MAGUINDANAO, Philippines -- For Christians in many parts of the world, persecution is nothing new. That's especially true in the southern Philippines, where believers are targeted by Muslim rebels seeking an independent state.
But Christians around the world are helping them recover through the efforts of a ministry to the persecuted church.
Albert Francisco and his family have been forced to flee their home in southern Mindanao many times. Violent Muslim rebel groups have been waging war on the Christian population since he was eight years old.
"It was endless running. We had to evacuate because they burned our houses. We didn't want to get shot in the crossfire between the militant Muslims and the soldiers,” he said.
On one fateful day, armed men belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stopped Albert and his niece as they tried to escape. Stray bullets struck Albert in several places on his body.
"I thought it was the end of my life. I was shot in the head and my legs. I heard one of the man say 'make sure he's dead'. I prayed to God, 'Lord please give me a second life. I will give my life to You.’"
Albert miraculously survived the gunshot wounds, but fragments are still embedded in his head and legs. An infection in his head and legs almost killed him, but emergency help from an international Christian group saved his life.
"I prayed to god to help me in my situation and that's when a Christian worker came and his organization paid for my surgery and all my medical needs."
Jane Tongcua was six months pregnant when she was shot in the chest in the midst of the fighting. She says timely assistance from the Christian group helped save her baby's life.
"The heartbeat of my baby was very weak. I thank God for the people who helped us. I really felt God loves me, she said."
Today, Jane and her husband are happy parents of a healthy baby boy. They are praying that the conflict will soon end so that their son and his generation can live in peace in Mindanao.
Twelve Christian families are still living in this camp as refugees more than a year and a half after their village was attacked by militant Muslims. These little children would love to go home but they have no home to go home to.
Brother Levi is a Christian worker to the Muslim areas. He asked us to hide his identity. He says that for many years, Christians in Mindanao have suffered persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists.
"They want to Islamize the world. Our church was burned three times but it’s still there. They think they can defeat the Christians but they cannot defeat the Christians. There will be a great revival and the Muslims cannot do anything about it."
Christians like Albert and Jane testify that this is true: They say their near death experiences have drawn them closer to God.
"I am alive today so I can tell those who don't believe in God to believe in Him because he is real. He gave our lives. He knows what is best for us. And we should be happy to serve Him."
*Originally broadcast on May 6, 2011.