Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, The Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo (Syria), Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop.
Syria (MNN) -- Two Christians in Syria have been released after a kidnapping in that civil-war-battered nation.
According to SAT-7 -- Christian satellite television for the Middle East and North Africa, on the evening of Monday, April 22, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, The Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo (Syria) was traveling with Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop in the same city. They were returning to Aleppo from a village near the Turkish border when armed gunmen stopped the car in the village of Kfar Dael, killed the driver, and kidnapped the two bishops. Reportedly, they had been attempting to negotiate the release of others who had recently been kidnapped by Syrian rebels, when they fell prey themselves. After a day of intense political efforts and the prayers of many, they were thankfully both released unharmed yesterday afternoon.
At the beginning of April, Mar Gregorios had given an interview with the BBC's Arabic Service and called for the Syrian government to allow free access to the media. He said that by allowing journalists to move about freely, it would show the "true picture of the tragedy suffered by Syrians."
At the end of March, Mar Gregorios attended SAT-7's annual Network Conference in Cyprus and spoke of the ongoing conflict in his beloved Syria during a panel discussion.
Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (also a SAT-7 International Council Member) said earlier today, "We know very well that the role these bishops are playing in Aleppo is to encourage the Syrian Christians and strengthen them to remain in their land." Bishop Younan had demanded their release and, thankfully, this has now happened.
SAT-7 provided special, extended live programming to cover the breaking news on the situation, inviting people to pray for the ongoing conflict in Syria and for an end to such abductions that have now become so commonplace.
SAT-7 is addressing needs in Syria with special programming. "One of those programs is called Kermalak, and it means, "For You." The presenter of that is a young man, Noor Botros, from Syria. He's consistently bringing guests on the show to speak about the conflict, to speak about how to stay encouraged in your faith."
There have been more than 75,000 deaths since the conflict started in Syria and more than one million refugees are now living in camps or temporary housing in nearby Turkey, Jordan or Syria. In addition, there are more than 4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and it is estimated that one-in-three homes and places of work have been destroyed or damaged in the fighting.
Pray and support SAT-7's work here.
Students receive training in motorbike repair. (Photo courtesy of BGR)
Central Asia (MNN) -- Having a job is something that means a lot to most adults, especially when trying to provide for a family. In Central Asia, many men and women are the primary caretakers for their family, but they lack skills that will help them get a job.
Because of this problem, Baptist Global Response is in its fourth year of The Skills Development Project (SDP). The project provides apprenticeship-based vocational training for men and women by pairing them with established craftsmen. In addition to learning a craft, they have the opportunity to receive literacy training and guidance in other life skills, as well as hear the Gospel.
The project can only host about 40 men and women per course. The training lasts about nine months, and after the training is complete the students are able to provide a sustainable income to provide for their family. The average income in many of the towns that the men and women come from is less than 55 cents a day, and this training gives them hope for more.
"One of the great strengths of this project is that it can be readily replicated and indefinitely sustained," says the project director in a release. "Poor people who are trained in a skill, in turn, will train others. The long-term added-value of this project to poor and more vulnerable people is very significant."
One man chose to train as a motorcycle mechanic. After he finished with this training, he took out a small loan and opened his own motorcycle repair workshop. He now is doing very well with his business and has begun to train others in the trade he learned with SDP.
In other follow-up evaluations of the program graduates, many now have a successful business, a good income, and a much improved standard of living. The intention of this program is that the students will return to their hometowns to help build those economies.
Pray that lives will continue to be changed through this project. Ask God to give the teachers opportunity to share the Gospel. Pray that the program will continue to grow as the need continues.
Whether surfing or teaching English, 'transformers' learn how to share their faith in the Mediterranean. (Image courtesy of OM)
Rome (MNN) -- Jesus Christ was born and fulfilled His powerful ministry in the Mediterranean. Yet of the 480 million people living there, only a few actually know who He is.
Gary Witherall of Operation Mobilization says they're looking to change this with Transform 2013.
"There are many conferences, and there are many books on missions," says Witherall, "but this is a challenge to come and put the dust of the Mediterranean on your feet, to come and share your faith."
Transformers first spend a week in Rome, connecting with mission-minded folk from around the world. Practical workshops and times of prayer and outreach help participants wrap their minds around the idea of "Transform" before launching out on their own.
Witherall says workshops address questions like, "How do we share our faith to somebody who's fled from war? Or how do we share our faith with somebody who is postmodern and has really given up on God?"
By working out the answers to these questions, Transformers can discover where their talents fit into OM's Mediterranean ministry.
"People can come and discover very quickly that they can have a real impact," Witherall says. "We're not looking to do kind of a tourist experience, but really bring the Gospel in a relevant way."
After getting their feet wet in Rome, participants head into one of 21 Mediterranean countries for outreach. They can serve anywhere from a week to six months.
On the surface, "Transform" might look like just another missions conference or just another short-term missions trip. Witherall says it's anything but.
"Surfing, skate, trekking -- there are some teams that are more adventurous, and other teams that are working with refugees or teaching English," he says.
Transform 2013 kicks off on July 15. There are more details here. And, you shouldn't assume "Transform" is just for college kids.
"We would love people from all ages to be part of it," Witherall adds. "When you walk on the streets of the Mediterranean, every age group is there. And there is every need imaginable."
Pray for OM staff as they prepare for ministry opportunities. Pray that participants will see how to use their skills as part of the Great Commission.
The proposed wall system is one-third the cost of a typical block wall. (Image courtesy CWO)
Burkina Faso (MNN) -- You put a fence around things you love to keep them safe, right?
Greg Yoder, Vice President of Christian World Outreach, says CWO is taking it a step further in Burkina Faso.
"We are building a wall around our property to protect the young ladies that are in the school there," he states.
"We just started this campaign, so not a lot has been done yet. But people have started to respond already, and we're excited about that."
Traffickers take young women from, to, and through Burkina, making it a prime resource for the world's second-largest illegal industry. CWO is currently protecting 29 young girls from this evil at their training center/boarding school.
Along with protecting students from predators, a cement wall will also protect the property from danger of a different kind: wildfires.
"The fires can pretty much sweep across the land, burning up the dry grasses, and [a wall] stops that kind of damage from coming across the property as well," says Yoder.
The boarding school--appropriately dubbed Village of Opportunity (VOO)--teaches job skills and how to start a home business to young women ages 15 to 25. As it currently stands, the center is a bit of an oddity in Burkina.
Yoder says most construction in Burkina begins with the construction of a wall. This way, materials and the builders themselves are protected as they form the structures. In the eyes of the locals, CWO did everything "backwards" on this project.
In 2010, CWO moved their vocational training classes into a new facility. At the end of 2012, the project change, and students celebrated the construction of a new dormitory.
Through it all, God kept His people safe. Ask Him to keep protecting the innocent.
"God can build a wall that we don't necessarily see with our physical eyes, and so far He's done that," says Yoder. "He's protected these young ladies."
In addition to gaining job skills and business knowledge at the VOO, girls learn about their worth in Christ. That alone is a game-changer in Burkina. From a young age, the region's culture teaches girls they're worthless.
As young women discover their value and identity in Christ, they carry that Truth to others.
"Many of the young ladies come from Muslim or animist families," says Yoder. "They're hearing the Gospel, becoming Christians, and sharing Christ with the people in their village."
You can sponsor a portion of the wall and help CWO complete this project in Burkina. Just click here!
The ACLU has filed a discrimination lawsuit against a florist in Washington State who says she would not sell flowers for a gay couple's wedding because of her religious beliefs. The state is already prosecuting her under a consumer protection law.