We asked our CEO, Mike, to tell us what has challenged or encouraged him in his faith this year. These were his answers…
1. Indonesia: ‘We will not stop hunting Christians’
‘We will not stop hunting Christians’ – these have to be some of the most chilling words I heard from last year, words used by extremists after they had burnt this church down. This image really brings to life the reality of persecution in Indonesia. It’s an image that for me really conveys stress, anxiety, pressure and fear.
2. Egypt: 21 Christians killed, Believers respond with love
There are often moments in life where you feel like your understanding of God goes through a rapid reshaping and this image is one of those moments. Having had the privilege of meeting believers in Egypt to see their response of forgiveness and prayer to what can only be described as a brutal and vicious attack challenged my idea of grace and forgiveness and I’ll be forever changed because of it. You need to read this story to believe it!
3. Garissa University Attack
148 students killed on Easter Sunday – this is probably the most defining story of 2015 for me. I remember I was about to speak to 2,000 people at a conference on Easter Sunday when I got reports through of this attack, in that moment I saw fear, hate, a lack of love, grace and respect towards God and what was so shocking was I saw all of those traits in me. We’re called to pray for the persecutors and it was the last thing on my mind. This story and that moment was the day my prayer life changed forever.
4. Day of Prayer for Syria
Amongst all the heartache this year, there were glimpses of beauty and one of those had to be the Australian church coming together to pray for the situation in Syria. The wonderful thing about this was the concept of asking Australia to pray was birthed in our small team in Sydney and then through the grace of God was picked up and run with by the likes of Hillsong Church and countless other groups across the country. This was the body of Christ coming together to cover our brothers and sisters in prayer. Absolutely beautiful.
5. Women released from Boko Haram
The kidnapping of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram gained media attention the world over. Michelle Obama was actively involved in a campaign #BringBackOurGirls but as the months dragged on hope seemed to fade. Earlier this year we heard news that another group of 700 women had been rescued, who were also kidnapped by Boko Haram. This image is of one of those women rescued. We are continuing to pray for the safety of the Chibok girls, and that God would strengthen their faith.
6. Bible Smuggling in Central Asia
We often write about the “Secret church” but so often can’t tell or show any of the work that goes into our work with them. These images give a rare insight into what so many people say is synonymous with the ministry of Open Doors – Bible smuggling.
7. 60 years of serving persecuted Christians
“The question is not look at what we’ve done, the question is what would the world be like had we not done it…” – Brother Andrew. This year marked the 60th anniversary of the ministry of Open Doors. Often we can’t talk about our work in some of the most dangerous places, but many years on – when danger passes – we can. This image is of one of the secret printing presses that were littered throughout Europe in Open Doors early years.
8. Carlos’ Trip to the Middle East
I am always encouraged by people who decide to respond to the need of the persecuted church. Earlier this year one of our supporters chose to run a marathon through the middle-east in support of the persecuted church. It is a trip we offer each year and was life-changing. If you’ve not heard Carlos’ story before then I encourage you to read more here!
9. Training in Southeast Asia
The power of this image is that we so often take baptisms for granted here in the relative safety of the west, whereas this image and the people in the image could easily lose their freedom or even their life for choosing to be baptised. There is a cost to following Jesus and the people we work with know that the cost they face is nothing compared to the price Christ paid for them.
10. Practical support in Iraq and Syria
Having spent some time in Iraq meeting with people displaced by Islamic State I was so moved by the people who have chosen to stay and help with the masses of internally displaced people. One ministry worker said to me that they stay because they believe that one day every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord in Iraq. It is big visions like this that drive me to tell their story and raise support because we can use our freedom to help people achieve their dreams.
Pray for the persecuted church, ask God to minister to those who are suffering for Christ and give them faith, hope and joy in Him.
Open Doors supports persecuted Christians around the world. You can give to the ministry here.