Stories I thought you should know – Christmas 2018

It’s been a big year for many people. There have been a lot of hard things to go through. There have also been a lot of great things to celebrate. I personally am happy to have been able to learn of some great stories coming out of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. There are also tragic stories I’ve heard, too. All this to say, here are some things this year (in no particular order) I thought you’d value.

BREAKING: AT LEAST 7 KILLED IN ATTACK ON CHRISTIANS IN EGYPT

Open Doors USA |Article – Length: 5 mins

“At least seven Christians have died and an additional 15 injured in Egypt today (Nov 2, 2018) after a violent attack on a group of Coptic pilgrims. The Christians were on their way to visit a desert monastery, when a group of masked gunmen stopped the bus and fired on it. The death toll is expected to rise.”

An Arab Evangelical Message to American Evangelicals

Arab Baptist Theological Seminary | Article – Length: 12 mins

” For millions of Muslims like Adel, Evangelical support for Israel and American foreign policy in the Middle East is a stumbling block for the Gospel. “

I Survived North Korea

SoulPancake (on Youtube) – Length: 6.20 mins

” Charles tells the story of his eventual escape from North Korea in 2008 at age 14. After a brief period of time in China at the age of 8, he was sent back to North Korea to work in a labor camp where he was starved and beaten… What have you survived?”

Pomplamoose – Living in a Bubble

Pomplamoose (on Youtube) – Length: 3.07 mins

How Open Doors Equips the Church in Nigeria

Open Doors USA |Video – Length: 3.44 mins

Kids Meet a Burn Survivor

Kid’s Meet|HiHo Kids – Length: 5.57 mins

This is a fascinating and moving encounter a burn survivor has with children.

New York Times – Length: Very Long

This photo-journal tells the stories of survivors and of the devastation of Aleppo, Syria. There is hope there, but it will be a long, long process of recovery. Note: There is limited free viewing of the NY magazine.

Love never fails

Tomorrow Clubs |Video – Length: 11:15

One of the latest, and right now, one of my favourite stories that I heard this year! Rostik’s story is one of tragedy and hope. Praise God.

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.

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.