International (MNN) -- When Worldwide Christian Schools sent out a survey to approximately 300 schools in their network, they weren't sure what answer they'd get.
The responses made something very obvious to WWCS who did the survey to see how they might better serve the schools they work with. "The vision or purpose of Worldwide Christian Schools is to glorify God by ensuring that all children have access to Christ-centered education," Vander Kooy says.
WWCS longs to overcome barriers tospecial needs children getting a Christian education.(Photo by WWCS)
The survey was part of their effort to focus and concentrate this vision that is otherwise quite broad.
Vander Kooy says, "What we found was a tremendous need and opportunity to include special needs kids into the classroom. We're excited about that because that's really something that many U.S. schools--public and private--do very well. But that's not the case outside the U.S., particularly in the developing world."
Vander Kooy explains that schools are often hesitant to include special needs children, even if it's something as simple as missing a limb. "These kids don't go to school because the schools just don't feel they can accommodate them. So the kids are basically in the shadows; they're hidden. And that's not what Christ would want."
Sometimes the hesitation often can stem from social stigmas based on fear.
Vander Kooy says that these children have a lot of joy and potential to offer the schools. "We're focusing on getting those kids into the classroom--not only so that they can discover their own God-given potential, but that they can also bless the other kids that are already there."
Part of this new focus for WWCS will involve finding people who are already involved in helping special needs children around the world. WWCS will solicit their needs to others who can and want to support them.
Vander Kooy says this direction will not take away from their existing ministry, but add to it. The children will be able to realize their God-given potential through education.
The pool of people who have special needs with regard to education is much larger than we think, Vander Kooy explains. It is important to reach these children, whoever they may be, where they are.
WWCS is especially concerned that all children are able to attend their schools because in many communities, that may be the only chance a child has to encounter Christ.
"The Gospel is integrated in every subject in these Christ-centered schools," Vander Kooy says. The Christian schools with whom WWCS works are quite different from those in the United States.
In closed countries or communities that are mostly Muslim, there's immense pressure that the staff of school are all non-Christian. Yet these Christian teachers recognize that they're able to minister where churches cannot.
Their job is much harder, then, to reach a community that is often resistant to the Gospel.
"There's a lot of challenges associated with this effort. But certainly the goal is that the Bible and Christ permeates every single subject and certainly is very visible to the kids and the parents as they observe the teacher and the school leadership," Vander Kooy says.
WWCS will be posting more information on their Web site in the next couple of weeks. For now, pray for God's guidance over this new development for WWCS. Pray for their effectiveness in the communities they serve.
If you'd like to support them financially, click here.
(Photo courtesy With Syria)
Lebanon (MNN) -- You've heard the stories about the influx of the Syrian refugees into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. Kristin Wright, advocacy director for Open Doors, says, "One out of every four people is a Syrian refugee. This is really a shift in terms of that country's dynamics."
What you haven't heard is that Lebanon might not be the haven refugees hoped for. "It's really one of the most expensive host countries in which to be a Syrian refugee." Why? Most of them don't have jobs, but they have to pay rent on the apartments or homes they've found in the city. Those who are taking their chances outside the city limits aren't finding a warm reception there, either. "The Lebanese government doesn't allow official refugee camps, so the refugees out in the Bekaa Valley are paying for the land on which they are pitching their tents."
Not only that, but they're facing increasing discrimination now. "In the Lebanese media, the Syrian refugee crisis is hardly ever portrayed as a humanitarian crisis. It's more portrayed as 'the Syrians are a threat to national security. They're a drain on the economy.'"
Insults, attacks, and curfews have become commonplace experiences. Wright says this is where Christians are standing in the gap. "Open Doors is also very focused on the Lebanese host communities, because the host communities are really being pushed into a difficult position. Many of the people who are supplying help to the Syrians are people that are already in a difficult financial place themselves."
Even providing aid is tricky. Wright shares, "One of the pastors that I visited in Beirut observed how a lot of aid comes with strings attached to refugees right now. Sometimes, the smaller aid groups might be tied to a political party or another in Syria, or they're tied to a different religious group. So their goal of providing aid is to get refugees to adopt their particular perspective."
Suspicion runs deep on all sides. "He [the pastor] is willing to provide aid to them in their home and they have no compulsion to come to the church to receive assistance. He said no one has any obligation to attend a church service. He said, 'The only obligation is to see the love of Christ in me.'"
When needs are met with no strings attached and people are kind, a whole host of questions come about. Wright adds, "It really is about being the hands and feet of Christ in a really difficult situation and helping those that are the most vulnerable, regardless of what their background might be."
Another dynamic is the growing mental-health crisis that is taking hold among Syria’s refugee children. Many witnessed the destruction of their homes or saw family members or friends killed. Add to that the trauma of displacement, exploitation, communal tensions, and domestic violence, and there's another crisis brewing.
The stress has left many with mental illnesses that include anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and developmental problems. Wright says what she saw during her visit was heartrending. "This is the next generation. This is the future of Syria, so we need to do something to start reclaiming all these lost childhoods. That's why Open Doors is focused on providing education, and we also support 'child-friendly' spaces."
(Photo courtesy Open Doors)
Lives have been shattered by the war. Wright says, "We really are about empowering the local Church to be a light in the darkness and to be an impact in the community." She encourages you to consider this perspective in hope: "It is possible to make a difference for Syrian refugees. Learn about the conflict, learn about what's happening, and then share that information."
Change your perspective by praying or giving. Click here to get started.
(Graphic credit WitsLanguageSchool.com)
Africa (MNN) -- In Part Two of our series about reaching the deaf for Christ, we'll explore challenges and growth in Africa with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Wycliffe Associates, The Seed Company and Deaf Opportunity OutReach (DOOR).
With help from the Wycliffe coalition, DOOR is equipping national believers to tackle the stigma surrounding deafness and introduce people to Christ.
Reaching the Deaf for Christ: Africa
DOOR's Rob Myers says many challenges face the families of hearing-impaired people in Africa compared to those in Western civilization; prime among them are prevalence and perception.
Healthcare issues in the underdeveloped and often impoverished nations of Africa contribute significantly to the commonality of deafness.
An African child signs "I Love You" ingratitude for the Gospel DVD he received from DOOR.(Photo credit DOOR)
"You tend to find a higher percentage of deaf people among the populations," Myers notes. "Oftentimes, children between the ages of five and eight will contract a disease that will subsequently cause them to lose their hearing."
Another challenge to reaching the deaf for Christ in Africa is the perception of deafness itself. Many communities view deafness as a curse.
"The [deaf] child often becomes a source of shame for that family," explains Myers. The perception of deafness as a curse usually results in deaf children being hidden away and completely isolated from society.
"90% of deaf children are actually born to hearing parents, so most of the time they grow up in a dysfunctional family because they have no means of communicating with their parents," Myers adds.
Liberating Africa's Deaf
Since many deaf communities in Africa are unreached, DOOR uses an "alternative" method of sign language Bible translation to introduce deaf people to Christ. It's called "Chronological Bible Storying (CBS)."
DOOR uses a three-step CBS process and materials for evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship called Know God How, Follow God How, and Serve God How, respectively.
"That entire series constitutes 110 stories and lays a primary biblical foundation for a people group so that they can really understand what Christianity is about," Myers explains.
DOOR staff in Africa celebrate thetranslation of evangelism, discipleship,and fellowship materials. (Photo credit DOOR)
Five African nations--Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania--recently completed translation and production of the complete 110-story series. DOOR held a grand celebration to mark the occasion, and more breakthroughs came forth.
"During that celebration, we had the country of Nigeria finish the first series of 32 stories," shares Myers.
"We also had our Kenya translation team finish a series of translator notes and Bible study notes, or commentaries, that we call 'The Deeps.'"
He says these commentaries will be extremely helpful for future sign language translation work.
As you pray, ask the Lord how He would have you support deaf ministry in Africa. For more details on the ministry of DOOR, click here to visit their Web site.
Tomorrow, we'll explore how you can be a part of reaching the deaf for Christ in your own community through Faith Comes By Hearing.
Read Reaching the Deaf for Christ: Part One.
(Photo credit Kids Alive)
International (KAI/MNN) -- The United Nations estimates that, every year, 14 million girls are married as children. Roughly one girl is trafficked every thirty seconds. Since human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world, it won't take long before those numbers rise exponentially.
Kids Alive International shares how you can help them protect the innocent in a recent post on their prayer blog.
For many young girls, this world is a very dangerous place.
It is estimated that, every year, 14 million girls are married as children. UNICEF recently released some sobering statistics on the prevalence of child marriage in different countries: Niger, Chad, and Central African Republic are some of the worst places in this regard. Young, teenage Syrian refugee girls in Jordan are being married off to far older men because, given their circumstances, this is viewed by their families as the best option for them. And in South Sudan, a 15-year-old girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to finish school. That is shocking.
1.2 million children, many of them young girls, are trafficked each year. That's one every thirty seconds. And, according to estimates, that number is set to rise since trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world. Such exploitation includes forced labor, slavery, and prostitution.
Kids Alive is committed to making this world a better place for children. Many of their ministry sites provide protection for girls (and boys) at risk of abuse, early marriage, and trafficking.
Kids Alive's ministry in Guatemala rescues abused girls from the most terrible of situations, helping to restore them and seeking justice for their abusers through the court system. In south Lebanon, Kids Alive provides an education and a safe place for young children who would otherwise end up begging in the streets and vulnerable to the worst kinds of abuse. Their homes in Kenya provide a haven for girls who might otherwise face being ‘married off’ at a young age.
Yet many other young girls remain trapped in an evil cycle of abuse and terror. And we need to respond--to speak up for those that are suffering and do all we can to help kids like these. As Proverbs 31:8 says: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all that are destitute".
And we need to pray. Please join with us in praying for Kids Alive’s ministries as they rescue, protect, and seek justice for the victims of horrific abuse. And pray for the many other children that are at risk of abuse, trafficking, or early marriage around the world.
You may want to use the following prayer to help you:
Our hearts are breaking at the stories of innocent children that experience horrific abuse around the world. These kids are so weak, and the grip of evil upon them so strong. Their voices are so seldom heard.
Help us not to look away and hide our faces from their fear and despair. Give us compassion. Enable us to listen. Help us to speak up. Give us the resources to respond and make a difference. And shine Your light so that those that are broken may be rescued, healed, and restored.
(Photo courtesy UNICEF/Haidar)
Syria (MNN) -- Winter is fast approaching in the Middle East.
No surprise there, except now, there are 10 to 12 million displaced people and refugees who have fled from Syria and Iraq. Already stretched thin, the World Food Program says that if pledges from the international community don't come in, some of these refugees will be facing winter on 825 calories per day.
To put that into perspective, a typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread (an American-specific phenomenon) has roughly 376 calories, 13 grams of protein, and 3.5 grams of dietary fiber. It'll work for a little while, but nutritionally, it's close to a starvation diet. The average middle-aged adult aged 31-50 years old needs between 1,800 to 2,200 calories to stay healthy (according to WebMd.com).
Or, take a look at a typical World Food Program ration that's roughly 850 calories:
3/4 cup of grain, sorghum, or millet (whatever is locally available)
Two tablespoons of mature seed lentils
Just under two tablespoons of cooking oil
One teaspoon sugar
One teaspoon salt
That's the total for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…in the kind of weather where you're basically exposed to the elements, and that's what's facing many of these IDPs and refugees in just a few weeks if nothing changes.
Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response says the influx of IDPs has overwhelmed already-strained resources. "It's sort of like trying to plug a leak in a dam. You get your thumb in one place, other places begin to come out. So I think we'll be doing some of the same things we've been doing over the last couple of years. The problem and the challenge that we face: there are so many other refugees that it's just massive right now."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Global response to the refugee crisis from Iraq and Syria has been overshadowed by the security threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) invasion. Palmer offers his own speculation surrounding the lackluster response. "It's ongoing. It's been a long-term thing. People are just getting tired of it. Another reason is the perception of 'there's a lot of bad people in that part of the world.'" It's small comfort to the hundreds of thousands in Northern Iraq fleeing into Turkey with ISIS in hot pursuit. "They didn't even have an idea of what country they were in. So, there's so much happening. It's war." Palmer says shock doesn't register on the global scale. Neither does a man-made crisis.
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
The numbers are staggering. The United Nations' latest reports reveal a huge movement of people. It's the tip of the iceberg, confirms Palmer. "For every one you find in a camp, you're finding eight or nine outside the camp. They're living in tents, they're living in schools, and they're living in makeshift places, abandoned buildings. It's finding those areas that nobody else is helping." The families being helped are Kurdish Yazidis and other minorities, as well as Iraqi Christians, some of whom are members of the response team and were themselves forcibly displaced from their own homes.
Last winter was hard. People were exposed to the elements. This winter, the partnerships are in place, but the funding won't cover all of the needs. "We're going to need better tents, we're going to need winterproofing. We've got some actual teams that are doing that, going in and working alongside our national partners."
In addition to food baskets provided by Global Hunger Relief, BGR is also distributing coats and rubber boots, blankets, mattresses, and carpets to isolate the cold, as well as heating stoves and fuel. Palmer says this is what emerges from an aid initiative that connects the body of Christ: "It's amazing to see the response and the love of Christ in the local people who want to help their fellow countrymen and others, even though they're suffering in the midst of it, themselves."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response/International Mission Board)
Every bit helps. The spiritual front needs cover, too. "Pray that some sort of stability will return to the area. Pray for our national partners who are standing strong in their faith, helping people and sharing their faith. Pray for them to be bold as they stay in some very dangerous areas."
One last thought. Palmer acknowledges that numbers overwhelm and distance numbs. But coming alongside the body of Christ in these areas, resourcing those who are acting in the name of Christ, is what characterizes the Christ followers. For that reason, "Don't be discouraged in well-doing. Continue to support organizations like Baptist Global Response. I think we really are making a huge difference."
Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Flickr, creative commons)
Japan (MNN) -- Barely a week after the volcanic eruption on Mt. Ontake, Japan was hit again early Monday morning, this time with Typhoon Phanfone.
President of Asian Access Joe Handley asks for prayers for Japan. While Asian Access does not have personnel near Mt. Ontake, they are hopeful that Christians in that area can respond in a positive way. (Read more about that here). With the impact of Typhoon Phanfone, these desires are certainly compounded.
Asian Access works alongside the Church of Japan to help them be a witness to the Gospel in good times and bad.
According to USA TODAY, rescue operations at Mt. Ontake were halted Sunday due to heavy rain from the typhoon. At least 12 people are still missing on Mt. Ontake, and 51 have been confirmed dead. With the accumulation of ash--up to two feet in places--along with the rain, there are fears of mud slides.
Authorities issued evacuation advisories for about 500,000 people Monday, including the region of Tohoku which was hit by 2011's earthquake and tsunami.
CNN says there has been one confirmed death due to the typhoon--one of four U.S. airmen swept out to sea Sunday. Two of these men, stationed at Okinawa, are still missing. A university student also went missing Sunday afternoon while surfing.
Meanwhile, A2 still has workers on the ground responding to the triple disaster of 2011.
Japan has seen its fair share of "bad" lately. Wikipedia says Japan is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters including tsunamis, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.
Typhoon Phanfone is another reminder, not only for Japan, but for Christians. It is a reminder that precious lives are taken at any time. It's a reminder to be in prayer for Japan. Asian Access reports that only 1% of Japan is Christian.
(Photo courtesy Wikimedia/CC/alpsdake)
As disaster after disaster strikes, ministries like Asian Access are there, not only to support the church and bring humanitarian aid, but to share eternal hope. This is the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pray for the areas affected by the volcano and typhoon this past week. Ask God to use this time to open the eyes of the blind to His love for them. Pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones.
If you'd like to partner with Asian Access through prayer or financially, click here.
Asia (GFA/MNN) -- The following is a story from Gospel for Asia. A woman shares her testimony of the Lord’s healing and redemptive power in her life. Names, locations, and sensitive details have been protected for security purposes.
(Image courtesy of Gospel for Asia)
My name is Loukya. I was born and brought up in a family that followed a traditional Asian religion. I am married, and my husband, Naathim, farms.
Since I was born and brought up in a non-Christian family, I practiced all of the rituals according to our doctrines. Since my childhood, my parents taught me all the religious customs, which influenced me badly. I remember those days when my parents would offer prayers especially to one goddess whom they believed was powerful.
Woman Stops Worshiping Her Goddess, Falls Sick
When I turned 25, I got married and started a new life with my husband. He never compelled me to worship the gods, so I did not perform any kinds of rituals in my house for one year.
While everything was going well in my family life, one day I became sick and began to suffer from a headache and other illness [weakness and nausea]. However, I did not take my bad health seriously.
As the days went by, my headache started to develop day by day, and I became more ill. By that time, my husband took me for several medical checkups, and I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
My husband did not tell me this. Everyone in my family visited me at the hospital and encouraged me with their lovely words, [saying] that within a week I would be all right. The doctor said to my husband that I had to undergo a major operation immediately, which would cost us a huge amount. While my husband was sharing these issues with an elder brother, I found out about my brain tumor, and I became afraid.
Enveloped in Darkness
That particular evening, I started to think about my past behavior and how I had not worshiped any gods for the last year. I thought to myself, "That could be the reason I got ill, and now I am going to die." I had no hope for my life. I felt heavy darkness surrounding me, and death was following me. Those days were a bitter experience in my life.
About two weeks later, I was admitted to a private hospital and got general medication, which gave me a little relief for the time being. Then my parents took me with them to live in their house. My husband was also with me. With the help of local villagers, I went through naturopathic treatment in my mother’s village.
In those days, my husband happened to meet with a witch doctor who advised him to memorize some sacred words and chants by which I could be cured. One evening, the witch doctor visited me at my mother’s house, chanted some mantras and gave me some handmade medicine. Early in the morning, my husband would recite some mantras for my healing, but all became useless. Nothing could heal my disease; rather, my problem started to increase every day.
When all hope had vanished, a group of women [from Women’s Fellowship] came to visit our village. Their names were Hafiza, Paavai, Sabrang, and Tamarai. They shared with me about the name of Jesus and gave me some literature to read.
Given Hope to Live
First, I did not understand why they gave me a small book. Tamarai told me about how Jesus died on the cross of Calvary for the redemption of mankind. Then I started to share my personal problems with her, saying, “For the last nine months, I have been suffering from a brain tumor. I have gone through several medications, but nothing could heal my disease. Rather, every day it is developing. I have lost hope of living on this earth.”
That particular moment, Hafiza and the other sisters joined their hands and prayed for me and assured me I’d be in their daily prayers. They gave me hope to live in this world. To my amazement, the whole day I had no headache, and my faith began to grow.
(Photo courtesy of Gospel for Asia)
Faith Blossoms Into Love for Jesus
From time to time, the sisters visited me and prayed for me, and they conducted weekly prayer meetings. As days passed by, the Lord healed me, and my husband and I opened our hearts to Jesus and began attending the church in our village.
When Loukya went for a checkup, the doctor couldn’t find any tumor on her brain. Today Naathim and Loukya are strong in their faith, and they’re faithfully involved in their church.
Hundreds of women missionaries are bringing hope to women like Loukya. These women missionaries have prepared themselves in Bible college, they understand the tragedies faced by women in Asia, and they know the only One who can help. More women missionaries are ready to be sent out, and you can partner with them to reach women like Loukya. Find out how here.
Compartmentalization was addressed at Young Professional Forum in Moldova October 4, 2014.
Moldova (MNN) -- Compartmentalization. We all do it. Some compartmentalize professional and non-professional parts of their lives. Others compartmentalize their social lives. Yet, others do it spiritually. That was the focus of a one-day conference in Moldova over the weekend.
Mission Eurasia, formerly Russian Ministries, and the Association of Spiritual Renewal (ASM) gathered more than 400 career-minded Christian young adults from Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine for a young adult forum on compartmentalization and the Gospel.
Youth Forum "Mission in the professional" in Moldova.
We caught up with ASM's Vice President Boris Vokof. What kinds of individuals were invited? "Specifically [we focused on] young professionals who are involved already in different professional areas. [They] gathered for motivation and equipping in how they can serve and reach their communities for Christ."
ASM's Paul Tokarchuk describes the message conveyed to these young people. "Through their professions, they can be successful and at the same time, they can share the Good News with other people."
Local church leaders told us this was the first event of its kind in Moldova.
One of the speakers, Insur Shamgunov, says the topic is relevant for all cultures. "People tend to have little boxes where they put different aspects of their life, like Sunday is just for church and my religious life. Work is just for my working life. That's the secular part of me. These two parts don't really correspond together.
This can be a dangerous worldview. Shamgunov says, "The same person can have several different sets of values. I [can be] one person at work, another person in the church, yet a third person at home with my wife and my family."
"I don't think that's what God called us to do," says Shamgunov. "He's told us to have holistic lives where we have to be the same person everywhere. Their working life is not inferior to their ministry, it is their ministry. They can be serving wherever they are."
Ministry leaders hope this forum helps change the mindset of Christian professionals. Shamgunov says, "It's very simple, but very important shift in their worldview that needs to happen. Conferences like this can be very instrumental in making this shift happen."
Tokarchuk is hoping several hundred young people will become agents of change and take it to their churches. He praying God will transform their attitudes on work and in their professional influence to become more effective and fruitful workers for God.
Mission Eurasia emphasizes training young Christian professionals. Support their work through this link.
(Photo credit DOOR Int'l)
International (MNN) -- Over 5% of the world is deaf, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Chances are you've crossed paths with at least one deaf individual during your lifetime. If you don't know sign language, how can you possibly share the Gospel with them?
Over the next few days, MNN will be highlighting ministries that are reaching the deaf for Christ worldwide and looking at how you can come alongside their efforts.
Who's reaching the deaf for Christ?
Rob Myers of Deaf Opportunity Outreach, or DOOR, says the international deaf community desperately needs God's Word. He states, "There is no completed Bible in sign language yet.
"Of the 400 sign languages around the world, less than 25% of those languages have anything started at all."
That's why DOOR partners with groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators to bring Scripture to deaf communities in Africa and India. Translating God's Word in sign language doesn't look like traditional Scripture translation, though.
Deaf children in Nigeria watch theGhanaian sign language Bible. (Image, caption courtesy DOOR)
"Unlike spoken language, sign language doesn't have a very effective written format," Myers explains.
"So, when we do a sign language Bible translation, there is no written version of it. It's actually a person standing in front of a camera, signing the translation."
These "evangelism DVDs" are a far more effective way to share Christ with deaf communities than traditional methods, which often require reading Scripture.
"For deaf people who've grown up without sound at all, learning to read is very difficult. That doesn't mean that they can't; many deaf people are very well-educated. But that's not their heart language," Myers explains.
"Sign language speaks much more accurately to their heart because that's the language they've grown up with. It hits their heart in a way that the written Word just can't."
Reaching the deaf for Christ can't be done alone
At their training centers, DOOR staff teach national deaf believers and sign language translators how to lead Bible studies for the deaf, share the Gospel using evangelism DVDs, teach and disciple believers using Chronological Bible Storying, and form Deaf Believers' Fellowships. DOORS staff also helps develop deaf leaders who can multiply this effect.
Deaf Bible Training and Translation Staff in Kenya.(Photo, caption credit DOOR)
"Sign language Bible translation can't just happen in a vacuum. We have a number of partners who help us do what we do," notes Myers.
Financial support for these ministry efforts comes from a number of other groups in the Wycliffe family, including Wycliffe Associates, The Seed Company, and SIL.
Help this ministry coalition reach more deaf communities here.
Over the next few days, ask the Lord how He would have you reach out to deaf people in your circles. If you don't know anyone with hearing challenges, pray for guidance on how to support worldwide initiatives.
(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)
Nigeria (MNN) -- The Islamic terror group Boko Haram is in talks with Nigeria's government. They might trade some of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls for 19 imprisoned Boko Haram commanders.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, said in a recent blog that negotiations between Nigeria's government and Boko Haram representatives should be resuming today. Talks paused for the weekend observance of Eid-el-Kabir, the Muslim holiday celebrating a twisted version of God's provision of a ram to Abraham in Genesis 22.
Why isn't this getting more attention in the Western news media?
To be fair, there are some big events competing for coverage: ISIS, the Ebola crisis, Ukraine rebels, to name a few. But by-and-large, Western news outlets have largely overlooked Boko Haram and its relentless hunt for Nigerian Christians.
Here's a quick look at the rise of Boko Haram and why they're targeting Nigeria's Christians.
Boko Haram: an insider's perspective
Dr. Bulus Galadima is the recently-appointed dean of Biola University's Cook School of Intercultural Studies. Learn more about the school here.
Dr. Bulus Galadima(Photo credit Biola University
"In the West, it's politically correct to say, 'Well, it really isn't that bad.' [But] they have declared their intentions very clearly; their intention is to 'wipe out' Christianity," states Galadima.
Galadima served for many years as the provost/president of the largest evangelical graduate school in Nigeria: ECWA Theological Seminary in Jos (Plateau State).
"[Boko Haram is] relentless; just unimaginable atrocities committed against Christians and against the Church. When they take cities, they do not release those, and it's 'Convert to Islam' or you are killed," Galadima recounts.
MNN caught up with him at the recent Missio Nexus Conference and asked him about the reality of Boko Haram. As a Nigerian, he confirms the reports that Christians are under relentless attack by the Islamic militant group.
Boko Haram: the martyrs
The ECWA Theological Seminary is located in Jos, Nigeria.(Map credit The Nigerian Archive blog)
During Galadima's time at ECWA, the school was attacked several times. Between 2008 and July 2014, when Galadima began serving at Biola, three ECWA students were killed by Muslims and Boko Haram.
Galadima regards the students as martyrs.
"Their stories are neat because you see people who are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the process of doing that, they were killed," he shares.
Listen as Galadima tells the three students' stories in full detail here.
Pastor Ephraim escaped with his family but decided to go back and warn church members to leave the area because of the danger. After he and a church elder warned believers, a Muslim mob attacked them with machetes, killing Ephraim and gravely wounding the church elder.
George was encouraging Christian refugees to hold fast to their faith despite Boko Haram threats. He was targeted and later killed by the terrorists and buried in a mass grave. George's wife was expecting at the time, and Boko Haram killed this brave believer before he could meet his son or daughter.
Shem was killed by Boko Haram while traveling from a church in Jos to another part of the city. Galadima says Shem would've been carrying his Bible because he was interning at the church, and that's why Boko Haram could easily pick him out of a crowd.
Boko Haram: your response
(Image courtesy Open Doors)
Instead of falling into a cycle of hatred and violence, Christians in Nigeria are doing the opposite, Galadima says. They are reaching out to their Muslim neighbors in love and kindness.
Galadima describes one situation where a mission partnered with ECWA to provide food, water, medicine, and other supplies to a mainly-Muslim refugee camp. While distributing the supplies, ECWA students engaged in conversation with some of the refugees and began to develop friendships.
"This Muslim man called our student and said, 'Look, I am tired of this religion. I want to be a Christian,'" shares Galadima. The man and his entire family came to know Christ, and ECWA connected them with discipleship materials so they could grow in their relationship with the Lord.
In the full interview, Galadima shares another situation where ECWA students rescued a Muslim man who had been stabbed during a Boko Haram attack.
"The [Nigerian] Church is doing its best to stand strong" and demonstrate the compassion of Christ, Galadima concludes. The real question is: will you stand with them, or will you ignore the problem?
"The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. So pray for the Church in Nigeria to remain strong, to be aggressive in its witness. Pray also for the government of Nigeria to have the strength and the courage to stand against the onslaught of [Boko Haram]," requests Galadima.
(Photo credit Christian Aid Mission)
"It's [only] a matter of time, because as they continue to grow, [Boko Haram] would continue on this crusade. They have already said that their target was to 'Islamize' the whole world. The only antidote to that is for us to say, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, we are going to reach out to Muslims around us, love them while we still have the opportunity.'
"If we don't do that, some of the things happening in Nigeria and other places is likely going to happen here in the West."
Asia (MNN) -- According to a study done by The Center for Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary, the Church in Asia is one of the fastest growing churches in the world.
(Image by Asian Access)
Joe Handley of Asian Access says, "As you look at this research, one of the places that the church is just growing like gangbusters, really rapidly, is in the continent of Asia. Several countries in this research are highlighted because of their growth rates in the Church."
Handley says the research is particularly significant for Asian Access. "These are countries where the Church is outpacing the leadership training systems of their country. So all across these different nations, you have the churches growing like crazy, but there's not enough Bible schools and seminaries and leadership institutes like Asian Access that are helping them prepare for this phenomenal growth," Handley explains.
He expects that a lot of the growth has to do with the fact that many of these nations are restricted either politically or religiously. This pressure, often persecution, and the desire to be free are all things that drive them to the Gospel. They are delighted to have freedom in Christ even while the world they live in does not allow them freedom.
People are enthusiastic about God's truth. Handley says, "This is a unique season as the Gospel advances across this area for the hope of Christ. But in order to do that well, you need solid leaders."
While the leaders in existence have their heart in the right place, they may not know how to be effective, or they do not have adequate tools of leadership.
"As the pastor goes, so goes the church. So coming alongside these leaders of the church of Asia is going to be crucial for the future," says Handley.
(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)
How do you foster better leaders?
The first key to this leadership training is making sure it empowers the individual and doesn't just tell them what to do and how to do it.
"Many of the leadership systems don't really come alongside them in an empowering way," Handley explains.
Asian Access' method is a two-year process of community training and collaboration. It's not a traditional model but one that allows the leaders to think for themselves and develop more leaders in their community. Handley says they are learning better from their community of leaders than they would from one instructor.
This training style has been sought by other communities once they see how well it works. For one thing, the wives of these pastors are pleased that their husbands no longer have to leave them in charge of their families and churches for weeks at a time so they can go to a leadership conference.
With Asian Access' style of training, the pastors can leave behind leaders anytime they have to go away.
The way it works is that a dozen or so leaders meet up and a leader from Asian Access will start them off with an idea. Handley calls it a spark. This spark soon bursts into a flame as the leaders look at how that idea would work in their community.
Bringing Christians together.
Ultimately these discussions are inspiring and unifying. Handley says, "All these pastors are from different walks of life, different denominations, different movements, different networks. In fact, many of them previously weren't sure they could trust one another.
"But as they start to learn in community, they start to say, 'Wow, you know what? He's not so different after all. Okay, he's a little different than me in some areas, but we could work together for the Kingdom. Maybe we should be planting churches together. Maybe we should be engaging our community together.' And the unity that shows itself in the power of these churches working together collaboratively is quite amazing."
The growth in Asia presents all believers with a challenge-- but a very good one.
Handley says, "As this research shows, the Church is growing like wildfire in these nations. And the desperate need is the same cry that one of my friends said to me. He said, 'Joe, please send us seasoned veteran leaders. We have no spiritual fathers.' And so there's a desperation for leadership training all across many of these nations.
"And so the crucial question of the hour is: 'Can we equip the Church appropriately with the right cultural context and working in their language and culture?"
There are many ways to get involved.
"What can you do about it? Of course, you can always pray. Praying is essential to the Gospel's advance," says Handley.
Secondly, Handley invites you to go to Asia with Asian Access. "Come, join us. You know, maybe you're one of those seasoned veteran leaders that you could come invest in the life of others, especially if you enjoy mentoring. That's what they're hungry for."
The third response: support the enormous financial needs of this work. You can do that here.
West Africa (WRN) -- Editor's Note: The latest report from the World Health Organization says as of nine days ago, 7,178 people, mainly in West Africa, have been infected by the Ebola virus. 3,338 of them have died. What follows is a breakdown of World Renew's response in the hardest-hit areas.
(Photo courtesy World Renew)
World Renew is responding in partnership with Christian Reformed World Missions, the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL), the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL), Christian Extension Services (CES), and the Christian Reformed Church of Sierra Leone.
In Liberia, CHAL is training community health workers in the prevention of Ebola in 18 health facilities of three counties. This has motivated more people to visit the health centers. World Renew has also supplied CHAL with much-needed medical supplies. In a country where 3,400 Ebola cases have already been reported, this type of assistance is crucial.
On September 24, 452 cartons containing 3,765 kilograms of supplies to fight Ebola arrived in Liberia. Funded by World Renew and shipped by MAP International, these cartons contained sprayers, masks, face shields, protective suits, gloves, protective boots, thermometers, intravenous solution, oral rehydration packets, blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, vitamin pills, and other basic medicines.
“We are very happy for this donation. It came at a time when facilities lacked medicine and supplies,” said Patricia Kamara of CHAL.
CHAL is also training health workers and community volunteers to properly diagnose the disease and treat Ebola patients so that the spread of the virus can be stopped.
In Sierra Leone, World Renew and its partners are fighting a lack of understanding about the disease. They are working in the Ebola “hot spots” where 2,000 cases have already been reported to educate people about how Ebola is spread, how to recognize the symptoms, what to do if one has the symptoms, how to prevent the transmission of Ebola, and the role of the whole community in dealing with Ebola.
These key messages have also been translated into the local languages of the affected areas. Through Christian Reformed World Missions, pastors of the Christian Reformed Church of Sierra Leone have been trained using a manual prepared in partnership with the Timothy Leadership Training Institute.
World Renew, together with CCSL and Christian Extension Services, is also providing hand washing basins, sanitizer, soap, and chlorine bleach to infected communities in Sierra Leone and teaching people how to prepare a chlorine mixture and disinfect homes and personal belongings. They are setting up Ebola Task Forces in communities to work on preventing the spread of Ebola.
In addition to these physical interventions, World Renew and its partners are encouraging prayers.
“As Christians, the Bible teaches us to give thanks to God in ALL circumstances, because there are always lessons that we can learn from such difficult situations, especially in experiencing the grace of God,” said Rev. Istifanus Bahago of CCSL. “We are very much aware that thousands of Christians are praying for us in West Africa. The situation is indeed worrisome, but we want to say a big thank you to all. We have faith that one day this virus will go away and normal life will resume. We have faith that God will protect us and we shall live to testify of his goodness in our lives.”
World Renew’s West Africa Team Leader Mary Crickmore agrees. “West Africa has never been in greater danger than now. Our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone and Liberia are fasting and praying, and they ask us to join them. We must also participate in answering our own prayers by giving generously to enable them to get the supplies and do the work."
Please be praying for those on the front lines of this disease and for an end to this terrible crisis.
USA (MNN) -- Human trafficking is a terrible social injustice that's plaguing the world: women and children sold for evil intentions. According to the United Nations, almost 21 million people were victims of human trafficking worldwide. 75% involves women and girls--3 million in India alone.
While one organization can't help all of them, one organization is doing all they can.
Women rescued from the red light district, worshipping in the safe house.
Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders says they are hosting a trip to India and Nepal next month, and more volunteers are needed.
On this trip, VBB "will be going specifically in the Red Light districts in several countries, and they'll be ministering directly to the women who are trapped there."
VBB is working with a ministry partner who is trying to rescue these victims while also sharing Christ. Romeijn says, "It's just so important and vital to these people to know that people care about them, to have those relationships, to have people come halfway around the world" to show them love.
Romeijn encourages you to pray about going, even if you don't feel qualified. "There truly are no mighty men and women of God. Everyone is just a weak, fragile, empty vessel filled by the power of the living God. And we don't have to have everything together because it's not us that's does the work."
This short-term trip is for someone who wants an adventure. "It is somewhat dangerous. It's not the safest trip we go on. We've never had any problems, but the potential is there. Our contact has received death threats. Satan doesn't give up that ground easily."
While it is a little more dangerous, "the rewards are enormous," says Romeijn. "The women love spending time with women from [the west] who care about them. Typically, they're the lowest of society--even sold by their family members."
Caring for these women opens incredible doors to share the Gospel.
If you would consider joining the VBB team to India and Nepal, click here to get connected.
If you don't feel called to this particular trip, VBB has many trips to choose from.
India (MNI) -- Editor's Note: When you think of the word "disposable," you might think of razors, diapers, or paper plates. You probably don't think of baby girls.
But, before a girl in India is even born, her life is in danger. What follows is a blog post shared by Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India about the plight of women in India.
(Photo courtesy Mission India)
Why aren’t girls valued in India? Families are expected to pay a dowry of expensive gifts or money when a daughter marries. This can leave a poor family drowning in debt for years. (Dowry is technically outlawed but still practiced widely.)
And families expect sons to provide for them. That means parents want to have sons to take care of them when they get older. Girls, on the other hand, are seen as disposable.
Dangers for baby girls:
All over India, there are fewer girls than boys. In India’s capital city, Delhi, there are only 866 females for every 1,000 males. Why? Because babies are killed for the “crime” of being girls. Many little girls grow up being told they are a burden, and some are even named “Unwanted.”
In India, moms face pressure to kill their daughters. If an ultrasound (technically illegal in India) reveals that the baby is a girl, many times parents try to poison her before she is born. If the abortion is unsuccessful, the baby may be murdered as an infant or toddler.
*Having an older sister
If a woman has already given birth to a daughter, there is increased pressure (sometimes from her own husband, family, and/or community) to kill a second, third, or fourth daughter. Many baby girls are killed because of this intense social pressure.
*A generational cycle of oppression
If girls survive and go on to give birth to their own children, their own daughters are in danger. They are seen as unwanted burdens in their families … and the cycle continues.
How can we break this cycle?
We can bring the Gospel to the darkest corners of India, where girls are seen as nothing more than a burden. Right now, India does not value girls.
When will this change? When India is transformed by Christ.
Mission India’s Children’s Bible Clubs, Adult Literacy Classes, and Church Planters are helping meet the deepest needs of India’s girls: to know that they are loved and valued.
At Children’s Bible Clubs, boys and girls are introduced to the God who created each child in His image. Each year, kids and parents received Jesus as their Savior through Bible Clubs. The truth about God’s love is changing the way parents view their daughters and the way girls view themselves.
Adult Literacy Classes encourage newly-literate parents to send their children to school. The Bible-based literacy lessons also emphasize the importance of girls and their immense value in the eyes of God, who loves and created them. Students also learn about the plight of women in India and their rights as citizens.
Through Church Planters, entire families are being introduced to the love of God. Their knowledge of the one true God who loves people--no matter their caste or gender--is radically transforming families.
Donetsk shaded in red.(Map credit Skluesener via Wikimedia Commons)
Ukraine (RMI/MNN) -- In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists are trying to retake the Donetsk airport. At least 10 people were killed this week alone, despite a ceasefire announced in early September. According to BBC News, over 3,500 people have been killed since fighting began this spring.
Mission Eurasia, formerly Russian Ministries, says people who fled fighting in April desperately need your help. The ministry is collecting winter supplies and sending them to refugee families.
"I recently returned from a trip to Ukraine where I had the opportunity to visit Slavyansk, Gorlovka, and other towns affected by the ongoing conflict in the East of the country," said ministry leader Sergey Rakhuba in a recent Facebook post.
"There I saw grief, destruction, and tears over the ongoing war. I also saw the churches practically serving and bringing the Word of Hope to those in need."
A School Without Walls student distributes aid to refugees from eastern Ukraine.(Photo credit Russian Ministries)
In April, many refugees had to flee their homes in eastern Ukraine immediately, taking nothing with them. Those that did bring some possessions didn't bring winter clothes, as no one expected the conflict to last this long.
Mission Eurasia is helping Ukrainian churches hand out winter supplies and the Hope of Christ. They have ordered a container to pack with winter weather items: new or gently-used warm clothing and shoes for adults and children, jackets, coats, hats, boots, sweaters, pants, warm socks, gloves, blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, etc.
Once filled, the container should arrive in Ukraine at the beginning of November.
Please consider helping those in Ukraine in need of winter supplies. You can mail items to 1N108 Farwell St, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Or, if you are in the Chicago area, you can collect them in your local church, where they will be picked up and taken to the container.
If you have any questions about sending supplies or the ministry's re-branding efforts, call (630) 462-1739 ext. 200 during business hours, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Though Russian Ministries is re-branding as Mission Eurasia, Rakhuba stated in a recent letter that checks supporting Gospel work should still be made out in the name of Russian Ministries. Changes to the ministry's Web site and communication pieces won't be implemented until January 2015.
Patrick Fung is the exposition speaker for Urbana 15.(Image courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)
USA (MNN) -- Urbana 2015 is right around the corner.
This is a students' mission conference of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Una Lucey-Lee, the program director of Urbana, shares the merit of a student-focused conference on missions.
At first, college students and missions don't really seem like a good fit. For one thing, college kids are poor. They usually can't afford to support missions financially or go overseas.
Lucey-Lee says, "The students graduate at some point and get jobs. It really is our belief at InterVarsity that students can be world-changers, that this generation is going to have an impact."
It makes sense. All through their education, students in the United States are often told they need to do what makes the most money or what will make them successful. It's good to remind students that vocation transcends traditional careers.
Urbana offers a chance for students to get a different perspective about their future and to reconsider their vocation.
At the very least, Urbana is good at opening the eyes of students to what God is doing around the world. A student bent on going into business doesn't need to change his major, but Urbana might help him consider business as mission.
"A lot of people come not really knowing what they're getting into, and [when] they leave, their perspective is changed," Lucey-Lee says.
Many others already interested in missions come to investigate and learn more about various mission groups.
At Urbana 15, OMF International Director Dr. Patrick Fung will be doing Bible exposition. "They can count on fantastic experience in the Scriptures," says Lucey-Lee.
Along with Bible studies and hundreds of seminars and 250 exhibitors, Urbana 15 will feature many international speakers. This is another way to help students see how God is working around the world.
Worship through music will be led by people of different cultures. There are prayer rooms and mentors to help students know listen to where God is calling them.
This year's theme will come out of Matthew.
"I think everybody should consider going," says Lucey-Lee. "I think it's a fantastic opportunity for college students to come, to be with thousands and thousands of other college students considering what God would have them do with their whole lives, the totality of their lives, and then for the length of their life [consider] how God would have them involved in missions."
Registration for Urbana 15 opens up March 4. Stay updated at Urbana.org.
Until then, pray about it. If you're not sure whether God wants you to go, pray and ask for direction.
Also pray for Urbana. Pray for the team as they finalize details. Pray for their health and for wisdom.
Pray that the right students come to Urbana, and that God would provide the resources needed for the conference.
Lucey-Lee says, "We're going to have a great time. I'm really excited about what's coming into shape, and like past Urbanas, I think it will be worth [your] while to get there."
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Pasu Au Yeung)
Hong Kong (MNN) -- Tensions are rising in Hong Kong.
Protestors, upset over China's involvement with a new CEO, have threatened to occupy government buildings. Then, they demanded the resignation of the chief executive.
A former British colony, Hong Kong returned to China's sovereignty in 1997. China promised roughly 50 years of letting the colony remain independent.
So far, that's meant preserving the existing legal system, civic rights, and maintaining a free press. However, China proposed that in 2017, Hong Kong's voters would choose a chief executive…then they altered the deal a little more by stipulating a handful of candidates that must be approved by a pro-China committee. Asian Access President Joseph Handley says, "That has caused a stir amongst the people because they thought they had 50 years of free operation."
Things escalated further when police attempted to disperse protestors with tear gas earlier in the week. Late Thursday night, officers were seen carrying in containers of rubber bullets, tear gas, and other riot control gear. "For the people of the city that have had some semblance of freedom for the last several years, their fears are taking them to the Tiananmen incident," explains Handley. "They're wondering, 'What is this future going to hold for us?'"
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Pasu Au Yeung)
However, Handley notes, "Neither side is budging. In fact, the Beijing government says they're not going to change their position. They're holding strong, and they're going to back the police as well as the current CEO. The student protestors and others on the streets that have joined them say they're not going to back down either." Meanwhile, Hong Kong's chief executive refused to resign but offered to appoint a top official to hold talks with student leaders.
The olive branch is a gesture of good faith. China was in the background issuing dire warnings should protestors actually try to occupy the government buildings.
"In this situation, I think the future will depend a lot on how leaders handle themselves," says Handley. They're watching events unfold with piqued interest because "that's what Asian Access is trying to address: to come in and lead where the Church is growing like wildfire. There are Kingdom leaders who are hungry for this type of training and development."
So, just how are the protests and Asian Access connected? They're not, exactly. They're linked only by the fact that A2 has been laying the groundwork to begin training in Hong Kong. Handley says how the unrest is handled outlines the need for leadership development. "Every time you hit something like this, it's leadership that's going to guide the way forward."
In fact, through the Marketplace Initiative, says Handley, "As you invest in the lives of key leaders, they influence others. So, this young generation of protestors, if they have the right people mentoring and discipling and encouraging them, they will be well prepared to lead in the midst of these kinds of challenging or chaotic situations."
A2 equips and trains Church leaders for multiplication. It not only works in an evangelistic framework, it's sound business theory. Peter Zhao, a renowned economist from China, told Handley, “This is exactly what Asia needs today. An Asian Access for marketplace leaders!”
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Pasu Au Yeung)
Handley says business leaders are eager for the leadership training model: "I'm going to Hong Kong in December for an intense day with several key leaders to talk about opening that country for Marketplace Leaders. So you can pray for Asian Access as we enter that space."
There's a lot at stake over the next few days. Nobody wants the shadow of Tiananmen in Hong Kong. It took six weeks for that tragedy to unfold in Beijing 25 years ago. The next five weeks will be crucial for Hong Kong. "Pray for these leaders, that God would give them wisdom and discernment to handle things well. Pray for the Beijing government and for the current Hong Kong governors, that they would lead well, and in a way, that would bring peace to their society."
(Photo cred: Micky Aldridge via Flickr)
Haiti (MNN) -- People debate whether addressing physical needs or spiritual needs is more important for ministry. MNN asked this question on Facebook and got a myriad of responses.
For Starfysh founder Dr. Steve Edmondson, Gospel work on the Haitian island of La Gonave is both/and, not either/or.
"We set it up as this either/or question, and we have one choice. Maybe it's the wrong question," Edmondson states. Phrasing the question differently changes the implications of its answer, he explains.
Gospel work: spiritual or physical?
The question about Gospel work shouldn't be, "Which is more important?" which implies an either/or choice, but rather "How can we address both?" which suggests a both/and solution.
"As long as we set the Gospel of Jesus as central to what we do, then it's central in the context of what their reality is," says Edmondson.
"To proclaim it and to demonstrate it through acts of love and service is an expression of the same Gospel. To not express the reality of that Gospel through our acts of love is a [disservice] to what the Gospel of Jesus is."
Edmondson points to Christ as an example.
"Jesus came down; He left heaven…and entered our reality," Edmondson states.
"To the extent that we can do that in other people's lives, we are demonstrating what Jesus did for us and are demonstrating that Gospel in what we do."
Gospel work on La Gonave
(Photo cred: MNN/Katey Hearth)
There are many ways Starfysh puts this both/and solution into practice. From clean water and agriculture initiatives to education projects, Starfysh addresses dire physical needs in the name of Christ.
Starfysh also folds Gospel work into various island health programs. They regularly send community health workers into La Gonave villages, Edmondson explains. These workers teach the communities about WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), the importance of using latrines, basic first aid, etc.
"In the context of that, they bring up also people's need for God and what God has done for them," Edmondson explains. "It's only in the context of showing up in that village that we have gained an audience and earned the right for people to hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ."
You can come alongside their work by praying, giving, or going.
India (CAM/MNN) -- It seems impossible that a doctor could work from morning until night and be a pastor as well. Yet, some remarkable individuals are doing just that in India. Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, shares the following inspirational story:
In a remote village in eastern India, a pastor who became a missionary in his own nation has also become the doctor to hundreds of families.
Tribal people from the Pokari area in Kandhamal District, Odisha (formerly Orissa) State, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the nearest government hospital in Balliguda, line up from morning to evening for Sukeswar Nayak to treat them. He provides treatment for illnesses as serious as dysentery, sickle cell anemia, and tuberculosis.
“Many come to me for medical service. Sometimes I do not find time to eat and take sufficient rest,” Nayak said.
Pastor Sukeswar Nayak needs medicalsupplies not readily available in hisremote ministry outpost.(Photo courtesy of Christian Aid)
Thus Nayak has a visceral understanding of Jesus’ words, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34), but he’s more concerned about the comfort of the people he serves.
“I have a small house, so there is not sufficient accommodation for the people to sit and wait,” he said. “I cannot provide them any food if they stay longer.”
Though not educated as a physician, Nayak is the only person trained to provide basic medical care for the area people, which include tribal animists as well as Christians. A U.S. missionary doctor who is devoted full-time to training evangelists in medical care provided Nayak six months of instruction over the course of three years.
Another 15 evangelists from Kandhamal District also received the medical training. The director of the indigenous mission overseeing the medical evangelists said Nayak is serving more than 1,000 families.
“We are glad to know that many seriously-ill patients who cannot go to the hospital due to the distance are getting treated by him,” the director said. “Praise God!”
Nayak may be overworked, but he is encouraged when he sees body and soul healed.
“I do ask them to go to the government hospitals if the disease is beyond my capacity to deal with it,” he said. “But I am thrilled to see that many patients who return from the government medical hospital without being healed get healed through my service, by God’s grace and intervention.”
Besides addressing common maladies such as colds, scabies, and diarrhea, Nayak has treated people for malaria, pneumonia, and anemia. He does not rely on medicine alone for healing.
“Late at night when parents bring their sick children for help--they are poor and cannot afford to take them to the government hospitals, I pray to God before giving any medicine,” he said. “Then I give medicine based on examining the sick, and God heals that child miraculously.”
Tribal people line up from dawn to duskto receive medical care from the pastor.(Photo courtesy of Christian Aid)
The mission director said Nayak and the other evangelists providing medical care in Kandhamal District need more supplies.
“They need a supply of drugs for these diseases--vitamins, antibiotics, analgesic, and ointments for eye infections and ear infections--so that they can help the poor and needy with much joy,” the director said. “With this, they can reach many villages with the gospel. Each of these evangelists has very thrilling experiences with this ministry as people are being healed miraculously.”
Nayak’s son, Bisnu Nayak, also works as a pastor, missionary, and doctor for two other villages. Based in Gadgaballi village, he takes care of 200 families, including Hindus and Christians.
Another missionary doctor, Bipra Nayak, serves in Pangali village, providing medical assistance to 150 families. In Gotangi village, Sanjit Nayak treats 100 families. In both cases, the indigenous missionaries treat both Hindus and Christians.
India is more than 74% Hindu according to Operation World, with Odisha State 94% Hindu, though that figure includes many tribal people with animistic beliefs and practices. After the murder of an area Hindu leader in 2008, Kandhamal District was the site of anti-Christian violence that killed more than 100 Christians and displaced more than 50,000.
Nayak said that his wife and church help to sustain him spiritually.
“The local church where I am pastor is my spiritual base for medical service,” he said. “The enemy is always there to discourage me, but as I pray and trust Jesus, He delivers me from the enemy.”
“The Lord in His plan has raised this man to take care of His children in times of need,” the mission director added. “God is saving many from dying due to this small enterprise in the name of Jesus.”
To help support Christian Aid in their current projects, click here.
(Photo courtesy E3 Partners)
Thailand (E3P) -- Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a city on the rise where ancient culture collides with modern industry. Its location among the highest peaks in the region makes it a bucket list destination for travel enthusiasts everywhere. TripAdvisor recently listed it as one of the “25 Best Destinations in the World.”
King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai in 1294. Back then, a moat and defensive wall protected the city from Burman adversaries. In the late 18th century, Chiang Mai was abandoned for several decades. But the city began to rebound in the early 20th century and has since become a major political and economic player in the region.
Slavery Run Rampant
While Chiang Mai continues to grow, human trafficking remains a scourge to the land. Posing as religious leaders, successful businessmen, or sympathetic paternal figures, human traffickers enter impoverished villages and convince families to give up their children by promising a better life for them.
With identification papers in hand, traffickers are able to make their victims disappear from the public eye. Many are smuggled across the border and forced into harsh labor environments while others are sold into sexual slavery.
In June 2014, the U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, downgrading Thailand to a Tier 3 state. The scathing analysis revealed that Thai officials have failed to meet the minimum standards for protecting its people from forced labor and sex trafficking. Even the most conservative estimates report that tens of thousands of victims are trafficked every year.
What E3 Partners is Doing
(Photo courtesy E3 Partners)
Throughout the year, E3 Partners sends teams to Chiang Mai to cut human trafficking off from the source, and you can join the next wave.
Using the PricelessCube, teams will enter local villages and reveal the truth to villagers about what is happening to their children. Through these efforts, you can have the opportunity to share the Gospel each day and leave behind new small groups and churches.
In just ten days, you can save a child’s life, share the story of Jesus with dozens of people, and leave behind a Gospel movement that outlives your time on this Earth.
Are you ready for the adventure to begin?
Lorella and John (Photo courtesy of Lorella Rouster)
Africa (MNN) -- When you've poured almost 30 years of your life into a mission, it can be difficult to let go.
But John and Lorella Rouster of Every Child Ministries have been seeking God's will and know that it's time to step down from leadership.
Lorella Rouster shares her thoughts about this transition.
"We helped found Every Child Ministries with the help of some Christian friends 29 years ago. We love this mission; we never planned to do anything else. But we just see that we're at the point where we can work more effectively, perhaps, in different positions other than the top leadership," she says.
The transition in leadership will take place at the end of 2014. Mark Luckey, a missionary currently serving with his family in Uganda, will become ECM's international director.
"It's all about keeping ECM strong by ensuring that the organization has strong leadership. We're strong in vision and certainly strong in commitment, perhaps strong in faith; but increasingly we are not so strong in body," says Lorella.
While the Rousters know this is God's calling upon their lives at this time, they are happy to stay involved and help where they can..
"We still plan to stay very involved, still plan to continue using everything God gives us for this mission. But we'll let the new leadership take the international helm."
The Rousters and ECM prayed for a long time for God's discernment in choosing a new leader. While there were many good options, it seemed that Mark Luckey was the best choice. Not only is he experienced on the mission field, but God made it clear through His timing that Mark was to be the next leader. While the Rousters are ready to step down as international directors, the Luckeys feel called to move back to the United States.
Lorella says, "We look forward to even greater things in the days ahead. We believe the organization will be stronger. It will be able to reach more African children for Jesus through this move."
Though she is not nervous about the transition, Lorella anticipates some challenges and difficulties that are normal with any transition process.
She says, "Just pray for a smooth transition, and just pray that the organization will remain strong and will be able to lead many children to Jesus."
Curious about ECM? Read more about their recent projects here.
USA (MNN) -- For a final wrap-up of the 2014 Missio Nexus Leadership Conference (MNLC), MNN spoke with Jim Ramsay of The Mission Society.
"Everyone's heads are spinning right now," says Ramsay who attended the conference with four co-workers.
"We see this, we see the opportunity, we see what God is doing; we're willing -- but -- how does that translate into actual change? Our current structures, our current mentality, simply [are] not going to be sufficient to move us into the world that God has out there now."
Following its "Movement of Peoples" theme, the MNLC's main sessions and workshops centered around four topics: Immigration/Migration, Globalization, Urbanization, and Exploitation.
"There's a movement of God now, dealing with the movement of people [and] with people urbanizing, and it gives mission agencies a real opportunity, as well as a challenge, to begin to engage this," Ramsay summarizes.
"There were many times I was beating my head saying, 'These are really old wine skins we're living in here; how do handle this new wine that we're dealing with?' I haven't got that one figured out yet. We've got a lot of processing to do."
That's where you come in. As The Mission Society team and other groups who attended the conference process what they've learned, pray for them. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and courage to confront tradition.
"The prayer for us as mission leaders is first the willingness to question assumptions, question ways of doing things, to say, 'How do we engage this new reality?'" notes Ramsay.
Last week, approximately 1,000 leaders of North American mission agencies, churches, Christian universities, and missions-related businesses gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, for four days of trend analysis, workshops, and networking.
"I expected it to be good; it really exceeded my expectations," Ramsay shares. "The presenters have been phenomenal with giving extremely helpful information; raw data, as well as ideas.
"The highlight for me, though, is often the conversations you have outside of the sessions."
For many missions groups, these Missio Nexus conferences are also a great time to meet new people in the industry and work on collaboration. Sometimes that collaboration involves resources, like World Mission's audio Scripture device, The Treasure.
Ramsay says MNLC 2014 is going to impact The Mission Society in two key areas, moving forward.
"One is just [the] missionaries themselves. A lot of this has happened, I don't want to say 'under the radar', but maybe not with their awareness, and we want to make sure they're prepared for what's happening," Ramsay explains.
The other area of ministry involves church mobilization.
"There's so much of this stuff that's needed in the local church," notes Ramsay.
"We need to take [that information] and say, 'How can we now infuse that into our church mobilization?' so that missions is not simply a couple of things that we do locally [and] we send missionaries overseas, but [instead]: 'How do we, as a church community, engage these migrant communities that are now in our midst?'"
Find MNN's full coverage of MNLC 2014 here.
Japan (MNN) -- Mount Ontake's unexpected volcanic eruption is the deadliest in Japan since 1926.
The death toll is at 48 after as more victims were discovered on the summit, noted media reports yesterday. According to Japan's Meteorological Society, Mount Ontake is Japan’s second-highest active volcano; it last had a minor eruption seven years ago.
Caution is prudent. On Saturday, the eruption of the 10,062-foot peak, 125 miles west of Tokyo, blanketed the peak with a deadly rain of ash and stone. Asian Access Vice President for Advancement Jeff Johnston explains, "The eruption really didn't have any warning. It's a popular spot for hikers, even those on religious pilgrimages will go. It erupted without much warning--couple of minutes. There was some rumbling, I think that some people reported, but not much. It just spewed ash and poisonous gas."
(Photo courtesy Wikimedia/CC/alpsdake)
Search efforts resumed despite fears of toxic gases and another eruption. Johnston adds, "The seismologists are saying, 'Be careful. It's still ongoing. It's till spewing ash and poisonous gas.' The government and the rescue workers are working there. You need to be praying for those working with immediate rescue and recovery."
Some of the headlines are calling it a "national tragedy." It's understandable. "It's been a difficult few years for Japan. On March 11, 2011, they had the triple disaster with the 9.0 earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear crisis. They've been dealing with that, but when another thing happens, Japan's mindset does get rattled a bit," Johnston adds.
Even though they're rattled, this is where the concept of gaman comes in. Gaman is widely defined as perseverance, self-denial, or according to Wikipedia, "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity." Structure provides the foundation for resilience. Plus, after 2011, emergency response to a single event will be smooth.
Teams are still in place from the triple emergency. A good share of A2's resources and people are still invested in the 2011 triple disaster zone (Tohoku). Does a disaster like this impact a ministry like Asian Access? Not precisely. Although Asian Access does not have personnel in the area of Mt. Ontake, that doesn't mean that believers won't respond, explains Johnsont. "The Church is definitely going to be there for emotional rebuilding. They have gone so far in advancing the cause of Christ in terms of this triple disaster."
Although Mt. Ontake is a short-term crisis, A2 needs wisdom to know how to practically help with this new disaster. The way they will help is to come alongside the Japanese Church and its leaders, helping to equip and encourage them for the ministry of emotional rebuilding, just as they are doing in Tohoku. "Pray that this kind of an event would cause people to ask the deeper questions of life, and that the Church would be there to provide hope through Christ and provide encouragement and practical help."
It won't be the last natural disaster in Japan, so there will be more opportunities for the Church in Japan to respond with God's love. Johnston considers this final point. "As horrible as this event is, pray that the Japanese people would think about eternity and their own mortality--in other words, how they want to live their lives in light of eternity."
Iran (SAT-7/MNN) -- Israel's Prime Minister is in the U.S. this week, trying to warn the nation's leaders about Iran's nuclear intentions. Yesterday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the P5+1 (U.S., Russia, China, France, and Britain, plus Germany) nuclear negotiations with Iran.
So far, Netanyahu's advice has largely fallen on deaf ears, and the negotiation deadline is fast approaching. Israel's PM has long warned the international community about Iran's ambition to develop nuclear warfare.
Despite all of this, church leaders are celebrating. SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, says there's a new Bible for a new Iran.
The New Millennium Version's language and style make it more accessible to readers, especially novice Bible learners. Its translation uses modern, easily-understandable language. The NMV also strives for literary excellence, in recognition of the deep love Persians have for poetry.
Rev. Dr. Mehrdad Fatehi, Coordinator and Chief Editor of the New Millennium Version described the translation as a new Bible for "a new Iran," referring to what some have called a "tsunami" of church growth in the country.
At the time of the 1979 Iranian revolution, there were few Christians outside of Iran’s Armenian and Assyrian communities. Now, Iran is thought to have the fastest-growing church in the world.
According to SAT-7, Farsi speakers in Iran are actively reaching out and searching for a deeper relationship with Jesus. Many do not have access to physical Bibles but are finding the words of Scripture on the SAT-7 PARS channel. Some have contacted SAT-7 PARS and shared that when Bible verses are shown on the TV screen, they hurry to write them down on paper so they can continue to study them.
Please pray that God will use this new translation of the Bible to declare spiritual truth to Farsi speakers, and that those who cannot access a physical Bible will learn its words through SAT-7 PARS.
Click here to learn more about SAT-7 PARS, which broadcasts to an audience of over 2 million Farsi-speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. You can help God's Word reach more people in Iran with a gift to SAT-7 PARS. Find out how $1 can bring SAT-7 PARS to one person for an entire year.
Missio Nexus photo op in front of the MNN booth! From left to right: MNN's Katey Hearth, Joe Handley of Asian Access, MNN's Laurelle Terrero, & Noel Becchetti of Asian Access.
USA (MNN) -- The 2014 Missio Nexus Leadership Conference for North American mission groups has come to an end. However, the new strategies and relationships formed during the four-day event in Atlanta, Georgia are only just beginning. Among the major takeaways from this year's event: collaboration.
"There's no way we can do the whole job alone; we need each other," notes Joe Handley of Asian Access.
"That's the reality of the Kingdom of God, and I think that's the way that God designed it to be. Unfortunately, many of us just say, 'Hey, it's our way or the highway,' or 'We've got the best thing since sliced bread, so if you can't do it our way, we won't work together.'"
Asian Access (A2) was among the first groups to put this theory into practice two years ago.
"We realized we were lacking in an area of sending folks to Asia to serve Christ, particularly in Japan," Handley recalls. "There was a huge need, and we just didn't have the capacity [to fill it]."
It took some time, but A2 and SIM USA were able to form a collaboration that worked well for both groups. Read more details here in the original article.
"That has been, really, a phenomenal partnership. Together, we're working in a way that advances the Kingdom in Japan," shares Handley.
"They let us lead the work in Japan, but they become the sending force."
(Map credit Asian Access)
Collaboration is woven into the fabric of A2's ministry. They don't just send short-term mission teams to Asia: they partner with national pastors to further the Great Commission.
"Every one of our national directors is the leader of a church or an entire movement, or even the bishop of a denomination," Handley says.
Asian Access develops Christ-like national leaders that strive to multiply churches and transform communities. A2 is working in 20 Asian nations, doing all for the glory of God.
Learn more about their ministry and how you can come alongside their work here.
"That's just one small example of what groups are doing; Asian Access isn't the only one."
Pray for new partnerships and collaboration that began at the Missio Nexus conference. Pray that these efforts will honor God and expand His Kingdom around the world.