The recent shooting at a community college in Oregon is a haunting example of the persecution of Christians in the United States. Witness accounts revealed that the shooter targeted Christians, fatally shooting them.
Being persecuted for their faith is a harsh reality for Christians in Pakistan and two La Crosse area churches are working together to support their brothers and sisters in Christ 7,000 miles away.
The All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan is a place where christian faith, worship and healing is surrounded by death, destruction and violence.
"If you want to think of a place on the planet that's the center or middle of a target for terrorism this is the place where that's happening," explained Pastor Dave Konkol of First Free Church in Onalaska.
Terror groups fill the streets where just 2% the population considers themselves Christian, and it's those followers of Christ who are being persecuted for their beliefs.
On September 22nd, 2013 two suicide bombers detonated their bombs outside All Saints Church killing nearly 100 Christians and injuring nearly 180 more.
"We lost too many loved ones, too many people like family to us," said Sarah Augustine, whose been a member of All Saints Church for the past 16 years.
She survived the blast but will never forget the devastation that day. "The journey after the blast has been very difficult. Just a couple of months ago there was a thunderstorm over here, some lightning and sounds, I was napping and a big sound and I woke up and I asked my husband, 'oh my gosh was it a blast?'"
While Sarah feels safe in her new home here in America, she knows firsthand the fear felt back in Pakistan. But that fear is matched with compassion and forgiveness.
Father Patrick Augustine of Christ Episcopal Church in La Crosse has seen the evolution of All Saints Church for the past 40 years. His hope is to continue to encourage the church to live a life in Christ.
That hope is the motivation behind a new collaboration between the Christ Episcopal Church in La Crosse and First Free Church in Onalaska. Both parishes fundraising to keep the All Saints Church thriving.
"Even though they are a different culture, different community, nation on the other side of the world, they're like us they're our brothers and sisters they believe in the same God they worship the same God," said Pastor Konkol.
"The message of Jesus Christ is love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion," added Father Augustine.
It's that compassion, love and hope they believe can find its way to fellow Christians thousands of miles away.
If you want to help First Free Church and Christ Episcopal Church in their efforts click here.