A new dairy farm is bringing hope to Peter, a displaced Christian in Syria, thanks to the prayers and gifts of Open Doors supporters. The farm, built in northeast Syria with the support of Open Doors partners is providing work and an income to ten displaced Syrians, including a vet and a technician.
"I am responsible for my parents, my wife, and my son," shares Peter who is one of the farm's new employees. "Without this job, I wouldn't be able to maintain my family."
While the farm was still under construction, the management team was able to buy some very good cows, cattle feed and a milking machine. At that time, about 400 Christians were forced to leave their houses in the area of Al-Hasakah by Kurdish militia. "We were able to offer these people milk and yoghurt during the week," the project spokesman says. "This was a real miracle for us and for them. Without that food they would have gone hungry." The new farm already has contracts with several shops where they deliver milk and yoghurt. "We are very happy with the support we received to build this farm. Thank you for your efforts to help the church and our suffering people."
We're delighted to report that Maryam Naghash Zargaran (39) was released on 1 August after spending four years in prison for 'acting against national security'. A convert from Islam, Maryam was first questioned by intelligence officers in January 2010 because of her work with underground churches, or 'house churches'. She was arrested in January 2013, alongside Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, in connection with their work at an orphanage and both were sentenced a few months later. (Abedini was released in January 2016, following pressure from the US government.)
While in prison, Maryam was harassed and repeatedly denied medical treatment for longstanding medical issues. (She underwent heart surgery ten years ago and needs regular medical check-ups.) On a handful of occasions she was allowed to leave prison temporarily to receive treatment, but each time forced to return before it could be completed. Maryam even had her sentence extended by six weeks to make up for the time she had spent outside prison. In protest against her treatment, she undertook a series of hunger strikes. According to her family, her imprisonment has traumatised her and left her suffering with depression.
Thank you for praying for Maryam during her imprisonment. Please continue to pray for her recovery and for the many other Christians who remain in prison because of their faith in Jesus.
Susan Ithungu, a young believer from Uganda who suffered life-changing injuries after being severely mistreated by her father for leaving Islam, is doing 'remarkably well' following two separate operations in the last few months. Susan was found severely malnourished and suffering from poor muscle development and bone fractures in 2012 after her father locked her in a room without food and water for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Despite this, she said, "I cannot leave Jesus. I decided not to leave Him because He has given me eternal life and even if I died there [in that room], I was sure that I would go to Him. When they opened the door [of the room where I was kept for three months], I felt peace and I knew that God had sent me help."
Since then Susan (16) has had many operations to enable her to walk, her surgery being sponsored by Open Doors. The latest operations took place in Kenya during May and August 2017 and Susan is doing well. The long road to recovery means that she is missing the school year but the possibility of walking again without difficulty gives her hope. She is emphatic that she wants to be able to walk, go to school and study to be a doctor.
"I thank God very much that I am still alive. He protected my life."
Cameroonian Christian Sharifa Kesvere was widowed in July 2014, when her pastor husband was killed by Boko Haram. But thanks to Christians around the world, Open Doors has been able to support her practically and take letters of encouragement to her and her eight children.
"I am touched by this letter written by three beloved brethren in France," says Sharifa. "It says, 'Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Best Friend'. These words renew my assurance of the Lord's protection over me and my children.
"If someone does not think about you, they can't write to you. The cards have been a great encouragement to me and my family. My children are very much encouraged in their faith. They are always attracted by the photos or images on the cards and often spend their time considering the images."
With help she's received, Sharifa has started up her own ice-making business and now manages a farm. "I harvested 40 bags of unpeeled rice this last season! The Lord, by His grace, passed through you to help me get over all that had come my way. The letters and your visits have greatly encouraged me. To all the beloved of Open Doors, I say as a mother, thank you to everyone. If today my children and I live, eat and are clothed, it is you that God used to provide all these blessings."
Uzbek Christian Tohar Haydarov, who was imprisoned in March 2010 was released on 7 November 2016 after serving just six years and 10 months of his ten-year sentence.
"God has heard the prayers of many Christians," an Uzbek Christian said. "We are thankful for everyone who prayed for him and sent letters to him while he was in prison."
"We're very grateful Tohar has been granted parole," an Open Doors spokesperson says. "We have prayed for him for years and we need to continue our prayers. After six years in such difficult circumstances he needs to be restored and re-establish his relationships with his loved ones. We know from other ex-prisoners that the process can be hard."
When Iraqi Christian Suaad was forced out of her house by IS she went to stay with her older brother and his family. To her great joy, the church set up a sewing factory with the help of a local Open Doors partner, and when offered the chance to share her expertise with other displaced ladies, she jumped at the chance.
"I teach the basics of tailoring. They can use these skills to earn some money for their families here in the factory or elsewhere. Either way, it helps them work towards a future. It's what I like most about the job - I can share with those in a worse position than me. Sometimes a displaced person comes to me to ask if I can make them a dress. Then I do that and I don't charge them. How could I?" Nevertheless, Suaad is able to bring in some money by leading the sewing factory. "I would have done it voluntarily if needed, but I am happy that I get some money so I can share it with my family."
In July 2015, we asked you to pray for a little girl called Christine who was taken from her mother's arms by so-called Islamic State (IS) militants over two years ago. In July 2016 an Open Doors contact in Iraq visited Christine's family, in a refugee camp in Erbil, to find out whether they had heard any news of their daughter. Ayda, Christine's mother said:
"Christine is still there," meaning IS-held territory a few hours drive away. "We heard that Christine is living with one of the Christian ladies who was kidnapped by IS. The lady was forced into marriage with an IS-fighter and somehow managed to take our Christine under her care." In July 2016, Christine turned five - her second birthday without her parents. "But I don't know how she celebrated it. She is getting older. Sometimes, I fear that my Christine grows older without me, that I will never see her again. Without her, it's like part of our heart is missing. We are not complete without her."
*Name changed for security reasons