Todd Nettleton hosts The Voice of the Martyrs Radio broadcast. The global VOM ministry assists persecuted Christians and helps them evangelize. In “When Faith Is Forbidden,” Nettleton tells stories of people he met in 23 years of travel.
These joyful believers manage to serve Christ victoriously in spite of persecution and suffering. Among truth-seeking Muslims, visions of Jesus are relatively common.
“Hussain” in Iran was a womanizer and druggie, who lost his counterfeiting job and sought suicide. A buddy promised him something new, which turned out not to be drugs but Christ. He read the Gospel, got converted, chucked his vices, led siblings to Christ and became a minister.
While he led a Bible study, the police raided his apartment, piling everything on the living room floor—even pictures off the wall, but miraculously missed 500 Bibles. He was sent to a 250-prisoner death row, run by a gang. On learning that Hussain had American contacts, they made him a leader, gaining him instant privileges, such as a bed, private shower and daily fresh fruit and vegetables. Shades of God favoring imprisoned Joseph in Genesis 39:20-23.
Hussain rejected transfer to “safer” prison housing. At trial, his Muslim judge looked furious until Hussain’s case. He extended himself to help Hussain fill out his appeal form and file it, and later completely excused him from his appeal. Miracle upon miracle.
Hussain felt no fear: “I’ve seen God work so many times already. What do I have to fear?” In future police run-ins he said, “They’ll either kill me, or there’ll be another miraculous event like these. Which one of those is bad?”
Hard charging “Iman,” an Iranian, sought successively to be the best soldier, thief, drug addict and then through a TV outreach—a loving, joyful, Christian disciple and witness. In four years, he saw over 1,000 converts.
Starving while imprisoned, Iman prayed for his guards and their families. They responded by giving him more food. He evangelized while under beds to avoid surveillance cameras. In “the sweetest time” of his life, eight days in a cell with 65 criminals, God converted 24, including two death-sentenced murderers. While offered bail, he remained to evangelize until his guards grew too suspicious.
A Czech, “Petr,” had a prophetic dream of his extended imprisonment two years before his mission to Sudan. Upon visiting Sudan, he was sent for 14 months to the exact prison in his dream. Although initially anxious and frustrated, desiring to rejoin his family, his attitude transformed. He prayed, “As long as You want me here, and as long as You’ll give me a ministry here, I’ll stay.” He preached to hundreds.
Central Asian Pastor “Ragimov” was often persecuted by Communists and later Muslims. Wherever he happened to be, he figured God wanted him to evangelize. “If police detained him, he assumed it was the policemen whom God was trying to reach. And if … radical Muslims would accost him, then it must be them God was sending him to witness to!”
Upon encountering a funeral, he asked the presiding Islamic mullahs about the deceased’s future. Lacking an answer, they let him preach to a group of 150 people at the funeral. Many were very receptive, even kissing him on both cheeks. He returned to show “The Jesus Film.”
“Yalov” and another Asian pastor, who was arrested in a worship service, shared a 3-by-5-foot cell. They took turns preaching to and praying for their guards. After Jesus healed one guard of severe stomach pain, the guards got them “The Jesus Film,” which was shown at the prison. Many guards and 10 inmates got converted.
“Afrooz,” a Muslim college student and refugee from Iran, prayed for Allah to help and appear to her in an all-night vigil. But Jesus appeared in visions two nights in a row and promised, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” A Christian co-worker surprisingly showed her Jesus’ same words in Matthew 11:28. This launched her toward giving her life to Christ and becoming a church leader for women.
Richard Penn served in the Philippines as a teacher and church planter.