Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hearts of Fire

tells the stories of eight Christian women in the underground church and the valiant struggles of their costly faith.  It was written and  published by staff personnel at Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and published in 2003 under ISBN number 978-0-88264-150-08. Very appropriate for such a volume, the widowed and former Missionary to the Philippines, Gracia Burnham, wrote the Foreward.

“Either you marry or you die…  If you are a Christian there is no place for you in this city … you will die here alone”. Those parting words, spoken by Tara’s father to his sixteen-year-old pride and joy, raised only one thought in her mind: she must escape for her life. 

Beaten to the brink of death, Tara was the favorite daughter of a prominent Pakistani Muslim. She was locked into her room as a prisoner without food or medical attention when she was caught reading a Bible. She had no notion of converting to Christianity; she was only completing a research paper for her Muslim school . None of that kept her from being sent to school in the school of suffering, imprisonment, and finding God real.

In Indonesia, Adel  and the neighborhood children, along with the other Christian captives, faced death at the hands of their marauding Muslim neighbors  on a religious jihad. Amid the horrors of that imprisonment, she  found hope. Purnima  became a Christian at thirteen in her Buddhist country of Bhutan. Exiled to Nepal because of her decision to believe in Jesus, she grew up in a refuge camp and went through her own school of suffering while in prison. Although she was a child and imprisoned; she became a soul set free.

Aida of Leningrad became a voice for Russia’s voiceless, in spite of her imprisonment. Sabina, with her husband Richard, became an extraordinary witness for God’s love while serving her time in a slave-labor camp carrying rock with which to build a levy on a Danube canal project. She shared that love throughout  Richard’s fourteen and one-half years of imprisonment and while assisting Richard in the founding of the Voice of the Martyrs in America, after they were ransomed for a price and escaped to America.

Nine-year-old Ling lived in China where she became an exceptional Church Leader and  colporteur-evangelist  following her imprisonment in her Graduate School of Suffering. Gladys Weatherhead Starnes grew up in Australia, but became a missionary worker in the Mayurbhani Leprosy Home in Orissa, India as Mrs. Graham Starnes. Gladys was widowed when radical Hindu’s intentionally burned her husband and children to death in a burning building. Gladys went on to become a lifeline of forgiveness, especially when she came face to face with the convicted Hindu extremist that led the murderous assault on her family.

In 1989 two young Vietnamese refugees made it to Hong Kong. When Mai encountered God in her life, she listened for his call in her life. Leaving the protection of her brother, she gave up her pursuit of freedom in the West and returned to Vietnam and the family that had forsaken her. She heard God calling her back to Vietnam to preach Christ to people who had never heard of him and that is what she did. 

I read these stories aloud to my wife, an avid reader whose eyesight is failing. Being the wife of a retired pastor, I thought she would especially enjoy this simply-written series that recognizes how significant women have always been in forwarding the Christian mission. She and I each enjoyed the stories immensely and it became a time of bonding together as we wind down our seventy years of marriage.
I discovered, however, that a few of the stories were so graphic and abusive of women that some of the incidents mentioned caused her not to rest well after I read to her at a late hour. A very sensitive soul, she dreamed bad dreams. So, I leave that word of caution.  

For the most part, however, the book was well-written in a simple and readable format. And as it turned out, with the order in which I pursued the stories, we finished with one that was not quite as intense as some had been while still leaving us with a good taste in our mouths from a pleasant reading experience, but also leaving us with a greater awareness of some of our brothers and sisters in the faith who need our prayers

From …

both Tommie and I recommend this book for your family reading pleasure, as well as for a realistic introduction to the life some Christians face in other countries and cultures.