Stories from Egypt and Iraq

In May I had the opportunity to travel to Egypt and Iraq with International Christian Concern, an organizing dedicated to advocacy for the persecuted church. I was tagging along with a friend of mine, Aidan Clay, who is the North Africa/Middle East regional manager for the organization. My task was to capture photography and videography of the stories from persecuted Christians in both these countries. The Arab Spring brought some freedom and democracy to North Africa and the Middle East. However, the western view of “democracy” with a separation of church and state doesn’t work as well in these highly religious countries. While the west hoped secular governments would arise to rule these countries in the void left by dictators, in every case an Islamist party was elected. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and now Syria looks fall the same direction Most of these countries have an ancient Christian population. Sizable populations (10 million Coptic Christians in Egypt for example), but still a minority. In Baghdad, Iraq, before the 2003 war, there were 60 churches. Today there are only 6. A dictator was removed, yes, but the situation on the ground got much worse for Christians under democracy. Many Christians fled the country completely, if they had the means, or fled to Northern Iraq where the Kurdish government allows some religious freedom and more importantly, some protection. I talked to pastors there from Mosul and Kirkuk, cities that were too dangerous for us to visit as high-value-target-westerners, who told stories of car bombings and threats and terrible persecution in their community. Pastors who had patiently endured without fleeing like most of their...

Brown Family Update – March 2010

Greetings from Kenya Greetings from warm and sunny Kenya, where we are wrapping up our summer months and heading into the rainy season! We have enjoyed hearing all your stories from blizzards of biblical proportions and reminding us that during these months we live in polar opposite seasons! It’s been a crazy couple of months since we’ve last written an update, so we wanted to catch you up with our lives, and thank you for praying for us and thinking of us. North Africa Andy had the opportunity to lead the OFM team to North Africa last month. He and the team lived inside an ancient medina for 2 weeks and served the local platforms there with media: web, photography, filmaking. Click the photo to the right to watch a short film the team produced for the workers there. Click here to read more about Andy’s trip there, and the rapidly deteriorating situation for Christian workers there. For the password to the post, please contact us. Olepishet A tiny village in Masai land has captured our hearts, through Lesa‘s January trip there with our school’s Cultural Field Studies, and last week our whole family went to spend a few days doing life and ministry with our new Masai friends. We are continuing to process how we might be involved in an ongoing way with this community. From Lesa’s blog post: I’ve been trying to determine at which point the trip became more than I’d planned on – more than I thought it could be.  I went into it excited about time with the students but nervous about the unknown...

Protected: North Africa

North Africa: expansive deserts, exotic medinas, ancient Christianity, modern Islam. Its fascinating and diverse landscape is home to 165 million people, yet the number of people who know Christ here is less than 1% and closer to 0.1% in most places. Despite the region’s ancient Christian heritage, Jesus is not only unknown there, but great barriers to know him have been erected by the governments and their extreme control over many aspects of life. While a few of these countries have an official freedom to exercise religion, this really only applies to foreigners. Locals who desire to follow Jesus will most certainly be expelled from their family and community and risk imprisonment… or worse. Last month I had the opportunity to live for 2 weeks in an ancient medina in one these countries, which I can’t name. I’ve been to the region a handful of times and probably half my trips throughout Africa are to creative-access nations. I am well aware of the security and political considerations one must make as a Christian entering these countries. I know the list of words I can’t use over the phone, the sites I can’t visit on the internet, the email domains I can’t send or receive from. I know I have to leave my regular occupational identity back home in Kenya, and that here I am simply a photographer, a filmmaker, a tourist, who happens to be a serious Christ-follower. I don’t have to be afraid of that label. This trip reminded me that we, as Christians, are engaged in a spiritual battle, not a physical battle. The people I met...

Declare

A Rendille man takes a break from his work to pull up his shirt and show me the teeth marks across his chest and back. The teeth, from a lion which nearly killed him as a young boy. His work now, as a bible translator, bringing the words of God to his people who have never had it. A North African woman, covered from head to toe in traditional wrap, speaks quietly to me for fear of being overheard. Her story, of how Jesus came to her in a dream telling her to follow him. Her fear, of losing her family and possibly her life, if the community around her finds out of her decision to follow Him. My good friend from Kibera, Wycliffe, smiles as he recounts his story. The panga (machete) scars across his arms serve as a constant reminder of his past: running in a gang, sniffing glue to numb the hunger pangs, sleeping in the street, and finally, coming into friendship with Christians who helped him get his feet on the ground and introduced him to Jesus. These three stories are a small sample of the stories I get to capture every week. Stories of how God redeems people from all walks of life, all nations, all religions, to free them from their sin and bring them into His family. Stories of how He releases them from shame and provides new life to those who have lost everything in their former lives because of their decision to follow Him. Stories of how nothing: not lions, nor governments, nor armies of those opposed to His work...

Brown Family Update – May 2008

Fell off the face of the earth? No, we haven’t, in case you’d wondered. Yes, we know we haven’t sent an email since March 5. No, it’s not because the rainy season knocked out the internet to all of east africa. Yes, it’s because we’re busy and sometimes lazy and forgetful, and often both at once. Consequently, since we skipped a month, we have a TON to tell you about! During the past two months, we have moved to a transitional home on a AIM missionary compound. Also, Lesa had her wrist surgery which ended up being fairly significant and is taking a while to recover fully. Praise the Lord that it is doing better every day! Mom & Dad We began our journey over the past few months with the visit from Andy’s parents over Easter. We had a wonderful time with them, somehow squeezing in trips to Kibera, an overnight ride on the Lunatic Line (go rent “Ghost in the Darkness“), a few days at the beach, a move, visits to the Rift Valley and Kijabe, and a game drive. Read the full story here. On-Field Media The OFM has been PDB (pretty darn busy) serving AIM throughout EA – East Africa (we are an organization that loves abbreviating). Andy’s got a few more stamps in his passport, and some great photos and stories as well. In March, Ted and I (Andy) went on a trip. We met some amazing national believers, some amazing Christian workers there, got spat on, rocks thrown at us, and all kinds of frontier-missionary kinds of stories to tell. Get our photos...
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