(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA/Assyrian International News Agency)
(Pakistan) -- The influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is spreading.
It has now reached Pakistan, as evidenced by a move by a half dozen leading figures of the Taliban there. Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA explains, "They have said that they will come under the authority of the Caliph of the Muslims Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is the leader of ISIS. So basically they have said, 'We see ISIS as the banner carrier for the Islamic World, for at least the Sunni Islamic world.'"
ISIS declared the creation of an Islamic State in June. Their decision could impact Pakistan's borders where the leaders are based, because of their proximity to Afghanistan. "If they join hands with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, if they start working together on taking more territory, if they start working together on terrorist attacks around the world, that becomes a pretty scary scenario to think about," says Nettleton.
A notable uptick in activity from like-minded groups in Somalia, Kenya, and Nigeria followed the ISIS sweep. "When you talk about Boko Haram or you talk about radical Muslims in the Philippines, they look at that and they say, 'Those guys succeeded, and that's what we're trying to do.' The natural process is then, 'How did they do it? How can we be like them? What better way than if we work together?'" It would be a logical step, based on similar goals and ideologies. Nettleton says, "Radical Muslims around the world look at what ISIS [has] done, they look at the fact that they're controlling territory, they're setting up government structures and really ruling the areas that they control."
The Voice of the Martyrs comes alongside the persecuted Church in these areas. However, Nettleton acknowledges, "The challenge is even to be present in the areas that are controlled by groups like ISIS because they force the Christians to leave." He continues, "When you think about spreading the Gospel, the first question is: 'If all the Christians are gone, who's going to be there to spread the Gospel?' The other group of Christians that is affected by ISIS is Muslim converts. They don't have the opportunity to leave alive with the clothes on their back. They have the opportunity to come back to Islam or be killed."
Flag used by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
And yet, the light hasn't gone out entirely. "We believe that there are some Muslim converts still in ISIS-controlled areas. I am certain that they are being very cautious, but that is really how the Gospel is going to have to be spread: by those who are boldly staying in spite of the risk."
VOM is serving Iraqi Christians by providing them with daily necessities and assessing their future needs. Many of these believers fled with only the clothes on their backs. VOM is also serving those who choose to stay behind. One thing we can do is reinforce them with prayer. "Pray for encouragement, that they really will sense the Lord's presence, [that] they'll know the blessing of His presence...and His hand on them, and see Him at work through them."
One other thought: Saul was one of the most zealous persecutors of the Church until God changed his heart. Then he became one of the most zealous followers of God's heart. Nettleton says, "We need to pray that God will raise up Pauls out of the Sauls of ISIS, that some of these who are now persecuting our brothers and sisters will come to faith in Christ."
(Photo credit Leo Reynolds via Flickr)
USA (MNN) -- Two decades of commitment is a big milestone, whether in marriage or ministry. In marriage, the occasion is celebrated with gifts of china, platinum, or emerald.
World Mission is celebrating 20 years of global ministry with friends over dinner.
"One of our national partners from the country of Myanmar, formerly Burma, will be joining us and sharing a testimony right from the field of how God is using The Treasure to bring Buddhists to know Jesus Christ," shares Executive Director Greg Kelley.
Celebrating 20 years
As World Mission celebrates their 20th anniversary, they're looking at the past with praise and to the future with hope.
"This year, our 20th year in existence, we will be distributing the 100,000th Treasure, which is our solar-powered audio Bible," Kelley shares, adding the landmark Treasure will be distributed in northern Nigeria.
A man listens to The Treasure in Nigeria.(Photo credit World Mission)
"That's really by design; it's symbolic to us because northern Nigeria has endured some of the harshest, most relentless persecution over the last three years because of the terrorist group Boko Haram."
If you're close to West Michigan, you can meet World Mission staff and invest in the ministry's future at the 20-year celebration dinner on Monday, October 27.
Better hurry to secure a spot, though; the RSVP deadline is tomorrow. You can RSVP by calling the World Mission office at 616-534-5689 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"To distribute 100,000 [Treasures], we feel, is a great accomplishment, and we just thank the Lord for that," adds Kelley.
World Mission's ministry isn't stopping at the 20-year mark, though.
Since its founding in 1994, World Mission has been dedicated to bringing the Gospel to unreached people groups. While that mission has been accomplished in different ways over the years, the end result remains the same: introducing lost people to the hope of Jesus Christ.
The Treasure is designed to be used in a group listening setting.(Photo credit World Mission)
Partnerships are a key component to World Mission's ministry, and one of their newest efforts involves joining hands with Bible League International. The Illinois-based group has asked World Mission to transfer their print New Testaments into audio.
"Right now, World Mission is in the process of recording New Testaments so that we can get the Word of God out into areas where the Gospel's not been heard because of the number of illiterate people," Kelley explains.
"They give us the printed translation, and World Mission then records it with an indigenous individual, and then we load them on the Treasures, and we distribute them."
See how you can partner with World Mission here.
Pray for this new partnership to bear much spiritual fruit among the world's unreached people groups. Pray also for many new supporters to come alongside World Mission in the coming year.
More World Mission reports here.
A village in Iraq destroyed by ISIS.(Image courtesy ANM)
Iraq (MNN) -- Do you ever feel completely helpless about what's going on in the Middle East? Well, that's why we bring you stories like this one. Advancing Native Missions says their partners in Iraq are helping people displaced by ISIS.
But, with winter quickly approaching, they're in need of your help.
As this recent article from the Wall Street Journal explains, families are on the move daily in Iraq. Islamic State advances have essentially divided Iraq and its displaced people into three regions: one controlled by the Kurds, one controlled by ISIS, and another held by Iraq's Shiite army.
In some cases, such as the plight highlighted in the WSJ article, families are forced to cross newly-drawn borders to get daily essentials like food or medicine. At other times, as in the case of many Iraqi Christians, families are forced to flee their homes permanently.
ANM recently shared an example on their blog:
(Photo credit ANM)
There was a knock, then Ammar’s wife opened the door to find a man and his son standing there. The man explained that they had escaped from Mosul and were looking for a place to stay. Ammar’s wife told him, “We are Christians.” Bursting into tears, the man responded, “I and my family love Christ.” The couple invited them in and prayed with them. Then the man left to get the rest of his family. For Ammar and his wife, strangers at the door had been revealed as family in Christ. For the family from Mosul, the Lord had provided shelter and hospitality in a time of desperate need.
Christians throughout Iraq, like the couple mentioned in this story, are opening their homes to people displaced by ISIS. ANM's national partners are helping these believers put Christ's love into action by providing daily supplies for the refugees: things like shampoo, towels, diapers, first aid kits, and more.
(Photo credit ANM)
With northern Iraq's harsh winter quickly approaching, the need for more supplies is growing dire. ANM is collecting supplies for a container they hope to fill and send to their partners in Iraq by the end of October.
Take action and share Christ's love with Iraqi refugees by helping ANM here.
Most importantly, please continue to pray for the situation in Iraq and Syria. Pray that ISIS terrorists will somehow be contained. Pray that more supplies are gathered and sent to refugee families.
More Middle East stories here.
(Photo courtesy of For Haiti with Love)
Haiti (MNN) -- Hunger in Haiti is on the heart of many. This is evidenced by the amount of donations given to For Haiti with Love recently to address the many needs in Haiti.
For Haiti with Love runs a burn clinic and a food program for residents in need.
Recently they had the opportunity to buy burn supplies in bulk for an entire year, significantly reducing the overall cost but demanding a higher up-front cost.
For Haiti has the unique opportunity ofministering to burn victims.(Photo courtesy of For Haiti)
Eva DeHart of For Haiti says, "People have answered the plea for the money to actually pay for the burn cream. And the reason we needed so much is that we had the opportunity of getting the burn cream in bulk."
People have been sending food and other supplies to For Haiti with Love as well. The challenge now is getting those supplies to location for distribution.
"As with everything else that you [purchase], it has to be shipped across the United States and then by sea into Haiti," DeHart explains.
Even the burn cream will cost $1000 to get to Haiti. And a full container of food can cost about $10,000. Altogether it is a big number, but the spiritual and physical impact is worth it.
"Jesus was all about feeding the hungry. In all of His ministry settings...feeding the poor and the hungry was a very important part of the Lord's ministry," DeHart says, "When their tummies are growling, they can't hear you talking about God. But satisfy the physical hunger, and it opens the door to satisfying spiritual hunger."
DeHart wants supporters of this ministry to remember that they're not only serving people in need in Haiti. "We want them to remember that when you're looking into the eyes of the poor, you're looking into the eyes of Jesus. They are partnering with us and they are literally feeding the hungry themselves. We're just the conduits that get the product to help deliver the message."
Want to help? Get connected here. Pray for God to provide the means for these supplies to get to Haiti. Ask Him to provide places for discussion about the Gospel among the people of Haiti.
Cyclone Hudhud(Image credit NASA.gov)
India (MNN) -- In India, Prime Minister Nahendra Modi just returned from surveying the damage left behind by Cyclone Hudhud. Some officials say it could cost over $1 billion USD.
Making landfall exactly one year to the day as Cyclone Phailin, Cyclone Hudhud tore through Andhra Pradesh and Orissa on Sunday. At least 400,000 people have been affected by Hudhud, and 24 people are known to have died as a result of the storm.
Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India hasn't been able to reach their partners yet because of damage to communication lines. Recently-appointed President and CEO of Mission India Todd VanEk asks you to pray that they'll hear from their partners soon.
Also pray that the Lord will give Mission India guidance as they support partners throughout the country.
"Our greatest challenge will continue to be keeping up with the Indian Church. People are coming to faith in Christ at a rate in India that I just don't think has been experienced by many people here," VanEk notes.
It's one of the observations VanEk made during his first trip to India as the ministry's president.
Todd VanEk is Mission India's new USA President.(Photo credit Mission India)
"I was officially in my role for two weeks, and I jumped on a plane and traveled to India," VanEk shares, adding that the visit had a two-fold purpose. "One [purpose] was to 'Meet Todd, our new president' and to continue to foster the great relationships that we have.
"The other purpose [was] just allowing the Holy Spirit to lead my thoughts and my mind, in terms of the work that is being done there."
During the trip, God's Spirit affirmed a calling VanEk felt to serve as Mission India's new leader.
"I just cannot think of anything I would rather do with my time and the leadership gifts that God has given to me, than to further the Kingdom of God in India," he shares.
While VanEk had taken several trips to South Asia as a Mission India donor, this was his first visit as the ministry's leader.
"Mission India and our family have a relationship that goes back 10 years," explains VanEk.
"I think that was very strategic in the Lord's working of my life, bringing me to this point, because as I went in [this time], I've already established a relationship with many of the key leaders that we work with in India."
As VanEk met with different leaders and visited partner locations, he became increasingly aware of the spiritual battle being waged in India.
In India, violence against Christian believers is on the rise. Pray for their safety!(Photo, caption courtesy Mission India)
"This is, ultimately, not just a strategy that we're about. This is a spiritual battle that we're involved in," states VanEk. "Probably one of the most surprising things was that there's an area in the northeast that's probably 50-60% Christian, and there was some persecution there.
"A church was burned, and that sent the message to us that, even in very strong Christian centers, there is [spiritual] work countering the work that we're doing."
Learn more about Mission India's work by visiting their Web site. Then, add Mission India and their indigenous ministry partners to your prayer list.
International (ORO) -- Editor's Note: In answering the question, "Do Child Sponsorships really work?" we thought we'd share a post by Orphan Outreach staffer Julie Cramer. She shares the impact of her sponsorship on a little girl and children like her.
(Photo courtesy Orphan Outreach)
I pray for Shraddha when I open the refrigerator for milk. I close the door to bins stocked full of fruits and vegetables, and again I see her picture tacked there with a magnet. I have more than enough, but at times I wonder if the $36 a month I contribute to her care through Orphan Outreach’s sponsorship program is really making a difference in her life. How could so little do so much?
A group of economists and researchers gave me a compelling answer.
In 2013, Bruce Wydick (University of San Francisco), Paul Glewwe (University of Minnesota), and Laine Rutledge (a student at the University of Washington) presented their findings on the impact of international child sponsorships. They studied the adult lives of children who had been sponsored in comparison to their siblings that were too old to have been sponsored.
The study is the first of its kind to measure the long-term impact of such sponsorships--and critical considering they estimate 9 million children are sponsored globally each year, with contributions mirroring that of U.S. foreign aid to developing nations, exceeding $3 billion annually.
The researchers gathered data from 10,144 adults over 2 years that had received sponsorships through Compassion International from 6 countries. At the time, only children 12 years of age or younger were eligible for the program. A few of the team’s findings in the Journal of Political Economy offered solid evidence to the value of such programs:
• Child sponsorship raised a child’s education level by three years
• The probability of formal employment increased from 55% to 72%
• The probability of white collar employment increased from 19% to 31%
• Teen marriage and childbearing decreased
• Community and church leadership increased
• Basic necessities such as sturdier homes, clean drinking water, and use of mosquito nets
were more likely
• Positive lifestyle choices increased
“You could beat this data senseless, and it was incapable of showing anything other than extremely large and statistically significant impacts on educational outcomes for sponsored children,” Bruce Wydick told Christianity Today. “The key to ending poverty resides in the capacity of human beings--and their view of their own capacity--to facilitate positive change.”
Orphan Outreach’s emphasis on the spiritual and emotional development of children leads to this type of positive change. And by involving local churches to mentor the children, Orphan Outreach is helping to build the children’s networks of support.
“All projects include Christian discipleship of the children,” the program’s coordinator Beth Galway said. “The children receive so many benefits, which often include their only meal of the day, a Christian education in most cases, and loving caregivers.” At times, sponsors can travel on mission trips and meet their child face to face.
“Of course, having all of the sponsors and mission trip participants keeping these children in their prayers is probably the most important benefit,” Beth said. “Just this morning, I had a new sponsor ask if he could help his sponsored child forever! We are constantly trying to ensure that sponsors feel connected to the child and the program. As a new program, there is still a learning curve. We struggle with how to keep non-sponsored children from feeling left out.”
For Orphan Outreach, 369 children remain to be sponsored, which would equate to an additional $16,000 monthly. Such consistent financial support enables the agency "to build quality into each program and allows them to have financial security," said Tiffany Taylor Wines, director of marketing for Orphan Outreach. Sponsorships extend benefits to all children, however, by freeing up other dollars to be directed toward overall operational costs.
So, for the cost of some milk and other groceries, Shraddha--and children like her--can curl up in bed at night knowing there will be breakfast in the morning … and, thankfully, school.
(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Syria (MNN) -- Seven days ago, Arab World Ministries (a ministry of Pioneers) tweeted this ominous statement: "One of ours just wrote in to say the black flag is now flying above the town of Kobani (Syria)."
The situation is fluid. On October 14, the U.S.-led coalition launched airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region. A Kurdish official says between fierce fighting and the air support, they managed to take down the black flag of jihad.
Yet, both sides are grappling for control of the northern Syrian town near the Turkish border. Because of that, the UN's refugee agency estimates more than 170,000 people fled to Turkey or sought shelter in parts of Syria or in northern Iraq.
The extremist group has carved out a vast stretch of territory from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad and imposed a harsh version of Islamic rule. ISIS also has multiple battlefronts throughout the land it controls, where fighting sets off fresh waves of displacement.
(Image courtesy Pioneers)
On top of fending off ISIS, the civil war continues within Syria's tattered borders. All this means 10 to 12 million people are on the move. With winter's approach, the UN has been sharing its alarm at not having enough resources to keep the refugees sheltered or fed.
Denny Spitters, Vice President of Church Partnerships for Pioneers, says there's another way to look at this story. "A lot of people, I think, would tend to think the worst is happening, and that there's very little good that's coming out of this. We're seeing the exact opposite, for the most part."
Pioneers workers overseas have been meeting physical needs through aid support, as well as the emotional needs, through counseling. Children's outreach includes sports camp. While there are details on specific work teams, Spitters can't get into them. "Their security is a big deal. They're having to be careful about that and be very wise in how they're working, how they're interacting with the local populace."
One thing they are saying is common is that the local populace is upset and disillusioned. "This huge outgrowth of refugees creates the opportunity for them to really look outward and say, 'I have questions. I have things I want to know. I see what Islam is doing here. I don't want this caliphate. Is there something else? What about Jesus?'"
(Photo courtesy Pioneers/Arab World Ministries)
This curiosity and openness is unprecedented. According to one of their newsletters, work teams started 27 Bible studies with Syrian Muslims. Twelve families have put their faith in Christ. And many have experienced healings and other miracles. Why? Spitters explains, "We have often heard things like, 'You're the only ones that have come to listen to me, to hear my story, and have offered something.'"
This is what happens when you take the time to listen. A Pioneers team leader recounts this story:
We hosted a Bible study with a Syrian family recently. While some were interested, Moussa, the head of the household, was argumentative and critical the entire time. At the end of the study, we offered to pray for them.
Moussa took this opportunity to share that his father-in-law was detained in a Syrian prison over two and a half years ago, and no one had seen him since. He asked for God to release him from prison.
Soon after, I received an exciting phone call from Moussa: "He is out of prison and living with us now. God answered our prayers! When can you visit again?"
When we saw Moussa a few days later, he showed a definite change of heart. He asked if we could read another Bible story, and if we could continue to pray for him and his family.
What this means is that Christians are choosing to stay in the dangerous areas, risking their lives, to answer the questions that are being asked. "They're remaining there as teachers, as physicians. They care, and they are really seeking to minister there through their efforts." Plus, Arab World Media continues to broadcast into the region with the kind of content that offers a hope of peace. Spitters says, "The number of responses and inquiries that we have had over the Web through broadcasts of Arab World Media throughout the Middle East, from Syrian refugees especially, they're up 30,000-40,000 that they're trying to follow up on."
Noting the slow response from the international community toward refugee funds, Spitters acknowledges that the situation is hard to wrap your brain around. "I think we're overwhelmed. We hear so much every day that we feel 'there's nothing that I can really do about it.' We feel guilty and don't know where to go with it."
For followers of Christ, it boils down to three things: pray, give, or go. First, "One of the greatest weapons in warfare that we have is prayer: to really lift up at this time and pray for the conflicts that are going on here, and pray for peace and pray that God will use the people that He has to reach out."
Then, give: resources like, time, or funds.
And lastly, go. While it's not the safest place to be right now, even talking about the stories of these survivors, educating yourself more about the situation, and checking out ministry Web sites is a direction more than doing nothing. What's your next step?
(Photo by Bibles for China)
China (MNN) – Bibles seem to be extremely abundant, yet receiving one could mean the world to someone in a distant village in China.
Bibles for China is preparing for their next Bible distribution this November. A group of seven will be split into two teams and will verify the delivery of 16,000 Bibles to believers in rural China.
There are over 1.5 billion people in China and 100 million believers. The only access the people have to the Bible is a few pages that they have copied down by hand, verses committed to memory, or worn-down Bibles that are shared throughout the village.
BFC reports that people living in rural China have very limited income that hardly covers their basic needs. Most people live on as little as $500 a year. Villages are so remote that traveling outside of their community is difficult and rare; receiving a Bible of their own would be like receiving an exotic and precious gift.
A former Bible distribution member wrote, “Even if the means of transportation were available, it would not be affordable. What Satan had intended to use as shackles, however, God used for inspiration. He used for hope. I witnessed a faith so strong, a hope so deep, so inspiring, that it sent shock waves through me, changing my expectations, realigning my priorities. and redefining my relationships.”
The group of seven will be leaving for China in less than a month, and they ask for prayer that all the Bibles will be distributed without interference.
Another group will be journeying to China the spring of 2015. Over the next two months, Bibles for China will be collecting donations for Bibles. One Bible costs just $5. Click here to help.
(Photo credit Micky Aldridge via Flickr)
International (MNN) -- There's a controversy afoot. MNN asked President and CEO of The Mission Society, Max Wilkins, for insight.
"There are many who are starting to say that the season for Western missionaries in the rest of the world has passed, and that it's the day of the indigenous missionaries," shares Wilkins.
"I think that fails to take into consideration several different dynamics."
The Great Commission
Prime among those dynamics is Christ's command to His disciples in Matthew 28:16-20, otherwise known as the Great Commission: "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
"The Lord has given us all a call to 'go' and to make disciples of all the nations. It's not an either/or thing; we all have this global mandate."(Photo credit The Mission Society)
"The Lord has given us all a call to 'go' and to make disciples of all the nations," notes Wilkins. "It's not an either/or thing; we all have this global mandate."
In addition, many countries that were previously "receiving countries" only--meaning they needed missionaries and teachers to bring them the Good News--are now sending their own missionaries to the Western world.
"Jesus is alive and well and working [in] just about every place on the planet today," says Wilkins. "The world has changed, and the needs of the global Church have changed."
However, "While the [world] landscape may have changed, the need still exists for both indigenous missionaries and missionaries from more developed Church countries."
Global missions challenges
As a "sending" agency, The Mission Society recruits, trains, and sends what they call "cross-cultural witnesses," or missionaries.
Wilkins says missionary recruitment is becoming more challenging as the world changes, but "we're still seeing significant numbers of men and women who sense the call of the Lord to give their lives and use their lives and their skill set and their training as full-time overseas missionaries."
(Photo credit The Mission Society)
Another change Wilkins has observed is that many churches are becoming "sending" agencies. Congregations throughout the United States, parts of East and West Africa, and South America have begun actively supporting and sending their own missionaries to unreached and least-reached communities, both within their own nations and beyond.
"I think that's really exciting and has a lot of possibilities for the future," Wilkins states.
What it means for you
At the end of the day, the global need for people to hear about Christ and His salvation remains the same. The need for your prayers remains the same, too.
(Photo credit The Mission Society)
"There's a lot of things that we have a tendency to want to pray about: strength and safety, and all of those things, but the people in the field all have a similar prayer desire, which is that they would be fruitful," Wilkins shares.
"There's no greater joy, I think, than for our missionaries to see fruitfulness, to see people coming to faith and being discipled and begin to get a Kingdom vision for the world. There's great value in the Body of Christ praying for that reality."
Find more prayer needs here.
(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)
Lebanon (MNN) -- Nearly three million Syrian children are not attending school due to the civil war raging in their homeland.
The future of the nation is at stake. Jed Hamoud, Vice President of Operations at Kids Alive International, notes that this crisis has been 10 years in the making. "The fear is that the Syrian people are going to be faced with a generation of kids that are not educated. That would have a massive impact on the society as a whole."
Hamoud continues, "Many of those kids have been out of school for a year or two. They have missed a lot of schooling, so what we're really calling it is a literacy/education program."
Think of the doctors, businessmen, entrepreneurs, educators, scientists, writers in a single generation. In other words, "When the current generation passes and the new generation is coming in, they're going to have a tremendous shortage of educated people."
Yet, hundreds of thousands of displaced children are struggling to enroll for school in their host countries and in Syria. In Syria, many of the school buildings are filled with Internally Displaced Peoples or the military. For others, high school fees and working to survive are the main reasons kids aren't in school.
In Lebanon, it's all of the above for the Syrian refugees. In fact, as Lebanon has no official refugee camps, Syrian families regularly go into debt to cover costs like housing, healthcare, and education. Plus, the education system is simply overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of child refugees.
According to a recent Save The Children report, 4 out of 5 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon don't attend school. Although there is a plan to teach Syrian refugee children in an informal educational setting in Lebanon, the strategy is still in the works. But most kids can't afford to wait, says Hamoud.
(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)
Kids Alive Lebanon looked at the available space they had and converted a workshop into classroom space. "The goal is to try to help those children come up to speed, so that we can streamline them and transition them with the standard school curriculum," Hamoud explains, adding, "We're expanding it to the maximum of the facility that we have today, and we will be having about 60 children that we'll be taking in to schooling."
One of three new classrooms will provide a safe environment for these refugee children to get what they can't get at a normal "school," says Hamoud. "We do provide education. We actually will be providing meals to the children. We're providing transportation, but at the heart of it, we will be teaching the kids the Scriptures, the value that Christ has bought us. So it is at the very core of our ministry here in Lebanon."
The children's desks will arrive next week, and the new "Syrian Oasis" will open its doors on November 3. There's still a lot to do. "We've hired one teacher. We need to hire at least two more teachers to help out. And we need to buy the supplies. We have some desks, but we are going to need a lot more because we weren't counting on taking in that many children."
Please pray that God would do amazing things in the lives of the needy kids Kids Alive will be serving.
USA (MNN) -- The International Day of Prayer for the persecuted Church, or IDOP, is approaching quickly on November 2.
IDOP is a day in which Christians worldwide unite together to pray for over 100 million fellow Christians stretched across the globe. These Christians are persecuted consistently.
More than half a million churches in 150 countries participate in IDOP.
Open Doors USA, a ministry dedicated to supporting persecuted Christians, is providing free resources, downloads, and special Webcasts in honor of IDOP.
They are including kits for churches, small groups, families, and schools, which include a leader’s guide, DVDs, information on how to order “One With Them” wristbands and how to participate in their live webcasts, which will be held Saturday November 1 at 8 pm.
An exclusive Webcast will be held for churches and small groups on Sunday, November 2, at 7 pm.
The Webcast will be hosted by Open Doors President and CEO Dr. David Curry.
Curry says “This year has been unusual in every way. You see stories throughout the news about what’s happening to Christians. We need to care. The world, the media--the mainstream media--will not care more than you.”
He invites people to join IDOP and sign up for their Webcast, which will feature several speakers.
Pastor David Platt, president of the International Mission Board and the author of the best selling book, Radical, will be speaking about how Americans can do their part for the persecuted church.
Author of The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken, will tell his story about what is happening in Somalia and other countries.
Also the award-winning group Selah and several persecuted Christians will be featured.
For an IDOP kit and information about the Open Doors Web cast, click here.
Also watch for information about an upcoming Mission Network News special IDOP broadcast.
India (MNN/MNI) -- Within 48 hours, two churches in India burned. Grand Rapids-based Mission India shared details in a Facebook post.
The first reported fire took place in a small village. It remains a mystery how the fire started, and police are still investigating. A few families woke up to the smell of smoke and went outside to investigate.
Villagers were able to save someof this partially-burned church.(Mission India photo)
They found the church going up in flames. Alarmed, they doused the fire with water. Thankfully only part of the church was burned in the fire. They were able to replace the damaged roof with a temporary blue tarp to keep out rain and dew.
A pastor named Yamar and his wife have been sharing about Jesus in the community for 10 years. He says, "It's very heartbreaking, but we trust in the Lord that there's something better ahead for us."
1,500 miles away from that site in east India, a second church was also burned.
The following morning after the fire, nothing remained of the building but bits of wood, ashes, carpet rags, and the rubble of what used to be musical instruments.
The pastor of this church oversees a class of Mission India Church Planters who are doing outreach among the families living on the nearby hills.
As violence against Christians is on the rise in India, pray for their safety.
(Photo courtesy of Wade Kusack of Mission Eurasia)
Ukraine (MNN) -- One room, 50 people. A bunk bed as a family's "home." This is an example of a refugee camp in Ukraine as described by Wade Kusack of Mission Eurasia (formerly Russian Ministries).
In East Ukraine, there have been several reports of Russian troops moving out of conflict zones. CNN speculates that tensions are relaxing between Russia and Ukraine. Despite this news, conditions for refugees continue to look grim.
As winter approaches, many are wondering how refugees will survive brutal temperatures. In the camp mentioned above, there are no heaters in the building. The amount of people crammed into a small space means if one person gets sick, everyone else does, too. Sleeping is hard when small children cry during the night.
(Image courtesy of Wade Kusack of Mission Eurasia)
In another area, Sergey Rakhuba of Mission Eurasia reports: "We're in the town of Slavyansk in Eastern Ukraine, and we're in one of those temporarily-organized places where refugees or internally displaced people from all the regions where the war is taking place, where Ukrainian forces fight with the pro-Russian terrorists here, are trying to survive with their families."
This city received heavy damage from being under siege for about three months. While many churches have been burned and many hospitals bombed, Mission Eurasia has seen the church step up and lead Slavyansk toward healing.
(Image courtesy of Mission Eurasia)
In a video report from Slavyansk, a group of young refugees interact behind Rakhuba. He says, "And you see those kids in the background? They're here for a few weeks, but the winter is coming. And we see how enormous [is] the need of warm clothing and shelter and food and medicine."
Early on, Mission Eurasia reacted to this need by forming the "I Care" program. This was a response to a set of standards defined by a group of pastors and mission leaders who met earlier this year. Mission Eurasia says it was conclusive that:
Christians should not have a detached, uncaring attitude toward war, because God calls His people to engage in their communities to promote healing and forgiveness.
Christians must serve and defend the suffering and dying--those who are victims of the conflict.
Christians must pursue and encourage reconciliation, reconstruction, and forgiveness so that God’s love and power is proclaimed, even in times of tragedy.
Rakhuba explains this program seeks to meet the many-faceted needs of the refugees: "With our I Care program, we're trying to provide, first of all, food for these families, then we provide counseling, encouragement. We provide training for pastors."
You can help support this work by clicking here.
And if you already have come alongside Mission Eurasia, they are thankful for your help. Rakhuba says, "We're so grateful when you continue supporting Mission Eurasia that supports local churches to provide all that these families need here. Thank you all, and God bless you all."
(Photo credit Bgrajçevci via WIkimedia Commons)
International (MNN) -- The world is constantly in flux. Urbanization and migration are some of the biggest issues today's global Church must confront, especially given the rise of conflict and disease. Traditional evangelism techniques and strategies don't always work in a changing landscape.
Global Frontier Missions (GFM) is one of the many ministries taking advantage of urbanization and migration to further the Great Commission.
"Anytime in our lives we're in transition, or we're in a different situation, we tend to be more open to different things," says one GFM worker, speaking about humanity in general.
"We've seen a lot [of people], especially the refugee groups, that are so willing to listen to us because they're needing hope, they're needing a friend."
Approximately half of humanity lives in an urban area, and Asia holds the top five most-populated cities: Tokyo, Jakarta, Delhi, Seoul, and Manila. By 2030, the UN says nearly 5 billion people will be living in a city setting, with most urban growth concentrated in Africa and Asia.
(Photo credit Global Frontier Missions)
When foreigners find fellow immigrants who hail from the same country or village, they quickly form communities that remind them of home. These communities become front-door mission fields for ministries and believers with eyes to see.
"We know our country," the worker says of herself and fellow GFM workers, "and we have a special opportunity, as hosts, to make [foreigners] feel loved. And through that, [we] share how God in His Word says He loves the immigrant, He loves the refugee."
Migration is one of the primary factors fueling today's massive urbanization trend.
(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
Two types of migration, international and internal, define the movement of people. Internal migration--the movement of people within a country--largely consists of people moving from rural to urban areas. On the world stage, around 232 million people migrated across borders in 2013, according to UN figures.
Michael Pocock, one of the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) speakers at this year's Missio Nexus Leadership Conference, referenced the Gospel opportunity presented by migration.
"Around the world, Christians are waking up to the reality that the massive movement of peoples in migration presents an unprecedented opportunity for spreading the Gospel," penned Pocock.
Mission trends and you
Urbanization and migration aren't just theoretical trends for mission leaders to consider. They directly affect you and your role in the Great Commission.
"If you're wondering where to start," the GFM worker says, "I would recommend a great site called PeopleGroups.info."
(Photo credit InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)
Using information from this Web site, you can dive into the mission field around you.
"Spread the love of God and start having global eyes to see where immigrants are among you," says the GFM worker.
"Become close with these immigrants and, you know, invite them to your house. Don't be afraid to go to the temple and ask silly questions. They would be happy that you talked to them and 'invited' them into your country."
You can also "reach the unreached" through GFM in multiple ways: missionary apprenticeships, short-term mission trips, and summer internships, to name a few. Visit GFM's Web site to learn more about their ministry and how you can come alongside their efforts.
Many children were orphaned by the 2010 earthquake.(Image courtesy EFCA)
Haiti (MNN) -- It's easy to see the amount of physical need in Haiti: it's the Western hemisphere's poorest country, healthcare is lacking, and many villages don't even have clean water.
But saving Haiti will take more than money. The problems of Haiti's people stretch beyond limited resources. Starfysh founder Steve Edmondson says the battle is spiritual.
"We put a lot of stock, and need to put a lot of stock, in the power of God," Edmondson notes.
On the Haitian island of La Gonave, Starfysh empowers people with a two-fold approach. While caring for physical needs like clean water and healthcare, Starfysh workers establish and cultivate friendships. These lead to conversations about Jesus and His salvation.
"When people just pray in general, and pray consistently, the things we do day-to-day are made more effective because God is in it," says Edmondson.
"I can give you examples of how things have happened that we cannot explain by human terms."
The latest example took place just a few weeks ago. A shipping container full of supplies needed for Starfysh ministry on La Gonave had been detained by the infamously corrupt Haitian customs officers. Using word-of-mouth and social media, ministry leaders mobilized people to pray for the quick release of the container.
"Within a week or two, that container was released from the [Haitian] customs that had pretty much hijacked it for months," Edmonson shares.
"Praying is a practical thing that people can do. If we can move the hand of God through prayer, as God invites us to do, that is practical."
You can receive the latest prayer needs and join the Starfysh prayer force by following the ministry on Facebook.
Iraq (CAM) -- Editor's Note: We share this news story released by Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions. The personal experience described here about ministry opportunities made us decide to publish it in its entirety:
(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
Working in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region day and night to help meet the needs of people displaced by the threats and violence of the terror group Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul and other areas, members of an Iraqi ministry team recently came into contact with a colonel from the Kurdish forces battling ISIS.
The colonel was serving as a division commander of the Peshmerga, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s armed forces, which have helped to slow the incursion of ISIS in its brutal push to establish a caliphate imposing a strict version of Sunni Islam. With the aid of U.S. airstrikes, the Peshmerga have also slowly retaken some territory. They are helping to secure the Kurdish capital of Erbil, where the ministry team assisted by Christian Aid Mission is supplying displaced people with food, clothing, beds, and medicine.
The colonel had a few questions for the team members: What was the reason for offering all this aid? What was the motivation, what was the source of it?
“We spoke with him explicitly, explaining everything to him, saying that Christ taught us to love and express our love to the people in a practical way,” said the team director, who informed the officer that all relief items had been donated or purchased locally.
The Peshmerga colonel, whose name is withheld for security reasons, was quick to respond.
“You see the Arabs around you in the Gulf states, which claim to be religious Muslims, have not sent us anything but terrorists,” he told the ministry team members. “But you who follow Christ send love and peace and goodness to people every day.”
(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
The conversation continued at length, the ministry team director said.
“After we had a long talk with him about Christ, he bowed and prayed, asking Christ into his life,” the director said. “And he said, ‘Today I am the happiest person! I’ve had the privilege of making this decision,’ and he received a copy of the Bible.”
The colonel’s experience was just one of many taking place in Iraq. In cities of refuge like Erbil for people displaced from their homes in other parts of Iraq, people are turning to Christ at a stunning pace. Tent churches are springing up in the makeshift camps. Under normal circumstances, mission strategies focus on how to proclaim Christ effectively, but the challenge now is keeping pace with the number who would receive Him, the director said.
“The greatest challenge in the ministry right now is not whether these people will accept Christ or not,” he said. “In all our travel to deliver the aid and preach God’s Word, we did not find anyone opposed to or rejecting our message. The challenge is how and when we will reach all those people with the message of salvation in the squares, sidewalks, roads, inside the tents and out, and everywhere.”
Christian Aid Mission’s Middle East director said that as a result of this trend, some church leaders and workers for ministry organizations are remaining in Iraq even as the cruel practices of ISIS--beheading Iraqi children who refuse to deny Christ in Qaroqosh and Western journalists elsewhere--gain greater notoriety.
“I think of workers who stayed behind in Mosul and the surrounding areas because there are so many who are receptive to the gospel,” he said. “They are willing to risk being in an area under the rule of ISIS for the privilege of more and more fruit for Christ.”
(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
Forced to trust God more than they ever have before, these Christians are growing in their relationship with God in ways they had never imagined, he said.
“I respected them before the Arab Spring because they were serving in Islamic areas, but now they are serving more and maturing even more,” he said. ”We need to intercede for these workers. They are all always in danger. They need God’s power to show His love to the thousands of helpless people.”
When Iraqi ministry workers assisted by Christian Aid Mission obtain more funds for food, water, medicine, and other supplies, they have the opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s love in a tangible way, he added.
“God has put within the hearts of thousands of Muslims a desire to read His Word,” he said. “We can be the instruments of providing them with New Testaments and audio Bibles.”
The AIRS instrument aboard Aqua captured infrared data on the storm that showed cloud top temperatures had dropped, indicating stronger uplift and stronger thunderstorms.
NASA JPL, Ed Olsen
Caption Credit: NASA.gov)India (MNN) -- They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but what about cyclones? Cyclone Hudhud made landfall on India's east coast yesterday, bringing storm surge flooding, high winds, and torrential rain.
Cyclone Hudhud's arrival fell exactly on the one-year anniversary of Cyclone Phailin. Phailin, largely overshadowed at the time by Typhoon Haiyan's wrath in the Philippines, struck northeast India on October 12, 2013 carrying wind speeds at around 127 mph.
Lindsay Ackerman of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India says they partner with believers who were affected by both storms.
"Many people live in homes that are made of mud or straw, or perhaps they're just in tents--nothing that could ever stand up to the strength of a storm," Ackerman says, explaining why recovery is such a long process in India.
Mission India helps the Indian Church in a systematic and measurable way through prayer, finance, and ministry partnerships. Together, national believers and Mission India lead Children's Bible Clubs, teach biblical Adult Literacy Classes, and plant churches.
As Mission India's partners recover from Cyclone Hudhud, they're going to need your prayers. Pray for safety and for opportunities to introduce their neighbors to Christ.
"Stepping forward in prayer really gives much comfort and strength, especially to believers there," Ackerman explains.
"And that then gives them the strength to minister to others in their community who are affected, and to encourage them and walk alongside them."
Find more ways to help through Mission India here.
Ghana (AMG) -- In West Africa, national director of AMG Ghana, Dr. Ohene Kumi, faithfully labors to give young people a chance to hear and respond to the Gospel of Christ and to grow into disciple-makers for Him.
As a teacher at the All Africa Bible Institute, Ohene has many opportunities to train the next generation of Christian leaders for his country. Moreover, he holds leadership training seminars for pastors and Christian workers, conducts Vacation Bible Schools, and runs a discipleship program in dozens of junior high schools across the country with the blessing of the school authorities.
This summer, Ohene and his team launched a 12-week discipleship program for youth. He sends this report on that ministry:
(Photo courtesy AMG International)
Dear Friends, greetings from Ghana.
Here, thousands of children are left alone and unsupervised each day after school, and they are at risk of getting into all sorts of trouble. It is for children like these that we continue to seek ways to engage them in Bible courses to study at home with their peers.
The unique impact of our new 12-week Bible discipleship program is encouraging. Of the 4,850 who graduated, 1,460 pupils received a personal copy of the Bible. They were deeply honored to receive such a great gift.
We also introduced a program for the schools called the “Scripture Memorization Rally.” Two students from each of the 32 schools we serve competed in reciting 24 Bible verses to earn a study Bible for their chaplain. It was a great event where all the students taking part did very well, with the chaplains cheering them on. At the end, we presented 16 study Bibles to school chaplains. We are hoping to receive funding to purchase an additional 16 study Bibles for the remaining school chaplains whose pupils did well in the Scripture Memorization Rally.
The excitement and happy smiles of the students who received their certificate and a Bible are so special. We thank you for your investments in placing Bible lessons and Bibles in the hands of these boys and girls.
We praise the Lord with Ohene for the ongoing relationships with these students and the foundation in God’s Word they are receiving. May He continue to bless those who love His truth!
(Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association/Eric Mock)
Ukraine (MNN) -- Is the cease-fire holding in Ukraine? Is the war really over?
Not exactly. Slavic Gospel Association Vice President of Ministry Operations Eric Mock says, "I think it has died down in the sense that there is not an ongoing military assault and battle going on that is pushing on a particular front. However, it's very clear that the conflict is still happening." Specifically, the United Nations says 331 people have died since the truce went into effect.
According to the UN report, rebel forces reportedly found mass graves on territory formerly controlled by the army. It appears that indiscriminate shelling from both pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military caused most of the civilian deaths.
This means it's still not safe. "When the truce first started, there was even a flow of people returning to the cities," says Mock. "What I heard was that a matter of days later, there was that same flow of traffic leaving those cities once again, recognizing that the conflict was continuing in those areas."
Where are the refugees going? To the Church. "Refugees are leaving their villages and have nowhere to sleep. [Churches are] laying mattresses all over sanctuary floors so people have somewhere to sleep. Sunday school rooms are being turned into apartments. It's just very difficult for people."
In the worst-hit areas, he explains, the disruption is significant. "Some estimate as much as 80% of the believers in churches have fled the area, so we're trying to provide for their food as well as a place to lay their head. SGA has been responding to equip the churches to do the work of the ministry."
(Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association/Eric Mock)
That’s why SGA created the Crisis Evangelism Fund: to help them seize this opportunity to reach their hurting people with the Gospel and meet their deep physical needs. Mock says, "We were able to build on the existing network that we actually have of relationships. We support over 120 indigenous missionary pastors, so providing aid was actually quite natural because we were able to work through the churches that we already had a relationship with."
Refugees fleeing from the violence have flooded into other parts of Ukraine. Individuals and families who have remained behind are facing enormous economic challenges. With winter fast approaching, the need is even more urgent. "Many of these people left--literally, children--not even with socks on their feet," explains Mock. "Part of what we're doing through the Crisis Evangelism Fund now is helping some of these families with winter clothing."
As the humanitarian crisis has reached a peak, the question is how to get aid to those who need it. Mock says because of their church network already in place, they could mobilize very quickly. "The work of SGA is to bring resources into Kiev, where either by vans, cars, or by any other practical means, they have been almost like a bucket brigade going from region to region and getting humanitarian aid into these regions."
(Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association/Eric Mock)
Most important of all, distressed families and individuals will hear a different message. Mock says, "In the midst of this conflict, there is now a people that are crying out saying, 'Tell me more about why I exist. Who am I? What is my purpose in life?' They're now asking deep searching questions in the middle of these trials. These trials have opened the door for the Gospel."
In the face of an uncertain future and ongoing need, Mock says church leaders are asking you to pray about two things: "Pray for a tremendous revival among the people of Eastern Ukraine, a tremendous revival in Russia and Ukraine. Secondly, pray that God continues to lead people to give to the Crisis Evangelism Fund so that we're able to help people as they enter into winter."
And SGA is asking you to give. $15 can help provide a food pack, which contain items such as flour, cooking oil, pasta, and other staples, plus Christian literature. With winter coming, a gift of $56 will help provide warm clothing such as warm socks, scarves, sweaters, and jackets to the most needy individuals and families--many of whom fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs.
Larger gifts can provide other items like mattresses, pillows, and bed linens, plus Bibles and evangelistic literature. And as always, the Gospel is central to our ministry efforts.
Villagers carried food packets back to their homes in the mountains where they escaped from flood waters. (Photo, caption courtesy GFA)
Northern India/Nepal (GFA/MNN) -- Flood victims in northern India are finally starting to recover from a mighty deluge that ravished their livelihoods in early September. Gospel for Asia says pastors they support are caring for 900 villagers in India's northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir.
"After many days, today I was able to cook some food and give it to my children," said one of the aid recipients. "Thanks to the church that reached us and helped us to live."
On September 5, heavy rainfall triggered massive floods in Jammu and Kashmir. Roads were completely washed away, and communication among 100 villages was cut off. Surrounded completely by water, over 1,000 villagers struggled to survive.
In the weeks that followed the destructive rain, believers in a neighboring state gathered food and basic necessities.
Believers from a neighboring state transported more than 300 food packets to the flood victims in Jammu and Kashmir. (Photo, caption credit GFA)
On September 15 and 16, GFA-supported pastors transported more than 300 food kits into the affected areas and distributed them among isolated flood victims. Local authorities joined the relief efforts and helped distribute the food kits containing 20 pounds of flour, 4 pounds of beans, 2 pounds of rice, and other basic cooking essentials, along with mosquito nets and clothing.
The consistent care of believers has physically benefited more than 900 families to-date and has also demonstrated God's abundant love.
Flood waters have claimed the lives of more than 100 villagers in this region. Please pray for the waters to keep receding, and for more families to see God’s genuine care through the relief efforts.
Help bring the love of Jesus to more flood victims here.
USA (ICF/MNN) -- New Student Outreach (NSO) season at the beginning of the school year is always busy, but for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff and student leaders on California State University (CSU) campuses, NSO was exceptionally busy this year. CSU derecognized many chapters because InterVarsity’s leadership selection process requires that their chapters be led by Christians, which violates CSU’s new non-discrimination policy.
Even without the ability to participate in student organization fairs and other perks of official recognition, such as free use of on-campus meeting spaces, InterVarsity chapters on most of the CSU campuses continue to operate. CSU chapter life has gotten more creative and more expensive.
Backpack banners were created as new way to contact students and tell them about InterVarsity.
Since students couldn’t set up a display table atthe student activities fair, they carried backpack signs.(InterVarsity photo)
Even though CSU has so far been unyielding on the new policy in spite of widespread criticism, and some chapters need outside financial assistance to cover the cost of room rental, university ministry continues. Some InterVarsity staff have had positive experiences with campus officials and have seen great responses from students to the gospel message this year.
A Warm Campus Welcome
Gent Grush at CSU-Los Angeles dropped off a student on campus with banner backpacks, flyers, and contact cards, and went to park. “Upon my return, I discovered we had already been asked for papers for our group’s presence on campus. We had none. I thought we were busted,” he said. “I began to talk with the woman asking for papers and introduced myself when she responded, ‘Oh you’re Gent!’ And then she gave me a huge hug.”
It turns out that this was the person that Gent had been calling almost daily since early August to secure rooms and promotion space on campus in the face of derecognition. “She immediately began to help us know what we can and cannot do and extended much grace because of her understanding for our situation,” he said. “She personally walked me to the Public Affairs Office to help me apply as a non-profit group to promote on campus. She was a blessing, a person of peace in the midst of the changes on campus.”
On the way to the Public Affairs Office, the pair stepped onto an elevator that also happened to be occupied by the CSU-LA president, William Covino. “She introduced me to the president and shared with him that I represented InterVarsity on campus,” Gent reported. “I shook his hand, and he said, 'Thank you for serving our students.'”
Students Respond to the Gospel Message
After all of that, the CSU-LA InterVarsity students easily made contact with 25 new students in their first
hour and a half on campus as a non-profit group. The new contact methods seemed to work well on other campuses, too: at California State University-Fullerton, 338 students filled out contact cards.
Many responded to the gospel as these new contacts attended Large Group meetings. At Sonoma State, 27 students made first-time or adult decisions to follow Jesus the first week. The next week, 15 more students came to faith in Christ at Sonoma.
While campus ministry continues at the CSU schools, the CSU situation has received a lot of media attention overwhelmingly in support of InterVarsity. The links to news stories and commentary on their CSU derecognition resource page expand on an almost daily basis.
International (MNN) -- We forget that mission trips are often as much of a blessing to the volunteers as they are to those being served. Too often we picture missionaries as people who have their lives in perfect order.
But very often, that's not the case. Missionaries need the mission trip experience just as much as the communities they aid.
A mutual blessing.
(Photo courtesy MOSES)
Organizations like MOSES Inc. remind us that missions bless those serving. Judy VanderArk of MOSES says their mission trips often turn out to be life-changing experiences for their teen volunteers.
This is the main reason she does what she does. She says, "I've been doing it for 27 years, and I've seen a lot of teens come through our ministry."
Many times she'll reconnect with the teens years later to find out what MOSES meant for them.
"Sometimes I find this out years later: I find that they came home from a trip and their behavior changed, their lifestyle changed, and they started really investing themselves in church and other activities," says VanderArk.
Often they will change their career paths--many of the teens heading into pastoral ministry, teaching, counseling, coaching, and often the mission field.
VanderArk says, "We've got MOSES alumni on every continent now, I think."
MOSES is a unique mission organization. Their mission trips usually last about a week. Because of this, their focus is not directly evangelism. "We really feel that that's the long-term investment that can best be made by the pastors and teachers in the local churches there," VanderArk explains.
Enabling these people to hear about Jesus is still the most important thing, however. "We will certainly assist them. We feel our role is a partnership one. We want to meet these church leaders and find out what the needs are in the community and assist them as best we can."
VanderArk says they often find that many children have come to Christ through the VBS material they provided for the pastors and teachers in the community. Essentially, MOSES helps the leadership continue to bless their communities with the Word of God.
MOSES trips are entry trips into the mission field. It's easy to sign up for one, and they ask only that participants respect leadership and follow their rules.
A MOSES story, a meaningful life.
*Mickey grew up going on mission trips with MOSES. This fit in with his decision to go to a Bible school where he met his wife, *Minnie. The couple took their missions-minded momentum and headed to a Muslim country near India.
For ten years, Mickey and Minnie served the people. In this country, they raised 3 children. About 3 years ago, they were asked to leave quickly.
VanderArk suspects that somebody reported them to the authorities. They were given only a couple of hours to gather their belongings and leave.
Now they're serving in another Muslim-populated area nearby, keeping in contact with the people from their old country. They long to go back to the country that had become a home for their family.
VanderArk says, "It's a very risky business because you want to share the Gospel with these people, and yet there is such a price for the people in the community if they turn to Christ and embrace Christianity whole-heartedly." They will be cut off from their community, and maybe even killed.
"Some of these MOSES alumni are actually risking their lives to share the Gospel in some of these very closed places, and it's a very beautiful thing to see," says VanderArk.
Why is MOSES so effective?
Most of the teens who go on trips with MOSES have heard the Gospel before. In fact, most have grown up in a Christian home. Yet somehow, these trips have a huge impact on their faith.
"I think a lot of teens that are being raised in Christian families and even in the Church are searching for Jesus. They want the real Jesus with skin on, not just memorized prayer and doctrines they've heard all their life," VanderArk says.
Sometimes this search leads them to pursue the wrong friends and habits. Though they long for the meaning only Jesus can bring, they head down a path that leads them away from Him.
But when they join MOSES, they have a good chance of finding what they were looking for in the first place.
"I think they have a real encounter [with Christ] when they come on these trips, because we just have beautiful worship time and devotional time. The teens that are already there...serving in leadership capacities are the ones that really minister to these young people that are trying to find their way," VanderArk says.
While MOSES equips churches in other countries to reach their communities, they are hoping to multiply disciples closer to home.
"We would rather assist those communities in more humanitarian ways, meanwhile increasing the faith of those that we bring with us," explains VanderArk. MOSES hopes that when the trip participants return home, "They in turn will seek to live for Jesus and seek to find His will for their life, which may entail giving up the comforts of this country and going somewhere else to share the Gospel."
How can you help MOSES?
Pray for MOSES to continue to be able to operate. Pray that teens would continue to go on these trips and cultivate a deeper relationship with God.
You can also support MOSES financially.
(Graphic by MOSES Inc.)
And here's another reminder about a MOSES fundraiser on Saturday, October 18. It's their biggest fundraiser of the year and is taking place at Grandville Christian School in Grandville, Michigan. Click here for more information.
*Names changed for security purposes.
(Photo credit Far Corners)
India (MNN) -- Tomorrow marks the International Day of the Girl. Starting in 2011, the United Nations designated October 11 as a day to raise awareness of girls' inalienable rights, as well as the challenges they face worldwide.
Gary Bishop with Far Corners Missions sees the problems surrounding India's young girls firsthand.
"One of the greatest problems that they face--and then, consequently, we as missionaries working with them face--is the predators," Bishop explains. "The predators are after young girls and women to be forced into sexual slavery."
Hunting India's girls
As noted earlier this week, an estimated 14 million young girls worldwide are married as children, and it's estimated that a girl is trafficked every 30 seconds. According to the Global Slavery Index, India holds nearly half of the world's modern-day slaves.
(Image courtesy Bright Hope)
The 2014 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report puts the number of India's female sex trafficking victims somewhere in the millions. While girls from Dalit backgrounds are one of the usual targets for traffickers, victims come from other places, too.
"A large number of Nepali, Afghan, and Bangladeshi females -- the majority of whom are children aged 9-14 years old -- and women and girls from China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, and Uganda are also subjected to sex trafficking in India," reads the TIP report.
"One of the things that we have a great heart for in India is protecting those children that are at highest risk," Bishop notes.
Protecting India's girls
That's partly why Far Corners wants to build a bigger children's home in Andhra Pradesh. Far Corners' India Field Director and his wife have been housing, feeding, clothing, and teaching vulnerable street kids, as well as introducing them to Christ, for the past few years. Their home is now "bursting at the seams" with 39 street kids, in addition to their own family.
Little girl walks alone in the busy streets of Mumbai.(Photo courtesy Katey Hearth)
It's taken two-and-a-half years to get expansion permission from India's government. But, Bishop now excitedly reports that their request has been granted, and the ministry can finally start to build.
"So often, you hear the phrase, 'What's the catch?' Well, there's a catch," says Bishop.
During the two-and-a-half years it has taken Far Corners to get a building permit, costs have continued to increase: they've now risen by 35%. In addition, Bishop says, "One of the standards that is now required in India for a children's home is what they refer to as a 'barrier wall' built around the entire compound."
The wall needs to be 9 feet tall and 744 feet long in order to completely surround the new children's home. And, Bishop adds, it wouldn't just protect vulnerable kids from predators: the wall would help protect everyone from Andhra Pradesh's annual monsoon season.
This is where you come in.
Neither the wall nor increased costs are accounted for in Far Corners' budget. They need help covering these unexpected expenses.
The Sydney home is a safe haven for discarded children.(Image courtesy Far Corners)
"We would love to have people share in the costs of getting this home built," Bishop says. "For about $33, you can build a foot of this [wall].
"If we had 744 listeners come along and send us $33, we would have this thing done."
Click here to help Far Corners build the wall, and then share this story with a friend or two on social media to get more people involved.
Listen to the full interview to hear how many kids can potentially be helped by building this new facility.
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Syria (MNN) -- Apathy is costly.
Every three seconds, somewhere in the world, a person is forced to flee home. According to the United Nations' Refugee Agency, the average refugee won't be able to return home or find a better solution for at least 17 years.
Long-term crisis, manmade impact, and mind-boggling numbers have created the kind of overload where people can't be provoked to action. International pledges for humanitarian aid are miserly, or not coming in at all.
Yet, even while ennui spreads, the catastrophe deepens. In the last week, Islamic State fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani. More refugees.
Between ISIS advances and the Syrian civil war, 10-12 million people have been displaced within the last 12-24 months. That's like twice the entire population of the state of Tennessee displaced at the same time, says Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response.
For the hundreds of thousands who flee, there are millions more who can't get out. They are the Internally Displaced People. With food and jobs scarce, and their savings depleted, Syrian Christians and their neighbors are struggling to provide for their families.
"The majority are just finding wherever they can find a little bit of safety, a little bit of food, a little bit of shelter," explains Palmer. "There are hundreds of NGOs and groups like BGR that are out there trying to help them find a place for the family to get those basic needs of life met."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Yet, who is left inside Syria to meet those needs? Most of the NGOs pulled out. Palmer explains, "Most of those folks that we're working with, that are actually doing the response, are actually displaced themselves. [They] have a heart and a love for the Gospel of Christ, but they also have a heart and love for the people that are being affected around them."
Facing an unknown future, these Christians see needs and know they can do something about it. Since the war began, kids haven't gone to school. Many have forgotten how to read and write. A woman we'll call "Joy" decided to take action. "Joy just saw all of the street children from this conflict inside of Syria close to her hometown. She wanted to do something about it. She's providing food and education services for kids that are living in an area now that the school systems have collapsed."
Palmer says another Syrian believer, whom we'll call "Abed," believes God’s purpose for him is to stay in his hometown and share the love of Christ with those who are in desperate need. Even as he shares in the difficult circumstances, says Palmer, "We’ve been able to get food, shelter, clothing, and heating (like blankets), to take care of winter, into Abed's hands and to the churches that are there."
In an earlier BGR interview, Abed says that in the beginning of the war, many people who needed money came with gold or items to sell. But now people who come have no belongings to sell. “Daily I try to steel myself and be strong as a man when I am out helping people,” Abed says. “But when I am alone, I cry like a baby. It’s difficult.”
“But my heart is strong,” he adds. “The Lord is righteous, and I know He has a way that we must walk in.”
Baptist Global Response is one of the national partners of Global Hunger Fund (photo by BGR)
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Palmer says more stories like Joy's and Abed's are emerging as the tragedy drags on. BGR is resourcing those like them who share this mindset: "We're going to stay, even in the face of danger, because (1) this is our home, and (2) we want to help those who are in need all around us."
Now you know the scope of the problem. You've heard some of the solutions. It's time to act. You can:
- Pray for Christians living in Syria, that they will find comfort for their own hurts and that God will strengthen them to love their neighbors and point to His unfading hope.
- Find out more about volunteering for relief efforts among Syrians. Click here.
– Contribute financially to BGR’s Syria Crisis Fund. Click here.
Color-enhanced electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles.
Sierra Leone (CRWM/MNN) -- In Sierra Leone, burial teams went on strike over delays in hazard pay this week, meaning the bodies of Ebola victims were left in the streets.
The government says they're resolving the situation to prevent worsening an outbreak that's already killed more than 600 people in that country. The highly-infectious virus remains active in the bodies of those who have died from it.
Sierra Leone is one of three West African countries, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, hit hardest by the outbreak. The official number of confirmed Ebola cases is 2,100, with more than 600 dead, though global health officials say that the real number of both cases and deaths is likely far higher. In all, more than 3,400 people have died since the outbreak was first reported in March.
Ron Geerlings is the West Africa Regional Director for Christian Reformed World Missions. First, he says, "We, fortunately, don't have people in the worst-hit areas of the country." However, "They've been in the one part of the country that has been Ebola-free so far, but it has been spreading. It is coming right on the doorstep, so we are trying to get them out of harms' way."
(Photo courtesy Christian Reformed World Mission)
Specifically, Geerlings explains, "The missionary families that have been serving in Sierra Leone for the last six years or more are actually from Nigeria. They have said that they would like to get their families out of the situation at this time. We are trying to facilitate that later this week."
According to Christian Reformed World Mission, Rev. Istifanus Bahago and Rev. Ezekiel Sudu are serving in Kabala. Geerlings says Rev. Bahago will return to Sierra Leone when the Ebola situation improves. CRWM notes that Rev. Sudu was scheduled to end his service in the summer of 2015, so he will not likely return.
Because an Ebola patient was discovered in their region, they felt now was the time to act. So what happens to their work if they're gone? Geerlings says they'll shift focus a bit. "At the same time we are reducing outside missionary staff, we are increasing the response training program and trying to raise additional funds for these unexpected costs."
(Image courtesy Christian Reformed World Mission)
CRWM is working in partnership with World Renew and the Timothy Leadership Training Institute 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.
It's been slow going, adds Geerlings. "For people with a low level of education, dealing with this crisis for the first time in their country, it was hard for them to understand. The trust level wasn't real high." They are trying to raise $25,000 for training sessions in 250 local churches by the end of 2015. "Pray that that will provide the kinds of resources that we'll be able to start to contain and bring the numbers down instead of the out of control graph that we're seeing so far."
World Renew and its partners have set up Ebola Task Forces and are distributing hand washing basins, sanitizer, soap, chlorine bleach, and training for people on how to prepare a chlorine mixture to disinfect homes and personal belongings.
If it feels like things are on hold, they are. Bahago shares the frustration of disruption. “Sometimes we find it very difficult to appreciate God and thank Him in this situation,” he said in an earlier interview with CRWM. “But the Bible teaches us to give thanks to God in all circumstances. God’s grace is always there to see us overcome our challenges.”