SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 29, 2010) – Open Doors is making a huge impact around the world with its projects this year. Here is a look at three of them.
Open Doors Children’s Bibles
A Blessing to the Vietnamese Church “Please pray for me to read the Bible and understand it more. When I grow up, I want to become a full-time worker. I will tell other people about Jesus,” said young Sai (pseudonym) to an Open Doors worker who visited her Sunday School class.
This year Open Doors has printed 40,000 copies of the Illustrated Children’s Bible. They were distributed to both house and registered churches. Copies were also given to the tribal churches in the Central Highlands so children, like Sai, have access to God’s Word through the language of stories that Vietnamese writers and illustrators developed. It was well received by the tribal Christians, since the Vietnamese language is taught in all government schools.
Children in the central and northern villages of Vietnam endure long distances, sometimes crossing rivers by boat, to make it to their Sunday School classes. For those with non-Christian parents, the journey starts only after sneaking out from their homes. One class has hundreds of kids in attendance, hungry to hear and learn about God through their dedicated teachers.
With the Illustrated Children’s Bible, Sai can read God’s Word anywhere and anytime she likes. Her desire to tell others about Jesus Christ is shared by many children in Vietnam. After distributing the first 10,000 copies in 2006, Open Doors realized how acute the need was.
During a distribution event, a house church received only one copy, which was given to the Sunday School teacher so that all children in the church would benefit. Also, the Bible was attracting non-Christians. “During the break-time in school, the children would continue to read the book.
One time, the head teacher took one and read it. There were non-Christian parents that came to the school, wanting to buy some copies, but my wife said that the books were gifts; they’re not on sale,” said one pastor, whose wife teaches in a government school. Open Doors has distributed 200,000 copies of the Illustrated Children’s Bible since 2006.
“Thank God that He has touched many hearts from around the world to pray for us and support us. We want this book introduced to every Vietnamese person and taken to wherever they come from,” said a Christian worker.
Helping Sri Lankan Christians Stand Strong through the Storm
Although Christians are free to practice their faith in Sri Lanka, being a minority leaves them vulnerable to religious pressure and discrimination.
When churches grow in numbers, they agitate the Buddhist monks in their communities, resulting in attacks on believers and their properties. Pastors and their families are threatened and their homes either burned or ransacked. Ironically, persecution is hardly talked about from the pulpit. Because of the suffering caused by the 30-year civil war, people have responded to the Gospel for its promise of comfort and encouragement.
However, it has left some negative repercussions: “Many believers wonder about their faith when they are under severe trial. Many ask, ‘Is God concerned about me?’ more so, when they go through hardships or see their loved ones suffer,” explained a church worker in Sri Lanka. For the past five years, Open Doors has been strengthening the church in Sri Lanka through the Standing Strong Through the Storm (SSTS) seminar. Most of the pastors and church planters graduate from their theological studies without enough knowledge of the biblical purpose of and responses to persecution.
In SSTS seminars, they are equipped with such principles. “We have seen a change in their attitudes and responses toward difficulties and persecution. More pastors now accept that suffering is part of their daily walk with God. They now see the danger of believing in a Gospel that only promotes prosperity and success,” another local Christian worker said. Because suffering for the faith is a common ground for many of the believers in Sri Lanka, the SSTS seminar cuts across many denominations and church groups, reaching out to pastors, church workers and lay believers.
“Participants are also given the teachers’ manuals, so they can teach SSTS lessons to other groups. If they need more, they write to us. We ask them for their suggestions and feedback to improve the quality of teaching the SSTS,” said a worker of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), who helped Open Doors bring the SSTS to churches and bible schools across the country.
This year, Open Doors will conduct six seminars for pastors, church planters, and bible school teachers. The last SSTS had 44 participants.
Reaching Youth in the Philippines
Nineteen-year-old Conrad was born in Jolo, Sulu. A major island in Mindanao, Jolo is home to many Tausugs, who hold firmly to Islam as a religion and way of life. But Conrad is a Sama, a people group despised and alienated by the rest of the Muslim tribes.
Although exposed to Christianity since his childhood, Conrad understood its meaning and significance only in 2008, through an event that Open Doors organized: “I had always been active in the church in Jolo since I was a child. I attended Vacation Bible School and joined church activities. But when I am with my friends outside (the church), I was a very different person. I thought I knew a lot about Isa (Christ) before, until I attended the summer youth camp in Zamboanga (2008). Since then, I realized my own sinsI had a bad temper thenand asked God to forgive me,” the young believer testified.
Conrad decided to stay in Zamboanga City to continue his studies and, at the same time be mentored in the faith. Together with his elder brother, the young man stayed at a local pastor’s house where he first got the chance to serve God through children’s ministry.
“One time, I was invited to help in the feeding ministry. At first, I thought I’d be just observing, but I found myself serving the children their food and washing their plates. I realized, then that I enjoyed serving the Lord. My being an Almasihin (a Christian) is useless, if I do not serve Isa. It felt like I just found something I’ve been missing all my life.”
This year, Conrad became part of a team of youth volunteers who taught during Open Doors’ Sama Kitab Iskul (SKI) or youth camp in Pasobolong, Zamboanga. He told the children about the story of Jesus’ washing His disciples’ feet; that it was His way of showing His love. On the third and last day of the SKI, Conrad brought in a bucket of water and washed the feet of a fellow teacher.
When he invited the 180 children in front of him, a young Muslim boy, Alzibar, was the first to grab his water bucket to wash another child’s feet. Conrad remembered his first encounter with Alzibar: “He approached me while I was preparing the name tags. He shared that his grandparents scolded him and warned him not to attend SKI. His parents working in Saudi Arabia were also angry about it. So, I asked him why he was still present. ‘I wanted to know more about Isa,’ he said.
So far Doors youth camps have been held in five other communities in Zamboanga and Sulu/Tawi-Tawi with more than 300 children attending. An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.
Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.