Todd Nettleton - Voice for the Martyrs | Compelled Podcast | Persecuted Christians

#25 Voice for the Martyrs – Todd Nettleton

Todd Nettleton works for Voice of the Martyrs, finding and telling stories of modern-day Christians who are being persecuted and martyred throughout the world.

A widow in Turkey, a Chinese woman who was imprisoned for her faith in Christ, and a new believer in Laos who couldn’t wait to share his faith with others… These are just a handful of the persecuted Christians Todd has interacted with throughout his time with Voice of the Martyrs which have had a deep impact on his own faith.

Win a book or DVD from Voice of the Martyrs by entering the giveaway contest further down this page.

Episode Summary

The following is a summary of the podcast interview above with Todd Nettleton. Many more details are included in the original podcast episode and we encourage you to listen.


As a 10-year-old boy, Todd Nettleton was inspired by the story of Stanley Dale, a missionary whose life was filled with adventure. Dale travelled to the island nation of Papua New Guinea to share the Gospel with the natives who had never heard of Jesus. Sadly, in a final act of complete devotion to his faith, Stanley was martyred by the natives, but not before sharing the Gospel with them and leading some to faith in Christ.

Papua New Guinea 

A couple of years later, Todd was elated when his parents made the decision to move their whole family to Papua New Guinea, the exact same place of Stanley Dale’s ministry and martyrdom. Their time in the country completely changed Todd’s perspective on life and equipped him for the work he would do as an adult.

Todd’s parents were hostel parents, and their role was to house up to 12 missionary children every semester, who attended school while their parents were in the jungle serving and sharing the Gospel. Todd’s dad also served as a pastor in their local church.

Growing up surrounded by so many missionaries impacted Todd. Also, out in the bush with no access to television, Todd came to enjoy reading for pleasure and became fascinated with stories, something that would also contribute to his future career.

Searching for Something Else

Eventually, Todd’s family moved back to the United States, and Todd attended college in Oklahoma. He studied journalism and communication and worked several jobs for various newspapers. 

But slowly, Todd began to have a feeling that he should be in a different line of work. He wasn’t sure where God wanted him, but he started applying for various positions all over the United States. Yet, time after time, his applications were rejected.

At one particularly discouraging point in this process, Todd shared with his church small group the burden he felt God had laid on his heart to look for different work, as well as the difficulty he was having finding a job. That night, the group lifted Todd and his situation up in prayer, and, within 24 hours, Todd had 2 job offers. 

One of them, which Todd ended up accepting, was working for the ministry Voice of the Martyrs. 

What is Voice of the Martyrs?

At the time, Voice of the Martyrs was still a young organization and Todd was asked to become a part of their burgeoning communications department.

Todd quickly became acquainted with Voice of the Martyrs’ three main goals:

1. Persecution response: Voice of the Martyrs helps meet the physical and spiritual needs of those who are being persecuted.

2. Distributing Bibles: Today, Voice of the Martyrs gives away 1 million Bibles every year.

3. Commissioning front-line workers: These are Gospel agents who live in the field and frequently experience persecution themselves, even to the point of death.

The heart of Voice of the Martyrs is to live out the instruction found in Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

A Window Into Other Lives

When Todd stepped into the ministry, his role was to meet believers around the globe who were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus and to share their stories through interviews, articles, and radio (and now through podcasting). Todd effectively became a window for Christians in cozy America to see the faith and unwavering belief of our brothers and sisters undergoing suffering throughout the world.

Now, after more than 20 years working for Voice of the Martyrs, Todd is grateful for each of the believers that God has allowed him to meet. His faith has especially been strengthened by a couple of stories he encountered along the way.

Sister Tong

Early on in Todd’s career with Voice of the Martyrs, he interviewed a Chinese woman, Sister Tong, who had just spent 6 months in prison simply for holding a church meeting in her home. In the course of the interview, Todd asked her to describe her prison experience for him. With his American journalistic mind engaged, Todd anticipated that she would share about the horrific conditions under which she had been held. 

So when the translator relayed Sister Tong’s response back to Todd, Todd was shocked. “That was a wonderful time!” Sister Tong said, with a warm glow on her face. At first, Todd assumed there must have been some sort of mistake with the translation. But there was no mistake. 

Sister Tong went on to explain that her time in prison had been filled with such nearness to the Lord that she looked back on the time fondly. She also told Todd that God had allowed her to share the Gospel with her fellow prisoners, and some of them had even come to salvation.

Sister Tong so highly valued knowing “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” that such a time could only be labeled as “wonderful” in her mind.

This early interview was highly formative for Todd. It gave him an entirely new perspective on persecution, and helped him understand that suffering could be a gift from the Lord which draws Christians into a deeper dependence upon Jesus. It was a perspective that Todd would hear echoed again and again as he continued meeting with other martyrs.

Three Turkish Martyrs

In 2007, Todd received a call out of the blue informing him that three owners of a Christian publishing company in Turkey had been martyred. They left behind 2 widows, a fiancé, and 5 children. 

Todd immediately prayed for the families as they mourned their losses and that the funeral would go smoothly.

A few days later, the day before the funeral was to take place, Todd was at the kitchen table with his family, leading family devotions. As they were reading about Elisha, the Holy Spirit suddenly laid on his heart the families of the three martyrs, and Todd felt an urging to pray for them right then.

He especially felt a burden for the children of the martyrs, and, with tears rolling down his cheeks, Todd began praying specifically that they would receive a double portion of their fathers’ spirits, just as Elisha had received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. 

Visiting Their Widows

Seven weeks after Todd’s prayer, he had the opportunity to go to Turkey himself and visit the families of those martyred. He had wonderful interviews with the widow of the first martyr and the fiancé of the second. 

Finally, Todd met Semse, the widow of the third martyr. She introduced Todd to her two children, her daughter Esther and her son Elisha. Todd was stunned, knowing he had been praying for her children to receive a double portion of their father’s spirit just like Elisha in the Bible. Now he was learning that her son’s very name was Elisha! God had been working in their lives in a special way. 

Semse went on to share that, when she and her husband had first become Christians, her husband had went to jail for his faith in Christ. He was eventually released, but, when he came home, they had a conversation and made a formative decision.

They knew that if they would simply be Christians and go to church without doing the things Christ had called them to do, that they could go on living their lives in peace. However, Semse and her husband stepped out in faith, counting the cost, and decided on complete obedience to whatever God called them to do.

Her husband’s martyrdom was no surprise; they had made the decision to lay down their lives years ahead of time.

An Answer to Todd’s Prayer

Years passed, but God was not done answering Todd’s prayer for Semse’s family. Eventually, Semse and her children moved to America and settled in Colorado. When Todd found out, he set up a meeting with her. His in-laws, who lived in Colorado, also met with Semse and, at the end of their time together, exchanged phone numbers.

In the years since, Todd’s in-laws have now become a set of “second grandparents” to Semse’s children and have poured into their lives.

Looking back, Todd can see the hand of God at work in his own life to bring healing to Semse’s family. If it had not been for an out-of-the-blue call that arrived on Todd’s phone over 10 years ago, his in-laws would never have become “grandparents” to Semse’s children.

Meaningful Testimonies

Spending time with persecuted believers has completely changed Todd’s perspective on persecution and has also been instrumental in building his own faith.

To Todd, the most striking thing about all of the persecuted believers he has met is their joy and excitement in not only serving Christ, but suffering for him. They see it, not as a duty, but as a true honor.

Todd knows that, if God has not placed us in a situation where we currently undergo persecution, we should still share with our brothers and sisters in their persecution by praying for them and interceding on their behalf. Both before God and before governments. 

But, if God has placed us in a situation where we suffer persecution, He will also give us the grace and strength to endure.

As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Book Giveaway

Win either a copy of Todd Nettleton’s book Restricted Nations: North Korea or Voice of the Martyr’s DVD Tortured for Christ using the entry form below.

Note: Winner must live within the United States or Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Winner must live within the United States or Canada.

Show Notes

Voice of the Martyrs website:

Todd’s show, VOM Radio:

Write letters to persecuted Christians (a VOM project):

Day of the Christian Martyr (a VOM project):