April 24, 2014
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MAY  18, 2012 ARCHIVED STORIES:

CENTRAL ASIA (BP) -- "Dad, I think we're being followed."

Yasemin* drummed her fingers nervously on the car door. Her father kept on driving the familiar route to drop her off at English class, singing a praise song to Jesus as he drove.

Yasemin turned around and looked back.

"Dad, we're being followed."

He sang louder.

"Would you take it seriously?"

Not missing a beat, he changed songs mid-verse and belted out lyrics of his own: "I'm going to prison today!"

James* knew the signs. He'd already been in prison once for his faith in Jesus. That day made it a second.

In the region where James and his family live in Central Asia, people bend over backward to show hospitality. Go to a neighbor's home, and they spread out a feast and heap a visitor's plate high with food. Leave your wallet somewhere, and people will guard it until you return.

"In lieu of an armored car, I've seen cars left unattended with the trunk open and piles of cash inside," a friend of James said. "No one would dare bother it."

In his country, they take care of each other.

But share Christ openly, and they may torture you.

"James has been blindfolded, handcuffed and held in solitary confinement," his friend said. During the day, he has faced confinement in a room where three compressor units were blowing hot air on him, and he was not given any water or food.

Officials interrogated him, asking why he left his former religion.

"I am on this way because of Jesus and what He has done for me," James said.

At the beginning of his imprisonment, he was put in a small jail cell at night, his hands released just long enough for him to eat a small piece of bread and drink one liter of water.

But James hardly slept -- he stayed awake praying and singing praises, just as he did in the hot room during the daytime.

James has lost nearly 50 pounds since being imprisoned, his friend said.

But he has seen a lot of people found -- many of them from places where he could never get access to go and share his faith. One of them had heard part of the Gospel message nine years earlier, and when he met James in prison, he heard the whole message and believed on the spot.

"This man had been waiting for nine years to hear the rest of the Gospel, just wanting to meet someone who could tell him," James' friend said. "He knew immediately it was God's plan to send him to prison. He danced for joy."

The guards came and began to beat the new believer. Read More

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