GFA-supported missionaries like this one deliver relief aid to survivors of Tropical Storm Mahasen. (Image courtesy GFA)
Burma (MNN) -- Tropical Storm Mahasen may have been a mere 'dress rehearsal' for Burma's Rohingya people.
Last week, we told you about the threat Cyclone Mahasen posed to vulnerable Rohingya existing on Burma's western shoreline. But thanks to prayer on both a local and global basis, Mahasen's force lessened and it turned away from Burma.
With monsoon season right around the corner, your prayers are needed again.
Last year, Burma saw some of the worst monsoon flooding in years. At least 85,000 people fled affected areas, and some 200,000 people were affected nationwide. Burma's southern region was among the hardest-hit, where over 600,000 acres of rice fields were swamped.
This year, concerns are being voiced for hundreds of thousands of stateless Rohingya living in Burma's western Arakan (Rakhine) state. Many are worried the Rohingya's flimsy tent shelters won't hold up to heavy rains and severe flooding.
"They're barely able to put up, you know, some bamboo sticks and put some plastic over it; some shelter. All of a sudden, [there's] the monsoon season and flooding," says Gospel for Asia (GFA) founder KP Yohannan.
"Everything creates such a massive problem."
If things are so bad, couldn't the Rohingya just pick up and move somewhere else? Yohannan says it's not that easy.
"Only a few occasions in my life have I seen the plight of these people," Yohannan says. "When they leave everything, they lose everything.
"Just close your eyes and imagine: old people and old women, little kids and pregnant wives, carrying little pots and pans on their head, [leaving only] with the clothes they wear…ending up in school grounds and other places."
The Rohingya aren't traveling like this by choice; they're often forced out by Buddhists, the majority religion. Last year, ethnic violence forced over 150,000 Rohingya into hiding.
The lucky ones found their way to makeshift camps -- clusters of bamboo sticks barely resembling a structure, covered by tarpaulin, in low-lying rice fields.
"It is like a cattle shed: they are driven to places where normally no one wants to be," says Yohannan. "The suffering is immense; it's hard for us even to imagine."
Immediately following Mahasen's landfall in Bangladesh and parts of Burma, GFA missionaries started delivering food, clothing and temporary shelter. GFA is preparing for at least six months of ongoing ministry in affected regions.
You can help by clicking here.
Pray GFA-supported national missionaries can show the Rohingya that there's still a reason to hope.
"The only thing that can really bring any kind of hope for people in times of despair, it is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ," states Yohannan.
"[In] John 10:10, Jesus said Satan came to destroy and to kill, and that's what we're witnessing. Ask God to intervene; [this is] genuine spiritual warfare."
Russia (MNN) -- While Christians in the west celebrated Easter March 31, it's celebrated in Russia on May 5th. While it was more than two weeks ago, children in Russia were able to celebrate the resurrection of Christ last week.
SOAR International Ministries sent a team to Russia. Last week, they teamed up with churches to help provide Easter Baskets to orphaned children and children in need.
SOAR's Greg Mangioni reports from Moscow. "We've had a great week traveling between eight different orphanages from areas about 200 kilometers southeast of Moscow to the regions around the St. Petersburg area."
According to Mangione, Easter and Christmas are popular religious holidays. SOAR uses those opportunities to partner with Russian churches to send gifts, but also the Gospel. He says it's a much more spiritually sensitive time and orphanage workers are more open to allowing churches into their facilities.
"We've given out about 650-700 gifts baskets to very happy orphans," says Mangioni. He says more will be handed out this week. "Our director will be traveling here to hand out about another 350 in the southern part of Russia in areas of Sochi and other areas down there."
The baskets are filled with gifts and God's Word. Funding is needed to help prepare SOAR for their work at Christmas. SOAR collects the money and sends it to Russian churches; they purchase the baskets, gifts, and Bibles, and the church distributes them. That helps give churches power by helping fuel the local economy.
Mangione says the Baskets of Hope outreach is more than a project. "It often serves as a way to open the doors to a local church and a local orphanage, add to their credibility and add to one of the tools that the local church can use as they try to reach out to their people."
He's asking you to pray. "Pray that the Lord would really touch of the hearts of the children that were impacted by this project."
If you'd like to support their work, click here.
The Southern Cone traditionally includes Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
Uruguay (MNN) -- A vital conference is moving Bible translation forward in South America.
Wycliffe Bible Translators says the Leaders Moving Forward event is an important time of collaboration. Leaders involved in the work of Bible translation gather to discuss spiritual and theological themes, as well as missiology, strategic partnerships, and leadership.
Over 20 leaders from five South American countries, representing 13 organizations, met in Uruguay earlier this month for Leaders Moving Forward. They were able to develop strategies and encourage their fellow leaders.
"God is using this time to renew me, speak to me, and confirm my call to be a cross-cultural missionary," said one participant. "I can only say, 'Thank you!'"
Ask God to strengthen the Bible translation movement throughout Latin America as He equips and encourages leaders who attended this event. Pray that fellowship would continue as these leaders work and grow together.
Participants in Leaders Moving Forward hail mainly from the Southern Cone of South America. It's a geographic region encompassing the southernmost areas of South America, and includes Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)
Nigeria (ODM) -- Over the next few weeks, Open Doors team members will be traveling to some of the most dangerous areas of northern Nigeria such as Yobe, Gombe, Kano, Taraba, Bauchi and Plateau states to bring emergency relief to Christians affected by Boko Haram attacks.
The relief consists of helping restore burned down homes and churches, medical assistance, financial assistance, food and clothing, school fees for children, and special help for widows of Christians killed by Boko Haram--an Islamic terrorist group targeting believers and attempting to make all of Nigeria an Islamic state.
What follows is the verbatim report from the team's first three days:
Day One: Pastors in Yobe and Widows in Bauchi
All of us consider it a great privilege to be part of the team. Our mission is to bring relief aid enabled by the faithful Open Doors supporters from around the globe to Christians affected by Boko Haram activity in recent months. And as we deliver the aid, we want to encourage the believers to stand strong, inform them about the source of the gifts and remind them that the larger Body of Christ is concerned about their situation and are praying for them day and night.
Our first stop was the home of Boko Haram, Yobe, in the northeast where we planned to deliver aid to the handful of pastors who had resolved to stay despite the constant hostility and insecurity they face. From there we would backtrack to Bauchi where we were planning to deliver aid to widows and spend the night.
We did not expect an easy day. We had close to 500 miles to travel today, so we started the journey as early as possible. We asked God to go ahead of us, and [we] set out.
We had covered only 75 miles when we met a Nigerian army convoy deploying soldiers to Yobe and Borno. They would not allow us to pass, so we were forced to fall in at the back and keep to their excruciatingly slow speed. Fierce looking security men stopped and searched our vehicle at every check point dotted along the road.
Because of the continued insecurity in the region, we had asked the pastors to meet us in a secluded area. When we finally reached the place at around 2 p.m., the pastors were waiting silently in the scorching sun. We were welcomed warmly, but noticed on their faces signs of fatigue. The months of insecurity and concerns over the safety of family and church members had left their mark.
As we delivered the aid, there was time for some formalities and an official expression of gratitude: "It is hard for us to express our gratitude for your concern and care even at the risk of your own lives. Even apart from the relief you brought, your presence alone makes a big difference."
We had the opportunity to encourage the pastors in their decision to stay: it is important for the preservation of the Christian testimony, to which we received an encouraging reply.
"We trust God and believe that the prayers of the saints around the world will keep us. We trust the Lord for protection. He is helping us, and He has been using Open Doors to strengthen us. It is our sincere prayer that God will strengthen you, and we continue to pray for you as you are praying for us."
With warm handshakes and smiles the pastors greeted us as we departed.
The team left for Bauchi energized. We had quite a way to go still. We arrived in Bauchi around 6 p.m. and had a brief meeting with widows to distribute relief aid there. At around 9 p.m. we called it a day. Please keep praying for us to be an encouragement to the people we meet, even if we can spend only a few minutes together.
Pray for our safety on the roads as the atmosphere remains tense.
Day Two: Gombe Deliveries
The team left Bauchi after a breakfast and headed to Gombe, one of the volatile states in the northeastern region of the country. Our plan was to minister to the six widows whose husbands were killed in a drive-by shooting by Islamic militants as the men sat outside a family home in the Jerusalem area of Gombe earlier this year.
Between Bauchi and Gombe there were many checkpoints once again, and soldiers and police stopped and thoroughly searched our vehicle at every one of them. The two-hour trip took four hours.
We had heard that the atmosphere in the city was very tense, so we decided to avoid the city as far as possible and reached the destination using an alternative route. The widows were very happy to see us, glad that their prayers for our safety were answered.
After we talked with the women for a few minutes, we headed for the market to buy bags of rice, spaghetti, and other food items. On return to the venue, we gave them some money toward rent, school fees for children, and clothing.
There were tears of joy as the women rained blessings and words of gratitude on us.
"God has brought you to come to my aid. He alone knows my situation. I didn't have the courage to say what I was going through these days. This God I am serving is wonderful. I am extremely grateful for the gift of love you shower on me and my family. May the people that contributed to this gift be blessed in Jesus' name," shared Jummai Adamu, a mother of five.
"I have learnt from this day that God never forsakes His people. This God knows our situation even when nobody else knows it. I will forever give thanks to Him. I will trust Him all the more. You have given me a song today. The Lord is good, I bless His Name," said Esther Amana in tears after collecting her gift.
After the distribution, we prayed for the widows and their families. We prayed for God's comfort and provision for them. We would have loved to stay longer, but we needed to be off. After praying for us, the women sent us on our way.
As a team, we felt that it was such a blessed day.
We planned a quick stop at a restaurant before setting out. At the diner, we met one of the workers, a young man by the name of Danladi Usman who was a victim of an attack by Boko Haram. More on him later.
Day 3: Providential Meeting with Danladi
In our previous impact story on the Project Endurance Deliveries, we promised to tell you more about a young man named Danladi Usman.
We noticed Danladi as he worked at the restaurant where we had a quick lunch before continuing our journey of Project Endurance deliveries. Like many other Christians in northern Nigeria, Danladi has had a hair-raising encounter with Boko Haram fighters. When the young man started telling us his story, it was hard to get all the details of the experience, but what was clear to us was the fact that Danladi was still traumatized.
He told us how Boko Haram rebels attacked him and his father at their home. His father was severely injured and lost a limb. Danladi's hand was almost severed in the attack. The young man told us how they had spent all of the money the family had on medical bills. He needs follow-up surgery but cannot afford it.
Still, he remains thankful. "I am grateful to God Almighty. He did not allow those people to kill me. It was really a miracle. And I am thankful for this job. My employer took me in out of compassion to help my family, and I make ends meet."
Danladi's employer, a Christian, has opened up a chain of diners to help keep Christian youths employed.
"I took this challenge to start this business and employ Christian youths to have something to do," the Christian says. "It pains my heart to see Christian youths falling prey to our persecutors. I have the privilege to employ about 150 youths in different restaurants located in two states. I had a lot of pressures from Muslims to put me out of business. They accuse me of selling pork, which is a lie. But God vindicated me in all these things. Keep praying for us, brothers, to persevere in our circumstances."
Now aware of the needs of Danladi, Open Doors plans to channel some relief to him. But right at this moment, we resorted to the one thing we can do, the one thing we are always encouraged to do: pray!
We lifted up Danladi to the Lord and asked Him to make a way for the young man. We thanked Him for the opportunity he has to work, knowing that in their area, this was an opportunity only a handful have.
We left the restaurant refreshed, thanking God for the providence of meeting two Christians who were in need of encouragement.
We had one more stop to make before we could call it a day. We visited the family of a Christian policeman killed in the recent violence in Bama in Borno State. The widow Rakiya Nuhu, and mother of six, had no words to thank us for the help we brought. She only cried uncontrollably. We prayed with her and then it was time to go.
We arrived at the guesthouse after the long and incident-full day to the news that the government had called a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. We lay down our heads, trusting the Lord for our safety.
(Cover photo: Boko Haram. Story photo: Burned out homes. Images courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
Nigeria (MNN) -- Nigeria's military is striking back against the insurgency of the Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has battled the government since 2009 in an effort to impose Islamic law on majority-Muslim northern Nigeria. It's been a bloody fight. More than 3,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence, including hundreds in government counter-insurgency operations.
With the recent uptick in violence, the military imposed a 24-hour curfew in 11 parts of the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the home base of the Boko Haram.
A state of emergency is also currently in force in Adamawa, Yobe, and Borno states. Brittany Tedesco is the Africa Director for Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions. She explains, "The curfew is from 6 in the morning till 6 in the evening. That, as you can imagine, is really affecting their work."
On Friday, U..S Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Nigerian army to show restraint and not violate human rights as it pursues the militants. However, the rebels are not so circumspect.
Christian Aid-supported Missionary Crusaders Ministries in Nigeria have had to respond to the constant threat. Ministry leader Gabriel Barau writes, "In as much as our missionaries remain committed to sharing Christ with the unreached, we need your prayers and support." Just last month, says Tedesco, "Terrorists set fire to three of the homes/mission bases of the missionaries that [Barau] is working with."
Discouragement is one major challenge. Fear is another. The attacks were personal. "The missionaries are currently staying at the mission school of missions until [Barau] can provide accommodation for them. On top of that, there's the follow-up and the discipleship that he provides to new believers."
Barau is scrambling to get the survivors of the fire resettled, Tedesco adds. "Thanks to help of our donors, Christian Aid was able to send some funds to rebuild these homes/mission bases."
Each simple home, which doubles as a place for cell group meetings and discipleship of new converts, costs $3,500. The need is especially urgent now as the rainy season is about to begin and will halt construction.
Since 1983, Barau has trained and sent out missionaries to share Christ with the unreached of Nigeria. The ministry has grown, in spite of the harassment and persecution coming from the Boko Haram. Despite being targeted, prayer cover has been their mainstay. Tedesco says, "None of these missionaries have been harmed. There are 183 missionaries working with this ministry. None of them has been harmed or killed."
Many of their mission fields are located in the country's Muslim northern region, where the majority of Boko Haram attacks have occurred. However, Tedesco says, "This ministry is committed to moving forward despite the danger that they're in right now. They've reached two new tribes with the Gospel."
Safety IS a concern. Christian Aid has been working closely with this ministry to help them relocate their headquarters. "The headquarters office that they're renting is located in Adamawa state, where Boko Haram has been striking repeatedly." The project has been a long time in coming when the risk of attack is imminent. Still, God has been faithful. Tedesco says, "We are in the home stretch, praise the Lord! Right now, all we need is the windows, the doors, and flooring." The team will move into this office as soon as the roofing is completed.
Please pray for wisdom for Gabriel Barau as he leads the work of Missionary Crusaders Ministries, and pray that terrorized Nigerians will experience a return to peace in their homeland. "Continue to pray for the Lord's hand on this ministry, to give discernment to the ministry leader as to how to move forward in the safest possible way, and also just for protection for these brave missionaries who are risking it all to remain on their fields."