Finding Hope in Prison

eNews_1712_story2Hitting Rock Bottom

He thought he cared about his kids and their mothers, but now he realizes he only did what was right for himself. Aaron notes, “After a lifetime of anger, disrespect, and hurting all the people I cared about, I wanted to stop and enjoy a family life with love. I had the right vision, but I was still living in the wrong.”

Aaron felt lost. And his family suffered. The addictions seemed only to grow. One day he finally hit rock bottom: Aaron hurt his 7-month-old son. The next day the police arrested him.

New Life in Christ

He confesses, “That was the hardest thing I ever went through.” Aaron says with clarity, “But that tragedy brought me to the Lord.” He continues, “When I got to prison, every cell had a Bible. I picked one up and never put it down. I read it and fell on my knees.”

Aaron asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior that day. He prayed that the Lord would save his son’s life. He says with a smile, “By the grace of God, my son is alive and healing. I promised God to only serve Him for the rest of my days.”

After beginning his life in Christ, Aaron worried about how his new faith would grow. God soon gave His answer. “I didn’t know how to keep being in God. But when I transferred here, God brought Project Philip Bible studies to this jail,” Aaron explains.

“Now, I can study to become more like Jesus and help others. Even though things are not perfect, and I’m not perfect, God is working in me. My life is His, and I know He will do what is best for me.”

The Gospel Gives Peace

eNews_1712_story1Angry with God

Serob says this hopelessness caused him to lose faith in God, and he enlisted in the army. “Like every Armenian guy, I was very proud to protect my homeland and I joined the Army.”

Now married with children, he says the realities of war deepened his disillusionment. “I saw so many dangers when I was in the Army. I felt empty inside,” he says. Serob’s mother-in-law became a believer, and tried to talk to him about God. “I did not believe a word she said. I was still very angry with God,” he says.

Deciding to Study God’s Word

One day, Serob’s wife wanted to invite people over for a Project Philip Bible study. “I got angry and told her no,” Serob remembers. “But I felt guilty and relented. I told her they could host these meetings, but I added that I would never be present during their Christian meetings.”

For weeks, the group would come over, and Serob retreated to his room. “I avoided meeting the believers, but I listened to everything they said. I started to like the Bible study lessons.” He started to find reasons to be home on meeting days. “I decided to be present in the meeting. It was quite a step, but I did it.” Once Serob began to study the Word of God, he became a faithful member of the group. “I was baptized over the summer,” he beams.

A New Creation in Prison

eNews_1710_story1From Poverty to Prison to Christ

“I grew up in the slums of Mathare—one of the oldest and worst slums of Africa. People live on top of each other,” is the way he describes it. There are more than 700,000 people crowded there, just three miles from Nairobi, the capital. It is plagued by disease, drugs, crime, and too many people living without hope.

“I grew up with just my mother, she was a Christian and we went to church, but soon I stopped caring and that’s when my life fell apart,” he continues. “I lived like everyone else in the slum–drinking, stealing, and addicted to drugs—it was too late for me.”

“Sitting alone on that bench,” he says pointing across the prison yard, “I realized how far I had drifted away from God. The next thing I heard was an invitation to join a Project Philip Bible study and I jumped at the opportunity.”

Eager to Help

As he listened, he heard the things he knew from his childhood. “But this time, I knew that I had to give my life to Jesus. Believe in Him. Live for Him. So I did that, and Jesus is my Savior,” he says boldly. “I am no longer the addict I used to be. Jesus has transformed my life, and I’m so happy today.”

An eager learner, Alexander also learned that he could help others understand the Gospel. “I learned how to lead others to Christ so their lives can be transformed like mine. Today, I’m the one asking others to come with me to Project Philip Bible studies, and when I’m released someday, I will do the same. I need to go back to the place I was raised and tell them how God changed me.”

The Gospel in Bangladesh

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God’s Grace – God’s Word

But with a believer from a nearby village being trained with Church Planter Training, things are changing in Akash’s village. “A man comes to our village often, inviting us all to study God’s Word by telling us that Jesus really loves us. This was new to me.”

“I admit that I always made bad friends,” Akash says, “and I was always lonely. I would always be in trouble but I didn’t’ know what to do.” For the first few Project Philip Bible studies, Akash sat quietly—taking it all in. “Then it hit me,” he exclaims. “I understood that I have sinned and there was God’s grace right in front of me in the Bible. Right then, I gave myself to God and prayed, because I am so thankful to Him for a new life.”

Getting Ready

“Every day I am overwhelmed by what I am learning from God’s Word,” he adds. “And my friends—the ones who I thought were so bad—now I know they are just like me. But I didn’t abandon them. Instead, I am trying to show them how God’s love can turn around their lives.”

“God is working in my life and I am becoming the person God can use to help others understand the Gospel,” Akash says. “I’m young, but I’m getting ready. And I’m so thankful for those who send God’s Word to me in my village in Bangladesh. Please pray for me.”

This Was My Opportunity

Can God Help My Family?

Married when he was just a teen, Asuncion and wife struggled to raise their babies but when sickness became routine, they found themselves unable to purchase medicine. “Our baby got sick a lot,” he says sadly, “and when we couldn’t give him the medicine he needed, we were desperate.”

“Then a neighbor of ours volunteered to take our child to their church for prayer. And, of course, we went along,” Asuncion recalls. This neighbor was a newly trained church planter who used Project Philip Bible studies to reach others in his community—in this barrio there were no churches and no hope for people like Asuncion.

“I just knew this would help my child,” Asuncion says, “and that’s why I started to study God’s Word in a Project Philip Bible study. I needed to find out how God can help my family, so this was my opportunity.”

Training to Help

As he studied, he began to understand how God’s love was his only hope. “I trusted God, and my life has not been the same,” he confesses. “Everything turned around for me and my family.”

Soon, Asuncion was telling others about his new faith in Jesus Christ, “and I needed help and training to do so,” he adds. “In my business, I am able to help other teens here find work, and I share with them how God helped me,” he offers. “When I am able, I lead a Project Philip Bible study myself.”

“Studying God’s Word with Project Philip Bible studies has changed my life,” Asuncion says, “and I am becoming a stronger man and a stronger Christian.”

God’s Word for the First Time

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How to Tell Others

It is another three hours’ drive up into the mountains of Davao, and at the end of the dirt road the eight hour hike begins to reach the tribal village of the Ata people. This isolated village survives by farming fruits and vegetables, they live in Nipa huts (small shelters constructed of vegetation), bathe in the small rivers nearby, and worship spirits according to their traditions.

“I was one of the first people here that God’s Word reached,” says Lablab, “and as soon as I heard the Gospel in a Project Philip Bible study, I believed.” He quickly adds, “But I had no way of going deeper, I didn’t have a Bible, and I didn’t know how to tell others about my new faith.”

What’s surprising is that Lablab was known and feared in the area. “I was a Commander of the Communist Rebels here,” he confesses, “and I lived a horrible life until the Gospel came to my village. It means a big change in my life, and I paid a price when I surrendered, but today I am free and ready to help others believe the Gospel.”

A New Life

“The first thing I was able to do after I surrendered was join a church where I received training as a Philip (a Project Philip Bible study leader), and next I started telling people about the Gospel,” Lablab says. “I listened, I asked questions, and I learned.”

Today, the former Commander Lablab is now Pastor Lablab—leading Project Philip Bible studies among the Ata people in this remote area of the Philippines. “To get us the Bible the people need, it takes hours of hiking, and the help of someone who sees that God’s Word can change me and everyone who believes in this village,” Lablab says.

Changing Lives in Nicaragua

Changing Lives in NicaraguaLearning and Loving Jesus

This struggling ministry is trying to change the children’s lives in a way that will last—through basic education and studying God’s Word. Using Project Philip Bible studies, about 170 students in this Nicaragua school have the opportunity no one else offers them: education and the chance to learn how Jesus can transform their lives.

Diego is one of the students—a ten year old, and he strikes everyone as quiet and shy. That is, until asked what he’s learning. “Before, God was no big deal in my life,” the child says with unusual boldness, “but now I’m learning more and who He truly is.”

He’s eager to tell a curious, wandering story of his young life, but then he comes to a conclusion that leaves everyone impressed. “In the past, he was a savior. Now, Jesus is my Savior,” proclaims Diego.

Reaching a Family

“My family wanted me to have an education, and that I can also learn about God is even better. I love that I can talk about the Bible in school with my teachers,” he adds.

Diego’s family is religious, but part of an obscure movement trying to make inroads among the most vulnerable in the area—something even young Diego understands. “They knew we’d believe anything, and they promised us things they shouldn’t have,” he says bluntly.

“So, when I learn from the Bible, I go home and talk about what I’m learning with my family. I tell my family that learning the Bible saved my life and I know Jesus is my Savior.”

New Life for a Troubled People

New Life for a Troubled PeopleGoing Back to Serve Jesus

The Malleco Province is the center of Chile’s painful conflict over land and resources, and the plight of the Mapuche indigenous people—the main indigenous population. They are an ancient people, and unfortunately, they have long suffered in the fight over land and resources.

Pastor Alberto is from here, and his new life in Jesus Christ began here, but it took a few twists and turns for him to return. “I first learned to study God’s Word right here using Project Philip Bible studies,” he says, “then I went away to study at school until one day a professor told me to go back home—to Angol, back to where I first met Christ, and serve there.”

The Power of God’s Word

“Because of the history of the conflict, the people in the community face a struggle,” Pastor Alberto shares, “and it always takes time for God’s Word to change people’s lives here.”

Quick to point out the sincerity of their interest in the Gospel, Pastor Alberto also knows the hardships they face. “The people here work long, exhausting hours in the fields or forests to make a living. They come to church tired, and need a simple way to learn and beat the fatigue they carry. Long sermons don’t work, but these Bible studies do.”

And he quickly adds, “Here, God’s Word is changing lives like never before. God is saving marriages, transforming the way parents help their children, and even after so much pain with the government and police, the people are forgiving and living in peace.”

“This is the power of God’s Word, and we’re so thankful for everyone who is helping the people find hope in this part of Chile,” Pastor Alberto says.

A Family is Transformed

A Family is Transformed

God Seemed Far Away

The southern Albanian city of Saranda is a beautiful place—tourists flock to its views of the Ionian Sea. But for Hina, her city held no hope. “We did everything we could to get God’s help, and I tried praying every day. But God seemed to be far from us,” she admits.

“One day, some people came to our neighborhood in Albania and stood on the street talking to people about Jesus,” Hina says, “so I went out to hear them. Right away they started talking about a God who loved us and could be trusted.”

“This bothered me because I just didn’t know this God,” she confesses. “They saw I didn’t understand and invited me to a church nearby and a Project Philip Bible study for young people.”

God Can Be Trusted

As Hina attended the Project Philip Bible studies, she learned how God could help her and her family, she was shown love by everyone in the church, and she learned to pray to Jesus Christ because He loves her. “I began to pray to Jesus, and that’s when my life and my family started to change. Then,” she says with a bright smile, “I surrendered my life to God.”

Seeing the change in her young life, her family started to come to church with her, “and one by one, they trusted Jesus too,” Hina says. “Today I am a leader in the Project Philip Bible studies, and I love to tell people how God changed me and my family. And I’m thankful for all the help from the people who make this possible, because there are still a lot of families like mine here that need God’s Word.”

The Life God Wants for Me

The Life God Wants for MeHow Jesus Saves

From his small village in northern Ghana, Jalam is eager to tell his story, “I stopped schooling years ago because we had no money, and I had to work on my family’s little farm. Before we would plant, my family would offer gifts to an idol named Kakpeu—a tree idol that we thought made crops grow and protected our field. We would offer birds and other small animals, and hope we would see no danger.”

“It never made much sense,” Jalam now says, “but that’s because I have learned about the true God from the Bible.” In a nearby church, people gather for Project Philip Bible studies, and after dozens of invitations from the pastor, Jalam finally decided to attend.

“When I started, I was given a Project Philip Bible study book, and one of the lessons was about Jesus as our sacrifice,” he remembers, “and how God gave us His Son to be our sacrifice, and anyone who believes and follows Jesus will be saved.”

Living a New Life

“This is what I needed to understand,” Jalam says, “I only need Jesus, and I don’t need to make sacrifices. So I stopped the idolatry and I stopped the sacrifices, and I gave my life to Jesus.”

How has his life changed? Well, Jalam is happy to say, “I stopped worshipping Kakpeu right away, and instead of spending my money on sacrifices, I use my money to really help my family. And when my mother saw the difference in my life, she wanted to learn about Jesus too.”

Today, Jalam leads a regular prayer group devoted to asking God to save others in their village. “I have been sharing my faith with my friends too and by God’s grace one of them has given his life to Christ,” he says with a smile, “this is the life God wants for me.”