persecution impact how the church does evangelism?" To be honest, it often doesn't. Those who are active in sharing the gospel are going to whether there is opposition or not. Those who do not share the gospel, likewise, won't regardless of how much freedom they have.

Third, conservatives tend to assume that the solution to any problem facing persecuted Christians is an infusion of Western cash. The question, "What can we do to help?" often really means, "How can we send money to these people?" This approach to ministry is, I believe, extremely short-sighted, materialistic, and not particularly biblical, resulting in consequences that are proving to be detrimental to the church's witness in many restricted nations.

A Book Review of A Martyr's Grace by Marvin J. Newell

One of the newest books to hit VOMC's shelves is A Martyr's Grace: Stories of Those Who Gave All for Christ and His Cause by Marvin J. Newell. I found it to be an interesting and worthwhile read. Also, at just over 200 pages, I think it can fit quite easily into most people's schedules. You could flip through a few of the stories at a time, say before bed or during a commute, or you could set aside a few hours and likely even finish it off in one sitting.

A Martyr's Grace tells the true stories of twenty-one men and women who died while serving as Christian missionaries in hostile nations. Each of these believers, who were all of them students at the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, are classified as martyrs according to D.L. Moody's own definition: "those who were killed because they refused to renounce their faith or because of active opposition to their witness."

Newell spent seven years as a professor of missions and intercultural studies at Moody in addition to spending twenty-one years as a field missionary in Papua and Indonesia. He writes authoritatively about the Moody missionary program and knowledgably about a number of countries and cultures.

A Martyr's Grace takes its reader around the globe and throughout history. Within the first ten pages, for example, it travels from Lebanon in 2002 to China during the Boxer Rebellion. It even goes as far back as the 1890's in order to tell the story of Moody's first known martyr, teacher Ella Mary Schenk, who met her death in West Africa.

Some of the martyrs told about are well-known, such John and Betty Stam, who were beheaded by Communist forces in China, and some are not. In either case, Newell reveals that all of the stories-new or old, short or long, well-known or unknown-are worth telling. None of them seem out of place or fail to show the power of sacrificing all for Christ.

One of the most compelling aspects of A Martyr's Grace is that it outlines the uniqueness of each martyrdom experience. In the introduction, Newell points out that there is "no specific personal qualification for one to enter the ranks of martyrdom." He proves this by thoroughly describing each martyr's childhood, personal relationships and individual gifts and abilities. He even describes many of their final moments in great detail, but his emphasis is on the glory of their faithfulness, not the gore of their death.

I appreciate that Newell also includes the moments of fear, frustration and sadness that these martyrs endured. He reminds his reader that, like all Christians, they were imperfect human beings for whom faithfulness was a constant struggle. They did not succeed by their own strength but by complete obedience to their Saviour.

A Martyr's Grace is an inspiring and challenging call to embrace the way of the cross. Not only do the lives of these missionaries demonstrate "a martyr's grace," they also encourage Christians in every country and calling to live for Christ at all cost.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

If I Were a Copt

One of the more interesting daily emails that I get is from The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). MEMRI monitors Middle Eastern media outlets picks up things that our Western media often misses. In today's release, they publish a summary of a May 12, 2007 article in Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt) by Egyptian Muslim intellectual Tarek Heggy. Entitled "If I Were a Copt," the author sharply criticizes the Egyptian regime's policy towards its Coptic Christian population. The following are the main points of the article:

"If I were a Copt, I would flood Egypt, and the world, with the facts about the overall atmosphere that is pressuring the Copts in Egypt today.

"If I were a Copt, I would familiarize the world with the injustices caused to many Copts in Egypt since [the Free Officers Revolution in] 1952. They don't get the high-level political posts and executive positions that they deserve, not to mention their sparse [representation] in parliament.

"If I were a Copt, I would create a ruckus in Egypt, and in the world, over the fact that I pay taxes with which the state funds Al-Azhar University, while [Al-Azhar] does not permit Copts to attend any of its institutes.

"If I were a Copt, I would make a huge commotion in the world, because my taxes fund the construction of dozens of mosques, but, since 1952, the Egyptian state has not participated in the building of a single church, except for president Gamal Abd Al-Nasser's participation in funding the construction of the St. Marc Cathedral in Al-'Abasiyya, 40 years ago...

"If I were a Copt, I would publish articles, one after another, about how the [Egyptian] media ignores matters [concerning me] and my religious holidays - as if I and the Copts did not exist in Egypt.

"If I were a Copt, I would tell the entire world [how] the Coptic history of Egypt [is handled] in the Egyptian curriculum, and how the study material for the Arabic language no longer [includes] literary texts, qasidahs, poetry, stories, plays, and legends, but [only] Islamic texts which [belong] with the study material for religion [class] for Muslim pupils.

"If I were a Copt, I would flood the world with complaints about the suffering Copts go through [merely] in order to obtain a license to build a church - with their own funds, not with the public taxes that [they] participate in paying.

"If I were a Copt, I would bring the world to its feet because of the terrible things that some Muslim writers write and disseminate - about how a Copt should not be permitted to be the head of state, on [how a Copt should pay] the jizya [poll tax paid by protected non-Muslims under Islam], and how Copts should not be drafted into the military...

"If I were a Copt, I would conduct a campaign within [Egypt], and outside it, to abolish the 'religion' entry on the Egyptian identity card. Why should someone who conducts a relationship with me on the general and public level want to know what my religion is?...

"If I were a Copt, I would make the world understand that the issue of the Copts in Egypt is one of the symptoms of a [certain] mentality, whose influence has spread through this region of the world, and that all humanity must force [those] with this mentality to reconsider this discriminatory path."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Anti-Conversion Bill Anticipated in Eighth Indian State

We learned today from Compass Direct that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to enact an anti-conversion law in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand in the upcoming session of the state Assembly. Hindu militants commonly use anti-conversion legislation to falsely accuse Christians of converting people through force or allurement. In this way, they justify attacks on Christians or deflect prosecution away from themselves by pressing charges of "forcible conversion" without any evidence. Reading through the numerous reports of persecution that VOMC has received in the last year, you can see how common these accusations are.

Seven Indian states already have anti-conversion laws, known as Freedom of Religion Acts: Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. While anti-conversion laws were enforced in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (before they were divided into two separate states) in 1967 and in Orissa in 1968, the legislation in Rajasthan state, which passed in the state Assembly in April 2006, is still awaiting governor's assent. Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat also have passed such laws in 1978 and 2003 respectively, with their governors' approval, but they have not been implemented as rules have yet to be framed. The Himachal Pradesh Assembly passed its anti-conversion law on December 30, 2006, and the state governor signed it into a law on February 20, 2007. The rules are yet to be framed, however, to bring the law into force. Some Hindu nationalists are pushing for a national anti-conversion law.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Ugly Apple Tree Next Door

Our neighbour has the ugliest apple tree. And because the house next door is a rental property and the tree sits right near the property line and leans over our backyard patio, it has fallen on us to try to prune it from time to time to keep it from getting out of control. You see, it is not only ugly, but it grows like a weed. All of this would be pardonable if it at least grew decent apples. But it doesn't. The ugly tree produces lots of tiny, ugly apples. It is fruitful though.

The only decent thing that this tree is capable of producing is blossoms in the spring and for that I am prepared to forgive it of its many transgressions.

Last year we almost killed it off as we severely pruned it back. It had grown up next to the house and was scratching the siding, dropping leaves on the patio, and generally making a messy nuisance of itself. And so we went to work on it (with the permission of the landowner next door). Unfortunately, we were left with a tree that came out even uglier than before. I was afraid that we may have gone too far. Not that anyone would have grieved much over its demise, but I hated having such an ugly tree to look at every time I looked outside into the backyard. We had created a monster.

This week, the ugly apple tree has produced one of its most prolific crops of blossoms that I have ever seen. I can smell them through our bedroom and an explosion of pink blossoms greets me when I go out onto the patio. It seems that the worse we treat this ugly tree, the more beautiful it becomes in the spring.

Have you ever noticed that some people are like that? It is only because of hardship that their true beauty comes out? Suffering and persecution seem to produce a harvest of blossoms. In truth, the real beauty is already there and only becomes evident when suffering comes. Suffering reveals the real person within.

Jesus said that every branch that produces fruit, he prunes so that it will produce more fruit (John 15:2). He does not prune branches that do not produce fruit. In the same way, persecution and suffering does not produce faith or greater commitment to Christ as much as it shows whether faith is already there and then deepens it.

VOMC Creates Memorial for Martyred Nigerian Teacher

As reported by The Voice of the Martyrs last month, Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a Christian teacher at Government Day Secondary School in Gombe state was murdered by her own Muslim students on March 21. Christianah was survived by her husband Femi Oluwasesin and two young children; a son, Timilade and a daughter, Temiloluwa.

When they are old enough, Timilade and Temiloluwa will receive free education at the Stephen Center, a school in Abeokuta, Nigeria operated by VOMC and our partners that is specifically set up to educate and care for children whose parents have been killed for their faith.
I am pleased to announce that we are creating a memorial to Christianah at the Stephen Center. A new computer classroom will be dedicated to the memory of Christianah and her sacrifice for Christ. Funds will be raised to furnish the room with 60 computers and desks. Each computer/desk combo will cost approximately $750.00. If you could like to be a part of this special project, you can donate online and designate your gift to the Families of Martyrs Fund.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Stories Like That....

In the chorus of the song, Boy Like Me / Man Like You, Rich Mullins asks Jesus what it was like when He was growing up. He asks,

And did they tell You stories 'bout the saints of old?
Stories about their faith?
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold
Stories like that make a man walk straight.

A couple of weeks ago, we received an email from the manager of a radio station that runs our Jesus Freaks radio program, indicating that he has received a complaint from a listener that the program was too graphic. This was the first time that we had received such a concern about this program. We have received similar complaints about our videos and newsletter articles from time to time, but never about our radio programs. These complaints always amaze me, to be honest, because I know how hard we work to be fair and honest in our reporting without being exploitative.

But I wonder why it is that we have become so sensitive in the late 20th and early 21st century? I read some of the classic historical books that recount the stories of faith from previous centuries (books like John Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Martyrs Mirror) and I am stuck by how graphic they are in their description of what our brothers and sisters went through. And yet, previous generations of believers did not hide these things from the public, not even from their children. Indeed, they read these books to their children in the hope that they would grow up to be bold in their faith just like those who had gone before them. They recognized the importance of models of faith. They knew that stories like that make a boy grow bold, stories like that make a man walk straight.

But no, we shield our children from such stories and then wonder why they cannot stand up to peer pressure. We say, "These stories are too depressing" and then watch as our children throw out their faith the first time that tragedy strikes their life. We are raising a generation who thinks that God is obligated to protect us from harm all of the time and that suffering is the exception to the rule. We are raising a self-centred generation who believe that they had a right to personal peace and affluence. We forget that the Christian is called to sacrifice for others so that they will have life. We are called to suffer so that others will prosper. The martyrs teach us this.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hidden Heroines

King Lemuel asked, "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies" (Prov.31:10). Looking back at almost 24 years of marriage to my wonderful wife Denita, and recognizing how special our bond is in light of the ministry that God has called me to that in the past decade has often taken me away from home, I acknowledge the truth of Lemuel's words. Dedicated to raising our three children and giving them a stable home and church life, Denita almost never accompanies me in my travels. This is a decision we made together when I first joined The Voice of the Martyrs in 1997 and we have never regretted it. Of course, I miss her very much when we are apart, but her role is critical. She is the unseen partner, the hidden heroine who upholds my ministry and that of the mission through prayer and sacrifice. I praise God for the strength she is in my life.

From the very beginning, the Church of Jesus Christ has been blessed by the testimony and ministry of godly women who were not afraid to declare their allegiance to Christ and prepared to sacrifice for the sake of their Lord. Buried in the pages of history and hidden away in remote areas of the world, their stories of courage and faith shine forth with the message of God's faithfulness in every circumstance. And while each of them would deny that they are heroines, their testimony, once heard, continues to speak to us today.

We need to hear the voice of our hidden heroines; often ordinary women who have answered the call of our Lord to follow Him regardless of the cost. Here are some of their stories:

Felicitas: The Woman Who Worried an Emperor (A.D 164)

Felicitas was a Christian widow who lived with her seven sons in Rome during the early days of Christianity. Both she and her sons were mightily used of God in winning many to Christ. Her witness for Jesus was such that Emperor Antonius, himself, learned that many Romans were turning from idol worship to Christianity because of this family. Alarmed, he ordered Publius, the chief magistrate of Rome, to compel this woman and her sons to renounce their faith and sacrifice to the Roman gods, as was their duty as Roman citizens. If they refused, they were to be put to death.

Publius first attempted to bribe Felicitas into readopting the Roman religion with various kinds of promises. When this was unsuccessful, he began to threaten her with torture, but still he could not move this woman of faith. He urged her to think of her sons. "If you love your sons," he said, "at least, command them to save their own lives."

"If I were to do that," she replied, "they would not be saving their lives but selling their bodies and souls to the devil." She then turned to her sons and said, "Remain steadfast in the faith and in the confession of Christ; for Christ and His saints are waiting for you. Behold, heaven is open before you; therefore fight valiantly for your souls and show that you are faithful in the love of Christ, where with He loves you and you Him."

Enraged, Publius had Felicitas brutally beaten in front of her sons and then sought to convince each of them to renounce their faith. But emboldened by their mother's courage, they followed her words and example and refused.

Finally, Publius sent a message to the Emperor, informing him of his failure. Antonius ordered that the entire family be executed, but that the sons were to be tortured to death by separate executioners, Each son was to be killed in a different manner, with their mother forced to watch each of them die before she was to be put to death.

Thus Felicitas witnessed each of her sons give their lives for Christ just as she had urged them to do. Last of all, this woman who worried an emperor was beheaded. Together, they had remained faithful "even unto death" (Rev.2:10).

Ursel: Weak in Body but Strong in Faith (1570)

As recounted in Martyrs Mirror, the hostility of the new Duke of Alva towards the Anabaptist Christians was well known and so many were fleeing from Maestricht, Holland before the expected storm of persecution broke. Of those who remained was a woman named Ursel van Essen and her husband Arent. Before long, they were arrested and thrown into prison.

Ursel was not a physically strong woman. Her legs and feet were so sensitive to pain that she would often wore her stockings inside out because she could not bear the feel of the seams against them. Yet in the days to come, God enabled Ursel to endure horrible torture. She was scourged, beaten and twice placed on the rack. "Tell us who else believes in your heresy," her torturers demanded. After one particularly excruciating experience on the rack, the temptation to end the torture by exposing others was so strong that she cried out, "O Lord, strengthen me and keep my lips."

Finally on January 9, 1570, Arent and Ursel were informed that they were to be put to the stake the following morning. They praised God that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's name and spent the entire night thanking and praising God. The next morning, as she was led to the stake, she asked if she could sing a little and say a few words. Fearing what she might say, the executioners gagged her, preventing her from going to her death with the praise of God on her lips.

Annemarie: "Baptize Me or I'll Shoot You" (mid-20th Century)

Richard Wurmbrand in his book The Overcomers tells the story of Annemarie, a young Slovak Christian who was arrested during the reign of Communism in Czechoslovakia. Even while she was being tortured, her main desire was to prevent her torturer from going to a Christless eternity. She shared with him again and again the beauty of Christ and His kingdom. His reply was more punches and more whipping. This failed to dissuade her.

Her testimony for Christ worked in the man. Once when she was brought before him, he asked her in mockery, "Tell me more about your God." Annmarie replied, "In vain you beat me. You will never succeed in beating out of me my love for God nor my ardent love for you."

He mocked her: "Usually girls wait for boys to declare their love first. What is this stupid declaration of love on your part? We are not in the love business here. You should be telling me the secrets of the Underground Church. If you don't, I will beat out of you all your loves, for God, for me, or for any other young men."

She replied, "While you beat me, I look at your hands. They are beautiful. I imagine how your wife enjoys it when you use them to caress her. When one caresses, two persons have pleasure, the caressed and the one caressing. But what is the good of beating? It is terrible for those of us who are victims. But it must be terrible for you too to have your ears deafened with cries of suffering. And this day by day, every day. It must be maddening. So why don't you turn from beating to caressing?

"I will tell you one thing more, something no girl normally tells a young man. But here we are in extraordinary circumstances. You have very attractive lips. How happy your wife must be when you kiss her. What rapture this must be for both of you. May I ask you a simple question? Isn't kissing better than swearing, shouting foul words, or being angry? Both you and the person you address are soiled by such language. Then why not kissing instead of swearing? God created our lips for this."

"Where do you get all these foolish thoughts?" the communist officer asked.

She replied, "I have a boyfriend, the sweetest of all. And it not simply that He loves me. He is love, itself. The most exquisite love, love of a kind that does not seek pleasure so much as to fill the beloved with joy. Since knowing this boyfriend, I can only love. Whether I am caressed or hurt, I can only love. You love hatred now. I call upon you to love Love."

He gave her a powerful blow, and she fell to the concrete, hitting her temple and passing out. When she came to, she saw him sitting quietly as if in meditation.

He told her, "I have been thinking about your boyfriend. What He says makes sense. Caressing is better than beating and kissing is better than swearing. I'm surprised that this simple truth has not been obvious to me before. Who is this boyfriend of yours?"

Annmarie told him the Name above every name. He asked simply, "How can I make Him be my friend too?" She replied, "You must repent and be baptized." "Then baptize me immediately," he demanded.

She replied, "I can't do that!" She did not know that in special circumstances everyone can baptize, even a child. He pointed a revolver at her: "Baptize me now or I'll shoot you!"

He dragged her to a pool and dumped her into the water. Then he following her in and Annmarie baptized him. After a time, the converted torturer, risking his own liberty, gave her the certificate of release from jail of another woman prisoner who had died on the day she was to be set free.

Zewditu Melsse: Looking for a Home (2001)

The daughter of an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, Zewditu Melsse should have known the way to salvation. But at the age of 16, the Holy Spirit began to pull at her heart to move beyond religious ritual and enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She started to pray and to read her father's Bible and her walk with Christ deepened. She noticed that certain passages were highlighted and remembered that one of her cousins had once read this Bible and become a "pente" or evangelical. But she continued to delve into the Word of God and her faith grew.

One day her father discovered her reading his Bible. He exploded. "I do not want you to become like my nephew" he exclaimed. "I would rather burn this Bible than allow that to happen. You will give up this foolishness immediately."

But she continued in her search to know Christ. Her father threatened to remove her from school. She still would not forsake her newfound faith. Finally, he gave her a choice, "Faith or home." She chose her faith and was forced to move to Engebara, a neighbouring town where she was forced to take a manual job of hauling water. But because "Pentes" are not allowed to draw water from the well and no one will sell it to her, she must buy her water from other evangelicals in the community. This means more and longer hours of walking and carrying water. Evangelicals in Engebara are treated like second-class citizens, unable to bury their dead, unable to find meaningful work. Children throw stones at them and mobs of young people often attack them as they leave church meetings.

Zewdita is a petite young woman and her life is hard. She is now nineteen years old and lives in conditions that most would find unbearable. She is often weak from hunger and sick. When asked what gives her strength during times of discouragement, she replied, "The knowledge that this life is only temporary and that one day the Lord will take me home where there will be no persecution. I look forward to this day very much." Her heart still goes out to her father and she asked if we would pray for his salvation. Having no home in this world, she looks forward to one to come.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Oops...They Did It Again: Liberalism's Apparent Inability to Pick the Right Partner

One of the truly irritating things about liberals is the impression that they like to portray that they are the only ones who really think and that they have the corner on the defense of human rights. They also have this apparent passion for trying to make the rest of us feel guilty for one thing or another, as they forever apologize for or bemoan Western culture, values, and actions. And they will become bedmates with whomever they see as the chief opponent of Western (and particularly American) foreign policy. If the West is for it then it must be suspect...or so these liberal "intellectuals" would seem to reason.

In the 1980's, I traveled to Czechoslovakia while it was still staunchly communist and a vassal of the Soviet Union. As I waited at the Czech-Austrian border for my visa to be processed and my vehicle to be searched, I noticed a good number of posters and banners on the walls proclaiming the virtues of peace and disarmament. The West was portrayed as a horde of warmongers intent on destroying the peace loving Communist nations. What struck me was that this was the same message that was being proclaimed by the peace demonstrators in Western Europe and Great Britain at the time who were pushing for the removal of American nuclear missiles from their soil. The naïveté of these liberals was breathtaking. They really believed that the solution to the Cold War was the unilateral disarmament of the West. No wonder the communists supported their efforts publicly and financially.

As history shows, however, the Cold War ended not due to the efforts of the liberals. It was at the hands of conservatives like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II, who refused to listen to the liberal siren song.

Now Western liberals have a new bedmate; Islamists. Crying "Peace, peace" when there is no (and can be no) peace, they seem to be of the opinion that if the West would just leave the Islamists alone, then all of the problems in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan would disappear. "After all," they reason, "somehow it is our fault that these young Muslims are blowing up market places and buses, and flying airplanes into skyscrapers."

Ah yes, liberal guilt. If something bad happens, it must be our fault somehow. They exhibit the same tragic tendency to internalize guilt as an abuse victim. It is never really the fault of the perpetrator. Their anti-western, anti-American bias drives them into the bed of those who, like the communists, know how to manipulate such naïveté. And our liberals, with their selective, short memories of Islamist atrocities of the past, eagerly embrace their new lovers. "At last," they sigh, "we have found someone who hates the West as much as we do. These poor people...surely it must be our fault that they are as angry and violent as they are. If we just show them enough love, I am sure that they will eventually love us in return."

Remind me, please, how is it is the fault of the West that every country that has enshrined Sharia law as the basis of their constitution has limited or no freedom of conscience, expression, the press, or religion? Tell me again, how the West is to blame for the second-class legal and political rights that women and religious minorities typically have in Islamic-controlled counties. Is the fact that Shiites and Sunni Muslims in Iraq seem intent on slaughtering each other to be blamed on the West somehow? I am sure that these thoughtful liberals will figure some way to exonerate their new love.

Astonishingly enough, it is because of our Western liberals that liberal Muslims are having a hard time being heard. As Farzana Hassan-Shahid of the Muslim Canadian Congress recently told the Toronto Star, what is disconcerting is a tendency he's noticed among many on the left to embrace militant Muslims because they like the anti-U.S., anti-George W. Bush rhetoric of such people. "They think they're like the Sandinistas," he says, referring to the Nicaraguan rebels of the 1980s.

I am not sure how we are going solve the Islamist threat to world peace. I am convinced that it will not be soon and it is likely to get far bloodier. In many ways, the present danger is far more complicated than the Cold War because we are not dealing with governments but with divergent, decentralized, religiously driven militant groups. I am convinced, however, that the solution will not be the liberal approach. Their approach is the product of sloppy thinking and misplaced guilt, fueled by prejudice, and blind to the past; things they often accuse us conservatives of.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Prayer Requested

I would like to ask for your prayers. I have not been feeling well at all for almost a week now. Weak, dizzy, nauseous...I am almost certain that a large part of it has to do with the medications that I am taking. The purpose of many of them is to counter the effects of other medication and I am starting to feel like my whole body is on a pharmaceutical merry-go-round. Take this drug for this and another for this, and then take this one to counter that side effect and another to counter that one and then we are back at the beginning again.

I am planning on having a serious take with my doctors on Tuesday to see if we can take a determined look at the hodgepodge of drugs they have me on to see if we can start to cut some them out. As it is, I feel worse now than I did a month after my transplant in some ways. Yesterday, I was so dizzy that I could hardly walk for most of the day. Thankfully, my mind is still clear but physically, I feel the pits.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed for me over the past few months. I just wanted to let you know how you could continue to do so in the days to come. Thanks.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Turkey Calls for Early Elections... Thankfully

The Voice of the Martyrs welcomes the news of an early general election in Turkey set for July 22. We believe that this is may the only way that the present crisis between Islamists and secularists in the Turkish parliament can be resolved without military intervention. It is hoped that an early election will stem the decline of the separation between religion and state in Turkey and the creeping rise of Islamism that has become evident since the election of the Justice and Development Party.

This opinion was confirmed by Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute, who wrote in an April 28 article called "Don't Misread Turkey's Generals" that this rising crisis is what compelled the Turkish General Staff to issue a strongly worded warning about the erosion of the secular nature of the republic. According to Baran:

Many in the West-particularly in Europe-consider this statement by the military to be unacceptable interference in the political process. However, given the unique nature of Turkey's democracy, this statement may ironically end up preventing a much worse outcome.

In a carefully reasoned article, Baran notes how, in light of its fiercely secular past, the Turkish military has enjoyed great legitimacy in the eyes of most Turks compared to other institutions. As he notes, however, this has, unfortunately, "led many people to expect the military to "save them" from internal and external challenges, illiberal political parties, or corrupt governments.

Instead of taking on the accountability to ensure that their secular system is preserved through the normal democratic process, the Turkish people have become lazy and vote irresponsibly, believing that if anything goes wrong, the military will put it right again.

For example, during the last parliamentary elections in 2002, many Turks angry with the outgoing government voted for the Justice and Development Party (AKP). When I later asked some of these individuals why they voted for a party that they themselves suspected of having Islamist roots, I was told, "all other parties failed us...let's try these guys...if they don't play by the rules, then the military will kick them out."

To download the entire article, click here. It is really a worthwhile read to anyone seeking to understand the Turkish political environment, especially as it relates to the roles of Islam and secularism.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tough Love

Last night I woke up to a sight I will not soon forget.

You see, early yesterday evening, my wife took me to the emergency room at our local hospital. I had been feeling poorly for a few days and on Tuesday I was told by my doctor that if I started to feel worse or got a fever that I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Both happened. I could barely walk for fatigue and shortness of breath, my mind was in a fog, I could barely stay awake and my temperature was up. And so off to emergency I went; a part of any hospital that I really hate.

It took about three hours before I finally was looked at. I kept falling in and out of consciousness. We were pretty sure that the problem was dehydration. For some reason, I have susceptible to it for the past couple of years. Not exactly something one would expect in southern Ontario where it is so humid. Guess I don't drink enough (and I am told that coffee doesn't count as a hydrator).

Anyway, I must have fallen asleep for a few hours because I woke up at one point, and looked up to see my wife sitting in a chair at the foot of the bed. I glanced at my watch and was astonished to see that it was 3:00 a.m. I was so touched that she loved me so much as to stay with me for so long. She could have gone home (and really should have), but she stayed. That act, in and of itself, touched me deeply inside.

I am glad to say that she did go home shortly thereafter to get some sleep. And this morning, I was released from hospital, although I have to go to the transplant clinic in Toronto tomorrow. But this experience has helped me to realize anew what a special lady I have. I guess that is what love is all about; hanging in there when things get tough. And the last year has been tough for her.

It also reminds me of those who write us complaining that our programs are too graphic or that they really can't handle hearing about the suffering of the persecuted. It makes me think; how much do they really love the Body of Christ if they can't hang in there when things get tough? As 1 John 3:18 says, "Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."