Defending Joe

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“Mommy, Mommy,” Kevon cried, running to her.  Alarmed, Inez reached down and picked him up.

“What’s the matter, Baby?” she asked.

“Grandma said that Daddy’s in Hell because he killed a man.”

“Go and tell Auntie Hilda goodbye while I speak to Grandma.”  She put him down and he ran off.

Inez turned to face her mother.  “Mama, how could you tell him such a thing?” she demanded.

Her mother pursed her lips.  “Well, it’s true, isn’t it?  Your good for nothing husband was found guilty of homicide and sentenced to jail time, which in my opinion, wasn’t long enough.  And now he’s dead.  He died behind bars because he was a criminal and because he’s a criminal he’s in Hell where people like him belong.”

“Joe was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after he accidentally drew his pistol instead of his stun gun and fatally shot an unarmed man.  He got a two year prison sentence.  While he was in prison, he accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior.  He died in prison from a heart attack before he could be baptized but I believe that like the thief on the cross, he’s saved.”

“You can believe what you want.  It still doesn’t change the fact that your husband killed somebody.”

“He served his time, Mama.”

“He was no good.  You could have married somebody better like Terrence.”

“Mama, I didn’t love Terrence.  I loved Joe.  Why didn’t you ever approve of Joe?  Was it because he was a cop?”

“It was a cop who killed your father.”

“Mama, it was a white cop who shot Dad and you know it.  Joe was a good cop.  It was just unfortunate that he accidentally shot someone.”

“Cops are all alike.  They are trigger happy.  We’re better off without them.”

“Mama, I’m going to take Kevon home now.  If you are going to upset him again I won’t bring him around anymore.”

“You’re going to deprive me of seeing my grandson?”

“Yes, if you’re going to tell him terrible things about his father.”

“That boy is the only good thing that came out of that marriage.”

“Mama, I mean it.  If you want to see Kevon again, you have to lay off Joe.”

“Fine.  I will hold my peace.  I won’t mention that man any more.”

“In spite of what you think about him, Joe was a good husband and father.  And Jesus died for him too.”

Her mother didn’t answer.  Instead, she turned her attention to the television set.

Inez sighed and went to get Kevon.  Soon they were on their way home.  It was a late Sunday afternoon.  Three weeks before the new school term started.  “Are you all right, Baby?” she asked.

He nodded.  “I’m better now.  Auntie Hilda gave me some candy.”

“Make sure you save some for later and tomorrow.”

“I will,” he promised.

“I’m sorry about what Grandma said.”

“Is it true, Mommy?  Is Daddy in Hell because he killed a man?”

“No, Baby.  Daddy didn’t kill the man on purpose.  It was a terrible accident.  Daddy was very sorry about what happened.  He had to go to jail because that’s where people have to go when they do something wrong, even if it’s an accident.  Daddy’s not in Hell.”

“Where is he then?”

“He’s in the grave.  That’s where all dead people are.  They are sleeping in their graves until Jesus comes and raises the ones who believe in Him like He did with Lazarus.   Then, those who are raised from the dead along with the those who are still alive will go with Jesus to Heaven.”

“What about Hell?”

“Hell isn’t a place where bad people go.  It’s something that will happen here on earth.  The Bible teaches us that it is a fire which God will send down from Heaven.  The fire is called Hell fire and it burns for a long time before it goes out.  You don’t have to be afraid of it as long as you love and obey God.  The good news is that one day you, Daddy and I will be together again forever.”

“I can’t wait to see Daddy again.”

“I know, Baby.  Neither can I.”

For the rest of the drive home, they sang songs, thanking and praising God for His goodness and Jesus for His love.

We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t –  Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Source:  Findlaw

Carmela’s Story

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Carmela sat in the empty church which was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  She was on her way home from the salon where she worked when she decided to stop in and pray for her brother, Guido who died five years ago from a heart attack.  She hoped and prayed that he was no longer in Purgatory because of all the prayers she and the rest of the family had made on his behalf and that he was in Heaven now.  Still, it didn’t hurt to still say prayers for him.

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.”

After she finished praying, she said this prayer for her deceased parents whom  she knew were in Heaven.  “O God, Who hast commanded us to honor our father and mother, look in the tenderness of Thy mercy upon the souls of my father and mother and forgive them their sins, and grant unto me the joy of seeing them again in the glorious light of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

She hoped that one day soon, Guido would join them. She remained kneeling for a while longer and then she made the sign of the Cross.   She rose to her feet went to the front and lit three candles, said a prayer and then left.  Outside it was a bit nippy and drizzling slightly.  She stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few items and then went to the modest apartment she shared with her teenage daughter, Maria.

The place was quiet when she opened the door and went inside.  Maria was still out with her friends.  She said that they were going to hang out at the mall for a while and she should be home by seven. The clock on the wall in the living-room struck five.  She went straight into the kitchen and set the grocery bags on the counter before she removed her jacket and hung it in the hall closet.  She washed her hands and got busy making her famous Manicotti Italian Casserole.

While the Casserole was in the oven baking, she went and took a quick shower.  By the time she was done, the Casserole was ready.  She removed it from the oven and shared it out.  She waited until the oven cooled a bit before she put the plate with Maria’s food inside the oven to keep it hot.  She sat down at the kitchen table and ate hers.  She hadn’t made it since Giuseppe died.  It was his favorite dish.  He always used to boast, “I got lucky when I married you.  You make the best Manicotti Italian Casserole on the planet.  Even better than Mama’s.”

Carmela smiled.  He was such a good husband and father.  It was hard to believe that ten years had passed since he died.  She visited his grave every week and put fresh flowers on it.  And she prayed for him every night.  She couldn’t imagine marrying again.  Giuseppe was her first and only love.  She wanted to remain his wife for the rest of her life.

After she finished eating, she got up from the table, washed the plate and the dirty things in the sink.  She fixed herself a cup of a cup of coffee and took it into the living-room.  She turned on the television and watched the local news.  When it was over, she turned off the television and went to the kitchen to wash the cup and saucer.  It was Friday so she went to get the dirty laundry.  She went to Maria’s room first and as she was about to pick up the laundry bin to take it to the washer, her eyes fell on a booklet lying on top of the bed.  On the front there was a picture of a man stooping down in front of a grave with a woman dressed in white standing behind him.  Over his head were the words, Are the Dead Really Dead?

Heart pounding, she dropped the laundry basket on the floor and picked up the booklet.  She sat down on the bed and began to read it.  She was half way through when she heard the key turn in the lock.  Maria was home.  Closing the booklet, she hurried into the living-room.  Holding the booklet up for her to see, she asked, “Where did you get this?”

Maria looked at the booklet.  “I got it from Anna who got it from her cousin, Lucy.”

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“Is Lucy the one who is a Seventh-day Adventist?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want you to take this and give it back to Anna.  I don’t want this kind of literature in my home.”

“But, Mama, I read it and it makes so much sense to me.  I never believed that you can talk to and pray to the dead.”

“All my life I have been a Catholic and I believe what the church teaches.  The dead are in Heaven or Purgatory or Hell.  They are not sleeping in their graves as this claims.” She shoved it at Maria, shaking her head.

“They use scriptures to back up what they are saying.  Why is it such a bad thing to believe that the dead are in their graves?  Would Heaven be a happy place for them when they see their loved ones suffering?  Take Amy’s mother for example.  Would she be happy in Heaven if she can see Amy’s brother, Michael getting bullied at school because he has a learning disability?  What about Grandpa and Grandma?  How would they feel if they saw Uncle Guido struggling with alcohol addiction or how painful it was for us when Daddy died?  I thought Heaven was supposed to be a happy place but how could anyone be happy there when they can see so much suffering here on earth or their loves one burning up in Hell?  No, Mama, I can’t believe that God who is love would have people burning in Hell forever or stuck in limbo in Purgatory, hoping that the prayers of their loved ones will get them into Heaven and afraid that they might end up in Hell.  I believe what this Study guide says about death.  It is more in line with God’s loving and compassionate character.  I am going to ask Anna for more these study guides so that I can learn more of what’s in the Bible.”

Carmela stared at her.  “So, you’re going to turn your back on your Catholic faith?”

“Mama, I was never a devout Catholic like you and the rest of our family, except Uncle Guido.  I never felt an emotional connection to the traditions and teachings.  I went to Anna’s church last week Saturday and I felt so connected to the people and was so moved by the sermon that I was sorry when it was over.  I felt this hunger to know more.”

“You went to a Seventh-day Adventist Church?” Carmela demanded, incensed.  “How dare you go there without my permission?”

“Would you have let me go if I asked you?”

“No! And for good reason.  Maria, they teach all sorts of negative things about our church such as the Papacy is the Anti-Christ and that the church is the whore of Babylon mentioned in the book of Revelation.  They claim to be God’s remnant church because they keep the Ten commandments which were nailed to the cross and because of some woman named Ellen G. White whom they say is a prophetess.”

“Mama, I really want to go to Anna’s church this Saturday.  The youth are doing the worship service and afterwards there’s a lunch and–”

Carmela’s mouth tightened.  “Forget it.  You’re not going.”

“But, Mama–”

“You heard me.  Now finish taking up your dirty laundry and put it in the washer.  When you’re finished have your dinner.  It’s in the oven.”  She turned and walked out of the room, livid.  “Ragazza sciocca. Tornando indietro alla sua fede. Beh, non ce l’ho. Non finché vivi qui.”

Maria didn’t go to church on the Sabbath but she watched the service on line the next day while her mother was at Sunday Mass.  She did that every Sunday and when she turned 18, she decided that she wanted to be baptized and be a member of Anna’s church.  When she broke the news to her mother, she yelled, “Se ci riesci, voglio buttarti fuori da questa casa” before she stormed out of the apartment.

After she left, Maria went to her room and knelt beside her bed and prayed.

Carmela took the bus to the cemetery and she hurried towards Guiseppe’s grave, tears of anger streaming down her face.  When she got there, she knelt down.  “Oh, Guiseppe, your daughter will be the death of me.  Do you know what she is planning to do?  She’s going to get baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church, of all the churches.  I warned her that if she goes through with it, I will throw her out on the streets.  I don’t know what else to do.  Guiseppe, what do I do?  How could I let her turn her back on our faith?  No one in our family is a Protestant.  Per favore, caro mio, dimmi cosa devo fare.”

She waited for a reply, her hands clasped tightly in front of her and her eyes squeezed shut.  There was silence and then she heard a male voice ask, “Why do you seek the dead on behalf of the living?”

Her eyes flew up and she looked wildly about her but she was alone.  No one else was there.  Trembling, she asked, “Whose voice did I just hear? Was it the Lord’s or an angel’s?”

“It is I, Jesus.  Maria has chosen a good thing which will not be taken away from her.”

“What should I do, Lord?”

“Do not cast her out.”

Carmela made the sign of the cross and stood up.  She went away, her heart racing and the words of the Lord running through her mind.  When she got home, she called Maria.  “I’m sorry about earlier,” she said.  “If you’re serious about getting baptized and joining Anna’s church, I’m not going to stop you or kick you out but I won’t be there.”  And she walked past her and went to her room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Maria raised her eyes heavenward and gave thanks.  A couple weeks later she was baptized and Anna’s parents invited her to their home to celebrate.  Maria became a member of the church and involved in the Youth Ministry.  She even taught Sabbath School sometimes.  She became a literature evangelist and handed out tracts.  She became a vegetarian much to her mother’s chagrin but there was no opposition.  Maria cooked her own meals.

Carmela saw how happy her daughter was and she stopped lamenting about her leaving the Catholic church.  She continued to attend Sunday Mass.  One Sunday after Mass, she was talking to Father Ricci and she mentioned something about Eve.  One of her regular customers at the salon had lent her the movie, Genesis: The Creation and the Flood which she watched on Saturday.

Father Esposito’s expression changed and he said, “Mrs. Romano, the story of Adam and Eve was not to be taken literally.  It was merely a story in the Bible and should not be taken as fact.”

She stared at him, stunned but didn’t get into any further discussion with him.  “Thank you, Father,” she said.  “Good-day.”  She turned and hurried away, her mind reeling from shock.  She went home and opened her Bible to Chapter Three of the Gospel of Luke where the the Genealogy of Jesus was.  There was Adam’s name and he was called the son of God.  How then, could Father Esposito claim that Adam was not a real person?  And Jesus Himself alluded to both Adam and Eve when He said, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.”

She closed the Bible and sank heavily down on the sofa.  Why would Father Esposito claim that the story of creation was just a story?  What else in the Bible should not be taken as fact?  She went into the den and logged on to the computer.  She did several searches until she came across a site called, Steps to Life and a book called, Is the Virgin Mary Dead or Alive by Danny Vierra.  At first, she didn’t want to read it but she felt strongly impressed to.

She read the first chapter and her heart lurched when she read the part about the priest who taught his religion class telling him the same thing Father Esposito told her about the story of Adam and Eve.  Heart racing, she continued reading.  She read a few chapters that evening and every evening until she was finished reading the entire book.  Afterwards, she did the online Bible Studies by Marshall Grosboll

By the time she was done with the Bible Studies, she knew that she had a choice to make.  She could remain in the church that she had been born and raised in or she could leave.  As she prayed earnestly about it,  the words, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” came to her.  She had discovered God’s truth and she had to embrace it.

She told Maria everything and her daughter was thrilled.  Together they went to Anna’s church and one Saturday, Maria watched with tears in her eyes as her mother gave her life to Christ.  The following month, on Carmela’s 45th birthday, she was baptized.

Carmela thanked Jesus for talking to her that day in the cemetery and her customer for lending her the movie about Genesis.  Those two events changed her life.  And she was proud of Maria for choosing that “good thing”.

The way to God’s truth is always there.  Some find it sooner and some later.  The important thing is to find it.  And when you do, it will set you free.

Sources:  Our Catholic Prayers; Town and Country; Catholic News Herald;

Cause of Death

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces – Isaiah 25:8

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Photo by Adobe Stock

Less than a  month after our son died, we found out that the cause of death was a “sudden acute severe Asthma attack.”  The attack was so sudden that nothing could have prevented our son from dying.  Knowing that there wasn’t anything we or the paramedics or the medical staff did could have prevented the outcome doesn’t make the pain and sorrow any less.  We still can’t fathom our son dying from Asthma.  He was so full of life and had so much promise and potential.  He had his whole life ahead of him or so we believed.  Yet, at the young age of 11, he died suddenly.

We are still trying to process this loss.  The pain is acute.  We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now or the joy that comes in the morning.  Right now we are submerged in sorrow and the weeping comes in waves.  Yet, through it all we have God.  His presence comforts and strengthens us.  During those waves of sorrow followed by a deluge of tears, we cling to Him tightly.  We can imagine Him putting His arms around us and holding us ever so close to His heart.  And Jesus, our loving Lord and Savior, is beside us and in the midst of our grief.  We are not going through this alone.  He is with us just as He was with Martha and Mary during their time of grief when their brother, Lazarus was dead.  We take comfort knowing that just as Jesus resurrected Lazarus, He will resurrect our son so that we can spend eternity with him.

Death is something we will all face but thanks to Jesus and His work on the cross, death will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  Death along with the grave will be thrown into the lake of fire.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

If you haven’t already, please give your heart and your life to Jesus Christ today.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  He gave His life for you so that when you believe in Him and accept Him as your Lord and Savior, you will have everlasting life.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Sitting At His Feet

I wrote this devotion years ago and wanted to share it now.

One day I kept hearing the words, “Sitting at His feet, sitting at His feet.  There’s no other place I’d rather be, than sitting at His feet”.

I have often imagined myself sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him share the Word.  I think of the two sisters Mary and Martha.  How very different they were.  The Bible gives an account of what happened one day when Jesus visited them.  As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won’t take it away from her.”

A lot of times we are like Martha fussing and fretting over things and not taking the time to spend with Jesus.  Just recently, I realized that I had gotten so caught up in doing the Lord’s work that I was neglecting Him.   I missed my early morning devotions with Jesus.  I missed sitting at His feet so I made a point of setting aside time each morning for Him.  When I sat at His feet, allowing His words to fill my mind, I was overwhelmed by what He had done for me on the cross.

The reality of what Jesus has done for me—for all of us sank in.  And like Mary I don’t want anything to take this away from me.  I don’t want the worries and cares of the world or the demands of my daily life to rob me of the truths I learn when I take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Martha had placed more importance on the preparation of dinner rather than on the guest while Mary had done the opposite.  The words Jesus taught were food for Mary’s soul—they filled her and satisfied her more than any dinner could.  Martha needed to partake in that spiritual food too.

Like Mary we need to take time to sit down and be fed by Jesus.   I can almost hear her singing the words, “Sitting at His feet, there’s no other place I’d rather be than sitting at His feet.”  Jesus invites you and me to leave what we’re doing for the moment and come and sit at His feet.

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Victory Through Jesus

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ – 1 Corinthians 15:57

This Easter, I find myself reflecting on the victory we have through Jesus which He made possible when He died on the cross, taking away our sins and reconciling us to the Father.  Through His death, He destroyed the devil who had power of death (Hebrews 2:14), our last enemy which will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  One day the righteous will be resurrected and come out of their graves to meet their Lord and those who are still alive when He comes will join them.  This is only possible because of Jesus who “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). 

He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken – Isaiah 25:8

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Imagine the day when God Himself will wipe our tears away.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your sting?  O grave, where is your victory?” – 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55

We have reason to rejoice and this Easter Sunday, we cab celebrate the empty tomb which could not hold our Lord.  He rose on the third day as He promised.

‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death.’ Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away” – Revelation 21:4

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One day, we will meet Jesus face to face.  What a glorious day that will be.  Hold on to this blessed hope until He comes again.

Love Came Down

He left the glory of heaven to come into our world.  He was willing to rearrange His life so that He could come here and live and walk among us. He traded in His majesty for our humanity.  He left His home to come to a place where He had nowhere to lay His head. He left the adoration of the angelic host to come to a world that did not know Him and to His own who did not receive Him.

He left everything to come into a world that was plunged in darkness, filled with sorrow, sickness, hurt, violence and pain. Why?  Why did He come?  Would you come to a place where you would be rejected, unappreciated, opposed and despised?  He did. Would you reach out to people who are always trying to trap you and challenge everything you say or do?  He did.  Would you wash the feet of the man who would betray you and share bread with him?  He did.  Would you forgive the man who denied three times that he knew you?  He did.  What about those who spat on you, mocked you and wanted you dead, would you forgive them?  He did.

Why would Jesus subject Himself to such improprieties?  It’s simple.  Love.  He did it all for love.  Love for the Father and love for us.

Love filled His heart as He walked the streets, touching, healing and ministering to people.  Love filled His heart as He drove the demons out so that the person was in his right mind again.  Love filled His heart as He gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and the dumb speak.  It was love that filled His heart when He touched the leper instead of just speaking the healing.  His word was just as powerful as His touch but He chose to touch the untouchable.

It was love which prompted Him to forgive the paralyzed man because He saw the man’s true need.  Everyone saw his physical need but Jesus saw his spiritual need and He responded to it.  It was love that made Him encourage the widow of Nain not to weep before He touched her son’s dead body, giving him life again.

It was love that broke down barriers when He offered salvation to the Samaritan woman at the well and healed the daughter of the Greek woman.  Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (John 4:9). There was animosity between the two groups.  And women were not highly regarded.  In fact, when a Jewish man started off his day with prayer, he thanked God that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.  Gentiles were seen as in a very unfavorable light. They were seen as unclean or common (Acts 10:28).  It was unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with them or go to their homes. So, these two women had two strikes against them–their nationalities and their gender.  Yet, to Jesus these things didn’t matter.  He loved them and wanted to offer them what the world couldn’t.

It was love that made Him call the woman with the bleeding problem, “Daughter” and offer her words of encouragement.  He wanted to assure her that her faith had made her well.  And it was love that made Him look up at the despised tax collector up in the tree and invite Himself to his home for food and fellowship.  It was in love that He reached out the unreachable, the unloved, the discarded, the neglected and the undesirables.  His love knew no boundaries, no barriers.  It was freely given but not always received or returned.

It was love for you and me that made Him endure the insults, the whipping and finally the Cross.  He bore the indignity of being nailed to a tree between two thieves, treated like a criminal although He had done nothing wrong.  Yet, He did all of this so that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life and that the world through Him might be saved.

Love came down to save a perishing world.

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself – John 12:32

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Sources:  John 1, 3; Christian Courier

Murdered For Her Faith

I received the following email from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada and was very upset and greatly saddened.  Just today my family and I were watching as Christians reenacted Jesus making His way to Golgotha, flanked by Roman soldiers as a large crowd watched.  In certain countries this could not take place.  I thank God that we live in a country where we freely practice our religion without fear of being persecuted or killed like this young Christian woman who was brutally attacked and killed simply because she was a Christian.  Read her story and pray for her family and fiance.

Reflect on what Jesus did on the cross.  He died for everyone, including the people who persecute and murder His followers.  Don’t let anger or bitterness toward Mary’s killers consume you.  Pray for them too.  I don’t know what went through Mary’s mind in those last horrible moments of her life, but we know that one day she will be receiving her crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

EGYPT: Christian Woman Brutally Attacked and Killed

Source: VOM USA


Mary Sameh George

Mary Sameh George, a 25-year-old Christian who lived with her parents and sister in Cairo, was brutally attacked and killed on March 28th by pro-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators.

Mary was on her way to deliver groceries and other necessities to a poor family in the Ein Shams area, as she did every Friday, when she was stopped by a group of protesters. When they spotted Mary’s gold cross necklace, they dragged her out of the car and repeatedly stabbed her before finally choking her to death.

The family of this young Christian woman was understandably devastated when they learned of the murder. In fact, her fiancé’s mother was so grief-stricken that she died shortly after learning of Mary’s death.

Bring Mary’s family, fiancé and other loved ones to our Lord in prayer, asking Him to grant them His peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Pray also that they will find hope in Christ’s resurrection and sure promise that they will be reunited in heaven. Until then, may they look to Jesus for the strength and grace to forgive those who ended Mary’s life so tragically. Intercede on behalf of those guilty of this crime, as well as all those in Egypt who oppose the Gospel…that they may come to experience the saving power of Jesus Christ.

For more information on Egypt’s persecuted church, please visit our website.