Christadelphian Ministries Reports
Recently we were able to meet with our one Syrian brother whom we baptized a few years ago. He escaped through the mountains to Turkey, where he has now been joined by his extended family. Our brother had already shared the good news of Christ with them in their home village in Syria, but the situation there made baptism almost impossible. So it was with joy that we were able to baptize our brother's nephews and brothers HUSSEIN, JELAL, BARI, HAMODE and MENNAN. Here they are together with Hannan (third from left) in a tea house after their baptism:
They are very frightened young men, all from the same village. They have all been called up to serve in the Syrian army and also in the rebel command which is in control of their home village. The village has been shelled and bombed, is without electricity, water and sewage; all food has to be brought in from afar and is very expensive; no wages or pensions are paid, indiscriminate killings have occurred, and the whole area is largely deserted apart from the elderly and those otherwise unable to escape. They are desperate for news of their remaining families. There is a legit- imate concern about many refugees and asylum seekers that they are simply seeking a better life in the West. But the situation in Syria is different - 100,000 dead, several hundred thousand wounded, basic amenities, income, food and employment cut off for millions, fighting everywhere, and a few million refugees. The situation is truly desperate. There are Syrians everywhere in Eastern Turkey, rich ones, poor ones, some on foot, some in cars, but all uprooted and desperate.
Turkey is not a friendly place for refugees. The police arrest and hassle anyone who looks like one, and Turkey will not give asylum to anyone. Humanly speaking, that is understandable. Because of its geographical position, Turkey is flooded with refugees and asylum seekers - from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq. And now a few million from Syria. Short of putting landmines on their long, mountainous border or shooting at the crowds of desperate people surging over those borders, there's little Turkey can do about the influx of millions of desperate people into their country - apart from making things unattractive for them within Turkey. Our brethren cannot work legally, and their passports cannot be renewed because they have not done their military service. So they are without valid documents. We gave significant financial support to our brethren, some of which they will send to their elderly relatives who they say are literally starving. They are clearly suffering in many ways, not least from post traumatic stress. Only the Lord can resolve their issues and the world's problems, and we so wish and pray for His early return.
South Sudan is the world's newest nation, theoretically comprised of the Christian, black African South which seceded from the Moslem, Arabic North after years of civil war which claimed a few hundred thousand lives and created millions of refugees. However, the border area includes Darfur and other unstable areas, meaning that South Sudan has a steady influx of Moslem refugees seeking shelter from the fighting and famine. South Sudan itself is unstable, with much of the territory outside the main towns in the hands of various rival militias and cattle herding tribes at war with each other for pasture. The roads are severely potholed, not tarred and largely impassible. The only way of safely getting around is by rickety aircraft or barges along the Nile or other rivers. There is no functioning postal system, hardly any banking system, no use of credit cards, an airport with no security scanners - and almost everything is imported, which along with the hefty cost of transport makes life very expensive. And yet as a nominally Christian nation, the people of South Sudan know very little about their faith. There are very few Bibles around - everything has to be brought in from Kenya or Uganda. And there's no postal system either. So here is a nation which is crying out to be given Bibles and to be taught the Gospel. It was a common sight at our meetings to see people eagerly sharing a Bible.
There's very little teaching of any Christian doctrine going on because there are few pastors with any real idea about the Bible. It's part of our work at Carelinks to seek to take the true Gospel to those areas where it's not been preached, and South Sudan is one of them. We're pleased to report great response to our work on the current visit, and the first Christadelphian baptisms there.
The first baptism in South Sudan was of brother JOSEPH from Aweil, a town near the northern border with Sudan, pictured below.
He is typical of so many. He fled to Ethiopia on foot as a child. His father was killed, his mother and grandmother had the back of their legs cut and their ears cut off [mutilated people are a common sight]. He and one other person were the sole survivors in a bombing raid on one village. He was buried alive when a bomb landed near the hole he and an old lady were hiding in, and it took them hours to dig themselves out of the soil on top of them - they were almost buried alive. We've made a video of his story, we'll put it online soon Lord willing. We asked how he managed to forgive so much, and he has some profound comments. Like many other such `lost boys' as they are called, he wandered through Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, feeling a strong sense of calling to Jesus, passing through Catholic and Protestant groups, but not learning much detail about the Bible. He prayed to God for guidance, to send someone to teach him the Truth, and then came upon our free Bible offer online. It was a wonderful climax to his amazing journey so far to be baptized. He is married and has built a large shelter under which he teaches up to several hundred people the new knowledge he has found online from us. He is eager to teach them the Truth. In his area, there are new arrivals of Moslems fleeing the war in the border areas and the famine. They arrive barefoot and with nothing.
Joseph does his best to look after them and to introduce them to Christianity. Our brother is desperate for Bibles and Bible Basics in Arabic to teach them - and for brethren to visit him and teach and probably baptize others. We're quite low on funds at this time - please consider donating towards at least the printing work. We can try to send the literature by DHL to Juba and then it can be transported on barges to his place. Joseph is a lovely man, generous, courteous, cultured and a true lover of God and His Son and their word.
Please pray for this amazing opening ! And please, consider getting involved. This is true missionary work - taking God's Word and the saving grace of His Son to those who have not heard.
After that we journeyed to Malakal, a garrison town on the troubled border with the North. Most people there are in the security forces. It's cut off by Darfur to the West, Northern Sudan to the North, and rebel militias on the other sides. The reason for coming here was our outstanding brother Amos, a third generation Kenyan Christadelphian who has been working there for some time with a construction company. His work involves him traveling around a lot, and in doing so he has managed to teach many people about the true Gospel. These are all kinds of people, ranging from young men from cattle herding tribes who have grown up with nothing but violence, cattle rustling etc., right through to fellow Kenyan ex-pat contractors and professionals. It was with great joy therefore that we baptized ten brothers and one sister in the River Nile:
The other side of the Nile at this point [visible in the baptismal photos] is in the hands of rebels, apparently there was a major battle there the week before we arrived in which 300 people were killed. The banks of the Nile on the Malakal side are under curfew from 6 p.m. due to the fear of rebels landing in speedboats. So the baptisms had to be done well before then ! We take our cap off to Amos for a fantastic logistical achievement in gathering together people from throughout the region to our Bible conference held in a hotel on the banks of the Nile. Amos and Duncan gave talks hammering through the basic doctrines and practices of the one faith, ably translated to Arabic so all understood.
Again, the enthusiasm for God's word was apparent, as was the lack of Bibles - although we managed to bring at least some Bibles and Bible Basics with us.
One highlight was the baptism of MARTIN. He has internet on his phone and has had a lot of contact with brother Amos. The presence of mobile coverage is wonderful because it enables people to have some access to the internet if they have mobile phones, and this is a great teaching opportunity. Martin lives in Renk, accessible only by river during the rainy season, and a long, difficult journey by road and track during the dry season. It usually takes two days for the barge to travel from Renk to Malakal. Due to engine problems, it took our brother three days - and he arrived just as our seminar was ending. The barges on which travel is done are open to the skythere is no cover. You must take your own food, cooking facilities, clean water, cover against the rain in rainy season and mosquito net. And Martin travelled three days like that to be with us. Flying around South Sudan, the aircraft often follow the rivers, so it's easy to photograph these boats moored in the villages and small towns that are along the Nile:
One amazing thing about South Sudan is that there is mobile coverage almost everywhere, which means that for those with reasonable cell phones, there's access to the internet - even in places like this which can only be reached by boat or chartered helicopter. If you'd like to text Brother Martin some encouragement, or even call him, we'd be happy to let you know his cell phone number so you can help him feel part of our worldwide family in Christ.
Martin was baptized, and naturally wishes us to go to Renk [a peaceful, safe place] and spread Bibles and teach the Gospel. He and Bro Amos are real solid reliable brothers and persons. Now here again is an amazing opportunity to take the true Gospel "to the regions beyond", really pushing back the frontiers of true Christianity into hitherto closed areas of jungle and riverland. Two brothers from New Zealand are willing to make a trip - but the potential is huge. Get in touch if you'd like to come along. And of course... work in this area is hugely expensive. We really are open to donations... sorry to keep mentioning that but it is really so. And please pray for the work, for the safety of those who go, and for God's glory to be achieved through lives being totally given to the Lord Jesus in spirit and in truth.
Please pray for the wonderful opening we've been given here... for a mighty and effective door has been opened, as Paul said, but there are many adversaries.
Requests for Bibles and Bible Basics continue to flood in each day from throughout Russia. And this is without any advertising. It's from people searching for spiritual things and coming across us on the internet. The true Gospel is really going all over the place. This week we visited a group in the Urals and were delighted to baptize NADYEZHDA. She had never held a Bible in her hand until just over a year ago. She owns a business and one of her employees, our Sister Vera, gave her one of the NEV Russian Bibles. She was ready for it - she has read every day according to the Bible Companion along with our commentary and Bible Basics. There were many tears and great joy on earth and in Heaven. These two women really have become best friends and now sisters in Christ.
We were happy to have the company of brother Kolya, a great preacher of the Gospel and distributor of Russian NEV Bibles. A huge thank you to all those who enabled and continue to enable the production and distribution of these Bibles - they really are bringing forth fruit to the glory of our Lord.
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Many thanks for the prayers and expressions of support during our travelling. Finally, FYODYOR from Ust Ilimsk in far northern Siberia was baptized - that town is 1000 km. north of Irkutsk (Lake Baikal). The small towns and villages in that area are full of people from various parts of the former USSR. The reason is because this is the very area to which people were `sent to Siberia', some to camps (Solzhenitsyn readers may recall his mentions of Ust Izhma and other camps beginning with `Ust'), others simply exiled to live in those small villages in the middle of nowhere. The people sent there were the likes of Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventists, Jews, intellectuals, political dissidents and other free thinkers. An interesting group of people, living in an awful climate (brief hot summers, long cold winters) with poor transport links and few airstrips, many of them still subsistence farmers. This background explains why the JWs are a major religion there to this day; any leaving of the religion is felt to be a betrayal of the previous generation, who were exiled there because of their faith. Fyodyor joined the JWs at 15 years of age and was a zealous member. But once he was online, he started to work out errors in the teaching and practice of the organization, and that is how he came into contact with us.
He wanted more than anything to be baptized into Christ (JWs effectively baptize into their organization) and have a personal relationship with Him. And he didn't find this in the JWs. Fyodyor read most of our books which are translated into Russian (and they are many). He has an excellent knowledge of the Truth as well as a desire to really walk with the Lord Jesus. It was a pleasure to baptize him.
Please pray for your brother in his great isolation, remembering that his wife is still an active JW. Our postage bill is pretty big and we rely on your donations to keep sending out Bibles and literature to the many people like Fyodyor who are genuinely searching. Thanks to the Lord's blessing of your and our combined efforts, so many are coming to the real Christ, now in the world's remotest areas. The Gospel of the Kingdom must go into all the world, and then the end shall come.
Here's our brother being baptized, and then immediately making his video appeal to JWs to come to Christ.
Belarus remains the last old school Communist dictatorship in Europe and one of the few left in the world. There are ample reports of Protestant groups being persecuted, pastors arrested and imprisoned, people fined for teaching the Bible to their children; and there is still a system of hard labour camps operating. Independent meetings are not allowed and the population are continually controlled via a system of informants operating on all levels of society. You can read such reports about Belarus at `The Voice of the Martyrs : Belarus'. Our work in Belarus is therefore limited, although we continue distributing Bibles and trying to care for individuals whom we have baptized there over the years.
It is about 15 years ago that we baptized Brother Sasha and soon afterwards his wife Natasha. They have been very faithful over the years. They live near the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, and radiation levels are still very high there. Sasha was a member of the Chernobyl clean-up team and is now an invalid and losing his sight amongst other problems. Realizing the limitations upon preaching where they are, Sasha and Natasha are devoted to raising a family who will be eternal voices in God's Kingdom. They have seven sons, most of whom have serious problems as a result of Sasha's illness and their exposure to radiation; some deaf, others severely challenged. But they are capable of learning the Truth of Christ and this is why our brother and sister have continued having children. It's an amazing experience to be together with such a physically suffering family in small town Belarus and see their love for God's word and His Son. It truly was a pleasure to be with them and to baptize their eldest son VOLODYA in a local lake- and then to sit together and break bread.
We have many contacts in Belarus, many of whom fear to be baptized because of the situation there. Please pray for their faith and commitment to grow yet stronger. Please pray for our brother in his very difficult situation.
We periodically report on the intense spread of the true Gospel amongst the Iranian community in Western Europe; we're pleased to report that this is continuing. This week we made a visit to Belgium during which three men were baptized, all in different locations.
SOREN has been intensely searching the Bible and reading Bible Basics for some time, and has been in contact with several of our team by email. He is fearless in his desire to openly follow Christ despite being from a Moslem social background. It's such a pleasure to meet such totally sincere converts to Christ who so clearly see the error of Islam and simply want to be in Christ and love all things to do with Him. Our brother gave a very heartfelt confession of faith:
We then met and baptized DAVOOD, a contact of our brother Milad, who was baptized a few years ago in Latvia and is now reunited with his wife and family in Belgium.
Finally we met TAHER in Brussels and again it was a pleasure to meet and baptize such a well read man who has carefully analyzed so many religions and forms of Christianity before coming to the real Christ and realizing he has the pearl of great price.