SBC DIGEST: Lifeway film spotlights persecution; IMB missionary’s COVID battle; Missionary parents gather for prayer, fellowship

New film highlights plight, prayers of persecuted Christians worldwide

By Lifeway Staff

NASHVILLE, (BP) – “Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi Years,” a new film from Lifeway and Fathom Events, shines a light on the story of persecution faced by Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand, co-founders of the nonprofit The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). The film releases in theaters Nov. 8-10, following the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians on Nov. 7.

Filmed on location in Bucharest, Romania, “Sabina” traces the true story of Sabina Wurmbrand, who died in 2000. After Wurmbrand’s parents and siblings were killed in Nazi concentration camps, she and her husband Richard ran an underground ministry to refugees and Russian occupation troops in Romania and Hungary.

Like Christians living in hostile areas around the world today, the Wurmbrands chose to give up their comfort and safety in order to find a life that counts for eternity.

The first request of persecuted Christians around the world, who continue to suffer today for wearing the name of Christ just as the Wurmbrands did, is “Pray for us!” VOM is inviting Christians everywhere to be part of a global prayer movement on Nov. 7 to pray for the persecuted church.

“It is important to understand that Christian persecution is not a myth or a thing of the past, something that ended after the last chapter of Acts. It is happening in more than 70 nations right now – in the 21st Century,” said Todd Nettleton, host of The Voice of the Martyrs Radio. “Powerful stories like Sabina’s are a testament to the remarkable faith of our Christian brothers and sisters who would rather give up comfort, safety or even their lives than deny Jesus. I hope that we all find inspiration in Sabina’s example – and the example of so many modern-day heroes of faith – to pay any necessary price to obey Christ’s call.”

“Sabina conveys the realities of religious persecution and the cost of following Christ when faith is forbidden. Experiencing the Nazi occupation of Romania in 1940, the Wurmbrands were captured, imprisoned and tortured. Rising above circumstances, the couple chose to view their persecutors not as enemies but as an opportunity for mission – to show the love and forgiveness displayed by the Gospel.

Channeling their passion to help fellow believers who found themselves giving their all for Christ, the Wurmbrands co-founded VOM, an interdenominational missions organization that today continues to serve persecuted Christians around the world.

“Our hope on [the International Day of Prayer] is that millions of Christians will answer their simple request, and also will be inspired by their example to pay any price necessary in obedience to Christ,” Nettleton said.

To equip churches to pray on Nov. 7, VOM is offering free resources, including Finding Life, a short video sharing one chapter from the Wurmbrands’ story, guided prayer slides, church bulletin inserts, sermon outlines, questions for reflections and discussion, a YouVersion reading plan and sheet music to the hymn “It Is Well.”

Read the full story here.


God continues miraculous healing of missionary George Smith

By Leslie Peacock Caldwell/IMB

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – Southern Baptists heard the story of George and Geraldine Smith this summer when IMB shared about George’s life-threatening ordeal with COVID-19. Many missionary co-workers, IMB staff and family and friends in the U.S. knew the story before it was shared publicly and had been part of God’s miraculous answer to prayer. IMB is pleased to offer this update about George’s continued progress and healing.

Geraldine and George Smith

George and Geraldine are now in Pascagoula, Miss., where George continues to recover and is showing daily progress. After many weeks in the hospital and then a rehabilitation facility, George is now home. He goes to physical therapy three times a week and continues strength and balance-building exercises each day at home with Geraldine’s assistance. He no longer needs a wheelchair or walker, using only a cane for support when walking short distances.

“He’s very determined!” said Geraldine, adding that he won’t let them forget to do his therapy each day. “He really wants to be back where he was before he first got sick.”

Geraldine said one of the biggest praises is that George’s kidneys are functioning on their own. In fact, he’s been off dialysis for two months, which is another clear answer to prayer. His greatest concern now is the muscle neuropathy that resulted from the months he was bedridden. Geraldine says they fight discouragement, though, by remembering how God has continually been with them.

“God has done some amazing work. He healed those kidneys. We believe that He will do the same with this neuropathy,” she said.

Read the full story here.


Missionary parents reminded of importance of prayer

By Myriah Snyder/IMB

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – Dan and Carolyn Hanle remember when Joe Blandeburgo called and asked to meet with them.

Joe had been dating their daughter, Elizabeth, for a while, and the Hanles thought they knew the direction of this conversation with the college student.

Shelly Blandeburgo (speaking), Al Blandeburgo, Carolyn, and Dan Hanle (right to left) fellowship with Sharon Pumpelly (left) at the Missionary Parents Retreat near Richmond. IMB Photo

Little did they know, he wouldn’t just be sharing his intentions to marry their daughter one day. He wanted to be completely honest with them. Joe felt called to missions, and marrying Elizabeth would mean taking her and any potential grandkids overseas.

The couple was impressed with how upfront the young man was, and they gave their blessing. Now as they’re watching the young couple live out this calling God placed on their lives, they’re so thankful.

The Hanles attended the Missionary Parents Retreat near Richmond Oct. 21-24, alongside Al and Shelly Blandeburgo, Joe’s parents. The event was hosted by the International Mission Board.

The couples enjoyed time to fellowship, since the Hanles recently moved to California and the Blandeburgos live in Delaware. Both sets of grandparents relished moments to video chat with the grandkids as a group of four and to draw encouragement from the myriad of other missionary parents who experience many of the same things.

The recurring theme of the Missionary Parents Retreat was prayer and its power. Attendees heard from Gordon Fort, IMB’s prayer ambassador, who reminded them of the importance of praying for their children as they take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Throughout the weekend, missionary parents in attendance shared ways they participate in their children’s ministries. Prayer is one powerful way, with parents in different regions coming together to form prayer groups for missionaries. Others have lent their marketplace skills to their children to help with logistics overseas and stateside as the missionaries and their colleagues return home.

Each parent was encouraged to consider their giftings and their unique position and to get creative in supporting the mission work of their missionary children.

Read the full story here.

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