Martha Richards

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‘Get me out of this,’ trafficking victim says

JOHANNESBURG (BP) -- She was just a child, and she trusted him. He was her pastor. Yet he raped her, and no one believed her story.

A life cut short continues reaching souls in Mozambique

QUELIMANE, Mozambique (BP) -- It was on the day the accident happened "when I accepted Christ," said Adriano Amade, a former Muslim in Mozambique.

Student missionary Jeremiah Johnson and local pastor Antonio Sobrinho had been sharing the Gospel in Amade's rural fishing village on April 12, 2010, and had led him to faith in Christ. On their way back to town, Jeremiah and Sobrinho lost control of their motorcycle and crashed. Johnson, 21, was killed and the pastor injured. Johnson, from Royal Palms Baptist Church in Phoenix, was serving as a semester missionary through the Hands On initiative for college students and young adults sponsored by the International Mission Board. Johnson used futebol (soccer) to provide an opening for sharing the Gospel in villages among Mozambique's Moniga people. After the futebol games, Sobrinho or another local pastor would preach, then Johnson shared his testimony, which he had memorized in Portuguese. Many Mozambicans were curious about the purpose of this foreigner visiting their villages, including former cult member José Sunte. "We heard that a white man came with a motorcycle, but we didn't know what [he] wanted," Sunte said. Sunte and his father belonged to a cult, Sokela, in the small village of Munddimwi. Meaning "to contribute together," Sokela focuses on burial rites to honor the dead. "To many people, it is the only thing they know," Sunte said. "We follow the ways of our parents." But his father's Sokela religion didn't offer much solace to Sunte. "My life was spent away from home, drinking, speaking bad about people, not being nice to people," he said. When Johnson and two local pastors shared the Gospel with Sunte, he immediately decided to follow Jesus. He became the leader of the new "preaching point" –- a place to gather and share the Good News –- in the village. When his father died, Sunte refused to become the Sokela cult leader, and animosity spread toward the few Christians whom Sunte was leading. Villagers kept their distance from the small group of believers because Sokela members had spread a rumor that the Baptists didn't acknowledge the dead or provide funerals for them. The news of Johnson's death, coupled with community pressures, caused Sunte's faith to falter. But IMB missionaries John Dina and Jessica Riemersma, both also from Royal Palms Baptist, continued to visit the village to disciple Sunte and the other believers. They finally saw a breakthrough in January 2012 when more than a dozen people decided to follow Christ within weeks of hearing the Gospel preached at an elderly villager's funeral.

WEEK OF PRAYER: Human trafficking, amid the despair

SOUTH AFRICA (BP) -- The odors of liquor, smoke and sweat permeate the air. One small bulb lights the alleyway. Traffic is light on the main road, but this side street stays busy.

"Mister!" a young woman yells to a car driving past. "You're the daddy! I'm your little girl and I got what you want right here!" Another woman hides in the shadows, quietly crying. The pimps' laughter rises as they share jokes while smoking and playing cards. [QUOTE@left@180=To read more stories about how Southern Baptists are ministering to those trapped in the sex trade, click here.]Two young women share a bottle of alcohol to give them courage to approach the cars driving through the side street. A client parks in the shade, waiting for a woman to join him in the backseat. Another client follows a woman into her pimp's apartment. Thirty minutes later the man leaves. One after another, the clients pick up the women; somehow there is an endless supply. As one woman leaves, another arrives. Two young women stand in the shadows, hesitant and afraid. Suddenly a pimp approaches and provides them with more drugs. The women begin to sell themselves again. I was convinced I could never end up in a situation like these women -- hooked on drugs and alcohol, forced into prostitution and sold from one man to another. I could never be a slave. I could never be trafficked. One afternoon with a pimp in the park changed my perspective. I knew who he was and what he did. He knew nothing about me. Diallo* was adept at slyly pulling information about my life and passions. I'm not hesitant in sharing my faith, and soon Diallo learned I'm a Christian. Moments later, he invited me to attend church with him. The scenario is all too common. A strong, handsome young man meets a single woman. He is lively and charming. Best of all, he says he's a Christian. New to the area and looking for friends, it would be easy for a woman to fall into his grasp. The innocence of the moment soon can turn into a nightmare. Just one prearranged meeting is all he needs....

In India, he shares Gospel despite dangers

NEW DELHI, India (BP)--As the sun sets in India, the ceremonial preparations subside. Chanting voices strengthen and join the rhythm of beating drums. Flames consume herbs and spices as golden incense burners pass among the Hindu worshippers....