Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gao Zhisheng Confirmed 'Alive!' Thanks to International Support

A step outside of the story for an important announcement from China Aid:

SHANXI -- On Sunday, March 28, 2010, missing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng spoke to his wife and children for the first time in over a year - confirming he is still alive! False rumors of his death, torture, and escape from the custody of the Chinese Government have shrouded Gao's absence with mystery for over a year. Gao's brief phone conversations with western media mark the first official contact the public has had with him since his abduction by police on February 4, 2009.

Yesterday, Gao informed reporters that he had been released from detention six months ago, and had taken up residence at Wutai Shan mountain, a Buddhist landmark in northern Shanxi province. He refused to give details on his condition or whereabouts, saying he could not legally give interviews.

Close friend and fellow human rights lawyer Li Heping confirmed he had also spoken with Gao on Sunday. Gao told him he had "friends around him" - indicating he was being held under close surveillance by Chinese authorities.

Gao's wife Geng He and their children were overwhelmed with emotion as they spoke with Gao on Sunday morning. The children could not stop crying. In a statement released on Monday morning, Geng He appealed to the Chinese government to allow Gao Zhisheng to join the family in New York. Gao's family has suffered greatly in his absence. Geng He's parents have been severely harassed in recent months, for which Gao feels guilty.

He told the Associated Press, "I just want to be in peace and quiet for a while and be reunited with my family. Most people belong with family. I have not been with mine for a long time. This is a mistake and I want to correct this mistake."

While on his campaign in Europe to promote awareness of Gao's cause, ChinaAid President Bob Fu attributed the breakthrough to increased international pressure. "Thanks to the more than 124,000 supporters in over 180 countries around the world who have signed the petition to Free Gao, the Chinese Government has been forced to respond and to allow Gao Zhisheng to reconnect with his loved ones."

ChinaAid thanks you for your continued support and urges you to continue to take action. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, you, the international community have answered the call. And this is just the beginning.

Gao is not free yet. His movements are still being watched and monitored. He is not free to speak publicly or without surveillance. We must continue to press the Chinese government to free Gao Zhisheng, to uncensor his movements, and to allow him to reunite with his family.

Take Action:

Encourage more to Sign the Petition. Every voice counts, and every voice will be heard!
Call on your local representatives to take official action on behalf of Gao Zhisheng.
Urge U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hold the Chinese government to the international covenants on human rights.
Thanks to you, the world has now regained contact with Mr. Gao Zhisheng. Because of you, Gao was able to reconnect with his family. With your continued support, we can make their dream of reunion a reality!

For more ways to get involved, visit www.FreeGao.com.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tale of the Indian Princess and the Hot Coals

Part one.

Summer 1975.
The Salvation Army's Camp Allegheny.
Near Ellwood City, Pennsylvania.

I am 10.

For the summer, I live with my parents at The Salvation Army's camp for inner city children. They run the entire operation, and my brother and I have full run of the place -- an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a creek, forest trails, even a barn with a rope for a swing and a massive pile of hay on which to fall.

And during one week in the summer, I get to experience what the other kids experience -- I get to be "a camper." As the school buses bring in children from all over Western Pennsylvania hovels, I am assigned with them to an A-frame cabin, where I sleep on a cot and trade ghost stories and participate in all of the programs as one of them.

This particular night, we're sitting around a campfire. As the logs pop and the sparks crackle in the cool northern Pennsylvania night air, my teen-age camp counselor puts a flashlight underneath her chin.

"Do you want to hear a freaky story?" she asks.

"YES!" we all shout, and we scoot to the edge of our log-carved seats so that we don't miss a word.

"Once," she begins, "there was a beautiful Indian princess. She feared no man. She hunted deer and bear and made beautiful winter coats and blankets from their skins and roasted their meat in open fires. She went to war alongside the warriors, while the squaws of the village tended the fires and took care of the babies. She had the heart of a lion.

"One day, the princess was in the field, gathering herbs for a special banquet. She was going to be married, you see, but she had to choose the man who would be worthy of her. It was her job to create the feast and judge each suitor as he came to eat it. She was perplexed, for there was more than one man who could easily become her husband.

"As she bent over to pull some of these herbs, she suddenly saw a pair of bare feet standing before her. They were rough and worn. She looked up into the face of a mysterious old woman.

"'Princess,'" the woman said, "'Tonight you will choose your husband. To find the man who is worthy of your heart, you must do one thing. While they eat, you must perform a dance. But this is no ordinary dance. You must take hot coals from the fire and while the men are dining, dance like you've never danced before -- atop the coals of the fire of the feast.'

"Suddenly, the woman vanished! The princess wondered if she was losing her mind, but she decided to do what the ghostly woman had commanded. As the men gorged themselves, she went to the fire and with stick pulled hot coals from it, laying it before their table. Then she stepped onto the coals to the beat of the drum. And as the coals seared the flesh of her feet, she began to dance wildly, chanting and singing.

"She didn't get far into her dance, when she felt strong arms grabbing at her and pulling her up from the fire. The warrior held her as a baby to his chest. And as the drum continued to beat, he danced on the coals for her.

"And this, my children, is how the Indian Princess found the true love of her life."

We were aghast, silent, amazed.

As I tucked into my sleeping bag on the small metal cot later that night, I stared at the slanted roof of the A-frame cabin. I replayed the story over and over in my mind.

I wanted so badly to become that Indian Princess, who danced on the hot coals.

What does this have to do with a Christian safehouse? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How God Wants Us to Get Along

Sometimes a picture really is a thousand words.

Take a look at this photo and just do one thing for me: Remember that no matter what differences you have with another believer, this is really how God wants us to love each other.

Please pray for His love to envelope us in the sweetness we see here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Uproar in Heaven

Pause. Stop.


When you pray for another person -- really pray -- you have just created an uproar in Heaven.

How do I know?

I have this week experienced a storm, a fallout, a catastrophe.

When I have been unable to think straight, other people have decided to pray on my behalf.

And when they prayed, I knew that all of Heaven was in an uproar.

For me.

I knew that the Son who died for my sins was pleading for me to the Father. I knew that the forces of His armies came to my aid.

And why?

Because I heard the sound of His voice, clearly, succinctly, without question.

Your prayers are powerful. When you take a cause to Him, when you stop in your day to ponder the plight of someone else, when you bow your head and whisper their name and beg for His intervention ... Heaven sounds alarms.

Heaven answers.

You may not know the result of your prayers immediately. You may not even realize that as you breathe the person's name in your thoughts that an answer is coming soon.

But I can tell you with all certainty: You've just summoned the aid of the Almighty, the Powerful, the Loving Father, the Prince of Peace, the Spirit of Truth.

Think of it.

There's an uproar in Heaven when you pray.

Have you prayed today? Have you summoned the alarm for someone else who needs it? Have you begged their cause to the King? If you love Him, you can be assured He's getting the message, loud and clear.

The uproar begins with a whisper on your lips and ends with a trumpeting shout before God Himself.

And in His mercy, love and kindness, He will rescue.

So try it now.

Pray for someone.

Raise an uproar in Heaven.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When is it OK to Leave a Church?

My sweet cousin Windsor just sent this video to me. It's 2 minutes long, and it has some great points. If you've been following the blog you know the events of the past four days.

I'd like to say that I am in process of discussions with top leaders at Quest Community Church and also seeking the counsel of wise Christians who do not attend. This, coupled with prayer, the study of I John and also requests and acceptance of forgiveness on both sides, is helping me put Humpty Dumpty together again. Thanks to all of you who have supported and loved me. Take a moment to watch the video below, and I continue to covet your prayers. -- Heidi

Phillip Jensen asks Mark Dever - When is it ever right to leave a church? from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Rice-and-Bean Fast for Haiti

On Thursday night, I was given the opportunity to fast for 2.5 days. While fasting, I was to pray for the people of Haiti. The menu – ½ cup of rice and ½ cup of beans – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing more. The fast was to end Sunday at noon. It is 10:15 p.m. on Saturday night, and I made it 50 hours.
While I did this, I kept this small journal. I’d like to share it with you. Please read it prayerfully and consider giving whatever you can to the people of Haiti. Here’s a link if you don’t know where to start: www.questcommunity.com/haiti.
Thank you.

Day One, Friday

7:15 a.m. My stomach is grumbling during my devotions. I see images in my mind of children with grumbling stomachs. I will wait for breakfast while I think about and pray for the people whose stomachs grumble with no relief in sight.

8:55 a.m. – Eating my first course of Vigo “completely seasoned, easy to prepare Black Beans & Rice” (and the package also says authentic Cuban recipe). Topped it with red wine vinegar. Actually, with Starbucks coffee, it’s tasty, even for breakfast. But then I start wondering … the seasoning offerings and the Starbucks are definitely not available in Haiti. Does this take away from the full experience?

3:17 p.m. – REALLY struggling now. Want so badly to stop this fasting. I had rice and beans for lunch, and I never thought it would be this difficult to stay focused. How do people do this, when food is scarce? It affects your mind, your mood, your alertness. Hunger is uncomfortable and painful. I am really hating this.

4:12 p.m. – HUNGER. IS. PAINFUL. I’m so sick.

Day Two, Saturday

8:33 a.m. – Last night I gave in and ate 8 gummy candies. Then I felt guilty and even sicker than I do with just the rice and beans. As I put Neil to bed and he went to sleep in my arms, I looked at his beautiful face, so full and healthy. He does not know what it means to be hungry. My stomach was hurting so badly, and I thought, “This is how someone’s baby feels right now in Haiti.” I cried, not just for the children who are hungry but also for their parents, who must feel so frustrated and heartbroken that their babies have nothing to eat. What a terrible thing this is. What a horrible predicament. I prayed so fervently for the children, while Neil’s breath puffed from his mouth and as he slept, totally unaware of the plight of others his age.

2 p.m. – Just ate my lunch of rice and beans. My head hurts. My stomach is raw. My concentration is off. My mood is grumpy. I’m sleepy. I don’t know how people exist like this. And it’s only been a day-and-a-half! Praying for God to help workers rebuild infrastructure so that the food can get to the people. It is so amazing how this is clarifying the situation in my mind.

5:20 p.m. – Woke from a three-hour nap. The lack of food made me so tired that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. What has surprised me, probably the most about this experience, is my cavalier attitude of the past towards people in famine. I would see photos on the news of people receiving rice and think, “Well now they have something to eat. I could survive on rice! It wouldn’t be completely nutritional, but it would be enough to live on.” How horrible of me. Only someone in a country like America, where there is plenty on top of plenty, could possibly think like that. I’m ashamed at my past calloused thinking. This experience, though short-lived, has given me such an incredible window into what happens to the body and mind. And I’ve only been doing this a day-and-a-half! What if we were without food for days, weeks, months? When we see photos of emaciated people and children with protruding stomachs, we are looking at suffering, plain and simple.

6:09 p.m. – I would give anything for an apple on my kitchen counter right now. I thought when this started, “I’ll probably crave pizza or a Big Mac.” Wrong. I crave sweet, juicy fruit. Even a glass of milk feels like a luxury. Why don’t I eat it? People tell me I’m not accomplishing anything by doing this. Here’s what I’m accomplishing: I’m learning how other people feel, experiencing something at the same time that they are. Though we are thousands of miles apart, every time my stomach grumbles, I hear their stomachs grumbling. Every time my head hurts, I know someone in Haiti has that symptom, too. Every time I feel like I want to cry for hunger, I think of the babies who are crying to their mothers, “I’m hungry, Mommy. I’m hungry.” And I think of the helpless moms, who can do nothing but try to shush and quiet them, as they themselves battle these same physical symptoms.
God, bring the resources to these people. Help rescue agencies build the infrastructure to get there. Rescue them! Help them! They are dying. They are dying.

10:06 p.m. – I broke my fast about 30 minutes ago. Came downstairs after putting Neil to bed, and I was dizzy. My head was pounding, and I was so nauseated. I opened up a small yogurt and weighed whether to stop fasting. I decided … I have to stop. I feel much better after eating that, plus an apple and a 4-inch pizza.

I made it 50 hours.

But my heart aches, knowing that while I can choose to stop eating like this, hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti are still on this rancid diet … if they are lucky to have food at all.

How do people live in these conditions?

Not only that, they’re in tents. They don’t even have a home. I have all of the trappings of American life around me.

Tonight, Neil and I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some milk and other sundries. I looked around me at all of the food, all of the people mindlessly throwing it into their baskets. Until Thursday night, when I started this fast, I was one of them. I will never go into a grocery store again with that attitude.

We have so much. They have so little. And the little they had was taken from them in one terrible moment.

No, I haven’t traveled there. I haven’t seen the tragedy with my own eyes. I really have no idea – NONE – about what they are experiencing. I can’t even fathom it.

But this was an amazing opportunity for me to try to get a tiny peek into what their bodies feel like. And with that physical discomfort, I get another look into their emotions. What if, on top of all of this, my child was dead? Or what if I were dead and my child was wandering a street, with his hand out, asking people for food, looking for shelter and protection with no one to help him? The idea of that alone just breaks me in half.

We can’t forget them.

We mustn’t forget them.


Pray for Haiti.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our Future with The Mysterious King on the Throne

I told you the story wasn't over.

In fact, the ending hasn't even occurred yet. But if we believe in the Mysterious King on the Throne, if we place our trust in Him and accept His love and forgiveness, we have this assurance: We will be with Him forever.

An atheist friend of mine is trying to understand the concept of Heaven. What does it mean to worship eternally, she wondered. I have come to realize that for people who have not personally experienced this lavish presence of the Mysterious King on the Throne, it truly is inconceivable, and the reasons behind it may seem foolish.

When we love someone, we just want to spend every moment with them. I gave my husband a card once that said, "I'd rather do nothing with you than something with anybody else." That's how it is, isn't it? We just love being in the presence of the one we love. We don't want to separate from their warm embrace or be far from their voice.

If you know Jesus, then you know that with Him, the depth of feeling is indescribable -- all other human relationships are just tips of an undersea mountainous glacier.


It seems unfathomable that we would worship Him forever. And yet, when I do have the opportunity to worship, when I have had the awesome experience of glimpses of that heavenly communion, I can barely stand the wait.

Just to give you a taste of it ... here's part of John's vision in Revelation. It won't surprise you that it matches up with what Isaiah saw in the temple, thousands of years earlier.

Guess what ... we will be there.

And we will worship Him.

Revelation 4

"After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits[a] of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being."