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Archive for January, 2012

New Brisbane Congolese Church

January 31st, 2012
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From Bob Regazzoli:

ALL KINDS OF CHURCHES IN ALL KINDS OF PLACES FOR ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE

Last Sunday, 29th January, saw the commencement of a new congregation of Congolese members in Goodna, a suburb of Ipswich near Brisbane, Australia. In December, the Nunda family arrived as part of a refugee resettlement program from a camp in Malawi, along with the Lukonga family from a camp in Tanzania. With 24 adults and children in both families, it was difficult to arrange transport for the whole group to attend our congregations in Brisbane.

After searching around the Goodna area, we approached a pastor of a Samoan congregation if we could use their church building. He very kindly allowed us to use it on a Sunday afternoon. So this past Sunday, both families were joined by another Congolese couple who had arrived 5 years ago, and Alex provided the translation for the service. A number of members from our Ipswich and Carina congregations, along with the Samoan pastor and a few members from his church also attended.

Jafari Nunda, who had pastored the congregation in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, led the service in Swahili (which must be a first for GCI in Australia!) The service followed the format which they were accustomed to, and their own songs. Following the service, the Samoan pastor’s wife provided refreshments for the whole group.

As there is a growing number of Africans being settled in this area, we hope and pray that this will be the beginning of a thriving church community.

Jafari Nunda leading worship with Alex translating.

Children sang and danced for 2 songs.

Refreshments following the service.

News

Journey to Jerusalem(Continued) (58)

January 31st, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Luke12:8 – 9

8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.(NIV)

We have a contrast between standing for a human court and a heavenly court. Jesus is saying that we must acknowledge him before humanity if we are to be acknowledged by the Son of humanity.

In March 2009, Christian roommates Maryam Rustampoor, 29, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 32, were charged by the Iranian state with being “anti-government activists.” They spent 259 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison before being released in November 2009.

In the first interview since their release, the two discussed their life in prison with Sam Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries.

Sam: What was the worst thing that happened to you?

Marzieh: One of the worst was the execution of two of my fellow prisoners. I had never experienced such a thing. One of those killed was my roommate. We had spent a lot of time together. And one day they took her to be executed. For a week I was in shock that killing a human being was so easy. She lived among us, a fellow human being; I saw her every day, and we said, “Hello.” The next day she is not there.

After these executions the spirit of sorrow and death hung over the prison. There was deadly silence everywhere. We all felt this. There was nothing we could do. Everyone was under pressure. The sadness was overwhelming. We stared at each other but had no power to speak. This was the worst experience. It was horrifying and tangible.

Maryam: The worst thing for me was the execution of Shireen, who became a close friend in prison.

Sam: Did you ever fear execution?

Maryam: I never thought about execution. I thought we might be sentenced to life imprisonment because that is the punishment for women convicted of apostasy. I just thought this was something we would have to bear.

Marzieh: Before prison we talked about execution, but when we got to prison and experienced the fear of it — our way of talking changed. The very first night that we were arrested, when they threatened us, we were really frightened. We never imagined we would be so frightened; we had talked about these things before. But the atmosphere there and what happened to us frightened us beyond our expectations. We were confined to a dark and dirty room and paralyzed with fear. We could see the fear in each other’s faces. We prayed and what calmed us was the presence of God and the peace that he gave us.

I just want to add, it is easy to say that I give my life for the Lord and I will do anything for him, even die. I always thought it would be a privilege to give my life for the Lord. You say these things. I know for sure that if this would happen to us we would rejoice ultimately. But human fears gripped us. The power the Lord gave us helped us to overcome these fears, just as when we prayed in the police station, God banished our fear and renewed our strength.

Sam: How did the guards treat you?

Maryam: When we were arrested most of the guards treated us badly, especially when they knew we had been involved in evangelism. They would curse us and would not let us drink water from the public tap or use the wash basin. But this changed and eventually they asked us to pray for them.

Sam: How did the other prisoners treat you?

Marzieh: Some called us “dirty, unclean apostates,” but their opinion changed and they asked for forgiveness. We had become an example to them and they would take our side.

Maryam: At Evin Prison the well-educated political and business prisoners called us “mortad kasif” (unclean apostates). In less than a month everything changed. As they got to know us, they were curious about our faith, they respected us and called upon us to sort out arguments they had between themselves.

Sam: Did any other prisoners come to faith?

Marzieh/Maryam: Yes. There were those who accepted Christ. When we were in Vozara [the first prison the women were taken to] we prayed the sinner’s prayer with many of the prostitutes. They prayed themselves and we prayed for them. But there were others who were too frightened to confess their faith. There were many who were impacted.

Sam: What message do you have for the thousands who prayed for you when you were in prison?

Marzieh: I would like to thank them for their prayers and support, and the letters they sent us. During this time it wasn’t just Maryam and Marzieh who were imprisoned, but all these prayer warriors. This was a great encouragement for us. We felt their presence alongside us. So please keep praying for those who are in prison for their faith, believers in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other places. Don’t think that your prayers are unimportant.

Sam: What happened to the thousands of letters you were sent?

Marzieh: We heard that people sent us letters in prison, but we didn’t get any of them. Just hearing that people sent us letters was a great encouragement to us. And what’s interesting is that the guards who opened our letters read the Bible verses and the prayers and were impacted. We know this because they told us and mentioned some of the verses from the gospel. I can’t thank [those who sent letters] with all that is in my heart; I can say “thank you,” but this is not enough.

Maryam: I thank them. It’s true we didn’t see the letters they sent, but we knew there was a large group supporting us. This was a huge encouragement to us and helped us to stand firm. We heard from our guards that forty to fifty letters were coming every day. They saw how Christians stood together to support their own. This was something that gave us hope.

Message for the Day

Journey to Jerusalem(Continued) (57)

January 30th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Luke 12:6-7

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (NIV)

There is an interesting contrast in the two verses. Jesus is asserting that in hostile situations where one’s life is in danger, God is the only one who should be feared, but the character of God is such that one should not fear him!

Jesus does not present God as ‘saviour’ in the usual way –that is, as one who rescues his people from danger. A penny was a small coin worth about one sixteenth of a denarius. One denarius was a poor man’s daily wage. Not worth that much.

God doesn’t keep sparrows from being sold in the market place, nor does God’s knowledge of the number of hairs on your head mean that he guarantees your safety.

It does mean that we are not forgotten by God. The point is that sparrows can be bought and sold and that humans can suffer persecution but not apart from God’s attentiveness, not outside of God’s care, not in a way that prevents God’s purpose for us.

God’s ways are not ours. There is a mystery to God that we must trust.

Humanly we can panic in persecution and make wrong responses in our unfaithfulness. Trusting in God’s incomparable wisdom helps us to endure evil. God is not unaware of those persecuted, his Spirit enables Jesus’ followers to witness to him.

Message for the Day