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#iampraying for persecuted Christians

On social media and in a university auditorium, believers petition God on behalf of those in danger for their faith.

Prayer and selfies — in that order.

Jeff Abrams encouraged both on the campus of Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn.

The minister wanted believers to let the world know — through social media — that they were spending time during the university’s annual lectureship petitioning God on behalf of those who are ostracized, mocked and even killed for their faith.

Several hundred Christians gathered in Freed-Hardeman’s Loyd Auditorium and offered prayers for the persecuted — and the persecutors, said Abrams, who preaches for the Tuscumbia Church of Christ in Alabama and makes regular visits to eastern Ukraine. There, pro-Russian separatists label as sects and spies any religious group outside the Russian Orthodox church.

More than 5.3 billion people — 76 percent of the world’s population — live in countries with levels of restrictions on religion classified as high or very high by a Pew Research Center study that used data from 2012.

Standing on a boat in the middle of a frozen river, Jeff Abrams and translator Alexander Rodnaev preaches during a family retreat in the town of Svyatogorsk in eastern Ukraine. Churches of Christ in the region have lost buildings and endured persecution by pro-Russian separatists who view non-Orthodox churches as cults and spies for the West. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

“In particular, prayers were offered up for the Lord’s church in eastern Ukraine, northern Nigeria and territories under the control of ISIS,” said Abrams, who helped organize the event.

Ukrainian minister Dennis Sopelnic led a video prayer from his homeland, where the separatists in 2014 seized the church building where he worshiped.

Dale Jenkins, minister for the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, Tenn., opened the prayer service. He noted the apostle Paul’s words from 2 Timothy that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

“While that persecution comes in many forms and degrees,” he said, “those of us in the U.S. have been blessed for generations now by a place where physical persecution is rare. But that is not true in many places in our world today.”

Harry Hames prayed for children around the world affected by persecution and poverty.
The longtime member of the Beltline Church of Christ in Decatur, Ala., makes regular mission trips to Haiti. There, many of the children he serves “are not actually orphaned, but abandoned,” Hames said. “I prayed that we can find a way to keep families together instead of them having to give up their children.”

Landen Wright, president of the university’s Student Government Association, offered a prayer of thanks for the freedoms Americans enjoy and the soldiers who protect those freedoms. He also asked God to encourage his generation to reach lost souls.

“It encouraged me to see videos from churches across the world, confident in the prayers of their brothers overseas,” Wright said. “The tone was somber, acknowledging that the church undergoes so much persecution … but also hopeful, knowing that we’re praying to the God who can make a difference.”

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary International

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