Friday, November 25, 2011

migrant worker picnic

Ven a Nuestro Convivio!

Every Spring thousands of migrants from Mexico & Guatemala flood the Niagara region seeking to provide for their families.  Leaving their loved ones they come to work on fruit farms and in greenhouses for 8 months to two year durations. Struggling through language barriers, cultural differences, and homesickness, these men and women welcome times where they can socialize.

Through out the past ten years the Vineland Free Reformed Church, Heritage Reformed Congregation, and Immaunuel Orthodox Church have joined together in order to minister to the migrants. In 2009 Wilf and Sharon Bout moved into the heart of the fruit belt in order to minister to the hearts of these men and women. Their home has become a hub of activity as these workers come with problems, questions, and ask for advice.
Wilf disciples, mentors, organizes Bible studies, advocates, translates, and gives messages on Sunday evenings. Developing these relationships with the workers has created accountability as many of them struggle with alcoholism, pornography, and experience the tragic breakdowns in their family relationships.
During the Sunday evening services the three supporting churches take turns picking up the workers and providing rides to and from the service. A tremendous amount of work has gone into and continues with organizing drivers and routes. During these services, the workers love to sing! Hearing them sing with their passionate gusto is a wonderful encouragement to us.
Wilf then reads from the Bible and gives a message teaching, exhorting, and challenging the workers. On Tuesday evenings drivers from the churches come by again to take the workers to a English class/Bible study.
The migrants work long hard days often enduring the heat.
On the 1st Saturday of each month a huge picnic is organized. Usually 175-350 men and women come out enjoying sports, and the hot, spicy supper. While they organize their soccer (which they play with fierce competion) and volley ball games, the drivers gather together in prayer, praying that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts to the gospel message that they will hear.
As the sun sets and the tired players feel the rumbling in their stomachs they head towards the delicious smells of supper that has been prepared for them.
It is fun watching them pile the food on their plates. They have mastered getting a whole lot of food on a plate and they manage to carry it to their tables without spilling.
At a picnic in September, Wilf set up a friendly competition among the different countries represented. They were welcomed to come up to the front and to sing their national anthem while a picture of their home country's flag showed in the background. Again these men not only sang with gusto but with sincere loyalty to their homeland.
When Wilf gives the message from God's Word, we praise the Lord for providing a field of souls where the gospel can be planted.  As Wilf has reported, "I am always so thankful for this opportunity to lay the hope, promises, and warning of Christ before so many people. We pray for the Holy Spirit's continued regeneration and sanctification as the Word of God is opened."

While food is being chopped, sliced, and barbequed, the workers love to socialize and play their favourite sports.

These men got a kick out of Andrew's almost white hair. Totally opposite to what they are used to.

Every opportunity is taken to develop relationships and encourage these men and workers to commit their whole lives to the Lord.

Singing their national anthems.

By God's grace these men and women are hearing the Gospel message. They are thankful to the volunteers who spend many hours teaching, driving, playing piano, baking, and praying for this work. In the past they have shown their appreciation by preparing Spanish meals for the volunteers. One lady asked, "Where do you people get this love, this desire to help other people? I don't possess that type of love for others!"
As Wilf writes, "So be encouraged-and continue to pray that Christ would use all of us-through our words, and through our actions." Praise God for this ministry and may He be glorified!

Friday, November 18, 2011

writing letters

Imagine this.
It is early in the morning. The guards have cruelly grabbed the man in the cell next you. You are bracing yourself to hear his tormented cries. Will I be next? As you look around you stand up to pace.  Five steps this way. Turn. Five steps back. In one corner on the cold cement floor lays your worn out blanket; torn and dirty. In the other corner is your overflowing putrid smelling chamber pot. The days have turned into weeks and now the weeks have turned into months. It has been a long time since your house was surrounded by the mobs of jeering, angry men that spring night. It felt like hundreds of hands were all over you, kicking, spitting, and beating you with sticks. You were thrown into this old jail cell without the chance to kiss your loved ones good-bye. You have missed your children's birthdays and your anniversary. Oh, how you miss them. You pray that they are safe and are provided for. God has provided for you, even in this cold, damp cell. He has been your Strength and has put Bible verses that you have long forgotten into your mind. Yesterday your hands shook as you opened a letter written from a sister in the Lord from across the ocean.  A letter full of encouragement and your heart is thankful to God.

"Pastor Dmitry Shestakov was arrested in Uzbekistan, in January 2007, and sent to prison labour camp. Four years later, he was released. While in prison, Dmitry received thousands of letters from Christians all over the world. One day, prison officials called Dmitry to their office to ask if he had family in the U.S. Dimitry replied that he has many brothers and sisters around the world - his spiritual family - who are concerned for his well-being. Prison officials then arranged for an interpreter to translate the letters into Russian for Dmitry to read. He was very encouraged to know that so many people cared." (VOM magazine, special edition)
Writing letters provides tremendous encouragement to Christians who might otherwise feel forgotten. It raises awareness to those in authority that this prisoner is known to many and this can lead to better treatment. Letters impact and they allow us to come along side them.
When I started writing letters my perspective on life changed. Even though I still struggle with the loudness of our boys and their continuous messes:), I am near them and am able to provide and care for them. Many parents long for their children. They are far away from their children and don't know if they are even being cared for.
Writing letters allows time to pray for our brothers and sisters. I took cards that had pictures of God's creation and wrote in there. Our boys have also drawn pictures and I have sent those along as well.
You may write in English and include a Scripture verse. Tell the prisoners that they are not forgotten and that you are praying for them. Even in a jail cell temptations come hard to these men and women. They have to fight against bitterness and learn how to forgive their captors and guards. They are taunted and urged to turn away from Jesus.
Do not mention VOM or any other source of information when you write. This puts everyone in danger. Do not send money or gifts and do not write a return address. I introduce myself as Kerri from Ontario,Canada. Go to for the names of the men and women who are in jail serving time for being believers.
During the next four weeks I hope to write to six or more prisoners. Are you with me?!

Hebrews 13:3 "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

praying for the persecuted

No matter where the The Voice of the Martyrs ministers, the first request of Persecuted Christians is always the same:
                            "Pray for us"

You may be thinking how can I pray for people that I know so little about.
God's Word to us remains our best guide.

As you come to the Throne of Grace on behalf of the Persecuted Church, pray:

-That persecuted believers will stand firm in their faith. (1Peter 5:8-10)
-That they will not be fearful but trust God. (Rev. 2:10)
-That they will not seek to retaliate, but entrust themselves to Him who judges justly & seek to live in peace with everyone. (Rom 12:17-21, 1 Peter 2:23)
-That they will be enabled to rejoice, even in suffering. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
-That they will be able to love & forgive those who persecute them. (Matt. 5:43&44; Luke 23:34; Col. 3:13)
-That they will bless those who have persecuted them. (Romans 12:14,21)
-That they will keep their eyes on Jesus, persevere in their faith, & not grow weary or loose heart. (Heb. 10:32-39; Heb.12:1-3)
-That they will trust God to enable them to proclaim the Gospel even while suffering. (2 Tim.4:16-18)
-That they will rely on the Lord's strength & not on their own. (2 Cor. 1:8-9)
-That those who oppress Christians may experience repentance & salvation, just as Paul did. (Acts 9)
-For the provision of Bibles & other Christian literature to reach the most remote & needy areas where they are in the shortest supply. (Ps. 119-42-43)
-That those who suffer tremendous physical pain & trials will be delivered by the Lord from their agony. (2 Cor. 1:9-11)
-That the local leaders of the Persecuted Churches around the world would continue to faithfully fulfill their God given responsibilities. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
-That those of us who have religious freedom will understand what it means to suffer with other members of the worldwide church. (1Cor. 12:26)
-That we who have religious freedom would have the boldness & courage to speak out & seek to make changes in the name of the Lord, on behalf of persecuted believers. (Prov. 31:8-9)
-That we who have religious freedom would faithfully remember to pray for our Christian family worldwide who are in prison & suffering for their faith. (Heb. 13:3)

I hope that this will help you as you remember these brothers & sisters in the Lord who need much encouragement & prayer.

*the prayer list was taken from a VOM handout

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

christians under persecution

On Sunday, November 13 it is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Christians. Thousands of believers will be setting time aside to pray for their brothers and sisters in Christ who daily feel threats, battle fear & loneliness, have been torn away from their loved ones, experience hunger, pain, discomfort, and live in horrid, unimaginable circumstances. We also pray that our brothers and sisters experience God's abounding grace so that they become bold and dare to witness, as well as learn the joy of forgiveness.
During the month of November, I am going to focus and write about the Persecuted Church and what it means to be "chained with prisoners - those who are mistreated as if we ourselves are beside them" - Hebrews 13:2.

Behnam Irani lives in Iran where 98.64% of the population is Muslim and 0.51% professes Christ. He is a 41 year old church leader. Behnam was in his home in April 2010 leading 10 young men who were newly converted in Bible Study. A raid took place and Behnam was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for "propaganda against the regime." A few weeks ago, 3 days before his release the sentence was extended by 5 more years. There is concern that he might be charged with apostasy.
The reality is that this is happening all over the world.
Mothers & fathers are abruptly forced from their homes, at times even beaten or shot in front of their children. Families are followed and watched. Neighbours can become sources of information.  Churches are burned to the ground while crowds cheer and chant "death to the Christians." Children watch their parents being snatched away and are left to defend for themselves. Those who help these poor children also risk their lives. I can write on and on. This is what is happening and we are called to take action.
I hope and pray that during these next few weeks that you will stay with me. There are ways that we can encourage -(pour courage into) those who are bound with chains. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

fall fest & birthdays

Andrew has turned 4! He had one exciting day for his birthday. It started with the young peoples invading our house in the "amazing race." After a game of caber toss the next clue said to run to my parents house for another clue. That clue, to their utter dismay, said to run back to our house. By this time they were thoroughly exhausted just in time to play some volley ball.

Our boys loved all of this action & hid in the field between the two homes in their camouflaged clothes, chasing after the young people with their sticks. The young people were taking the amazing race very seriously & were not in the mood to be chased by sticks:)

This team started out in first place but volley ball was not their forte. They had to keep on playing until they beat another team. Unfortunately that didn't happen but they were good sports.

In the afternoon Adam's family came over for Fall Fest to celebrate all of the fall birthdays.
The guys tried their hardest at caber toss. Caber toss isn't about how far you can throw but if you can get this great, big, gigantic log to turn over.

Next game up - stomping of the balloons. We tied a balloon to everyone's feet and the goal was to be the last one with a balloon unpopped.

Pumpkin bowling!

Here we paired off into teams and somehow you had to get to the finish line by standing only on one tea towel. Each team had two towels and it took a bit of coordination but the kids loved this challenge.

Then came Nate's 8th birthday. Nate picked waffles, pancakes, & quiche for supper. Fine by me!

When I was pregnant with Nate I read a book called "Jungle Pilot."  This book was a true story about the life of Nate Saint, a missionary pilot in the jungles of Ecuador. He ministered with four other missionaries (including Jim Elliot) to the Auca Indians, a tribe that was violent and ruthless. This book was incredible and the more I read about Nate Saint's character; his life of integrity and conviction, the more I loved the name Nate. Adam read the book too and he was also greatly impressed. That solved our name problem. We were so thankful when we became parents and we now had our own "little Nate."
I managed to buy the book  "Jungle Pilot" and have Stephen Saint, Nate's son, sign the book for our Nate.
It says "To Nate. You have a name dear to me and you have a great heritage along with it."- Stephan Saint
Phil Saint, Stephen's younger brother also signed it with Romans 12 underneath it.
We are so thankful for our sons and we pray that they too will want to serve the Lord wherever they are called with their whole heart.

(The movie "End of the Spear" is about the life of Nate Saint, but the book really gives his true character and life).