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This year, Take Heart’s Lent prayer focus is for persecuted Christian women and girls. In this blog series, we highlight four incredible women and girls we serve in Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, and Iraq. Our persecuted sisters in Christ have much to teach us about standing firm with great hope in the midst of suffering.

“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

– Matthew 25:20-28 NLT

True leaders are servants

James and John may not have been so eager to be Jesus’ right-hand-men if they had known what true leadership meant. The apostles must have expected Jesus to name characteristics like strength, dominance, knowledge of God, and adherence to the Ten Commandments and the Book of the Law as leadership traits that would bring them to places of honor. As usual, Jesus upended expectations, insisting that the only true leader deserving of honor is one who serves. If even Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be used for His own advantage (Phil. 2:6,) whatever power and influence God has gifted us with should not be lorded over others, but be transformed into humbling, sacrificial service.

True leaders suffer

Earlier in the conversation, Jesus asks his naive disciples if they are ready to drink the bitter cup of suffering all true leaders must drink (Matt. 25:22.) Jesus is fully aware of the cost of discipleship. He knows that following God and loving others best means a horrific road to the Cross where he will suffer betrayal, humiliation, and agony. He knows that his followers will face persecution and pain as well.

True leaders experience eternal joy

And yet, how could anyone endure this sort of suffering if the Cross was the end of the story? It was for the joy set before him that our Lord endured (Hebrews 12:2.) He knew that his life and death of service would result in reconciling all who place their trust in God to Himself in eternal joy. Jesus counted the cost and declared it worth all of the pain of obedience to the Father. He declared this broken life worth living despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles we face. Followers of the resurrected Jesus can look forward in confidence of future resurrection of our bodies and the eternal abolishment of sin and suffering. We can also now experience a daily resurrection and renewal of our hearts (2 Cor. 4:16.)

Fadia’s Story

Fadia from Karemlash, Iraq, is a true servant leader who daily inspires the Take Heart team. She has suffered, sacrificed, and experienced joy in service to the King of Kings. When ISIS destroyed her city and displaced thousands of people, Fadia was just a child. Recently she reflected on those terrifying years of displacement. “I was scared and doubting my faith, so [when Take Heart came] it was hard for me to trust them. When Take Heart shared the Bible with families and I saw they were walking alongside us, I was inspired to try to trust. I told the Lord, ‘Speak. I am listening.’ When we give God the chance we see miracles in our lives, as God always works through weak people like us.” Today, Fadia volunteers with Take Heart tutoring children, spiritually encouraging families, and training local leaders. She now teaches other communities about the same development model from which Karemlash benefited.

Fadia recently affirmed the reality of our faith, stating, “The light of the cross is stronger than anything and the dawn of resurrection will happen no matter how long the night is. The stone will be rolled away even if it is guarded by all the powers of this world. The doors of hell are not strong enough to stand against the light of love and hope that dwells in our hearts.”

Those are the words of a true leader.

Pray for Iraq

Will you pray this prayer with us every day this week?

Gracious Father,

Thank you for valuing all women and girls as your beloved image-bearers. Thank you for growing Fadia in her faith despite terrifying circumstances. We praise you for her heart of servant leadership. Please continue to bless Fadia and all the girls and women Take Heart serves in Iraq. Show them the capacity they have to be leaders in their communities and equip them with what they need to succeed. Keep them safe from the lies of the Enemy. Help them to be carriers of your resurrection life, spreading the Good News wherever they go.

We praise you for your constant effort to establish justice and mercy on this earth. May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

Help young women become true servant leaders

Has Fadia’s story inspired you to help more young women develop into true servant leaders? Christ-centered education can make a huge impact in the lives of children. According to UNICEF, there are close to 3.2 million school-aged Iraqi children out of school. Help Take Heart bridge the gap by providing educational access to kids in all of the countries we serve.

Our goal is to sponsor 400 girls to receive an education this year. Your donation of $100 sponsors one girl’s education for an entire year!

Learn more and give today at https://missiontakeheart.org/easter/