HOW A FORMER WITCHCRAFT DOCTOR BECAME A PROLIFIC CHURCH PLANTER IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA
As a teenager he left the "hopelessness" of Buddhism for the power of black magic, then American missionaries demonstrated the amazing power of the God they served, which made his 3,300 gods seem impotent. After receiving Christ, he entered into a new battle with communist authorities for the soul of the Vietnamese people - a battle still raging today.
“I grew up in a very strong Buddhist family,” says Pastor Tran Dinh 'Paul' Ai, founder of Vietnamese Outreach International Ministries, based in Hampton, Virginia. “I was sent to a Buddhist temple and trained to be a Buddhist monk,” he says. “My father was a very successful Chinese medical doctor, but he was bothered by politicians who tried to extort money from him.”
“He vowed if he had a son he would send him to the temple so he could be trained as a monk,” Ai says. “My name in Vietnamese means ‘Stop loving the world.’”
At age 15, after only a year of study, he became disenchanted with the “hopelessness of Buddhist doctrines".
MARK ELLIS, founder of Godreports, tells the remarkable story of Vietnamese Pastor Tran Dinh 'Paul' Ai... |
HOUNDED INTO HEAVEN - THE ANDREW CHRISTIE STORY
The Great Depression during the last century resulted in many Europeans emigrating to South Africa. Amongst them were the Chrisostomou family from Cyprus seeking a better life.
One of the first things they did to help them adapt to their new country was to Anglicise their name. So the patriarch of the family, Andreas Chrisostomou, changed his name to Andrew Christie. He had a son, Evangelos Christie, who was generally known as Angelo. Angelo married Rita whose parents had also emigrated from Cyprus to South Africa.
They had a son, and in keeping with the common Greek practice he was named after his grandfather. And it is this Andrew Christie who is at the center of our story.
Like most Greek families they had left behind them a poverty stricken homeland. But they were hard workers and Angelo Christie and his family were soon able to earn a comfortable living. But this came at a cost to the family as Angelo was busy in their little store from early in the morning till late at night.
NICO BOUGAS, in an article first published by ASSIST News Service, tells Andrew Christie's story... |
MY CHURCH, MY MOTHER, MY GOD
I haven’t always been in the church. As a young and naive 12-year-old Seventh Day Adventist kid, I decided I wanted to discover the world and what it had to offer. I was in for a rough and deadly ride.
Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll was only part of it. There is an underbelly. The loneliness, the fear, the self loathing, feelings of being lost, feelings of escape, feelings of suicide - all there waiting for anyone who wishes to tangle with the dark side.
While in the world however, I didn’t expect this - God did not leave me. All along He was there and thankfully gave me a final call to come back to Him at the age of 21. I grasped at the opportunity and He took me in like the prodigal son of old. No judgement, just big love. 1985 was my new birthday.
Attending church was like being close to God. Church life was just as much my saviour as Jesus was it seemed. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a true conversion and Jesus guided me through many minefields - much to learn and much to unlearn. The problem for someone like me though, was coming from such an extreme lifestyle to a clean, vegetarian; suit wearing one. I embraced it with white knuckles. I never wanted to go back and so immersed myself in Adventism lock-stock and barrel.
DANNY BELL writes about how he Jesus had to reshape his 'church-centric' view of life into one which is 'Christ-centric'... |
"REMEMBER THOSE IN PRISON" - JESUS
Hands in pockets, head down, I trudged backwards and forwards along the high, bluestone wall of the prison yard. I had been ‘shanghaied’ from an open camp back to Pentridge maximum-security prison on a drug related charge. It was a week before Christmas 1981 - my fifth since entering prison as a 22-year-old. Minutes were like seconds, hours like days in the distortion of jail time.
In the midst of robotic pacing a sudden thought: Have you found happiness in your life; real meaning and purpose? The question resonated within me for only the night before as I stood in a crucifix-like position staring at the filthy bed sheet, my hands touching both walls of the tiny cell, I’d had another thought: Hang yourself with that sheet from the window bars, and it’ll all be over. Happiness? I needed to find a reason to live.
Sitting still in the darkness, I pondered Jesus’ last words that I’d read: "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you" (Luke 11:13). I began to cry uncontrollably from a place deep within that needed purging, and called out to Jesus through my grief for forgiveness, cleansing and peace.
In the first of a two part article, ARTHUR BOLKAS, of prison ministry Five8, reflects on how coming to know Jesus Christ changed his life... |
Unlike Arthur, I (Andie) was brought up in a middle-class, Anglo-Saxon Christian home, characterised by youth-group, family holidays, a passion for U2 and art.
I became a Christian when I was 17. I had always gone to church with my family but now I realised faith was about a relationship with Jesus rather than just religion. I loved that Jesus' heart was for the oppressed and marginalised. Believing in Him made me want to make a difference in the world.
So, at the age of 18, I attended an information session for potential volunteers to visit girls in prison. It was the first time Arthur and I met - he was the guest speaker. Over the years, after dating and marrying Arthur, prison had become a big part of my life. We would often visit male prisoners in the adult system and always had ex-offenders over for dinner or even stay with us for a time while they found their feet in the community. I learned a lot from these people - about unconditional love, determination to change, hope and trust.
In the second of a two part article, ANDIE BOLKAS, of prison ministry Five8, tells of the origins of Five8 and what the ministry is all about... |
A MAN WHO KNOWS GOD - A TRIBUTE TO PAUL E. GRANT
The apostle Paul famously says, “I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) Do you know anyone who is like the apostle Paul, whose life exhibits the passion and character as one who truly knows God? I think I know one. In fact, his name is also Paul. Here is my reflection on this wonderful man of God.
On 26th June, 2012, Reverend Paul E Grant passed away and entered into God’s presence. He was 86.
My first interaction with Pastor Paul took place when I was doing an external study on the Book of Acts. He was the principal and lecturer of a Bible College in Queensland through which I did my studies. I listened to Paul’s (recorded) lectures, and it was a treat. He opened my eyes to the mission of God in the pages of Acts. Paul talked about the cross-cultural God who led His people to proclaim the Gospel through signs and wonders so that Jesus’ name might be heard across the Roman Empire. Paul and his wife Dulcie were missionaries in Vanuatu for 13 years, dedicated their lives to the work of God. He taught me that I should read the Bible through God’s heart of mission. This is my first memory of Pastor Paul, the missionary.
SIU FUNG WU writes a tribute to a man who inspired and challenged him in his journey with God... |
THE CIA SPY INSIDE IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARD WHO FOUND JESUS
As a member of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard he witnessed horrific acts that caused him to question his faith in Islam and the regime he served. After he became a CIA spy and later escaped to the West, he found a new revolutionary to follow who offered a love that overwhelmed his soul.
“In childhood, I always prayed in my heart to God,” says Reza Khalili, a pseudonym taken by the ex-spy for safety reasons. “I always tried to find a way to get close to him.”
Educated in the United States at USC, he returned to Iran immediately before the revolution in 1979. His experience in the US gave him a respect for American democratic traditions. “The founding fathers were so courageous,” he notes, “providing humanity with democracy and freedom, sacrificing their lives.”
He had high ideals when he returned to Iran. “I wanted to help my country progress, hopeful that there would be full democracy. I believed that Ayatollah Khomeini would be true to his promise of freedom for all.”
MARK ELLIS, founder of Godreports.com, writes of former CIA spy Reza Khalili's amazing story... |
THEY ESCAPED STARVATION IN NORTH KOREA, THEN JESUS FILLED THEIR SOULS
One by one her family members fell, either by starvation or at the hands of a brutal regime. In their arduous journey to freedom, they found a “filling” on levels they could not have imagined.
“We grew up as atheists,” says Jin Hye Jo, 24, now living in northern Virginia with her sister, Eun and her mother Han. They are the only known survivors of a family of eight people. Her grandmother died from starvation before her eyes, her last wish to eat one steamed potato.
In the 1990s, extended drought and the fall of the Soviet Union meant the family no longer received food rations from the government. They were forced to forage for food wherever they could find it. They stripped the bark off pine trees, grazed for grass, and ate corn cobs, which they ground into bland cakes. They stalked anything that moved or slithered on the ground.
Incredibly, they were taught to believe the communist party kept them alive. Their leaders said it was the fault of the United States and South Korea that they faced such privation and hardship.
MARK ELLIS, founder of Godreports.com, tells a remarkable story of escape and new life... |
CHRISTIAN TOWN CRIER HAS PLENTY TO SHOUT ABOUT
David Mitchell has plenty to shout about the varied opportunities his role as Town Crier of Chester, in the north-west of England, provides, as he continues this centuries old tradition of proclamation.
In the days before you bought a newspaper on the way to work, or read the news on your phone, you might have heard about the latest financial crisis from your local town crier.
Mitchell's his insights into the spiritual and historical roots of the art of public proclamation have been heard by over 400 audiences in his after dinner speeches and one man shows.
"People book me to do a whole gamut of things which is why the job is endlessly varied. But by far my favourite booking is to make my costumed presentation entitled 'For Crying out Loud!'
PETER WOODING, of Assist News Service, speaks to Chester Town Crier, David Mitchell... |
AUSTRALIAN 'MIRACLE MAN' SAYS PRAYER HEALED HIM FROM A BROKEN NECK
Australian doctors were baffled when Andrew Carter, then 23, walked from the hospital where he was being treated following a terrible motor cycle accident back in March, 1996, which had left him totally paralysed.
Mr Carter, who made a dramatic appearance at the 8th Annual Christian Medical Conference held in Brisbane, Australia, on 11th-12th June, was told by doctors at the Spinal Unit of the nearby Princess Alexandra Hospital, that he would never walk again.
His story was featured in a local newspaper at the time and he told reporter Deidre Stark, "I can explain it. It's a miracle."
"Medically, I was in a hopeless position, and I'd already been told to prepare to live the rest of my life in a wheelchair, so I turned to prayer."
DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service, reports from the 8th Annual Christian Medical Conference in Brisbane... |
A TALE OF TWO 'DRUGGIES'
Towards the end of the 90's, an ocean apart, two men were living lives ruled by addiction. Both men were headed on a steady path to destruction and premature death.
But God had a different plan. A plan for these two men to meet, against all odds, so they could live a life that would glorify God, helping addicts find freedom from slavery to addiction, through the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ at a place called Manumission.
In late 2008, in Cape Town, South Africa, Shaun was a drug dealer selling Tik (also known as methamphetamine), to addicts and dealers in the ghettos of Cape Town. This seems difficult to believe. He had been a businessman living a comfortable life with his family in one of Cape Town's wealthiest suburbs. At the age of 32 he picked up his first drug, and so the downward spiral began.
In an article first published on Assist News Service, NICO BOUGAS tells the story of two lives redeemed... |
CHILD OF ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OFFERS HOPE TO CHILDREN
He grew up in a Christian family in Romania before the 1989 revolution, which meant he could not talk freely in his own home. After the communists fell, some thought heaven might even come to earth, but those thoughts have been tempered by reality.
“We experienced a kind of persecution,” says Daniel Bruda, Romania director for Every Generation Ministries (EGM). “My father was an elder in the church and he was watched. It was also illegal to listen to Christian broadcasts.”
With their phones bugged, they had to take precautions when they talked in their own home. Bruda came to Christ when he was 10-years-old, after he heard an evangelistic message. “I heard God’s voice through the preaching,” he says. “It was not very dramatic, but God was working step-by-step in my heart.”
In an article first published on Godreports, MARK ELLIS tells the story of Daniel Bruda... |
"SHOT AT, SHELLED...ATTACKED BY AN ANGRY MOB" - EVANGELIST MARKS 20 YEARS OF WORKING IN WAR AND DISASTER ZONES
In the past twenty years, Kevin Turner has been shot at, shelled, avoided roadside bombs, attacked by an angry mob and has borne witness to some of the most horrific atrocities imaginable.
During that time, he has also endured a severe bout of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a case an experienced physician said was "the worst he had ever seen."
But Turner has also seen countless lives transformed through his efforts and on April 13th, 2010 he marked twenty years of working internationally in war zones, disaster areas and places where Christians are persecuted.
"It has been an incredible journey and given the opportunity, I would do it all over again," said Turner, president of Strategic World Impact (SWI), an international ministry that is committed to working in the world's "hot spots."
MICHAEL IRELAND, of Assist News Service, takes a look at the life of evangelist Kevin Turner... |
HOW LEARNING TO READ HELPED LEAD TO BIBLES FOR MILLIONS
The incredible life of Robert Hicks began in 1941 during a bombing raid in Birmingham, England, as Adolf Hitler tried to reduce the country's main industrial city to rubble. But it wasn't Hitler, but his parents, he says, who reduced his life to rubble.
"I was a street urchin who ran wild, unable to speak, write or read," he said. "I was ignored by my mother, who eventually deserted the family and was severely ill-treated by my father. In effect, I was a slave to the whims of my father until the age of 15."
He went on to say, "When I left school, the headmaster (principal) told me that I was 'a waste.' I got a job as an errand boy for a family grocery business and was seen by many as a shy withdrawn idiot."
Not surprisingly, Robert Hicks left school tongue-tied, dyslexic and with no confidence in speaking.
DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service, details Robert Hicks' extraordinary life... |
A LUNCH BAG THAT WAS MULTIPLIED
A missionary couple's son was born with a serious heart defect. With the help of great doctors and miraculous surgeries, he survived birth. Even though he was physically handicapped by his heart condition, this boy remained one of the most spiritually alive kids anyone could ever meet. To everyone he was a beacon of joy that loved to give.
Sam and Janey Stewart's son Charlie at age five went to school one day proudly carrying the lunch his mom had made. When his mom went to check on him at lunchtime, she found him sitting next to his new friend, Micah. Micah was eating Charlie's lunch and Charlie had the biggest smile on his face. Charlie had given his lunch to his new friend. And while he must have felt a little hungry watching Micah eat, Charlie's smile told the story. He loved to give and watch the joy it brought to others.
In a story first published on Assist News Service, KAREN GONZALEZ relates the inspiring story of Charlie Stewart... |
FROM WINTER TO SPRING - FROM SEARCHING TO FINDING
One of the first encouraging scriptures given to me when I became a Christian was from Song of Songs. You will undoubtedly know it:
My beloved spoke, and said to me: "Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land. (2:10-13).
It is true to say that before I knew or met Jesus, I existed in a spiritual winter. I sensed that there was more to life than just the physical realm I saw and even explored the domains of psychics in my search to know more.
The fact that the spiritual realm was real was not hard for me to perceive. I had had a few encounters with the supernatural realm that could not be explained away by even the most eloquent atheists.
BEV HOLMES-BROWN talks about how an encounter with God changed her life... |
"I DON'T WANT TO BE POOR"
I don't know about you, but I look forward to receiving the payment from the Rudd government's stimulus package. We went away for a holiday before Christmas, and need to change the gate in our driveway. We need some cash for these bills. But I am deeply aware that about 100 million people across the world have been affected by the current global food crisis. Multitudes of people have no access to safe drinking water. Countless number of women in the developing world do not have adequate maternal and child health services. So I have no complaint about my financial situation. Indeed, I would like the government to direct more money to the poor.
I don't want to be poor. I grew up in a tiny apartment in a working class district in Hong Kong. I walked past homeless people in our streets everyday. From time to time I saw street prostitutes near our place. I saw the plight of the poor, and I feared that I would become poor.
SIU FUNG WU says that while he doesn't want to be poor, it was in hardship and desperate times that he found God at work in his life... |
WHY HARVEY THOMAS HAS FORGIVEN THE IRA BOMBER WHO NEARLY TOOK HIS LIFE
Harvey Thomas, a senior adviser to British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was in bed at 2:54am on October 12, 1984, when an IRA bomb exploded in the bathroom of room 629 of the seafront Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, on the final night of the annual Conservative party conference.
The bomb took out a massive section of the hotel and almost killed Thatcher and her cabinet.
It was later discovered that IRA explosives expert Patrick Magee planted a 100 pound timed bomb in the hotel with the intention of assassinating the Prime Minister and her Cabinet who were in residence for the 1984 Conservative Party conference.
The bomb failed to kill Thatcher or any of her government ministers. Five people, however, were killed, including Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry, and Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham's wife Roberta.
DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service, speaks with Harvey Thomas... |
NO LONGER THE 'NAMELESS' OF MALAWI
Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi in Africa. I had never been to a developing country before and while many of my friends and even my husband had been to Malawi, this was to be my first opportunity.
I was to visit a close friend, Robyn Casey, who four years earlier had begun a work amongst the villages. She had seen the great need amongst the pre-school children, many of whom were only receiving a meal every third day and felt compelled to do what she could to help. This had led her to begin Mphatso Children's foundation which now feeds around 1,000 children a week and around 700 pre-school children five days a week.
I knew when I visited her that I would be confronted by poverty. I knew the statistics of disease and unemployment and that they had a poor education system. Those who had gone before me had warned me and having spent many hours listening to Robyn speak of the people over there and the work she was doing I felt that I had prepared as well as I could but I still left with a feeling of trepidation. I had often taught others about our need as Christians to become involved with standing against injustice and speaking on behalf of those who have no voice, yet this was to be my first experience of living among people who face the realities of this every day.
As she prepares to return to Malawi this year, LENA JOHNSTONE recalls her first trip to the African nation... |
A TREK IN NEPAL
A year ago I came home from Africa feeling like an overstuffed emotional sausage; a vague scratch of my surface and everything would tumble out. Tears and way too many over-analyses later, it was time to travel again. So I left for Nepal as an epiphany-dodging vague-out. If it involved going any deeper than the weather, food, celebrity pop culture trash or the songs on my iPod, I didn’t want to know. Perhaps this is the wrong attitude with which to approach a Third World country. But heck, I thought, if there is going to be some life-changing cataclysm, I wasn’t going to go look for it - it had to find me! Many had told me about the breathtaking experience of seeing the Himalayas from the plane as you fly in. I flew in at night. It was foggy and the cold certainly took my breath away.
If one were to use the meat in the sandwich analogy then population-wise Nepal is a very thin piece of ham wedged between two semi trailer sized chunks of bread. To the north lies China , with a population of 1.3 billion. To the south, India with a population of more than a billion. There’s a lot of humanity in this section of the world. Meanwhile Nepal barely beeps on the population radar at nearly 30 million people.
ADAM KELSALL writes about his recent visit to the "roof of the world"... |
FINDING AN IDENTITY IN GOD
is true that we live in a world of fake and fraud. I do not
believe that there has been another time in all of history
that society as we know it that is as synthetic as our society
in America is today. Studies show that we are altering ourselves
in many and various ways. Some prefer the altering of plastic
surgery, with all the skin level changes that can be achieved.
Still others alter their identities by stealing others, leaving
their victims to pay the cost of there new identity. Yet others
use money to create an illusion of who they are; building
their very own kingdoms out of plastic credit cards.
I know how this infectious thinking can
grab a hold of a person. A few years ago I was caught up in
the physical fitness craze. I worked out five or six days
a week. I would get up from out of bed at 2am in the morning
and be at the gym by 2:30am. I would work out feverishly for
an hour and head off to work to spend my day drinking protein
shakes and eating chicken; lots and lots of chicken!
American CHRIS THOMPSON
writes of his search for identity... |