Patrick Fung is the exposition speaker for Urbana 15.(Image courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)
USA (MNN) -- Urbana 2015 is right around the corner.
This is a students' mission conference of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Una Lucey-Lee, the program director of Urbana, shares the merit of a student-focused conference on missions.
At first, college students and missions don't really seem like a good fit. For one thing, college kids are poor. They usually can't afford to support missions financially or go overseas.
Lucey-Lee says, "The students graduate at some point and get jobs. It really is our belief at InterVarsity that students can be world-changers, that this generation is going to have an impact."
It makes sense. All through their education, students in the United States are often told they need to do what makes the most money or what will make them successful. It's good to remind students that vocation transcends traditional careers.
Urbana offers a chance for students to get a different perspective about their future and to reconsider their vocation.
At the very least, Urbana is good at opening the eyes of students to what God is doing around the world. A student bent on going into business doesn't need to change his major, but Urbana might help him consider business as mission.
"A lot of people come not really knowing what they're getting into, and [when] they leave, their perspective is changed," Lucey-Lee says.
Many others already interested in missions come to investigate and learn more about various mission groups.
At Urbana 15, OMF International Director Dr. Patrick Fung will be doing Bible exposition. "They can count on fantastic experience in the Scriptures," says Lucey-Lee.
Along with Bible studies and hundreds of seminars and 250 exhibitors, Urbana 15 will feature many international speakers. This is another way to help students see how God is working around the world.
Worship through music will be led by people of different cultures. There are prayer rooms and mentors to help students know listen to where God is calling them.
This year's theme will come out of Matthew.
"I think everybody should consider going," says Lucey-Lee. "I think it's a fantastic opportunity for college students to come, to be with thousands and thousands of other college students considering what God would have them do with their whole lives, the totality of their lives, and then for the length of their life [consider] how God would have them involved in missions."
Registration for Urbana 15 opens up March 4. Stay updated at Urbana.org.
Until then, pray about it. If you're not sure whether God wants you to go, pray and ask for direction.
Also pray for Urbana. Pray for the team as they finalize details. Pray for their health and for wisdom.
Pray that the right students come to Urbana, and that God would provide the resources needed for the conference.
Lucey-Lee says, "We're going to have a great time. I'm really excited about what's coming into shape, and like past Urbanas, I think it will be worth [your] while to get there."
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Pasu Au Yeung)
Hong Kong (MNN) -- Tensions are rising in Hong Kong.
Protestors, upset over China's involvement with a new CEO, have threatened to occupy government buildings. Then, they demanded the resignation of the chief executive.
A former British colony, Hong Kong returned to China's sovereignty in 1997. China promised roughly 50 years of letting the colony remain independent.
So far, that's meant preserving the existing legal system, civic rights, and maintaining a free press. However, China proposed that in 2017, Hong Kong's voters would choose a chief executive…then they altered the deal a little more by stipulating a handful of candidates that must be approved by a pro-China committee. Asian Access President Joseph Handley says, "That has caused a stir amongst the people because they thought they had 50 years of free operation."
Things escalated further when police attempted to disperse protestors with tear gas earlier in the week. Late Thursday night, officers were seen carrying in containers of rubber bullets, tear gas, and other riot control gear. "For the people of the city that have had some semblance of freedom for the last several years, their fears are taking them to the Tiananmen incident," explains Handley. "They're wondering, 'What is this future going to hold for us?'"
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Pasu Au Yeung)
However, Handley notes, "Neither side is budging. In fact, the Beijing government says they're not going to change their position. They're holding strong, and they're going to back the police as well as the current CEO. The student protestors and others on the streets that have joined them say they're not going to back down either." Meanwhile, Hong Kong's chief executive refused to resign but offered to appoint a top official to hold talks with student leaders.
The olive branch is a gesture of good faith. China was in the background issuing dire warnings should protestors actually try to occupy the government buildings.
"In this situation, I think the future will depend a lot on how leaders handle themselves," says Handley. They're watching events unfold with piqued interest because "that's what Asian Access is trying to address: to come in and lead where the Church is growing like wildfire. There are Kingdom leaders who are hungry for this type of training and development."
So, just how are the protests and Asian Access connected? They're not, exactly. They're linked only by the fact that A2 has been laying the groundwork to begin training in Hong Kong. Handley says how the unrest is handled outlines the need for leadership development. "Every time you hit something like this, it's leadership that's going to guide the way forward."
In fact, through the Marketplace Initiative, says Handley, "As you invest in the lives of key leaders, they influence others. So, this young generation of protestors, if they have the right people mentoring and discipling and encouraging them, they will be well prepared to lead in the midst of these kinds of challenging or chaotic situations."
A2 equips and trains Church leaders for multiplication. It not only works in an evangelistic framework, it's sound business theory. Peter Zhao, a renowned economist from China, told Handley, “This is exactly what Asia needs today. An Asian Access for marketplace leaders!”
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Pasu Au Yeung)
Handley says business leaders are eager for the leadership training model: "I'm going to Hong Kong in December for an intense day with several key leaders to talk about opening that country for Marketplace Leaders. So you can pray for Asian Access as we enter that space."
There's a lot at stake over the next few days. Nobody wants the shadow of Tiananmen in Hong Kong. It took six weeks for that tragedy to unfold in Beijing 25 years ago. The next five weeks will be crucial for Hong Kong. "Pray for these leaders, that God would give them wisdom and discernment to handle things well. Pray for the Beijing government and for the current Hong Kong governors, that they would lead well, and in a way, that would bring peace to their society."
(Photo cred: Micky Aldridge via Flickr)
Haiti (MNN) -- People debate whether addressing physical needs or spiritual needs is more important for ministry. MNN asked this question on Facebook and got a myriad of responses.
For Starfysh founder Dr. Steve Edmondson, Gospel work on the Haitian island of La Gonave is both/and, not either/or.
"We set it up as this either/or question, and we have one choice. Maybe it's the wrong question," Edmondson states. Phrasing the question differently changes the implications of its answer, he explains.
Gospel work: spiritual or physical?
The question about Gospel work shouldn't be, "Which is more important?" which implies an either/or choice, but rather "How can we address both?" which suggests a both/and solution.
"As long as we set the Gospel of Jesus as central to what we do, then it's central in the context of what their reality is," says Edmondson.
"To proclaim it and to demonstrate it through acts of love and service is an expression of the same Gospel. To not express the reality of that Gospel through our acts of love is a [disservice] to what the Gospel of Jesus is."
Edmondson points to Christ as an example.
"Jesus came down; He left heaven…and entered our reality," Edmondson states.
"To the extent that we can do that in other people's lives, we are demonstrating what Jesus did for us and are demonstrating that Gospel in what we do."
Gospel work on La Gonave
(Photo cred: MNN/Katey Hearth)
There are many ways Starfysh puts this both/and solution into practice. From clean water and agriculture initiatives to education projects, Starfysh addresses dire physical needs in the name of Christ.
Starfysh also folds Gospel work into various island health programs. They regularly send community health workers into La Gonave villages, Edmondson explains. These workers teach the communities about WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), the importance of using latrines, basic first aid, etc.
"In the context of that, they bring up also people's need for God and what God has done for them," Edmondson explains. "It's only in the context of showing up in that village that we have gained an audience and earned the right for people to hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ."
You can come alongside their work by praying, giving, or going.
India (CAM/MNN) -- It seems impossible that a doctor could work from morning until night and be a pastor as well. Yet, some remarkable individuals are doing just that in India. Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, shares the following inspirational story:
In a remote village in eastern India, a pastor who became a missionary in his own nation has also become the doctor to hundreds of families.
Tribal people from the Pokari area in Kandhamal District, Odisha (formerly Orissa) State, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the nearest government hospital in Balliguda, line up from morning to evening for Sukeswar Nayak to treat them. He provides treatment for illnesses as serious as dysentery, sickle cell anemia, and tuberculosis.
“Many come to me for medical service. Sometimes I do not find time to eat and take sufficient rest,” Nayak said.
Pastor Sukeswar Nayak needs medicalsupplies not readily available in hisremote ministry outpost.(Photo courtesy of Christian Aid)
Thus Nayak has a visceral understanding of Jesus’ words, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34), but he’s more concerned about the comfort of the people he serves.
“I have a small house, so there is not sufficient accommodation for the people to sit and wait,” he said. “I cannot provide them any food if they stay longer.”
Though not educated as a physician, Nayak is the only person trained to provide basic medical care for the area people, which include tribal animists as well as Christians. A U.S. missionary doctor who is devoted full-time to training evangelists in medical care provided Nayak six months of instruction over the course of three years.
Another 15 evangelists from Kandhamal District also received the medical training. The director of the indigenous mission overseeing the medical evangelists said Nayak is serving more than 1,000 families.
“We are glad to know that many seriously-ill patients who cannot go to the hospital due to the distance are getting treated by him,” the director said. “Praise God!”
Nayak may be overworked, but he is encouraged when he sees body and soul healed.
“I do ask them to go to the government hospitals if the disease is beyond my capacity to deal with it,” he said. “But I am thrilled to see that many patients who return from the government medical hospital without being healed get healed through my service, by God’s grace and intervention.”
Besides addressing common maladies such as colds, scabies, and diarrhea, Nayak has treated people for malaria, pneumonia, and anemia. He does not rely on medicine alone for healing.
“Late at night when parents bring their sick children for help--they are poor and cannot afford to take them to the government hospitals, I pray to God before giving any medicine,” he said. “Then I give medicine based on examining the sick, and God heals that child miraculously.”
Tribal people line up from dawn to duskto receive medical care from the pastor.(Photo courtesy of Christian Aid)
The mission director said Nayak and the other evangelists providing medical care in Kandhamal District need more supplies.
“They need a supply of drugs for these diseases--vitamins, antibiotics, analgesic, and ointments for eye infections and ear infections--so that they can help the poor and needy with much joy,” the director said. “With this, they can reach many villages with the gospel. Each of these evangelists has very thrilling experiences with this ministry as people are being healed miraculously.”
Nayak’s son, Bisnu Nayak, also works as a pastor, missionary, and doctor for two other villages. Based in Gadgaballi village, he takes care of 200 families, including Hindus and Christians.
Another missionary doctor, Bipra Nayak, serves in Pangali village, providing medical assistance to 150 families. In Gotangi village, Sanjit Nayak treats 100 families. In both cases, the indigenous missionaries treat both Hindus and Christians.
India is more than 74% Hindu according to Operation World, with Odisha State 94% Hindu, though that figure includes many tribal people with animistic beliefs and practices. After the murder of an area Hindu leader in 2008, Kandhamal District was the site of anti-Christian violence that killed more than 100 Christians and displaced more than 50,000.
Nayak said that his wife and church help to sustain him spiritually.
“The local church where I am pastor is my spiritual base for medical service,” he said. “The enemy is always there to discourage me, but as I pray and trust Jesus, He delivers me from the enemy.”
“The Lord in His plan has raised this man to take care of His children in times of need,” the mission director added. “God is saving many from dying due to this small enterprise in the name of Jesus.”
To help support Christian Aid in their current projects, click here.
(Photo courtesy E3 Partners)
Thailand (E3P) -- Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a city on the rise where ancient culture collides with modern industry. Its location among the highest peaks in the region makes it a bucket list destination for travel enthusiasts everywhere. TripAdvisor recently listed it as one of the “25 Best Destinations in the World.”
King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai in 1294. Back then, a moat and defensive wall protected the city from Burman adversaries. In the late 18th century, Chiang Mai was abandoned for several decades. But the city began to rebound in the early 20th century and has since become a major political and economic player in the region.
Slavery Run Rampant
While Chiang Mai continues to grow, human trafficking remains a scourge to the land. Posing as religious leaders, successful businessmen, or sympathetic paternal figures, human traffickers enter impoverished villages and convince families to give up their children by promising a better life for them.
With identification papers in hand, traffickers are able to make their victims disappear from the public eye. Many are smuggled across the border and forced into harsh labor environments while others are sold into sexual slavery.
In June 2014, the U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, downgrading Thailand to a Tier 3 state. The scathing analysis revealed that Thai officials have failed to meet the minimum standards for protecting its people from forced labor and sex trafficking. Even the most conservative estimates report that tens of thousands of victims are trafficked every year.
What E3 Partners is Doing
(Photo courtesy E3 Partners)
Throughout the year, E3 Partners sends teams to Chiang Mai to cut human trafficking off from the source, and you can join the next wave.
Using the PricelessCube, teams will enter local villages and reveal the truth to villagers about what is happening to their children. Through these efforts, you can have the opportunity to share the Gospel each day and leave behind new small groups and churches.
In just ten days, you can save a child’s life, share the story of Jesus with dozens of people, and leave behind a Gospel movement that outlives your time on this Earth.
Are you ready for the adventure to begin?
Lorella and John (Photo courtesy of Lorella Rouster)
Africa (MNN) -- When you've poured almost 30 years of your life into a mission, it can be difficult to let go.
But John and Lorella Rouster of Every Child Ministries have been seeking God's will and know that it's time to step down from leadership.
Lorella Rouster shares her thoughts about this transition.
"We helped found Every Child Ministries with the help of some Christian friends 29 years ago. We love this mission; we never planned to do anything else. But we just see that we're at the point where we can work more effectively, perhaps, in different positions other than the top leadership," she says.
The transition in leadership will take place at the end of 2014. Mark Luckey, a missionary currently serving with his family in Uganda, will become ECM's international director.
"It's all about keeping ECM strong by ensuring that the organization has strong leadership. We're strong in vision and certainly strong in commitment, perhaps strong in faith; but increasingly we are not so strong in body," says Lorella.
While the Rousters know this is God's calling upon their lives at this time, they are happy to stay involved and help where they can..
"We still plan to stay very involved, still plan to continue using everything God gives us for this mission. But we'll let the new leadership take the international helm."
The Rousters and ECM prayed for a long time for God's discernment in choosing a new leader. While there were many good options, it seemed that Mark Luckey was the best choice. Not only is he experienced on the mission field, but God made it clear through His timing that Mark was to be the next leader. While the Rousters are ready to step down as international directors, the Luckeys feel called to move back to the United States.
Lorella says, "We look forward to even greater things in the days ahead. We believe the organization will be stronger. It will be able to reach more African children for Jesus through this move."
Though she is not nervous about the transition, Lorella anticipates some challenges and difficulties that are normal with any transition process.
She says, "Just pray for a smooth transition, and just pray that the organization will remain strong and will be able to lead many children to Jesus."
Curious about ECM? Read more about their recent projects here.
USA (MNN) -- For a final wrap-up of the 2014 Missio Nexus Leadership Conference (MNLC), MNN spoke with Jim Ramsay of The Mission Society.
"Everyone's heads are spinning right now," says Ramsay who attended the conference with four co-workers.
"We see this, we see the opportunity, we see what God is doing; we're willing -- but -- how does that translate into actual change? Our current structures, our current mentality, simply [are] not going to be sufficient to move us into the world that God has out there now."
Following its "Movement of Peoples" theme, the MNLC's main sessions and workshops centered around four topics: Immigration/Migration, Globalization, Urbanization, and Exploitation.
"There's a movement of God now, dealing with the movement of people [and] with people urbanizing, and it gives mission agencies a real opportunity, as well as a challenge, to begin to engage this," Ramsay summarizes.
"There were many times I was beating my head saying, 'These are really old wine skins we're living in here; how do handle this new wine that we're dealing with?' I haven't got that one figured out yet. We've got a lot of processing to do."
That's where you come in. As The Mission Society team and other groups who attended the conference process what they've learned, pray for them. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and courage to confront tradition.
"The prayer for us as mission leaders is first the willingness to question assumptions, question ways of doing things, to say, 'How do we engage this new reality?'" notes Ramsay.
Last week, approximately 1,000 leaders of North American mission agencies, churches, Christian universities, and missions-related businesses gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, for four days of trend analysis, workshops, and networking.
"I expected it to be good; it really exceeded my expectations," Ramsay shares. "The presenters have been phenomenal with giving extremely helpful information; raw data, as well as ideas.
"The highlight for me, though, is often the conversations you have outside of the sessions."
For many missions groups, these Missio Nexus conferences are also a great time to meet new people in the industry and work on collaboration. Sometimes that collaboration involves resources, like World Mission's audio Scripture device, The Treasure.
Ramsay says MNLC 2014 is going to impact The Mission Society in two key areas, moving forward.
"One is just [the] missionaries themselves. A lot of this has happened, I don't want to say 'under the radar', but maybe not with their awareness, and we want to make sure they're prepared for what's happening," Ramsay explains.
The other area of ministry involves church mobilization.
"There's so much of this stuff that's needed in the local church," notes Ramsay.
"We need to take [that information] and say, 'How can we now infuse that into our church mobilization?' so that missions is not simply a couple of things that we do locally [and] we send missionaries overseas, but [instead]: 'How do we, as a church community, engage these migrant communities that are now in our midst?'"
Find MNN's full coverage of MNLC 2014 here.
Japan (MNN) -- Mount Ontake's unexpected volcanic eruption is the deadliest in Japan since 1926.
The death toll is at 48 after as more victims were discovered on the summit, noted media reports yesterday. According to Japan's Meteorological Society, Mount Ontake is Japan’s second-highest active volcano; it last had a minor eruption seven years ago.
Caution is prudent. On Saturday, the eruption of the 10,062-foot peak, 125 miles west of Tokyo, blanketed the peak with a deadly rain of ash and stone. Asian Access Vice President for Advancement Jeff Johnston explains, "The eruption really didn't have any warning. It's a popular spot for hikers, even those on religious pilgrimages will go. It erupted without much warning--couple of minutes. There was some rumbling, I think that some people reported, but not much. It just spewed ash and poisonous gas."
(Photo courtesy Wikimedia/CC/alpsdake)
Search efforts resumed despite fears of toxic gases and another eruption. Johnston adds, "The seismologists are saying, 'Be careful. It's still ongoing. It's till spewing ash and poisonous gas.' The government and the rescue workers are working there. You need to be praying for those working with immediate rescue and recovery."
Some of the headlines are calling it a "national tragedy." It's understandable. "It's been a difficult few years for Japan. On March 11, 2011, they had the triple disaster with the 9.0 earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear crisis. They've been dealing with that, but when another thing happens, Japan's mindset does get rattled a bit," Johnston adds.
Even though they're rattled, this is where the concept of gaman comes in. Gaman is widely defined as perseverance, self-denial, or according to Wikipedia, "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity." Structure provides the foundation for resilience. Plus, after 2011, emergency response to a single event will be smooth.
Teams are still in place from the triple emergency. A good share of A2's resources and people are still invested in the 2011 triple disaster zone (Tohoku). Does a disaster like this impact a ministry like Asian Access? Not precisely. Although Asian Access does not have personnel in the area of Mt. Ontake, that doesn't mean that believers won't respond, explains Johnsont. "The Church is definitely going to be there for emotional rebuilding. They have gone so far in advancing the cause of Christ in terms of this triple disaster."
Although Mt. Ontake is a short-term crisis, A2 needs wisdom to know how to practically help with this new disaster. The way they will help is to come alongside the Japanese Church and its leaders, helping to equip and encourage them for the ministry of emotional rebuilding, just as they are doing in Tohoku. "Pray that this kind of an event would cause people to ask the deeper questions of life, and that the Church would be there to provide hope through Christ and provide encouragement and practical help."
It won't be the last natural disaster in Japan, so there will be more opportunities for the Church in Japan to respond with God's love. Johnston considers this final point. "As horrible as this event is, pray that the Japanese people would think about eternity and their own mortality--in other words, how they want to live their lives in light of eternity."
Iran (SAT-7/MNN) -- Israel's Prime Minister is in the U.S. this week, trying to warn the nation's leaders about Iran's nuclear intentions. Yesterday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the P5+1 (U.S., Russia, China, France, and Britain, plus Germany) nuclear negotiations with Iran.
So far, Netanyahu's advice has largely fallen on deaf ears, and the negotiation deadline is fast approaching. Israel's PM has long warned the international community about Iran's ambition to develop nuclear warfare.
Despite all of this, church leaders are celebrating. SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, says there's a new Bible for a new Iran.
The New Millennium Version's language and style make it more accessible to readers, especially novice Bible learners. Its translation uses modern, easily-understandable language. The NMV also strives for literary excellence, in recognition of the deep love Persians have for poetry.
Rev. Dr. Mehrdad Fatehi, Coordinator and Chief Editor of the New Millennium Version described the translation as a new Bible for "a new Iran," referring to what some have called a "tsunami" of church growth in the country.
At the time of the 1979 Iranian revolution, there were few Christians outside of Iran’s Armenian and Assyrian communities. Now, Iran is thought to have the fastest-growing church in the world.
According to SAT-7, Farsi speakers in Iran are actively reaching out and searching for a deeper relationship with Jesus. Many do not have access to physical Bibles but are finding the words of Scripture on the SAT-7 PARS channel. Some have contacted SAT-7 PARS and shared that when Bible verses are shown on the TV screen, they hurry to write them down on paper so they can continue to study them.
Please pray that God will use this new translation of the Bible to declare spiritual truth to Farsi speakers, and that those who cannot access a physical Bible will learn its words through SAT-7 PARS.
Click here to learn more about SAT-7 PARS, which broadcasts to an audience of over 2 million Farsi-speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. You can help God's Word reach more people in Iran with a gift to SAT-7 PARS. Find out how $1 can bring SAT-7 PARS to one person for an entire year.
Missio Nexus photo op in front of the MNN booth! From left to right: MNN's Katey Hearth, Joe Handley of Asian Access, MNN's Laurelle Terrero, & Noel Becchetti of Asian Access.
USA (MNN) -- The 2014 Missio Nexus Leadership Conference for North American mission groups has come to an end. However, the new strategies and relationships formed during the four-day event in Atlanta, Georgia are only just beginning. Among the major takeaways from this year's event: collaboration.
"There's no way we can do the whole job alone; we need each other," notes Joe Handley of Asian Access.
"That's the reality of the Kingdom of God, and I think that's the way that God designed it to be. Unfortunately, many of us just say, 'Hey, it's our way or the highway,' or 'We've got the best thing since sliced bread, so if you can't do it our way, we won't work together.'"
Asian Access (A2) was among the first groups to put this theory into practice two years ago.
"We realized we were lacking in an area of sending folks to Asia to serve Christ, particularly in Japan," Handley recalls. "There was a huge need, and we just didn't have the capacity [to fill it]."
It took some time, but A2 and SIM USA were able to form a collaboration that worked well for both groups. Read more details here in the original article.
"That has been, really, a phenomenal partnership. Together, we're working in a way that advances the Kingdom in Japan," shares Handley.
"They let us lead the work in Japan, but they become the sending force."
(Map credit Asian Access)
Collaboration is woven into the fabric of A2's ministry. They don't just send short-term mission teams to Asia: they partner with national pastors to further the Great Commission.
"Every one of our national directors is the leader of a church or an entire movement, or even the bishop of a denomination," Handley says.
Asian Access develops Christ-like national leaders that strive to multiply churches and transform communities. A2 is working in 20 Asian nations, doing all for the glory of God.
Learn more about their ministry and how you can come alongside their work here.
"That's just one small example of what groups are doing; Asian Access isn't the only one."
Pray for new partnerships and collaboration that began at the Missio Nexus conference. Pray that these efforts will honor God and expand His Kingdom around the world.
Nigeria/Cameroon (ODM) -- Editor's Note: Due to the nature of this story and the related security issues, we thought it best to share it with you as it was written by Open Doors.
(Photo courtesy Open Doors)
On Friday, September 19th, as trading was in full swing in the northeastern town of Mainoik, Boko Haram fighters reportedly stormed the market place around 1:30pm, opening fire on traders and killing at least 36 people. Many who tried to escape the market area were killed by stray bullets or by vehicles as they attempted to flee across the highway. The town is less than 35 miles west of Borno's state capital Maiduguri. The military say they killed at least 48 insurgents as they fled the town.
One day before the assault on Mainoik, Boko Haram attacked the Federal College of Education in Kano. At least 15 people died in this attack. Witnesses said the attackers stormed the college, exchanging fire with police officers posted outside the grounds. There was at least one suicide bomber among the group whose explosives detonated when police shot him. The explosion caused the ceiling in one of the buildings to collapse. Several of the insurgents entered a lecture hall and opened fire on the students.
Boko Haram's violent attacks also occurred across the border in Cameroon. The militants launched their first assault in the early evening of September 18th in Assighassia. The army responded promptly; two militants were killed and a Cameroonian soldier was injured in the ensuing fight. "Two hours later, the terrorist group again attacked the village of Ganse and killed four civilians," state-run Cameroon Radio Television reported.
More than 40,000 people have fled to Cameroon to escape Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria. Now, the danger is following them across the border, prompting the UNHCR to try to move these refugees further from the front-lines.
Meanwhile, the bishops of Nigeria, in a September 21st statement, called upon the Nigerian government to do more to protect lives and properties. "As Nigeria tragically bleeds and burns, we bishops are alarmed at the scale of human and material destruction, and at the disruption of village and community life with increased levels of hatred and the potential for more conflicts in the nation. While Muslims are sometimes targets of these destructive attacks, Christians churches and non-Muslims in general are the principal targets for extermination, expropriation, and expulsion by the Boko Haram insurgents, the perpetrators of all this destruction…. In the face of this Boko Haram group and other criminal militias arming themselves beyond our legitimate government and brazenly killing innocent, defenseless citizens, our government must do more than it is currently doing to safeguard our lives and defend our nation. It must do more than it is currently doing to fight off and disarm these actual destroyers of Nigerians and Nigeria. It must do more than it is currently doing to prevent segments of our nation from drifting into anarchy and mutual self-destruction and to bring criminals to justice," the bishops declared.
Father, we pray for the nation of Nigeria and the constant onslaught of Boko Haram attacks. You call us to trust in You, and not in governments or other man-made institutions who cannot save. And so we turn to You, that You will save and empower the nation's forces to combat these attacks in a way that it will be clear that it has come from You. We pray for Christians who faithfully come to church and worship each week, knowing the danger. We pray for the girls who were kidnapped and their families, that You would protect and reunite them. And we pray for the many who have lost homes and family members, that You would provide comfort and shelter and sustenance, and that You would grant hope. In the name of Jesus, their only hope (and ours) in this life, Amen.
(Image courtesy of WorldServe Ministries)
Ethiopia (MNN) -- If life gives you lemons, build a church.
That's what a pastor in Ethiopia did and continues to do, despite the hardships he faces.
Wilfred Unrau of WorldServe Ministries shares this man's story, and a little about what they're doing in Ethiopia.
"WorldServe Ministries works with indigenous people in their countries. We don't have any North Americans on the ground at those places," he says.
They're currently working with five organizations in Ethiopia. Their work is to support, to provide for the needs these ministries have. Recently this has involved providing school desks for two schools. They're also helping to build three more schools in that area.
Unrau says there is a lot of persecution in Ethiopia and surrounding countries, despite over half the population being Christian.
"Ethiopia is a fascinating country. It's actually the only country in Africa that was not colonized, and it has a number of connections with our Bible," he explains.
A man with the right attitude
"I met a pastor that took us to his church, and we had an amazing worship service...so lively," Unrau says, explaining that he can't reveal the man's name because he is under persecution.
13 years ago, this man closed down his two night clubs after someone approached him and told him about the fulfillment of living in Christ. The next year he became a pastor and has since planted three churches. And if you count the church he planted in prison, it's four churches.
This man has been imprisoned for his faith eight times over the last 12 years.
You might wonder what drives a man to continue moving forward after so many years of opposition.
For one thing, he is devoted to serving God. Unrau says, "He's one of the people who looks more at 'What have I got' as opposed to 'What do I not have.'"
Everything he does have, Unrau explains, he uses to serve God.
A church built from persecution
So when people began throwing rocks at the people who came to his church services, the pastor prayed and asked God what he was supposed to do with this situation.
Unrua says, "He looked at the rocks and [thought], 'Wait a minute: the people are collecting the rocks for us to build our church.' And so this pastor built his first church from the rocks that people threw at them while they were having their church service. And he thought it was so cool because he didn't have to go collect the rocks: [the church's enemies] were all collecting them for him."
Unrau says it is people like this that WorldServe longs to partner with.
More recently the pastor has secretly met with Christian students at a local university. Unrau says he got to see seven students graduate from the university after being discipled by the pastor. They are going back to their villages to start churches so their people can hear the Gospel.
One of the students is heading back to Somalia. Those around him asked him if he knew what he was getting into, and he replied, "I could lose my life because of this. I am so happy to go plant a church in Somalia."
Unrau says the pastor's Godly attitude spread to the students he discipled.
Part of the work WorldServe does in other parts of the world is to establish micro loans. For the past four and a half years, WorldServe has never had a loan that wasn't paid back. They are carrying this ministry to Ethiopia in February.
Unrau says that many business leaders have given them money for a specific project that is a passion of theirs.
Unrau says this is a "super idea for those business people that want to see their money physically working out there."
He explains that the micro loans provide a unique opportunity for gifts of money to continue to work on the field for 10 years and beyond after the donation is made.
If you'd like to know more about WorldServe and how you can partner with them, visit them here.
"Worldserve.ca -- we gladly lose our flag in order to empower the indigenous people. It's not about us, it's about the work God is doing there and God allowing us to come alongside of Him and just do some amazing stuff. Those are the people that we're looking for," Unrau says.
Audio Scripture Ministries has been working in Mozambique since 2005. (Photo by ASM)
Mozambique (ASM/MNN) -- A ministry in Mozambique is growing by leaps and bounds amid political turmoil. Presidential elections are coming up on October 15. Audio Scripture Ministries (ASM) has work in one of Mozambique's most politically-charged cities, Xai Xai.
Just last week, a presidential candidate and his staff were attacked by members of the opposing political party while campaigning in Xai Xai and three neighboring cities. Political violence has been raging for over a year, and many fear the country will relapse into civil war.
Please pray for peace during the upcoming elections and that ASM staff will be protected. Pray also for a new project starting in the Chitewe language.
ASM has begun a new project in central Mozambique to record and distribute Scripture songs and stories in the Chitewe language, which is a subset of the primary Tewe language. ASM says 150,000 Chitewe speakers currently have no written Bible and no recorded Scripture materials.
Pray for national staff as they record the life-changing messages of God's Word and distribute them to those who need to hear.
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Iraq (MNN) -- Despite U.S. airstrikes, ISIS is at the gates of Baghdad.
Word from Canon Andrew White, also called the "Vicar of Baghdad," is that the militant Islamic terror group is roughly 2 km away. Already, there's been an attack on an Iraqi base roughly an hour from Baghdad's doorstep. The camp was overrun by militants last week.
The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East noted on Facebook that fierce fighting has been reported on the outskirts of the city. It comes at a time when the United States has admitted to underestimating what's been going on in Syria and overestimating Iraq's ability to fight the militants.
Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response says, "Hopefully, Baghdad will hold up, but it does mean more refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. As the world knows, everybody is stretched to the limits from north Syria over to northern Iraq and now down toward Baghdad."
What if ISIS does attempt taking Baghdad? It'll make a bad situation worse, Palmer predicts. "Where do you go from your capital city? If it falls, where do you go? There are a lot of people there: a lot of believers and a lot of non-believers that are just caught up in the crossfire."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
BGR humanitarian partners have been working in other parts of the country among some 250,000 other displaced Iraqis. Palmer says one of their partners in northern Iraq reported, "Every school building--about 600--was filled with Internally Displaced Persons and refugees. They can't even get school started. How do you handle sanitation? How do you handle feeding?"
It's more than that. Some of the IDPs were chased. The emotional and mental condition of the newer refugees is not good. "People have blank stares. They didn't even know where they were. They didn't know they had crossed from their country to another country. They're just fleeing, and they're just trying to find a place that is safe for their families for tonight. They don't know what's going to happen tomorrow."
It's the uncertainty that shatters what refuge exists. Uncertainty breeds despair. Despair often leads to hopelessness. "The Gospel plays a huge role because on top of the food and the shelter and the things that come to meet people's needs, it actually is the only thing that REALLY gives hope for the future."
(Image courtesy VOM-USA)
The team helped several hundred families by providing locally-purchased tents, drinking water, infant formula, and basic food staples. The same partners have helped an earlier group of refugees begin developing small businesses that will support their families and, as loans are repaid, help even more displaced families in turn. More are coming, and their resources won't hold out. "We've not seen anything like this in terms of man-made disaster, war, civil war in a long time, if ever. I would say that you're looking at the millions and the millions displaced. They're fleeing into Turkey. On the other side, they're going into Lebanon, Jordan. They're displaced in the country of Syria, north Iraq."
Yet, it has been difficult to raise the money needed to provide more than a drop in the bucket. Blame compassion fatigue, but Palmer says it's more than numbers. "You can look at the millions and say, 'Yeah, they're just numbers,' but also they're individual stories of people fleeing, like a son carried his father 60 miles on his back to get him to safety."
The displaced families represented the range of northern Iraq’s residents who would rather flee than submit to radical Islamist rule, including many Christians. Some observers believe northern Iraq’s ancient Christian communities are on the verge of extinction. Palmer says, "Pray for peace in this area. Pray that the Prince of Peace would come and change hearts. Until hearts are changed in this conflict, I'm not sure we're going to see an end to it."
Ask God to make His great love known to every Iraqi heart that is searching for peace.
Learn more about how you can help in this crisis by clicking here. Donations may be directed to BGR’s Disaster Response Fund. You can donate $10 to the fund by texting BGR to 80888.
(Photo courtesy of Baptist Global Response)
South Asia (BGR) -- Baptist Global Response shares the following prayer request for women in South Asia:
The Atulya Home in South Asia provides a safe place for young women coming from backgrounds of abuse, exploitation, and rejection.
“The vision of the home is to see the women healed and set free from their past, to find hope for their future, and to move into a destiny in God,” a ministry partner says. “These women come from places where they are considered worthless, so we long for them to discover who they are in God—that they are ‘atulya,’ which means ‘precious and of great worth.’”
The home currently houses seven women but has a capacity for 10. The staff creates an environment for these women where they can experience safety, healing, relationships, and community. Atulya also offers education, social and practical skills training, and vocational training, hoping to eventually equip inhabitants to live independently.
The staff would like to eventually expand and find a bigger facility so Atulya can house up to 15 women at one time.
Pray for the young women, and ask that they start to feel like they belong. Pray that they continue to want what God has planned for their lives. The holidays are particularly difficult as they watch others from the community return to their homes. Pray, also, that staff can raise enough money to cover costs.
Give to widows, orphans, and children here.
The Treasure(Photo credit World Mission)
USA (MNN) -- While globalization is one of the key issues highlighted at this year's Missio Nexus Leadership Conference, so is urbanization: the movement of people from remote locations into the city. Laurel Verburg of World Mission shares why their audio Scripture device, The Treasure, is perfect for both settings.
"No matter what your mission is, chances are the population you're working with is going to respond to an audio Scripture," Verburg observes. "So, The Treasure is a great tool for doing that.
"Small group ministry is huge in churches," she adds, "and if you're talking about urbanization--where people are coming in from remote areas, or coming en masse, illiteracy is still an issue.
"I would see that [The Treasure] would be used very appropriately for a local Christian that's trying to reach people that are coming in. You could set up listening groups that give hope [to foreigners] with the Truth of the message of Christ."
World Mission uses The Treasure as a tool to deliver God's Word to those who have never heard, targeting especially unreached people. Verburg is one of the World Mission workers spreading the word about The Treasure among Missio Nexus attendees.
Laurel and co-worker Beverly at the World Mission booth.(Photo credit MNN)
"Unreached people groups: that's our hotspot," states Verburg. "But, we love other people to consider it as a resource for what they're doing."
When other mission groups or churches ask World Mission for Treasures, Verburg says they first ask which people groups are being ministered to. Then, World Mission loads blank Treasure devices with whatever language is needed.
There are over 6,000 recorded languages World Mission can load onto The Treasure. But, this small organization didn't record all the languages by themselves.
"We share a library with other organizations," Verburg explains. "We don't want to redo what's already been done well."
The Rendille are a people groupnative to Northern Kenya.(Photo credit Wikimedia Commons)
Introducing people to Christ is the first purpose for The Treasure. But it's not the device's only function.
"It can be used in so many other ways besides evangelism," notes Verburg. "For example, in northern Kenya, Swahili is a very common language. But we might be working with the Rendille people. We can put two languages together if that's appropriate.
"Of course, we want the heart language first, but Swahili might be very valuable for them in learning, increasing their literacy, [etc.]."
Contact World Mission here to get The Treasure for your ministry.
(Photo courtesy of Living Water International)
West Africa (MNN) -- Ebola is more than a virus. It's more than an epidemic, and more than a deadly outbreak.
Ebola is a harsh and blatant reminder of our mortality.
U.S. troops are on the ground working against the spread of Ebola, says The Wall Street Journal. CNN says experts are developing possible vaccines and beginning to test them on humans, and another doctor exposed to Ebola has arrived in the United States for testing. These are the updates on Ebola.
How big is Ebola, really? How big will it get?
CEO and President of Living Water International, Mike Mantel, commented on some recent numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Early last week CNN reported the CDC estimated 550,000 to 1.4 million cases by January.
Mantel says, "There's fear within the health community and church community that if we take reported and unreported cases together, that number by January may be as high as 1.4 million."
He explains that this larger number includes the unreported cases as well as the officially recorded ones.
LWI works in the two most dangerous countries: Liberia (ten years) and Sierra Leone (seven years). Most of the workers on ground are nationals.
"Their focus is water access, sanitation, hygiene, and working with the local church to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Mantel says.
He shares that LWI needs to adapt their strategy in light of Ebola.
Some basic precautionary movements have been to have greater protection of those drilling the wells. That includes proper equipment of boots and gloves as well as separation from community members.
Mantel says their message about hygiene and prevention must be conveyed mainly by radio rather than shared in groups.
As the problem continues to grow geometrically and therefore exponentially, Mantel says LWI must ask themselves this question: "If in fact the numbers get as high as 1.4 in Liberia and Sierra Leone, how do we then continue to pursue our mission, given those incredible numbers?"
What effect it has on the movements of the Church
(Photo courtesy of Living Water International)
So far, Ebola has managed to be one step ahead of any effort to stop the spread. Whether it's people stepping in too late or not working together effectively, Ebola draws up more than medical questions all across the globe.
"There's a lot of misunderstanding, there's a lot of fear. There's a lot of death and fear of death. So, always when we're confronted with our own mortality or how we've spent our lives, or what's the meaning of life and what's the afterlife, certainly people are thinking about the Gospel," Mantel says.
Churches are asking themselves how they can best show up on a daily basis to encourage those living in fear.
Mantel says there is a very interesting link between Ebola, the Church, and sanitation.
Take Liberia, for example, where 85% of the population calls themselves Christians and attend church. This is an opportunity for church leaders to share information about Ebola, how to prevent it, and what behavioral practices they need to change to protect themselves and their communities.
And since Ebola brings up questions about death and eternity, this is an opportunity for churches to engage in that conversation and encourage communities with the truth of Jesus Christ.
"As we continue to educate and engage with the Church, the Church in a very real way can help stop Ebola as well as respond to the openness that people have for the Gospel because of the tragedy," Mantel explains.
And churches around the globe can encourage their congregations to step up and help. Mantel says support is needed both for prevention efforts--such as those done by LWI--and for medical treatment done by other organizations such as Samaritan's Purse and Doctors Without Borders.
To help Living Water International, click here.
Another way you can help is to pray.
"I often hear from our teams on the ground that there is spiritual darkness hanging over both Liberia and Sierra Leone related to this Ebola crisis, and they ask for our prayers: that the truth of the Gospel will shine, that the Lord will intervene, that knowledge will spread, that teams will work together, that NGOs, the governments, and the Church will work together. There's no more powerful response than prayer," Mantel says.
While the rest of the world grapples with the questions that arise from Ebola, Christians are supposed to have the answer: Jesus.
"I think it is an opportunity for Christians around the world to rally, to lean into an advocacy posture with governments, with non-governmental organizations, with Churches," Mantel says.
And if you're not concerned about Ebola because it's so far away, consider what that attitude will mean in light of the CDC's predictions:
"If the modeling tools really predict the future and 1.4 [million] will be infected in these two West African Countries, clearly Ebola will spread to other parts of Africa and the world. It's important to get ahead of, even at this point, the spread."
Iraq (MNN) -- As United States President Barak Obama admits to underestimating ISIS, the Islamic State has taken more territory. According to reports, ISIS is moving closer toward Turkey. Even though warplanes continue bombing the region, local leaders suggest it's too little to make any difference. This is making the refugee crisis even worse as non-Muslim and nominal Muslims flee for their lives.
Voice of the Martyrs is an organization looking out for the needs of the region's Christians. Todd Nettleton just returned from the Kurdish region of North Iraq. He describes the human tragedy. "The total is over 1 million people who have been displaced, including tens of thousands just that have come in the last six weeks."
Where have most of them come from? Nettleton says, "They're coming from all over, but primarily from the Nineveh plain, which includes Mosul and Qaraqosh and other Christian cities and villages where [most people were] Christian. ISIS seems to have targeted each village for takeover and to move the Christians out."
Todd Nettleton in Northern Iraq.
This was a difficult trip for Nettleton. He was fighting fear. "My role at VOM is to be a voice and to tell these stories. How could I sit in my comfortable office and talk about the bold faith of our Christian brothers and sisters if I'm not willing to get on a plane and do that?"
Voice of the Martyrs is working through local church partners to provide aid to those who are now in the region. Is it helping? "They don't have a lot of hope. Almost everyone we talked to [spoke] about leaving Iraq and going someplace safe. They don't trust that ISIS is going to be stopped."
Through local church partners, VOM is providing food, clothing, shelter, and Scripture to those in need. "When they go and distribute the aid, they also give them a Bible and also pray with them. For many of the people that they're meeting, it's the first time in their life that someone has prayed directly for them."
According to Nettleton, this providing outreach to non-Muslims as well as Muslims. He says Christians are seeing something new. "Muslims are far less defensive about Islam. Muslims know that ISIS is representing Islam, and they can't defend that. They are much more open to at least listening to the Gospel."
Many of you have been asking MNN how you can help victims of ISIS: you can help VOM.
Are you "N"?(Image credit VOM USA)
Nettleton explains. "We set up a Web site, http://www.i-am-n.com specifically to keep people updated on what's going on. It also provides an easy way to give online to support the work. And finally, you can order a T-shirt with the "N" symbol on the front of it." $10 of every T-shirt goes directly into the Middle East to help displaced Christians.
Listen to the complete interviews with Todd Nettleton here.
(Photo credit Wycliffe USA)
USA (WYC/MNN) -- Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. Congress designated September 30 as Bible Translation Day: a day to honor the work of Bible translation around the world.
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA shares the history of Bible Translation Day and the state of worldwide Bible translation today in the following article:
Did you know there’s a day set apart worldwide to honor the work of Bible translation? Well there is, and we’re excited to tell you about it!
In 1966, Wycliffe founder Cameron Townsend first shared an idea with Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris, his friend of several years.
“September 30 is St. Jerome’s Day,” Townsend said. “He’s the first translator of the whole Bible. I thought maybe we could get the House and Senate to pass a resolution calling for the president to proclaim September 30 as Bible Translation Day.”
Harris liked the idea and agreed to propose the resolution in the Senate. Soon Townsend received word that the resolution passed!
On September 30, 1966, a ceremony was held to proclaim that day as Bible Translation Day.
Since the Apache New Testament had only recently been completed, Townsend decided they should present that translation as part of the ceremony. Senator Harris presided, and Townsend arranged for Britton Goode, the Apache who had helped the translators, to present the Scriptures to him and Congressman Ben Reifel.
(Photo credit Wycliffe USA)
A Sioux Indian from South Dakota, Reifel had witnessed firsthand the impact that owning the Bible in her heart language had on his mother, who spoke only broken English and used the Sioux Bible to teach her children about God.
Several people gave speeches that day, including both Senator Harris and Congressman Reifel. Townsend’s speech was, as always, one that left the group in attendance encouraged and inspired.
“We are making history. By God’s grace and with His help, we are taking part in a tremendous enterprise,” said Townsend, as he began his speech. “The enterprise is Bible translation; the goal is hearts changed by God and disciples equipped to lead others to Christ. But before any translation can be done, before any change comes in a heart, we must overcome physical and language barriers.
“The language barrier is difficult to overcome. But it must be done. The Holy Spirit, speaking through John says, ‘After this, I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:9, NIV). We believe God has called us to help make this verse come true....
“This is not an impossible task. If it were, God would not have given it to us. But it is difficult. It takes hard work, dedication, perseverance, and commitment. Teachers at Wycliffe’s schools have helped thousands of students learn translation and literacy principles, but we lack people who are willing to go. Many don’t realize how Bible translation is still needed around the world.”
(Photo credit Wycliffe USA)
In the years since Townsend first started Wycliffe, 518 language groups have received the entire Bible, and 1,275 have the New Testament in the language they understand best. Additionally, over 1,500 Bible translation projects are currently in process.
Today, Wycliffe continues to carry on the tradition of celebrating Bible Translation Day. With unwavering focus towards the unfinished task at hand, Wycliffe seeks to pursue the goal that Townsend so eloquently laid out in his speech--that of bringing the translated Word of God into every language that still needs it.
See how Bible translation is changing the world around us.
(Photo credit GlobalSherpa.org)
USA (MNN) -- You can deny or resist it, but globalization is making the world a smaller place. National economies are becoming increasingly interlaced, as demonstrated by the 2008 global recession. Technology is bridging borders that were previously inaccessible to Christianity and the Gospel.
"Globalization is changing the world," said Robert Doll, one of the keynote speakers at this year's Missio Nexus Leadership Conference. "The only debate is the pace."
According to Merriam-Webster.com, globalization is "the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets."
Globalization is also a great opportunity for God's Kingdom--if Christians work together instead of just doing their own thing.
Ron Houp of GO InterNational (GO) explains how they "connect the dots" to tell more people about Jesus and further the Great Commission.
(Photo credit GO InterNational)
"Through the years, we have developed a number of partnerships with indigenous leaders in about 20 different countries…so that we can take a local church mission team to that ministry setting, and be assured that it'll be a blessing to the people of that area," explains Houp.
They also want to be assured "that when the church leaves, they have experienced what God is doing in that area."
National ministry partners are a vital part of GO's ministry, which spans from Mexico to Russia.
"We're developing new partnerships all the time," Houp notes. "We are working on a couple of partnerships in Europe right now. We've been in northern Ireland with mission teams; we're looking at France.
"Those are a little different because they're first-world countries; the needs there are different than third-world countries. But the Lord is moving in all those places, and it's very exciting to be a part of what He's doing there."
(Photo credit GO InterNational)
GO ministries include church planting, evangelism, pastoral and leadership training, children's ministry, aid to the poor, medical ministry, and community health evangelism. Short-term teams are typically on the field for 1-2 weeks at a time, but GO works with national partners in the context of a long-term relationship.
"If you've not been on a mission experience, if you've not gotten outside of your comfort zone, I would really encourage you to do that," Houp presents as a challenge. "That may mean just traveling across your town to a poor neighborhood. It may mean going to another state, or it might be another country.
"GO International provides all of those types of experiences, as well as internship experiences for university students."
Find an opportunity to "go" with GO InterNational here.
USA (MNN) -- It's been months in the planning stages. Now, Christian Resources International is ready for what could be an historic series of events in the Philippines.
CRI Executive Director Jason Woolford, his son, and the Michael Maher Band will be a part of a Gospel team heading there this week for Gospel meetings, a free concert, and a book and Bible distribution.
MNN told you about this event on previous newscasts. Woolford says with your help, CRI is sending free Bibles and Christian books worth more than $3 million to six different locations in the Philippines. As part of that effort, they'll also be opening a CRI distribution center in the north. Lord willing, this distribution center will be an ongoing source of Christian resources for years go come.
According to Woolford, there are still many in the Philippines--new Christians, rural pastors, and evangelists--who still need Bibles and Christian books to help them not only grow in their faith, but lead congregations.
That’s not all. In addition to the shipment of books, Woolford and his team will travel to the Philippines to hold Gospel meetings. The trip is scheduled for the first week in October. “I’ll be ministering in the Cuneta Astrodome in Manila. We’re expecting a minimum of 10,000 people [to] come and hear a free concert from the Michael Maher Band and then be ministered to. Each person will walk out with a free Bible or Christian book."
The Michael Maher Band from the Detroit area will join a CRI Gospel team heading to the Philippines this week.
The Michael Maher Band will also be presenting a free concert at the Gospel meetings.
Woolford says, they stepped out on faith for this outreach. "That's kind of on my mind, but God always...touches the hearts of the right people at the right time to give financially, so I know He's going to bring that to pass. So, if listeners want something to do and pray about, those are things for sure."
By supporting CRI, you become an international missionary without leaving your home.
How will you know if you've been effective? Woolford says, "When you get to Heaven, there will be people there who will greet you and say, 'It was me who got the free gift of God's Word that changed my life for eternity.'"
The impact will be profound, says Woolford. "This specific [Gospel meeting], Bible give-away, concert is expected to impact five million people in the next six years. So you can imagine the impact and the fruit that will have."
If you'd like to contribute to CRI, click here.
Egypt is free (Photo courtesy of Hossam el-Hamalawy/Flickr creative commons)
Egypt (BP) -- (The following article is from the International Baptist Mission Board).
A year after more than 85 churches and Christian institutions across Egypt were destroyed and burned, and three years after the country’s longest-serving president stepped down in the wake of nationwide protests, Christian workers here are finding an openness rarely experienced before.
Forgiveness, it seems, changes everything.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down after 18 days of nationwide demonstrations during what is now called the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Since then, Egypt has gone through various protests, elections, presidents, and the quake of upheaval.
In August last year, more than 85 churches and Christian institutions were attacked and burned as a result of demonstrations across Egypt calling for an Islamic state.
There was “a profound blow of disgrace and humiliation in this culture of honor,” said Ramez Atallah, General Director of the Bible Society of Egypt. “The non-retaliation of Christians was both unexpected and unprecedented,” he said.
Egyptians are now openly questioning everything, including their faith, and expressing doubts aloud, said *Patrick Stein, a Christian worker in Egypt and leader of a church-planting team here. To doubt isn’t rare, he said, but to openly challenge beliefs they have held onto is.
“They are hungry for truth in a way that was not present before the revolution and the ensuing turmoil,” said Stein.
“If I am talking to people at a tea shop, people around who are not a part of the conversation will often stop me afterwards and want to know more,” he said. “They will ask me their deep questions that have been troubling their hearts for years, but they never felt the ability to put those questions into actual words before.”
This year’s Ramadan observances provided opportunities for Muslims and Christians in Egypt to continue building relationships, Stein said. Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting that is observed around the world each year.
“The team had been invited to several Iftar dinners and got to share their faith at those,” said Stein. Iftar is the evening meal during Ramadan, breaking the fast for each day. These meals allow for relaxed conversations about life and faith.
“When visiting homes, it is easy to ask questions about their religious practices during [Ramadan],” said Christian worker *Adam Tate. “As a result, conversations often lead to the topics of fasting, forgiveness of sin, and assurance of salvation.”
Stein spends much of his time training local Christians from Coptic and Muslim backgrounds to share the Gospel and who to share it with, along with finding safe places to practice sharing.
“To be caught evangelizing to a Muslim is, firstly, against the law,” Stein said. “[Those who evangelize] could go to prison for many, many years, lose their businesses, their children would have no income, no way to pay for schools, etc. Many people just disappear in prisons here.
“Are they scared? Of course they are. Are they being obedient and sharing? Yes, they are. Do they sometimes hold back because of the fear? Yes, but not nearly as frequently as we do, and all we face in America is some small social stigma,” he said.
“I might be kicked out of Egypt for sharing; they may lose their very lives and place their loved ones in danger,” Stein said. “Despite the costs and implications of what they are doing..., despite many of their families begging them not to share, they continue to share. They inspire me.”
Faithful prayers for Egypt and Christians in Egypt have not gone unnoticed by Atallah, Stein, Tate, and other Christian workers here. They recognize God’s faithfulness in the prayers, giving, and encouragement from around the world.
As a result, “There are people in Egypt who have heard the Gospel, some for the first time,” Tate said.
“We don’t take for granted our cars and houses,” Stein said. They are provided through special missions offerings. “We try to use our houses as meeting places for prayer and worship, and the mobility of a car allows us to go to communities that would be difficult to get to without a private vehicle,” he said.
Stein added, “Often our families seem to be attacked by sickness and discouragement from the enemy [Satan], yet we know that people around the world are lifting us up, which gives us persistence and perseverance.”
Tate asks for prayer for wisdom and integrity in Egypt.
*Name changed for security.
William Bagsby is an IMB writer based in London.
(Image courtesy USCIRF)
USA (MNN) -- Religious freedom is at risk. How the United States deals with it sets the stage for global credibility on similar issues.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains, "The State Department issues a report. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issues a report. But the reality is, this administration has not placed an emphasis on religious freedom."
Nettleton goes on to clarify that the Office of International Religious Freedom is headed by the Ambassador-at-large, hence the problem. "This Ambassador for International Religious Freedom is a post that's been vacant for about half of the Obama Administration, so it's clearly not something that they are putting a high priority on."
With ISIS, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab making advances, carving out caliphates, and demanding recognition, this is an issue that has national security attached. Slow movement on filling the post is costly. "That affects our standing in the world. When we go to hold other countries accountable, we have clearly said by our actions, 'This is not that big a deal to us.' That decreases our ability to go to other countries and ask them for better treatment of religious minorities."
A recent congressional oversight committee hearing was held to check on government compliance with the International Religious Freedom Law. Although the law was passed 16 years ago, this is the first time Congress has checked on whether the State Department is implementing it.
A panel of advocates told the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security that the United States needs to both strengthen its religious freedom policies and take more seriously the position of the ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
In October 2013, the sitting Ambassador-at-large Suzanne Johnson Cook resigned the post. It took until late July 2014 for a new nomination. The new nominee is Rabbi David Saperstein.
Seems like progress, and yet, there are more delays. Nettleton blames mid-term elections. "I don't anticipate that there will be any significant changes between now and the elections. I think after the elections, there is at least the possibility that there will be a change. Obviously, it's a new season."
All the time the post was vacant means that the United States has had virtually no impact on the global rise of religious persecution. While American diplomats have helped in individual cases, there has been no comprehensive policy in place to help the millions who suffer because of their faith.
What would change this? Training for State Department workers, giving the ambassador-at-large more clout, and asking high-ranking officials to speak out on the importance of religious freedom. All three items were part of the recommendations made to the oversight committee.
Who cares? After a new Congress gets seated and the dust settles, there are still confirmation hearings before a nomination goes through. In all that time, thousands more religious minorities--most often Christians--will be displaced or killed
One of VOM's main missions is to encourage and empower Christians to fulfill the Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's a big part of why they're speaking out on this issue.
It's not all bad news. "The treatment of religious minorities is a significant factor in our battle against the Islamic State. That may raise the value of the issue. That may raise it more so than it has been, just because right now we're paying so much attention to the Islamic State." Nettleton urges prayer on the issue. Keep in touch with your Congressman, too. If the issue is important at home, it'll be important to those elected to represent the people at home.
Syria (ODM) -- Open Doors International, a global charity serving Christians who are under pressure because of their faith, has joined 38 non-governmental organizations in a campaign demanding diplomatic action to protect civilians amid Syria’s civil war.
(Screen shot from the With Syria campaign Web site)
The campaign, called With Syria intends to redouble pressure on United Nations members to live up to promises they made in February. At that time, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed a resolution condemning both sides in the conflict of "besieging civilians as a tactic of war" and demanding that the Syrian government permit humanitarian access to civilians.
"Six months later, the country is more chaotic than ever, with more than 1,500 armed groups in operation across the country and fighting spreading into northern Iraq," the With Syria campaign said in a Sept. 23 press release.
The campaign has created an online petition, addressed to "world leaders," to "use your power to hold the UN Security Council to its word."
The coalition, comprised of organizations in 27 countries, announced its campaign just ahead of last week's week-long session of the UN General Assembly.
Open Doors International operates in more than 50 countries, providing Christian materials, training, trauma counseling, emergency relief, and other services. The With Syria campaign joins humanitarian and development NGOs.
The Open Doors affiliate in the United Kingdom said OD was joining the partnership "to bring the suffering Syrian population back into the center of the debate, where they belong." The initiative, it said, is in line with "the church's call for a ceasefire and protection for all."
Syria ranks No. 3, behind North Korea and Somalia, on the Open Doors World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. Before the war, the government’s "totalitarian paranoia" was the primary source of pressure on Christians. Now, it says the biggest source of persecution is "extremist Islamist elements."
(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)
International (MNN) -- When people learn English as a second language, they learn today's English. When they don't have the Bible in their own translation, they're going to read it in English. They'll read a modern translation of the Bible because it's what they understand best.
And when their heart is burdened for their own people to hear the Gospel, they'll want a translation. And here lies the problem. Any Scripture in the English they know is relatively new. And any translations of the last 50 years are under the confines of copyright.
What does that mean for the translation process?
Wycliffe Associates president and CEO Bruce Smith explains this is a bigger problem than what people think. It slows down the process of Bible translation immensely. And it's not just people who speak English as a second language.
Because of the natural changes and shifts in a language over time, it's harder for anyone in this modern day to fully explain some of the older, public domain texts.
Rather than let this roadblock slow down the process of translation, Wycliffe Associates has decided there is still work to be done with what resources are available.
With the help of various partners, Wycliffe Associates has developed 50 Bible stories that are open to everybody--no copyright.
Smith explains, "Open Bible Stories is a collection of 20 Old Testament and 30 New Testament stories, and it's a way for people to get rapid Bible content into their communities through storying.
"The unique thing about Open Bible Stories is they are explicitly not copyrighted, which basically means that they are open sourced: they're available for anybody to translate readily into any new language."
This resource will allow for faster and easier access to Scriptural content for more languages. The Open Bible Stories are in print, digital, and audio format--it can reach communities regardless of their level of access to technology.
Smith explains this method is effective because it is a form of storying. Story telling is a natural start to introducing the Gospel, and it relates to all people around the world.
"These 50 Open Bible Stories are basically a script that allows them to get that Old Testament and New Testament content into the community conversation quickly and pave the way for Scripture translation to follow," says Smith.
It only takes about four to six weeks for a new translation to be completed. It's short-term work with immediate impact, Smith explains.
Want to help?
"We need people to be involved in the training and producing the tools that will help teams around the world to be able to use this," Smith says.
Eventually the project will need technicians, trainers, and Biblical scholars to enable translators to better understand what they're reading.
If you want to be on this team, contact Wycliffe Associates here.
Here is a volunteer opportunity for web and app developers.
For more information and to partner with Wycliffe financially, click here.
And finally, says Smith, you can support Wycliffe Associates through "prayer, to be sure that we're on the right track, that we're in sync with what God is doing in and through the church around the world, and using it in a way that helps to speed the access to his Word."