Through the eyes of a theology student

Through the eyes of a theology student

Are you aged 17-23?
Do you want to stand up for justice and speak out for peace?
Do you want to be equipped to share your faith at home and around the world?

Hello, I’m Amy!

I’m a first year theology student.

As part of my theology course, I needed to do four hours week in a Christian organisation or church. I thought and prayed long and hard about what I should do. So I choose Release as I had no previous experience with persecuted Christians; I only had some knowledge from studying Religious Studies at A-Level.

Once I considered Release, the opportunity of doing their Change Makers course programme opened up. This gave me the opportunity to engage with young people, do talks in schools and churches, organise publicity and fundraising events, church weekends, meeting people passion about supporting persecuted Christians from across the United Kingdom and further afield.

This programme has stretched and challenged me; it certainly hasn’t been boring! I have been given so many different opportunities to do different church events and organise publicity and fundraising events.

One of the things I have found most challenging about being a Change Maker has been connecting with persecution and the reality of it for my brothers and sisters in Christ. In the West, persecution is different and often not as physical as in other countries. So when I hear stories of people physically beaten or killed, my heart has to be deeply challenged to remember this is REAL.  And not only that….. BUT it is happening simply for their FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. The thing that challenges me is if I were in their country, I’d be persecuted for standing for Jesus or even writing this blog right now.

Another aspect of the Change Makers programme that attracted me was the opportunity to fly across the world, meet the persecuted Christians and support them.  This is something that I will be doing this summer and I am very excited. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity where I will get to see the reality of persecution.  Through meeting the Christians, hearing the stories, making the connections, I believe I will be better equipped to promote change across Northern Ireland, United Kingdom and potentially the whole world.

Going back to the questions at the start.

Do you fit the criteria?

Do you want challenged in trying something different?

As a student, this programme has helped me to see how the theory of my course works in practice. Maybe you think I am not doing theology, it doesn’t matter. This programme will give you opportunities to develop skills and in your discipleship of being more like Jesus, which will set you up for life.

So I challenge you to contact your nearest Release worker and see what aspect of the work you could be involved in!!

He is my Refuge and my Fortress

He is my Refuge and my Fortress

Hey guys, so today I read something a little bitter sweet (I had so many mixed thoughts). Initially I thought wow…isn’t God amazing? But then on the flip side I thought how could humanity be so cruel? Being persecuted for your beliefs and what you know is truth, is in itself inhumane and wrong.  We all want to live in freedom but it’s come to light not everyone gets to live in the land of freedom.

An account was given by a volunteer who went to Pakistan on a Release ministry trip. They mention meeting a woman called Rose, who is a convert from Islam.  Her parents shunned her for converting to Christianity and hired Islamists to attack her.  At the time of the assault Rose was pregnant. The attacker poured kerosene over her abdomen and set her on fire.  They did this to shame her, and because of this attack she lost her first baby. However, little did they know that God had a plan.  With support from Release, Rose recovered.  Later she became pregnant and had a beautiful baby girl!

 In the same article there was another story about Shokhert, a convert from Islam who is growing in faith despite ongoing attacks from inside the Islamic community.  When Shokhert became a Christian, his dad and brother tried to break his legs.  They were unsuccessful.  But despite this trauma, his faith didn’t waver.  Both of these stories reminded me of Psalm 91:1-2 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LordHe alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”

I truly believe that the struggles persecuted Christians face bring them to a special dependence on God, where he keeps them under his wing.

 The challenge here for us is to get together with friends and family and pray for our brothers and sisters who are facing persecution and cover them in prayer.  We might even be praying at their very lowest moment.

In Matthew 18:20 it encourages us and says: ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them’. Church… Gather together and pray, remember those who are suffering, and act.

 Love Rach x

Rachel-CM

New Seasons

New Seasons

Hey guys! My name is Rachel, I’m 18 years old, and I’ve been a committed Christian for 7 years.

Quick background information… I was born into a strong Christian family; I basically grew up spending most my time in church. I’ve always known God was real, and that he loved me so much (John 3:16).

Recently, I’ve come to explore the choice Jesus had over dying for everyone’s sins. You see growing up I was taught that Jesus died so that we all could be in right standing with God.  I never fully grasped the concept that he had a choice, and that he if did, he would choose us, you and me. A man, a stranger, someone I didn’t even know loved me before I was thought of (Jeremiah 1:5). This guy, this amazing man called Jesus, chose us and he didn’t have to.

So that’s why I’ve decided to follow him, and try to be like him, but hey I am human – I do fall short of God’s glory and I do mess up sometimes. Most of the time I’m not even aware of the mistakes, but that doesn’t matter because all my sins are paid for. Why?…because he paid the price that should have been mine. How amazing is grace?

What pulls my heart strings the most is knowing that other Christians around the world have had this revelation of the Gospel and till this day are being persecuted because of their faith. Christians are tortured and killed because they’ve found the greatest love of all. That’s why I’ve joined Release Potential – to be a Change Maker. I want to change the game with Christ’s help because ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13).  So, ‘Whatever the cost…be the change’.

The Apostle Paul talks a lot in the Bible about persecuted Christians; he talks about how we should pray for them and keep them close to our hearts because we are one body just made up of different parts.  In the book James, it talks about how the people of the world won’t like us because they never liked Jesus (and he was perfect, he did no wrong…How could you not like the guy?!).

So yes, in this life we will face hardships and struggles but in Romans it says, “If God is for us then who can be against us?”.  Yes there will be opposition, but it won’t prosper. We are all children of God and just like a parent who loves their child, God will do whatever it takes to get his children through persecution and into the “promised land”.

We are one big family bigger than blood.

Rachel-CM

Faith

Faith

Release Potential travelled with two Change Makers to Cairo in August 2014. Our lives were transformed and our minds and hearts challenged by our brothers and sisters in the faith, who diligently serve the Muslim community. As a result I want to share a story of faith, the kind of faith that believes that God can use us in desperate and perilous situations.   

Our partners in Cairo run an outreach project that provides medical check-ups and medicine for the Muslim community. They set up portable clinics and have professional Christian health advisers and doctors, who provide this service for FREE!! 

This is just one way they choose to love in their community. On one occasion, they met a man, let’s call him Phil (not his real name). Phil shared extremist Islamic views and claimed to be a part of a Jihad terrorist group.  Phil was not impressed by our partners’ efforts to share the gospel. So he began to plan to sabotage their healthcare outreach project. He decided he would report them to the local authorities, claiming that they had provided the wrong diagnosis and that he had been ill-treated by the Egyptian Christians. 

After being treated by a Christian doctor, Phil received a prescription for free medicine.  He was convinced that our partners’ outreach project had underlying motives and went to a Muslim doctor and local Muslim pharmacist to get a second opinion. The Muslim doctor examined him, and informed him that the diagnosis was correct, while the pharmacist insisted that the  prescription he had received was of the highest quality. The doctor also shared that he himself would not have given him the prescription because the medicine was too expensive to give out in the local community.

Phil began to feel convicted by the outreach programme’s willingness to give quality care for the Muslim community. So much so, Phil went back a few weeks later and apologised for planning to sabotage their project. Phil wanted to know why they were doing this to help the community and that’s when they were able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through this encounter of love Phil gave his life to Jesus that day.

They took a risk witnessing to a member of an extremist terrorist group but they put their faith in God. The staff and volunteers that serve week in, week out knew that God would meet this man. 

What a challenge! I have all heaven behind me, so I will put my faith in our God who supplies all our needs.

Take on the Challenge:

Release Potential invites you to join our social media campaign. We would like you to raise awareness of Christian persecution using social media platforms…. Please dedicate a month to sharing our videos, photos, prayers and news reports of Christians suffering for their faith using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Love

Love

‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…’ Matthew 5:43-48

In August 2014, Release Potential had the opportunity to visit an inspiring group of Christians in Egypt – Christians who have given their all to serve their communities despite intense persecution. The team spent seven days with our partner organisation based in Cairo. Our partners play an important role in the work Release funds, so it was a privilege to meet staff and volunteers, who work tirelessly to support Christians suffering for their faith. 

The aim of the trip was to: grow in our understanding of persecution, to hear the stories of the reality of persecution and to pray with our brothers and sisters in the faith.  I thought I was going to serve and ‘be a blessing’ but came away from the trip feeling truly blessed and encouraged in my faith. 

After the first day or two, I struggled with the stories of injustice that many people face daily. Tears would flow, as they shared their struggles and the difficult walk they’ve experienced.  Hearing about the response projects set up by our partners opened my eyes to see the importance of the role we play as the body of Christ. We are called to support one another through trial and adversity – practically and prayerfully. It was incredible to watch our partners meet the needs of many Christians suffering persecution.  They started sharing story after story of how God showed up in the most desperate situations, making the impossible possible. 

What impacted me the most was the display of unconditional and sacrificial love. The teams we met shared their frustrations and the worries, but were resilient, never giving up,  because they understood something great about God’s love. They shared stories of people they would evangelise, that I couldn’t even imagine sharing the gospel with, for fear of my life. As they did this my heart became exposed and I realised that day that my love has a limit, a point that I struggle to break through. 

So! What’s the answer? It is to do the hard thing… to adopt a ‘love without limits’ approach.  Be the change you want to see and make it your Change Maker challenge. Choose to raise the standard by loving even when it hurts and there may be loss. My heart has been filled with God’s love for me, so in turn I want to love my enemies even if it hurts. So again I say,  do the hard thing. Carry this message in your heart and as you put it into practice you will see a transformation – you will be able to love without expecting anything in return.

‘But I tell you, love your enemies’

The Debate

Our Change Makers; Abena and Renee hosted a debate on the topic of whether posting the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was a worthwhile campaign in helping the Nigerian girls who were abducted or did it just give us a sense of “doing our bit”?