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Christmas Inside Red Zones (Celebrating Jesus In Dangerous Places)

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Are you getting excited? There is always a special buzz this time of year as our neighborhoods and shopping malls once again boldly display their holiday decorations. For believers in Jesus’ supernatural invasion into our world, Christmas is a reason to sing our joy from the roof tops. 

But what if Christmas decorations and songs targeted us for those set on ending our lives? Hard to imagine, right? Yet there are places in the world where those threats are a reality. These are the areas where religious extremism is growing against Christianity. These are the “Red Zones.” 

For believers living in Red Zones, Christmas will look very different. Most will find it difficult to celebrate with their families and their underground churches that are in very real danger. But maybe there is a way we can help change their story. Let me explain…

PAKISTAN: Pakistan proclaims religious freedom for Christians, but the underground reality is much different. Ministries have been firebombed, pastors have been brutally beaten in the streets, and missionaries are hunted by Muslim extremists. 

Despite all they face, Pastor Ollie and Nadia are two on-site partners in Pakistan who are pushing back the onslaught against their brothers and sisters in Christ. Ollie has worked diligently to plant the first known churches for Pakistan’s most unreached people group, while Nadia has established secret safe house gatherings for underground believers along the border of Afghanistan. These are areas populated with radical jihadists, requiring special care for discipleship and evangelism outreaches.

Around the time we are meeting openly in our congregations for Christmas Eve services, the underground Pakistani church will also gather. In small groups they will huddle around an iPad screen or Skype signal via cell phone, tools you as supporters helped purchase. From a remote location, Nadia can lead them in some hymns about Jesus’ birth and then walk them through the Christmas story. It will not be an extravagant celebration, but it will bring the much needed hope that our Savior is known for.

NORTH AFRICA: Alpha Relief supports a special training and restoration center in North Africa for missionaries and church planters. Most of these brave students have suffered for their faith in Christ but are now committed to going back into Red Zones to reach their persecutors with the Gospel. Amazingly, some students are even former African-Islamic extremists who persecuted believers. After radical encounters with Jesus, they too want to bring the same freedom to their families.

Ezekiel graduated from the school and is now supported by your gifts as a church planter in a North African Red Zone where more than 70% of the population follow Islam. He leads a small gathering of former Muslim believers, all of whom he led to Jesus. Recently, the Lord moved Ezekiel to take a huge risk and speak openly about his faith with a respected Islamic teacher. After days of gently sharing the truth of the Gospel, the teacher finally admitted that he was convinced Jesus was in fact Lord. 

Ezekiel conveyed this to us: “Now, I am waiting for the day of his final decision. I believe that in his heart he is already a follower of the Messiah. He is afraid of the community to declare it. I need prayer support that God would change his life. Although he knows that our talk does not expose him as a Christian, still he is afraid that he may be stoned to death.” As Christmas day dawns in this North African Red Zone, there is a very real chance that this teacher will be joining Ezekiel’s small church in celebrating the birth of his new Savior.

Friends, these amazing Christmas stories are possible because of your prayers and support. The celebration of Jesus’ birth in Red Zones looks much different than our own and is much more dangerous than we can possibility understand. Even so, every person in Christ’s family is connected by this miraculous hope: Jesus entered the world and rescued us!

Would you prayerfully consider continuing that rescue story for many others who desperately need the freedom Jesus offers? Heroes like Ollie, Nadia, Ezekiel, and the churches they serve, need us to come alongside them. Your support this Christmas can ensure their mission continues to thrive, as well as the mission of many others in Red Zones all around the world. On behalf of our family around the world; Merry Christmas, and thank you for ensuring hope!

 

The Bible vs. The Qur’an (A Story of God’s Word Triumphing in North Africa)

When Ezekiel accepted a New Testament, he had no idea how much his life was about to change. The young man had grown up in Northern Africa in a family who faithfully practiced Islam. At age 23, he could already recite the entire Qur’an by heart. But after spending six months comparing the Qur’an to the New Testament and fighting an internal spiritual battle, Ezekiel finally accepted Jesus as LORD and was baptized.

When his family discovered that he owned a New Testament, Ezekiel’s father and brothers forcibly tied his hands and took him to a nearby mosque. There, they beat him mercilessly. The men left him bloodied and near death as they departed to observe their ritualistic Islamic prayers. Miraculously, the rope that bound Ezekiel’s hands suddenly loosened, enabling him to escape before his father and brothers could finish praying and return. His getaway was short-lived and by morning his family had found him. Once again they angrily beat him, this time dropping him off at the local police station to be tried as a criminal.

When the law enforcement personnel discovered the New Testament Ezekiel had retrieved and placed in his handbag as he was fleeing, they proceeded to insult, beat, and finally imprison him. Four long months Ezekiel remained in a cell. When a judge finally issued his release, his parents and brothers paid a mercenary to attack him. Thankfully, he was alerted about the hit man’s imminent arrival, allowing him time to escape.

Knowing he was no longer safe in his home city, the young Christian kept on the run, Without money for food or shelter, he resorted to sleeping on the roadside and under abandoned buildings. He had read the verse before, but he now felt a deeper understanding of his Savior’s words; “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

It was during this period of trial that God began to reveal His plan for Ezekiel's life. By incredible grace, he was connected with an Alpha Relief sponsored covert missionary school. The school was filled with many young students who had stories similar to his. For the first time, Ezekiel felt strengthened and supported in his new faith. As his graduation drew near, he knew he wanted to build a similar community for others just like himself who needed to know the truth as well as receive encouragement for the persecution they would most certainly face

Through your incredible support, Ezekiel is now an undercover church planter and evangelist in a North African community where more than 200,000 people live. Seventy percent are following Islam. With the Lord’s help, Ezekiel has already led four Muslims to Christ. He confesses that he wishes the numbers were larger.  Even so, he is deeply committed to his mission and his small church will only grow with those being led out of the darkness.

If Ezekiel’s story has impacted you, would you consider sponsoring his outreach, as well as the outreach of others just like him, invading the darkest places on earth with the light of Christ? Imagine what Ezekiel could do if he had Bibles and the financial stability to devote more time to sharing the good news and discipling believers who are young in their faith.

Join the story today through one of our unique opportunities below.

2015 Review: How You Became A Hero to The Persecuted

Take a moment to celebrate the amazing ways the Lord invited us into His great rescue plan over the last year. It was filled with stories of light overcoming darkness, and you were a part of it!

One of the devil's schemes is to make the church believe he is stronger then he actually is, especially as he senses his approaching demise. Though we are witnessing a level of persecution unlike any in recent history, the truth still remains: the enemy is losing. The frontline stories you are helping write prove that. 

Your role is crucial in ensuring hope for our persecuted family in Christ. As a result, the enemy sees you as a threat and will do his best to discourage and keep you out of the war. Resist him, watch him flee, and know that through Jesus you are fighting the good fight. 

Lets make 2016 the biggest year of rescue yet!