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You can help the church in the Middle East put hope at the centre
Hope is a powerful thing – something that Father Daniel from Iraq knows well. “I come from a generation which has never known peace,” he says. “I grew up in the middle of persecution, in the middle of wars. And all of this shaped me into who I am today.”
He grew up in 1990s Iraq, a country where Christians are discriminated against and targeted for their beliefs. On his 16th birthday, his family received a death threat from radical Islamic groups in Baghdad: “The threat was a paper wrapped in a bullet and dipped in blood. It was written in the threat that we need to leave in 24 hours, otherwise we are going to be killed. So we left by that night, I remember. It was very difficult for me to leave my friends, my school, my relatives, my home, my room. All of this left me feeling that I was lonely. No one was there for me.”
Father Daniel was only a young priest in Erbil when, in 2014, Islamic State invaded large parts of the country. “When I was 24 years old, ISIS came to Iraq,” he recalls. “Many Christians started to leave their homes, because they were coming and invading their houses and their towns and cities.”
But Father Daniel courageously stayed behind to take care of the believers and refugees who wouldn’t – or couldn’t – flee. “My church became a shelter for more than 1,600 families – Christian families. But at the same time, many parish members from my church, they started to migrate and leave the country, going to Jordan, to Turkey. I started my ministry with 120 families in 2014, but now we have only 30 families which remain.”
In 2015, a Spring Harvest offering helped Open Doors partners provide relief aid and trauma care to many. “Your supporters helped us from the beginning to go through all of these dark times,” Father Daniel says. “And they were the light which came to us from nowhere. They helped us through so many projects which gave hope to us, like the trauma healing training and the leadership training, and also the Bible studies and so many other activities that we’ve done with their help.”
This year, Iraq is number 14 on the Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. The country’s Christian population has dwindled considerably due to conflict and terrorism – more than 80 per cent have fled the country since 2003. While so-called Islamic State (IS) have lost ground, militants are still very much active, and Christians continue to face threats and persecution from them. Believers also face discrimination from government authorities.
But our sisters and brothers in Christ continue to proclaim the hope of the gospel across Iraq, raising neon crosses above their homes and churches that shine out in defiance of the darkness around them.
Despite the struggles Christians face, Father Daniel knows that the hope of Christ is at the centre of the survival of the church. “I have learned through the years that it’s not about the number of people, but it’s all about the strength of faith that they have,” he says. And, with your prayers and support, the church can continue to be a beacon of hope to the whole of the Middle East.
“We ask our brothers and sisters not to forget us and to stay in solidarity with us,” Father Daniel says. “We ask the global church to pray for us and to support us and to speak on our behalf.”
Father Daniel will be speaking at Spring Harvest this year, and you’re invited – stay tuned for dates and times. You can also find out more at the Open Doors stand – just look for the neon cross!
For more information, go to opendoorsuk.org/springharvest
Looking for Christian resources for your home group, church service or even your own personal daily devotional times?
We want to introduce you to our new resources website. It's called EC-GO.
EC-GO is Essential Christian’s brand-new website for Christian teaching and resources. The website offers a collection of Christian resources to help inspire, encourage and equip you in your faith; all accessible on smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.
All you need to do is sign-up to discover exciting, helpful, and insightful videos and audio recordings specifically chosen to help you grow and enrich your home-group, church, or individual relationship with God. We also offer a growing library of home group content to use alongside the video and audio recordings containing inspiring thoughts, discussion starters, associated resources and more are all there for you to dig deeper into the excellent featured talks.
Simply ‘Discover. Grow. Go.’
Since EC-GO went live in June we've been asked several questions. Below are the answers to those FAQs.
Why have you created EC-GO?
At Spring Harvest we want to equip the church for action, not just at Easter time but throughout the year. Equipping the church for action starts with you. The church is made up of millions of people just like you. You matter. Your spiritual life matters. Whatever you feed, grows. EC-GO is all about nourishment, the nourishment of your spiritual life.
Your spiritual life is directly linked to your everyday experience of life. And in that everyday experience we all go through seasons: seasons of growth, seasons of struggle, seasons of celebration, and seasons of lament.
With that in mind, we have brought years of event videos and audio recordings into one place online to form one big library of teaching resources. These teaching resources cover a number of topics for every season of life. In the past we have sold cassettes, CDs, DVDs and USB sticks at our events. We will selectively continue to do this but EC-GO will be the place where new event content will all be available, ready for you to listen to and watch.
Why is it called EC-GO?
‘EC’ stands for Essential Christian. This is the name for our group of organisations whose aim it is to resource the church for action. Spring Harvest is part of the Essential Christian group. This is why many videos and audio recordings on EC-GO are from past Spring Harvest events. The second part of the name, ‘GO’, refers to how we hope you use the resources on EC-GO – on the move.
We hope that you are inspired, encouraged and equipped by these resources to go out into your communities, workplaces and schools and spread the good news of Jesus.
What is available on EC-GO?
We have lots of exciting content already live. When you sign up you can expect to find teaching videos and audio recordings, homegroup materials, children’s group resources and much more. New home group resources are uploaded monthly. When you sign-up to EC-GO we'll send you a monthly email telling you about the new resources we've just uploaded and what is coming in the near future.
How much does a subscription to EC-GO cost?
EC-GO costs £5.99 a month or £65 per year.
When will my subscription to EC-GO start?
When you sign up we’ll authorise your account and then you’re good to go! Your subscription to EC-GO lasts for a year.
Will Spring Harvest Home 21 content be included?
Yes! Selected Spring Harvest Home 21 videos and audio are available on EC-GO.
We're so excited to have launched EC-GO earlier this year and we hope God blesses you through the resources on the website.
Click below to register for a subscription to EC-GO.
Here at Spring Harvest, we partner with several Christian organisations from around the world. One of those organisations is Open Doors. We’re incredibly proud and excited to help our friends at Open Doors reach more people with their message.
It’s our privilege to stand with them in their mission to serve and support persecuted Christians and churches worldwide.
As we reflect back on so many special moments from Spring Harvest Home 21, perhaps one of our favourite highlights was standing together with them to help provide vital support to the plight of 1,000 secret Christians.
In fact, you may also remember that truly breathtaking moment when Helen Yousaf not only led us in worship but created a prophetic masterpiece.
This prophetic work of art, titled 1,000 Secret Believers, depicted our persecuted brothers and sisters living in countries where they are unable to freely live out their faith.
It represented their stories of turmoil, rejection but also redemption in the hands of God.
Thanks to your incredible response during our online event, Open Doors has been able to support 249 secret believers across the globe – thank you so much!
As we continue to stand together in our shared vision to support God’s global church, there is so much we can learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters.
Living in the Middle East, Taher is one of many secret Christians who has courageously been living his life for Jesus. Now he is sharing his story.
When Taher's faith was discovered and the secret police took him away, he was faced with the unimaginable choice of either giving up the names of his Christian friends or seeing his whole family imprisoned.
Even when Taher was tortured and threatened, he stood firm in his faith, being comforted and strengthened in the truth that God was his rock and salvation.
You can watch the whole of Taher’s story below.
No Christian should face persecution alone - and thanks to your incredible response at Spring Harvest 2021, Open Doors is meeting secret believers like Taher at every stage of their journey, offering practical and spiritual support.
While you’ll hearing lots more from Open Doors throughout their year, we’re particularly excited to have them join us safely in-person for Spring Harvest 2022.
As we delve deep into our new event theme: Restore, Renew, Rebuild, we can’t wait for them to share wisdom and insight on this theme within the context of the persecuted church.
Until then, will you help us continue the mission to reach at least 1,000 secret believers who are daring to share Jesus no matter the cost? Be part of their story today.
Have you ever wondered about what it costs to follow Jesus? Here in the west, we are free to read our bibles, pray and meet with other Christians safely and legally. But what about Christians who live in countries where following Jesus is against the law?
This week, Open Doors Emma Worrall, explains the true cost of following Christ in countries where it is dangerous or illegal to be a Christian.
Think of your church.
Now, first, imagine that you can’t meet in person.
That won’t take a big stretch of the imagination, given the past year, and how 2021 is shaping up. But now imagine you don’t even know who the other members of your church are.
Isolation. Being alone is a part of your everyday experience. Imagine meeting to worship knowing it’s potentially dangerous, deadly even.
Imagine knowing your every move is watched. How would anybody find out? People in your neighbourhood would be trained to spot you. They wouldn’t just be looking for signs that you met with other believers – they’d be trained to spot if you closed your eyes briefly before eating food, or inadvertently hummed a Christian song. Even your children might give the game away. They would be told to inform their teachers if they see you reading a little black book.
Open Doors secret fieldworkers are supporting Christians who've managed to flee to China, through underground networks.
Since 2002, North Korea has been the most dangerous place to be a Christian. And it still is. North Korea tops the 2021 Open Doors World Watch List – the list ranking the 50 most dangerous places to be a Christian.
But it’s certainly not the only country where Christians face extreme persecution. In many countries – including Eritrea, Iran, Afghanistan and Somalia – secret Christians know that they could be imprisoned, tortured or even killed if their faith is discovered.
Will you show love to your worldwide family facing persecution for choosing to follow Jesus?
You can discover the top 50 countries where worshipping Jesus really costs and fuel your prayers this year for persecuted brothers and sisters and let them know they’re not alone. Not alone. Not forgotten. Not ever.
Click the button below to learn more about the incredible work Open Doors are involved in.
Spring Harvest Home 21 is excited to be partnering with Open Doors this year. We stand with them as they help to resource Christians across the world in some of the most dangerous places to follow Christ.
Open Doors works in over 60 countries, supplying Bibles, training church leaders, providing practical support and emergency relief, and supporting Christians who suffer for their faith. In the UK and Ireland, Open Doors works to raise awareness of global persecution, mobilising prayer, support and action among Christians.
By Andy Flannagan, Executive Director of Christians in Politics
In the wake of the US elections, the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and the current leadership through COVID-19 in the UK, many believers are engaging more heavily in political debates. Our leaders are under scrutiny and opinions are readily formed. In moments where their private lives hit the headlines, I’ve too often recently heard Christians say things like “we only care about whether they get the job done” or “we’re not electing a pastor, we’re electing a president”.
I understand what people mean by those statements, but I want to drive a stake through the flawed ‘sacred-secular’ divide exposed and encourage Christians to approach things differently.
We shouldn’t disconnect ethics from leadership. Politics isn’t just about getting things done, and when you study any organisation you’ll discover they are built in the image of their leaders. Just like business leaders, political leaders establish the culture and are role models and influencers of the public square.
If we are created in the image of God, as set out in the theological idea of Imago Dei (or ID as I’ll call it) from Genesis 1:26-28, then the link between governance and character shouldn’t be bypassed, as it often is in our current public square. Quite simply, if we are made in the image of God then we are called to govern because he governs. And we are called to govern in a way that represents him to the world.
Being made in God’s image is more about a physical representation of something or someone (Ex. 20:4; Matt. 22:20), it is our whole human being that is an image of God’s attributes, mirrored in the way we live.
That often manifests in our character, and the Greek roots of the word - kharaktēr – means ‘a stamping or engraving tool which gives a distinctive mark’. We are all engraved with God’s image, it’s part of our character, and that character should be displayed in all aspects of life – both private and public. To put it another way, like a stick of rock, wherever you bite into us, we should be displaying who we truly are.
At Christians in Politics we believe in the importance of developing character and being true to the ‘distinctive mark’ we’ve been given by God. Yes, we are made in the image of God, but our character develops over time only through accountable relationships and discipleship (Paul makes it clear that this is a process in 2 Corinthians 3:18). Our hope is that the next generation of public leaders are better supported and nourished than the previous generation. Our hope is that they will have people alongside holding up their arms and calling them back to that ID engraved in their lives. Without that support, encouragement and challenge the image of God may become increasingly hard to discern, and our politics will suffer deeply because of it.
It is in times like our present crisis, when a government is making life and death decisions on our behalf, we need to be able to trust them. In any relationship trust is built by an accumulation of promises fulfilled and truth spoken. As some world leaders are now discovering, if you develop a reputation of doing the opposite of that, when you need to communicate something very important, the wheels come off. Of course, the reality is that governments are always making life and death decisions but for some of us, our relative prosperity and comfortable lifestyles often mean we don’t experience them at first hand.
If you look at the memoirs and biographies of every Prime Minister of the UK, you will quickly see that their defining moments weren’t policies and manifestos, but their response and reaction to unfolding events. We need leaders who aren’t easily influenced by shouts from Twitter, “The City” or other vested interests. We need leaders who pause to consult ancient wisdom and scripture. We need leaders who put a high value on truth, so that when they look us in the eye and tell us something we don’t want to hear, we can bear that cost with trust and a sense that we are together serving a common good. We need leaders of character. And at Christians in Politics we are wondering if you might be one of them.
Let’s finish with the one who did perfectly carry the ID. When Jesus responded to the trick question of “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?”, he intentionally framed his response in the realm of engraved images. He asked for a coin, which had the graven image of Caesar on it. So the coin stays true to its identity by going back to Caesar, and we stay true to our identity by allowing our lives to be given back to God.
People with a spine of ID-infused character are secure enough in themselves to be able to listen to an opposing point of view. People with a spine of ID-infused character are humble enough to admit they may not always get everything right. People with a spine of ID-infused character are not clinging to the identity of a tribe so tightly because they know their true identity in Christ. As a result they are not responding with visceral venom when their tribe is maligned. We need more people like that in politics in the US and the UK. Might you be one of them?
Andy Flannagan is the Executive Director of Christians in Politics and former Director of Christians on the Left. Andy longs to see a just rewiring of the global economic system. He and his wife Jenny live in Luton where they actively build friendships and community. Andy is also a writer and singer-songwriter – his books include God 360 and Distinctive Worship, along with a number of creative and critically acclaimed albums. As an Irishman, Andy’s proudest moment was captaining England’s Barmy Army during the Ashes in Australia.
Did you know that 5,800,000 older people say that the television or their pet is their main form of company? 5.8 million people. And that was before the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
As we enter enhanced lockdown restrictions, and seven months since a first full lockdown, Covid19 has affected people across society, but older people have been particularly impacted in terms of their health and liberty. Many healthy older people over 70 will have been frustrated at having to ‘shield’ at home, and many vulnerable or frail older people will be fearful, anxious and uncertain of the future; and some will have suffered the loss of loved ones.
And so as we enter this new period of restrictions and with Christmas fast approaching, it is critical that we don’t forget about the older people around us, in our family, in our church, on our street. Life is difficult, but we also have an amazing opportunity to share the hope of Jesus, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to be the light in the darkness.
As we read in John 1 v 5, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’.
But what does that mean practically? The good news is that all we need to do is be intentional about loving our neighbour. Churches are ideally placed across our nation, to reach out into community, and so church is a good place to start. Let’s be checking on the older members of our church. Does your church have a telephone rota, to call the older people in your church who are living alone? Maybe we can invite some of those older people to join in with telephone fellowship and they themselves could be paired with another member of the church who lives alone and would value conversation.
When it comes to older people in our wider communities, we can reach out, and ensure no one feels forgotten. During the first lockdown there were many stories of people putting leaflets in letterboxes on their streets, offering practical support or a chat on the phone. Maybe you could send a postcard to an older person to remind them that they are not forgotten.
Maybe you could give an older person you know a call? Last year 2.5 million people aged 75+ had never used the internet, but the good news is that the telephone is enjoying a renaissance. In response to coronavirus, Faith in Later Life, along with the Church of England and Holy Trinity Claygate, set up the Daily Hope telephone line, a free service for older people, broadcasting hymns, reflections and prayers, 24/7, over the phone. The number is 0800 804 8044 and it is free from UK landlines and mobiles. Do you know an older person who could benefit?
As we navigate through this difficult season, let’s remember the older people around us. Who can you phone today for a chat?
Carl Knightly is the CEO of Faith in Later Life, a Christian charity seeking to reach, serve and empower older people everywhere- against a backdrop of loneliness and isolation; particularly important amidst the global coronavirus crisis.
Find out more about Faith in Later Life by visiting their website below.
In recent weeks we have all seen and felt the immense pain of racial injustice. So much has been brought to the surface following the death of George Floyd.
The Board of Essential Christian (the Charity that runs Spring Harvest) recognises that it is easy to mouth platitudes, and that words are not enough. Nonetheless, we believe it is vital we respond to this devastating reminder that there is still a long way to go until all are equal. We stand with all our brothers and sisters in Christ in strongly condemning racism in all its forms. We are sorry for any part we may have played in, and regret where we have not done enough to combat racism.
At Spring Harvest in recent years, we have been intentionally pursuing better integration and have made encouraging progress. People from different ethnic minority and cultural backgrounds are core members of our team and friends around the table. We intentionally invite open conversations with many friends, and plan together, so that we can better engage with the issues of racial injustice and reconciliation. We know there is still a long way to go and remain committed to the journey. We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ requires that we work for change – and for the Church to truly reflect the new humanity in which we are all one in Christ Jesus.
We hope to provide some constructive resources to aid our thinking around these issues. During the week beginning 22 June, our daily 10am YouTube devotionals will be led by people with experience of racial injustice starting with Beatrice Smith. Beatrice is part of the Spring Harvest team and has a powerful story, with members of her family continuing to experience legal injustice today. Her book, The Search for Home makes compelling reading. We are delighted that Les Isaac, founder of Street Pastors and a regular Spring Harvest speaker, will also contribute.
At Minehead in 2017, as we explored the topic of unity, Chair of the One People Commission, Yemi Adedeji and then Director of the Evangelical Alliance, Steve Clifford spoke about “Disagreeing Well” together in our arena venue and were interviewed about their journey of friendship and church integration. You can watch this powerful moment here.
On Thursday 18 June at 8.00pm, Yemi and Steve will be live on our Spring Harvest YouTube Channel to take your questions. Do send some in advance and join us at the time to pose more. Their excellent book The (Im)Possible Dream was produced to help leaders and leadership teams work towards better ethnic integration within our churches, organisations and communities.
On Thursday 25 June at 8.00pm, also on YouTube, Gavin Calver, Chair of the Spring Harvest Planning Group and CEO of the Evangelical Alliance, will interview Ben Lindsay, Pastor, Activist and Author of We Need to Talk About Race. It’s a brilliant book and Ben has so much helpful experience and advice for individuals and churches who want to make progress in this field.
Please join us for these sessions which we hope will help us talk more openly and take further steps towards equality. We will continue looking to Jesus, listening to each other and learning to change as we ask for God’s help in honouring his image in us.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit,and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplatethe Lord’s glory,are being transformed into his imagewith ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Further Helpful Resources
We agree wholeheartedly with the clarion call for justice from Yemi Adedeji and Gavin Calver released by the Evangelical Alliance, of which we are a member. Yemi and Gavin are also part of our Spring Harvest Planning Group.
Christianity and Racism conversation chaired by Chine McDonald for BBC Sounds.
God Is Not a White Man & Other Revelations by Chine McDonald will be published by Hodder Faith in summer 2021.
An MP3 talk from Spring Harvest 2017: Yemi Adedeji and Steve Clifford – Thank God We’re Different
An MP3 talk from Spring Harvest 2017: Chine McDonald – How Race and Gender Impact our Unity as Christians
An MP3 talk from New Wine 2019: Ben Lindsay – We Need to Talk About Race
A video talk from Spring Harvest Home 2020: Yemi Adedeji – Unleashed Integration
A video talk from Spring Harvest Home 2020: Usha Reifsnider – Cross-cultural mission in relation to migrants
Book lists for exploring racial justice with children:
The Gospel Coalition – Five children’s books on racism and the gospel
PBS Kids – Children’s books about race and diversity