Voice Of The Martyrs - Embracing The Fellowship Of His Sufferings
By Rick Kern
Trying futilely to blink them away, they wept not so much because the smoldering black cloud stung their eyes, but because their church, located right next door to their house, had been set ablaze by Boko Haram militants. And now they were pounding on the gate in front of their house coming for them. For many years, Boko Haram fighters and Fulani Islamic militants, often worked together, targeting Christian villages, killing men, raping women, kidnapping children, and destroying homes and churches. Though the attacks have been severe, Nigerian believers have remained faithful in the face of intense adversity, following Christ through these fiery trials.
Today their love for God would be sorely tested as Cesia (not her real name), a loving wife, prayerfully scrambled to hide her husband beneath a pile of clothes in the back bedroom. Several militants barged into the house to search for her husband, while others dragged her into the courtyard striking her with their guns and mocking her for her faith. Forcing her to kneel they laughingly assured her that this was the last day of her life, explaining that if they didn’t find her husband, they would kill her.
They discovered him hiding in the bedroom and with her and her daughter looking on, they dragged him into the courtyard and demanded that he renounce Christ… Like his Lord, he remained silent and lamb-like in the face of danger. The militants then ordered him to lay down and shot him four times. Before they left, they ransacked and burned their home. Cesia pulled her dying husband into her arms and prayed, as he murmured a final “amen” before he left this world.
While they rebuilt their home, a few months later, Boko Haram attacked again and burnt their house to the ground. This time the heartbroken family walked through the bush for three days to reach a camp for displaced people where they stayed over a year. Ultimately, they were referred to a VOM-supported training facility for widows and orphans.
It is a story that has been told and retold with many versions and variations as Christians are similarly persecuted throughout the world. And though the needs of those who suffer for Jesus are many, Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) meets those needs though it carries considerable risk.
Voice of the Martyrs was established by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina in 1967. Pastor Wumbrand was imprisoned for some 14 years for his faith in Christ, while his wife was jailed for three years. In 1965 they were ransomed out of Romania, and soon thereafter they established the global network of missions of which VOM is a part.
“Christians in the west paid off the communist government to allow them to leave and so they came to the west,” explains Todd Nettleton, Chief of Media Relations for VOM, “And before they left, the secret police of Romania took them aside and said, ‘You know Pastor Wurmbrand, you’re going to the west. You can talk about the Bible all you want, you can talk about God all you want, you can preach all you want, but don’t talk about what we did to you. Don’t talk about the torture chambers, don’t talk about the suffering.”
“Pastor Wurmbrand and his wife didn’t take that advice,” Nettleton continues, “instead, he came to the west and did exactly what they told him not to do. He began to share stories of the torture and horrific experiences in those prisons. And more than just saying, ‘Hey, I was in prison,’ he explained that there were pastors still in prison right now. And that was really how VOM was founded because people who heard that message, wondered how they could help those pastors in those prisons and that’s how the Voice of the Martyrs was founded.” He added, “It was created to be a bridge between the church in the free world and the church that is in restricted nations around the world. We are now 52 years later and that’s still what we’re doing. We’re being a bridge, taking in help and encouragement to persecuted Christians.”
At this point, VOM is a voice that speaks on behalf of those who suffer for Christ, they are hands that reach to them in love and compassion, and they are feet that go to those who are persecuted for His name’s sake. An international force for the Lord with a vast network of trusted contacts, VOM has dedicated itself to serving persecuted Christians through practical and spiritual assistance and leading other members of the Body of Christ into fellowship with them. And it was that way from the jump as the Wurmbrands based these missions on Hebrews 13:3, which instructs us to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them — those who are mistreated — since you yourselves are in the body also.”
Generically speaking, VOM pours itself out in the trenches and refuses to bow down before danger as if it were Lord. They encourage and empower Christians to fulfill the Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They also provide practical relief and spiritual support to the families of Christian martyrs equipping persecuted Christians to love and win to Christ, those who are opposed to the Gospel in their part of the world. Additionally, VOM undertakes projects to encourage and help believers rebuild their lives and witness in countries where they have formerly suffered oppression. And finally, VOM fosters the fellowship of all believers by informing the world of the faith and courage of persecuted Christians. The net effect of these efforts is that the commitment of believers is deepened and inspired, generating a passion for the Great Commission.
Though the Lord has blessed VOM, the work is not without risk. “The key factor is God’s favor,” observes Nettleton. “Hebrews talks about persecuted Christians and this is my favorite line, ‘. . . of whom the world is not worthy,’ they are too good for this world. You know that God is going to look out for them. You know God is going to bless those who are serving [persecuted Christians]. He has certainly blessed VOM for 52 years.” Continuing he adds, “There have been things that have happened. Pastor Wurmbrand traveling the world and speaking and sharing was really the foundation for VOM. We have continued that tradition. We have had some publicity things. We had a team that came under attack by a gunship in the Sudan from the Sudanese government, on the run, literally. We did phone interviews with different media outlets by cell phones, and that became a big story. It became a big thing and it put VOM in front of a lot of people.”
Specifically, VOM has a number of practical ways to make a difference for our brethren who suffer including radio events, prayer, and action packs that help meet needs, you can also adopt a front-line worker, and participate in many more programs.
All of these assets support VOM’s workers on the ground. “We are responsible to know the church in a specific country and its structure — the leadership.,” explains Nettleton. “When an incident of persecution happens; when the pastor is beaten up or arrested or a church is burned down, VOM has developed the contacts over the past 52 years and it says, ‘Hey, pastor so-and-so just got arrested.’ Our response is, ‘OK, how can we help? What do you need?’ We may need a lawyer to provide for that pastor so he can have representation when he goes to court. He may be there a while so his wife and his children need to make sure they can pay the rent and keep food on the table while dad and husband is still in prison. VOM is there to help with those situations.” He adds, “They have developed these contacts with national Christians in the country where we are able to hear about these situations because American Christians are generous to support our efforts. We don’t have to send out an email, saying that the pastor has been arrested. People have blessed us with those gifts so they can swing into action and say, ‘Okay, you’re going to need a lawyer, we’ll take care of that expense. Make sure the pastor’s wife has rent money.’ That’s how the process works. 52 years of experience in developing contacts through gifts and the people that God has sent to our International Ministries team is amazing. Many of them speak multiple languages, they have lived in the hostile and restricted nations, so they have just a very unique ability to respond to these needs and to help.”
Getting involved is not difficult. “I like to encourage people to take a three-step pathway and the first step, is to pray,” says Nettleton. “So, number one — pray. Pray for persecuted Christians. Number two, educate yourselves, so you will pray more effectively. I think it’s very easy to say, ‘God bless persecuted Christians,’ but I also think it’s very easy NOT to say that, to forget to say that. But when we can go to God to pray for a particular pastor in this particular prison, it becomes much more personal. But in order for your prayers to be that way, you have to educate yourself and VOM is a great tool to do that. We send out a magazine every month for free to anybody who wants it that will tell you the stories of persecuted Christians. It will give you names and faces and situations that you can pray specifically for. We have an app for your phone called, ‘Pray Today.’ Every day, it brings up a specific prayer request that you can pray for.” Continuing he adds, “VOM radio, that I have the amazing privilege of hosting, gives people ways to pray. Almost every single episode, we finish up with, ‘Okay, if our guest is from China, How do we pray for China? How do we pray for their country? How do we pray for the church there? Pray, then educate yourself so that you can pray more effectively. Step three is whatever God lays on your heart, and I really believe that as you’re praying, as you’re learning more about our brothers and sisters around the world, God is going to put His finger on some specific actions and call you to do that. Maybe it’s like how we talked about Prisoner Alert, writing letters to Christians, in prison right now for their faith in Christ. Maybe He is going to put you on an airplane to one of these countries to go face to face and encourage one another. But again, as you’re praying, as you’re educating and learning more, then the next step is, whatever God asks you to do and just be ready to obey because as I say, as you pray, and every day as you learn, God is going to point to some ways so that you can get personally involved.”
For more information about Voice of the Martyrs, visit their Website located at www.persecution.com or call them at (918) 337-8015.