Perpetua, Martyr for Christ
Perpetua could hardly face her father. What could she say? How could she make him understand? At last she turned and said, "Do you see this pitcher standing here, father? Would you say it is a little water pot or is it something else?"
The old man glanced at the object in the corner of the filthy prison cell, "It certainly looks like a water pot to me!" he replied.
"Well, can we call it something else?" Perpetua asked.
"No we can't," he answered.
"Just so," said Perpetua gently, "neither can I call myself anything but what I am and I am a Christian!"
Viva Perpetua had spent the long sunny days of her happy childhood in the lovely seaside city of Carthage on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. Lacking no comfort or privilege, she had enjoyed and education available to few girls of her day. Now she was a young, married woman of twenty-two years of age, and the security of her early years had given way to stresses which quite shook her family. She was accused to being a Christian, which was a serious crime.
Perpetua wrote in her diary: "We were just having our mid-day mail when we were suddenly hurried off to the marketplace to be questioned. Immediately news ran through the market, and a vast crowd began to gather. The others, when they were questioned, confessed their faith boldly. And so it came to my turn."
Perpetua's father crept close, holding out her child to her. "Take pity on your baby!" he cried. The judge was deeply moved at the sight and urged her to draw back before it was too late. "Spare your father's white hairs," he said. "Spare the tender years of your child. Offer a sacrifice for the Emperor, and go free."
"I cannot," Perpetua replied. "Are you a Christian?" the judge asked. "I am!" she said firmly.
Perpetua's father cried out in anguish at her words and continued to clamor until the judge ordered him removed. In the scuffle he received several blows from the clubs of the guards. Perpetua heard the blows and cried out, "I suffer the pain for his desolate old age!" But she could not deny the truth. She could not deceive her family or turn her back on her Savior. Sentance was pronounced and she was condemned with the others to face the wild beasts in the arena.
Living in Carthage in that time -- probably standing in that very crowd -- was a young lawyer named Tertullian. "The blood of Christians," he said, "is seed." That holy seed, once sown, was destined to yeild and astonishing harvest.
-- Adapted from The Ante-Nicene Fathers Series Vol III
God is moving among
Church groups are sprouting and spreading in Algeria as Berber tribesmen respond to the gospel, despite seven years of civil war. About 25 million Berbers live in several North African countries. Christian workers began seeing church growth among them during the early 1990s. The new congregations may be one of the first signs of a church planting movement that will spread throughout northern Africa. The region is home to many "Final Frontier" people groups with little or no access to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
In a recent interview a Christian worker in Algeria described the joy he experienced when he baptized ten new believers in a bathtub during his visit. "To have worked for years to get the gospel for this country, and now to be baptizing people..." his voice trailed off in emotion. "And the larger churches are having baptisms almomst every week," he continued. He visited several churches that have grown steadily since he last visited before the war began. He also told of a growing network of house churches that promise another facet of growth.
Vast quantities of Bibles, gospel tracks, and "Jesus" videos are distributed to many thousands of Algerians when they travel to Europe each year. And radio programs in the Berber language also have steadily sharing the gospel for years.
"A lot of people are listening to the radio programs," the Algerian Christian declared, "and the results have been very positive. More people have the New Testament in their language today. Not as many as we would like, but more than before."
Arabic is the official language of Algeria, but many of the non-Arabic "heart" languages are also spoken. The Bible still has not been translated for many of these; for others, only partial translations are available. Algeria does not permit Bibles in local languages to be imported, so Bible translation continues to be a major need witin the country.
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