(Images courtesy Audio Scripture Ministries)
India (MNN) -- A farmer knows that it takes time to produce a crop.
First, you prepare the seedbed. Then you plant the seeds, water them, and allow the seedlings to develop. You try to keep pests and other animals from eating the tender shoots before they mature. Eventually, with enough sun, rain, and time, you get a field of harvest.
That's pretty much what's been happening at Audio Scripture Ministries. The group focuses on recording, duplicating, and distributing God's Word in audio. About a decade ago, they had a ministry called "Word for the Family."
The original goal was to provide audio Scripture to 25,000 families. The project had the potential to reach thousands of non-readers with the message of God's Word. It was introduced in India at roughly the same time that ASM's JP Sundararajan finished seminary. He had gone back to India to reconnect with his family and find ways to help the Gospel outreach work in which they were involved.
Sundararajan recalls, "They had just finished this project called ‘Adopt a Village,' which was an immense project in itself. The goal was to reach 10,000 villages with an audio Bible." The project was so well received that they reached 13,000 villages, tapped themselves out of resources, and pushed the outreach to a critical juncture. The big question was: "What now?"
One Bible for a hundred people just wasn't cutting it, Sundararajan says. "So as a family, we thought maybe we should start targeting other families and maybe provide one Bible for ten people that belonged to a family would be the way to go. We had this dream, of sorts, where we wanted to reach 25,000 families all over India." It was a big step, considering they barely covered the needs with a smaller project.
What's more, Sundararajan says, they needed a sturdier network of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries to support the growth. They took the leap of faith as a family. Sundarajan came back to the States to build support for the ministry. That shifted and took shape with his work and partnership through Audio Scripture Ministries.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. The notice came for Sundararajan's 10-year reunion for his seminary. As he reminisced about early ministry years in his life, he began to wonder what became of the project with which he was involved at that time.
Curious, he did some checking up. The original goal of reaching 25,000 was reached. The ministry reached over 27,000 families...broadened to 35 languages in India, which covered roughly 75% of India. What he found next was nothing short of jaw-dropping. "We were looking at about 5,000 churches that have been planted purely through the "Word for the Family" project all over India. We're working with church planting organizations and Bible translating agencies as well as other local pastors and evangelists and missionaries."
Those churches now have networks of their own. One focuses on the unreached people who live as leprosy survivors. The other, he says, works with the blind communities in India. "Some of them are Christian communities. Entire churches with a pastor, the congregation, everybody is visually impaired. So they have been contacting us," says Sundararajan. Through "this network, one church hears about it, and then they tell the other churches, and now everybody is coming to us."
Looking back at the huge results, Sundararajan ruefully laughs and says, "Our goal was always too small in terms of what God was thinking."
It starts with a seed, a little time, and a lot of prayer. The right resources are needed, too. "For about $35 you can buy an audio Bible for a family in India. We encourage people to start there."
Who knows what else God has in mind? Time will tell.
These boxes of simple items like pencils, notebooks, shoes, and socks are leaving Texas to make an eternal difference in Mexico. (Image courtesy Buckner)
International (MNN) -- It's that time of year again. School is almost back in session!
Buckner International is helping kids get off to the right start.
"This time of year, not just in the state of Texas but all around the world, school supplies [are] at a very low potential," says Buckner's Mike Julian.
That's why Buckner is collecting school supplies, as well as shoes and socks, for kids they support.
"Instead of giving a hand out to the client that we're serving, it kind of gives them a hand up," says Julian. "It doesn't supply everything, but it gives them a starting point."
Buckner's Humanitarian Aid division provides a variety of resources for children and families in need, on both a domestic and international scale. Julian says their efforts are grouped into five main categories: food, clean water, clothing, health, and educational supplies.
By meeting physical needs in these areas, a door opens for the Gospel.
Julian gives this example: "Because a child in Uganda received flip-flops, his mom and dad went to the church that delivered those flip-flops the following Sunday, and the Lord called them to cross a line of faith."
And they weren't the only ones. Julian says a total of 200 flip-flops were sent to Uganda through Buckner's Shoes for Orphan Souls program. Ten families came to the church, and half of them, including the family mentioned above, surrendered their lives to the Lord.
By donating something simple, like a notebook or a pair of shoes, you can create a Gospel ripple effect.
"It's been really neat to see folks respond to the call…and seeing that open the door for the Gospel," says Julian.
The first step is discovering what's needed. After purchase, items are sent to the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid in Rowlett, Texas, where they're sorted and prepared for shipment overseas.
Through the generous hearts of givers and the hard work of volunteers, Buckner is active around the world, "kinda' meeting the basic physical needs, and eventually that opens the door for the Gospel," Julian says.
Click here to see how you can help. Pray that simple items like school supplies and footwear will show kids the abundant love of God.
(Photo courtesy New Tribes Mission)
International (NTM) -- There's a passage in Mark 10 where Jesus shares the parable of the Rich Man. It's about letting go of what's familiar and free-falling into the Gospel. It reveals what we cherish most. It is about the relationship between a person's greatest treasure and the self-denial required to follow Jesus.
What follows is directly from a New Tribes Mission blog post, where one Gospel worker came face-to-face with a lesson at the bottom of the ocean:
Little did a missionary know when he started his Bible study early that Monday morning that God was focusing his heart on very specific truth for a very specific reason.
He was studying a characteristic which he knew should be visible in the life of every believer: a heart that is wholly true and undivided toward the Lord.
As he read various passages of Scripture, he began to ask himself: Do I have a heart that is really wholly true and undivided in my devotion to God? And that very morning, he says, "The Lord gave me a practical lesson and test regarding this." It actually came right after breakfast.
"We received an e-mail with the news that the cargo ship which carried our belongings from the Asia-Pacific region to Germany broke in two because of a storm and sank in the Arabian Sea with its 1,700 containers on board."
Their permanent residence ministry in the Asia-Pacific region had come to an end for the missionary and his wife. With the ministry leadership of the local church now turned over to three elders, they are headed back to their home in Germany.
He writes, "We left Germany for the Asia-Pacific region 12 years ago with two bags and two pieces of luggage." Three weeks ago, he says, they shipped several crates packed with their updated belongings: his library of books in three languages, his study Bibles with years of notes in them, all of the kitchen utensils, their clothes, tools, office contents, and precious pictures and gifts from believers through the years.
Thankfully, all of the crew abandoned ship before it sank and survived. But all of the couple's possessions are at the bottom of the ocean.
"Obviously," he says, "this ship accident was meant to be a lesson for us not to put our hearts toward earthly things." Instead, more than ever, the couple desires to have hearts totally and undividedly focused on the Lord.
"And because of this," he adds, "it really is a reason to thank God and to be happy."
He shares 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
It's much easier to do this, he says, when God teaches you a powerful lesson about having an undivided heart.
Burma's meterology department has forecast above-average precipitation in the first 10 days of August. (Image courtesy Partners)
Burma (MNN) -- Thousands are fleeing their homes in Burma as floodwaters rise.
Partners Relief and Development says a tropical storm at the end of July is still wreaking havoc in southeastern Burma. Five days of record-level rainfall caused a major river to flood its banks, submerging regions in both the Karen and Mon states.
In the Karen state, floodwaters consumed both the homes and livelihoods of several villages helped by Partners. According to the group's Facebook page, around 600 people sought refuge in a monastery in the Palu and Min Lae Pan areas.
Now, ongoing rain isn't letting things dry out. It's triggering flash floods and landslides, and destroying infrastructure.
According to government reports, the death toll has risen to six with one person reported missing. Nearly 4,000 acres of paddy field are under water in the Karen state, and over 38,000 people have been displaced throughout eastern Burma.
Partners is working with the Committee for Internally Displaced People (CIDKP) to respond.
By working together, the groups gave flood victims immediate access to food. Partners sent 117 rice sacks, each weighing over 100 pounds, and CIDKP delivered them.
Right now, Partners and CIDKP are looking for more ways to help. Pray for wisdom and discernment as they decide the best ways to proceed. Pray that flood victims will learn about Christ through the kindness of strangers.
Partners demonstrates God's love to children and families in Burma made vulnerable by war. Their work includes disaster relief, healthcare, agriculture, education, children's homes, weaving, trauma counseling, and sustainability projects. Click here to learn more.
[Cover photo courtesy of Brian Harrington Spier (Flickr). Story photo courtesy of Matt May (Flickr).]
International (MNN) -- The U.S. State Department has stepped up its security measures against al-Qaeda terrorist threats in the Arabian Peninsula.
On Tuesday, most U.S. embassy personnel were ordered out of Yemen by the State Department, and U.S. citizens were urged to evacuate the country.
Around 90 embassy personnel were flown out of Yemen’s capital by the U.S. Air Force, according to a senior US official. 20 American diplomatic posts were shut down earlier this week in light of the security alert. The UK has also pulled out some of their own staff.
Officials say this heightened threat stems from an intercepted conversation between Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin’s successor. Plans to target Western authorities were revealed, according to The Independent.
A global travel alert warns caution while traveling until the end of August.
Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response (BGR) says while Western citizens can pull out, the citizens and refugees in Yemen may still be vulnerable due to “the wars and the conflicts and the terrorism.... In the midst of that, there’s all this collateral damage: people with families and children. They don’t have any stake in the fight one way or the other, but they’re just the victims on the outside; and they have to flee their homes, flee their country.”
Other groups impacted include humanitarian relief organizations. “It does affect those who are actually first responders and also those who are out on the frontlines who are helping in war-torn situations in these sensitive areas,” says Palmer.
A record 107,500 refugees arrived in Yemen in 2012, according to The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Another 46,000 arrived in the first six months of 2013. Most of them are either Ethiopian or Somali.
The situation requires aid.
“While this is something the U.S. government has done, it doesn’t really stop us and relief and development organizations from trying to help people in need. It does give us pause to be a little bit more careful, but it’s proof that this is just an evil world,” says Palmer.
“That’s why we as followers of Christ have to be very active in responding to the evils and those who are called in the midst of that suffering,” Palmer says. “With BGR, it goes through partners who are like-minded out there...and they’re the ones who not only carry a package of food [as] hope or a package of healthcare items as hope, but as they go in and make contact they also carry [the Gospel] message of hope to those who are in the most desperate need.”
Please pray for the people of Yemen and especially those needing aid. Pray for safety, peace, and for the name of Christ to be proclaimed.