Long-playing worship music is ideal as background music while you work or pray.
You can listen to background worship music as you worship, work and pray – in your chair or even in bed, with CDs and YouTube and Spotify on your phone. YouTube video “Mix” gives you a run of similar recordings – often a surprise.
You could set aside an hour a week – or a day – to worship and pray. I use these YouTube songs as background worship for that, even in bed!
Here are some inspiring recordings you could play while you worship, work and pray. Scroll down to see more.
“Why, God?” Helen Roseveare asked after being brutally beaten and raped by Congo rebels for five months while she served as a missionary doctor in 1964.
Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why? was the answer she received.
It was a strange answer.
But also, God gave her a striking revelation about surviving a dungeon of torture.
“It’s external! You’re sinned against. It’s not your sin. It can’t touch your spirit,” she explained on a 100 Huntley Street video. “It’s only your body. But it can’t get into my mind or soul.”
Helen has used her captivity to encourage others who feel powerless to defend themselves against unimaginable acts of evil.
Helen Roseveare became one of the first females to graduate as a medical doctor from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1945. She became a Christian because of the testimony of some of the girls in her school and almost immediately set off to the mission field in the “Heart of Darkness.”
She tended to patients, built hospitals and trained Africans in medical science indefatigably. While serving the population she was taken captive in the Congo during the tumultuous 1960s along with other foreigners. As was always the case, she turned into the leader, even in captivity.
“When the awful moments came in the rebellion you almost felt, no, this has gone too far. I can’t accept it. It seemed that the price was too high to pay,” she says. “And then God seemed to say, Change the question from ‘Is it worth it?’ to ‘Is He worthy?’”
During her captivity, she helped aid medically 80 Greek Cypriots, workers abducted by the rebels. Especially one lady was in pain, seven months pregnant, so Mama Luca — as she was known — was called upon to attend to her.
With rebel guards on either side of her, she stepped among the cowering Cypriots until she found the needy lady. She didn’t speak Greek, so she went through the languages she knew one by one to ask if she was hurt: English, French, Swahili, Lingala.
Finally, she found someone who could translate into Greek and eventually led not only the lady but the whole prison hall of captives in a sinner’s prayer. As the only area doctor, she had attended to the Cypriots for years but had made no headway in evangelizing them.
But suffering brought a new openness to the Gospel.
“When I eventually left the house, they’re all looking up and smiling and they want to shake my hands,” she remembers. “It was wonderful. God, you are marvelous.”
As was their custom, the rebels subjected Mama Luca to a mock trial. The people in the area were orchestrated to participate in the judgement of “colonial, imperial crimes” committed by foreigners. Under the threat to the rebels’ guns, the locals had to join their voice in a chorus of condemnation, calling for the death sentence.
Responding to the beating of the drums, 800 locals came to her trial. You didn’t dare ignore the calls of the rebels because only they had guns. At a certain signal, they all shouted, as was the custom in these roughshod trials: “She’s a liar! She’s a liar!”
Then they would shout “Mateco! Mateco!” which meant “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
“You knew you would die. You didn’t know how,” Mama Luca recalls. “There came the moment in the trial scene when they must have been given the sign. Suddenly these 800 men suddenly, instead of seeing me as the hated white foreigner, they saw me as their doctor and they rushed forward.
“They pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way and they took me in their arms. In that wonderful moment the black-white barrier had gone and they said, “She’s ours.” They used a word in Kibbutu, which really meant, “She’s blood of our blood and bone of our bone.” The rift between dark skin and pale skin was driven away and we were reunited as one.”
“God used so many things that He’s working out his own wonderful purposes,” she says. “Many, many came to the Lord through those days of suffering. The walls of division were broken down, and the kingdom was expanded.”
Helen had refused to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs assigned by her missionary field director. “I said if God ever asks me to be burned at the stake, I’ll say yes, but I won’t be singing,” she remembers. “I just couldn’t take it all.”
But then she and her missionary cohorts were indeed taken out to be executed by firing squad. Contrary to what she had anticipated, she found herself singing.
“We were singing every song and chorus we could think of with the name of Jesus,” she says.
“We were singing in English, French, Swahili, anything, so the last word that these rebel soldiers would hear before they shot us was the name of Jesus.
“We weren’t singing to impress our captors. Something else was very real in that moment when you thought you were about to die, and that was the presence of Jesus. Jesus was there. He was so wonderfully there and it was a privilege. It was just this wonderful certain knowledge. I was going to go to be with Jesus, and really at that minute nothing else counted.”
Ultimately, Helen was spared. She was released by her captors and returned to England to recover for more than a year.
In 1965, she returned to the Congo to help with rebuilding the nation and to continue as a missionary, where she continued to see miracles.
One miracle has gone viral: the story of the rubber hot water bottle.
A baby was born prematurely in the middle of the night. The mother had died in delivery.
They needed a hot water bottle to sustain its life. Dr. Helen knew the grim reality: their last bottles were deteriorated; the chances of this baby’s survival were realistically nil.
But she told her group of orphan girls to pray.
“I told the children of this tiny baby and asked them to pray for the nurses that they would stay awake all night to keep that baby warm,” she remembers. “One little 10-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed in the usual blunt way of our African children, ‘Please, God, send us a hot water bottle. My God, it’ll be no good tomorrow! Send it this afternoon. If it comes tomorrow, the baby would be dead.’”
Dr. Helen didn’t know if she should encourage such futile hopes in the orphan. “I was sort of swallowing hard.”
Ruth continued unabashedly, “While You’re about it, God, would You send a dolly for the little two-year-old sister, so she should know that Jesus really loves her.”
No parcel had ever come to Dr. Helen in that region for four years.
“That afternoon the parcel came,” she said. “t was the first parcel from home. Despite the fact I live on the Equator, somebody packing that parcel had been prompted by God to put in a hot water bottle. And a child from my bible class at home had put in a dolly for the little girl.
“That parcel had been on the way five months to get to us!”
On Tuesday 20 April 2021, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave an address to Christian Leaders at the Australian Christian Churches conference on the Gold Coast. This is not the first time Mr Morrison has spoken about his faith, nor did he say anything particularly controversial, but that has not stopped a storm of news and social media coverage about the place of faith in politics.
Following is a transcript of what he had to say (after his initial greetings):
“I do want to share something with you tonight, a few things that are on my heart. I need you help… Jenny sends her best by the way, thank you for your prayers for Jen, particularly most recently. She’s amazing. I’m just thrilled the rest of the country is getting to work out what I’ve known for a very, very long time. She’s a great blessing, you know, she’s got an amazing heart, the way she’s used the opportunity God has given us for such a time as this. The way that she has been able to reach out to people and just be a blessing to them and a comfort to them. Her heart is just as big as it comes and God is using her, I think, in great ways, in political ways. I didn’t come to talk about politics tonight … the opportunities that have come her way. Leila and Danny Abdallah, I don’t know if you know Leila and Danny? They lost their three children, when they were run over at Oatlands and Jenny has forged an amazing friendship with her and that family, and the other families that are affected, and that’s an amazing faith that forgives and they’ve been a blessing to this country.
But, I do need your help. My father-in-law was an amazing Christian. There wasn’t a day that went past when Roy wasn’t in complete wonder about how God saved him. He grew up in Bondi when it was a lot tougher than it was today, and he had a bit of a rough time growing up. He was a bit of a loner and God reached him through a great church where he was and he just lived the rest of his life saying “I can’t believe how great God is” and he would just give thanks every single day. And, when I was younger – because I started going out with Jenny when I was 16 – I would sit and we’d have discussions, Roy and I. Even back then I was interested in things political and so was Roy. We would talk about government and talk about all this and he’d get veryfrustrated with me because I wouldn’t answer all the questions. And I said, “you know Roy, you know, I can’t fix the world. I can’t save the world. We both believe in someone who can”. And that’s why I’ve come here for your help tonight because what you do, and what you bring to the life of faith of our country is what it needs, in my view.
Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, you may know of him, he was the chief rabbi in a synagogue in London. If you haven’t read any of Rabbi Sacks’ work, I strongly encourage you do. He wrote a book just before he died called Morality. Now, it wasn’t about what you might think or I think, most people who are outside of faith communities would think when you say “morality“. And he said this about it, he said: “You lose your morality and you’re in danger of losing your freedom.” He said “Our rights used to be how we were protected from the state and now, it’s what we expect of it.” He said “What we once expected from family and community, now we can track this to the state and to the market.”
And he channelled someone else, famous economist Friedrich Hayek: “Freedom has never worked without deeply ingrained moral beliefs.” He was talking about community, and you can’t replace community with governments, with the market, with other institutions, you can’t. You can’t replace the family, you can’t replace marriage, you can’t replace the things that are so personal and ingrained and come out of us as individuals with systems of power or systems of capital. These are important things but they can’t replace community.
At every church people say to me, “what church do you go to?”… I say “Horizon Church, used to be known as Shirelive Church”. You know other churches, there are Baptist churches, there are Brethren churches, I’ve always been at a community church. That’s where I want to be, and a church that believes in community and creates community. And the essence of community is each individual understanding that they’re valued, that they’re unique. That they can respect one another. That they can contribute to one another.
We cannot allow what we feel entitled to be to be more important than what we’re responsible for. This is very important stuff that Rabbi Sacks is talking about, because he gets it, that the essence of morality is not what others would think it is, about sexuality and all of these issues. Of course, these things relate to it, but it’s about the dignity and value of each and every human being and the responsibilities that they have one to another. Now, you cancel out one human being and you cancel community because community is just human beings who God loves, and, and is intended to connect us one to another. Morality is about focusing not on ‘you’, but on the person next to you. It’s about focusing, for me, on you, not me. That is the essence of community. You can’t pass a law for it. You can’t create a building for it. It is essentially what springs from each and every one of us. Community. It’s born of what he likes to call a covenant and a covenant as we read, particularly in the Old Testament – he tends to read the Old Testament a bit more often than you! He seems to understand it a lot better than many…
But he speaks about this in a way, it’s not a transaction because in a covenant there are responsibilities. Not just obligations, but responsibilities. There is relationship in covenant, which is what God sought with Israel, in covenant, deep relationship, it’s personal. It goes beyond. There’s the giving of oneself the respect, the dignity, the caring together. The sharing of interests, the sharing of lives. The pledging of faithfulness and achieving together what cannot be achieved alone. A covenant, more than a transaction. Family and marriage, God has created in the same way, to reflect that covenant that we can have. And so I need you to keep building community in this country. I need you to keep doing the things that you do which allows Australians, right here, wherever you may be. Brad [Bonhomme] does amazing work up in Papua New Guinea. I know how much he loves going up there and I’m sure there are many other teams that have blessed our Pacific family. But it’s so important to continue to reach out and let each and every Australian know that they are important. That they are valued, that they are significant. Because we believe they are created in the image of God and that in understanding that, they can go on a journey that I’m very confident you can take them on. And I’m relying on you to do that because that’s not my job, that’s yours.
There are some threats to this that I want to share with you. There is a fashion these days to not think of Australians as individuals, there is particularly, I think, amongst our young people, and I worry about this. It’s called “identity politics”. People think of themselves by the things they can describe and connect them with others. These are important things. One’s ancestry. One’s gender, where one’s from. If you’re from The Shire, well, that’s great, starting ahead of everybody else. As they say, “prayer in The Shire is a local call”. It’s Cronulla for those of you not familiar with what I’m referring to. But there is a tendency for people not to see themselves and value themselves in their own right as individuals. And to see themselves only defined by some group and they get lost in that group and you know when you do that you lose your humanity. And you lose your connection, I think, one to each other and you’re defined by your group, not by, I think, I believe who God has created you to be. And to understand that. And that’s a big thing going on in our community, in our society and it’s corrosive, it’s absolutely corrosive and, I think it’s undermining community and, I think it’s undermining the self-worth that Australians can have because if you‘re only defined by what pack you’re in or what group you’re in or what group you’ve been in or what box you’re put in, how others have defined you or sought to define you either to enlist you to their cause or whatever that might be. Australians need to understand that they themselves individually and personally are unique and wonderful. Because, you know, if you look at each other not as individuals but as warring tribes, you know, it’s easy to start disrespecting each other. It’s easy to start not understanding the person across from you, and this is important for politics for us too, that there is a beating heart over there, there is a unique individual with a unique set of issues and challenges and opportunities and possibilities and all of these sorts of things. And when you stop seeing that and just see someone as, well, they’re of that view and that group.
That’s why people start writing stupid things on Facebook and the internet, being disrespectful to one another and we all know how that is corroding and desensitising our country and our society, not just here but all around the world. I think it’s an evil thing. I think it’s a very evil thing and we’ve got to pray about it, we’ve got to call it out and we’ve got to raise up our spiritual weapons against this because it’s going to take our young people. It’s going to take their courage. It’s going to take their hope. It’s going to steal their hope. We’ve got to pray about that, we’ve got to pray against that because it is such a corrosive thing that we’re seeing take place. Yeah sure, social media has its virtues and its values and enables us to connect with people in ways we’ve never had before, terrific, terrific. But those weapons can also be used by the evil one and we need to call it out.
So, this is the help I need from you. I need your help to keep doing what you’re doing. I need your help to remind Australians how precious they are and how unique they are.
Can I finish with four verses? I just wanted to share this with you in closing. Things that I have learned while I’ve been Prime Minister and, indeed, long before that.
 The first one is 1 Chronicles 13:3. It’s about David. It talks about how in the time of Saul they didn’t inquire of the Lord. And it’s important for us to inquire of the Lord. And this is how David established and set up when he became King. That all other kings, Saul had not done that and we know that over the course of Israel’s history that those who didn’t inquire of the Lord, those who neglected the Lord, those who put what the Lord had put in their heart to one side, then their kingdoms went where they went and the people followed them where they went. And we all remember what happened when that occurred and this is a constant reminder to me just in my own personal walk and I’m encouraged by the people I’ve mentioned already tonight and many more. That is something I seem to do and a lot of people outside this place you will understand what I’m talking about, it’s not a political thing. Faith is very much an ingrained part of my life and I just seek His wisdom in the same way you do each and every day and it’s important we do that.
 The second one, I like this one, it’s Psalm 23:5, where he talks about preparing the banquet for you in the presence of your enemies. We’ve got to sit down with them at that banquet. I sit down at that banquet every single day. But that’s where we‘re called. He didn’t prepare a banquet for us in the presence of our greatest admirers and friends who would tell us wonderful and lovely things, as nice as that is. He said, “I have prepared this banquet for you in the presence of your enemies that I will be with you at that table”. It is a wonderful reminder to me each and every day.
 I was up in The Pilbara the other night, and Jenny, many many years ago got me this lovely little verse and she put it in a frame so I’d see it each morning, about being strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, from Joshua 1:9. There was a young fellow who was up there, he worked in the mines. And he just came up to me because people were just saying “G’day” and we were talking, just came up and said, “Joshua 1:9”. Now, I said I’ve got that one, I’ve got that one.
And when you read, as we all do, the thing that keeps coming back to me over and over and over again, any of us in leadership understand that, is yes, He’s prepared that banquet and yes we inquire of the Lord, but you must be strong. You must be courageous and you must not be discouraged. What I like about that verse is He knows that we’ll be discouraged. He knows that those who will seek to hold us back would have us feel discouraged, so He knows it’s going to happen. It’s no surprise to Him that we may feel like that so He simply says “don’t be”… Be strong, be courageous, do not be discouraged.
 And this came home to me, importantly, during the last election campaign, in fact, and I was up on the Central Coast, and I was up there with Jenny. It was a pretty tough week actually. The last couple of weeks of the campaign and I was at Ken Duncan’s Gallery. And I hadn’t, I didn’t know we were going to go to Ken Duncan’s Gallery, we were speaking at a rally that day and we had to go and hold somewhere as we often do before we go over to the next event. And, I must admit, I was saying to myself “Lord, where are you? Where are you? I’d like a reminder, if that’s okay”. And so I didn’t know I was supposed to be at Ken’s Gallery. Ken’s a great Christian guy as you all know. And I walked into his gallery and there right in front of me was the biggest picture of a soaring eagle that I could imagine. Of course, the verse hit me that soaring on the wings of an eagle, run and do not grow weary, walk do not grow faint. [Isaiah 40:31] But the message I got that day was, “Scott, you’ve got to run to not grow weary. You’ve got to walk to not grow faint. You’ve got to spread your wings like an eagle to soar like an eagle”.
So, I hope those few things encourage you. They certainly encourage me and Jenny every day. We are very grateful for the amazing prayers and support that we get from Christians all around the country. It is an avalanche, the letters we get, the support we get, the books that are sent to me. I’ve got them all there, down in Canberra, it’s quite a library that’s building up. People send me verses, they tell me their stories, they share things with me. They share things with Jenny.
It’s a privilege, it is an absolute privilege. I’ve been in evacuation centres where people thought I was just giving someone a hug and I was praying. And putting my hands on people in various places, laying hands on them and praying in various situations. I was just in Kalbarri, where the cyclone just has gone through. In all these places, it’s been quite a time and God has, I believe, been using us to, in those moments, to be able to provide some relief and comfort and just some reassurance. And we’ll keep doing this for as long as that season is. That’s how we see it. We are called, all of us, for a time and for a season and God would have us use it wisely, and uh, for each day I get up and move ahead. There is just one little thing that’s in my head, ‘for such a time as this, for such a time as this’. God bless you, thank you very much.”
The dramatic search and rescue of Adul Sam-on, 11 members of his soccer team and their coach trapped in a Thai cave in June 2018 thrust them into the international spotlight and changed their lives. Adul, the only English speaker in the group, communicated with the rescuers when they were found nine days later. All photos courtesy of Adul Sam-on unless otherwise stated.
The darkness was overwhelming. The silence deafening. The air was cold.
This was how Adul Sam-on, then 14, described being trapped in the Tham Luang cave underneath a mountain range in Chiang Rai, Thailand, with no way out.
On June 23, 2018, Adul, his eleven teammates from the Wild Boars football team – between the ages of 11 and 17 – and their assistant coach, 25, went to explore the snaking 10.3km-long cave system. But were forced deeper in and stranded by rising waters.
Adul moved to the US last year. He will be moving into his sophomore year in college soon.
As the Thai cave boys – as they came to be known – lost count of days in the dark and hoped to be found, the world prayed, watched and waited as the dramatic search and rescue efforts by Thai and international teams unfolded.
But for Adul, now 17, his story of hope began a long time before the cave incident three years ago.
Across the border
Adul was born in the southern region of the self-governing Wa state of Myanmar. It shares the border with Thailand.
When Adul was three years old, his parents gave his auntie, Yex Kap Htane, their blessings to take Adul across the border to Thailand to give him a shot at a better life.
Ps Go (left) and wife, Yex Kap (right), praying over Adul on his birthday. Photo courtesy of Ps Go Shin Maung.
Yex and her husband, Ps Go Shin Muang, raised Adul as their own, becoming his “second set of parents”.
The couple, now in their 40s, received a calling from God to move from Myanmar to Chiang Rai to start Maesai Grace Church for Wa migrants.
Adul’s story of hope began a long time before the cave incident.
They also started a schooling programme to care for and give a brighter future to the children of Wa natives who have either moved to Mae Sai to work or who are stuck in Wa.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, Wa was notorious for inducting children into its military wing.
“These children don’t even have a chance to grow up and straight away they become child soldiers,” Ps Go told Salt&Light. “That is no future for a child.”
Adul grew up enjoying a childhood and getting a basic education that he would not have had in Wa.
Life, according to Adul, was simple and laid back. He attended classes from morning till afternoon before soccer practice. Afterwards, he would return to the church hostel for dinner and quiet time before turning in for the night.
No way out
That simple life would never be the same after June 23, 2018.
The Wild Boars had just finished a training session and decided to explore a favourite haunt – the Tham Luang cave – with their assistant coach. The boys and their coach had often wandered deep into the snaking 10.3km-long cave system.
Adul (second from right) with his 11 teammates on one of their excursions to the cave. Photo from Facebook page of Nopparat Kantawong, head coach of the Wild Boars. He had not gone into the cave with the boys as he had another appointment that day.
What was supposed to be an hour-long excursion turned into a 17-day ordeal.
A flash flood forced the 13 deeper into the cave. The rising water level made it impossible for them to retrace their steps out of the cave. They were not able to find an alternative way out.
“What might be surprising is that none of us really panicked,” Adul told Salt&Light. “We just figured that we’d wait until the tide dropped, even if it’s for a night.”
When night fell, their worried parents started scrambling and asking each other: “Where were the Wild Boars?”
When they realised that the boys might have been stuck in the cave, they rushed to its entrance, where they discovered the boys’ bikes and belongings.
Adul’s simple life would never be the same after June 23, 2018.
Over at Maesai Grace Church, Ps Go’s initial reaction to the news was one of shock. All he could think of was to pray for their safety.
Ps Go mobilised prayer groups across the church to fast and intercede for the boys. He and other church members took turns to wait outside the cave for updates from the authorities.
Ps Go and his wife struggled to explain to Adul’s parents what exactly was happening. Communication was slow as Adul’s parents back in Wa had little access to the internet.
Ps Go and his wife also struggled with assuring them that their son would be safe, and the weight of guilt and responsibility if Adul did not make it out alive. Their nights were sleepless while Adul was trapped.
Someone will come
The group in the cave were marooned on an elevated rock 4km from its entrance. On some days, they felt hopeful. On others, not quite so.
He must have prayed The Lord’s Prayer and sung How Great is Our God “thousands of times” in the cave.
Doubt and panic grew the longer they waited, said Adul.
“It’s been so long. Really? Is nobody coming?” they would say.
They knew that they were stuck. Their way into the cave was probably inaccessible.
What they did not know was that a monumental search and rescue effort was mounting outside the cave. It involved 10,000 people. They included the Thai navy, army, airforce and police, engineers, geologists, rescue specialists – from Thailand and overseas – and cave divers from countries that included Singapore, the UK, Belgium and Australia.
The search was complicated by heavy rainfall flooding the cave, cutting off rescuers from parts of it.
Adul, the only Christian in the group, turned to prayer and worship. He looked for a small space away from the others where he could do this.
“When the panic first set in, I just felt like I had to talk to God,” he said. “He gave me a very strong belief that someone would come for us.
Ps Go mobilised prayer groups across the church to fast and intercede for the boys.
“Even though the doubts and fears were there, this strange belief, something I never felt before the cave, was the strongest thing I felt.”
Adul also relied on The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and one of his favourite songs, How Great is Our God, for strength. He said that he must have prayed and sung them “thousands of times” in the cave.
In one of those quiet moments in the dark, he received a revelation about God’s plan.
“I couldn’t see much in the cave, and I realised that’s quite similar to how I can’t see God in real life. But I have to trust that He’s going to show His power and goodness at the end.”
Trapped without food
The group were trapped without food. They drank water dripping from the cave ceiling.
“I like how Jesus overcame his hunger and thirst just by praying and talking to God.”
As the days passed, the group found their hunger increasingly difficult to bear. Adul was encouraged by the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. (Matthew 4:1-11).
“I like how Jesus overcame his hunger and thirst just by praying and talking to God.”
Looking back, Adul said: “Jesus had no food and drink for 40 days. I was only in there for a few days; I probably could have stayed for a while longer.”
Happy to see someone else
Thankfully, Adul and friends did not have to stay longer than 17 days. On July 2, 2018 – nine days after being trapped – a pair of British divers found the group.
Adul immediately bounced up when he saw the heads of two divers break the surface of the water.
“I was just so happy to see someone else.”
The rescue divers’ camera footage on discovering the Wild Boars. Screengrab of video from Thai Navy Seal Facebook.
Adul was the only English-speaker in the group. Through him, the others told the divers they wanted food, and learnt how long they had been in the cave.
Camera footage of the divers’ exchange with Adul and the group went viral when it was first released, bringing jubilation to millions around the world who were anxiously following the massive search effort. Adul captured hearts with his politeness and ability to speak English. He had picked up conversational English while interacting with missionaries who had visited Maesai Grace. He also speaks Thai, Burmese, Mandarin and Wa.
The divers spent some time with them before leaving their lights behind, along with promises to return with food and help.
When Ps Go heard the news that the boys were alive, he was able to assure Adul’s parents that their son was safe.
“God showed that He’s faithful, He answered our prayers,” said Ps Go.
“Sometimes I forget that I really didn’t do anything to deserve this. All I did was get stuck in a cave!”
Rescuers then strategised how to bring the 13 – who had no experience diving – out of the flooded, rocky and winding labyrinth that would more than challenge even experienced cave divers. It was was deemed mission impossible by many.
The death of a former Thai Navy Seal diver – who lost consciousness after placing oxygen tanks along the rescue route – highlighted the danger and risk of the extraction. Later in the year, a Thai Navy Seal would die from a blood infection he contracted during the operation.
Rescuers had to move quickly with more rain expected to totally flood the cave. In a complex, elaborate operation that involved a chain of nearly 100 divers, the group were extracted from the labyrinth in stages over three days.
Each Wild Boar was given a full-face mask to ensure that they could breathe, was secured to a stretcher and sedated to prevent them from panicking.
The last boy and the coach were released from the cave on July 10, 2018. Their ordeal had lasted 17 days.
A new life, a new continent
Adul’s life now is a far cry from what it was before the cave incident. He attributes it solely to God.
“Sometimes I forget that I really didn’t do anything to deserve this. All I did was get stuck in a cave!” he said half in jest.
“But then I remember that this is God blessing me and I am just so grateful.”
“God showed that He’s faithful, He answered our prayers.”
Adul, who was previously considered stateless in Thailand, was granted Thai citizenship, along with two of the Wild Boars and their coach.
He has also been blessed by a family in the United States who were moved to sponsor his college education and boarding. He moved to New York state last year, and will soon be entering his sophomore year.
As part of his gratitude to God, Adul sees it as his duty to share his story.
Already, it has borne fruit. Adul’s English tutor came to accept Christ and was baptised at Maesai Grace, said Ps Go.
Adul (back row on the left) with his neighbours in the US.
Adul hopes that his story will inspire many more.
“We can’t believe in God only after He does something amazing. We have to believe in Him even though we can’t see or know what He’s doing,” he said.
For Adul, that was especially when the darkness was overwhelming, the silence deafening and the air was cold.
Silas is an undergraduate studying business. His internship at Salt&Light is a step towards discovering what purpose in God looks like and what it means. He is secretly hoping that it lies in eating fried chicken for a living.
When a man named Tazeem was listening to the radio one day, he heard a Christian share the gospel in his own language.
The message was about God’s love for people, forgiveness in Jesus and the power of prayer, and it deeply encouraged him. He wanted to know more, but never found the radio broadcast again. Nevertheless, he started to share the message he had heard with others in his village.
On one of those occasions he met an elderly woman who sometimes would sing praise songs to God. This was not common in a Muslim community. When she heard Tazeem share the message he had heard on the radio she smiled broadly and said: “So now there are two of us here, and you can worship God together with me. From now on you are my son!”
Neither Tazeem nor his new friend owned a Bible. But the woman – whom he affectionately referred to as ‘Old Mother’ – had learned some of the chronological storytelling from a brief exposure to church planters in another community. The two of them began working together to share what they knew of God’s Word with their friends and neighbors. They had a very simple message: “Come to Jesus. This is the right way. Just come!”
One day, the mother of the sheikh in the town began to manifest demonic spirits. She was taken to the witch doctors, and then to the Muslim marabouts who read the Qur’an to her, but to no avail. In a brief moment of lucidity she exclaimed: “I must go to the home of Old Mother and her boy!” And with that one brief sentence she ran from the sheikh’s home straight to the Christian woman’s house.
The demonized woman, however, was deeply in the clutches of the enemy. The moment she crossed the threshold of the Christian’s home, her body froze and she collapsed helpless on the floor. For eight days she lay on a sleeping mat, unable to move. She did not eat, speak or use the latrine. She was in a fixed position while Tazeem and ‘Old Mother’ prayed. Then suddenly, on the eighth day, the evil spirits left her. She stood up and spoke, and the faithful Christians began to minister to her needs.
Word went throughout the village instantaneously: “The sheikh’s mother is healed! The spirits have been defeated!”
The sheikh heard the news and came running. When he saw his mother eating and in her right mind, he immediately collapsed to his knees and begged Tazeem to teach him about his God. And that day, both the sheikh and his mother became followers of Jesus.
The news spread quickly, and people from the village began to flood the Christian woman’s home, seeking healings and deliverance from evil influences through the power of her God. The little hut looked like an outpatient clinic, a hospital for body and soul.
But the Muslim leaders in the area had also heard about the sheikh’s ‘betrayal of Islam’, and they brought together a committee to deal with him. They armed themselves with spears, knives and guns, and set out to find the Christian sheikh. Luckily, he was warned in time and found sanctuary in the police station. When the police wanted to arrest the murderous party, he stepped forward and said: “Please, do not arrest them. I have already forgiven them! As long as they do me no harm, I do not want to take them before the magistrates.”
Today that former sheikh is planting churches, and those churches are multiplying. In that area of 70 villages, there are now 17 small churches with about 125 new Christians. Persecution is still present, but there is a foothold of the gospel in this challenging place.
Source: Tazeem, interviewed by Jerry Trousdale for his book ‘Miraculous Movements’
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The Chinese Communist Party has long tried to eliminate or control the Church, but without success. Take Sister Hu’s amazing story, a mother who started a house church movement after Jesus healed her son.
When Sister Hu’s son fell seriously ill with kidney disease, she visited numerous temples to seek help from the gods, but he got worse. Then a Christian at the hospital told her that if she believed in Jesus her son could be healed. Her son fully recovered and Sister Hu committed to always serve God and share the gospel with as many people as she could.
Soon, a small group of believers emerged, and the fellowship quickly outgrew the building where it met. “Over time, the Holy Spirit revealed that we should focus on two things: evangelizing the lost and training leaders,” Sister Hu said. “We formed teams with five people in each, and we targeted 18 towns with the gospel. As we approached each town we prayed, and then we would look for the poorest household to share the good news of Jesus with.”
‘Many people believed and more churches were formed’
Each team was supported by an intercession and fasting chain, which operated around the clock, with believers rotating in two-hour shifts. “We fasted for seven days before a campaign, and to this day we still gather every morning at 4:30 a.m. for prayer, even in winter when it’s minus 30 degrees outside.”
The results were remarkable. “In the first 15 towns many people believed our message, and we formed new churches in each place. The final three towns were further away, so we had to cycle over long distances to reach them. Miraculously, in one town the officials let us use the municipal loudspeaker, to ensure that everyone could hear the message. Many people believed and more churches were formed.”
‘We have seen God perform many remarkable things’
“Our meetings were always crowded. Some people who came were demon possessed, but when we prayed they were completely delivered. Others were healed from deafness and other ailments. At first, we had many sisters but only one brother on our teams. We asked God to add 100 new brothers, and after the first evangelistic campaigns, we found that was exactly the number of men who had been converted. Later, we added mercy ministries to help the sick, elderly, and orphans.”
Over the years Sister Hu’s church has grown to 40,000 believers, and they have 1,000 evangelists and pastors. “We have seen God perform many remarkable things, which have helped spread his salvation message more widely,” she said. Some towns have been so thoroughly saturated with the gospel that now over 80 percent of the people are Christians.
“Jesus has been so good to us,” Sister Hu said. “He has been our best friend and He sticks closer than a brother. In recent years we have faced fresh challenges, as the government’s strict new religious policies have taken effect. We are under pressure to compromise, but we are determined to fully obey Jesus, regardless of the cost.”
When we look at the state of Christianity in the world today, we see a decidedly mixed picture. In many parts of the world, there is incredibly good news: God is authoring a season of multiplication instead of addition in many parts of the world. Across Africa and Asia, millions of people in historically unengaged people groups are now in rapidly growing Disciple Making Movements. In 2000 there were 6 such movements, today there are now 1,035! Almost all of the Pygmy peoples of Africa are seeing dramatic transformation by the Gospel of the Kingdom in the last 12 years. Hundreds of large people groups that had been Muslim for many centuries, are now seeing ordinary people making disciples that transform whole communities.
Across Africa and Asia many thousands of former Muslim clerics have left Islam to become fearless disciples of Christ. Not surprisingly, Christianity’s growth in Africa and Asia is explosive. On average, using data from The Status of Global Christianity, between 2000 to 2020, (7,300 days): Africa had 37,825 new Christ Followers every day over the last 20 years. Latin America had 16,988. Asia had 13,443. North America had 1,999. Oceania had 473 and Europe had 8. Much of the great momentum is coming from Disciple Making Movements. Christian history has seen rapid movements happen when many thousands, or millions of people in a region became Christ Followers.
We are living in a season of the greatest church growth since the 1st century! But half of the world is missing the move of God. How is it possible that the Global South Church is seeing Christian history being made while the Global North church is struggling for answers? God alone provides the increase, but why there and not here? What is it that the churches of the Global South are doing that makes so much difference? Two researchers and Disciple-Making practitioners have spent five years identifying several biblical values that Jesus modelled or mandated in his disciples, and which are embraced in the Global South but not in the Global North church. The Kingdom Unleashed was the result of that research.
1. Abundant, and Bold Prayer
In Africa, it is not unusual for churches to commit 50-100 days per year to fasting and prayer. In American churches, seasons of fasting and prayer are not the norm, and if there are prayer meetings, there may be few participants. Some studies suggest that we do not spend much time in private prayer either. It is easy for us to rely on our many resources rather than on God. As a result we lose the privilege of depending on God every day. In the Global South, people often have no choice but to rely on God to meet their needs, lacking resources to do otherwise. Their awareness of their need drives them to pray not just for their physical needs but for guidance, direction, spiritual power and breakthroughs, healings, deliverances, and identifying people to disciple.
2. Discipling to Conversion
American Evangelicals tend to think about Christianity in terms of conversion, forgiveness of sins and Eternal Life. In the Global South, they focus far less on conversion than on disciple-making. When Jesus called the Twelve, he discipled them for nearly three years before he asked them for a statement of faith, “Who do you say I am?” In other words, he discipled them to conversion rather than converting them and then discipling them. That is the model used in the Global South.
3. Obedience-Based Discipleship
Even the idea of what it means to be a disciple is different. For us, discipleship is knowledge-based. But in the Great Commission, Jesus tells us to make disciples (not converts) and teach them to obey everything he commanded. Biblical discipleship is thus obedience-based, not knowledge-based. Our sins are forgiven by faith alone, but throughout the New Testament we are told to live out our faith by obeying Jesus’ commands to love God and neighbour. So from day one in Discovery Bible Groups, people are encouraged to put into practice what they are learning. This approach results in personal transformation as well as community transformation. As people sink into Scripture, they learn that Jesus is Lord of all, and there is no area of life that is not rightfully his.
4. Empowering Ordinary People for Ministry
This changes fundamentally the way the Global South conceives of ministry. In the US, “going into the ministry” means becoming a pastor or missionary. Pastors are expected to preach, pray, visit the sick, counsel people, disciple church members, evangelize, provide direction for the church, handle or oversee administration, etc. In other words, they are responsible for just about everything the church does. But is all this really the job of pastors? Ephesians 4 tells us that pastors are to equip believers to do ministry, in other words, pastors are to be coaches and teachers, but the actual work of ministry is to be carried out by the people in the congregation, something we see in the churches in the Global South. We talk about every member ministry; they do it.
5. Make Replicating Disciples, not Converts
Members of Discovery Groups are also encouraged to tell others about what they are learning. So, even before they come to faith, they are discipled into sharing what they are learning about God. As a result, when they do come to faith, it is the most natural thing in the world to them to share it with others, to start new Discover Groups, and even to found simple churches. People like carpenters, sports coaches, taxi drivers, school teachers, custodians, farmers, and even politicians are making disciples and planting churches. In some parts of Africa, we can identify movements with more than thirty generations of churches planting churches. That is how the Gospel goes viral in these countries, leading to full-blown Disciple Making Movements (DMM).
6. Never Ending Leadership Training for All
Lay ministry is central in the Global South to finding pastors. In many western churches, to become a pastor requires years of education, a degree from a Bible college and often a Master of Divinity degree. Where Christianity is spreading rapidly, evidence of effective ministry precedes the call to be a pastor. You have to have a track record of making disciples and planting churches before you can become a pastor. Where Christianity is growing, they do things very differently from how we do them, pointing to a totally different ministry paradigm drawn from Jesus’ teaching and example. And that paradigm is based on a very different thinking about the Kingdom, the Gospel, the Church, and the ways the invisible world of the Spirit interacts with the physical world.
What would happen to the church in the west if it revised its ministry paradigms to align with what Jesus himself taught and did? What would happen if we adopted different practices like those of the churches of the Global South? It’s starting to happen: A campus minister at a large state school is reading the Word one hour a day, interceding one hour a day and listening for God’s response one hour a day 5-6 days a week. God has placed a burden on his heart for reaching guys in fraternities and God has been opening doors for him to begin training “insiders” to start Discovery Groups with their fraternity brothers who are lost. A woman in a New England church prayer walked every street in her town, over 700 miles, praying for a Kingdom movement where she lives.
Many Global South ministries are mobilizing thousands of intercessors to pray daily for the Global North churches to be restored to vitality. Some are sending workers to help Global North churches. A Discovery Bible Study in Alabama went viral and impacted multiple countries and a huge number of people. God is no respecter of persons and is the same in the west as He is in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Maybe if we don’t let our theological systems, traditions, and habits stop us from putting into practice the things Jesus taught about making disciples, we might see movements here that would make the great revivals of American history look insignificant by comparison. For more information: www.finalcommand.com and www.kingdomunleashed.org
Christian faith sustained and guided 6 boys, aged 16 to 13, marooned on a small island for 15 months – the opposite of William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’.
“We were very happy, but the first thing we did, we say a prayer, thank God for what he brought us to.” “Their days began and ended with song and prayer. Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat. … It’s time we told a different kind of story. The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other.”
The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months
In the 6 October 1966 edition of Australian newspaper The Age, a headline jumped out at me: “Sunday showing for Tongan castaways”. The story concerned six boys who had been found three weeks earlier on a rocky islet south of Tonga, an island group in the Pacific Ocean. The boys had been rescued by an Australian sea captain after being marooned on the island of ‘Ata for more than a year. …
I was bursting with questions. Were the boys still alive? … Most importantly, though, I had a lead: the captain’s name was Peter Warner. When I searched for him, I had another stroke of luck. In a recent issue of a tiny local paper from Mackay, Australia, I came across the headline: “Mates share 50-year bond”. Printed alongside was a small photograph of two men, smiling, one with his arm slung around the other. The article began: “Deep in a banana plantation at Tullera, near Lismore, sit an unlikely pair of mates … The elder is 83 years old, the son of a wealthy industrialist. The younger, 67, was, literally, a child of nature.” Their names? Peter Warner and Mano Totau. And where had they met? On a deserted island. …
Peter Warner [captain of the rescue ship, the man who rescued six lost boys 50 years ago, now living at Tullera, near Lismore in northern NSW] went to work for his father’s company, yet the sea still beckoned, and whenever he could he went to Tasmania, where he kept his own fishing fleet. It was this that brought him to Tonga in the winter of 1966. On the way home he took a little detour and that’s when he saw it: a minuscule island in the azure sea, ‘Ata. The island had been inhabited once, until one dark day in 1863, when a slave ship appeared on the horizon and sailed off with the natives. Since then, ‘Ata had been deserted – cursed and forgotten.
But Peter noticed something odd. Peering through his binoculars, he saw burned patches on the green cliffs. “In the tropics it’s unusual for fires to start spontaneously,” he told us, a half-century later. Then he saw a boy. Naked. Hair down to his shoulders. This wild creature leaped from the cliffside and plunged into the water. Suddenly more boys followed, screaming at the top of their lungs. It didn’t take long for the first boy to reach the boat. “My name is Stephen,” he cried in perfect English. “There are six of us and we reckon we’ve been here 15 months.”
The boys, once aboard, claimed they were students at a boarding school in Nuku‘alofa, the Tongan capital. Sick of school meals, they had decided to take a fishing boat out one day, only to get caught in a storm. Likely story, Peter thought. Using his two-way radio, he called in to Nuku‘alofa. “I’ve got six kids here,” he told the operator. “Stand by,” came the response. Twenty minutes ticked by. (As Peter tells this part of the story, he gets a little misty-eyed.) Finally, a very tearful operator came on the radio, and said: “You found them! These boys have been given up for dead. Funerals have been held. If it’s them, this is a miracle!”
In the months that followed I tried to reconstruct as precisely as possible what had happened on ‘Ata. Peter’s memory turned out to be excellent. Even at the age of 90, everything he recounted was consistent with my foremost other source, Mano, 15 years old at the time and now pushing 70, who lived just a few hours’ drive from him. The real Lord of the Flies, Mano told us, began in June 1965. The protagonists were six boys – Sione, Stephen, Kolo, David, Luke and Mano – all pupils at a strict Catholic boarding school in Nuku‘alofa. The oldest was 16, the youngest 13, and they had one main thing in common: they were bored witless. So they came up with a plan to escape: to Fiji, some 500 miles away, or even all the way to New Zealand.
There was only one obstacle. None of them owned a boat, so they decided to “borrow” one from Mr Taniela Uhila, a fisherman they all disliked. The boys took little time to prepare for the voyage. Two sacks of bananas, a few coconuts and a small gas burner were all the supplies they packed. It didn’t occur to any of them to bring a map, let alone a compass.
No one noticed the small craft leaving the harbour that evening. Skies were fair; only a mild breeze ruffled the calm sea. But that night the boys made a grave error. They fell asleep. A few hours later they awoke to water crashing down over their heads. It was dark. They hoisted the sail, which the wind promptly tore to shreds. Next to break was the rudder. “We drifted for eight days,” Mano told me. “Without food. Without water.” The boys tried catching fish. They managed to collect some rainwater in hollowed-out coconut shells and shared it equally between them, each taking a sip in the morning and another in the evening.
Then, on the eighth day, they spied a miracle on the horizon. A small island, to be precise. Not a tropical paradise with waving palm trees and sandy beaches, but a hulking mass of rock, jutting up more than a thousand feet out of the ocean.
[Mano Totau adds, “We did not get to the island until nighttime, in the dark, so I had to swim ashore,” says Totau. “I had to go first and I told the boys: ‘We have to say a prayer first before I hop in the sea.’”
Despite the fact that the reef was not far from the boat, Totau said he had a “very, very hard time” reaching it because he was so weak from “lying in the boat for eight days without food, without water”.
“When I reach the shore, I tried to stand up but when I stand up the whole world is spinning, so I laid down and crawl ashore and when I touch the dry grass, then I lie down.”
The other boys called to him from the boat to see if he had made it, but he was so weak he could not stand, he could only call out to them that he was alive.
These days, ‘Ata is considered uninhabitable. But “by the time we arrived,” Captain Warner wrote in his memoirs, “the boys had set up a small commune with food garden, hollowed-out tree trunks to store rainwater, a gymnasium with curious weights, a badminton court, chicken pens and a permanent fire, all from handiwork, an old knife blade and much determination.” While the boys in Lord of the Flies come to blows over the fire, those in this real-life version tended their flame so it never went out, for more than a year.
The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarrelled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer. Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat – an instrument Peter has kept all these years – and played it to help lift their spirits. And their spirits needed lifting. All summer long it hardly rained, driving the boys frantic with thirst. They tried constructing a raft in order to leave the island, but it fell apart in the crashing surf.
Worst of all, Stephen slipped one day, fell off a cliff and broke his leg. The other boys picked their way down after him and then helped him back up to the top. They set his leg using sticks and leaves. “Don’t worry,” Sione joked. “We’ll do your work, while you lie there like King Taufa‘ahau Tupou himself!”
They survived initially on fish, coconuts, tame birds (they drank the blood as well as eating the meat); seabird eggs were sucked dry. Later, when they got to the top of the island, they found an ancient volcanic crater, where people had lived a century before. There the boys discovered wild taro, bananas and chickens (which had been reproducing for the 100 years since the last Tongans had left).
They were finally rescued on Sunday 11 September 1966. The local physician later expressed astonishment at their muscled physiques and Stephen’s perfectly healed leg. …
It’s time we told a different kind of story. The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other. After my wife took Peter’s picture, he turned to a cabinet and rummaged around for a bit, then drew out a heavy stack of papers that he laid in my hands. His memoirs, he explained, written for his children and grandchildren. I looked down at the first page. “Life has taught me a great deal,” it began, “including the lesson that you should always look for what is good and positive in people.”
Mr Peter Warner, third from left, with his crew in 1968, including the survivors from ‘Ata. Photograph: Fairfax Media Archives/via Getty Images
In the four days after its publication in The Guardian, this article was read more than 7m times and shared by Russell Crowe, US senator Ted Cruz and former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, to name a few.
Ukrainian believers have been kneeling and praying – often in frigid temperatures – in Kharkov’s city square every morning for five years.
Nicole Leigh, an IMB missionary, reports:
It was still dark outside as I rose to go to prayer. A chill in the room told me that it was going to be a frigid mile walk to the square. I wanted to crawl back under the covers but resisted. “I’ve been doing this for only three days while my Ukrainian friends have done it every day for five years,” I rebuked myself.
Leaving the hotel, I picked my way around frozen piles of ice and deep muddy puddles, bent my head away from the wind, wrapped my scarf a little tighter, and walked in the early morning light to Freedom Square in Kharkov. It was below zero with fresh snow falling and a bitter wind beating at my face, but I arrived to find big smiles, hearty handshakes and warm cheek-kisses from a jovial group who seemed not to notice the cold at all. The contagious joy warmed me from inside out and made me glad I’d come.
But every day? For five years? I don’t know if I could do it. What compels these people to get up early and kneel in the snow? Why is it so important to meet together when they could whisper a prayer from the warmth of their beds?
A call to prayer
In March of 2014, tanks and guns and men with masks appeared on the streets of Kharkov, Ukraine, throwing everything into upheaval and threatening the 23-year religious freedom that had nurtured this post-Communist generation. Nearby cities of Lugansk and Donetsk were also under attack by separatists, but those battling in Kharkov didn’t know what they were up against.
Pastors and evangelical leaders put out a call for prayer – 7 o’clock every morning – in the city square, for anyone who wanted to fight the real battle taking place for their city – the spiritual battle. Within a week, 150 to 200 believers showed up to fight on their knees because they remembered the spiritual darkness that shadowed their land under Communism. This wasn’t a political battle, it was and is a spiritual battle of epic proportion as their freedom to worship, meet together as churches, pray publicly, and share their faith with others was all under threat.
“This is the generation of the children whose fathers were killed for their faith, whose fathers spent most of their time in prison for their faith. We knew the real face of Communism, and it was trying to come back. We were standing on our knees, and we said, ‘Lord, we don’t know what to do. Our eyes are on You, Lord.’ The only hope was on the Lord,” said Pastor V, a Baptist pastor and one of the leading organizers of the prayer meeting.
During the 72-year Communist rule, evangelical churches and activities were outlawed. Ukrainians who preached, taught from Scripture, or shared the Gospel were forced underground and severely persecuted. Two generations of children grew up being taught in school that there was no God. After WWII, conditions were especially dangerous. Baptists and other Protestant believers in the USSR were confined to mental hospitals, arrested, imprisoned and even deprived of their parental rights in some cases.
After years of praying and paying dearly for their faith, God brought religious freedom to the country. Since that time Ukraine has become the Bible Belt of Eastern Europe. It is the hub of evangelical life throughout the former Soviet Union, leading the way in planting churches and sending missionaries.
In contrast, the still-occupied territory in Eastern Ukraine is now seeing the same attitude toward evangelicals that they remember all too well from their childhood. In the wake of the 2014 takeover by separatists, evangelical churches have been closed and threatened with fines in the main cities in the occupied territory.
Now, when these brothers and sisters gather, they pray for those in the war zone and for long-lasting peace, knowing that it will come only if God’s Spirit moves to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus. This is why Ukrainians pray every day, on their knees, regardless of the weather. “At this point, I’d be afraid not to pray,” said pastor V. “We know what’s at stake.”
Five lessons we can learn from these faithful pray-ers.
Joe Ragan and Linda Gray, who serve in Kharkov as IMB missionaries, lived through the scariest times of the invasion. Joe had to flee his home in the war zone in 2014, leaving all his earthly possessions behind. Linda was in Kharkov, then and now, and remembers almost fleeing the city in fear during those days. God used this prayer group – their fellowship and faithfulness – to keep Linda grounded.
“In some ways I was in awe of my Ukrainian brothers and sisters and their passion for prayer, only watching from afar. But after a short time, I found myself kneeling alongside my friends. I always rose up from the time of prayer with a sense of knowing I was still exactly where I was meant to be,” she said.
What might we learn from these faithful pray-ers?
1. Start with repentance
When the events of March 2014 took place, the Ukrainian church felt it was a wakeup call and was strongly convicted that they had not been already praying for their country and their leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-3). In the 23-year period after Communism, enthusiasm had waned, and the church had quickly become complacent.
“When we started praying at the square, I had to repent, because I hadn’t been praying for our president or our government. Because we didn’t like them, we didn’t pray, even though we are Christians and the Bible tells us to pray,” said Nadia, my translator and a pastor’s wife in Kharkov. Now they pray every day for those in power over them, whether they like them or not.
2. Pray in times of peace
Even though the immediate threat of violence has passed in Kharkov, the dedicated group (about 20 people now) continues to meet and pray faithfully. Through the events that took place five years ago, their eyes were opened to the threat of danger and the privilege of peace. They prayed frantically for safety from immediate danger. Now when they gather, they pray not only for God’s blessings, but for revival in their churches and on their streets so that God’s name can be known to all Ukrainians.
Photo: Ukrainians kneel and pray in the snow in Kharkov’s city square
3. Pray even in the midst of social or political pressure to stop
When the prayer group began in 2014, they were threatened by soldiers as well as policemen who said they had to disperse or face jail. “In the first days when we began to pray in the square, we were afraid because we knew that we might be beaten,” said Nina, an Orthodox believer who has been a faithful pray-er since the beginning.
The fears weren’t imagined. In Donetsk, where the battle also raged, a prayer tent was set up, and the leader was beaten and hospitalized. He later died.
“We have to stand on our knees and overcome our fears,” said Ivan, an 80-year-old man who arises at 5:30 every morning to travel to the square and pray. “You must understand that when you kneel in prayer, big things happen. God gave us power to overcome fear.”
4. Join with other denominations to seek God together
Two of the founding members of this prayer group were an Orthodox priest and Pastor V, a Baptist. The fear of war brought believers of all denominations together in a new and unique way. Pastor V said that these ‘prayer friends’ made their Christian world wider and helped them see what God is doing. No one ever asks a new pray-er what church they belong to. All are welcomed. “The church gathered, and Christians came out together,” said Nina. “On the square, the church became one.”
5. Know that the sweet fellowship of prayer is worth the effort
Despite long travel routes and bad weather, the ones who come together each day now depend on the encouragement and fellowship of communal prayer. The big smiles and hugs and laughter among the group make it obvious that the joy is greater than the inconvenience. Pastor V says the practice has become a welcomed routine and a great start to the day and makes them stronger in their spirit.
“Whatever the weather is, after prayer and fellowship with brothers and sisters, moreover, with God almighty, I just fly back home on the wings of faith,” Ivan said.
As I rise from my kneeling position, my toes are a little numb and, well, honestly, I’m freezing. But it doesn’t really matter because my heart is warm and full of gratitude for the witness of these people.
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