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You are helping save Christians around the world   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-18 - 12 days ago
(Photo by Open Doors USA) Int'l (ODM) -- God is using your support to help save Christians who have fled their homes, and provide strength and comfort. One of the greatest crises of our time is the growing number of Christian refugees: men, women, and children who have been forced to flee their homes because of escalating violence, death threats, and direct assaults, just because they are Christians. Because of your generous ongoing support, Open Doors has been able to help keep these Christians alive, despite the horrific plights they have faced. Here are just a few of the amazing ways God is at work strengthening these precious brothers and sisters through your support. A Young Woman Willing to Die for Her Faith in Iraq Raja, a young Iraqi Christian in her 20s, will never forget that day: the day her pastor’s lifeless body was found in a gutter. He had been taken by extremists who had brutally beaten him and then killed him, all for refusing to deny Jesus. And to send a message, they had dumped his body in a gutter. Because of the increasing violence, persecution, and death threats, Raja and her family were forced to flee from their home. But that horrific event has deeply challenged Raja’s faith. "I started wondering if I was actually ready to die for my faith, like my pastor did," she explained. "I have to be honest: at first I wasn’t that brave. I thought, ‘I’ll just say I converted to Islam, but stay a Christian in my heart.’ But when I thought about the sacrifice my pastor had made, I started realizing that I never wanted to deny my faith. I know that the pain of death only lasts for a minute, but after that I will be with my Savior forever." Today, Raja and her family are working to restart their lives in another part of Iraq that is still filled with dangers. Open Doors is there helping to provide the resources, encouragement, and support they need to rebuild… and stand firm in their faith. Keeping Christians Alive in Central Asia Ahmed, a pastor in a Central Asian Muslim-majority country (which cannot be named for security reasons), is like many pastors in this region of the world. Local authorities, the government, and neighbors often turn against them and threaten them because of their faith. For Ahmed, the threats became so intense that he had to make the hard decision to flee his country to take his family to safety. And now he is facing arrest. Open Doors is there to provide a safe house for Ahmed and his family while they wait to be able to return to their home. They are working with him to strengthen and encourage him during this difficult time. In spite of the difficulties, Ahmed remains resolute in his faith and determined to see the Gospel advanced. As he says, "My dream, and the dream of my family, is to see the love of Christ spread through our hometown." According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 7.6 million people have been displaced this year. Among this number--which is rapidly growing--are an increasing number of Christians who are being forced to flee for their lives. In countries like Iraq, North Korea, and many Central Asian countries, Christians have lost almost everything because of their faith in Christ. Please pray that Ahmed and his family will be able to return to their home, so they can continue to be a light for the gospel in a place of deep spiritual darkness. Though many of these believers have lost almost everything, your prayers and support are helping to keep these brave Christians alive. Your faithfulness has equipped Open Doors to be able to serve these Christians and bring restoration to their communities. Thank you for standing with them!

Ebola epidemic stalls outreach   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-15 - 15 days ago
(Graphic courtesy Living Water International) West Africa (LWI) -- The Ebola epidemic sweeping West Africa has claimed a second doctor from Sierra Leone. The death toll continues to climb even as doctors race to find a vaccine. Living Water International staff in Liberia and Sierra Leone desperately need your prayers. They are living and working in the midst of the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history, risking their lives to bring clean water and the love of Jesus to those most in need. To date, over 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria, according to World Health Organization figures. Health officials are being warned to be vigilant for the symptoms of the virus. (Photo courtesy Living Water International) Liberia’s president has ordered the nation’s schools to shut down and civil workers to stay home as fears of Ebola epidemic spread. There are now concerns that the virus could spread beyond West Africa. Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected, but patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment. LWI staff is taking preventive measures and exercising every precaution possible. Living Water International’s offices in Liberia and Sierra Leone are closing for two weeks, and all staff have been asked to remain home. Kanyata Mukelabai, Living Water’s country director in Liberia reports, “My staff and I are serious about our precautions. We no longer shake hands. Chlorinated water is provided at two points at the office for everyone to wash their hands regularly and as they go to and from the office. This is now a practice at most offices and even churches.” “There is now more awareness of the disease by the local people,” said Hastings Banda, Living Water’s country director in Sierra Leone. “Initially there was a lot of denial as people generally didn’t believe it was a disease. Of course there are still pockets of areas where some people still don’t believe. People going out of the affected areas are being screened before they can be allowed to go, to avoid spreading the disease to other areas.” Please pray for: The protection and health of Living Water staff in Liberia and Sierra Leone Guidance and strength for Living Water leadership in Liberia and Sierra Leone An immediate end to the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history

Ibrahim and the Dreamer to reach Muslims   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-15 - 15 days ago
USA (MNN) -- As ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, and other terror groups continue the assault on the world in the Middle East and North Africa, a new film is reaching across cultural lines. Scriptures In Use (SIU) is a ministry that's been pioneering the training of local leaders in the use of traditional oral communication to reach the most remote, unreached people groups in the world: communities, tribes, and villages without access to the Gospel or the Scriptures in their own language, without pastors in their region, or without the freedom to meet for worship. SIU is releasing the DVD Ibrahim and the Dreamer today. An SIU worker tells us, "I think the Lord is opening new doors for us to reach Islam as never before. And probably one of the great untold stories is the number of Muslims that are coming to Christ out of the Islamic world, all across the crescent moon." Based on stories collected from the people of Northern Ghana, Ibrahim and the Dreamer is a film about the power of stories to change lives, and how people in these remote, hard-to-reach parts of the world learn through story-based oral communication styles. This SIU worker says this film is kind of a miracle. "When we arrived in country, we didn't have any story to go from, really. We were doing interviews in local villages, and that's really where the story-line came from." When Ibrahim, a villager in Northern Ghana, and his brother, Osman, have a falling out, it seems that nothing can reconcile them and bring their family back together. But on his way to meet Osman to extract his revenge, Ibrahim meets a strange man, Wumbei, that he’s seen only in his dreams. Late that night around the campfire, Wumbei tells Ibrahim the story of another man, Joseph, who had dreams and was shunned by his brothers. Ibrahim is fascinated by the compassion that Joseph was able to show, but is unsure if he’s able to show the same mercy. Ibrahim and the Dreamer is a story that explores the power of Bible stories in a place like the Islamic Sahel of West Africa, and shows how storytelling can change hearts, minds, and lives. What's even more amazing is the actors. They're Muslim. "Once they read the script, they just jumped on it. They were just thrilled to be a part of it. It just took off." The story isn't the Gospel. It's a seed. "I hope that the film in some way drives them to the Creator of the story, to the Message of the story, and to who's really the Owner of the story, which is of course Christ Himself." You can get a copy of the new DVD free from SUI. Get your copy by going to: https://www.mnnonline.org/resources/free-resources/. To learn more about SIU and their training programs, please visit www.siutraining.org.

Islamic State targeting Baghdad?   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-15 - 15 days ago
Picture taken in 2006 of a church in Baghdad. Iraq (MNN) -- Islamic State (IS) terrorists have set their sights on Baghdad as they prepare to take Qara Tappa, a town just north of the capital. It's reportedly a move to fend off Kurdish fighters, but it could also be a step closer toward the militants' stated goal of seizing Iraq's capital city. "Seizing Baghdad would be difficult…but a foothold just near the capital could make it easier for the Islamic State to carry out suicide bombings, deepen sectarian tensions, and [destabilize] Iraq," writes Reuters' Raheem Salman in a recent report. According to the UN, around 1.2 million people have been driven from their homes by the recent crisis. In July, over 5,500 civilians had been killed during the first half of 2014 as a result of insurgent violence. Iraq has been given the UN's highest emergency status, "Level 3 Emergency," along with Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. (Photo cred U.S. Navy) Bombings, kidnappings, and death have become a daily reality throughout Iraq. Things are pretty bad, but it's not intimidating Global Aid Network (GAIN) USA. GAIN USA's Mark Gaither says they're upping a commitment to help ministry partners and refugees, both in refugee camps and a few cities where people are taking shelter form the Islamic State. "We are in the process of mobilizing to dig deep wells…at least five wells in each of these cities," Gaither reports. "The most critical need right now is water, because of the long-term nature of what we're likely to see." GAIN USA is also sending help in the form of food and medical supplies. Help their efforts go farther here. Crisis leads to opportunity As ministry partners distribute supplies, they become friends with refugees. This often leads to a chance to tell them about Jesus. "We have these opportunities one-on-one, and that's one of the reasons we shy away from doing mass distributions, because it's very difficult to follow-up and build relationships," Gaither explains. Global Aid Network ministers to refugees in the Middle East (Photo courtesy of GAIN USA) However, when desperate situations call for a mass distribution of supplies, GAIN USA has a strategy for evangelism. They partner with their sister ministry, The JESUS Film Project, to show the film, JESUS. "They see the Gospel of Luke played out for them, and they hear, in their own language, Jesus talking to them and asking them to follow Him," says Gaither. This gives team members a starting point to share their own personal testimonies of salvation and engage in group discussion. "We have people whose hearts are darkened, who are not filled with the light of the Gospel, and that's why when we engage in humanitarian aid. It's not just about meeting the physical needs," Gaither states. "We're dealing with the hearts of people who need to be submitted to Jesus Christ, and that's really the only long-term solution." Please continue to surround this crisis in prayer. Gaither shares specific requests here, or you can find them listed on the upper-right side of this page. Pray for the plans of the Islamic State to be thwarted.

Christmas in August preps for December outrech   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-15 - 15 days ago
(Photo by For Haiti with Love) Haiti (MNN) -- The guests came in laughing and shaking the water off their clothes from the downpour outside. They weren't going to let the weather dampen their mood or keep them from coming. The event is called Christmas in August. It's an annual dinner and auction put on by For Haiti with Love to raise money for another Christmas party on Christmas day. Christmas in August took place on Monday. We spoke with Eva DeHart of For Haiti with Love about the results of the dinner. She said local merchants had donated gifts for door prizes. They auctioned off wood carvings, jewelry, paintings, and other items from Haiti. Some people donated quilts they had made. "It was an interesting start to the evening, but everything else just went off like clockwork. It was a fun evening, it was productive evening," DeHart says, "[We] netted about 50% less than last year which simply means that we'll have a smaller party in Haiti on Christmas Day." In the same way the crowd shook off the rain from their shoulders, For Haiti keeps a positive outlook about this year's Christmas party despite the decline in financial support. "The whole purpose of the evening is gifts and food and sharing the Gospel with the children in Haiti on December 25th," DeHart says. While many of the kids will come because they know they'll get a hot meal and they know they'll get presents, there is something much more important to be shared with them. "You're sharing the real purpose of Christmas Day. You're celebrating Messiah's birthday." The children will receive coloring books of the Christmas story in their language. Christmas hymns in their language are printed in the back of the coloring books. When these children are hungry, often sick, and living in families with no prospect to provide for themselves, you might be wondering, "Why is a party so important? Shouldn't you be focusing on their food?" Aside from the fact that For Haiti does address these needs on a regular basis, Christmas is a significant time to remind the children--and often their parents--of the hope in Christ despite their hardships. (Photo by For Haiti with Love) The reminder is good. DeHart explains that when her husband first started working in Haiti, the country was 80% Catholic, 20% protestant, 100% voodoo. That means that despite learning about Christ, the people held on to their old beliefs, creating a synthetic religion. "In the early days, they didn't ask people to make a choice between their voodoo-following and their Christ-following. Modern day Christians do ask them to make that choice." DeHart says that they pray for the Haitians to accept the whole truth of the Gospel and to surrender their old beliefs. But, she explains, with the constant health problems, it becomes difficult. She says, "Voodoo has a medicinal side to it. And when their children get really sick, no matter how much they believe and have accepted the Gospel, they're still apt to grab their pigeons and go to the voodoo priest if the medical situation is really, really bad." DeHart says until they have proper medical care, it is likely there will be entwining of religions. Pray that Haitians will learn to lean fully on God and His eternal promises. DeHart explains her favorite part of the Christmas party: "No matter how poor they are, no matter how little they have, their goal is to come to that party making their very best presentation of themselves. So if they don’t have any clothing that doesn't have holes in it, they will have relatives that they can borrow things from. People ask us for pictures of the poor little kids that we serve at the Christmas party. Well, none of the children look poor at the Christmas party." The kids have their neighbors do their hair, and they borrow dresses and shoes. "They want to make their very best presentation to God and to For Haiti with Love for that party. It's just a joy to watch the preparation that they go through and the enthusiasm that they reflect for what Americans would consider a pretty basic, simple party." The decrease in funding from this year's auction echoes the type of year For Haiti has had. In February, they had to temporarily shut down their food program because they were not getting food. Now things are up and running again, and they've had two containers delivered. But to keep it open, they need at least one more container to be delivered by the end of the year. (Photo Courtesy of For Haiti with Love) It costs $10,000 to transport this food to their distribution center in Haiti. To contribute, click here (donate tab on upper left of page. Purpose: transportation for food program). The donated items for the Christmas party also need to be transported. If you'd like to support that financially, click here (donate tab on upper left of page. Purpose: transportation of Christmas Party goods). Or you can send a check to this address if you prefer to do it offline: For Haiti with Love PO Box 1017 Palm Harbor, FL 34682-1017 Please pray for protection and perseverance for the minitry. Pray that they would be a light of truth for these people still look to old religions during times of uncertainty. Keep DeHart's daughter in your prayers, as well, as she is addressing health issues in the States and longs to get back to work in Haiti.

Five years later: no justice in India case   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-15 - 15 days ago
(Photo courtesy Mission India) India (MNI) -- August marks the 5-year anniversary of the arrest of six Children’s Bible Club leaders. Maybe you remember the story. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India staff share both the background and the current details in this blog post: Late one night in 2009, a mob of 20 anti-Christian extremists burst into a training for Year-Long Children’s Bible Club leaders. Shouting, they moved from room to room. The extremists dragged people out of bed, beat them without mercy, and burned every book and Bible they saw. Police arrived on the scene, but instead of protecting the victims, they arrested six Children’s Bible Club partners. They were all jailed on false charges of coercing children to become Christians. Mission India's Children’s Bible Club partners were finally released on bail—but that was only the beginning of five grueling years of legal wrangling. At least once a month for the past five years, they have to drop everything to travel to Karnataka, India to appear before the court. To date: more than 60 trips. It’s a hassle and an added expense; several of our partners must travel 12 hours just to get there. But there seems to be no end in sight. Every time they appear in court, an excuse is given to postpone the case: “The judge himself did not turn up in court.” “The police did not send summons to the witnesses because of the Ganesh [Hindu] festival holidays.” “We want 10 more witnesses (other than the five who already testified) from a different area.” What can you do? Pray. Pray that there will be no further delays in the courts. Pray that the false charges will finally be dropped. And pray for the safety of this year’s Year-Long Children’s Bible Club leaders, who are being trained this month in India!

Long March leaves wake of violence in Pakistan   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-14 - 16 days ago
Pakistan (ODM/MNN) -- Is another storm coming today in Pakistan? August 14 is Pakistan's Independence Day. An Islamic group and the opposing body in the House of Parliament are joining together in what is called a "Long March." It has already begun across the country with the number of protestors increasing. If violence continues in the wake of the march, the fear is civil war could break out. If this is the case, martial law could be imposed. The groups which have been organizing the "Long March" are calling for mid-term elections and claiming that the current government used fraudulent means and poll rigging to come into power. There have already been killings, violence, and protests across the country. Pakistani Christians are concerned because of the fallout from the Middle East violence. Christians in Pakistan often suffer as a result of the intensifying violence in the Middle East, particularly hostility between Hamas and Israel. Christians are automatically seen as supporting Israel. There is also concern of copycat ISIS-type violence across the Gulf region. Pakistan is #8 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians. Pray that Christians there will remain strong in their faith and find God to be their refuge and strength. Pray that God's Word will be seen in their words and deeds by those who are seeking to know Him.

Religious freedom on the line   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-14 - 16 days ago
(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons) Nepal (MNN) -- Religious freedom is at-stake in Nepal as political leaders feel pressure to add anti-conversion laws to the constitution. It shouldn't be a surprise that India is pushing Nepal to make the change, say Patrick Klein with Vision Beyond Borders. Listen to the full interview here. "India's very, very influential in Nepal's politics," Klein explains. "This radical Hindu group that's mostly based down in India, they're trying to push these anti-conversion laws because the Church [is] growing very fast in Nepal. "People are seeing that Hinduism does not work and is not the Truth." On his Web site, Christian researcher Russ Mitchell identifies Nepal and China as the places where Christianity is growing the fastest. He uses information gathered from a 2013 report published by The Center for the Study of Global Christianity. "The primary growth factor in Asia is conversion growth," Mitchell writes. "China, Nepal, Cambodia, and Mongolia have high conversion rates among their indigenous people." This growth is what threatens the radical Hindu groups, Klein explains. "There's a lot of control through religion," he says. "I think we're going to see more and more persecution break out in Asia because these people are threatened." In a recent briefing, Christian Solidarity Worldwide draws attention to proposed anti-conversion legislation. It cites specific examples of pressure on Nepali leaders to restrict religious freedom and calls on the Constituent Assembly to protect citizens' rights to choose which belief they will adhere to. Religious Freedom in South Asia Most of Nepal's neighbors have something in their books restricting religious freedom. Five states in India have strict anti-conversion laws in place, while another three have laws under consideration. Only one state, Tamil Nadu, has successfully repealed such statutes. Eight of nine countries in South Asia are on Open Doors USA's World Watch List (WWL).(Map courtesy SouthAsianConcern.com) Anti-Christian sentiment is even more widespread on the social front in South Asia. From Pakistan to Burma, eight of nine countries in South Asia are on the Open Doors World Watch List (WWL). The World Watch List is a ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst. Nepal's new constitution is expected to reach completion next year. If an anti-conversion law is added and enforced, it'll have damaging effects on ministry. Currently VBB works with local believers in Nepal to rescue women and girls from the sex trade. They also care for orphaned kids and match them with sponsors who can support them financially. "When [girls] come into the safe house and hear the Gospel, they get saved. [Under the new constitution], that would be illegal," explains Klein. "It would really hurt us. "If one of those kids [in the orphanage] came to Christ, then the orphanage could be shut down and the directors put in prison." What you can do to help Please pray about this situation, and pray for believers in Nepal. "Pray that the Church will be strong and that the Church will not compromise," asks Klein. "We also need to pray for the lawmakers in these countries, that the Holy Spirit would convict them of sin, of righteousness, and judgment to come." Will you write a prayer for Nepal in the Comments section below? More stories from South Asia.

Jumping for Hope: Gospel for Asia volunteer jumps out of plane   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-14 - 16 days ago
(Photo courtesy of Gospel for Asia) Asia (GFA) -- Would You Jump Out of a Plane for the Children of Asia? Jumping for Hope Gospel for Asia volunteer Peter May recently made the decision to do something big to raise awareness and funds for a GFA ministry close to his heart: Bridge of Hope centres. With a desire to live for eternity, Peter wants to use his life here on earth to build God’s Kingdom. Supporting a national missionary, Peter is active in the work GFA is doing to bring the Gospel to the most unreached people in the world today. Now, Peter’s heart is challenged for the children of Asia. In Calcutta alone there are more than 100,000 children roaming the streets, knowing neither mother nor father. With Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope, Peter is making a difference in the lives of children all across Asia. By parachuting from a plane, Peter hopes to raise not only funds for the Bridge of Hope children, but also awareness of the needs of the children of Asia. The jump will take place at Headcorn Airfield, Kent, on August 15th 2014. Jumping from 12,000 ft., Peter is aiming for a goal of £14,000. This would support 50 Bridge of Hope children for one year. That’s an entire centre filled with children who will be given an education, hope for the future, and most importantly, they will hear the Good News that Jesus loves them. Peter May (Photo courtesy of Gospel for Asia) Hear him tell his story: How it all began was through reading a book that was recommended to me called "Revolution in World Missions" by KP Yohannan. I was enamoured by the lives of ordinary indigenous missionaries throughout Asia that were so transformed by the power of God’s love that they were prepared to even lay down their very lives for the sake of the Gospel. They would live amongst the poorest of the poor in order to spread the light of hope and assurance in Jesus Christ, in quite often very dark circumstances.  It was sad to read about a mother that, after her husband died through cancer, was shunned by her family, friends, and community as she was held responsible. This is a tradition in which Gospel for Asia decided to rise to the challenge of James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Gospel for Asia has opened up Bridge of Hope centres that are changing the lives of those downtrodden families all across Asia. Although I am unable to do what they are doing as I am not Asian and cannot speak the language, I would like to help in some way. Now I am taking a leap of faith by parachuting in order to raise enough money to support another Bridge of Hope Centre. - Peter May You can donate toward this tremendous fundraiser by visiting Peter’s giving page: Donate at www.my.give.net/jumpingforhope ► What is Bridge of Hope? Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope is a child outreach programme. The Lord provided the vision for this part of the GFA’s ministry over 9 years ago, and today it has grown to be one of their biggest ministries on the field. Hundreds of thousands of children in south Asia are living impoverished and destitute lives. Things like soap and a toothbrush are unknown to them. Going to school? A distant dream. But all of that is changing. In Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope centres, children are given a meal every day, routine medical check-ups, school supplies and tutoring, as well as the greatest thing of all: they get to learn of Christ’s love for them.

Kiev suspicious of Russian aid convoy   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-14 - 16 days ago
(Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association) Ukraine (SGA/MNN) -- Confusion and suspicion surrounded the advance of a Russian aid convoy as it headed toward southeastern Ukraine. What does it mean, in light of an ongoing standoff, near civil war, and humanitarian crisis? Slavic Gospel Association spokesman Joel Griffith explains, "The concern, I guess from the Ukrainian side, is that these vehicles are being managed by the Russian Army and that it might end up maybe in the hands of pro-Russian separatist militants." The longer the Kremlin refuses to say where the convoy is headed, the more Kiev wants the International Committee of the Red Cross to examine the contents of the aid convoy before allowing it across the border. "The battle is still going on in those far eastern regions of Eastern Ukraine, and there is a humanitarian crisis going on," Griffith adds, noting that time is of the essence for the refugees. "When Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, you had a large influx of Crimean Tartars that went into the other parts of Ukraine to get out of the Crimea. Then, you also had--from the fighting in Eastern Ukraine--a large number of individuals and families that fled to other parts of Ukraine." Griffith says evangelical churches want to help meet the needs of refugees, but first, they needed to know how bad things were. "There is a team of pastors and leaders from the Ukrainian Baptist Union that were sort of discretely making a tour through eastern Ukraine. We're going to be trying to meet with them to assess the needs of the people and the churches in the region as they try to minister to the needs of their people." (Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association) "What we've tried to do is establish a crisis evangelism fund," notes Griffith. It's a flexible fund that allows SGA to respond quickly in a changing situation. "Basically what this fund does: it's designed to help provide food parcels to families who need it, provide ministry materials, and just different ways to help." SGA's focus is now to help provide food and water for refugees returning to their empty homes in eastern Ukraine, plus, "We're looking to try to help affected families whose residences have been damaged, to try to help them get their residences fixed before the harsh winter sets in." Churches in strategic locations will serve as staging areas. Why? Griffith says, "Christian churches basically opened their doors to some of these refugees, gave them a place to stay, and helped them out with food. One of the schools that we sponsor over there actually opened up their dorm space to try to help out some of these families who are refugees." SGA's response is still in primary crisis mode. Once the shock wears off, the emotional trauma begins. Relationships are being built now so that when the secondary issues begin, people will remember: "Just seeing the body of Christ in action has made a tremendous impact on the Muslim end of things. They've been told by their leaders not to trust Evangelicals. Well, here they are, receiving love and help and seeing the love of Christ modeled through Evangelicals." Pray for SGA as they continue to work with Ukrainian church leaders in developing a longer-term ministry plan in the name of Christ. "There are just so many things to pray about," Griffith admits, adding that they "know that God can do wonders through His people."

Make school shopping meaningful this year   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-14 - 16 days ago
Millions of orphans don't have any way to go to schoolbecause they don't have the right supplies.(Photo courtesy of Orphan Outreach) Int'l (MNN) -- It always seems like stores get seasonal items out on the shelf too soon. It's the same with the Back to School season. Kids dread the sight of notebooks and pencil kiosks lining the center aisle. Commercials present Back to School sales at department stores, telling parents to make sure their child has a good impression on the first day back. But for countless kids around the world, school supplies aren't even on their radar, much less new clothes and shoes. This means they won't be able to go to school. Sadly, without an education, many children face a life of poverty and exploitation. What if there was some way to get your kids excited for school and help these orphans get an education? Well, with Orphan Outreach, there is. Tiffany Taylor of Orphan Outreach shares with us about Mission Backpack. "A lot of times, it's simply a pair of shoes, a school uniform, or the actual school supplies that are stopping them from that access," she says. "In many countries where public education is free, they cannot go to school unless they have the school supplies to be able to gain entrance to that school. "Mission Backpack really was created to help these orphans have the proper supplies so that they can gain access to an education." These children do not have parents to provide for them. It is up to the institution, the orphanage where they live, to provide the necessities for school. But they can't. Taylor says, "Millions of children reside in orphanages and in really desperate situations around the world. Orphanages just struggle to feed the children and are just trying to meet their basic needs. Thinking about their future and the need for education is something that's just truly a dream; it's not even a reality for them." Orphan Outreach supports Christian and governmental orphanages to help them gain access to the education that can change their life for the better. (Photo courtesy of Orphan Outreach) What does that education mean? Taylor says, "You mentioned that millions of children here in the United States might be dreading the idea of going back to school. But I have to tell you: for these kids to have the access to an education, I'm blown away by how excited they are. "I've been to orphanages around the world. And when those children receive their new backpack and their new school supplies, they are thrilled because they know it's a chance for them to have a fulfilling life in their community. It's a chance for them to learn to read, to write. And they're excited about that." Taylor explains it's also a way to reinforce what the children are learning about God. "When we pass out the backpacks and school supplies throughout the world, those children know that they are given to them, and it's just a reminder that they are so loved. They are loved by their heavenly Father; they are not forgotten. And we use it for our evangelistic efforts to reach these children so that they can know about having a relationship with Jesus Christ." Go school shopping with your child, run your own drive, or give online. (Photo courtesy of Orphan Outreach) How can you help? You can give to the fund for school supplies as part of Mission Backpack right here. But for a hands-on experience--and one that could impact you and your child, there is another way to help. When you take your child shopping this year, consider buying doubles of a few things. Explain to your child that the doubles are for another child somewhere overseas who wants to go to school because he or she knows it is the best way to escape poverty. Taylor says, "I just encourage listeners that when they're out shopping for backpacks for their child, talk to that child about the fact that there are millions of children around the world that don't get to go to school and have no mom and dad to help them pick out these school supplies. And perhaps, go ahead and buy a backpack for that child--for your own child, but also for a child in need." You can find the information to send the supplies to Orphan Outreach here. Taylor explains that with her own child, it has proved to be a positive experience. She remembers buying the Spiderman backpack that her son absolutely needed. She asked him if they shouldn't buy a matching one for another child. That way, her son has a reminder to pray daily for the child who receives that other backpack. "It's a simple prayer, it's a prayer that those children know that they are not forgotten--that by giving them this gift of backpacks and school supplies, that we are letting them know that they have a heavenly Father who loves them dearly." She says this can be an opportunity to encourage your own children to pursue their dreams and maintain a passion for helping these orphans pursue theirs.

Muslim Rohingya finally catch a break   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-13 - 17 days ago
(Image courtesy Partners) Burma (MNN) -- A new day is dawning for the oppressed Muslim Rohingya of Burma. A severe medical crisis has developed among the Rohingya since international aid groups, the only people who will help this ethnic minority with health care, were forced out of Arakan state in February. Six months later, the groups are being allowed back into the region. But, will their help arrive in time? "Doctors Without Borders and other large NGO's were invited to get back involved in those camps," shares Steve Gumaer of Partners Relief and Development. "We're really happy about that change; 60-percent of those 150,000 people are getting rations now, food rations." Gumaer describes additional benefits of the large groups' re-entry and re-involvement. "First of all, when those big organizations are involved, there is a flow of information to the international community to let people know what's happening," he explains. "Secondly, it's a foot in the door to prevent these people from disappearing from the country altogether." Sharing the Gospel in a war zone Partners and one other small agency have been the only groups caring for the basic needs of the Rohingya since the large groups were driven out. But, even in the middle of a war zone where meeting basic needs like food and shelter take top priority, there are opportunities to share the Truth of the Gospel. Thanks to donor support, 510 Rohingya families living in IDP camps now have green tarpaulins and bamboo to provide much-needed shelter during the rainy season.(Image, caption courtesy Partners) "When we got involved with this largely-Muslim population, we were surprised by the open door that we had with them," says Gumaer. "We were invited into their shacks, invited into their lives and invited to be a part of their community. "[When] you are working to help victims either escape or survive the ordeal, you're quickly being asked, 'What is the source of your determination? Why are you risking so much to help us?' They continue to ask questions that eventually lead to more ultimate answers, like how things are fulfilled and satisfied in Christ." It's not over yet Even though aid groups have been allowed to re-enter refugee camps, the Muslim Rohingya still need a lot of help. Government oppression continues in the form of restricted movement and humanitarian access, hate campaigns, state-induced physical violence and discriminatory laws, to name a few. "We get reports that people are still dying because of treatable illnesses and preventable diseases," shares Gumaer. Partners and their in-country teams are still doing what they can to help the Rohingya. They're providing emergency relief to those in camps near Sittwe, including rice distribution, basic medical support and tarps for shelter, as well as seeds and fertilizer to help establish a more sustainable food supply. Here's how you can help their efforts go farther. (Image courtesy Partners) Most importantly, Gumaer says, keep praying for the Rohingya crisis. Pray for medical care and humanitarian aid to arrive quickly. Pray the Muslim Rohingya come to know Jesus Christ as Savior. Pray Partners' teams can live out the words of 1 John 3:16 through 18: "By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." Listen to the full interview with Steve Gumaer here.

Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompts protocol measures   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-13 - 17 days ago
(Graphic courtesy Compassion International) International (CMP/MNN) -- The death toll inflicted by the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa since February reached 1,013, and the number of people infected totaled 1,848, the World Health Organization said in a statement on Tuesday. The situation continues to worsen, which prompted the WHO to declare the Ebola outbreak a global health emergency. Up until now, there has been no cure. However a WHO panel decided this week that using experimental drugs is ethical, even if their effectiveness or adverse effects are unknown. It's already been done with an experimental serum dose given to two American missionaries as part of their treatment. With the recent outbreak of Ebola in West African countries, many Compassion International sponsors have been asking if their children are safe. Compassion International spokesman Tim Glenn says, "Thankfully, no children, no staff in any of the countries where we work in Africa have been affected directly or impacted directly by this outbreak." (Image courtesy Wikipedia) Now, the not-so-good news: the reality of spreading infection exists across country borders. "We do work in three neighboring countries to where this outbreak really spread. We work in Togo, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Thankfully, we've not had any cases in those countries at all," says Glenn. Some background: Ebola virus (or Ebola hemorrhagic fever) is one of the world’s most virulent diseases with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids, and tissues of infected animals or people. Yet, it can be killed with soap and water. That knowledge could save lives. That's why Compassion teams are preparing a protocol in order to protect the children and staff should the outbreak spread into the countries where they work. "We're working with the health ministries in each of those countries to get the latest information from them," says Glenn. "We're creating educational materials. All of our staff in those countries have gone through training already, and now they're sharing that training with our church partners." Compassion is distributing educational resources to development center staff, but it'll go further. "Every one of Compassions' child projects is actually a church. So, we're sitting down with each one of those churches and educating them as well. Then, that information will trickle down to the family of the children so that they are protected and prepared as well." “Our prayers go out to the individuals and their families affected by this disease,” says Sidney Muisyo, Compassion’s Africa regional vice president. “Our hope is for the swift containment of the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Compassion’s highest priority remains the safety and well-being of the children and families we serve.” Although concerned, the Compassion staff has things to accomplish and won't let fear get in their way. Glenn explains, "We stand on the Bible, and we understand that these kinds of things are going to happen in this world. What we can do as a church, as a ministry organization that partners with churches is: prepare people, protect people, pray for people, and share the Gospel with those who may not know it."

University of Virginia students respond to Turn or Burn T-shirts   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-13 - 17 days ago
USA (ICF) -- When gospel preachers showed up on the University of Virginia (UVA) Charlottesville campus wearing T-shirts that said “Turn or Burn,” students resisted the message and protested, attracting a local TV station. And InterVarsity Christian Fellowship students attempted to mediate with a gospel message that expressed Jesus’ love for the campus community. Students' Reactions The local TV station’s report on the visit states that InterVarsity students arrived at the UVA amphitheater to find the visitors surrounded by students who responded to the harsh preaching by singing the UVA theme, “The Good Ole Song.” Some of the InterVarsity students talked with the visitors and were concerned that they seemed more interested in condemnation than conversion. "We were agreeing on some things, but then on some things we just weren't seeing eye to eye. A lot of the things she was saying I don't believe lined up Scripturally," said one InterVarsity student, Anne Moenning. "As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and I think what they were doing was picking and choosing some verses to kind of prop up their beliefs, which I don't believe in." Issuing an Invitation Photo Courtesy InterVarsity The UVA InterVarsity students have a different way of sharing their faith with fellow students, using open-air displays called Proxe Stations. These are designed to initiate conversations that can lead to thoughtful reflection and repentance. In fact, a Proxe Station was going on at almost the same time, just a short distance from the amphitheater. Students who had been leading the Proxe Station moved to the amphitheater and talked with other students about their reaction to the campus visitors. The InterVarsity students invited many of their fellow students to attend an evangelistic meeting that was scheduled for later that evening. InterVarsity Virginia Area Director Derek Mondeau was pleased to see the InterVarsity students responding in such a positive manner to the difficult situation, using it in a way that he thought more clearly presented the gospel message and led to opportunities for more discussion. “I was so proud of our students owning the moment, owning the reality of repentance in the Christian story,” Derek said, “but also owning the reality that the Bible's story doesn't end at Revelation 20 in fire and brimstone and the lake of fire. It ends with Revelation 21-22 and the tender beauty of new creation as Jesus makes all things new.” Conversations to Conversion InterVarsity national evangelist York Moore stresses that InterVarsity’s ministry to students is committed to both love and truth. “InterVarsity seeks to be a voice for reasonable faith,” he said. “We reject the harsh rhetoric. We believe that there is a starting point, a common ground, in a pluralistic society where those with incredible differences can come together to begin a conversation that could lead to a conversion.” Repentance, led by the Holy Spirit, is necessary for conversion. InterVarsity believes that meeting students where they live, on their level, opens the door to the work of the Spirit.

Trafficked victims become part of widespread outreach   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-13 - 17 days ago
Sano Diyo is changing lives (Photo courtesy of IN Network) India/Nepal (MNN) -- One couples' decision to save four girls from human trafficking 12 years ago has transformed into changed lives for 37 girls, and a hub for community transformation. Rody Rodeheaver of International Needs USA (I.N. Network) describes the area the couple ministers in-- a location just below Nepal. "There is a large amount of poverty there-- it's the most impoverished district in India. But also, because of that, there is a huge amount of human trafficking." Those trafficked are usually young girls-- at an increasingly younger age. "This young couple that had graduated from Bible school started a ministry there with four young girls who they were able to take legal custody of, and a group home was established. And now, 12 years later, those four girls are now 37 girls." Not all of these girls are victims of human trafficking. Many have needed to be rescued from dangerous homes of abuse and poverty. The home is called Sano Diyo. They are as young as preschoolers and as old as high school graduates. "It's one of the most remarkable stories of a young couple investing their lives in changing, protecting, rescuing, some of these girls," Rodeheaver says. Even with all of the success the ministry has had, there is still a lot of work to do. Breaking out of poverty to pursue a better life (Photo courtesy of IN network) "The vision now is to expand the tent. We have been starting a child sponsorship program in the villages around our group home there. Because, one of the things that we know is that if you can get children in school and if you can help children break the chains of poverty, then you can begin to protect them from the child traffickers." Right now there are over 100 children from the surrounding area who are sponsored. Rodeheaver says, "We're getting children in those villages-- the poorest of the poor-- and we're helping pay their school fees, we're helping them get an education, they get a meal, and they are followed up with our staff who teach them how to avoid traffickers, who teach them sanitation, who teach them how to eat healthily." Their lives, and the outlook of their lives, is completely changed. And Rodeheaver says, "It's all because there are people who are sponsoring children there and helping to keep those girls out of harm's way, out of the trafficking that goes on. We know that the age range for trafficking has gone from 14-16 year olds. Now it's in the area of 10 year olds to 14 year olds." When these girls are taken from dangerous situations, they are able to give back to the community in unique ways. For the kids in the village, they become a sort of mentor-- a prayer partner. The girls can share their story with the kids and give them hope. They become friends. While they receive kindness in this way, the children are also given an education. It can be difficult to understand the implications of that. Rodeheaver was told a story about a single mom in the area whose husband had left her for another woman. She was left to care for her four children, working in a rock quarry to try and provide for them. Not even being able to buy enough food, there was no way the woman was able to send her children to school. This meant her children had less of a chance of breaking free from the poverty they were born into. When ministry partners of I.N. Network approached her to ask if they could enroll her children in school, she was overwhelmed. "She just wept because she had never dreamed that her children would be able and have an opportunity to go to school," Rodeheaver says. "So it's making a difference. And we want to start on the prevention side of child trafficking and help keep these young girls out of trafficking and help them break the chains of poverty and help them get an education." And even more important, these children are encountering an example of Christ's love. They are introduced to the Gospel. Staff members meet with the sponsored children individually. When the children visit the group home to spend time with the rescued girls, they can get involved with Bible clubs and hear the stories of the girls as they've been transformed by Christ. The Gospel is shared with the girls while they're there. I.N. is also hoping to connect the children with local Chrisitan churches to continue sharing that message and follow up with them. If you'd like to support this ministry, you can give a gift by following this link. Or, you can call the office at this number (616) 209-5420 to talk to child sponsor specialists. $32 a month is all it takes to change a child's future right now.

Fun run raises funds for community center   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-13 - 17 days ago
Zimbabwe (OMI) -- The community of Siabuwa, where a medical worker from Operation Mobilization Zimbabwe has been sharing the Gospel among the Tonga people for the past 13 years, has long dreamed of building a community center. This neutral facility would be used for skills training, literacy classes, agricultural development, and community meetings. When an OM outreach team to the community heard of this vision, they decided to join hands with the community in organizing a sponsored fun run. A matching fund of $5 for every person who participated in the run was set up by the outreach team. (Photo Courtesy Operation Mobilization) It did not take long for the community committee to realize that the more people they mobilized for the run, the more money they would be able to raise. Members of the local community were also encouraged to contribute something towards the run, with some only managing a few cents. 549 people of all ages and from all walks of life turned up for the first-ever 5K Siabuwa Challenge. Chief Siabuwa, who also took part in the event and presented trophies to event winners, said the community center at Siabuwa Growth Point was “a place of hope for our young people.” He thanked the outreach team for assisting the community in starting on its dream. Over $3,000USD was raised for the community center, and community members young and old were proud to have contributed toward a common vision.

Tens of thousands fleeing as ISIS advances   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-12 - 18 days ago
(Image courtesy Wikipedia) Iraq (MNN) -- It's bad enough fleeing one time for your life, never mind four. But for some, trekking into a civil war zone in Syria is safer than staying where they are. Over the weekend, over 200,000 displaced Iraqis Christians, Shiite Muslims, and adherents of Shabak faith crossed the border into Syria to escape the ISIS violence in Iraq. Baptist Global Response Executive Director Jeff Palmer confirms, "What we're trying to do is help people who have gone back and forth. Imagine that you're in a place where you think you're safe: you've already fled home, and then you've got to go back to that place. It's just extremely confusing and extremely hard on the families." Palmer explains that some of these Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are Iraqi Christians who fled to Syria two or three years ago, left Syria when civil war broke out, and headed back to Iraq. Now, as jihadists advance, tens of thousands of these IDPs are on the move. So desperate is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war. Palmer says, "It's extremely hard for the aid givers, like us, to keep up with where folks are and where they need the help the most." (Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response) Islamic State militants warn people should convert to their version of Islam, pay religious tax, flee, or face death. They have left a trail of brutalized corpses in the wake of towns they conquer. Palmer warns that will continue. "You've got a group that is looking at setting up its own government, its own military, and its own state. It's not just in one country: it crosses borders." While the U.S. has begun airdropping water, food, and other supplies to Yazidi refugees in the mountains, BGR representatives are focusing efforts on helping the reportedly 200,000 internally displaced Iraqi refugees who have fled ISIS militants’ rapid advance. Palmer adds, "We're trying to find multiple ways to get in. Right now, we're actually working with several groups, providing basic kits. We're also helping another group--believers--that are fleeing the area. That comes more out of the Mosul area, and we're helping them more with livelihood." BGR is a primary ministry partner of the International Mission Board. Local believers are putting themselves in jeopardy to do what the aid drops cannot. "On-ground believers are very much people of faith who share their faith as they go," says Palmer. It's an extremely dangerous job, but not much stops this group. This is a life or death situation. "Everything that we're doing is in the name of Jesus Christ. Everything that we're doing is giving that cup of cold water, giving that piece of bread that helps them stay alive." Overt outreach? They're bold, but they're not crazy. Times are changing, and while the approach has to flex, their message does not. "The Gospel goes out in deed in terms of caring for those who can't care for themselves, which is a biblical mandate. It goes out in Word in those places where we have a chance to be able to share. It goes through our local believers right now, because there are just not a lot of ways to get outsiders into those critical areas." (Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission) One final thought, Palmer shares. Right now, the atrocity is shocking. It's being talked about. People are motivated to respond. However, "This is something that has been ongoing for centuries: the persecution part and people trying to establish power in this part of the world. Don't get weary in well-doing. Please continue to pray. Please continue to support organizations like BGR who are trying to help those who are isolated and can't help themselves." Anyone wishing to respond to this crisis can help by donating to IMB’s general relief fund or by texting imbrelief to 80888, which will donate $10 to that fund.* To give through BGR, visit gobgr.org or text bgr to 80888.

Obama calls to support African business, echoes 30 years of work   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-12 - 18 days ago
Sultan and his beehives (Photo by Food for the Hungry) Africa (FH/MNN) -- President Barack Obama spoke to 50 African leaders at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C. this week (Aug. 4-6), to promote Africa’s economic growth in business and foreign investment. President Obama rallied support for Africa’s upcoming generation in creating business opportunities. This is something Food for the Hungry (FH) has done for the last 30 years to help Africans create sustainable solutions for their families and villages. FH works to equip small business owners in the African countries of Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This work is driven by their desire to present the love of Christ. In Kenya, FH worked with pastoralists to broaden the sale of livestock across eight markets, which brought in a total of $2.2 million in sales during the country’s 2011 food crisis. Through training and expanding markets, FH staff are equipping Kenyans to run their own agricultural businesses to sustain them through droughts and other challenges. In Ethiopia, FH staff train unskilled farmers like Sultan Hassen on how to start a small business to earn income, such as harvesting honey. FH staff also helped to expand local markets for selling agricultural products and livestock. “I had no special skills with any kind of handcrafts,” said Sultan. “Poverty crept into our house, and eating once a day became rare. I could not tolerate the starvation and poverty any longer with a wife and three children. Finally, I asked my wife to divorce me and go to her parents at least to feed herself and the children, but she refused.” After receiving training in raising bees and harvesting honey from FH, Sultan earned $2,182 in one year, going from 62 cents a day to $6. He has also expanded his farm to include a pair of oxen, seven modern beehives, two milking cows, and three donkeys. He’s expanded his farm to plant crops and now has 6,600 pounds of maize for sale. These are two examples of the kind of work Food for the Hungry is doing throughout Africa to empower Africans to start and grow small agricultural businesses with partners like you.

Gay adoption battle ensues   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-12 - 18 days ago
By Michael Rivera (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (http://goo.gl/vCK1SF)USA (MNN) -- Remember the Hobby Lobby case? A similar battle is taking shape, this time in the sphere of U.S. domestic adoption. The two sides are clearly defined and represented by two separate pieces of legislation. One party fights for protection of religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The other demands acceptance and tolerance by all groups who receive federal funding. Below is a summary of each bill and what they mean for Christians. Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014 (H.R. 5285/S. 2706) This bill protects adoption and foster care organizations from discrimination by state and federal officials because of sincerely-held religious beliefs or moral convictions. It also provides a basis for groups whose rights have been violated to take legal action against state and/or federal officials. In other words, officials can't deny funding and other necessary aid to groups like Bethany Christian Services simply because they adhere to biblical principles. "It's important because we not only want to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child, but also the spiritual needs," explains Bill Blacquiere, Bethany President and CEO. (Image courtesy Bethany) Some of those principles include God's definition of marriage: union between one man and one woman. Opponents say the bill is just a cover for faith-based groups to stop gay adoption. In reality, faith-based groups are the ones facing discrimination. According to Blacquiere and the wording of H.R. 5285, religious adoption and foster care organizations in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia have been forced to stop their work. Officials in these states wouldn't work with the groups unless they agreed to place children in same-sex households. "Bethany feels that it's very important when we place children…that the family be legally married. Some states are saying, 'That's discriminatory. People don't have to be married; they just have to have a stable relationship,'" says Blacquiere. "[The bill] doesn't discriminate against any group. It just simply says that faith-based organizations should be able to operate by their sincerely-held religious beliefs." Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 2028/S. 1069) Opponents of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014 point to H.R. 2028 as a more favorable option. Known as the "Every Child Deserves a Family Act," this piece of legislation requires all adoption and foster care agencies to provide their services to homosexual couples. Introduced in May 2013, this bill presents three heavy-handed objectives: Bars any group receiving federal assistance from discriminating against prospective parents on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide specified technical assistance. Requires a government study of all states to make sure they're complying with this act. Under the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, faith-based groups would be required by law to place children with LGBT foster and adoptive parents. Under the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, faith-based groups would be required by law to place children with LGBT foster and adoptive parents. There are currently many foster and adoption agencies serving potential LGBT parents, but this law would ensure Christian groups are added to that list. Why does it matter? Without a government license, faith-based agencies can't provide adoption or foster care services. The first piece of legislation mentioned above allows Christian groups to operate by biblical principles, while the second bill requires Christian groups to play by society's rules. "Families who want to be adoptive parents or foster families should have the right to choose if they want to be served by a faith-based organization," notes Blacquiere. "Just because a Christian family adopts a child doesn't mean the child will become, automatically, a Christian. But the child will be exposed to Christianity through the example and through the teachings from their parents." (Image courtesy Bethany) There are a couple of ways you can take action, Blacquiere adds. First, take this issue to the Lord in prayer. "Specific prayers would be that there would be other Senators and Representatives who would sign on and vote for this bill," says Blacquiere. Pray also that the bill wouldn't cause hostility, but merely protect religious freedom. In addition, "people should contact their Senators and U.S. Representatives and ask them to sign on to support the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act." Find your U.S. Representative here.

Praying for children in crisis   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-12 - 18 days ago
(Image courtesy Open Doors) MENA (KAI/MNN) -- Children in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) need your prayers. Kids Alive International says those trapped in war zones are fearful and helpless; they often face starvation as conflict prevents food deliveries. Originally posted on their prayer blog, Kids Alive shares specific ways you can be praying for children trapped in five of region's battle zones: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Gaza. IRAQ: Over the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Christians and other religious minority groups in northern Iraq have been forced to flee from intense persecution by militant Islamic group, IS (“Islamic State”). Many children and their families have already been brutally murdered. Thousands of displaced people now face starvation in horrific conditions. Pray for peace to be restored in this area, that Christians would remain strong in their faith, and for the protection of young children that are caught up in this conflict. Pray also for safety, guidance, and strength for Christian relief agencies as they bring God’s hope to these broken Christian families and many others who have fled their homes. ISRAEL / GAZA: An upsurge in hostilities in this region has left more than 1,800 people dead, including hundreds of children. Many communities now face urgent shortages of food and water. Pray for an end to this conflict, and that Christian believers would keep their eyes on Christ. Pray especially for children and young people caught up in terror and violence that is beyond their understanding. SYRIA / LEBANON: The conflict in Syria continues. More than 150,000 people have died, and as many as nine million are refugees or displaced within Syria. In Lebanon, where Kids Alive works, there are now more than one million refugees. (Image courtesy Kids Alive) Pray for peace in this region, for Christians that are now facing persecution for their faith in Syria, and for the refugees--many of them children--who currently have little hope for the future. Pray also for Kids Alive's ministry in Lebanon, Dar El Awlad, and for ministry partners, particularly "Heart for Lebanon," that they would be able to reach out with Christ’s love to more of those who are suffering. In Lebanon, Kids Alive is helping Syrian refugees in two ways. They are providing an education, food, and daily care to nearly 50 children in their school and care center programs. They are also working with ministry partners to support refugee families that urgently need help. You can help Kids Alive meet financial needs as they share Christ's love in the midst of crisis.

Global Advance reaffirming discouraged Christians   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-12 - 18 days ago
Global Advance provides many opportunities to getinvolved with spreading the Gospel.(Photo by Global Advance) International (MNN) -- Being a Christian doesn't mean you're invincible; it means your hope rests in Someone who is. In today's world where headlines consist of record disease breakouts, child beheadings, refugee crises, and you name any number of violent conflicts, it can be easy to forget that. Global Advance exists to reaffirm, encourage, and strengthen pastors and church leaders around the world in their pursuit to carry out the Great Commission. They believe God has appointed these leaders around the world in a timely and purposeful fashion. Dr. David Shibley of Global Advance says, "We believe that God has sovereignly positioned pastors and church leaders and marketplace leaders all over the world: positioned them for the fulfilling of the Great Commission that they have indeed come to the Kingdom for such a time as this. "And as antagonism to the Gospel is growing around the world, these courageous men and women are raising up a wonderful standard that is not only holding back forces that are against the Christian faith, but also they are advancing the cause of Christ around the world." Such a time as this All around the world, Christians are facing violence, opposition, financial hardship, etc. These struggles are not always a result of their faith, but they will almost always result in their faith being tested. The Middle East is an especially dangerous place to be a Christian right now. Shibley says, "As we know, there is enormous attack against Christians in many pockets of the Middle East. But it's also spreading. So this month in August, we are involved in four training events in three different nations." These summer marketplace events not only equip leaders with practical business skills, but it also encourages them. Shibley says, "We go to encourage pastors as much as we can in those very areas." The pastors Shibley and his team are going to minister to are from a city that is under siege, historically a Christian city now overrun by Islamic radicals. "Some churches have been burned; Christians' homes have been torched and burned. These pastors live under constant threat, as do their families. "So yes, the scene has changed. We need to refresh them and encourage them and to come in from the outside to them to let them know that they're not forgotten by the rest of the Body of Christ. This is enormously important, and that’s why we're going in the name of Jesus to strengthen these truly frontline shepherds." And they do need some encouragement, as Shibley explains. "We are seeing in many of our conferences now and training events up to 30% of pastors who have been seriously contemplating leaving ministry-- discouragement coming from all sides, not just the standard discouragements that are part of ministry." On top of violence, financial challenges continue to be a real struggle. Encouraging one another "But we're also seeing the grace of God come into play, and wonderful things are happening in the lives of many of these pastors and church leaders," Shibley says. He is confident that this month they will encourage many beleaguered pastors in their lives, families, and ministries. This is how they work: "We stand by them and train them in the very best way that's known, and that is face-to-face. I think it's very important to get in their world and to encourage them to come in from the outside and to literally come alongside them and to identify with them. And when we can to go to the churches, to go to their homes, to pray with their families." These meetings are temporary, but their effects are long-lasting. "That can take them for a very long way--just knowing that someone really cares who represents the Body of Christ from another part of the world," Shibley says. The team plans to pray individually with the pastors and church leaders, to provide ongoing training and new resources. They want to encourage them with the long-term view that the Lord is in control, watching. Going to these events can be risky for national pastors. Sometimes they are martyred heading to the conference or leaving it. Shibley asks that you pray for their safety. He asks that you pray for the teams as well with the outbreak of disease. Pray for God's Spirit to grace and anoint the teams so they might minister effectively. "Scripture is very clear." Shibley says: "We are one Body of Christ, and when one member suffers, we all suffer. When one member rejoices, we all rejoice. And so, just to identify with them and to come in solidarity with them is going to be a great thing." To learn more about marketplace missions with Global Advance, click here.

Earning high marks in Thailand   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-11 - 19 days ago
Thailand (CAM/MNN) -- The following is a report on the partnership of Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, with Mercy Christian School in Thailand: Abject poverty and broken homes are an all too common way of life for many children living in the Ubonratchatani Province in northeastern Thailand. Out of necessity, parents leave their offspring in the care of grandparents or other relatives so they can work in distant cities. Some are never heard from again. Other parents do their best to provide for the basic needs of their children, but all of their income goes toward food and shelter. Education is almost viewed as a luxury. Banjit* understands the value of education. Raised by a loving but poor family in a Thai village, her prospects for the future appeared dim until her parents enrolled her in Mercy Christian School in Ubonratchatani. Even though her family was Buddhist, they chose Mercy because its academic programs surpassed that of the government schools. The encouragement of her teachers and her natural eagerness to learn made the transition easy for Banjit. Year after year she excelled in her studies. She also committed her heart to Jesus Christ and grew in her faith while attending the school. Now Banjit co-leads her church’s youth ministry. The second-year college student is majoring in education, and her parents could not be more thrilled. Banjit already knows where she wants to work when she graduates. She hopes she can combine her two passions—love for children and love for Jesus—to make a lasting impact on future generations of students at Mercy Christian School. Breaking barriers through education  A majority of the students come from traditional Buddhist families, but many receive Christ while attending the school.(Photo courtesy of Christian Aid) A Thai ministry started the school in 1999 to give children from rural villages the opportunity to receive a quality education and hear the gospel. Twenty children from surrounding villages comprised that first preschool class. The school added a new grade with each succeeding year and now educates students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The current enrollment exceeds 1,000 students, and there is a waiting list for those who are turned away due to the lack of classroom space. What is most remarkable, however, is the success of the school in a country where the saying “to be Thai is to be Buddhist” rings true. More than 95% of Thailand’s population is Buddhist, and about 80% of the students attending Mercy Christian School come from Buddhist families. “It isn’t a difficult choice, when parents can send their kids to a school like Mercy and see them excel, or have them go to a public school in their village, where they won’t learn very much,” said Stephen van Valkenburg, Christian Aid Mission’s area director for Southeast Asia. “This makes a big, big difference in reaching people with the gospel. What parent doesn’t want the best for their kids?” The school is so highly regarded that some of the children travel upwards of two hours each way by bus from their remote villages to Ubonratchatani. Without assistance from the ministry, these children would not be able to pay the bus fees to get to the school. Students attend chapel services on the sprawling campus, and a study of the Bible is incorporated into their classwork. The ministry estimates about 60% of the children become followers of Jesus Christ. The school has become an outreach for parents, too, as the ministry’s gospel workers visit the homes of the students and share the message of Christ’s love and salvation with family members. A mother named Tida sends one of her children to Mercy Christian School. A native of Laos, she fled with her parents and brother during the Indochina War and resettled in Thailand. Her brother later became a Christian, but Tida maintained her Buddhist beliefs. Her heart changed, however, as she learned more about Christ through special events at the school and from ministry workers. Tida prayed to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior earlier this year. Now her husband is also contemplating this very important decision. The couple is considering enrolling another child at Mercy Christian School. Following Christ can come at a cost, but that was a price the principal of Mercy’s primary school was willing to pay. The Thai teacher had excellent credentials when she joined the staff of the school. In fact, it was through her leadership that the school obtained accreditation with the Thai Department of Education. “Despite the dishonor among her Buddhist relatives due to her teaching post in our ministry school, as well as a disadvantage in financial compensation, she has continued to serve as our primary school principal,” said the ministry leader. “Now Mercy Christian School has become one of the top schools in Ubonratchatani Province. And the principal has received Christ and found eternal life,” he said. Taking up their banner for the Lord  The ministry is also involved in discipleship training and church planting.(Photo courtesy of Christian Aid) Children who excel in their studies at the school find even greater opportunities awaiting them. Through a cultural exchange program, top students at Mercy’s secondary school can go to the United States for a year or more to study at a Christian high school. The experience enables them to become more proficient in English, as they interact with other believers in the classroom, in church, and in homes. The ministry also makes it possible for some of the brightest young scholars to further their education by going to college. Sam is one of these fortunate students. Six years ago the ministry challenged its people to answer the call to engage in medical missions. Previously the ministry had relied on short-term mission teams from overseas. Unfortunately, there was no continuity in providing the much-needed medical services to rural communities bordering the Mekong River. Sam responded to the challenge. A native of Laos, he developed a heart for missions while staying at Mercy Christian School one summer. He is now in his final year of medical school and will intern under a licensed physician for two to three years before he gets his own medical license. This dedicated young man appreciates the ministry’s willingness to put him through college and medical school. When his training is complete, he plans to join the ministry as a full-time medical missionary. Thanks to financial assistance from caring Christians, the ministry also sends young believers to its Bible training center so they can become church leaders and missionaries. Christian Aid assists these gospel workers and equips them to plant churches in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. In addition, the ministry raises dairy goats and cows on its school property and donates them to poor families as an income-generating opportunity and a source of milk for their children. Vocational training classes and small business ventures are being initiated by the ministry to reach out to the Buddhist community. “Through Mercy Christian School, our ministry is communicating to the people living in these communities that we are here to provide training and education for their children. In the context of lifting their burdens, the children and their parents are hearing the message of Christ’s love, hope, and salvation,” said the ministry leader. “Numerous children, parents, and teachers have found new life in Christ, and they are in turn reaching more Thai and Lao Buddhists with the gospel.” *(name changed) Click here to contribute online. Or call 434-977-5650 to contribute by phone. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 720TSO. Thank you!

New paths to freedom from ritual slavery   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-11 - 19 days ago
Former shrine slaves are given the skills they need tostart over again at ECM's New Life Center.(Image courtesy ECM) Ghana (MNN) -- Ritual servitude. The phrase conjures up images of The Temple of Doom. It makes one think of priests and priestesses from ancient Egypt. It's not a modern phrase, or applicable to today's world by any stretch. Or is it? In Ghana, many women are subjected to a life of ritual servitude at shrines. It's a form of slavery enforced by cultural and familial expectations and beliefs. Lorella Rouster of Every Child Ministries sheds some light on the situation. She tells us about girls called trokosi. "These are girls and women who are given to the shrines, to the priests. [One] of the reasons why they're given is to serve as an atonement or a living sacrifice to pay for an alleged crime that some male members of the family has supposedly done." They are a living sacrifice to false gods to pay for something that often is a false accusation against themselves or a family member. There are other kinds of ritual servitude, Rouster explains. For instance, some parents unable to conceive will pray to a certain idol. When the child is born, their life is given to that idol. The family believes if they don't dedicate their child, they will die. Some even name their children after the god. While many people working to change this practice focus on the trokosi, Rouster says, "We have opted to work with all of the groups because we feel that all of it is oppressive and all of the women need help, regardless of exactly why it is that they got into that situation." Women devoted to the shrine are sometimes allowed to live outside of it. But they are basically on call and under the continual direction of the shrine. They're told where to live, who to marry, etc. "They're really not free even though they're living outside the shrine. And some of those victims have approached ECM asking us to help liberate them to help them break all connection with the shrine so that they can get on with their lives," Rouster says. The challenge is that most shrines willing to liberate the women have already done so. Whole-shrine operations are less likely. "The liberation of a whole shrine is difficult because everybody, including the whole shrine community has to agree. And getting that many people to agree is very difficult," Rouster says. Many times they have begun negotiating with a shrine where those immediately involved--even the priests--agree to let the women go. But when a relative speaks out and disagrees, the proceedings come to a halt. ECM had to change their mode of operation, and they have. Last month they had their first liberation ceremony, a time to mark the end of slavery for 12 individuals. Because they cannot do whole shrines, ECM has been focusing on individual liberations. ECM is helping women understand that they can be free (Photo courtesy of ECM) When women decide they no longer want to be enslaved to the shrine, they will reach out to ECM who checks out their story and then helps them. The freedom isn't just removing them from the situation, but sharing the freedom that comes with knowing Jesus Christ as their savior. "The Gospel saturates the whole program. From the beginning of working with the women, we share the Gospel with them. All 12 of these women have received Christ. That's very important because it really gives them the power to stand up and say "no" to the system. And without that, I'm not sure they would have the strength to remain true to that commitment." Part of the process has been helped along by Ghana's Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). Rouster says, "We're helping the victims to see that they have a right to refuse to serve is slaves. That's always been true, but it's just hard for them to grasp that because their families, immediate communities, the shrine are all telling them that they have to do what they say and live where they want them to, and so on. "But they just have to exercise their rights as Ghanaian citizens to freedom which includes freedom of religion." So it isn't a situation where women are bound by the law to continue serving the shrine. Rouster explains, "The chains that bind these women are not physical chains. They are social, psychological, and spiritual chains. So some of those who have been released are ready with encouragement from ECM and from their own government--entities like CHRAJ--to cast off those chains and to declare their freedom." The ceremonies are an attempt to make these decisions more official and memorable. Participants receive a certificate describing their liberation. For those who are not trokosi but other individuals seeking freedom from the shrine, this process is called a crossover. After the women are freed, they are taught vocational skills at the New Life Center sponsored by ECM. In order to free more women and train them, ECM needs more sponsors. It costs about $400 per woman because ECM is careful to background check the women to prevent mistakes. This money covers the cost of their children as well. Contribute here. By breaking women out of spiritual, lifelong bondage, ECM is helping break the chains of bondage for generations to come. "We need people really upholding these women because there are strong forces that will try to pull them back. Both family-type forces: others in the family believe that the gods will be angry at them because of the stand that they've taken, and the shrines who make all kinds of threats against them. So they really need a lot of strength. We know that comes from the Lord, but maybe it comes through the prayers of his people as well."

Islamic State praised in Sudan   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-11 - 19 days ago
(Photo courtesy Kids Alive Sudan) Sudan (MNN) -- While ISIS's Iraq purge may be the most brutal, their tactic isn't new. Islamists in Egypt have driven thousands of Coptic Christians from homes they've occupied for centuries. The same is true across the Muslim parts of Africa. Because they share ideologies about pure Islam, there are growing concerns that the Islamic State (IS) will find a home in these countries, as well. A Sudanese Salafi group went public with their endorsement of the IS caliphate in the wake of northern Iraq's fall. Kids Alive Sudan Field Coordinator Francis Tombe explains a little about the group's struggle for dominance in Khartoum. "In 2012, the group showed themselves. They were [fighting] with the government in the center of Sudan." He warns, "They are still underground, but as soon as they're out, things will be ugly." The group is known as Al-Attasam belKetab wa al-Sunna, and in order to create a stricter Islamist movement, it broke from Sudan's Muslim Brotherhood 23 years ago. While they don't currently control the government, their influence is growing. "Now everything is getting tough in Sudan. Christians are facing a lot of persecution." (Photo courtesy Kids Alive International) Sudan has been led for 25 years by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who came to power by a coup orchestrated by senior Muslim Brotherhood members. If Sharia already exists in Sudan, what do religious reforms mean for Christians there? Tombe says, "Sharia law...will put very strict laws for any organization that wants to work in that country, international or national. As long as you are Christian, they'll put tough rules." Already, Kids Alive is coping with more restrictions. "Now, we are facing a lot of challenges. We can't send money in. I can't go in. They're just making it hard. We know in the future, they will close us down." Tombe goes on to say a recent government edict adds to the pressure their staff is feeling. "I heard two weeks ago they're not giving permission to build any new churches in Sudan. That's very tough. They're tearing down many of the churches." What it boils down to is a campaign that is squeezing the Church out of Sudan. Soon, Kids Alive will have to make a decision, adds Tombe. "They are pushing us into [a] corner to decide [if] we want to continue or not." (Photo courtesy Kids Alive Sudan) The Kids Alive staff wants to stay. They're committed, and they're needed, Tombe says. "We are praying for all the Christians that are working in Sudan. We will try to do as much as we can. We want to be in Sudan." An estimated 10% of Sudan’s children are orphans, and many children live on the streets or in refugee camps. Street children are common. They are sometimes taken into camps where they are forcefully converted to Islam. Kids Alive believes that the ministry of Jesus was holistic in nature, that He would be concerned about the empty stomachs of children as much as their empty hearts. The ministry of Kids Alive is focused on fulfilling the physical, emotional, AND spiritual needs of children through Christ-centered care, education, and ministry--and bringing them up to become faithful followers of Jesus and pillars of their community. The Kids Alive Children’s Home in Sudan does exactly that, but things could change quickly. It's the uncertainty that wears on the staff. Tombe says, "Pray for protection, that God will protect them, our kids, and all the Christians--even the churches. Soon there will be bombs in the churches. That will happen in the future."

Ebola is giving Christ center stage   (Open in a new window)

Source: https: | 2014-08-11 - 19 days ago
President of SIM USA. Bruce Johnson addressesthe press in Atlanta (Photo courtesy of SIM USA) Liberia (MNN) -- It's now being called a "public health emergency of international concern." We're talking about Ebola. While you may not think it'll affect you, the World Health Organization (WHO) made that statement to wake you up to the problem. Two U.S. citizens, medical missionaries with SIM International Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, have been brought to United States for treatment. WHO says Ebola took an additional 29 lives between Tuesday and Wednesday alone. Their report indicates Ebola has killed 961 people and sickened 1,779 others. This makes it the worst outbreak in history. In a statement release by Dr. Brantly, he said, "I am writing this update from my isolation room at Emory University Hospital, where the doctors and nurses are providing the very best care possible. I am growing stronger every day, and I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease." He added, "We went to Liberia because we believe God called us to serve Him at ELWA Hospital. One thing I have learned is that following God often leads us to unexpected places. When Ebola spread into Liberia, my usual hospital work turned more and more toward treating the increasing number of Ebola patients. I held the hands of countless individuals as this terrible disease took their lives away from them. I witnessed the horror firsthand, and I can still remember every face and name." When Brantly started feeling ill, he isolated himself and remembered feeling a sense of peace. "Now it is two weeks later, and I am in a totally different setting. My focus, however, remains the same: to follow God. As you continue to pray for Nancy and me--yes, please pray for our recovery. More importantly, pray that we would be faithful to God's call on our lives in these new circumstances." SIM International has been in the middle of the outbreak as Dr. Brantly and nurse Writebol contracted the disease working in their ELWA Hospital in Liberia. Speaking with MNN, SIM President Bruce Johnson says, "The hospital was closed briefly, but now it's reopened. The people of Liberia continue to struggle, but we need to continue finding ways to help them." Since these Americans have contracted the disease, Johnson says doctors have responded by volunteering to go to Liberia to serve. "It's that kind of sacrificial spirit that's been such an encouragement to me, and I think really has been an encouragement to the whole church to see the sacrifice and willingness of our brothers and sisters to do that." Johnson says he could never have imagined being in the middle of this international media firestorm. SIM has been on many major television and radio networks. "We feel God is saying, 'Express My glory through this,' both in testimony as well as to help the U.S. government and other governments." David and Nancy Writebol, SIM Missionaries in Liberia. Nancy was stricken with Ebola in Liberia (Photo Courtesy of SIM U.S.A.) Mission Network News was able to help SIM produce an interview with David Writebol, Nancy's husband still in Liberia. "Greg helped us in that effort," says Johnson. "As a result, we posted that on our SIMusa.org Web site. The media picked it up." That interview featuring David's testimony was featured for the world to hear on NBC Nightly News and the Today Show. In the interview, David said, "It is a singular experience to look upon a loved one, especially one where we have spent 40 years together.... We were junior high sweethearts..... To see her on the brink of death and knowing there was nothing I could do to prevent that." David added, "We felt so strongly supported by our home church..... [Some have said:] 'How could they (the Writebols) be foolish to put themselves in danger'.... And yet, it is that very calling and very sending and very going that demonstrates the characteristics of the great things Christ has done for humanity. If our Lord has done that, then we willingly and gladly will do that so others might hear about Christ." One of Johnson's non-Christian friends told Johnson he was praying for SIM workers. Johnson says, "If this one person is expressing this, my sense is this is God saying, 'I'm going to use this for My glory, and I'm going to bring people to saving faith. Just keep going, keep going, keep going." While Ebola continues to provide uncertainty, Johnson says they're taking precautions. "We have returned 8 people who were in areas that were non-emergency personnel. We still have 40 to 50 Liberian staff and then four U.S. staff [still in Liberia]." In the meantime, Johnson says God is using this as a call to action. "There might be medical personnel, mechanics, teachers, radio broadcasters, church planters who say, 'I sense God is calling me.'" If that's you, click here to contact SIM USA.
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