At 21, Mehfri enrolled in a Bible school in Indonesia with no intention of studying the Bible. Although he had grown up in a Christian family, he enrolled in the school only to hide from the police, who were after him for selling drugs. “I was not in the Bible school to get born again,” he said. “When I was in the Bible school, I was thinking how I could sell drugs to the students to get money.” After a few months at the school, and three years of selling cocaine and Ecstasy, Mehfri was arrested and put in jail. Then, one day, a pastor who visited the jail every Friday gave Mehfri a Bible. As Mehfri began to read the Scriptures, he recalled the few lectures he had paid attention to during his time at the Bible school. The lessons on God’s love spoke to him in his time of need, and his heart was softened toward the Lord. “I read Romans 10, and at that time I confessed that Jesus is my Lord,” he said. Twenty days later, his father, who had always struggled to make ends meet, came up with the money to pay his bail. Following

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Categories: Stories from the Field

Each time a new customer walked through the door of the small coffee shop in South Korea where Min-jae shared his story with VOM workers, he hesitated or stopped talking completely. The middle-aged North Korean studied each person’s face anxiously, searching for clues to his or her intent. Min-jae knew from experience that he could never be too careful, even outside North Korea. Spies often cross the border into South Korea to find defectors and report their names to the North Korean government, which then punishes their relatives still living in the country. “In North Korea, no one trusts each other,” said Min-jae, who even suspected his wife of being a spy. “We have to be very cautious about how we think and always careful with our words. I still have that kind of tendency. I get a little nervous, looking back and forth.” With the coffee grinder providing background noise, Min-jae gradually grew more comfortable sharing the story of how he became a Bible smuggler in the most restricted nation on earth. The Bible: Dangerous Cargo in North Korea Min-jae became a believer during a lengthy business trip to China in 2004. While there, he had visited a friend’s

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Though predominantly Hindu, India is also home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. One bold evangelist is making sure they hear the gospel, despite persecution from both Muslims and Hindus. Harikiran was born into a Hindu family, but he came to know Christ at age 15 after his sister-in-law was healed from a lengthy illness. When modern medicine and witchcraft had failed to improve her condition, she and her family accepted a pastor’s invitation to visit his church. They soon came to know Christ, and Harikiran’s sister-in-law quickly recovered. “From that day,” he said, “we decided to follow Jesus.” In his eagerness to share the peace and healing his family had experienced, Harikiran began telling others about his new Christian faith. As a result, he has faced many challenges over the past couple of decades as he has continued to tell others about Jesus. He has been arrested three times, jailed for a week, beaten, and harassed by a mob of Hindu activists. But none of these difficulties have hindered Harikiran from sharing the gospel. “If we save one woman or one man,” he said, “it will be worth it. Not a single person should be without God.”

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If not for a North Korean government training video, the testimony of Cha Deoksun’s life would never have been known. Produced to train state security agents how to identify and silence those who promote religion inside North Korea, the film denigrates anyone who practices religion. According to the film, Deoksun received Christ in China and then returned to North Korea to share her faith. Incredibly, the propaganda film gives many details about the life of this courageous Christian. It states that during North Korea’s “Great Famine” in the mid-1990s, when an estimated 2.5 million people died, Deoksun was a strong revolutionary whose faith in the government had wavered. After visiting a woman in the northwest to ask for help, she illegally crossed the border into China in search of her uncle. But instead of finding her uncle, who had died, Deoksun found the Seotap Church, where she heard the gospel for the first time. The video says she became a “fanatical believer” who was inspired to return to North Korea and form an underground network of Christians inside the country. When she returned to North Korea, Deoksun apparently turned herself in to authorities for crossing the border illegally. The video

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Categories: Stories from the Field

Weeks before his wife’s death, James had a casual discussion with her about whether either of them would remarry if the other died. James told her he wanted to die first so their two daughters would have a mother to care for them, and his wife, Mary, teased him by saying she would remarry. But then she grew more serious, telling him she had a sense that she would die first. James didn’t think much of the conversation until later, when Mary was killed in an attack on their Christian village in central Nigeria. James was in the city donating blood at a hospital on the day of the attack. When he called home around noon, Mary told him not to come home because they had heard gunshots in a nearby community and she wanted him to avoid traveling through an area of conflict. She was not yet aware that Fulani Islamic militants were attacking the entire region of Barkin Ladi, outside Jos. Beginning at 7 a.m. that Saturday, June 23, 2018, the heavily armed militants swept through the area, using plastic garden sprayers to spray gasoline on houses before setting them ablaze. Mary called James back a little later,

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Abdu Oganesyan and his father were determined to keep their workshop open, despite the civil war that was destroying their Syrian homeland. Abdu’s mother, sister and two younger brothers had moved to a larger city for safety when the war broke out in 2011, but he and his father had stayed behind to continue managing the shop. They were also concerned about protecting the land that had been in their family since 1920, when their ancestors had fled the Armenian genocide in Turkey and immigrated to Syria. When clashes between the Free Syrian Army, al-Nusra Front, Islamic Front and self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) would erupt in their neighborhood, Abdu and his father would hunker down and try to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. Still, they fully expected to keep the shop open until the fighting was over. On June 1, 2014, however, their plans for the future were shattered when members of the Islamic Front, composed of foreigners from Iraq and Turkey, surrounded Abdu and a Muslim employee on the street in front of their shop. Kidnapped by Muslim Extremists The Islamists allowed the Muslim employee to leave, but they slid a black bag over Abdu’s head, held a

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The thin, 13-year-old girl shifted painfully in the dark, trying to remember how long she had been locked up. Although she wasn’t exactly sure, she knew it had been months. Her stomach rumbled with hunger, and she hoped that her brother might soon slip another roasted banana under the door. Her father hadn’t fed her since locking her in the cramped space. Soon after Susan Ithungu came to know Christ in 2009, her Muslim father began to beat her, once even threatening to kill her with a knife. After trying for months to persuade Susan to deny Christ, he finally locked her in a small space in their mud shanty. Six months passed before neighbors realized what was happening to Susan and notified the police, who rescued her and took her to a hospital. A pastor who visited her immediately after her rescue said she was extremely thin and unable to walk or talk. “Her hair had turned yellow, she had long fingernails and sunken eyes, and she looked very slim, less than 45 pounds,” he said. Abused and Rejected Sadly, Susan’s story is not unique in Uganda. While 85 percent of the country’s population is Christian, those who convert

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For Fawzy, police interrogations have become such a common part of his ministry work that he hardly notices them. As an evangelist and church planter in North Africa, he spends his time meeting with new Christian converts and others interested in learning more about Jesus. But his activities are viewed as a threat by Islamic leaders and government officials afraid of civil unrest. His first visit with government authorities was in the late 1980s, just three months after he had become a believer. After police arrested Fawzy, then 17, at his home, they took him to the police station and interrogated him for more than six hours, asking him if he had become a Christian. Although frightened, his faith held strong. “l felt like there was a power or a hope in my heart,” Fawzy said. He boldly told the police that he had left Islam for Christianity after studying the Bible through a correspondence course. Three months later, the authorities returned for another lengthy interrogation, telling Fawzy the only reason they didn’t arrest him was that he was still 17. They warned him that if he remained a Christian after turning 18, he would spend the next two years

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Tied to a chair in a small room, struggling to breathe after a severe beating, Pastor Dharala Francis awaited his death. For nearly 30 years, he had faithfully led a ministry that served the disadvantaged in India, but on July 9, 2015, his reputation for sharing the gospel caught up with him. That day, an angry mob beat him severely and conspired to burn him to death. “I didn’t have fear,” he recalled eight months later, sitting with his wife and daughter at a guest house in India. “I was ready to die that day. I said, ‘If this is the last day for me, I want to go to heaven directly.’” Instead of dying, however, Pastor Dharala saw a surprising work of God. A Threatening Love The pastor and his family had spent the first six months of 2015 building relationships with villagers in western India, praying for those who were sick, serving the poor and distributing Christian literature. Gradually, Hindus — and even some Muslims — started following Christ. “Every Sunday we would go to that village and share the Word of God, and day by day the number was increasing because of many miracles taking place there,”

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Richard Wurmbrand had a comfortable life as a pastor in Communist Romania. He had a salary that supported his family and a congregation that loved and trusted him. But as he watched other Christians suffer for their faith while a tyrannical dictatorship destroyed everything around them, Richard was not at peace. Why, he wondered, had God spared him from persecution and trial? Desiring to answer Christ’s call to take up his cross and follow him, Richard and his wife, Sabina, began to pray that God would give them a cross to bear. And on Feb. 29, 1948, their prayers were answered. As Richard walked to church that winter morning in Bucharest, members of the secret police abducted him, taking away not only the comfortable life he had known but also his identity. “From now on,” they told him, “you are Vasile Georgescu,” labeling him with a generic Romanian name to conceal his true identity. He disappeared without a trace, and Sabina had no information beyond the outrageous rumors she had heard: One said he had been taken to Russia, while another claimed he had died under interrogation. Though overwhelmed with worry from not knowing where Richard was or if he

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Categories: Stories from the Field