On the Road With 13:3
Jono Fox is the Assistant Coordinator for Thirteen Three. After studying at Youthworks College, Jono joined the team at Voice of the Martyrs in 2010.
Jono Fox recently travelled to Nigeria with Voice of the Martyrs to meet persecuted Christians. Jono will be sharing his experiences at this year’s Fearless events to help raise awareness and funds for Nigerian Christians.
We caught up with Jono recently to find out more about his trip and what life is like as a Christian in Nigeria.
Q: Tell us what you learned about the situation for Christians in Nigeria.
Life is incredibly hard in Nigeria. Many families struggle to put food on the table and there is poor access to clean water. Houses are not built with good materials and the roads are not well-maintained.
For Christians, the hardships are increased, especially in the north.
The Islamic militant group Boko Haram is trying to eliminate Christianity from northern Nigeria. Many Christians have been killed or maimed and many churches have been burned to the ground.
The violence against Christians is so frequent that it has become normal. If you are a Christian in northern Nigeria, you expect persecution.
Q: Can you tell us about one person you met who particularly encouraged your faith?
I was really challenged by what one of our Nigerian contacts, Yoney, said to me: “Christianity is only in the north because Christians remain there.”
Put yourself in the shoes of Nigerian Christians and imagine what it would be like if your friends were killed for their faith and your church was burned down. I know that I would want to move my family further to the south where it is safer for Christians.
But many of the pastors I met are convinced that God wants them to stay in the north to advance the Gospel. They truly believe that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21.
The courageous faith of these Nigerian pastors continues to be an inspiration to me.
Q: You gave out Thirteen Three wristbands to many persecuted Christians in Nigeria. Why did you do this? And how did they respond?
I met one pastor called Samuel whose church had been burned down by Islamic militants. I really wanted to encourage Pastor Samuel so I gave him a Thirteen Three wristband and told him, “The youth of Australia wear these wristbands to remember that they are bound with their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. This year the youth of Australia will be praying for you and raising money to support Christians in Nigeria.”
Pastor Samuel put the wristband on immediately and had a huge smile on his face. He was so grateful for our support. A few hours later, Samuel came and asked me for more wristbands to encourage other pastors in the region.
This made me realise how important a simple gesture like wearing a wristband is to encourage persecuted Christians who often feel alone.
Q: You will be sharing your experiences from Nigeria at this year’s Thirteen Three Fearless youth events. What do you think Australian youth can learn from Nigerian Christians?
Most of us will probably never face the same persecution that Nigerian Christians face. They live in constant danger, and yet many say they are not afraid because they have Jesus.
Even though we live in safety and freedom, Australian Christian youth have many fears. Some are afraid of not belonging, others of being alone, of being teased or bullied. These fears can get in the way of living for and proclaiming Jesus.
My prayer is that through the Fearless events Australian youth will learn from Nigerian Christians to overcome their fears and “fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel” Ephesians 6:19.
In 2013, Thirteen Three will be running a series of youth events focusing on persecution of Christians in Nigeria.
If you are interested in hosting a Thirteen Three event in your local area, please email email@example.com to express your interest.
We would love to see you at a Thirteen Three event in 2013!
Jennifer Coleby is currently doing Work Experience with Thirteen Three.
Q: Jennifer, tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: I am 15 years old, and I live in Darlinghurst with my parents. I am in year 10 at Randwick Girls’ High School. My hobbies include reading, babysitting, skateboarding, annoying my older sister, playing sport and pretty much anything fun. I go to St Johns Anglican Darlinghurst and go to youth group at St Barnabas Broadway (yes, the church that burnt down!).
Q: How did you first find out about the persecuted church?
A: A couple at my church had a copy of Voice of the Martyrs’ free newsletter in their house. They encouraged me to read it and sign up to receive it. I did just that. I then ordered the books Tortured for Christ and Jesus Freaks.
When I was reading the stories of Christians in restricted nations I was amazed that my brothers and sisters were suffering so much!! I knew stories of people in the Bible like Abel, Daniel, Stephen and Paul who were persecuted, but I didn’t have any idea it was still going on today.
Q: How have you been challenged in your faith by the persecuted church?
A: A Christian man in Somalia was recently beheaded for his faith. There are Christians in prison right now in China, Pakistan and Vietnam. And in North Korea, you can be executed for following Jesus. There are more than 50 countries where it’s dangerous to be Christian. In many of these countries, owning a Bible is rare, so I am encouraged to read my Bible more to know God better.
I am also encouraged to stand up for Jesus at school and tell others about Him even if they laugh or say nasty things about me. I know God is with me and my persecuted brothers and sisters are facing the same thing and even worse.
Q: What are you doing to be bound with them?
A: Voice of the Martyrs offers a free Prayer Map showing the countries where persecution is happening today. The Holy Spirit uses that to help me remember them and I pray for a different country everyday. I also share videos and articles from Voice of the Martyrs with other Christians so they too can be bound with them.
I recently baked cupcakes with a friend from school to raise money for persecuted Christians. We sold them at school for $2.50 each and donated the proceeds to Voice of the Martyrs. It’s amazing how much teenagers like cupcakes!!
Don’t forget the persecuted!
1. The importance of prayer
I met an incredible Vietnamese pastor who told me many stories of persecution.
One time, he had to flee Vietnam to escape the authorities. He was in exile away from his family for three years. He told me about all the dangers he faced and how close he came to being caught by the authorities and imprisoned.
He would spend days in prayer when he did not know what to do. Every time God made a way.
I am encouraged to give God more of my time in prayer to lift up the people I feel burdened for and the issues I’m concerned about.
2. Expressing our love for one another
One thing I noticed in Vietnam was how willing people were to be real with one another, to cry in front of others and express love to one another.
When one pastor met David Low, he said:
I will shake your hand with my left hand because it is closer to my heart.
Another Pastor wept in front of everyone at a youth service when he heard how David walked over 400km to raise money for Vietnamese Christians.
I was encouraged to not be afraid of being real with one another and expressing our love for one another. God knows we need it from each other.
3. Joy in suffering
One of our translators, Rose, was one of the happiest, most joyful ladies I’ve ever met. Always warm, always smiling, always laughing.
But when I got to know Rose a little better, I found that she was not without her fair share of hardship and pain. Despite this, she was full of joy in the Lord.
Most of the people we met in Vietnam had been been persecuted and been through trials of many kinds. But they continued to rejoice in the Lord.
They encouraged me to rejoice in the Lord in the trials that I face, to walk life a little more lightly knowing that Jesus paid it all.
This post was written by Jeremy Slough who is a blogger for Thirteen Three.
I recently had the privilege of travelling to Thailand with eight people from my church.
From jolting rides in the back tray of a rusty ute holding on for dear life, to sleeping in 35 degree heat in a pool of sweat, to cooling off in a muddy waterhole with majestic mountain views, the experiences we had were unforgettable.
It certainly wasn’t a holiday. We were there to serve at a children’s home in northern Thailand. This home gives life and hope to approximately 70 children. The staff work tirelessly to provide for these children.
We met one little girl who touched everyone’s heart in the short time we were there. This girl was the child of refugees who had fled from Thailand’s oppressive neighbour, Myanmar. Her parents are currently in prison and she is being looked after by the team at the children’s home.
Persecution in Myanmar (Burma)
While there is religious freedom in Thailand, Christians are facing harsh persecution in Myanmar. Both countries are predominantly Buddhist, but in Myanmar if you are not a Buddhist then you are denied employment opportunities. Forced conversions to Buddhism occur regularly.
Evangelism is banned in the Myanmar, and many Burmese people have fled the country after being attacked for practicing Christianity “illegally”. The government still controls religious and spiritual freedom in Myanmar.
The current government has promised change and refugees have been encouraged to return home. But Burmese Christian refugees are hesitant to return as it is likely they will still face severe persecution.
Pray for Myanmar
In this dangerous landscape, true believers are rising up. Christians are marching into battle covered in the armour of the Lord. They need our prayers and support.
Christians in Myanmar are asking for prayer as they preach the Gospel and reach out to the unreached people groups. God is at work in Myanmar, and I praise Him that His children there are willing to count the cost for following Him. May we also do the same.
Please pray for Christians in Myanmar who are facing harsh persecution from the government.
I asked David Low to share one person’s story that touched his heart from his time in Vietnam with Thirteen Three’s Ambassadors.
Andrew is 25 years old and a student at the Bible college Thirteen Three is supporting.
He is from a very remote tribal group in the mountains where most people only speak their tribal language, not Vietnamese.
Andrew can speak a little Vietnamese but since it is not his native language, he finds it very difficult to learn in Vietnamese at the Bible college. Despite this challenge, Andrew is committed to studying hard, improving his Vietnamese and learning the Word of God.
One thing I was struck by is how few Christians there are in his tribal area. They don’t have a Bible in their tribal language, and there are only two pastors in the whole area.
His tribal group is basically an unreached people group, a new frontier. When he graduates, Andrew wants to take the Gospel back to his people and share God’s love with them.
I was so blessed to hear Andrew’s story, and have the opportunity to pray for him and encourage him.
Please pray that Andrew will understand the Word of God so that he can take the Gospel back to his people and share God’s love with them.
Thirteen Three’s Ambassadors were recently in Vietnam meeting with persecuted Christians. The team saw firsthand how God is growing His church in Vietnam despite relentless pressure from the Communist authorities.
Highlights from the 13:3 Trip
Note: Due to security reasons, we cannot show images of the Christians we met in Vietnam. We don’t want to put anyone’s life or ministry in danger.
— Jake Follis (@jakefollis) July 3, 2012
— Brad Konemann (@bradkonemann) July 10, 2012
— tadhg parker (@tadhg_parker) July 10, 2012
— Thirteen Three (@thirteen_three) July 13, 2012
— Brad Konemann (@bradkonemann) July 13, 2012
— Thirteen Three (@thirteen_three) July 14, 2012
Thank you for following our adventures in prayer and on social media. Throughout August, our Ambassadors will be sharing their experiences from the trip on the blog. Here is a taste of what’s to come:
- David Low | 3 Things I Learned in Vietnam
- Bec Sparkes | Passing the Torch to the Next Generation
- Tadhg Parker | Christian Family Publicly Humiliated by Vietnamese Authorities
Subscribe via RSS to make sure you don’t miss any of it.
1. They appreciate our support!
The work that we do here in Australia to support our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ has a massive impact!
I know we hear how our support is helping them, but to go over there and actually see it makes me understand better how much of an impact it really makes. Even just ten or twenty dollars makes such a difference, and I can only imagine how many hundreds or thousands of lives will be changed from the money and support that Thirteen Three raises through your help.
Our prayers also mean so much to the persecuted church, and they will always appreciate your prayers and support.
2. Passion to serve God and reach the lost
Another thing I learned in Vietnam is just how passionate the Vietnamese Christians are to serve God and to spread His word.
We interviewed quite a few pastors who had all faced persecution at one time or another, and they were all still so willing to follow God. Prison wasn’t a deterrent to them, and we even heard one story of a pastor who was not allowed in prison since if he went he would just share the Gospel with the other prisoners!
3. Family-centred culture
In Australia, basically everything focuses on what you can get out of something, how something will serve you, or benefit you.
My experience of Vietnam was that people’s focus there was more on how to help their family. They have so much respect for their elders, and will often consult their opinion on something. Families in Vietnam are a lot closer than Australian or western culture families.
It was amazing to see how the different parts of the families all worked together and helped each other.
There were some things in Vietnam that I didn’t like (like most of the food, which is another story in itself!!), but I really loved the Vietnamese people that we met, and the family culture that they have.
While we were in Vietnam, we had the opportunity to go to a youth camp with 150 young Vietnamese Christians.
One night after a sermon we went outside and each person was given a bamboo torch, which one of the Vietnamese pastors came around and lit.
We stood in a large circle, torches in hand, singing out to God. Then we placed our torches around a campfire and stood watching the flames grow until a cross burst into flame above the campfire.
The torches symbolised the passing of the Gospel to the next generation, which is us! It was just like what Paul writes to Timothy:
Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:14
I felt the weight of my responsibility and a greater appreciation of the task that God has called me to in this life as a disciple of Christ. Yet I also felt a wonderful sense of joy and privilege to participate in God’s work.
I thought of all those before me who have faithfully passed on the Gospel, the pastors who lit my torch who I deeply respect and admire, how it is now my turn to pass the Gospel on to others.
That image will remain in my heart forever as a reminder of who and what I live for.
There were many stories that we heard while we were in Vietnam and all were equally touching. But there is one that stands out in my heart and mind.
It was the last of six interviews with Bible college students I am helping to support through Thirteen Three.
Lai is 18 years old, born and raised in a tribal village in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. His parents became Christians when he was very young and his father became a pastor.
Although Lai hasn’t faced any persecution directly (thankfully), he remembers when he was a child and the authorities entered his family’s home, bound his parents and took them away.
Lai was left at home. He had no idea where they were taken and they were gone for many hours. It was only when Lai was older that he found out what happened to them that day.
Lai wept as he told us what took place…
The authorities had taken his parents to the village square and publicly humiliated them for their faith in Jesus. The villagers also hurled insults at his parents, who remained silent. After hours of torment, the villagers were told to have nothing more to do with this family.
I could hear the pain in Lai’s voice and see the sorrow that is still in his heart. His family’s reputation and his father’s ministry had been destroyed.
But I could also see a glint of hope in his eyes as he began to tell us about his love for God and for the Gospel.
He may only be 18 but Lai knows he wants to serve the Lord with his life. For he knows that he has a sure and certain hope that far outweighs anything he could go through in this world.
I carry him in my heart.
Please pray for Bible college students like Lai, that God will continue to give them the strength and courage to serve Him every day.