More Trials for Rashid

I continue to be both burdened and inspired by the trials my friend “Rashid” is experiencing in Greece.  (See previous posts At What Cost? and the Update) He was again arrested and the situation much worse this time…and yet…read on to see how he perseveres and even shares his faith in the midst of this.  Here is his account:

I was arrested last Friday and was detained in this horrible prison no food, no water, no toilet, for more then 2 days and nights, after 6 days with the Grace of God and with the help of my one brother in Christ, I am back home.  I make this video in my cell phone there was one more longer and clear video but police man have seen me making video and after they grab me out and 3 police man start beating me like animals, and removed video.  I recover it now, but unfortunately can not recover the other one. I make disciples in prison, looking forward to send some one for meeting with them. My Greek friend was in police station today for meeting with those guys, and now they have my number so now I can communicate with them. I was arrested before 2 or 3 times but this time behavior of police was totally changed.  They were full with hate and when asking from them food or water, they answered “If we go to your countries you will give us food or water? NO, you will kill us, so why you are asking for water or food?  It was strange for me, I never seen this situation in previous 7 years, remember me in your prayers.

Why I share Gospel in this situation its not because of me, its because of Jesus, when everyone is in hard and difficult times, we can not do anything but just remember God and pray to Him, so mostly in prison every one do this.  I try to give knowledge to guys about whom they can pray, who is listening to them, who can take there pains and provide them comfort, and that is only Jesus, he love us and we love him, he is the way of truth and life. One guy was Hindu, 3 was Muslims, some was open to listen , some was accepting, and start praying with the name of Jesus, i am not doing anything, its the power of holy spirit.”

Please continue to pray for Rashid.  And as before, he may read this blog so you can leave him a message here in the comments if you like.

Do You Have A Story to Tell?

It has been fascinating to work here in Athens. Part of my job, along with fellow creative, David Kitch, is to work with missionaries who go out amongst the immigrant population to share the message of Christ. I admire their boldness and willingness to move and work outside the comfort zone of my western mindset.

“Hey, let me tell you a story!”

One of the areas we are tasked with is helping them tell their own faith story. I grew up in the church and as a kid this was a common and frequent part of Sunday School, youth group and church life. Over the years I think it has become something of a lost art in the life of the average Christian. We may talk a lot about God and what we believe, but I fear the conversation is more shaped by arguing, debating or trying to persuade others to believe like we do. It is rarely the simple story of “this is what happened to me.”

As I am listening and working through this with others here in Athens, I am reminded again of the power of our stories. We are encouraging them to break their faith story into three simple parts:

1) My life before Christ.

2) How I came to follow Christ.

3) How my life is different after following Christ.

We can talk and argue theology but it is hard to argue with personal story–what we know to be true through our own life experience. Of course that story is changing as we grow in experience and knowledge. That story I told back in the church of my youth has changed as my understanding of God changes. It doesn’t negate the validity of the original story, but it does change my understanding of what has happened in my life as a result.

I encourage you to go back to the basics. The 1,2, and 3 of your journey in your faith story. You just might find the reliving and retelling of your story to be a very renewing process!

At What Cost?

Imagine being beaten by your father because you were left handed instead of right handed…

Imagine being beaten publicly by your mother for not praying long enough at the mosque…

Imagine that those beatings with a plastic water supply pipe were severe enough to be brought to the attention of the police… yet when they were, they were easily dismissed because as a Muslim, this was “a family matter” not a crime at all.

Hard to imagine isn’t it? Yet that is part of the story of Rashid (not his real name), a Pakistani living in asylum in Athens. There is a lot more to Rashid’s story. After being an outcast from his family, seeking freedom and a chance to live his own life, he became one of the thousands of immigrants and refugees who have flooded Athens, where over 80% of the immigrant population of Europe find entry.

Rashid has relatives in Athens and thought he would be welcome here among them, but found out that was not the case. He has been able to find work but has been living as a man with out a country and without a family for the last 7 years.

Earlier this year Rashid became a follower of Jesus Christ. In so many stories of the Christian faith we love to hear this, and anticipate the “happily ever after” summary statement. No question, Rashid’s life is changed, and he has found peace in his heart. A follower who is eagerly sharing his faith with others, including his family. But it is not easy and not happily ever after.

Yesterday we were out in the city of Athens with Rashid. He took us to a Pakistani restaurant, a first for me. I enjoyed the food, but while we were eating government tax officials came in and began inspecting the records of the restaurant owner, at one point even inspecting the receipt on our table. This was just the first glimpse into how the immigrant population is being scrutinized here in Greece, an effect of the economic collapse in this country.

Later in the day while sitting in a public square, plain-clothed police were rounding up immigrants, arresting them and putting them on a bus. While legally in Greece, all of Rashid’s papers were not in order. He has been arrested before, and said if confronted, he would be detained and it would take some time to get everything straightened out. We could sense some uneasiness and quickly moved to another location.

Twice, while riding the subways, Greek men shouted insults at Rashid, one of them even shoving him, all because he is a Pakistani–the message clear, “you are not welcome here.” Rashid is clearly shaken, as are we. And we pray for him… and for his enemies.

Since becoming a follower of Christ, the situation with his family has gotten worse. They are trying various different things to get him to recant his faith. His mother has threatened to kill herself, and his brother is pursuing legal sanction to kill him for converting to Christianity.

Rashid’s response. “I love my family.” He is in communication with his brother and is actively challenging him to read and study who Jesus is in hopes he will also become a follower of Jesus.

Rashid’s story rattles me. You sometimes hear about those things from a distance, living in our Christian bubble… I begin to realize anew how little I have suffered. How little my discipleship has cost me.

I am learning more of what it really means to be a Christ follower from Rashid.

UPDATE! Rashid was recently arrested. Find out what happened in this follow-up.

To Tell the Greatest Story Ever Told

I have some exciting news. I have been invited to take our ministry to both Athens, Greece and Madrid, Spain this summer. I will be working with a ministry called Greater European Mission. Europe knows all about religion, but the knowledge and experience keep most from discovering a life-changing relationship with Jesus. Europe needs a new wave of people following Jesus in such a way that others are drawn to do the same. GEM is working to ignite discipleship movements in 50 cities in Europe over the next five years, and then working to rapidly create churches.

I will be a part of a team of artists and communication specialists that will be training individuals on the power of story as a means of sharing the Gospel.  The goal is to equip both long term workers and short term missionaries to be more effective in sharing the story of Christ as well as telling their own personal stories in order to communicate the Good News.  As one who believes in the power of story, I am sure you can see why this approach is exciting to me and one that believe can truly make a difference!

The dates of my journey are August 4-16. As with other mission trips of this type, I am going as a volunteer and will need to raise support to be able to be a part of the team.  Would you to prayerfully consider being a partner with me in this venture.  I will need to raise about $2000 to cover my travel expenses. If you can help please send your gift to:
Master’s Image Productions
P.O. Box 903, Salem, OR 97308

Or you can donate online through Paypal (including credit cards) by clicking this button:

Gifts are tax-deductible.

Even if you can’t support with dollars, we ask you to support us with your prayers. Pray for safety, that hearts will be open to the message and that opportunities will abound! Also pray for my wife, Lorie, as these longer trips are never easy for her. Thanks for joining us in the journey!

Serving the Lord dramatically,

Chuck Neighbors

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