Newsletter for Sunday 12th September

NEXT WEEK  it’s our  Harvest Celebration, led by Sue Wiggans

If you want to bring items for the food bank to the Harvest Celebration, here is a list of most needed items for September:  rice pudding, tinned spaghetti, sponge puddings, tinned potatoes and part baked bread.

HELP PLEASE  On the morning of this Monday September 13th

 We will be cleaning the toys for The Ark (parent and toddler group) to make sure that there are no ‘sinister bugs’ on them before we reopen on the following day, Tuesday 14th September. This is a mammoth task so if you can help, we would be most grateful. (A case of ‘Many Hands make Light Work’!!)

NAMES OF GOD

We probably know many names attributed to Jesus, but what about names given to God in the Old Testament?  Your job this week is to pair up the names and the Bible references.  You will, of course, need a Bible.  You might then like to read the events which contain these names, to see how they fit.

INEFFECTIVE!

“An ineffective Christian never remembers to thank anyone under any circumstances.”

– From Lesley’s book.  (Thank you, Lesley!!

SIMON’S JOKES

What did the claustrophobic astronaut say?
I just need a little space.

For my wife’s birthday, I took her to an orchard and we stood there looking at trees for half an hour.                             Not the Apple Watch she was expecting apparently.

GOD HAS NOT GIVEN UP ON OUR COUNTRY’, SAYS AFGHAN PARENTS OF NEWBORN BABY

As the Taliban took over Afghanistan, a little girl was born to Christian parents. What will her future be in this country?

On the evening that Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban, somewhere in the city a Christian couple welcomed the birth of a baby girl.

It’s hard to imagine a more difficult world for her to enter. The country is in turmoil, Christians and other religious minorities live in fear and women, in particular, are extremely vulnerable.

“Sources on the ground confirm that the Taliban are going door-to-door to weed out ‘unwanted elements,’” says Jan Vermeer, Communications Director for Open Doors Asia. “That includes everybody who collaborated with the West and Christians. Anybody who is exposed as a Christian faces severe punishment: kidnapping, torture or even execution.

“Everybody is afraid; however, each responds differently. Some try to escape the country, while others decide to stay where they are and remain secret believers. Others want to escape the country but can’t. Others are unsure what to do.”

What will the future hold for this little Christian girl in Kabul? It might seem hopeless. The Taliban notoriously follow an extreme, militant form of Islam, and a senior commander has already said they will reinstate Sharia (Islamic law). The last time the Taliban was in power, women were banned from the workplace and girls from schools, besides a host of other restrictions. Many women fear for their future, and that of their daughters.

But this couple have hope – the sort of hope that can only come from following the living God. A local source told Open Doors that the parents see the birth of their daughter as a sign that God has not given up – either on them or their country.

“The birth of this baby in a Christian home reminds us that God can bring life in the midst of the deepest darkness – that He can bring hope,” says Dave Landrum, Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs at Open Doors.

Even before the Taliban took over the country, life was very difficult for Christians and other religious minorities in Afghanistan. For years, the country has been number two on the Open Doors World Watch List – behind only North Korea in terms of the extreme level of persecution that believers face. It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan, and it’s particularly difficult for Christians from a Muslim background. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed.

If a Christian’s family discovers they have converted, their family, clan or tribe has to save its ‘honour’ by disowning the believer, or even killing them. Christians from a Muslim background can also be sectioned in a psychiatric hospital, because leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity. Women are particularly vulnerable, as they are considered to have a lower status in Afghan society.

“There is a complete cloak of silence around any kind of violation of a woman’s space and dignity,” a local source tells Open Doors. “A cloak that hides a devastating narrative of the destruction of millions of Afghan women who will bear the next generation – but who, in 20 years’ time, if the situation persists and worsens, will no longer be able to bring the hope and enlightenment of education to future generations.

“Soon the cameras will be turned off. Soon their grandmothers’ story of suffering under the Taliban will become theirs. How do we equip Christian women?”

One of the most powerful responses we can make is to keep praying fervently for Afghanistan – for the small number of Christians there, for Afghan women and for all those who are facing a difficult and uncertain future. And for the parents and little girl who have just formed their family in the midst of this crisis.

“My prayer is that God will protect this family, and despite the challenges cause them to witness to Jesus, the hope of Afghanistan,” adds Dave Landrum. “I also hope Christians everywhere will be prompted to speak out and campaign for freedom to return to this deeply troubled land.”

PLEASE PRAY

Thank God that His gift of new life and hope isn’t stopped by political upheaval; pray for this baby’s safety and future as she starts life under Taliban rule

That the Christian population in Afghanistan would be both protected and strengthened during this latest period of trial and persecution, and have opportunities to show the love of God

That God would give wisdom and courage to international leaders of both governments and ministries to stand for the most vulnerable and advocate, especially at this time, for the rights of women and girls of minority faiths.

Please send any contributions that might be published by next Tuesday morning to:   andy