Carlos recently went on a unique Open Doors trip. Not only did he meet persecuted Christians and visit local sights, he got to do so in the birthplace of Christianity – the Middle East –running a marathon for the persecuted church.
We interviewed Carlos before and after his trip to find out more about his experience and the impact it has had.
Carlos’ marathon was part of the Muskathlon – run by the 4th Muskateers and Open Doors. The trip was nine days, but they managed to do a lot!
Travelling to three different countries; Israel, Palestine and Jordan, they visited many cities including; Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Aman.
Along the way they visited many of the places where events from the bible transpired. They visited the Sea of Galilee, Golgotha (‘the place of the skull’ where it is believed Jesus was crucified), the Garden Tomb (the place where it is believed Jesus was buried), the Shepherd’s Field (the place where the angels visited the shepherds and told them to follow the star), and the Church of the Nativity (the birthplace of Jesus).
Carlos said, “It was incredible being in places where Jesus’ existence is not doubted. His existence has marked history and it is evident across the Middle East.”
They also visited local Christians in many places, “We even got to stay overnight with local families which helped us appreciate and experience their local life. My life has been changed as a result of the Christians I met, and I am incredibly thankful to the Lord for the privilege.”
Carlos’ highlight was meeting persecuted Christians, “We were blessed to travel to Refugee Camps in Jordan – places where many Christians and Muslims have fled to for safety. I got to lead physical activities and games with children at a refugee camp. Putting smiles on those kids’ faces put a smile on my own.”
Carlos met Christians who had to flee their homes in Mosul, Iraq who had everything taken from them at the border.
“We met a family that was fleeing their town for it had been overrun by ISIS – they told us how when crossing the border, all of their possessions were taken from them. Furthermore, to get to safety, they had to walk 300 km…whilst carrying their severely disabled son.”
Whilst we hear news from the Middle East in the media, personal stories aren’t often included. “Hearing the testimonies from persecuted Christians was the hardest part of the trip.
“It was also hard to leave. I cried as I got on the bus leaving the refugee camps. I hold papers that say that I can go anywhere, free. I praise the Lord daily for this freedom. But I met people whose current living conditions are unbearable and they hold onto hope of maybe being reallocated within the next 10 years.”
He thought that he would come home with more ‘hatred’ toward the persecutors for all they do, but listening to persecuted believers left him feeling otherwise.
“I left Australia with a sense that ‘they’ were the ‘enemy’ and that we [Christians] were somehow the only ones that Jesus would die for. But that’s not the gospel. He died once, for all! I was prepared to hate those that persecute. I think that that’s a very natural, yet sinful response… because it’s not what Jesus would have felt.
“Their lesson of love and peace toward their so called ‘enemies’ taught me not only that it is possible to love those that wish death upon you – but also that’s the response that Jesus wants from those He loves.” Carlos says.
When Carlos asked those he met what message he could tell to Christians back home, they said, “Australia needs to hear more about what is going on across the Middle East – and that we [in Australia] should not consider this as just a far-away problem on the other side of the world – but see it as our family in need.”
They also asked Christians in Australia and around the world to pray for members of the Islamic State and other the persecutors around the world. These persecuted Christians know that the fighting won’t stop, and the hurt and loss will remain. They understand that no bombs, or any form of violence will ‘win’. They know that the life of each of the fighters can only change once they encounter Jesus. We need to join them in prayer that they will.
Carlos has committed this to his prayers and asks Open Doors supporters to do the same.
Carlos is also praying for opportunities to continue to stand on behalf of the persecuted, “I know that Jesus has done great things and is continuing to change lives around the world – and I want nothing more than to spend the rest of this life sharing this message with you all.”
He says, “I gained a renewed sense of Jesus’ love for me and for the world whilst in the Middle East. You can’t help but to gain a greater sense of what Jesus bore on the cross – all because of His unending love for the world – in the very place where He did it. What a saviour!”
Today, worldwide there are more christians persecuted because of their faith than in any time in history. This year 52 participants witnessed first hand what persecution does to people. They set aside a whole year in partnership with Open Doors. The final step was to go and visit these refugees. Many were touched by the horrifying stories told by the men and women from Syria and Iraq. Persecution is real and it is happening today. Join the Muskathlon in 2016 and stand with your brothers and sisters. Go to Muskathlon.com.
- Praise God for Carlos’ experience in the Middle East, that God used it to grow his faith.
- Pray for Christians who are persecuted and who have had to flee their homes. Pray that God would heal their pain and would give them comfort.
- Pray for those who have forced the Christians to flee that they will encounter Jesus and put an end to the violence.
You can help support Christians in the Middle East, and around the world, through giving to the ministry of Open Doors.
Follow our blog for the latest stories, Like us on Facebook for updates and subscribe to our Prayer Watch to pray with us. If you would like to find out about travelling with Open Doors, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.