You Can Provide Hope for the Middle East

There are many ways to encourage a fellow sibling in Christ. I just discovered one that utilizes an app and a few minutes of your time. Open Doors seeks to support the persecuted church around the world. Many Christians face extreme pressure for their faith, and OD provides help with training, practical support, and bibles and literature.

20180426_095939.jpgImagine there is someone you know in Syria who is a dear sister in Christ and is in need. How would you contact her safely? How about for her church or wider Christian community? The world of technology continues to grow and can provide for unique situations. OD has produced an app called Hope For ME that can be accessed by thousands of believers in the Middle East. They say it’s in order “to connect you with the persecuted church. We’re asking Christians around the world to write messages of hope that will appear on the app, encouraging persecuted believers.”

Have you ever received a letter or message from loving family or a friend and not been greatly encouraged? I can imagine this is how people might view a message from you on this app. I made a happy discovery of this service last night, and wanted to share it with you. So make some time, just like you have in reading this, and send a brief message to encourage your family in the Middle East. Click here to go over to the Open Doors website and leave a message.

Thanks for reading! Pete


Please note some requests by Open Doors:

  • Write in English
  • Be brief and encouraging
  • Please don’t mention Open Doors
  • Please don’t criticise a country or make proposals to help

Pic: A couple enjoys the bay in Alexandria, Egypt.

What I experienced in Lebanon last year

Last year in May I took part in a Muskathlon. In short, it’s a fundraising trip where you go to a country to support and learn about life-changing local ministries. You also take part in a walk, run, or cycle there.

In the lead up to the Muskathlon in Lebanon, I was asked a series of questions for the Open Doors blog. You can see my little piece (my name is Peter) along with something from the other members of the Aussie team.

At the same time, I received another set of questions to answer post-trip. Here are my answers.


After months of training and fundraising, what was it like crossing the finish line?

I ran half a kilometre to the finish line after 62km of walking. I was exhausted, but alive. I remember being fueled by anger at injustice, desire to finish well, and the joy of comradery. I also was getting very sick. (I’ll talk more on this another time.)

My experience of crossing the finish line was not straight forward. Yet, I’m glad I am able to still tell the tale with joy in my heart.

What has this experience done to your faith?

It’s made it all the more precious. To hear the stories of faithful believers, who have given up so much for their faith and ministry was a true blessing. To be with “muskathletes” who had all made sacrifices to be on this journey gave me such joy and encouragement. The power of prayer moved me and had a personal impact on me through my sickness. I am certain God used all I experienced to continue to grow me to be more like his Son.

Could you share one story (or one experience) that you will remember from this trip?

We were taken to a community centre run by a church. It was on the outskirts of refugee camps. The couple of hours we spent there were with Syrian and Iraqi refugee children, playing games and running activities for them. It was a chance to pour out love on these hurting kids for a little while. We had a blast, playing ball games, piggy-back chasey, and giving them snacks.

Everyone got a gift at the end, which was either sweets or a home-made crocheted toy.  I was struck with the thought of this being where love met suffering. Love came against suffering and swept over it with a force that would be felt for at least a little while. My hope and prayer for these children and other children like them, is for people to show love to them. They need a lot of grace and a lot of care. Life has been devastating for them, yet Christ is love and offers eternal hope.

What would you tell someone who was thinking about travelling with Open Doors, or doing a Muskathlon?

I would tell them a lot of things. Be ready for your faith to be challenged. You will see the faith of your brethren in Christ who’ve suffered through persecution. There is no doubt that persecution will come for believers if they are faithful and outspoken servants of Christ. Yet in some places in the world believers experience much higher levels of attack. Be ready with lots of questions and hearts ready to learn.

You must be ready to suffer. A Muskathlon is not a walk in the park. You are expected to aim for a half or full marathon, a 120km bike ride, or 63km hike, all to be done in less than a day. You are expected to aim for $10,000 in fund-raising for Open Doors*. All this effort takes its toll on your daily life when you are in the midst of it. Expect disappointments and exhaustion. Expect feeling like you can’t get the preparation done and wondering if it will be worth it.

You must be ready to be a team player. Trips like this stand and fall on team work. You need to be on-board with one another, supporting each other in your weaknesses, and loving each other. The leadership will be seeking to draw you all into a state of single-mindedness about the trip. They will guide with devotions, teachings, instructions, etc.

Finally, you must be ready to be filled with joy. Trips like this are a long journey that start with a prayer, a building of interest, or an invite, but will be carried by joy. Your team will support you and you will learn to depend on God more fully; the hard times will drive you to your knees and that will give you peace and joy. You will find reserves you didn’t know you had; you will discover your weaknesses and strengths. You will have joy as you entrust yourself to God.

 *Or Compassion International, depending on the trip.


Thanks for reading! Maybe you can consider going on a Muskathlon through Open Doors or Compassion.

Compassion Muskathlon in Indonesia – Deadline: End of May!

Open Doors Muskathlon in Jordan – Deadline: End of May!

Featured pic: Me running across the finishing line!

Meeting the Remarkable and the Faithful in the Middle East and the God that Drives Them

Whenever I travel I tend to visit people. Whether it has been to see local projects among the poor and afflicted, churches and their leaders, or artists working their trade, I have really valued spending time with people and learning from their experiences and perspective. I’m heading off now on a short trip to Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt with an Aussie team. We will be visiting Bible colleges and their different projects (including among refugees), all the while seeing the sights in these fascinating countries with long histories. We are going with the organisation Overseas Council Australia, and it’s director, Stuart Brooking.

Among all the visits, my main desire is to hear from the remarkable people who are serving the church, despite the many challenges. I feel I will be coming as a student to learn and be challenged by others’ wisdom and knowledge. I hope to encourage them in all they are doing. I want to let them know that the church at home will benefit from their stories and faithfulness. My hope is that in the weeks, months and years after this trip I will share many a story to bless and inform western Christians. I am especially looking forward to meeting students I have sponsored to study in Jordan.

Last year I fund-raised for work among Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon. I traveled there with Open Doors to visit a local church and to participate in a “Challenge Event”. I walked 63km in less than a day and raised $10,400 for the work being done there! I had a moving and worthwhile time. I have many a story from my time there that I haven’t yet shared and am eager to bring them to completion to share with you.

dfsa

A thank-you card I sent to supporters

This current trip to the Middle East was because of that positive experience. The people I met were like me in their profession of faith in Christ but also were wonderfully obedient to God and effective in ministry, while suffering many a trial to remain where they were. I am grateful for their witness of God’s work through them. I certainly was encouraged to be more faithful in prayer and obedience. No doubt this trip will have its own personal challenges and I hope to seek God in all of them. May all we experience be for God’s glory and not ours.

Pete

Featured pic: A selfie, with a view over Northern Beirut in Lebanon.

I have been supporting Bible students through Overseas Council Australia, whom I am going with. They provide counsel and financial support to strategic and worthy Bible colleges around the world, including the Middle East. Make sure you check them out here: Overseas Council.

Why this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done

EDITORS NOTE: This blog was written before the Muskathlon trip in May, 2017. Therefore in it I ask for support and prayer. The trip is over, but if you feel like supporting Open Door’s ministry in Syria, go to their appeals and projects page. Cheers!

I’ve achieved hard things in my life, like walking the Kokoda Trail, like travelling overseas many times on my own, like eating steamed brussel sprouts for years, but this Muskathlon and everything surrounding it has been the toughest thing I’ve attempted.


As our Muskathlon trip in May looms, I have found myself mulling over what it took to get me here, still wondering, what did I sign up for exactly? I’m not questioning every motive I ever had about this trip, as I still am heartily in support of Open Doors and the work they do to encourage persecuted Christians. What I am thinking about is why it has seemed to be the hardest 4 months I’ve been through.

 

Commitments everywhere

One reason that comes to mind is that from September until now I’ve had commitments, including the Muskathlon from December, coming out of my ears.

In early January I was involved in a beach mission through Scripture Union, and the preparations for that started all the way back in September! This was my third year of involvement, and my role as a supporting Team Leader was all the more time-consuming and challenging. A lot of head-space was taken up for that camp!

Another big change from February was my transition to working a part-time hiring job with my former employer. I took on lots of Saturday work and quotes and managing jobs myself. It already has been a learning experience, but pretty full on as well!

Add to that the Council of Owner role (for the strata complex where I own an apartment) I’ve had since December and all my church involvement and a challenging leadership camp in February, I’ve hardly had a quiet day!

The Muskathlon training and fund-raising has been a real challenge, but that plus all these other things has made this season very busy!

 

The trials of physical training

Ever since I started my training for this trip back in mid to late January, I noticed my energy for an otherwise normal day was less than usual. As such I seem to have struggled more than usual to manage my time and responsibilities. This could be counter-logical, as you’d assume getting fitter would mean the rest of life would be easier to get through, but as I’m a painter by trade, I already have a steady stream of physical activity to tire me out. I also was constantly pushing myself to walk faster and for longer periods while training.

I had two days for training – on Sunday, going up and down Jacob’s ladder (a concrete stairway near Kings Park), and on Tuesday, walking through a local nature reserve for hours, eventually reaching and maintaining 3 hours a session.

At one point for weeks on end I suffered from back and leg pain after training with my weighted backpack, and took a friend’s advice to visit a physiotherapist for some advice. They gave some simple advice, along with muscle building exercises that I maintained for a maximum of 2 weeks! I just couldn’t find the energy or motivation to keep up the daily (or every second day) exercises. I still have the green elastic band as a reminder of my efforts! Sorry, Daniel, it was fun while it lasted. The pain is mostly a non-issue now, but it concerned me for a while.

I still wonder how well I will do during the 62km walk. I’m confident I’ll complete it but I still don’t know how tough it will turn out to be.

 

Taking the FUN out of Fund-raising!

I have sought funds through many avenues to support the refugees in Lebanon whom we will be visiting – $10,000 has been the set goal for each of the Aussie team members. Early on I wrote article pieces (like this one) on my Muskathlon blog to explain my trip as well as I could with what I knew at the time. I engaged on a large scale with my friends through Facebook by updated them on my training, with links to articles concerning the Middle East, and with fund-raising challenges. The challenges came about as I was trying to think how to get people involved in the fund-raising effort in a fun way. I decided that meant I had to suffer in some way while training! The one that succeeded in drawing in funds was me offering to listen to a Barbie Party Mix (Volume One) which had a bunch of party pop songs I had no business training to! I walked through 10 torturous sessions listening to the hour-long CD on my phone.

I also spoke at two churches, one of them my own, in order to engage the congregation about the trip. My initial hope was to line up a decent number of speaking spots throughout March/April, but that fell through a bit.

20170403_222905 (1)

A brochure about my trip a friend designed!

I decided to do a weekly update to my contacts through emails about how I was going with everything. It ended up being sporadic, but it was really encouraging to get replies from friends and family saying they were praying and caring for me!

I produced a flyer hand-out to easily share about my trip, and that proved worthwhile at many a time. My friend Maarten helped redesign the flyer to make it look great!

Last week I finally sent out letters with flyers in them, mostly to family who wouldn’t get the info any other way.

All in all, I feel I could have given a more concerted effort in fund-raising the $10,000. I’m still happy with the $7084 (with pledges still coming!) my generous family and friends have given!

My efforts had varied success and I certainly could have engaged with far more people. It felt like such a burden for a while, though. I certainly feel for charities who have to fund-raise to meet their goals. It’s wasn’t an easy task, even with all the help I got.

 

Emotional roller-coaster

A large reason this season has been tough is that I have had to work through my thoughts and emotions. This is no different from any other time in life, it’s just been hard as my emotions have bombarded me constantly throughout these 5 months. It’s been especially challenging since March. I’ve felt weak in ability and frustrated at my efforts and “success” with fund-raising. I have sometimes struggled with feeling anything at all! I questioned the worth of my trip and all the effort required.

Almost daily I cycle between being exhausted and thrilled and depressed, plus a bunch of other emotions. I’m exhausted because I suck at time management and over-committing and work is tough. I’m thrilled because all this effort is paying off. I feel fit and ready for the challenge, and the support of so many people is so amazing.

I’ve been depressed because I so often fail my own standards. If only I was fitter, spoke to more people about the trip, or cared more for the refugees in need. Mum said to me only the other night, “Don’t beat yourself up.” But I so often do. It’s one of my emotional habits, and this trip has really brought that to a head.

Just like we are told to control our bodies and desires as Christians*, likewise our emotions should come under our control. We mustn’t be swept off our feet and be so consumed with our personal feelings (or demons) that we can’t do anything productive.

This has been one of my biggest personal challenges this trip and it’s been a lesson in my own frailties. No doubt when I visit refugees in Lebanon, I’ll be struck with a whole new set of emotions to deal with. I need to be aware of that.

 

God

My relationship to God is very important to me, and this season has been so blessed and surrounded with prayer and Bible reading. People have been able to encourage me with Scripture they found helpful. In light of the trip, I rejoined a group who pray for (and do) ministry with Muslims. I found getting to that challenging, as it was another late night, but it was worth it!

The hard part of this has always been to trust God that He is in control, especially with the Middle East in turmoil. When I fail to trust in Him, I end up falling back onto my emotional state or dependency on created things that promise to be trustworthy.

That is sinful and also unhealthy. It has been tempting to not trust when I feel a certain way or things aren’t going exactly to plan. It will be a temptation when I’m on the trip, I’m sure.

 

Are you able?

I don’t like to feel inadequate or weak or not in control. The fact is, we are humans. We are inadequate and weak, not in control. It’s a humbling thing to come to terms with this. But I’d like to partly quote a recent encouraging message from one of my friends that speaks on this: “Fortunately, it doesn’t depend on your enormous abilities but on the Lord’s great power and willingness to show His love to His people through little old insignificant, not fit enough, not pumped enough you. Hold on tight Pete, but not so tight that you lose your peace. The Lord will fill in those great, gaping holes you can see.”

How amazing that God is adequate and strong and in control! We can trust Him!

And so I can confidently approach this trip to Lebanon despite all these massive challenges, knowing I follow the Lord God, great is His name.

Thanks for reading and for the many who’ve supported me on this trip. I will not forget your sacrifices.

Pete

 

*I Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV)- It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.” – Paul, to the Thessalonian Church

Why I need to memorize Psalm 139 again

EDITORS NOTE: This blog was written before the Muskathlon trip in May, 2017. Therefore in it I ask for support and prayer. The trip is over, but if you feel like supporting Open Door’s ministry in Syria, go to https://www.opendoors.org.au/get-involved/projects-and-appeals/. Cheers!

 

God’s Word never ceases to be helpful and relevant to my life. I would say all believers would agree to a similar sentiment. We always have new temptations, new pains, old habits that aren’t dead yet. God’s Word, by His Spirit, answers our questions, and rebukes or encourages us in living for Him.

I have a story about memorizing Psalm 139 and finding it so relevant and comforting for me.

I was in Kigali, Rwanda. It was back in January 2012, and I had just realised I had missed my flight home. I was devastated. I thought I’d really messed up. The strong control I thought I had on my life turned out to be very fragile.

Well, I gathered myself and booked flights home for the next day, using the Internet on the foyer computers in my hotel. That night I fussed and pouted around for hours. I was a mess. I couldn’t sleep or stop stressing. And then I took out a Bible, I don’t know whether it was mine or the Gideons from my hotel drawer. I went straight to the Psalms, as tends to be my prerogative when I’m stressed out |-/.

Well I landed on Psalm 139 and found it a boon to my tortured mind. It’s written by King David about how God is all knowing and in control of all his life, and how that frees David to honour Him with his life.

Here’s some of it here, plus listen to the whole psalm being sung by clicking on the video:

 “You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:1-6)

Youtube: Sons of Korah – Psalm 139 – Still with you

At the time I felt compelled to memorize the psalm to calm myself, and it did.

From then on it’s been my favourite psalm because of my experience and how God comforted me with it.

Now, as I head into the unknown with this trip with Open Doors, I feel I need a right perspective of life. God is my Lord, maker and heavenly Father. He knows all about my life and all I do which is good is thanks to Him. I am putting myself into other people’s (no doubt capable) hands and going into Lebanon, a “place of unrest”.

I think it’s time to again memorize Psalm 139 (and probably other passages), and this time I’ll be more equipped for any crisis before it happens! That is, if I trust in God to be with me.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Have you any more questions about the Muskathlon and Open Doors? Click here to be briefed on most of the trip details you need to know.

The crisis in Lebanon and what I’m going to do about it.

EDITORS NOTE: This blog was written before the Muskathlon trip in May, 2017. Therefore in it I ask for support and prayer. The trip is over, but if you feel like supporting Open Door’s ministry in Syria, go to https://www.opendoors.org.au/get-involved/projects-and-appeals/. Cheers!

 —
 Lebanon_2016_0260102313
The Syrian and Iraqi civil wars have affected many people. Obviously the millions of people displaced and/or fleeing due to the conflict were the hardest hit and should be thought of first. But think also of the many nations whom have had these refugees rush in – and sometimes through – for protection and freedom from war and persecution. Many millions of people have been affected by this crisis and it has created a very complex situation. For this argument, and since I’m travelling there, I’ll focus on Lebanon.From what I’ve read about Lebanon and Syria, two bordering nations, there is a lot of bad blood due to religious persecution and other conflict. An Open Doors interview of a Lebanese pastor quotes him saying, “We have a history with Syria—they occupied our land and destroyed everything, creating a hatred in our hearts towards Muslims and towards Syrians.”

Lebanon_2014_0260010113

Not only that, but imagine if a fifth (over 4 million) of the population of Australia of refugees flooded over here, seeking food, shelter and jobs. We might be crippled as a nation.

Well consider Lebanon. It has an area of 10,452 km²*, and before the war it held 4 million people. Now it holds over 5 million due to refugees. The pastor speaks on this: “They create a very big burden for our economy. They are seen as taking our jobs, that is why the people don’t want them. I see that many Lebanese are not helping them. That means they end up living in tents in the camps, in garage boxes, or three or four families together in a small apartment. Many knock at our door for help, begging for whatever help we can give in their difficult situation.”

It’s not an easy road for anyone there. But it’s not hopeless. Churches are taking on massive projects to bear the load and share God’s love with the refugees. Border camps have been set up to take on the flow. Schools and food and supply rounds are being run. Much is being done, and much more is necessary.

 

So here I’m stepping in to change the world! Well, maybe just Lebanon and maybe just a very small portion of it. I have no thoughts of grandeur here; the job is massive and I’m one person. But I can’t let this situation pass me by. I must do something about it. I must support the Church in it’s role of God’s hands and feet in a place of crisis and hate.

My trip is paid all by me (with some support from Open Doors), and so all the money raised through this fund-raiser will be used in Lebanon. Primarily the money will go towards food packages as well as other emergency relief items to be delivered to refugee camps there. A smaller portion will go towards Open Doors materials which teach the gospel of Jesus.

Lebanon_2016_0260102311

As with most wise charities, I have been told by my team leader we won’t be bringing in any provisions/materials from Australia. We’ll let the experts who know how best to use the funds to do the shopping.

Please support me in any way you can! Whether it’s through funds or prayer or getting informed and telling others, I will appreciate it so much. Hit the big red button to donate and share this story on the socials (like Facebook). Thanks for reading!

Have you any more questions about the Muskathlon and Open Doors? Click here to be briefed on most of the trip details you need to know.

*For size comparison, Perth’s area is 5,386 km², and much of our land is habitable.

What’s up with me going to Lebanon? – A few thoughts.

EDITORS NOTE: This blog was written before the Muskathlon trip in May, 2017. Therefore in it I ask for support and prayer. The trip is over, but if you feel like supporting Open Door’s ministry in Syria, go to https://www.opendoors.org.au/get-involved/projects-and-appeals/. Cheers!

You may be wondering why on earth I’m going on a trip to Lebanon, visiting refugee camps, and walking 60 kilometres in less than a day. Well I wondered that too. Here

20170314_184830 (1)

One day of training

are my thoughts.

 

I’ve always quite liked physical challenges all my life. Whether it’s been ‘Little Athletics’ and water-polo, or trekking the Kokoda Trial with my dad and now this 60km walk in Lebanon, I’ve taken pleasure in challenging myself to do hard things.

 

I also quite like to travel to experience and interact with different places, people and cultures. In the past seven and a half years I’ve stayed in two different southern states of India (Tamil Nadu and Kerala), been to Rwanda, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and went on a road-trip through the USA by myself. Yes, I’ve been around, but never to the Middle East. I hope to learn and grow from my time in Lebanon.

 

I love and care for the plights of Christians being mistreated, even being forced to flee their homes and countries, simply because they are Christians. The July 2014 story in Mosul, Iraq, of militant Muslims making an ultimatum for Christians and an identifying sign being placed on houses of Christians (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28381455) awoke me from my apathy about what was happening in the Middle East.

Many years of dinner-time prayers for persecuted Christians around the world and faithful teaching at my local church of ten or more years have nurtured my developing care for the world-wide Church.

Paul teaches the church in Galatia to do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galations 6:10) I feel many of the the New Testament writers urge us to care for believers in need, whether it be spiritually, emotionally or physically.

 

So that’s why, I want to physically, emotionally and spiritually challenge myself with this trip. I want to serve my brethren (and all people in need) through Open Doors. I want to raise funds for them with your help! I want to walk 60km in under a day in Lebanon. For God’s Kingdom and glory. For the preservation of his saints. For Christ.

Thanks for reading!

Have you any more questions about the Muskathlon and Open Doors? Click here to be briefed on most of the trip details you need to know.