Hostility to Christians in Mali is rising along with Islamic militancy, as evidenced by the grave situation of Christian hostages there.

Multiple Christians have been kidnapped recently and held for ransom by Islamic terror groups in the politically fragile West African nation of Mali. Since 2012 when northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda, the persecution of Christians in the country has escalated. These Muslim supremacists are now regrouping and spreading their violence into southern Mali, taking their kidnapping strategy with them. (Smyrna’s partners in West Africa are already reporting concerns about this terror in Mali.)

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is currently holding hostage Columbian nun Gloria Argoti, Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockley, American missionary Jeff Woodke, and Australian surgeon Ken Elliot.

On July 1st AQIM released a video showing proof of life and demanding a prisoner swap or ransom for the release of Gloria, Beatrice and Ken (along with 3 other foreign prisoners).  There was no mention however of Jeff Woodke who was working with America-based Youth With A Mission (YWAM) when he was abducted from his home in Abalak, Niger last October.

Beatrice Stockly upon her arrival at Ouagadougou airbase after she was freed in April, 2012. She returned to Mali and was kidnapped for the second time last year. (PC:Getty Images)

The impact Jeff has had on the community he served in Abalak is profound.  After Jeff’s disappearance, Bilou Mohamed, the mayor of Abalak, told World Watch Monitor thatthe community has suffered a terrible tragedy…locals wept with sorrow, lamenting the loss of a friend the day after his abduction. This man has lived among us for years, even in when it has been difficult to accompany vulnerable populations… Everyone knows his goodness.”

Jeff’s wife, Els Woodke, issued a plea this summer for her husband’s safe release.

The irony of the hostage-taking efforts of these Muslims is that they, not the Christians, are the real hostages. Muslims are in bondage to a false religion that offers no hope; Christians — despite their physical circumstances — are free in Jesus Christ, the very One whom Muslims deny.

Jeff Woodke is known in Abalak for his devotion to Niger and its nomadic populations. (PC: Jeff Woodke / Facebook via World Watch Monitor)

“You are my hiding place; You will deliver me from trouble and surround me with shouts of deliverance.” — Psalm 32:7

Pray–

9/16 — Pray that the families of the kidnapped Christians in Mali will set their hearts and minds on Christ during this hardship. “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”  Colossians 1:17

9/17— Pray for Jeff’s wife, Els Woodke, who released her own video on July 11, pleading for her husband’s release and speaking of his service. Pray for Els’ heart to rest in the grace of Jesus Christ and receive comfort from God.

9/18 — Pray for an end to the rising tide of Islamic terror in Mali. Ask God to protect His Church in Mali.

9/19 — Pray for courage rooted in the sure promises of God for kidnapped victims in Mali in the face of fear and death.

9/20 — Pray for the soon release of those prisoners held by AQIM in Mali. Ask God to preserve their bodies & minds.

Jeff Woodke runs several development projects among the Tuaregs, focusing on farming, health, access to drinking water, etc. (PC: JEMED)

9/21 — Pray that the Christian minority in Mali will be characterized by the divine love of God and forgiveness available through Jesus Christ.

9/22 — Pray that Malian Christians will take up God’s armor to wage war against the enemy of our souls each day, fully outfitted in His protective promises. (Ephesians 6)

9/23  — Pray that on a day-to-day basis Christians in Mali will feel the grip of the Gospel shoes of peace beneath them. (Eph. 6:15)

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