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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Testimony of Helen Berhane

- Kaley Payne (

As we sit in an African restaurant I can’t help but think it a slightly incongruous setting. Sitting opposite is a woman who just three years ago fled severe persecution in Eritrea. While we eat our injera she talks about her experience through an interpreter. Before answering my first question, she asks to pray. And so, our heads bowed in the midst of meal orders, deliveries and menu queries, I get a taste of the extraordinary character and uncompromising faith of Helen Berhane.

Helen Berhane spent some time in Australia in August, travelling with Open Doors Australia, an organization helping to raise awareness of the persecuted church around the world.
She visited churches across the country, speaking to other Christians about her experience in Eritrea. She has also written her autobiography, a powerful account of the persecution she faced as a vocal Christian in a country that ranks eleventh on Open Doors’ World Watch List for the most dangerous places for Christians. Helen can only be called a serial evangelizer.

A member of the banned Rhema Church – a minority evangelical church in Eritrea, Helen was well known to Eritrean authorities and frequently imprisoned for preaching the gospel in the country’s capital, Asmara. “The police would capture me and ask "When are you going to stop this?’” said Helen. “They all knew me and I would come in and out of prison. When I would arrive, the other inmates would say ‘Helen’s back! Welcome!’” But after releasing a recording of her gospel music, Helen faced her toughest trial.

Separated from her young daughter and taken to the notorious Mai Serwa military camp, she was imprisoned for almost two years, spending much of that time in a shipping container masquerading as a prison cell. In her book, Helen describes the cell: “The container was no more than twenty feet long, so we were packed closely together. There were eighteen of us inside. We were given a bucket as a toilet and allowed out once a day to empty it,” she said.

Yet even in the rancid conditions of her imprisonment, Helen sang.  She speaks of her desire to praise God despite her circumstances. “Even though we were in a dark situation, we could not suppress the word of God. We praised God in spite of the fleas, the lice and the heat. We could not be prevented from singing – even in captivity.” But singing praises to God meant severe punishment for Helen and the other women who joined her in worship. 

Helen is reluctant to describe in detail the torture that came as a result of her stubbornness in Christ. They would handcuff me and fasten my ankles together too tight so the pain is excruciating. They left us there the whole night – I was in too much pain to sleep. I concentrated on the stars, because if I let myself think of my legs the pain became unbearable.”

Helen and the other prisoners were frequently promised release if they signed a document declaring they would no longer preach. But Helen refused, instead looking for ways to continue to share her faith in captivity. It was Helen’s Christian witness that forced the guards to separate her from the other prisoners. She spent four months in solitary confinement. After a severe beating for being discovered writing Bible studies for another prisoner, Helen was taken to hospital with fears she would never walk again. From there, Helen’s family helped her flee to Sudan.

“It was a miracle – I felt the hand of God on my situation. By his grace, I was free.”

Evan Peet, National Development Manager at Open Doors Australia, said Australian Christians could learn from people like Helen. “For Western society, it’s so easy to view faith as something that ‘works for us’, and that is constantly changing,” he said. “But for Helen, faith is steadfast, the foundation she is built on. People like Helen do anything to live out their faith. Yet here, too many of us don’t go to church when it rains.”

Mr Peet says bringing Helen Berhane, and others like her, to Australia, is mutually beneficial. “We want people to pray, support, give – to be aware of what’s happening to Christians overseas and advocate for them through government. That’s what we can do for them. But they have so much to offer us too.”

Now living in Denmark after being granted asylum, Helen is humble about her experience. “As I see it, what I’ve gone through isn’t that much at all. You might think that because of all the things I’ve faced, that I am strong. But there are so many others that have walked where I have walked, and there is so much I still have to learn,” she said.

‘Song of the Nightingale’ by Helen Berhane with Emma Newrick is published by Authentic. Click here to purchase it from Amazon India

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jonathan Gofort

- Anonymous

Jonathan Goforth was one of the greatest foreign missionaries of his era. He was an instrument used mightily by God in the early 20th century. Goforth was born on a farm in 1859 near Thorndale in Ontario, Canada. The seventh of eleven children, he gave his life to Jesus Christ at the age of 18 and soon commenced his ministry of winning others to faith.

The young Canadian met Rosalind in the spring of 1885. She had been praying for a husband who was fully dedicated to God and His work. Later that year they were engaged after Jonathan asked Rosalind, “Will you join your life with mine for China? And will you give me your promise that always you will allow me to put my Lord and His work first, even before you?” She immediately replied, “Yes, I will always.”

Rosalind soon got her first taste of the sacrifice she would encounter during her life as the wife of Jonathan Goforth. Her dreams of an engagement ring were dashed when he told her that the money he would have spent for a ring was instead used to purchase Christian literature.

After arriving in China the Gosforth’s settled in northern Henan Province,  which was to be their home for decades to come. The early years of ministry in Henan proved difficult, and the powerful revival that God brought to China through the Gosforth’s in the early 20th century almost never took place.

During the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, Jonathan was almost killed by bandits, who hacked him with swords to his back, neck, and head. He managed to escape with his life by the providence of God. Jonathan returned to China in 1901 a changed man. He had been grieved by the dead Christianity he encountered at home, and was also dissatisfied by the luke-warmness he saw among the Christians in China.

In 1906 Goforth was preaching in a remote town when he fell under heavy conviction. The Lord commanded him to go and reconcile himself with a Christian brother. Goforth tried to argue with the Lord, pointing out that the point of contention was the fault of the other man. He tried to continue preaching, but his message was awkward and without power. He stopped speaking, bowed his head, and promised the Lord he would go and see the man immediately after the meeting. The whole spiritual atmosphere of the meeting changed, and many tearful confessions of sin were made throughout the congregation. In the following months the same happened at every meeting Goforth spoke at. The Holy Spirit moved in a mighty way, and many wrongs were made right.

For the next decade Jonathan Goforth led revival meetings all over China. Often he would preach for eight hours a day, to crowds of up to 25,000 people. Thousands of sinners experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and multitudes of Christians were awakened to a more vital relationship with God. The meetings were often characterized by public confession of sin and repentance. A series of revival meetings was arranged in the Goforth’s home town of Anyang. So many people were gripped with the fear of God that they desired nothing more than to confess their sins and be cleansed by the Blood of Jesus Christ.

Another of the missionaries heard many school boys confessing their sins publicly, in deep anguish of spirit. The missionary mocked this in his heart, believing the boys were just mimicking the earlier confessions of the adults. He didn’t believe teenage boys could possibly perform the kinds of sins and depravity that they were confessing. Gradually, however, the Holy Spirit had mercy on the man and he too came under the transforming power of God. He admitted his pride and foolishness, and vowed to never again pretend to know more than the Holy Spirit.

Goforth wrote, During these last days a number, who had held out up till then, felt that things were becoming too hot for them and tried to run away. But they found out what a difficult thing it is to escape from a seeking God. Some only got half way home, when the pressure became so unbearable that they had to turn around and come back. Others got all the way home, but, finding no relief, they returned.

Before the revival there were only about 100 Christians in Anyang, out of a population at the time of 250,000. Today the gospel seeds that were sown a century ago have produced a bountiful harvest in Anyang. There are presently about 200,000 believers throughout Anyang City and the surrounding county. The population is just over two million, meaning that today one in ten people in Anyang are followers of Jesus! The efforts of the Goforths and Chinese pioneers laid the groundwork for a wonderful harvest of souls for the kingdom of God in Anyang, and throughout all of Henan Province.

The town of Guangshan was visited by Goforth in December 1915. During eight days of meetings there, 154 people were baptized and thousands more heard the gospel for the first time. One of those who came to Christ was a man named Yang, a former champion boxer.

He had been the greatest prize-fighter in the region, and nobody had ever knocked him out. Many had lost their fortunes betting against Yang, and they consequently harboured a grudge against him. When news got around that the great fighter Yang had become a Christian, his enemies saw it as an opportunity to get revenge on him. One day, while Yang was in the marketplace, a mob of men surrounded him and almost beat him to death. He was found by some friends and carried home. The missionaries wanted the perpetrators arrested, but Yang begged them not to get involved, and refused to bring charges against his attackers.

A few months later he had recovered from his injuries and was again seen walking around the town. His enemies were furious, and decided this time they would finish him off. Yang was so terribly beaten the second time that for months his family despaired of his life. He slowly recovered, and again insisted that no charges be brought against the thugs.

Goforth recalled, As soon as he had recovered, he went around the country preaching the gospel. He died a few years after I met him. But it was not before he had led many of his old enemies to Christ. He left a church of 600 members in his own village, and ten other churches scattered throughout the surrounding country.

Thousands of people entered into relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time. Many Christians repented of their sins and found new freedom in their lives. People who had stolen items from their neighbours returned them, and sick marriages were restored to health. Many opium addicts were wonderfully and powerfully delivered, and never returned to the drug again. Perhaps the greatest result was the new unity and love that developed between Christian leaders.

For almost 50 years Rosalind proved a wonderful partner to her husband. Five of their eleven children were buried on Chinese soil. Rosalind never doubted Jonathan’s love for her, but she often struggled with the level of intense commitment he had to the Lord and his work. In the early 1930s Jonathan’s eyesight started to diminish. He became totally blind and the Goforths retired to Canada in 1934, where the man dubbed ‘China’s greatest evangelist’ went to his eternal reward two years later at the age of 76.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday 2015

Praise be to our Lord Jesus now and forever :)
This blog is turning 6 years old today, the very first post being about Palm Sunday itself.

Click here to see the post from 2009.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal
Scientific and Spiritual Prodigy

Blaise Pascal, the French genius who in his brief lifetime made numerous world-changing discoveries knew there was much, much more than Science. Blaise Pascal grew up in Paris, schooled at home by his father. He showed early promise: at age eight he wrote his first scientific paper; at 16 he wrote a mathematical essay that broke new ground in the field of geometry. When he was 19, Pascal invented a calculating "machine", a forerunner of modern computers.

 At 23, he made major discoveries in physics and proved the existence of the vacuum. This paved the way for hypodermic syringes, barometers, and hydraulic devices. Pascal also came up with the mathematical theory of probability and helped shape the field of calculus.

Beginning in his teen years, he often suffered great pain in his legs; as an adult he became partially crippled. One night, unable to sleep due to the pain, he arose and wrote down the solution to a problem that advanced a very difficult area of mathematics. Yet, though Pascal knew very well the power of the mind and the potential of human reason, he also knew that people cannot solve the deepest mysteries and needs of life with their minds alone. He understood that mankind is at the same time both very great and also very flawed. Through various personal trials, Pascal became more and more a religious man.

He was much affected when his niece was miraculously healed (by God working through someone) of a tumor or stubborn disease. After he was nearly killed in a carriage accident, he was nearly instantly & deeply converted  in 1654 (age 31) to a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The day on which he found peace with God was so important to him that he wrote a reminder of it on parchment and sewed it into the lining of his coat. He kept this coat for the rest of his life, and the note was found there when he died at age 39. In it he told how (at age 31) at "...about half past ten in the evening until about half past twelve, fire". The God that he had encountered was "the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob," and "not of the philosophers and scholars." He ended by writing,
"I will not forget thy word."

For the next eight years, he devoted his life to jotting down "thoughts"...his writing, Pensees...his defense of the Christian faith. The book can be found on-line; and Dr. Kenneth Boa has produced a CD commentary that can be separately obtained (The Great Books Audio CD Series). 

In 1662, from the room where he lay painfully dying, Pascal observed the plight of the poor in the streets, having to trudge long distances while the rich comfortably rode.
One of his last great ideas was the bus...public transportation.

Among the many quotable quotes of this greatest of all French thinkers is,

"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself" (148/428).

He also constructed a wager as to the truth of God; Christianity called Pascal's wager:

Either Christianity is true or it's false.

 If you bet that it's true, and you believe in God and submit to Him, then if it IS true, you've gained God, heaven, and everything else. If it's false, you've lost nothing, but you've had a good life marked by peace and the illusion that ultimately, everything makes sense.

If you bet that Christianity is not true, and it's false, you've lost nothing.
But if you bet that it's false, and it turns out to be true, you've lost everything and you get to spend eternity in hell.

His wager is an attempt to say to doubters that belief in Jesus is a can't-lose situation...if Jesus is a lie (the "bet" for Jesus is lost), yet you live according to His teaching, you can't help but live a "good" present life; and whatever atheists believe will come to pass eternally.

If the bet for Jesus is won (Jesus believers/followers actually do have hold of THE TRUTH), then you get the "good" current life AND eternal dwelling with God when you die. Since you get a good current life by following Jesus (whether the facts of Jesus are true or false), then it only make sense to follow Jesus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

When trouble comes, remember the cocoon

- Beth Landers
A man found a cocoon of the emperor moth and took it home to watch it emerge.

One day a small opening appeared, and for several hours the moth struggled but couldn't seem to force its body past a certain point.
Deciding something was wrong, the man took scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon.

The moth emerged easily, its body large and swollen, the wings small and shrivelled.
He expected that in a few hours the wings would spread out in their natural beauty, but they did not.

Instead of developing into a creature free to fly, the moth spent its life dragging around a swollen body and shrivelled wings.
The constricting cocoon and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening are God's way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings.

The "merciful" snip was, in reality, cruel.
Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Silversmith

- Author unknown 

Some time ago, a few ladies met in a certain city to study the scriptures.
While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression of a "refiner and purifier of silver" in the third verse:

Malachi 3:3-4 New International Version (NIV)

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

One lady proposed to visit a silversmith, and report to them on what he said about the subject. She went accordingly, and without telling the object of her errand, begged the silversmith to tell her about the process of refining silver.

After he had fully described it to her, she asked, "But Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?"

"Oh, yes madam," replied the silversmith; "I must sit with my eyes steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured."

The lady at once saw the beauty, and comfort too, of the expression. God sees it needful to put His children into a furnace; His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for us. Our trials do not come at random, and He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure.

Before she left, the lady asked one final question, "When do you know the process is complete?"

"Why, that is quite simple," replied the silversmith. "When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished."