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Advent & the persecuted church: Shackla’s story

December 1, 2023 by Abigail Hart in Advent Season

Week 2 Devotional – Faith: The Bethlehem Candle 

Mary and Joseph had plans in Nazareth. They were going to be wed and live a quiet life together. But God interrupted.

Suddenly, Mary was carrying the hope of the world in her womb as she and Joseph headed toward Bethlehem for a census—an arduous trip some scholars believe could have been upwards of 90 miles.

But it was a trip they were destined for. In fact, 700 years prior, it was prophesied:

“… Bethlehem … out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel …” –Micah 5:2

It wasn’t the plan Mary and Joseph initially had in mind but it was God’s path; they placed their trust and faith in Him.

Just as in biblical times, God continues to interrupt lives today. Just look at Shackla (pictured at the top). She and her husband, Omar, were once devout Muslims. It was the only faith they had ever known. Then one day, her husband told her that he had accepted Jesus into his heart. Recalling that fateful moment, Shackla says, “I was not only afraid, but also angry with my husband, that he changed his faith.”

Her plans had been interrupted. But God was at work. Omar continued to share the gospel and read the Bible with his wife. And over time, Shackla’s heart began to soften. She was amazed at not only the miraculous birth of Jesus, but His sacrifice, saying, “He gave his life for us, and He is our Savior. I will live the rest of my life for Jesus, not for myself.”

Today, Shackla welcomes Muslim seekers into her home so they can have conversations about the gospel. Although her life was interrupted, her Christian faith is everything to her now—and she wouldn’t change it for the world.

The Christmas season is here! As a token of our appreciation for your continued generosity to our ministry, we put together a Christmas prayer guide to help ready your heart for the coming of our King. You can read the free prayer guide below and reflect on the Biblical events of Christ’s birth, while calling to mind the fruits of the Spirit and the inspiring stories of the persecuted church.

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Prayer of Reflection

Father God, Your plan is divine and inspired. We look at the story of Mary & Joseph. You took a faithful young woman and made her the mother of Your Son. We see where You interrupt lives, You have a plan; you don’t abandon Your children. May we surrender our wants and faithfully live in Your will for our lives. Help us follow Your path—even if it detours from the road we had once laid out for ourselves. As we see in this guide to Advent, let us be deeply inspired by our persecuted sister Shackla’s faith and may we join her in saying, “I will live the rest of my life for Jesus.” Amen.

Questions for Contemplation

• What perceived interruptions in my life were actually a part of God’s plan?

• How does faith play an important role as our persecuted family responds to the Lord’s calling?

• What can I learn from Mary and Joseph’s response? What can Shackla’s story teach me?

*Please note: Shackla’s name has been changed to ensure his safety and anonymity.

About the author
Abigal Hart writes for Global Christian Relief, sharing this guide to Advent and the inspiring stories of persecuted Christians all around the world. Read the latest Christian persecution stories on our website and learn more at

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