Will You Dare to Love?

By Seyed Mostafa Zamani

DARE TO LOVE
It’s all over the news. The world can’t stop watching. We shouldn’t stop watching. We know that all around the world there are people being persecuted. It may be for their social position, for their unique abilities, for their family status or it may be for their faith.

In Iraq there are many people who fall into that last category. You’ve seen it on the news if you are even remotely plugged in to what’s going on in the world. The President has spoken on it several times lately. In Iraq, Christians are being given an ultimatum. “Convert, pay up… or DIE.” Yep, those are the options. Give up your faith, pay them money, or ‘face the sword’. Wow, sounds like an offer they can’t refuse.

In a country where the national average is $5000, a lot of people don’t have the money to spare in order to pay ‘protection money’. 25% of the people in Iraq live below the poverty line. So they run. Leaving all they have known, towards the unknown with just the clothes on their backs. It’s all over the news. How can we see this and do nothing?

Forced to dig through garbage to help make a living for their families. Photo from UN.

Forced to dig through garbage to help make a living for their families. Photo from UN.

A sweet friend of mine, along with a few of her friends, have set up an organization called ‘DARE TO LOVE’. They aren’t a national organization, but they have their hearts set on the nation of Iraq. They are selling t-shirts and giving 75% of the proceeds to ‘Samaritan’s Purse’. I asked her a few questions and would like to share them with you.

Alex has been on my blog before. If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll remember her as we followed her journey with her sweet daughter Noel. Now, Alex has taken up the cause of many other families.

Thanks, Alex for chatting with me. Tell us, what is it about this cause that drew your attention?

As you know Caleb and I lost Noel 16 months ago. I’m a completely different person from 16 months ago. I may not physically look different but if you were to look at my heart, it would be crushed into a billion different pieces. Not only because I lost my daughter but because God reveals to me everyday that I’m not the only one with a heart in this condition. Reading and learing and seeing what is happening in Iraq would leave me speechless. I asked God to impress on my heart what the Iraqi people were feeling. An overwhelming amount of sadness and heartache and hopelessness came over me. I knew, this is how they feel times 100. I would wake up in the middle of the night and cry and pray. I can only imagine how it would feel to lose a loved one the way they have. To lose a child the way they have. So I guess to answer the question, my heart breaks every day for them.

How did the ‘Dare to Love’ idea begin?

I recently ordered a shirt from two girls to benefit The A21 Campaign, a campaign that saves and helps human trafficking victims. I wanted to do something similar, ok well the exact same, ha ha ha! I know it may seem silly but I really admired what they did and thought doing something like this was out of reach. I read something Christine Caine said, “If you can figure a way to make it happen, you need to DREAM BIGGER.” Well, I figured a way to make this happen, so I just need to dream bigger.

How did you determine the right charity to donate the money to?

I’m not sure if you know this but a Franklin Graham Festival came through El Paso, TX this year in April. I was blessed enough to work for them. Franklin Graham started Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse has been helping people who are suffering in Iraq. Since I worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association choosing Samaritan’s Purse was a no brainer. And of course I prayed about it!

Why shirts?

I think a shirt is a great way to promote anything. Not only are you donating to a worthy cause but you become a walking billboard. If someone asks, “What’s Dare to Love?” you can tell them what it is and why you decided to give to this specific charity and cause. I think we would be shocked by how many people are blinded by what’s happening in the world, so the shirt is a great conversation starter.

CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE HERE! Help Iraqi families and get your shirt to start the conversation!

Click here to help families in Iraq!

I’d love to add first names here of people who donated! Will you be the first? Let me know if you donate and I’ll add your name here!!

________________________

~Sarah

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Modern Day Paul

Pastor Saeed 3

This is a different kind of ‘World Moment’ today.  A much more important one.  One man’s life hangs in the balance and we may be able to change it for the better.

Many of you may know Pastor Saeed’s story, but for those of you who don’t, here it is.  This is taken from www.savesaeed.org.

“Most of us know that there are places in the world where Christians undergo immense persecution for their faith. But distance breeds forgetfulness, and for too many of us, out of sight does mean out of mind. We cannot, however, forget our imprisoned brothers and sisters.

Saeed Abedini, a 33-year-old Pastor, father, and husband from Idaho, is currently imprisoned in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. On 28 July 2012, during a visit to Tehran to visit family and to finalize the board members for an orphanage he was building in Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard detained Saeed, asserting that he must face criminal charges for his Christian faith. After intense interrogations, Saeed was placed under house arrest and told to wait for a court summons. On 26 September 2012, instead of receiving a summons telling him where to appear, five members of the Revolutionary Guard raided Saeed’s parents’ home in Tehran, confiscated many of Saeed’s belongings, and took him to an unknown location. After four days the Revolutionary Guard informed the family that Saeed was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison.

Saeed remained in solitary confinement for approximately four weeks before he was moved to Evin Prison. During solitary confinement, Saeed was only brought out of his small, dark cell to be subjected to abusive interrogations.

Saeed has been beaten and threatened with death for his faith. In a letter Saeed penned from prison on 10 January 2013, Saeed said: I am “told I will hang for my faith in Jesus” and that he suffered “intense pains after beatings in interrogations.” He appeared before Judge Pir-Abassi on 21 January 2013, to present his defence  The lawyer confirmed in Iranian news that Saeed was on trial for intentionally undermining the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. Saeed and his attorney argued that his intention in gathering with Christian believers was motivated solely by his faith and that he had no intent to undermine the government. Judge Pir-Abassi had requested Saeed’s lawyer go to the media and state that the trial was conducted fairly and that he would be let out on bail soon. Yet, the family had sought bail in the past, and was repeatedly denied.

One week after Saeed had presented his defence, he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. He has been in prison for more than 220 days.
Saeed had been denied medical treatment for infections that resulted from beatings. The ward doctor and nurse refused to treat him because, as a Christian, he was considered “unclean” and an infidel. Saeed’s family in Tehran may visit Saeed on Mondays, but he is not permitted to make phone calls, cutting him off from his wife and two young children in the U.S.

Pastor Saeed 2

In late February it became known that Saeed was suffering from internal bleeding, an injury from beatings he endured during interrogations. Doctors examined Saeed in early March and determined that his injuries warranted immediate attention, and, in their medical opinion, he needed to be treated in a non-prison hospital. For a month, the Iranian regime ignored this advice. In an attempt to appease international pressure, on 8 April 2013, the Saeed was taken to a private hospital. Before doing so, guards forced Saeed to change his prison uniform to that of a murderer. Saeed resisted, the guards beat him, and forced him to wear the uniform. When Saeed arrived at the hospital he was never admitted or treated because, according to the guards, the doctor on staff was not present. Saeed has reported that several cell-mates  who appear to be connected to the Iranian intelligence police, have threatened to suffocate Saeed while he sleeps.

Recently, Saeed’s condition became even more serious. Having been denied medical attention, he was thrown into solitary confinement. Beforehand, Saeed complained of kidney pain. He and the several other prisoners wrote a letter to prison officials in peaceful protest of lack of access to medical attention. In response, Iranian officials placed ten prisoners under solitary confinement, Saeed among them. Last time he was in solitary confinement, his medical condition substantially worsened. There is no reason to believe this time will be different. Saeed is now cut off from any visitation.

A petition has been started in Saeed’s name, and it quickly received overwhelming media attention. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for his release, the White House has called for his release, and the House of Representatives held an emotional hearing that highlighted Pastor Saeed’s plight. Multiple nations have called for Saeed’s release, and ACLJ attorneys have argued his case before the United Nations. Saeed’s petition has over 610,000 signatures and a letter writing campaign to encourage Saeed has garnered over 50,000 letters. Artists such as Toby Mac, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Mercy Me, Skillet, Relient K, and Audio Adrenaline have been involved, and lent their voices to raise awareness.

There is still much to be done. Keep up with Saeed’s story through the Be Heard Project. Share his story on social media using #SaveSaeed and #BeHeard.”

Here is a letter from Pastor Saeed:

We’re working through Philippians in church these days and I cannot help but see the similarities in Pastor Saeed’s letters and the Apostle Paul’s.

Both struggle and face hardship in prison.  Both of them talk of desiring to see God move in the lives of those imprisoned around them.  Both encourage the believers that read or hear the letter to remain steadfast and seek the Lord in times of trouble.  Amazing men of faith in times of terrible persecution.

I hope that you will join me in reaching out to the Iranian government to release Paster Saeed.  After nearly a year of imprisonment and torture for his faith, it’s time for him to go home to his family.

You can sign the petition, sign a letter and join in the fight to get Pastor Saeed home, here:

http://www.beheardproject.com/saeed

Also, you can join in the prayer vigil to be held on September 28th!

Pastor Saeed 1

Thank you.
~Sarah

World Moment: Grenada

GRENADA

Granada flagGranada is a large island north of Trinidad.  The population is just over 100,000.  In 2004 and 2005, hurricanes devastated the island.  While fewer than 40 people were killed, 90% of the nations buildings were destroyed, and the agriculture and tourism sectors were virtually annihilated.  They have been rebuilt, but the nation is deeply in debt as a result.

The ocean life also required support after the hurricanes and was assisted in a very cool way.  Artist Jason de Caires Taylor created an underwater sculpture garden to help support the reef and encourage growth and habitation of marine life.  Here’s a very cool photo of some of his work in Grenada!

Underwater Sculpture GardenWe can pray for this nation to continue to rebuild and to trust in God, rather than material things.

Granadian Woman

~Sarah

 

 

World Moment: Nauru

This is a new feature I’d like to start doing on my blog.  I’d like to take one minute (or so) and give you some information on a random country in the world.  We’re going through a really cool book with our kids called ‘Operation World‘ and I am learning a TON about this world I thought I knew.  I won’t go into a ton of detail.  I’ll leave that to you to investigate if you choose to.  So, here’s the very first country I’ve chosen:

NauruNAURU

Nauru is a 21 sq km coral island in the South Pacific, and is home to a little over 10,000 people.  One of the coolest things about this amazing little nation is that they shut down offshore banking on the Internet.  Why is that cool? Because the government discovered that it was being used as a front for the money-laundering activities of Russian criminals.  It was a courageous and bold move because it stopped the flow of that money through the country… an amount approaching tens of billions of dollars a year!  They have chosen what is right over getting rich!  What an awesome example they are!  They saw corruption and didn’t just turn their heads but did something about it.

I am praying that they are blessed for this courageous stand!

~Sarah

Thanks for stopping in on my World Moment.  Have you heard of Nauru before?

Nauru family