Kayla Mueller: Death Confirmed

The family of US aid worker, Kayla Mueller, have confirmed today that she has been killed while being held hostage by Islamic State militants. Her heartbroken parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, released this photo below showing the family together prior to Kayla’s capture in Aleppo, Syria, on 4th August 2013.

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PLEASE PRAY FOR THE MUELLER FAMILY

Ray Barnett and all the team at Friends In The West send sincere condolences to the Mueller Family, but we also want to encourage the Christian community around the world to pray for them.  Please pray that they will be comforted by the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ and that they will receive supernatural strength to face this loss.

What comes across very clearly is Kayla’s motivation in being available to be used by God to spread His love in a suffering world. The Mueller family today quoted from a letter which Kayla wrote to her father on his birthday in 2011: “I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you. I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.”  

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Even though she risked her life to do so, 26 year old Kayla dedicated her life to reaching out to suffering people. Today, President Obama said of Kayla: “In how she lived her life, she epitomised all that is good in our world. She has been taken from us, but her legacy endures.”  Obama’s statement brings us to the second main point for prayer: In addition to comfort and strength for Kayla’s family, please pray that her ‘legacy will endure’.  We totally endorse what Kayla stood for and firmly believe that through her witness, many thousands of young people across the world will pick up where she has left off and they too will seek God and offer their hands to Him to relieve suffering, just as Kayla did. We at Friends In The West will be praying and encouraging others to pray toward that end.  

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To the Mueller family, may God be with you at this time. Please know that we love you and are praying for you. You raised a beautiful daughter who gave so much to the world in her short life. We are saddened that her life was taken, but we know and pray that her story and her influence will live on and achieve even more in her death than in life. We know for certain that the hope and the love that she brought to the world has not been extinguished – it will shine brighter than ever in the days ahead. Grieving is natural and there will be tears. But life is eternal and this is not the end for those who believe.

May the Meuller family know the comfort of Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge. Proverbs 14:32

Ray Barnett

New website for Friends In The West

Those of you who have followed this blog may remember that in August 2014, Ray Barnett issued an urgent prayer request on behalf of Christians, the Yazidis, and other minority groups in Iraq, who had to flee to the mountains to escape a potential genocide.  Ray was stirred and burdened, not just by the events in Iraq, but by the countless other stories of persecution, kidnapping and killings that continued throughout 2014.  His personal burden and ‘vision’ to help the suffering and persecuted has led to new action for 2015, some of which is outlined in this article below.

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Ray’s early days in ministry after seminary training were spent in raising awareness in the West about the plight of Christians who were being persecuted for their faith in the former Soviet Union, and bringing practical help to them and their families.  At one time 88 percent of Russian Orthodox churches were closed and 400 leaders of unregistered Baptist churches were in prison. Ray founded Friends In The West at that time with the twin approach of publicising the plight of these persecuted pastors, and mobilising Christians in Western countries to prayer and action.

 The work of Friends In The West then spread to other countries like Africa where it is reported that in Uganda under Idi Amin, some 400,000 Christians died, disappeared, or fled the country.  Ray’s humanitarian work there led to the formation of the African Children’s Choir in 1984. This was the first children’s choir to come out of Africa to help fundraise and bring an education and hope for a better future to tens of thousands of Africans.

If Ray learned anything from the experience of those early days it was this: Even in the most hopeless of situations, if faith-filled prayer is married with action, then the most incredible miracles can happen.  Even when man’s inhumanity to man is at its worst, God is still a loving God who cares for his people and His will for them is life and freedom, not death and misery for those who survive. If Christians are willing to be positive and obedient, then untold good can come out of the most difficult situations.  The African Children’s Choir and their parent body, Music For Life, came out of a very negative situation but became a force for good, touching the lives of tens of thousands.  Thirty years later, children from early choirs have become Changemakers for their country. They received a good education and are now in a position to influence and have a positive impact through their professional careers, as well as providing a good future and Christian example for the next generation.

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It’s no secret that the world faces more humanitarian problems than ever before. The United Nations have reported that the escalating crises in Syria and parts of Africa have pushed the number of forcibly displaced people to the highest level since world war 2.  Ray is now appealing to Christians worldwide, but particularly from countries in the Western hemisphere, to become more committed than ever before to ‘prayer and action’ on behalf of those who are suffering persecution and displacement. Friends In The West has contacts in parts of the world where help is desperately needed. Christian churches have been burned down and many of the congregations have lost family members as well as their homes and all their possessions.  If ever prayer and action was needed, it’s now.

To facilitate communication between Friends In The West and supporters, a new website has been commissioned and is currently being prepared. It will have all the requirements of a modern site for efficiently sharing the right news with the right people. In the meantime we have launched a simpler, basic site, to start getting the message out and making contact with interested parties.  Please visit www.friendsinthewest.com to learn more about some of the initiatives that are being started. Please also share with any of your friends who may also be concerned about what’s happening in the world today.

Compilation from 2014 concerts

The video below is a compilation of short clips from live concerts at the Belfast Waterfront Hall, the Millennium Forum, Derry/Londonderry, and St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s Church in Ballyastle, County Antrim.

 

Happy New Year!

Today, is a special day! For some it’s the first day back at work after the Christmas and New Year holidays, and for other workers, it’s the first day of the first full working week of 2015. It’s a day when it’s more than likely that any left over reminders of Christmas, like decorations, cards, or a Christmas tree that has been sitting over the holidays, will be removed. One potential hangover, however, from the holidays might be those New Year resolutions. It may take another couple of weeks to kill THEM off. It may seem like I’m joking but if what I’ve read is true, then that’s the average length of time that New Year resolutions last.

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It seems also that resolutions at the New Year are made in the following order of priority:

1 To lose weight  2 To get more organised.  3 To spend less and save more.  4 To enjoy life more.  5 To keep fit and healthy.

Many years ago I learned that resolutions by themselves are often ineffective, mainly because they usually depend on willpower, and willpower alone is seldom enough.  However, if a New Year resolution is treated as a ‘goal’, and then backed up by an action plan for its implementation, then that’s a different matter.  Setting goals with sensible plans for their achievement is how organisations and companies are started and grown.

So if you have made a New Year resolution, don’t be put off. Treat it as a goal you want to achieve this year and then come up with action steps you can take that will move you forward in the direction of your goal.  I’m sure before long you’ll be congratulating yourself for achieving it.  So whatever your resolution or whatever you wish to achieve in 2015 may I wish you every success and blessing and may this be your best year ever.

Final UK Concert of 2014

The final UK Christmas concert took place in Northern Ireland on 18th December 2014 at St Patrick’s & St Brigid’s Church, Ballycastle, County Antrim. We were delighted with the warm reception received at the church and we know that we have made new friends there. The short video below gives a flavour of the performance when the African Children’s Choir were joined by choirs from local schools. Once again, we’re grateful to all the teachers and pupils who put such an effort in to making the evening such a success. This event was the culmination of a very successful UK tour by choir 41. This choir also performed with former African Children’s Choir members to record our new Christmas CD, Emmanuel, which was officially launched at a spectacular event at the Belfast Waterfront Hall on 11 December.

It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the end of another year. We’ve seen a lot of changes happen in 2014, with more of an involvement and cooperation with schools, etc., which has been a very positive move. We undertook the first of a number of new studio recordings and we have also embarked on a total overhaul of our digital communications, including new websites, which, when completed next year, will give us an efficiency in communicating with our friends and partners that we have never had before. So 2015 promises to be a very exciting year and I’ll be blogging more about new developments early in the new year. May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and New Year and thank you for all your prayers and support in 2014.

Ray

Founder of the African Children's Choir, Music For Life and Friends In The West.