The Burnses

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

 

Chuck and Millie Burns were enjoying another day at the beach.   The weather was overcast but it didn’t dampen their mood.  The cool breeze and the smell of the sea air felt really good.

An hour later, they pulled up in the driveway and were getting out of the car when several squad cars showed up. Startled, they looked around wondering what was going on.  “Chuck and Millie Burns, you are under arrest for torture and child endangerment”  Handcuffs were slapped on them and they were led away, faces red and heads hanging.  They were bundled into a squad car and driven away.

It turns out that the police were alerted when the couple’s 15 year old daughter escaped the house where she and her nine siblings were locked up and starved.  Neighbors were shocked.  “They seemed like such a nice couple,” one woman said.  “Their children didn’t say much or play with the other kids but we just thought they were shy.  It goes to show you that you really don’t know people.”

The Burnses are currently being held in custody on six counts of torture and eight counts of child endangerment.

192 Words

I read of the couple who had 13 children because they felt it was God’s calling but those poor children were subjected to torture, endangerment, neglect and starvation.  They gave the impression that they were a devout Christian couple who had all of those children because it was “God’s calling”.  I’m pretty sure that torture, confinement, endangerment and starvation weren’t His calling.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Mirror

Freedom

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She stood on top of the mountain, her eyes riveted to the American flag as it flapped gently in the breeze.  It was more spectacular than the surrounding landscape.  It was a symbol of freedom from a life of religious persecution in a country where being a Christian led to her husband’s arrest and imprisonment.  After learning of his death resulting from vicious beatings and torture, she fled their home.  She was two months pregnant.

For days she traveled on foot with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat except sunflower seeds but still, she continued to cling to her faith.  She found a safe house in Bangkok but shortly after, Thai police showed up, seized her possessions and sent her to detention.  The judge ordered her deportation.  Back in the jail cell, she prayed, “God, please help me.”

And He did, through the U.S. Embassy officials who helped her to escape from the Chinese and to America.  Now she and their daughter were free. One day she would tell her about her brave father.

175 words.

It was inspired by a true event and was written for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge.  For more information, please visit Here.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Christian Post; The Voice of the Martyrs CanadaCBN News

Missing Children

Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, My precious life from the lions – Psalm 35:17.

There’s nothing worse than when a child goes missing.  All sorts of horrible thoughts go through our minds and we fear the worst.  When I read about Nadish, my heart went out to his mother. His attitude to his schoolwork reminded me of my son’s.  My son is seven and he doesn’t take his education seriously.  He prefers to play and draw although he is very smart.  His father is hard on him because he knows that he has potential and can excel in school if he just gets serious. Nadish’s mother wanted what was best for him and that is why she scolded him.  He was given a opportunity that other children didn’t have–an education in the Bridge of Hope Centre in India.  There are children, like my son who are in good Christian schools being taught by dedicated teachers and they take it for granted.

Like most children, Nadish didn’t liked being scolded.  He ran away from home and found himself in a large city railway station in India.  I can’t imagine how scary it must have been for this nine year old boy.  He must have looked like a waif, surrounded by strange faces in strange surroundings so far removed from the home he shared with his mother.  Perhaps, the enormity of what he had done came rushing over him.  Perhaps he wished he hadn’t run away.  Perhaps he missed his mother and would have preferred being scolded by her than being in that strange and scary place.  Perhaps these emotions are what made him go with the elderly man who befriended him.  Perhaps the man made him feel safe.  Nadish went with him to his home village.

And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light – 2 Corinthians 11:14

Nadish found himself plunged into a world he never imagined he would be.  Forced into slavery, he spent the next two years living as a prisoner and cleaning up animal waste.  I wonder what went through his mind when he was locked in a room near the animals he cleaned up after and got very little food to eat.  Was he wishing that he was home like the prodigal son who wished he was home when he was living in squalor after wasting his money?  Was Nadish wishing that he was with his mother, doing his schoolwork and eating a good meal?  He had left a haven for a hovel.

Meanwhile, Nadish’s mother was beside herself with grief and worry.  She had lost her husband to cancer and now one of her sons was lost too.  The staff at the Bridge of Hope Centre prayed fervently for Nadish.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the LORD
is against those who do evil – 1 Peter 3:12

God answered their prayers.  Two years after his capture, Nadish and a new boy escaped because their landlord forgot to lock the door to the room where they were held captive.  Nadish had turned twelve years old thirteen days before.  He and the boy ran to the nearest police station and gave evidence against their captor.  Hopefully they were able to arrest him so that he couldn’t enslave another child.

Nadish is now back home with his mother and participating in Bridge of Hope again.  The horror he want through is still with him.   It is a mental struggle for him so he needs your prayers.  Pray that he will be able to concentrate on his schoolwork and catch up on what he missed.

Nadish is one of the more fortunate ones.  He is no longer missing.  He is safe with his family.  There are other children out there.  Some are abducted by strangers and forced into slave labor while others are trafficked and exploited in the sex trade.  Then there are those who are sold to families to work as domestic  help.  This reminds me of Cosette in Les Miserables.  She was forced to work as a domestic and she was under the age of 10.  She was beaten and hardly fed.  The cat was treated better than her.  Meanwhile her mother, Fantine was under the impression that the couple who had her daughter were treating her well.  Fantine died never knowing the truth or seeing her daughter again.

The statistics on missing children are staggering.

  • In India it is reported that 45,000 children are missing each year
  • Close to 13 million children younger than 15 years are in India’s workforce.  This is more than any other country in the world.  Some estimate that the real number is closer to 100 million.
  • In Thailand nearly 1 out of every 10 children between the ages of 10 and 14 are working instead of going to school
  • In Bangladesh, it is estimated that 27 percent of children ages 10-14 are working in hazardous work conditions
  • In Sri Lanka, the fishing industry is one of the most physically punishing forms of child labor, keeping children in slave-like conditions and out of the public eye
  • UNICEF estimates that 4,500 children from Bangladesh are trafficked to Pakistan each year while   thousands more are sent to India and the Middle East.

Thankfully, Gospel for Asia is doing something to stop these atrocities.  They are working among South Asia’s most endangered children.

You can make a difference.  You can give what you can to rescue children on the streets so that like Nadish they can learn about Jesus and be reunited with their families.  Help to rescue a child from the streets of South Asia.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child, check out this link.

Another way you can help is through prayer.  Gospel of Asia offers these prayer suggestions:

  • Pray for children to be rescued, reunited and accepted back into their families.
  • Pray for the physical needs of the children. Most do not get enough to eat, and the physical labor they are forced to do can cripple their bodies. Pray for the Lord to provide for them and protect them from harm.
  • Pray for the girls—and boys—forced to work in the sex trade. Ask the Lord to bring the brothel owners’ and customers’ misdeeds into the light and for the love of Jesus to permeate those dark places.
  • Pray for a radical attitude shift in South Asian society so citizens of these countries will demand an end to the exploitation of children.

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have, let us use it and then watch God do amazing things.

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him – Psalm 37:40.

Persecuted for Their Faith

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 5:10

I have been aware of how much the church has been persecuted in different parts of the world through emails from Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  I have read many heartbreaking stories but I will share two of them.  A Christian woman named Mariam was expelled from her home by her husband who had militant Muslim views because she refused to renounce her faith.  At the time Mariam was pregnant and due to give birth soon.  She had to be cared for by church members.  In 2012 when she became a Christian, her Muslim family provoked an attack, forcing her to live on the streets.  Mariam is from the Ivory Coast which has seen an increase in violence since November 2010.

In Pakistan a teen died after being set on fire.  He was approached by two men who asked him about his religion.  After Nauman told them that he was a Christian, they proceeded to beat him.  He tried to run away but they followed him and doused him with kerosene and set him on fire.  Unfortunately, his attackers wore masks so there is little hope that they will be caught.  And it doesn’t help that the authorities show little interest in further investigation.

I thought that what these people experienced in their countries was bad but Ivory Coast and Pakistan are not even part of Gospel for Asia’s list of the top 10 countries where Christians are persecuted.  Life for Christians in these countries is simply horrendous.  First up is North Korea.

North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Christians are tortured, imprisoned and murdered. Private, non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to arrest, torture or even public execution – Voice of the Martyrs – North Korea.

Yang was a Christian woman who became a follower of Jesus while she was still living in North Korea. Watch her incredible story of pain and hope.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” – John 16:33

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam is known for being one of the worst places when it comes to women’s rights and religious freedom.  According to VOM Canada, it is one of the most oppressive nations in the world for Christians.

Religious freedom is nonexistent, and leaving Islam is punishable by death. Non-Muslims are not permitted to become citizens of Saudi Arabia, and no places of worship other than mosques are permitted in the country. All non-Muslim religious rituals and materials are banned. Converts from Islam to Christianity are rare, and converts have been executed for the offense. Anyone who performs mission work or converts a Muslim faces jail, expulsion, lashing, torture or execution. Non-Muslim worship, even private worship for foreign Christians, is prohibited, and Saudi religious police have been known to raid homes where expatriate workers were worshiping – Voice of the Martyrs – Saudi Arabia.

In September 2014, a house church in the city of Khafji was raided and 28 people were arrested, including children. Bibles and musical instruments were also seized. The worshippers, mostly expatriate workers from South Asia, were held overnight and released the following day, apart from a leader of the group who was held for another night – Church in Chains.

Can you imagine receiving 200 lashes and two years in prison if you are from Saudi Arabia and 300 lashes and six years in prison if you are from another country?  In 2012, two men, one Lebanese and the other Saudi Arabian were charged with brainwashing a Saudi woman into becoming a Christian.  These charges were levelled against them by the woman’s family.  The woman, known as the “girl of Khobar” is living in Sweden where she has been granted asylum.  She wasn’t brainwashed, she chose to become a Christian (Church in Chains).  Watch as she and another Saudi share their testimonies.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” – John 8:36

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not recognize any Afghan citizens as being Christians, nor are Afghan citizens legally permitted to convert to Christianity. Although there are no explicit laws that forbid proselytizing, many authorities and most of society view the practice as contrary to the beliefs of Islam. There is only one legally recognized church in Afghanistan and it is located within the diplomatic enclave, and not open to local nationals.  Muslims who change their faith to Christianity, are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to death penalty. However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her apostasy. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Afghan Christians does not include Muslim apostates to Christianity – Wikipedia

I read that the growing number of Christians in Afghanistan is causing great concern among the Muslim leaders and they are calling on President Hamid Karzai to “limit the number of aid workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan” to keep Afghanis from converting to Christianity.”  Apparently this all started when a TV station in Kabul reported the conversion of several Afghans to Christianity and broadcasted photos of them praying and being baptized.  This sparked an outrage and a call to convict believers under the Sharia Law which decrees that anyone who leaves Islam and converts to another religion that person will be executed – Christian Headlines.  The Afghan Christians have no church building where they can go because the last one was destroyed two years ago.  They are completely underground now and are risking their lives to meet in homes.

This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life – Psalm 119:50

The situation of religious freedom for Christians has seriously deteriorated under the influence of the establishment of the Islamic State in large parts of Iraq. In June 2014, a strict version of Islamic law was implemented in the area the militants of Islamic State hold. Christians were forced to convert, flee or pay a tax for religious minorities. As a result, many Christians fled. Moreover, the broader Iraqi society is turning more Islamic, with increased social control on women wearing a veil and observance of Ramadan. Christians most affected by persecution are converts from Islam. However, in areas held by radical Islamic groups all Christians are under great pressure – Open Doors USA

A family of four was forced to flee Iraq because of militants and a man for questioning the Quran.  Read their stories.

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’ – Isaiah 41:10

Last year a Somalian believer was dragged outside of her home and murdered by a group of armed men. Anyone who tried to rescue her was shot at.  Her parents witnessed this terrible tragedy.  If a Somali was discovered to be a follower of Jesus, that person was going to face certain death not only in Somalia but in neighbouring countries where they are forced to flee as refugees.  According to one VOM source, “In Somalia, they kill you if they just find a piece of literature” (VOM USA).  My thoughts are with this young woman’s family and I pray that they are leaning on Jesus and trusting Him to strengthen them each day.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You – Psalm 9:10

Maldives is one of the least evangelized countries in the world. The 0.2% figure for Christians refers to expatriate Christians. Citizens of the Maldives are automatically Muslim, and non-Muslims may not become citizens. The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden. Maldivian believers are carefully watched. They suffer ostracism, mockery, incarceration and even torture. Christians cannot meet or read the Scriptures openly. Expatriate believers have been expelled, especially after sharing their faith – VOM Canada.

Citizens of the Maldives who convert to Christianity lose their citizenship and risk torture. Expulsions of Christians occurred several times in the last 10 years (Wikipedia).

In his presidential campaign the current President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen promoted himself as a saviour of Islam. “Think for yourselves, do you want Islam in the Maldives or do you want to allow space for other religions in the Maldives,” he said in an election speech.  In his speech on Maldives Conversion to Islam Day, he told the citizens, “We should also be very vigilant of foreign influences attempting to weaken our religious faith” (The Diplomat).  Clearly, things for Christian believers in Maldives is not going to change any time soon.  Let’s lift them up in our prayers that they will remain strong and steadfast until the Lord returns.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you – 1 Peter 5:10

It has been said that Mali has always been a dangerous place for Christians.  Christians who have fled are afraid to return and those who return find their properties occupied by Muslims.  There is no normal church life for Malian Christians in the north and those living in the south feel threatened by the Islamic groups in the north (source:  Open Doors).  Read about a pastor who escaped a deadly plot in Mali.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” – 1 Peter 3:12

Imagine risking your life to tell others about Jesus in a country where religious freedom is on the decline. Watch this compelling video of a Iranian woman named Padina who was about to commit suicide but God intervened.

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” – John 8:12

Yemeni citizens are not allowed to convert to Christianity (or other religions). Converts from an Islamic background may face the death penalty if their new faith is discovered. Converts from Islam also encounter opposition from extremist groups, who threaten “apostates” with death if they do not revert to Islam. Proselytizing of Muslims is prohibited – VOM Canada

How frustrating it must be to have to hide your new faith or face possible death if it is discovered.  Please pray that your Yemeni brothers and sisters will be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

I received a prisoner update of an Eritrean man named Mussie Eyob who has been in prison since 2011. He was arrested because of his faith and his desire to share the Gospel with others.  Mussie became a Christian in 2008.  Three years later, while he was living in Saudi Arabia, he went to a mosque where he spoke about Christianity.  He was arrested on February 12, 2011.  It is a capital offence to proselyte in Saudi Arabia.  Praise God, He intervened through the appeals from various human rights groups and individuals.  Mussie was deported to Eritrea.  You can read his story here and see how you can reach out to him and his family.

It is ironic that as the people of Eritrea celebrated 24 years of independence in March 2015, religious freedom for Christians is still a concern.   According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the greatest shortcomings in religious freedom are felt by minority groups such as evangelical Christians.  So once again, in 2015,  USCIRF holds to its position that Eritrea is to be designated as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.

In the wake of their independence, Eritrean Christians had to flee to Ethiopia to escape their hardships where they continue to boldly share their faith.  “They are actually seeing many from (various) religious backgrounds — Muslim and Orthodox — enter into a personal relationship with Jesus” says Greg Musselman, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

“Today, you’ve got anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 Christians there who are imprisoned in shipping containers or military camps because of their faith.”  Can you imagine dealing with torture, acts of cruelty, random arrests and detention without charges? Musselman believes that these practices are as a result of the government’s belief that evangelical Christianity is “western” and is linked with the CIA (ERITREA: Refugees Boldly Testify of Christian Faith; Source: Mission Network News).

It is encouraging to know that despite the ban on their religious activities, the imprisonments and persecutions, the Eritrean Christians are holding on.  They have this assurance that they are not alone and that they are fighting the good fight which will carry them through these fiery trials.

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life – Revelation 2:10

If you are moved to pray for the Christians in these countries, find out how at this link.

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Voice of the Martyrs Canada; Open Doors; Church in Chains

Irene Morgan

Before Rosa Parks, there was Irene Morgan.

One muggy July morning in 1944, Irene Morgan, a young Seventh-day Adventist woman boarded a bus to Baltimore for a check-up following a miscarriage. About an hour or so out of Gloucester, a white couple boarded. The bus driver ordered Morgan and her seatmate to move. Morgan refused and prevented the woman next to her from giving up her seat, telling her to stay put. The woman was holding a baby. Faced with two passengers who refused to be intimidated the driver headed to the county jail.

A sheriff’s deputy came on board with a warrant for Morgan’s arrest. Morgan ripped the warrant and threw it out of the window, declaring that she hadn’t done anything wrong. The deputy grabbed her by the arm to pull her off the bus. Morgan kicked him in a very bad place because he had dared to touch her. Another deputy boarded the bus and was trying to put his hands on her to drag her off but she clawed at him, ripping his shirt. He threatened to use his nightstick, but that didn’t scare Morgan. She retorted, “We’ll whip each other.”

Morgan was fighting back because like the other passengers, she had paid her money and was sitting where she was supposed to sit. She wasn’t going to take this kind of treatment from anyone. She was dragged off the bus and thrown in jail. Her mother arrived an hour later and posted a hefty $500 bail to get her out of jail.

Morgan went to court where she pleaded guilty to the charge of resisting arrest and was fined $100 but she refused to plead guilty to violating Virginia’s segregation law. Her attorney argued that segregation laws unfairly impeded interstate commerce. He purposely did not make the moral argument that segregation laws were unfair under the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. His reasoning was that the Supreme Court wasn’t ready to take that argument. The case was significant in that what he and the defence were trying to do was break down segregation. Morgan was found guilty and fined $10.

Her arrest and $10 fine were appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by a young NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall. Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court justice. He was also the main lawyer in the case of Brown vs The Board of Education. His appeal resulted in a landmark 1946 decision striking down Jim Crow segregation in interstate transportation. She inspired the first Freedom Ride in 1947, when 16 civil rights activists rode buses and trains through the South to test the law enunciated in Morgan v. Virginia. However, although the case was front-page news and Greyhound immediately ordered its drivers not to enforce segregation, change did not come overnight.

Morgan never heard the appeals argued on her behalf by the two NAACP lawyers: Marshall and William Hastie, the dean of Howard Law School, which was at the center of the civil rights struggle.

Morgan finally got the recognition that had eluded her for so long although that is not what she was after. Her friends and family say that her whole life was about doing right and good. Over the past five decades, Morgan has led a quiet but extraordinary life. For many years she ran her own business. She won a scholarship in a radio contest. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. She was awarded a master’s degree in Urban Studies at the age of 73.

She has continued to inspire her family. In Baltimore, she passed out petitions demanding an end to school segregation without letting anyone know who she was. She wrote to the Pope seeking his intervention in the case of a Haitian whose children had been barred from parochial school. She rescued a neighbourhood boy from a burning building. Every Thanksgiving she invites two homeless residents over for dinner and laundry.

Irene Morgan was a freedom fighter a nation nearly forgot but her story is a testimony of how God chose to use a young mother to shape the history of blacks in America. She was a woman who fought to right a wrong. She was a woman who said no to segregation, which in the South of 1944 was a bold and dangerous thing to do. She had defied the law because it was unjust. She was a woman who was fighting for her religious rights because in Christ there was no distinction between the races. She was fighting for her human rights because she was an upstanding citizen who was paying for a public service like everybody else and who deserved to be treated with dignity.

Like David, Irene Morgan faced her Goliath—the system. And like Moses, she delivered her people from bondage—segregation.

As Irene Morgan faced the ugliness of bigotry, one can almost imagine these words going through her mind, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me” (Psalm 138:7)

Irene Morgan remains a private woman, reserved and modest in an age when neither attribute is valued much. When Howard University wanted to award her an honorary doctorate, she declined, saying, “Oh, no, I didn’t earn it.”

The town where she had got on the bus was to honour her with a day called “A Homecoming for Irene Morgan”. Four scholarships were  to be established in her name.

In 2000 Morgan, who by then was in her 80s, was honored by Gloucester County, Virginia during its 350th anniversary celebration. In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Morgan died on August 10, 2007, in Gloucester County at her daughter’s home. She was 90 years old.  Today we celebrate this woman who was an important predecessor to Rosa Parks in the successful fight to overturn segregation laws in the United States (Wikipedia).

“When something’s wrong, it’s wrong. It needs to be corrected.”

Irene Morgan