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.”
(Graphic cred: Deaf Bible)
International (MNN) -- We're wrapping up our mini-series about reaching the deaf for Christ. Back in April, Faith Comes by Hearing and Deaf Bible created the Deaf Bible mobile app and Deaf Bible Web site. These ministries also collaborate with Deaf Opportunity OutReach, or DOOR.
Today, DOOR CEO Rob Myers lists three ways you can help mission groups who are reaching the deaf for Christ.
As with any missionary endeavor, prayer is essential and takes top priority.
"Continue to pray. This is a huge work among a huge people group, and we need prayers," says Myers. He says less than 25% of the world's 400 sign languages have started any type of sign language Scripture projects.
"Out of 72 million deaf people around the world, only about half-percent of them have ever [been introduced to] the Gospel. Over 50% of them are completely illiterate, [and] there is no completed Bible in a sign language yet."
(Photo credit Deaf Bible)
A second way you can take part in reaching the deaf for Christ is by sharing resources with hearing-impaired people in your social circles.
"If you have a deaf relative or someone that you know who is deaf, there are currently resources available for them through the mobile app, Deaf Bible," Myers explains.
You can also access a number of Deaf Bible translations and resources at the Deaf Bible Web site or DOOR's Web site: http://deafbibles.com/.
"Many [deaf communities] have misunderstandings of what Scripture is about," says Myers. "Access to a sign language Bible gives them a tool for understanding deeply the message of the Gospel."
"A third thing they can do is support Bible translation organizations who do this type of work," adds Myers.
"Our heart is to see lives transformed, and we found in our work that transformation can't happen without access to God's Word."
(Photo cred: Deaf Bible)
By financially supporting ministries mentioned in our series: DOOR, Deaf Bible, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Wycliffe Associates, and The Seed Company, you're making it possible for believers worldwide to reach the deaf for Christ.
"When a [deaf] person finally comes to understand that God has a plan for them, that God has gifted them in certain ways, and that they can contribute to His Kingdom--when you see their eyes light up and they begin to see their value, that transformation is amazing to watch," notes Myers.
Read Part One and Part Two of our mini-series, Reaching the Deaf for Christ.
(Photo credit SAT-7)
Egypt (SAT-7/MNN) -- Churches in Egypt damaged by last year's Muslim Brotherhood attacks are entering the final stages of reconstruction. Sources say construction should be finished in June 2015.
SAT-7 USA recently shared more details about church reconstruction and the state of Christians in Egypt in a trip report from their sister ministry, SAT-7 UK. The text below comes directly from SAT-7's Web site.
"There are three phases for the construction and renovation of churches damaged during the violent Brotherhood attacks after the sit-ins at Rab'aa and Nahda squares in August 2013," reads an update Farid Samir, Executive Director of SAT-7 Egypt.
"The first stage lasted until June 30, 2014, and the basic construction work has already been completed for ten designated sites. During the next six months, work will start on the second phase, and then the third phase, which is scheduled to end by June 30, 2015."
Dave Mann, Marketing and PR Officer for SAT-7 UK, reports from Egypt:
On August 14, 2013, a man with a megaphone stepped out from the Khodeiry Mosque and entered Palace Square in Minya, Upper Egypt. He delivered a simple and chilling message: the bloodshed being unleashed in Cairo on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi was the fault of Egypt's Christian minority.
Over the following days, mobs torched and ransacked Christian establishments across Egypt, claiming to be avenging state violence against Morsi supporters.
Find more background information in this 2013 report from Dr. Terence Ascott, CEO and Founder of SAT-7 International.
(Image courtesy SAT-7)
By the time the violence ebbed, 65 churches and monasteries, 22 buildings associated with Christian ministries, and more than 100 Christian shops and houses had come under attack, according to a list published online by Bishop Ermia, the president of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Centre in Cairo. Coptic activists said five Christians had been killed, and while the exact number of casualties was unknown, Minya's Coptic bishop, Abba Makarios, said two Muslims had died defending a church there.
Almost a year later, I entered one of the churches that had been attacked, burnt, and razed during the unprecedented outbreak of hatred. Remarkably, the reconstruction of this three-story Orthodox Church in the center of Minya is well underway. The ground floor is being used for services. I arrived just as morning worship had finished.
Pray that all the phases of rebuilding will be completed and that the restoration of church buildings will lead to the spiritual encouragement and edification of Egyptian Christians and their neighbors.
Groups of bright eyed children were running around the church as parents and grandparents sat and chatted animatedly. When we explained that we worked for SAT-7, they immediately greeted us like celebrities, such is the appreciation and affection for SAT-7 by Christians in the Middle East. The children explained that they watch SAT-7 KIDS almost every day when they return home from school.
Dr. Jaquelin and her mother Nadya.(Photo credit SAT-7)
Later, I visited Dr. Jaquelin and her mother Nadya (pictured) in their medical lab in Minya. They and their family are Christians and avid viewers of SAT-7. Jaquelin said that during the attacks, they had stayed at home for days until they felt it was safe to go out to buy food. Watching SAT-7 ARABIC and SAT-7 PLUS during those days strengthened their faith and gave them hope. "Please don't stop broadcasting," she said. "SAT-7 is essential to us."
From there, we went on to meet Bishop Makarios, Coptic bishop of Minya. He told me that all his congregations watch SAT-7, and children especially love SAT-7 KIDS. Children and young people are leading the way in showing love to their neighbors in Minya.
Want to make a difference? Your gift of $1 supports 1 viewer for 1 year; click here to give now!
(Photo courtesy Global Aid Network)
USA (MNN) -- Sometimes missions can seem impersonal when you're participating from a distance.
It's nice to have experiences that ground you and remind you that your help is valuable and effective. This is especially true at this time when we clearly see no place untouched by violence, natural disasters, or sinister trends of greed and selfishness.
Global Aid Network USA puts on a special event twice a year that allows you to get involved in a tangible way, but you don't even have to leave the country. Let's face it, that's not everyone's calling.
This event combines two very important ways to get involved in missions: giving and going. GAIN is asking you to join them in Pennsylvania October 13-18, 2014 to pack boxes with humanitarian aid for those around the world who need hope the most.
These boxes are filled with blankets, clothing, food, and agricultural supplies. Where are they going?
They're headed to families, villages, and people groups who are in great need--and often great danger.
The boxes are headed to the Syrian refugee family who has been broken apart by war, violence, and starvation. The boxes are headed to countries and people struggling to get back on their feet years after a natural disaster. They're going to places where children will freeze to death if they don't get warm clothes or a blanket.
(Photo courtesy Global Aid Network)
For GAIN, it's all about fulfilling the Great Commission. The boxes, which are distributed by partners on the ground, provide a catalyst for discussion about God and what His salvation means.
After each box is packed, the group who packed it will pray over it, asking God to impact it's recipients in a positive way.
The packing event next week is a great way to get your youth group, church, or family involved in a mission-support activity.
For information on how to sign up, click here.
As always, your prayers are vital to mission work. Pray that these boxes will touch the lives of hurting people that are all too often forgotten.
Click here for some other ways you can help GAIN as well.
Keys for Kids radio carriesthe same great programming as CBH.(Image courtesy of Keys for Kids)
USA (MNN) -- It's hard to monitor what children see and hear these days. Even when children spend free time on age-appropriate activities, they can run across dangerous messages. These are often found in suggestive commercials for adult cartoons airing later that evening, banner ads on Web sites, or mature advertisements on internet radio. It's impossible to protect your child from that, and it's important to be able to discuss worldly dangers in a healthy manner.
But shouldn't there be a place where you, as a parent, don't have to worry about what your child encounters?
Keys for Kids is that place. Keys for Kids provides access to wholesome, uplifting content for your child 24/7 through internet radio.
Terre Ritchie of Keys for Kids says, "We want it to be available around the world 24 hours a day. I have kids that are missionaries in Romania, and they can listen any time they want to just by turning on their radio."
Not only does internet radio provide versatility for your child to fit into their schedule and location, but it is a safe place for them to spend time with God.
Keys for Kids is focused on giving your child relevant and important information about what it means to live like Christ.
Ritchie says, "Our ministry has done that for 73 years. And there's a great need, especially right now, for parents to be able to push that button and know for sure that there's not going to be anything on that radio station that is going to be something they don't want their kids to hear."
There are no commercials on the radio, and no links to other Web sites. All your kids will hear is great music, dramas with Christian principles taught, and introductions to programs.
Ritchie says, "Everything we do is based around the Gospel of Jesus Christ [and] the opportunity to tell children about that. It seems like the window is closing a little bit because of all the other entertainment that's available for children. But children love stories."
It's not common for children to just sit and listen to radio anymore. But it is common for them to multi-task. They can listen to it while they do their homework, work on a project, or get ready for bed.
"We've tried to make all these Christian programs available so that the kids can listen to the stories from God's Word in a unique and different way," Ritchie says.
The internet radio site is set to launch October 23rd. Until then, Keys for Kids has a lot of work to do in preparation.
"We would really, really appreciate your prayers. And as far as giving to help us launch this and get it off the ground, we are always willing to accept donations," Ritchie says.
The Web site for the radio station will be Keysforkids.net. Help support Keys for Kids financially here.
Airstrikes against ISIS targetsin northern Syria are bound to increase the floodof refugees at a time when nighttimetemperatures are dropping quickly.(BGR photo)
Syria (MNN/BP) -- It's something that has been feared for weeks. But, it looks as though Islamic State (IS) jihadists are taking even more ground. The Islamic State flag was hoisted over a building in Kobani, a Syrian town along the Turkey border. IS and Kurdish forces have been fighting over the city in recent days.
According to reports, President Erdogan of Turkey believes the border town doesn't stand a chance, despite United States-led airstrikes against the fighters. Many experts say Turkey won't be getting involved because Turkey views Kurdish fighters as more of a threat to Turkey than IS jihadists.
More bad news? The most recent fighting and on-going airstrikes will worsen an already heart-breaking refugee crisis.
According to Baptist Press, over just three days last week, at least 130,000 new Syrian refugees flooded across the border into Turkey because of an ISIS offensive in their hometowns. More than 3 million officially-registered refugees have been driven out of the country over the four years of crisis in Syria.
"The current strikes inside Syria are bound to increase the already overwhelming flood of displaced people fleeing to find safety," said a man we'll call Don Alan. "Families desiring safety for their children will look for places that are safe and quiet."
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd called on Southern Baptists to pray for beleaguered Christians in Iraq and Syria just hours before news of the airstrikes broke.
"Perhaps you know, or maybe you don't, but currently in Iraq and Syria we are witnessing a once-in-a-thousand-year destruction of the Christian church. A modern book of martyrs is being written," Floyd said. "We need to elevate before our churches the international crisis in Iraq and Syria.
"Pastors and Christian leaders, educate yourself and speak up on behalf of these brothers and sisters in your churches and on social media. Don't let the world ignore this," Floyd said. "I call upon each of us tonight as Southern Baptists to be a voice that resounds loudly and clearly about this issue."
Alan echoed Floyd’s call to prayer for suffering refugees--among whom Christians are a minority--and the workers risking their lives to help them.
"We should be challenged not only to increase our prayers, but also to be broken for the continued challenges faced by those being impacted by the fighting and bombings going in their country," Alan said.
"Pray for courage as we continue to minister and share the love of Christ in the midst of such turmoil," Alan added. "We know that the Lord's desire is that not one should perish without having a chance to hear the Good News, that there can be peace on earth in the midst of such traumatic events. May we not grow weary."
International (MNN) -- When Worldwide Christian Schools sent out a survey to approximately 300 schools in their network, they weren't sure what answer they'd get.
The responses made something very obvious to WWCS who did the survey to see how they might better serve the schools they work with. "The vision or purpose of Worldwide Christian Schools is to glorify God by ensuring that all children have access to Christ-centered education," Vander Kooy says.
WWCS longs to overcome barriers tospecial needs children getting a Christian education.(Photo by WWCS)
The survey was part of their effort to focus and concentrate this vision that is otherwise quite broad.
Vander Kooy says, "What we found was a tremendous need and opportunity to include special needs kids into the classroom. We're excited about that because that's really something that many U.S. schools--public and private--do very well. But that's not the case outside the U.S., particularly in the developing world."
Vander Kooy explains that schools are often hesitant to include special needs children, even if it's something as simple as missing a limb. "These kids don't go to school because the schools just don't feel they can accommodate them. So the kids are basically in the shadows; they're hidden. And that's not what Christ would want."
Sometimes the hesitation often can stem from social stigmas based on fear.
Vander Kooy says that these children have a lot of joy and potential to offer the schools. "We're focusing on getting those kids into the classroom--not only so that they can discover their own God-given potential, but that they can also bless the other kids that are already there."
Part of this new focus for WWCS will involve finding people who are already involved in helping special needs children around the world. WWCS will solicit their needs to others who can and want to support them.
Vander Kooy says this direction will not take away from their existing ministry, but add to it. The children will be able to realize their God-given potential through education.
The pool of people who have special needs with regard to education is much larger than we think, Vander Kooy explains. It is important to reach these children, whoever they may be, where they are.
WWCS is especially concerned that all children are able to attend their schools because in many communities, that may be the only chance a child has to encounter Christ.
"The Gospel is integrated in every subject in these Christ-centered schools," Vander Kooy says. The Christian schools with whom WWCS works are quite different from those in the United States.
In closed countries or communities that are mostly Muslim, there's immense pressure that the staff of school are all non-Christian. Yet these Christian teachers recognize that they're able to minister where churches cannot.
Their job is much harder, then, to reach a community that is often resistant to the Gospel.
"There's a lot of challenges associated with this effort. But certainly the goal is that the Bible and Christ permeates every single subject and certainly is very visible to the kids and the parents as they observe the teacher and the school leadership," Vander Kooy says.
WWCS will be posting more information on their Web site in the next couple of weeks. For now, pray for God's guidance over this new development for WWCS. Pray for their effectiveness in the communities they serve.
If you'd like to support them financially, click here.
(Photo courtesy With Syria)
Lebanon (MNN) -- You've heard the stories about the influx of the Syrian refugees into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. Kristin Wright, advocacy director for Open Doors, says, "One out of every four people is a Syrian refugee. This is really a shift in terms of that country's dynamics."
What you haven't heard is that Lebanon might not be the haven refugees hoped for. "It's really one of the most expensive host countries in which to be a Syrian refugee." Why? Most of them don't have jobs, but they have to pay rent on the apartments or homes they've found in the city. Those who are taking their chances outside the city limits aren't finding a warm reception there, either. "The Lebanese government doesn't allow official refugee camps, so the refugees out in the Bekaa Valley are paying for the land on which they are pitching their tents."
Not only that, but they're facing increasing discrimination now. "In the Lebanese media, the Syrian refugee crisis is hardly ever portrayed as a humanitarian crisis. It's more portrayed as 'the Syrians are a threat to national security. They're a drain on the economy.'"
Insults, attacks, and curfews have become commonplace experiences. Wright says this is where Christians are standing in the gap. "Open Doors is also very focused on the Lebanese host communities, because the host communities are really being pushed into a difficult position. Many of the people who are supplying help to the Syrians are people that are already in a difficult financial place themselves."
Even providing aid is tricky. Wright shares, "One of the pastors that I visited in Beirut observed how a lot of aid comes with strings attached to refugees right now. Sometimes, the smaller aid groups might be tied to a political party or another in Syria, or they're tied to a different religious group. So their goal of providing aid is to get refugees to adopt their particular perspective."
Suspicion runs deep on all sides. "He [the pastor] is willing to provide aid to them in their home and they have no compulsion to come to the church to receive assistance. He said no one has any obligation to attend a church service. He said, 'The only obligation is to see the love of Christ in me.'"
When needs are met with no strings attached and people are kind, a whole host of questions come about. Wright adds, "It really is about being the hands and feet of Christ in a really difficult situation and helping those that are the most vulnerable, regardless of what their background might be."
Another dynamic is the growing mental-health crisis that is taking hold among Syria’s refugee children. Many witnessed the destruction of their homes or saw family members or friends killed. Add to that the trauma of displacement, exploitation, communal tensions, and domestic violence, and there's another crisis brewing.
The stress has left many with mental illnesses that include anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and developmental problems. Wright says what she saw during her visit was heartrending. "This is the next generation. This is the future of Syria, so we need to do something to start reclaiming all these lost childhoods. That's why Open Doors is focused on providing education, and we also support 'child-friendly' spaces."
(Photo courtesy Open Doors)
Lives have been shattered by the war. Wright says, "We really are about empowering the local Church to be a light in the darkness and to be an impact in the community." She encourages you to consider this perspective in hope: "It is possible to make a difference for Syrian refugees. Learn about the conflict, learn about what's happening, and then share that information."
Change your perspective by praying or giving. Click here to get started.
(Graphic credit WitsLanguageSchool.com)
Africa (MNN) -- In Part Two of our series about reaching the deaf for Christ, we'll explore challenges and growth in Africa with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Wycliffe Associates, The Seed Company and Deaf Opportunity OutReach (DOOR).
With help from the Wycliffe coalition, DOOR is equipping national believers to tackle the stigma surrounding deafness and introduce people to Christ.
Reaching the Deaf for Christ: Africa
DOOR's Rob Myers says many challenges face the families of hearing-impaired people in Africa compared to those in Western civilization; prime among them are prevalence and perception.
Healthcare issues in the underdeveloped and often impoverished nations of Africa contribute significantly to the commonality of deafness.
An African child signs "I Love You" ingratitude for the Gospel DVD he received from DOOR.(Photo credit DOOR)
"You tend to find a higher percentage of deaf people among the populations," Myers notes. "Oftentimes, children between the ages of five and eight will contract a disease that will subsequently cause them to lose their hearing."
Another challenge to reaching the deaf for Christ in Africa is the perception of deafness itself. Many communities view deafness as a curse.
"The [deaf] child often becomes a source of shame for that family," explains Myers. The perception of deafness as a curse usually results in deaf children being hidden away and completely isolated from society.
"90% of deaf children are actually born to hearing parents, so most of the time they grow up in a dysfunctional family because they have no means of communicating with their parents," Myers adds.
Liberating Africa's Deaf
Since many deaf communities in Africa are unreached, DOOR uses an "alternative" method of sign language Bible translation to introduce deaf people to Christ. It's called "Chronological Bible Storying (CBS)."
DOOR uses a three-step CBS process and materials for evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship called Know God How, Follow God How, and Serve God How, respectively.
"That entire series constitutes 110 stories and lays a primary biblical foundation for a people group so that they can really understand what Christianity is about," Myers explains.
DOOR staff in Africa celebrate thetranslation of evangelism, discipleship,and fellowship materials. (Photo credit DOOR)
Five African nations--Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania--recently completed translation and production of the complete 110-story series. DOOR held a grand celebration to mark the occasion, and more breakthroughs came forth.
"During that celebration, we had the country of Nigeria finish the first series of 32 stories," shares Myers.
"We also had our Kenya translation team finish a series of translator notes and Bible study notes, or commentaries, that we call 'The Deeps.'"
He says these commentaries will be extremely helpful for future sign language translation work.
As you pray, ask the Lord how He would have you support deaf ministry in Africa. For more details on the ministry of DOOR, click here to visit their Web site.
Tomorrow, we'll explore how you can be a part of reaching the deaf for Christ in your own community through Faith Comes By Hearing.
Read Reaching the Deaf for Christ: Part One.
(Photo credit Kids Alive)
International (KAI/MNN) -- The United Nations estimates that, every year, 14 million girls are married as children. Roughly one girl is trafficked every thirty seconds. Since human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world, it won't take long before those numbers rise exponentially.
Kids Alive International shares how you can help them protect the innocent in a recent post on their prayer blog.
For many young girls, this world is a very dangerous place.
It is estimated that, every year, 14 million girls are married as children. UNICEF recently released some sobering statistics on the prevalence of child marriage in different countries: Niger, Chad, and Central African Republic are some of the worst places in this regard. Young, teenage Syrian refugee girls in Jordan are being married off to far older men because, given their circumstances, this is viewed by their families as the best option for them. And in South Sudan, a 15-year-old girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to finish school. That is shocking.
1.2 million children, many of them young girls, are trafficked each year. That's one every thirty seconds. And, according to estimates, that number is set to rise since trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world. Such exploitation includes forced labor, slavery, and prostitution.
Kids Alive is committed to making this world a better place for children. Many of their ministry sites provide protection for girls (and boys) at risk of abuse, early marriage, and trafficking.
Kids Alive's ministry in Guatemala rescues abused girls from the most terrible of situations, helping to restore them and seeking justice for their abusers through the court system. In south Lebanon, Kids Alive provides an education and a safe place for young children who would otherwise end up begging in the streets and vulnerable to the worst kinds of abuse. Their homes in Kenya provide a haven for girls who might otherwise face being ‘married off’ at a young age.
Yet many other young girls remain trapped in an evil cycle of abuse and terror. And we need to respond--to speak up for those that are suffering and do all we can to help kids like these. As Proverbs 31:8 says: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all that are destitute".
And we need to pray. Please join with us in praying for Kids Alive’s ministries as they rescue, protect, and seek justice for the victims of horrific abuse. And pray for the many other children that are at risk of abuse, trafficking, or early marriage around the world.
You may want to use the following prayer to help you:
Our hearts are breaking at the stories of innocent children that experience horrific abuse around the world. These kids are so weak, and the grip of evil upon them so strong. Their voices are so seldom heard.
Help us not to look away and hide our faces from their fear and despair. Give us compassion. Enable us to listen. Help us to speak up. Give us the resources to respond and make a difference. And shine Your light so that those that are broken may be rescued, healed, and restored.
(Photo courtesy UNICEF/Haidar)
Syria (MNN) -- Winter is fast approaching in the Middle East.
No surprise there, except now, there are 10 to 12 million displaced people and refugees who have fled from Syria and Iraq. Already stretched thin, the World Food Program says that if pledges from the international community don't come in, some of these refugees will be facing winter on 825 calories per day.
To put that into perspective, a typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread (an American-specific phenomenon) has roughly 376 calories, 13 grams of protein, and 3.5 grams of dietary fiber. It'll work for a little while, but nutritionally, it's close to a starvation diet. The average middle-aged adult aged 31-50 years old needs between 1,800 to 2,200 calories to stay healthy (according to WebMd.com).
Or, take a look at a typical World Food Program ration that's roughly 850 calories:
3/4 cup of grain, sorghum, or millet (whatever is locally available)
Two tablespoons of mature seed lentils
Just under two tablespoons of cooking oil
One teaspoon sugar
One teaspoon salt
That's the total for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…in the kind of weather where you're basically exposed to the elements, and that's what's facing many of these IDPs and refugees in just a few weeks if nothing changes.
Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response says the influx of IDPs has overwhelmed already-strained resources. "It's sort of like trying to plug a leak in a dam. You get your thumb in one place, other places begin to come out. So I think we'll be doing some of the same things we've been doing over the last couple of years. The problem and the challenge that we face: there are so many other refugees that it's just massive right now."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Global response to the refugee crisis from Iraq and Syria has been overshadowed by the security threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) invasion. Palmer offers his own speculation surrounding the lackluster response. "It's ongoing. It's been a long-term thing. People are just getting tired of it. Another reason is the perception of 'there's a lot of bad people in that part of the world.'" It's small comfort to the hundreds of thousands in Northern Iraq fleeing into Turkey with ISIS in hot pursuit. "They didn't even have an idea of what country they were in. So, there's so much happening. It's war." Palmer says shock doesn't register on the global scale. Neither does a man-made crisis.
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
The numbers are staggering. The United Nations' latest reports reveal a huge movement of people. It's the tip of the iceberg, confirms Palmer. "For every one you find in a camp, you're finding eight or nine outside the camp. They're living in tents, they're living in schools, and they're living in makeshift places, abandoned buildings. It's finding those areas that nobody else is helping." The families being helped are Kurdish Yazidis and other minorities, as well as Iraqi Christians, some of whom are members of the response team and were themselves forcibly displaced from their own homes.
Last winter was hard. People were exposed to the elements. This winter, the partnerships are in place, but the funding won't cover all of the needs. "We're going to need better tents, we're going to need winterproofing. We've got some actual teams that are doing that, going in and working alongside our national partners."
In addition to food baskets provided by Global Hunger Relief, BGR is also distributing coats and rubber boots, blankets, mattresses, and carpets to isolate the cold, as well as heating stoves and fuel. Palmer says this is what emerges from an aid initiative that connects the body of Christ: "It's amazing to see the response and the love of Christ in the local people who want to help their fellow countrymen and others, even though they're suffering in the midst of it, themselves."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response/International Mission Board)
Every bit helps. The spiritual front needs cover, too. "Pray that some sort of stability will return to the area. Pray for our national partners who are standing strong in their faith, helping people and sharing their faith. Pray for them to be bold as they stay in some very dangerous areas."
One last thought. Palmer acknowledges that numbers overwhelm and distance numbs. But coming alongside the body of Christ in these areas, resourcing those who are acting in the name of Christ, is what characterizes the Christ followers. For that reason, "Don't be discouraged in well-doing. Continue to support organizations like Baptist Global Response. I think we really are making a huge difference."
Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Flickr, creative commons)
Japan (MNN) -- Barely a week after the volcanic eruption on Mt. Ontake, Japan was hit again early Monday morning, this time with Typhoon Phanfone.
President of Asian Access Joe Handley asks for prayers for Japan. While Asian Access does not have personnel near Mt. Ontake, they are hopeful that Christians in that area can respond in a positive way. (Read more about that here). With the impact of Typhoon Phanfone, these desires are certainly compounded.
Asian Access works alongside the Church of Japan to help them be a witness to the Gospel in good times and bad.
According to USA TODAY, rescue operations at Mt. Ontake were halted Sunday due to heavy rain from the typhoon. At least 12 people are still missing on Mt. Ontake, and 51 have been confirmed dead. With the accumulation of ash--up to two feet in places--along with the rain, there are fears of mud slides.
Authorities issued evacuation advisories for about 500,000 people Monday, including the region of Tohoku which was hit by 2011's earthquake and tsunami.
CNN says there has been one confirmed death due to the typhoon--one of four U.S. airmen swept out to sea Sunday. Two of these men, stationed at Okinawa, are still missing. A university student also went missing Sunday afternoon while surfing.
Meanwhile, A2 still has workers on the ground responding to the triple disaster of 2011.
Japan has seen its fair share of "bad" lately. Wikipedia says Japan is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters including tsunamis, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.
Typhoon Phanfone is another reminder, not only for Japan, but for Christians. It is a reminder that precious lives are taken at any time. It's a reminder to be in prayer for Japan. Asian Access reports that only 1% of Japan is Christian.
(Photo courtesy Wikimedia/CC/alpsdake)
As disaster after disaster strikes, ministries like Asian Access are there, not only to support the church and bring humanitarian aid, but to share eternal hope. This is the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pray for the areas affected by the volcano and typhoon this past week. Ask God to use this time to open the eyes of the blind to His love for them. Pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones.
If you'd like to partner with Asian Access through prayer or financially, click here.
Asia (GFA/MNN) -- The following is a story from Gospel for Asia. A woman shares her testimony of the Lord’s healing and redemptive power in her life. Names, locations, and sensitive details have been protected for security purposes.
(Image courtesy of Gospel for Asia)
My name is Loukya. I was born and brought up in a family that followed a traditional Asian religion. I am married, and my husband, Naathim, farms.
Since I was born and brought up in a non-Christian family, I practiced all of the rituals according to our doctrines. Since my childhood, my parents taught me all the religious customs, which influenced me badly. I remember those days when my parents would offer prayers especially to one goddess whom they believed was powerful.
Woman Stops Worshiping Her Goddess, Falls Sick
When I turned 25, I got married and started a new life with my husband. He never compelled me to worship the gods, so I did not perform any kinds of rituals in my house for one year.
While everything was going well in my family life, one day I became sick and began to suffer from a headache and other illness [weakness and nausea]. However, I did not take my bad health seriously.
As the days went by, my headache started to develop day by day, and I became more ill. By that time, my husband took me for several medical checkups, and I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
My husband did not tell me this. Everyone in my family visited me at the hospital and encouraged me with their lovely words, [saying] that within a week I would be all right. The doctor said to my husband that I had to undergo a major operation immediately, which would cost us a huge amount. While my husband was sharing these issues with an elder brother, I found out about my brain tumor, and I became afraid.
Enveloped in Darkness
That particular evening, I started to think about my past behavior and how I had not worshiped any gods for the last year. I thought to myself, "That could be the reason I got ill, and now I am going to die." I had no hope for my life. I felt heavy darkness surrounding me, and death was following me. Those days were a bitter experience in my life.
About two weeks later, I was admitted to a private hospital and got general medication, which gave me a little relief for the time being. Then my parents took me with them to live in their house. My husband was also with me. With the help of local villagers, I went through naturopathic treatment in my mother’s village.
In those days, my husband happened to meet with a witch doctor who advised him to memorize some sacred words and chants by which I could be cured. One evening, the witch doctor visited me at my mother’s house, chanted some mantras and gave me some handmade medicine. Early in the morning, my husband would recite some mantras for my healing, but all became useless. Nothing could heal my disease; rather, my problem started to increase every day.
When all hope had vanished, a group of women [from Women’s Fellowship] came to visit our village. Their names were Hafiza, Paavai, Sabrang, and Tamarai. They shared with me about the name of Jesus and gave me some literature to read.
Given Hope to Live
First, I did not understand why they gave me a small book. Tamarai told me about how Jesus died on the cross of Calvary for the redemption of mankind. Then I started to share my personal problems with her, saying, “For the last nine months, I have been suffering from a brain tumor. I have gone through several medications, but nothing could heal my disease. Rather, every day it is developing. I have lost hope of living on this earth.”
That particular moment, Hafiza and the other sisters joined their hands and prayed for me and assured me I’d be in their daily prayers. They gave me hope to live in this world. To my amazement, the whole day I had no headache, and my faith began to grow.
(Photo courtesy of Gospel for Asia)
Faith Blossoms Into Love for Jesus
From time to time, the sisters visited me and prayed for me, and they conducted weekly prayer meetings. As days passed by, the Lord healed me, and my husband and I opened our hearts to Jesus and began attending the church in our village.
When Loukya went for a checkup, the doctor couldn’t find any tumor on her brain. Today Naathim and Loukya are strong in their faith, and they’re faithfully involved in their church.
Hundreds of women missionaries are bringing hope to women like Loukya. These women missionaries have prepared themselves in Bible college, they understand the tragedies faced by women in Asia, and they know the only One who can help. More women missionaries are ready to be sent out, and you can partner with them to reach women like Loukya. Find out how here.
Compartmentalization was addressed at Young Professional Forum in Moldova October 4, 2014.
Moldova (MNN) -- Compartmentalization. We all do it. Some compartmentalize professional and non-professional parts of their lives. Others compartmentalize their social lives. Yet, others do it spiritually. That was the focus of a one-day conference in Moldova over the weekend.
Mission Eurasia, formerly Russian Ministries, and the Association of Spiritual Renewal (ASM) gathered more than 400 career-minded Christian young adults from Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine for a young adult forum on compartmentalization and the Gospel.
Youth Forum "Mission in the professional" in Moldova.
We caught up with ASM's Vice President Boris Vokof. What kinds of individuals were invited? "Specifically [we focused on] young professionals who are involved already in different professional areas. [They] gathered for motivation and equipping in how they can serve and reach their communities for Christ."
ASM's Paul Tokarchuk describes the message conveyed to these young people. "Through their professions, they can be successful and at the same time, they can share the Good News with other people."
Local church leaders told us this was the first event of its kind in Moldova.
One of the speakers, Insur Shamgunov, says the topic is relevant for all cultures. "People tend to have little boxes where they put different aspects of their life, like Sunday is just for church and my religious life. Work is just for my working life. That's the secular part of me. These two parts don't really correspond together.
This can be a dangerous worldview. Shamgunov says, "The same person can have several different sets of values. I [can be] one person at work, another person in the church, yet a third person at home with my wife and my family."
"I don't think that's what God called us to do," says Shamgunov. "He's told us to have holistic lives where we have to be the same person everywhere. Their working life is not inferior to their ministry, it is their ministry. They can be serving wherever they are."
Ministry leaders hope this forum helps change the mindset of Christian professionals. Shamgunov says, "It's very simple, but very important shift in their worldview that needs to happen. Conferences like this can be very instrumental in making this shift happen."
Tokarchuk is hoping several hundred young people will become agents of change and take it to their churches. He praying God will transform their attitudes on work and in their professional influence to become more effective and fruitful workers for God.
Mission Eurasia emphasizes training young Christian professionals. Support their work through this link.
(Photo credit DOOR Int'l)
International (MNN) -- Over 5% of the world is deaf, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Chances are you've crossed paths with at least one deaf individual during your lifetime. If you don't know sign language, how can you possibly share the Gospel with them?
Over the next few days, MNN will be highlighting ministries that are reaching the deaf for Christ worldwide and looking at how you can come alongside their efforts.
Who's reaching the deaf for Christ?
Rob Myers of Deaf Opportunity Outreach, or DOOR, says the international deaf community desperately needs God's Word. He states, "There is no completed Bible in sign language yet.
"Of the 400 sign languages around the world, less than 25% of those languages have anything started at all."
That's why DOOR partners with groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators to bring Scripture to deaf communities in Africa and India. Translating God's Word in sign language doesn't look like traditional Scripture translation, though.
Deaf children in Nigeria watch theGhanaian sign language Bible. (Image, caption courtesy DOOR)
"Unlike spoken language, sign language doesn't have a very effective written format," Myers explains.
"So, when we do a sign language Bible translation, there is no written version of it. It's actually a person standing in front of a camera, signing the translation."
These "evangelism DVDs" are a far more effective way to share Christ with deaf communities than traditional methods, which often require reading Scripture.
"For deaf people who've grown up without sound at all, learning to read is very difficult. That doesn't mean that they can't; many deaf people are very well-educated. But that's not their heart language," Myers explains.
"Sign language speaks much more accurately to their heart because that's the language they've grown up with. It hits their heart in a way that the written Word just can't."
Reaching the deaf for Christ can't be done alone
At their training centers, DOOR staff teach national deaf believers and sign language translators how to lead Bible studies for the deaf, share the Gospel using evangelism DVDs, teach and disciple believers using Chronological Bible Storying, and form Deaf Believers' Fellowships. DOORS staff also helps develop deaf leaders who can multiply this effect.
Deaf Bible Training and Translation Staff in Kenya.(Photo, caption credit DOOR)
"Sign language Bible translation can't just happen in a vacuum. We have a number of partners who help us do what we do," notes Myers.
Financial support for these ministry efforts comes from a number of other groups in the Wycliffe family, including Wycliffe Associates, The Seed Company, and SIL.
Help this ministry coalition reach more deaf communities here.
Over the next few days, ask the Lord how He would have you reach out to deaf people in your circles. If you don't know anyone with hearing challenges, pray for guidance on how to support worldwide initiatives.
(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)
Nigeria (MNN) -- The Islamic terror group Boko Haram is in talks with Nigeria's government. They might trade some of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls for 19 imprisoned Boko Haram commanders.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, said in a recent blog that negotiations between Nigeria's government and Boko Haram representatives should be resuming today. Talks paused for the weekend observance of Eid-el-Kabir, the Muslim holiday celebrating a twisted version of God's provision of a ram to Abraham in Genesis 22.
Why isn't this getting more attention in the Western news media?
To be fair, there are some big events competing for coverage: ISIS, the Ebola crisis, Ukraine rebels, to name a few. But by-and-large, Western news outlets have largely overlooked Boko Haram and its relentless hunt for Nigerian Christians.
Here's a quick look at the rise of Boko Haram and why they're targeting Nigeria's Christians.
Boko Haram: an insider's perspective
Dr. Bulus Galadima is the recently-appointed dean of Biola University's Cook School of Intercultural Studies. Learn more about the school here.
Dr. Bulus Galadima(Photo credit Biola University
"In the West, it's politically correct to say, 'Well, it really isn't that bad.' [But] they have declared their intentions very clearly; their intention is to 'wipe out' Christianity," states Galadima.
Galadima served for many years as the provost/president of the largest evangelical graduate school in Nigeria: ECWA Theological Seminary in Jos (Plateau State).
"[Boko Haram is] relentless; just unimaginable atrocities committed against Christians and against the Church. When they take cities, they do not release those, and it's 'Convert to Islam' or you are killed," Galadima recounts.
MNN caught up with him at the recent Missio Nexus Conference and asked him about the reality of Boko Haram. As a Nigerian, he confirms the reports that Christians are under relentless attack by the Islamic militant group.
Boko Haram: the martyrs
The ECWA Theological Seminary is located in Jos, Nigeria.(Map credit The Nigerian Archive blog)
During Galadima's time at ECWA, the school was attacked several times. Between 2008 and July 2014, when Galadima began serving at Biola, three ECWA students were killed by Muslims and Boko Haram.
Galadima regards the students as martyrs.
"Their stories are neat because you see people who are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the process of doing that, they were killed," he shares.
Listen as Galadima tells the three students' stories in full detail here.
Pastor Ephraim escaped with his family but decided to go back and warn church members to leave the area because of the danger. After he and a church elder warned believers, a Muslim mob attacked them with machetes, killing Ephraim and gravely wounding the church elder.
George was encouraging Christian refugees to hold fast to their faith despite Boko Haram threats. He was targeted and later killed by the terrorists and buried in a mass grave. George's wife was expecting at the time, and Boko Haram killed this brave believer before he could meet his son or daughter.
Shem was killed by Boko Haram while traveling from a church in Jos to another part of the city. Galadima says Shem would've been carrying his Bible because he was interning at the church, and that's why Boko Haram could easily pick him out of a crowd.
Boko Haram: your response
(Image courtesy Open Doors)
Instead of falling into a cycle of hatred and violence, Christians in Nigeria are doing the opposite, Galadima says. They are reaching out to their Muslim neighbors in love and kindness.
Galadima describes one situation where a mission partnered with ECWA to provide food, water, medicine, and other supplies to a mainly-Muslim refugee camp. While distributing the supplies, ECWA students engaged in conversation with some of the refugees and began to develop friendships.
"This Muslim man called our student and said, 'Look, I am tired of this religion. I want to be a Christian,'" shares Galadima. The man and his entire family came to know Christ, and ECWA connected them with discipleship materials so they could grow in their relationship with the Lord.
In the full interview, Galadima shares another situation where ECWA students rescued a Muslim man who had been stabbed during a Boko Haram attack.
"The [Nigerian] Church is doing its best to stand strong" and demonstrate the compassion of Christ, Galadima concludes. The real question is: will you stand with them, or will you ignore the problem?
"The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. So pray for the Church in Nigeria to remain strong, to be aggressive in its witness. Pray also for the government of Nigeria to have the strength and the courage to stand against the onslaught of [Boko Haram]," requests Galadima.
(Photo credit Christian Aid Mission)
"It's [only] a matter of time, because as they continue to grow, [Boko Haram] would continue on this crusade. They have already said that their target was to 'Islamize' the whole world. The only antidote to that is for us to say, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, we are going to reach out to Muslims around us, love them while we still have the opportunity.'
"If we don't do that, some of the things happening in Nigeria and other places is likely going to happen here in the West."
Asia (MNN) -- According to a study done by The Center for Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary, the Church in Asia is one of the fastest growing churches in the world.
(Image by Asian Access)
Joe Handley of Asian Access says, "As you look at this research, one of the places that the church is just growing like gangbusters, really rapidly, is in the continent of Asia. Several countries in this research are highlighted because of their growth rates in the Church."
Handley says the research is particularly significant for Asian Access. "These are countries where the Church is outpacing the leadership training systems of their country. So all across these different nations, you have the churches growing like crazy, but there's not enough Bible schools and seminaries and leadership institutes like Asian Access that are helping them prepare for this phenomenal growth," Handley explains.
He expects that a lot of the growth has to do with the fact that many of these nations are restricted either politically or religiously. This pressure, often persecution, and the desire to be free are all things that drive them to the Gospel. They are delighted to have freedom in Christ even while the world they live in does not allow them freedom.
People are enthusiastic about God's truth. Handley says, "This is a unique season as the Gospel advances across this area for the hope of Christ. But in order to do that well, you need solid leaders."
While the leaders in existence have their heart in the right place, they may not know how to be effective, or they do not have adequate tools of leadership.
"As the pastor goes, so goes the church. So coming alongside these leaders of the church of Asia is going to be crucial for the future," says Handley.
(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)
How do you foster better leaders?
The first key to this leadership training is making sure it empowers the individual and doesn't just tell them what to do and how to do it.
"Many of the leadership systems don't really come alongside them in an empowering way," Handley explains.
Asian Access' method is a two-year process of community training and collaboration. It's not a traditional model but one that allows the leaders to think for themselves and develop more leaders in their community. Handley says they are learning better from their community of leaders than they would from one instructor.
This training style has been sought by other communities once they see how well it works. For one thing, the wives of these pastors are pleased that their husbands no longer have to leave them in charge of their families and churches for weeks at a time so they can go to a leadership conference.
With Asian Access' style of training, the pastors can leave behind leaders anytime they have to go away.
The way it works is that a dozen or so leaders meet up and a leader from Asian Access will start them off with an idea. Handley calls it a spark. This spark soon bursts into a flame as the leaders look at how that idea would work in their community.
Bringing Christians together.
Ultimately these discussions are inspiring and unifying. Handley says, "All these pastors are from different walks of life, different denominations, different movements, different networks. In fact, many of them previously weren't sure they could trust one another.
"But as they start to learn in community, they start to say, 'Wow, you know what? He's not so different after all. Okay, he's a little different than me in some areas, but we could work together for the Kingdom. Maybe we should be planting churches together. Maybe we should be engaging our community together.' And the unity that shows itself in the power of these churches working together collaboratively is quite amazing."
The growth in Asia presents all believers with a challenge-- but a very good one.
Handley says, "As this research shows, the Church is growing like wildfire in these nations. And the desperate need is the same cry that one of my friends said to me. He said, 'Joe, please send us seasoned veteran leaders. We have no spiritual fathers.' And so there's a desperation for leadership training all across many of these nations.
"And so the crucial question of the hour is: 'Can we equip the Church appropriately with the right cultural context and working in their language and culture?"
There are many ways to get involved.
"What can you do about it? Of course, you can always pray. Praying is essential to the Gospel's advance," says Handley.
Secondly, Handley invites you to go to Asia with Asian Access. "Come, join us. You know, maybe you're one of those seasoned veteran leaders that you could come invest in the life of others, especially if you enjoy mentoring. That's what they're hungry for."
The third response: support the enormous financial needs of this work. You can do that here.
West Africa (WRN) -- Editor's Note: The latest report from the World Health Organization says as of nine days ago, 7,178 people, mainly in West Africa, have been infected by the Ebola virus. 3,338 of them have died. What follows is a breakdown of World Renew's response in the hardest-hit areas.
(Photo courtesy World Renew)
World Renew is responding in partnership with Christian Reformed World Missions, the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL), the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL), Christian Extension Services (CES), and the Christian Reformed Church of Sierra Leone.
In Liberia, CHAL is training community health workers in the prevention of Ebola in 18 health facilities of three counties. This has motivated more people to visit the health centers. World Renew has also supplied CHAL with much-needed medical supplies. In a country where 3,400 Ebola cases have already been reported, this type of assistance is crucial.
On September 24, 452 cartons containing 3,765 kilograms of supplies to fight Ebola arrived in Liberia. Funded by World Renew and shipped by MAP International, these cartons contained sprayers, masks, face shields, protective suits, gloves, protective boots, thermometers, intravenous solution, oral rehydration packets, blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, vitamin pills, and other basic medicines.
“We are very happy for this donation. It came at a time when facilities lacked medicine and supplies,” said Patricia Kamara of CHAL.
CHAL is also training health workers and community volunteers to properly diagnose the disease and treat Ebola patients so that the spread of the virus can be stopped.
In Sierra Leone, World Renew and its partners are fighting a lack of understanding about the disease. They are working in the Ebola “hot spots” where 2,000 cases have already been reported to educate people about how Ebola is spread, how to recognize the symptoms, what to do if one has the symptoms, how to prevent the transmission of Ebola, and the role of the whole community in dealing with Ebola.
These key messages have also been translated into the local languages of the affected areas. Through Christian Reformed World Missions, pastors of the Christian Reformed Church of Sierra Leone have been trained using a manual prepared in partnership with the Timothy Leadership Training Institute.
World Renew, together with CCSL and Christian Extension Services, is also providing hand washing basins, sanitizer, soap, and chlorine bleach to infected communities in Sierra Leone and teaching people how to prepare a chlorine mixture and disinfect homes and personal belongings. They are setting up Ebola Task Forces in communities to work on preventing the spread of Ebola.
In addition to these physical interventions, World Renew and its partners are encouraging prayers.
“As Christians, the Bible teaches us to give thanks to God in ALL circumstances, because there are always lessons that we can learn from such difficult situations, especially in experiencing the grace of God,” said Rev. Istifanus Bahago of CCSL. “We are very much aware that thousands of Christians are praying for us in West Africa. The situation is indeed worrisome, but we want to say a big thank you to all. We have faith that one day this virus will go away and normal life will resume. We have faith that God will protect us and we shall live to testify of his goodness in our lives.”
World Renew’s West Africa Team Leader Mary Crickmore agrees. “West Africa has never been in greater danger than now. Our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone and Liberia are fasting and praying, and they ask us to join them. We must also participate in answering our own prayers by giving generously to enable them to get the supplies and do the work."
Please be praying for those on the front lines of this disease and for an end to this terrible crisis.
USA (MNN) -- Human trafficking is a terrible social injustice that's plaguing the world: women and children sold for evil intentions. According to the United Nations, almost 21 million people were victims of human trafficking worldwide. 75% involves women and girls--3 million in India alone.
While one organization can't help all of them, one organization is doing all they can.
Women rescued from the red light district, worshipping in the safe house.
Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders says they are hosting a trip to India and Nepal next month, and more volunteers are needed.
On this trip, VBB "will be going specifically in the Red Light districts in several countries, and they'll be ministering directly to the women who are trapped there."
VBB is working with a ministry partner who is trying to rescue these victims while also sharing Christ. Romeijn says, "It's just so important and vital to these people to know that people care about them, to have those relationships, to have people come halfway around the world" to show them love.
Romeijn encourages you to pray about going, even if you don't feel qualified. "There truly are no mighty men and women of God. Everyone is just a weak, fragile, empty vessel filled by the power of the living God. And we don't have to have everything together because it's not us that's does the work."
This short-term trip is for someone who wants an adventure. "It is somewhat dangerous. It's not the safest trip we go on. We've never had any problems, but the potential is there. Our contact has received death threats. Satan doesn't give up that ground easily."
While it is a little more dangerous, "the rewards are enormous," says Romeijn. "The women love spending time with women from [the west] who care about them. Typically, they're the lowest of society--even sold by their family members."
Caring for these women opens incredible doors to share the Gospel.
If you would consider joining the VBB team to India and Nepal, click here to get connected.
If you don't feel called to this particular trip, VBB has many trips to choose from.
India (MNI) -- Editor's Note: When you think of the word "disposable," you might think of razors, diapers, or paper plates. You probably don't think of baby girls.
But, before a girl in India is even born, her life is in danger. What follows is a blog post shared by Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India about the plight of women in India.
(Photo courtesy Mission India)
Why aren’t girls valued in India? Families are expected to pay a dowry of expensive gifts or money when a daughter marries. This can leave a poor family drowning in debt for years. (Dowry is technically outlawed but still practiced widely.)
And families expect sons to provide for them. That means parents want to have sons to take care of them when they get older. Girls, on the other hand, are seen as disposable.
Dangers for baby girls:
All over India, there are fewer girls than boys. In India’s capital city, Delhi, there are only 866 females for every 1,000 males. Why? Because babies are killed for the “crime” of being girls. Many little girls grow up being told they are a burden, and some are even named “Unwanted.”
In India, moms face pressure to kill their daughters. If an ultrasound (technically illegal in India) reveals that the baby is a girl, many times parents try to poison her before she is born. If the abortion is unsuccessful, the baby may be murdered as an infant or toddler.
*Having an older sister
If a woman has already given birth to a daughter, there is increased pressure (sometimes from her own husband, family, and/or community) to kill a second, third, or fourth daughter. Many baby girls are killed because of this intense social pressure.
*A generational cycle of oppression
If girls survive and go on to give birth to their own children, their own daughters are in danger. They are seen as unwanted burdens in their families … and the cycle continues.
How can we break this cycle?
We can bring the Gospel to the darkest corners of India, where girls are seen as nothing more than a burden. Right now, India does not value girls.
When will this change? When India is transformed by Christ.
Mission India’s Children’s Bible Clubs, Adult Literacy Classes, and Church Planters are helping meet the deepest needs of India’s girls: to know that they are loved and valued.
At Children’s Bible Clubs, boys and girls are introduced to the God who created each child in His image. Each year, kids and parents received Jesus as their Savior through Bible Clubs. The truth about God’s love is changing the way parents view their daughters and the way girls view themselves.
Adult Literacy Classes encourage newly-literate parents to send their children to school. The Bible-based literacy lessons also emphasize the importance of girls and their immense value in the eyes of God, who loves and created them. Students also learn about the plight of women in India and their rights as citizens.
Through Church Planters, entire families are being introduced to the love of God. Their knowledge of the one true God who loves people--no matter their caste or gender--is radically transforming families.
Donetsk shaded in red.(Map credit Skluesener via Wikimedia Commons)
Ukraine (RMI/MNN) -- In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists are trying to retake the Donetsk airport. At least 10 people were killed this week alone, despite a ceasefire announced in early September. According to BBC News, over 3,500 people have been killed since fighting began this spring.
Mission Eurasia, formerly Russian Ministries, says people who fled fighting in April desperately need your help. The ministry is collecting winter supplies and sending them to refugee families.
"I recently returned from a trip to Ukraine where I had the opportunity to visit Slavyansk, Gorlovka, and other towns affected by the ongoing conflict in the East of the country," said ministry leader Sergey Rakhuba in a recent Facebook post.
"There I saw grief, destruction, and tears over the ongoing war. I also saw the churches practically serving and bringing the Word of Hope to those in need."
A School Without Walls student distributes aid to refugees from eastern Ukraine.(Photo credit Russian Ministries)
In April, many refugees had to flee their homes in eastern Ukraine immediately, taking nothing with them. Those that did bring some possessions didn't bring winter clothes, as no one expected the conflict to last this long.
Mission Eurasia is helping Ukrainian churches hand out winter supplies and the Hope of Christ. They have ordered a container to pack with winter weather items: new or gently-used warm clothing and shoes for adults and children, jackets, coats, hats, boots, sweaters, pants, warm socks, gloves, blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, etc.
Once filled, the container should arrive in Ukraine at the beginning of November.
Please consider helping those in Ukraine in need of winter supplies. You can mail items to 1N108 Farwell St, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Or, if you are in the Chicago area, you can collect them in your local church, where they will be picked up and taken to the container.
If you have any questions about sending supplies or the ministry's re-branding efforts, call (630) 462-1739 ext. 200 during business hours, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Though Russian Ministries is re-branding as Mission Eurasia, Rakhuba stated in a recent letter that checks supporting Gospel work should still be made out in the name of Russian Ministries. Changes to the ministry's Web site and communication pieces won't be implemented until January 2015.