Slum well in Mumbai.(Photo credit MNN/Katey Hearth)
South Asia (MNN) -- One in nine people worldwide has no access to clean water. What those individuals do have access to looks and smells like something you'd find in a dirty fishbowl.
This month, Gospel for Asia (GFA) is highlighting the need for clean water in South Asia. They're praying for enough funding to dig 5,000 more Jesus Wells which will bring clean water and the Gospel to poor villages.
GFA-supported Gospel workers who dig Jesus Wells don't limit their clean water to Christian families. Entire communities are invited to use the well, regardless of religious background. As Christ's love is demonstrated to nonbelievers through the provision for basic needs, hearts soften and become receptive to the Gospel.
So far, GFA has raised 68% of their financial goal. If you can help them cross the finish line before 2014 comes to a close, click here.
Pray for enough funding to dig 5,000 Jesus Wells. Pray that the provision of clean water will improve health and open doors in communities to share the Gospel.
(Map credit YourMiddleEast.com)
Iraq (MNN) -- According to Reuters, ISIS has formed a new religious police squad in Nineveh, and Iraq's Shi'ite leader says their country needs international help to fight what he calls "black terrorism."
Citing a militant Islamic Web site, Reuters reports Nineveh's Islamic State police force was created to "implement the orders of the religious judiciary." However, other sources within the province told Reuters these new authorities were mainly focused on capturing "people they consider opposed to their cause."
The horrific acts of ISIS, from beheadings captured on video to a rape campaign in Iraq, are meant to invoke widespread terror and dread. While seemingly too intense for a modern era, ISIS terror tactics are nothing new: ancient Assyrians, known for their cruelty, used fear to expand their territory.
Steve VanValkenburg of Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, says the viciousness of ISIS underscores why national Gospel workers are so effective.
Flag used by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
"When you have people who are from that area, they know best how to handle themselves, even though outwardly, you would think there's no way they can have a ministry," states VanValkenburg.
Christian Aid supports pastors who have stayed in Mosul to minister to Muslims, and church planters who are caring for refugees in Kurdistan. The church planters report a great spiritual harvest among Iraqi refugees. Find more details in the full report.
"As they [church planters] go around and provide food and supplies, they also provide the Gospel and New Testaments. People are becoming Christians, and so the logical place to meet would be whatever tent [they] are living in," VanValkenburg says.
"As people congregate in tents and they begin to sing, it attracts other people that want to come and hear what's happening."
You can help Iraqi missionaries reach more refugees here.
With financial support, Iraqi missionaries can care for refugees' physical and spiritual needs. Along with practical supplies like food, shelter, mattresses, and medicine, missionaries are also handing out complete Bibles, New Testaments, tracts, and Bible-based coloring books for children.
In the Kurdish area of Iraq, where people ofdifferent beliefs fled atrocities of theIslamic State, the Iraqi ministry teamsupported by Christian Aid Mission foundpeople in need of water, food and medicine.(Photo, caption courtesy Christian Aid)
"They've got some good, strong, healthy churches, so they've got plenty of manpower and plenty of ability to reach out," VanValkenburg shares. "They just need resources."
VanValkenburg explains how Christian Aid helps indigenous missionaries in the full interview.
As always, prayer is the biggest need--even more so at a time like this. Pray for unity among world leaders as they try to overcome ISIS. Pray for an end to Islamic State terrorism. Pray for God's grace to be upon aid workers and indigenous missionaries as they reach out in Christ's name.
More Iraq updates here.
(Photo courtesy Russian Ministries)
Ukraine (MNN) -- Air and anti-tank defense perimeters are being tightened. Shells regularly fall. Gunfire can be heard often.
Sounds like a battle, right? This conflict is nearly a year old. Yet, says Russian Ministries president Sergey Rakhuba, "Nobody wants to recognize it yet, but this is a war between Russia and Ukraine. My family reports that their neighbors are going to help to dig trenches around my hometown, Zaporozhye."
Front-line towns like Zaporozhye are trying to protect themselves, because Ukraine can't. Rakhuba says, "Ukraine is a bankrupt country. Now, the global community starts kind of helping them to rebuild their economy and their life. But the Ukraine is a very poor country." Refugees are flooding into the region only to find a grim situation. "The government failed those people. There's no support for refugees on behalf of the Ukrainian government."
Last week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked for help before a joint session of Congress and from President Obama in the Oval Office. Poroshenko left with a promise of $7 million in an aid package, but without the specific help requested.
(Photo courtesy Russia Ministries)
This is where the Church comes in. Their "field headquarters is based in Ukraine, in Kiev. Our families and our training centers spread throughout Ukraine are caught right in the middle of that crisis that we've been watching growing since last fall," says Rakhuba. It also means they're in the right place at the right time to catch those falling through the cracks. "Churches are getting involved, helping Ukrainian soldiers with even, sometimes, uniforms, to buy helmets, to help them to protect, to be safe in the fight."
More specifically, "The Church brings spiritual, emotional relief. They bring the word of encouragement. We call it a word of 'hope.' The Church fills the gap that the government cannot do even materially."
How? Rakhuba shares one of dozens of similar stories trickling out of the region. "People who managed to escape that area with the bombs and shelling--where the fight is going on--come to the outskirts of Zaporozhye, get out of the car, and start knocking on the doors of homes: 'Would you be able to provide shelter for us for one or two days until we figure out something more permanent?'
"They come to a Christian home, and the guy takes them to church. The church surrounds this family, they provide food and shelter, and they provide all the resources they need. They provide medicine for them, and they were with three little kids."
(Photo courtesy Russian Ministries)
Wherever they are, the Christians have been working on improving living conditions. "We see the Church has started growing because of the refugees that are looking for places. The government does not support them, but the Church steps in. They fulfill their responsibility to be the 'salt and the light' in the midst of crisis."
With thousands of displaced seeking refuge, resources are being stretched thin. Prayer helps a lot. $25 helps. $50 helps. Rakhuba says these believers are our family. It's our duty to respond. "Through our 'I Care' program, there is a wonderful opportunity to advance the Gospel through providing food packages and Scripture to these needy families. $50 will provide enough food for an entire week, for a family of three to five people, but it also provides a copy of Scripture."
Click here to get started.
(Photo courtesy World Mission/Greg Kelley)
Nepal (MNN) -- This seems like a dismissible number -- .6% out of 1000.
But before you dismiss it, consider this: according to the Joshua Project, .6% of Nepal's nearly 30 million people are Christian. Out of 337 people groups, 328 have never heard about Jesus. That totals around 28,694,000 out of 28,922,000 people. Joshua Project says 82.2% of the population are Hindu and 10.2% are Buddhist.
That's a lot of people who don't know Christ and who have never heard about Him.
But thanks to work done by World Mission, the number of people who have heard about God is growing.
Greg Kelley of World Mission is in Nepal where they are distributing digital audio players of the Bible called The Treasure.
He says, "I'm standing here in the mountains of Nepal just literally in awe of the natural beauty of this place-- it's amazing. And yet I think of the spiritual condition, and the contrast is so alarming.
(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
"Most people who do research say that nine out of ten Nepali have never heard the name of Jesus. And on this recent trip with World Mission, we had the opportunity to meet people who through the influence of The Treasure became followers of Jesus and have even planted a church here, all in the last twelve months. And so, it's exciting to see God moving in Nepal."
World Mission believes in the guiding power of prayer. Will you pray for God to lead them to people whose hearts are ready to receive the Gospel?
If you'd like to partner with World Mission, click here.
Group photo after getting-to-know-you games conclude.(Photo, caption courtesy Haggai)
International (MNN) -- What would our world look like if leaders used their sphere of influence to further God's Kingdom? That's the driving force behind the Haggai Institute, which trains Christian leaders to share their faith at the workplace.
Haggai's VP of International Training, Arthur Dhanaraj, says they're currently training leaders from 20 countries at one of their international centers.
"You name any profession, we have it. These people come with a great commitment of making a difference in their nation," shares Dhanaraj. "We have all kinds of 'spheres of influence.'"
Haggai is training leaders who are judges, medical professionals, lawyers, professors, scientists, retired army personnel, architects, university principals, financial consultants, bankers, human resources professionals, hotel owners; "and the list goes on and on," Dhanaraj states.
At the current training session, "70% of the participants are from Asia, 15% Africa, 15% Latin America, and a few of them are from former Soviet Union countries."
(Photo credit Haggai)
Haggai training lasts from 15 to 30 days. Haggai alumni lead the training sessions and teach leaders how to effectively share their faith at the workplace. Since each alumnus develops his or her own course materials, lessons aren't based on Western thinking.
"We have leadership subjects like confronting, leadership, communication, and how to pass on the training that they have received," says Dhanaraj. "These people are committing themselves to go back and train at least 100 others in the next two years."
This commitment results in a multiplication effect: thousands of people in places Western believers can't reach get to hear the Gospel in a context they can understand.
However, the process can't begin without your help.
"When you support this ministry, you support a missionary for a lifetime," Dhanaraj says, explaining that sponsorship provides the financial support leaders need to attend training sessions.
Send a national leader to the next Haggai training session.
Most importantly, surround the current training session and its participants in prayer. Pray for understanding so each lesson will "sink in" and be put into practice. Pray for softened hearts to receive the Gospel. Pray that people who don't know Jesus will come to know Him through the words and actions of Haggai alumni.
"These nations will be reached, and they are being reached," concludes Dhanaraj.
(Photo courtesy Global Aid Network)
Liberia (MNN) -- The Ebola epidemic is raising serious concerns about food security in Liberia. Mark Gaither with Global Aid Network (GAiN) explains, "It has caused a panic. People are avoiding contact with aid workers and with people who are running the clinics. The U.N. is reporting that the disruption is going to cause the economy to go through a real struggle over the next several months because of the Ebola outbreak."
International aid workers warned that more help was needed as the country battles not only the virulent disease, but also hunger as travel restrictions have blocked food from getting to parts of the seaside capital. High demand and low supply means that food prices have skyrocketed.
The United Nations has said 1.3 million people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will need help feeding themselves in coming months. Gaither says that matches the reports they're getting from their partners. "What we're being told is that food security is going to be an issue because food production is disrupted."
(Photo courtesy Global Aid Network)
The problem isn't just that supplies are cut off. Ebola has also spread in the farming regions. A good rain this year means the corn and rice harvest will be affected as quarantines prevent laborers from accessing farms. GAiN is trying to meet that potential disaster, too. "In preparing a container full of medical supplies and aid for treating Ebola patients, we've also loaded non-GMO seeds and heirloom seeds so that they can be planted and harvested for the next season of seeds, and drip irrigation and irrigation equipment."
Seeds don't help those who can't get food today. Gaither explains, "Food packets are also on board. We partner with Feed My Starving Children. One of the products that they have is a potato-based meal full of nutrients that is specifically designed for convalescing patients." The container arrived in Liberia September 17, says Gaither. "It is in the clearing process now. Whenever we send a shipment to some far away port, we are always hoping for the best, but it can be a lengthy process."
(Photo courtesy Global Aid Network)
Next, the materials have to be transported in-country safely. A network is already established for that, notes Gaither. "Most of the time, we are working with people in country that we know and have established relationships with, and THEY are in contact with the community."
Working with church partners opens a lot of other doors down the road. "As they are distributing the aid, they are using this aid in the context of relationship that already exists or one that they are initiating and want to continue." Within the context of that relationship, Gaither says, "As we are obeying Christ's commands to feed the hungry and care for the sick, if you are prepared to explain the hope that is within you, then you will have wonderful opportunities to explain what you're doing."
Gaither says people who receive aid often ask, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you risking your life to help me?" GAiN's response is, "I'm doing this because I work for a Great Physician, and His name is Jesus. He has told me to bring you this aid."
GAiN is helping to secure futures both now and later, and you can help: pray, give, or go. Click here to get started.
Iran (ACLJ/MNN) -- The following is an update by the American Center for Law and Justice about Pastor Saeed Abedini. As the two-year anniversary of his arrest approaches, please be in prayer for his release, his strength of faith, and for the perseverance of his family.
American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Muslim convert to Christianity, faces an 8-year prison sentence after his September 2012 arrest and indictment in Iran because of his religious beliefs. The Iranian government refuses to recognize his U.S. citizenship or make his charges public. Abedini's U.S.-based family is being represented by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).(Photos courtesy of ACLJ).
More than 700 days ago, American Pastor Saeed Abedini boarded a flight to Iran and never came back. Christmas has come and gone twice; he has missed children's birthdays and other family celebrations. After many false hopes that freedom could come, the Boise, Idaho resident remains imprisoned by the Iranian government on charges related to his Christian faith. Now, two years to the day of Abedini's incarceration, thousands will gather in more than 460 vigils in 30 countries and territories to pray for his safe release and call upon their governments to act on his behalf.
The prayer vigil participants will join global supporters who have contributed more than 900,000 signatures to petitions and letters demanding Abedini's freedom.
"The kids and I are longing to see Saeed returned home safely to us. The kids have been suffering for too long. Our family is ready. It is time," said Naghmeh Abedini, the pastor's wife. "We are praying for a miracle. My hope is that, as thousands gather together on September 26, our governments and leaders will be reminded of the importance of religious freedom for all and continue to pressure Iran to secure Saeed's release."
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (center, red tie) and ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow (right of Cruz) kneel in prayer outside of the White House on Sept. 26, 2013. Cruz and other national political and faith leaders joined with the ACLJ in calling for Pastor Saeed Abedini's release at prayer vigils marking the one-year anniversary of the pastor's imprisonment in Iran. (Photo courtesy of ACLJ)
The day after last year's prayer vigils on the first anniversary of Abedini's imprisonment, President Barack Obama made a historic phone call to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran in which Obama expressed concern about Abedini's treatment and called for his release.
"Pastor Saeed has become the face of the persecuted Christian church worldwide, one of many Christians around the world who face imprisonment, beatings, and even death for their faith," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the law firm leading global awareness efforts to free the jailed pastor. "As the world's eye turns to violence against Christians in the Middle East, we raise a united voice in urging Iran to free Pastor Saeed and grant him clemency. It’s time for Saeed to come home."
Arrested in July 2012 while building a government-approved orphanage, Abedini is currently serving an eight-year judgment at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, Iran, a place where "every day is a potential death sentence," Sekulow has said.
Despite suffering from repeated beatings, malnourishment, and lack of proper medical treatment, local family members report that Abedini remains hopeful, writing of himself: "A Prisoner in the Darkness in Iran, but free for the Kingdom and Light."
7,000 miles apart, Abedini and his wife Naghmeh--who remains in Boise with their two young children--celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary earlier this summer. Their daughter, Rebekka, celebrated another birthday just over a week ago without Saeed present this year. She turned 8 years old just days before the anniversary of her father's imprisonment.
About the ACLJ
Based in Washington, D.C, and led by chief counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice focuses on life, free speech, religious liberty, human rights, and constitutional law. The ACLJ is online at ACLJ.org.
New listeners in Nepal.(Photo courtesy of World Mission)
Nepal (MNN) -- What chance does an audio recording of the Bible have against the darkness of false religions?
What chance does it have to dispute the practices of sex slavery and remove the weight of poverty?
BBC calls Nepal one of the poorest countries. The main religions are Hinduism and Buddhism. With many neighbors holding anti-conversion laws, Nepal is considering the same (read more about that here).
A believer and prayer warrior in Nepal.(Photo courtesy of World Mission)
The Nepali-Indian border is an area of heavy sex-trafficking activity.
World Mission president Greg Kelly is on the ground in Nepal, and his team is passing out The Treasure, a small digital audio player of the Bible. The effectiveness of the Bible in audio cannot be underestimated by the palm-size of the player.
Kelley shares, "For the last several days I've been with a group from World Mission traveling through Nepal. Right now I'm walking through the jungle mountains next to a beautiful river, and the contrast of the beauty of the country with the spiritual condition is just alarming.
"We had the opportunity to meet villages that were literally 100% Buddhist, and also Hindu influence as well. We [distributed] Treasures, and we saw people come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.... A new church [has been] planted, and now there are ten new Christians in a remote village in the southern part of Nepal worshipping Jesus. We just ask you to lift them up in your prayers as they're reaching out and sharing the Gospel with their friends and family and neighbors in the area."
A Nepali girl holds her new 'Treasure.'(Photo courtesy of World Mission)
As you consider these new believers and the challenges they're about to face with their new faith, share this news with your neighbors, friends, and family. It can be an opportunity to pray as a group for these Nepali believers, or an opportunity to share your faith with those around you.
If you would like to partner with World Mission, click here.
(Graphic credit InterVarsity)
USA (ICF/MNN) -- A quarter-million international students are stepping onto U.S. college campuses for the first time this fall. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship says whether they know it or not, these freshmen are looking for two things: friendship and abundant life.
The campus ministry explains why's and how's in the blog below, taken verbatim from InterVarsity's Web site:
This fall, a quarter-million international students have stepped onto U.S. college campuses for the first time.
They arrived on planes from Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Iran, and everywhere else.
These young men and women are the best minds of their home countries. They are inquisitive, eager, hard-working, and just plain smart.
Looking for a Friend
As they arrive for their first year of college in the U.S., they are looking for two things, whether they know it or not. First, they are looking for friends. And second, they are looking for abundant life.
They find both when they connect with InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry.
(Photo credit InterVarsity)
Their arrival provides InterVarsity with the wonderful opportunity to welcome these students to our country and the campus. We give tours of cities, teach and play new sports, go on retreats, invite them home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And we have the privilege of learning about their homes and lives, too.
But ministering to international students is not only fun: it’s also effective and strategic. The students usually already know English and are eager to understand U.S. culture, so we can connect with internationals from dozens of countries without having to learn dozens of languages. Plus, we can much more easily minister to those from closed countries while they’re on U.S. campuses and more open to learning new things.
While some students will remain in the U.S. after graduation, many of them will use their degrees to become academic, business, and government leaders in their home countries. And students who’ve been transformed by Jesus during college will influence their home countries in other ways, as well.
The welcome and experiences international students receive in the U.S., especially during their first few weeks of cultural transition, have a long-term impact on their lives and views of both Christianity and America. As internationals reach positions of leadership, that impact is multiplied considerably.
A Future World Leader
(Photo credit InterVarsity)
Here’s one example: on a transatlantic flight some years ago, a businessman chatted with a new student from a closed country. He realized the student had no one to pick him up when his connecting flight arrived in the U.S. As the plane touched down, he thought of a way to help this student.
He called InterVarsity.
A staff member volunteered to meet the student at the airport, offered him a guestroom for the night, drove the young man around town, and showed him stores where he could find the things he needed at good prices.
That young man eventually graduated and later became prime minister of his country. When the two men reconnected this year through Facebook, the former student (and prime minister) said, “I have never forgotten your generosity and help.”
There are over 800,000 international students on campuses across the country. Imagine if every one of them experienced kindness like this!
You can be part of welcoming international students. Invite them to join you in fun activities, meals, or shopping trips with your friends. This brief video provides several other ideas.
And this article includes tips for building friendships with international students.
May tens of thousands of international students experience the great love of Jesus Christ this fall through His people!
(Photo credit Living Water Int'l)
Liberia (EFCA/MNN) -- By definition, a "side effect" can mean the harmful and unwanted effect of a drug or chemical that occurs along with the desired effect, or it can mean the result of an action that is not expected or intended.
Since it's unlikely anyone intended to start West Africa's Ebola crisis, let's use the first definition of side effect as a frame of reference.
Focusing specifically on the harmful and unwanted effect, we're taking a look at side effects of the current Ebola outbreak in Liberia, using information from a blog written by GlobalFingerprints. GlobalFingerprints is the child sponsorship ministry of EFCA ReachGlobal.
"The residual effects of Ebola reach further than the infection," writes EFCA's Peggy Maynard.
"In an effort to combat and isolate the virus, borders have been closed, flights cancelled, businesses shuttered, schools and government offices closed, markets shut down, and health clinics refusing to treat patients. The side effects of this are devastating."
Thankfully, none of the children Global Fingerprints cares for were infected with Ebola. However, their lives are now being severely impacted by the outbreak's social and economic side effects.
Maynard writes, "Even before this crisis, unemployment was around 85% and many people were living on the edge of survival. Now, the few people who had jobs are out of work. The combination of lost income and rising prices is devastating."
(Photo credit Global Fingerprints)
The United Nations warned earlier this week that at least $1 billion is needed to contain the Ebola outbreak that's been sweeping across West Africa since March. An estimated 2,400 people have been killed by the virus, and nearly 5,000 infections have been reported to health officials.
ReachGlobal church partners in Liberia are responding to the crisis in Christ's name through an Ebola education initiative, supply distribution, and sanitation training. At each step along the way, believers are encouraging people with Gospel hope.
Go here to learn more about ReachGlobal's efforts and help them with a gift.
"I Care" packages provide Scripture to familiesand enough food for a week.(Photo courtesy of Russian Ministries)
Ukraine (MNN) -- Humans are constantly trying to make sense of the madness in this world. Part of our mode of dealing with chaos is to fight it with organization and planning.
Russian Ministries is at a point where they can begin to fight the madness in the Ukraine crisis with a plan.
Mark Papierski of Russian Ministries describes the current state of events in Ukraine: "Right now the Ukrainian government doesn't even have enough resources to feed their own soldiers. So when you look at the refugee crisis, which back in March was just the 11,000-12,000 Tatars from Crimea that were going over the border, [the number] now has increased to over 260,000 refugees from Eastern Ukraine that are going into Western Ukraine.
"And the only source for help is the evangelical church that we're working with."
The churches of Ukraine were overwhelmed at the beginning.
Papierski says, "The crisis, as you know, was very unexpected. There wasn't a lot of preparation or even training for these people at the initial stages. And so they were overwhelmed with, first of all, just meeting physical needs."
That's why Russian Ministries started the "I Care" program which provides refugee families with a week's supply of food, and also with Scripture. The churches have also been providing basic psychological counseling, but as the violence continues, Russian Ministries can see it is not enough.
"The people are dealing with stress, anxiety, a whole bunch of other things that the pastors really haven't been able to prepare for," Papierski says. "So we're preparing training sessions that will help them identify what Post Traumatic Stress syndrome is, how to help with basic psychological needs, but then also provide resources for helping [people] find jobs, helping them find lost love ones, helping them deal with the grief that they've experienced."
Basically, Russian Ministries' plan of attack fits into three phases that align themselves with three goals: "The initial goal is relief: to stop the bleeding, to help with basic needs. Then the second goal would be to help with rehabilitation: get them back to where they were before the crisis happened. And then work on the development: so, spiritual formation."
Spiritual formation takes the form of pastoral and biblical counseling that will help these refugees mature in their faith, or maybe encounter Christ for the first time.
"A lot of the people coming have no church background and wouldn't step into an evangelical church before this crisis happened. But now after they've been loved on and fed and cared for, then after the physical needs are met, then you can work on the spiritual needs," says Papierski.
On October 9 and 10, Papierski and a team will head to Ukraine to train 25 local pastors for this spiritual formation.
After this "test" round of training, they will revise the handbooks and material and send them out to the 500 churches Russian Ministries is partnered with throughout Ukraine.
And after that, they hope to send the material out to the 2500 graduates of School Without Walls scattered throughout 12 countries and 65 locations of the former Soviet Union.
How can you help?
Pray for these families to find comfort in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus. Pray for healing, both emotionally and physically.
You can also give $20 to provide a pastor with a translated version of Caring for Souls by Dr. Harry Shields. This is part of the spiritual formation material that will be used to train evangelical pastors.
To support this book, or to supply a box of food and Scripture, give to the "I Care" program here.
Spring is usually the season of new life. But forKeys for Kids, new life is coming in October.(Photo credit Kelli Gessner via Keys for Kids Facebook page)
International (MNN) -- For Christians, spiritual rebirth through Christ means new life and, usually, a new purpose. For a Michigan-based children's ministry, rebirth also means new life; but, its purpose is staying the same.
Terre Ritchie, Executive Director of Keys for Kids Ministries, says His Kids Radio, formerly a production of Cornerstone University, is being reborn and re-branded as Keys for Kids Radio.
"We have talked with all of the original alliance members from HisKids.net, and they're all excited about it," says Ritchie. "We just moved into a brand new building, [and] we have created a studio in our new offices for the Keys for Kids Radio."
Ritchie says Keys for Kids hopes to have everything ready by October 23: the 25th anniversary of His Kids Radio.
His Kids Radio
His Kids Radio hit the airwaves in 1989 and was carried throughout West Michigan on WCSG, a donor-supported radio station owned by Cornerstone University.
"[His Kids Radio] was created under the Cornerstone University umbrella, here in Grand Rapids, all those years ago. A lot of work went into that; Dodd Morris, Lee Geysbeek, and a lot of people were involved in that," Ritchie shares.
Moving His Kids Radio to the Web in 2006opened a new realm of possibilities.
In 2006, Cornerstone Radio executive Lee Geysbeek and His Kids Radio Director Dodd Morris transferred His Kids Radio to the Web. By shifting their collaboration of Christian children's programs from a West Michigan station to a platform that could be easily accessed by listeners worldwide, HisKids.net opened a new realm of possibilities for the radio ministry.
Sadly, those possibilities never came to full fruition.
"For the last six or seven years, it hasn't been running with anything new on it; it's kind of been running in a 'jukebox' form," Ritchie says.
"They [Cornerstone Radio] have offered us the opportunity to take that over, and as a fully-run kids' ministry…. We are more than excited about this."
Keys for Kids Radio
Ritchie plans to keep the purpose of His Kids Radio the same: pointing children to Jesus through radio drama. It's just getting a face life, name change, and new voice through Keys for Kids.
Keys for Kids Radio will still carry the same programs that were on His Kids Radio: "Paws and Tails, Wee Kids, Karen and Kids, Kid's Corner; soon to talk with The Pond," shares Ritchie.
(Logo credit Keys for Kids)
While everything looks to be in line for the October launch, Ritchie says your help is still needed in a couple of key areas.
"We really need a lot of prayer, especially [after] going through all the changes we have this year," Ritchie states. "Remember to pray for the people in this organization. We are few, doing a mighty job."
Financial support is also needed and appreciated. Click here to make sure Keys for Kids Radio stays on the air.
And, Ritchie adds, they're looking for a few more voices to add to their children's programming. If your child is between the ages of 6 and 12 years old and would like to provide voice work for one of Keys for Kids' shows, contact the ministry by calling (616) 647-4500.
Listen to the full interview to hear why radio is still relevant in today's digital world.
(Image courtesy Global Advance)
International (GAM/MNN) -- A decade ago, the Summer Olympic Games were held in Athens. Terrorists attacked an elementary school in Beslan, Russia. India began emerging as the sleeping giant of commerce. The European Union embraced 10 new members.
It seemed like a good time to maximize resources and increase efficiency in the business world. The team at Global Advance, always looking for ways to train indigenous Christians, got on board. Their goal: to increase the expertise of Christian entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals throughout the developing world and to get it done through Kingdom vision.
Marketplace Missions was born. This year, they celebrate their 10th anniversary. Through their vision, 20,366 Christian business leaders have been equipped and encouraged with practical and Biblical business principles.
(Photo courtesy Global Advance)
The Global Advance Marketplace Missions initiative helps U.S. business leaders invest their skills, knowledge, and experience into the lives of emerging marketplace leaders. Training Christian businessmen and women in developing nations increases economic and spiritual capital throughout the world.
Global Advance Marketplace Missions Conferences provide developing world marketplace leaders with both encouragement and practical business training. Here's a sample of what a typical Marketplace Missions Conference looks like:
Day 1 – Wednesday, travel from home to the international location
Day 2 – Thursday, visit businesses to build relationships, pray, and consult
Day 3 – Friday, speak at event to teach and encourage
Day 4 – Saturday, speak at event to teach and encourage
Day 5 – Sunday, attend church, sight-see, and return home to the U.S.
*Global Advance Marketplace Missions Events may have different forms depending on the location.
(Photo courtesy Global Advance)
To date, Global Advance Marketplace has conducted over 100 events worldwide in 30 nations.
What can you do? You can start by talking about the Global Advance Marketplace Missions opportunity with your friends and organizations.
Pray for the initiatives and the people involved in and impacted through Global Advance Marketplace Missions.
Volunteer to work on the planning and strategizing of Global Advance Marketplace Missions endeavors on groups and committees.
Go to the nations to share your life story and teach in the areas of Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Management, Accounting, Sales, and other areas.
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Iraq (BGR/MNN) -- With all the discussion about the terrorist group sweeping across Iraq and Syria, you might be wondering what to call it.
You've seen the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and the shortened version: the Islamic State (IS). Which is it?
Abraham Shepherd, the area director for Baptist Global Response work in the Middle East, says, "The correct name is ISIS, if you want to be correct from a political perspective." He adds, "The government and politicians refuse to use that because by referring to them as that [Islamic State], you're acknowledging the fact that they are a state. People don't see them as a state: they see them as a criminal, terrorist group."
Either way, they represent fear. Hundreds of thousands fled before the onslaught into the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq with ISIS in pursuit. Once Iraq refugees arrive, "They find an abandoned building, or under a bridge, in a park or in a school. The Kurdistan government postponed the start of school until they find a permanent solution for many of these people." Shepherd says in their new life, the survivors are unmoored. They're in shock, unused to the squalid conditions they find themselves in. "We're talking about 60 to 70 people in one room, crammed together. These are people who had a normal life. They had their own businesses, their own cars. They're intellectual, educated."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
And they're grieving.
"Overnight, they have nothing but the clothes on their back. And so BGR is there to provide the basic necessities of life, to let them know that we care, [and] there is a bigger body that really loves them and cares about them."
Resources from Global Hunger Relief (GHR) are comforting these families and hundreds of others like them, as BGR and its partners deliver relief supplies where people have taken refuge. GHR funds are providing crucial supplies--water, food, and infant formula--that help these families survive. Southern Baptists across North America will replenish those funds when they observe World Hunger Sunday on Oct. 12.
More than they want food, forcibly-displaced families in northern Iraq want to talk about what they have endured at the hands of ISIS extremists. Then, they're asking others to "Tell their stories. Tell the stories: these people have names. They have a story. They have pain."
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
The people in need are Iraqi Christians, Kurdish Yazidis, and other minorities. And they have heartbreaking stories to tell:
– In one village of 700 people, only three made it out alive.
– Children and old women found abandoned in the mountains.
– A man carried his crippled brother for 16 hours, with blood oozing from his foot.
– A man in his 60s, wearing pajamas, paces back and forth, asking constantly: “Where should I go now? What should I do? Can this happen? I worked all my life, with only a year left to retirement, and now without job income or pension. What can I do at my age?”
– A woman in her late 40s named "Faithful" sent her husband and boys away when radical Islamists threatened them. She stayed behind in their village with her two daughters. While she was away from the house one day, masked men broke in and threw a bottle of gasoline on her oldest daughter, Rita, who was 23. Rita survived one month in the hospital, and Faithful took care of her around the clock. One night, she held Rita and sang lullabies to her. She talked to her about one day being healed, marrying, and having children. Rita asked for water, then said, “Mom, please forgive them,” and passed away in her arms. She died on Good Friday--the "Friday of suffering" in the Middle East.
“Even though Faithful is forcibly displaced, she is helping other forcibly-displaced people, saying: ‘God gave and God took. May He be glorified,’” Abraham said. “As we left, she asked us to make her story known, so this will not happen to others, and that's what I'm doing.”
Abraham has been able to train relief workers from other teams in other cities and has been impressed with their desire to help everyone, regardless of who they are.
The greatest needs among the forcibly displaced are for blankets, food, water, propane burners, pillows, mattress, wheelchairs, carpets to isolate the cold and provide some comfort, baby formula, and health care, Abraham said. These are people created in God's image and loved by Him. Meeting the emotional and physical needs is the first step to talking more about that Love.
That requires resources, but more importantly, it requires a voice. The followers of Jesus of Nazareth are asking you for help, says Shepherd. "'Pray for us, and educate on our behalf.' It's not that they want to run away. They want to be in their land. They want to be home. They want to be Christian."
Monsoon clouds over Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.(Photo credit Sunnyoraish via Wikimedia Commons)
India (MNN) -- Those who live in four-season climates often see rainy days and chilly nights during the fall months of September, October, and November. However, fall's "rainy days" have nothing on South Asia's monsoon season.
You've probably heard about severe flooding along the northern India-Pakistan border. Starting September 3, several days of continuous monsoon rain caused rivers to overflow and flood communities. There won't be any final statistics until flood waters recede, but an estimated 450 people have been killed and at least one million people have been displaced.
Monsoon season is not only affecting Kashmir state. It's also wreaking havoc in Andhra Pradesh.
"There are at least 26 villages and up to 100 villages that have been cut off by monsoon flooding," shares Donna Glass with India Partners.
Monsoon flooding washes away roads, leaving villages in Andhra Pradesh completely isolated.(Photo credit India Partners)
"The pastors were calling and saying, 'We need help! We are isolated; we are completely cut off.' Roads are submerged under six feet of water; the only access is by boat."
Glass says the government's response to this disaster has been limited. Thus far, officials have provided some rice and have offered limited evacuation.
"The government's not allowing private boats to go out," says Glass. "Only government boats can go, and people are afraid to even get into the boat."
India Partners' first-responders are teaming up with local pastors to bring food aid to people trapped in their homes by monsoon flooding.
"It's not just food, but it includes soap for washing their hands and soap for washing their dishes," Glass says.
India Partners is also sending clean water withresponse teams, since most clean water supplieswere destroyed by the floods.(Photo credit India Partners)
Why soap? Glass explains, "The biggest concern once the waters start to recede [is] disease, and soap is the first line of defense against disease."
"They also bring in the Gospel," Glass shares. India Partners teams use Water And Sanitation-Hygiene (WASH) training to introduce villagers to Christ.
"As Christ washed us clean, so can soap help to wash their physical bodies."
Here's how you can help:
Pray: "Pray for these people; pray that relief might be brought to them."
Give: "$50 will provide two weeks' worth of food and spices and soaps for a family."
Help flood victims in Andhra Pradesh through India Partners.
(Photo Greg Kelley courtesy World Mission)
Myanmar (MNN) -- Despite Myanmar's (formerly Burma) recent transition to democracy, Christians in the area are lumped in with the ethnic minorities.
As a result, they are being purged from the borders. Christian minority groups--particularly the Karen and Chin ethnic groups--are singled out for the harshest treatment. In the last 10 years, notes the Voice of the Martyrs USA, more than 3,000 Christian villages have been burned down.
According to Open Doors USA, being Burmese is synonymous with being Buddhist, and anyone who departs from the norm is often ostracized.
The Burmese government claims to support freedom of religion, but religious groups face surveillance, imprisonment, discrimination, violence, destruction or desecration of property, and censorship of religious materials.
That's the backdrop to the following story.
The Treasure is World Mission's field-tested digital audio Bible. The unit, which is small enough to fit in a palm, has a built in solar panel with rechargeable batteries. World Mission CEO Greg Kelley shared the simple story of a 30-year-old Buddhist woman he met while in Myanmar.
"She listened to this Treasure for two months, and after listening to the Word of God, was convinced that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah. He was who He said He was. She went to our national pastor and asked him how she could become a Christian. He led her to Christ. Upon hearing the news, her husband told her she had a choice to make: either she could choose him and their Buddhist religion, or she could choose Christianity. She said, 'I'm following Jesus. He is my Lord and Savior now.' Here she is, essentially a widow, serving Jesus, left with nothing but has the joy of the Lord like I've never seen anywhere in the world."
What now? Community forms around God's Word. According to World Mission, it is normal to have people listening for 2-3 hours several days each week to a Treasure in a group listening environment. When 10-12 people are in that listening group, it is estimated that more than 144 different people will listen to one Treasure in a year. If 10 Treasures are in a village, it is expected that 1,440 will have listened to a Treasure in a year.
World Mission is providing access to the Word of God, hope for tomorrow, and help for today. Ask God to come alongside this new believer and her child and provide for their needs. Pray that the Word of the Lord will settle deep into the hearts of the hearers and that lives will be changed.
(Photo credit Russian Ministries)
Russia (MNN) -- Russia has been the "bad guy" in many news reports lately, especially reports about Ukraine. However, Russian Ministries is sharing a reason to celebrate: street evangelism in Oryol, Russia is bringing Jesus into everyday conversations.
Young Christians in Oryol, a small city near the Ukraine-Russia border, have been telling people about Jesus on a regular basis since May. Russian Ministries says street evangelism is part of Grace Church's "Year for Jesus" project.
A Year for Jesus began when a team of young believers from Grace Church went to a local park and started singing Christian songs. The team had just received training in street evangelism, and they quickly split into two groups. One group sang Christian songs while playing instruments, and the other group spoke to interested passersby.
"People want to hear God's Word," said Aline, one of the Year for Jesus team members. "They are definitely spiritually thirsty."
(Photo credit Russian Ministries)
The group who engaged people in conversation also handed out Christian literature and invited them to church services. Russian Ministries provided copies of Hope Magazine and the Gospel of John for teams to use in street evangelism.
"Most gladly accepted the literature and the invitations. It was a joy to me to realize that I was part of God's enormous plan to bring salvation to Russia," Aline added.
So far, at least six people have come to know Christ as Savior through this ministry.
Since their initial outreach in the park, around 20 believers have been sharing Jesus in one way or another: street evangelism, door-to-door evangelism in nearby villages, daily prayer, and Bible study.
Please surround the team in prayer as they boldly proclaim the Gospel. Pray for courage to endure and for hearts to be softened to receive God's Word.
Japan has faced many natural disasters and is still trying to get back on its feet since the triple disaster that hit March 2011.(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)
Japan (MNN) -- It's been about three and a half years since the triple disaster--earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster--hit Japan and devastated hundreds of thousands. (Refresh your memory here).
We spoke to Joe Handley of Asian Access about what Japan looks like in light of these disasters still today.
He says, generally, "Things are much better in terms of infrastructure. The biggest problem that persists, though, is housing and of course the nuclear site in Fukushima that they're still trying to clean up. Those are the two biggest challenges."
The government predicted that most people would be out of temporary housing within two years. But the challenges have proved harder to overcome than anticipated.
"There are 89,000 people that are still living in temporary housing," Handley says. "Over and above that, there's another 90,000 people living in various forms of public or private housing units provided by the local governments. So you have a lot of people that are still displaced, still seeking hope in the midst of a disaster that hit three fairly sizable prefectures in Japan."
Handley says that while the government of Japan is still working diligently to repair land in order to rebuild homes, these victims of disaster have been left and forgotten by most of the world. In one prefecture, Hadley says, there are about 50% of homes that can be rebuilt, but still a long way to go.
Meanwhile, the temporary housing has surpassed its designed time of existence. Many of the houses continue to deteriorate, causing concern for the upcoming winter.
When the disasters hit in March of 2011, Asian Access was able to minister to the people affected. Along with physical aid, they were able to bring truth of the Gospel along avenues that were never open before.
Asian Access partnered with many aid teams that came over just after the fact.
As time went on, these short-term mission teams came over less frequently, and other aid subsided.
Handley explains that as most of the world began to move on and forget about Japan, many Christians remained to minister to these people in need. This kindness caught the attention of many of the victims and caused them to turn to Christ.
"Those churches, ministry centers, and missionaries that are on the ground will continue to reach out. But unfortunately, much of this has been forgotten by the world," Handley says.
He says the need is still very great even though the work their partners are doing has been good. "We need to pray and then see people come and live and really bring the hope of Christ."
It can be difficult to know where to focus our prayer and time when there are so many things going wrong in the world. But each person has a unique calling. Perhaps God is calling you to help Japan.
Handley says, "This is a unique moment for the life of Japan, and it is no time to back out. Yet, most of the world has forgotten Japan. The needs are enormous, and Asian Access is prepared to receive anyone that would come."
The financial needs are also enormous. Consider financial help as well.
For more information on partnering with Asian Access, click here.
(Photo courtesy Operation Mobilization NE Field)
Iraq (OMI) -- Editor's Note: MNN is sharing an on-the-ground perspective from an Operation Mobilization specialist working in Northern Iraq. Rather than re-write the story, we'll share it as it was written in blog form from the ministry's Web site.
*Dakota Daemyn, a disaster response specialist serving with OM Near East, led a week-long assessment of the current crisis in northern Iraq. That assessment forms the basis for OM’s ongoing ministry to displaced Iraqis in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
“I no longer have any words to tell the people,” the local pastor says, with an overwhelming sense of sadness. “After all that has happened and all I have heard, I have no words left to give them.”
*Pastor Rashad, a strong-looking, tall man in early middle age, takes time for us in his office in northern Iraq. A security monitor in the corner shows the road outside the church, a silent reminder of the ever-present threat of increased insecurity.
Inside the office, a quiet air conditioner makes the room much more comfortable than the corridor outside, where several people mill around. Guests of the church fill the rooms and floors night after night. They are guests because they no longer have a place to call home, having been chased from their cities and their villages by the Islamic fundamentalists of Islamic State, or ISIS.
“We try to prioritise the most needy,” Pastor Rashad explains. “But how do we turn people away? How can we do that?”
We sit together, and I ask him about the challenges he is facing, wanting to know more so that that people can be informed and stand with him in prayer.
A few days earlier we had sat together and talked about the church’s planned activities to support these internally displaced people (IDPs) from elsewhere in Iraq. Pastor Rashad had outlined the plan to hire a wedding hall to house and feed another 50 families. He had listed the differing departments the church had designated--some overseeing the provision of food, some the distribution of clothes, still others the essential items for sleeping night after night in a hall full of people.
This local church in northern Iraq is a compelling example of a church putting love into action.
During this meeting, Pastor Rashad spares more of his precious, much-demanded minutes to give an update on the progress of plans to start a school for IDP children--plans that just got approval in an astonishingly quick two days.
The pastor recounts a more troubling development. “A key leader is leaving,” he says resignedly. Not a major problem, in normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. Right now the church needs all the leadership it can get, as it struggles to minister to a multitude, who are traumatised, despairing, and facing an utterly uncertain future. But it is impossible to blame the leader for wanting to leave. Utterly horrific stories are emerging of cases where fleeing people have had a child grabbed from them by ISIS.
This is how bad the situation is. Many Iraqis are trying to leave, hoping to reach a bordering country, and then, if they can, countries beyond. And church leaders are amongst them.
“I’ve had to think: if [ISIS] can do that to people there, they can do it here,” another church leader explained to my colleague. “I’m starting to wonder if I should send my wife and daughter somewhere safer.”
“What’s your biggest challenge? How can the [global] Church pray for you?” I’d asked these same questions the day before to another pastor, in a city close to the border. The same answer came: “So many of our people are leaving. They’ve lost confidence in the country; they don’t feel they can live here.”
Late the previous evening, I’d stood on the curb in a hot, dimly lit town street as I waited with another pastor for our vehicle to have its leaking fuel line fixed. “It’s only by God’s grace that I keep going each day,” he said. “I’m so tired.”
We met with dozens of families who filled block after block of unfinished concrete building shells. The pastor was surrounded by people pressing in to tell him their needs. Caught up in a sea of bodies, his face was shining with a tangible sense of the presence of Jesus. Those I’ve worked with, who walk most closely to situations of despair, who minister to the needs of the most desperate, are sometimes marked by this joy. Not bleakness or a sense of world-weariness, but a sense of God’s presence that is unstained by the vileness of this life that washes over them in their daily encounters. The presence of Jesus was amongst those people that evening, as the pastor moved amongst them.
Yet he, too, spoke of key people leaving. In the book of Exodus, Moses holds his arms up, and the battle favours his people. Yet when his arms drop from weariness, the battle turns against them. Victory comes when those around him--his key lieutenants--hold up his exhausted arms. There’s no clearer picture of Christian leadership in situations where the task is so great. No leader can minister alone; they need their team around them. Right now across northern Iraq, at one of the church’s most crucial hours, leaders are being abandoned. Alone, they can only stand for so long.
Please pray for these leaders. Pray that despite the despair they face every day, and the huge needs they are struggling to meet, they would be able to keep going. Pray that they would find, somewhere, words of hope to speak to people who have lost everything. Pray that their co-leaders, where they can, will stay. Pray that others will rise up, even those young in faith, who will stand with them. The early church leaders only had, at most, three years of discipleship before the task of building the church was turned over to them. This is an incredibly important time for the church in Iraq and in the Kurdish regions. And yet its leaders face being abandoned at the height of their struggle.
In response to the current crisis, OM has launched a relief project that is currently being implemented in four locations in North Iraq, helping thousands of people from Christian, Yazidi and minority Muslim backgrounds, with basic food aid, hygiene kits, mattresses, and blankets to help with immediate needs. Just $100 will provide a FOOD PACKET to feed a family of six for one month. $200 will feed two families. It will make a huge difference to Muslim refugees who are terrified and trying to survive.
The situation is very fluid, and the response is adapting in some places on an almost daily basis.
*Name changed for security
India (MNI) -- Editor's Note: This is a blog post from Ron, a staff member with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India, who works closely with ministry partners in-country. He makes an interesting analogy worth consideration:
(Photo courtesy Mission India)
On a visit to India, we ran over a chicken. We were not driving particularly fast, but the chicken just picked the wrong time to cross the road. Because it was a rural area, and because chickens make a really loud noise when hit, we stopped to settle accounts.
I know that in the marketplace, a plucked and dressed chicken costs about 150 rupees--around $2.50. So I asked the gathering crowd how I could find and compensate the owner. They formed a little circle around the...bird, and shook their heads....
"Oh, the eggs," one said. "Yes, all the eggs," said another. "And some of them would have hatched," said a third.
Apparently I was not going to get away with paying only for one dead hen but had to consider all the eggs and future chicks this bird would have produced.
The same spiritual multiplication is taking place in India. New churches do not rest: they reproduce. New believers share Christ with their neighbors. "Yes, all the eggs...."
New churches plant "daughter churches" in a neighboring village. "And some of them would have hatched...."
God has opened a window of opportunity in India. People who do not know Christ are more open than at any time in modern history. National Christians want to be trained to plant churches in every slum, village, and city in this nation of 1.2 billion people.
To make this happen, we need to start the multiplication process in as many villages as possible, as soon as possible. The cost of holding back is not one missed opportunity, but all the future workers and churches that could be produced.
Oh, about that dead chicken: the only solution was to go into the market and buy another live bird!
USA (MNN) -- It's hard to climb out of a rut of destructive activity without a support system. It's impossible without hope.
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries reaches out to a certain group of people every summer. These people are spread out to many different locations and have rich histories separate from each other. But right now, these people are facing a dark reality shrouded in hopelessness.
At one location, suicide rates prompted a senate investigation. Another place has 2/3 of the population living in poverty. Still another location has a 70% unemployment rate. Another area has 50% of infants test positive for alcohol and drugs when they're born. Another has a suicide rate 13 times that of the United State's national average.
Who are these people? They are Native Americans living on reservations.
Each year, Ron Hutchcraft Ministries mobilizes On Eagles' Wings team members to reach their community with the Gospel. It's part of their Summer of Hope. Summer of Hope 2014 saw encouraging results.
Brad Hutchcraft of RHM says, "It was a summer to remember for sure."
This year, RHM had around 55 OEW members participating. Over 7,000 miles, 11 Native communities, nine reservations, and five states were reached in July and early August. 12 reservation rescue events took place.
Hutchcraft says, "I think the best part of the Summer of Hope for me every year is seeing how God uses these Native American young people to reach other Native young people. We're talking about young people who are not trained preachers, and they haven't been through all this Bible training."
The participants are anywhere from 16 to 25 years old. They may be young, but they have a courage surpassing that of many adults.
"To see these young people go out night after night and lay it all out there, to run the events, to talk to these young people one on one, to talk to their families, and to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their peers is just amazing," Hutchcraft says.
He explains that it is important for it to be Native teens doing this work. For a long time, Native Americans have been told that Jesus Christ is a white man's God. To have someone who can relate to their history, their culture, and to know the patterns of abuse all while expressing that Jesus is not a "white man's God" is much more effective than having people from the outside try to do this.
In July, RHM was struggling to raise enough funds for their Summer of Hope. Now, not only has God provided for those costs, but He has made it possible for RHM to give scholarships to 25 or more of the OEW team members to go to Bible school this fall.
They are looking to God to provide for their winter break retreat. This is a time for members of the previous Summer of Hope to come back together and celebrate what God has done and dig deep into Scripture as they move forward.
And this year, the OEW team has much to celebrate, and much to pray for.
Hutchcraft says, "These young people that have given their hearts to the Lord. We got to see an amazing 788 Native Americans begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and they're going back to these hard situations. They're going back to the homes where there are drugs and alcohol, where there are people who are depressed and considering suicide."
Here's where you come in. Your prayers are an important aspect of the ministry to these people.
Pray that these communities will find hope in Jesus, and that those following Him will be able to experience Christ in their daily life.
"Pray for those young people as they go back home and as they live in those situations," Hutchcraft says.
Pray for the team members who are going to Bible school that they would learn new skills to study God's Word.
And pray for the youngest members of OEW as they send in various prayer requests about their families.
Click here for a prayer guide so you can continue your ministry of prayer.
Crimea was an autonomous region before Russia took it by force in March.
Crimea (MNN) -- Remember that place called Crimea? Russia took it away from Ukraine back in March. Now, Forum 18 News says churches in Crimea are being forced to re-register with the Russian government.
Slavic Gospel Association supports churches in all three regions.
"It's kind of a jumbled-up mess of a lot of things that are making life difficult," says SGA VP Eric Mock.
"A lot of the re-registration issues are also coming with mutual suspicion between Ukrainian- and Russian-leaning churches and organizations."
Most suspicion is rooted in what each group assumes about the other, Mock explains. For example, Russian believers in Crimea tend to assume Ukrainian-background neighbors support and are in favor of Western powers like the U.S. and Europe.
Ukrainian Baptist pastors who lead churches in Crimea have voiced their concerns.
"This transition has been quite difficult for them," Mock relays. "The [main] issue is that they're viewed with suspicion. The Tatar refugees that are flooding into Ukraine are also seeing problems."
A pastor delivers items provided through SGA's Crisis Evangelism Fund.(Photo credit SGA)
In response to eastern Ukraine's violent conflict, SGA developed the Crisis Evangelism Fund to help churches reach out with the love of Christ. Crimean Tatars are among the multitudes that fled their homes this spring, and most follow Islam. As evangelistic churches demonstrate Christ's love by caring for their needs, Muslim Tatars are seeing the Gospel as never before.
Help Ukrainian churches reach more people in need here.
For now, keep this in mind as you pray for believers in Crimea: "Sometimes, we give too much credit to man in making life difficult. But we need to fall back on understanding that a sovereign God is saving a people for His own possession and declaring His glory among the nations.
"God builds His church, and He's going to continue moving forward in building His church, with or without the difficulties of government."
More SGA stories here.
Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram.(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Nigeria (MNN) -- It happened in stealth mode: Boko Haram declared a caliphate in Nigeria.
Greg Musselman, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, explains, "Because of media in the Middle East, it's drawing more attention, and the situation continues to go on in Nigeria."
A month after declaring an Islamic State-like caliphate in Gwoza, militants surrounded Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Residents expect an attack on what could be the group's largest and most symbolic seizure yet. The city already hosts tens of thousands of refugees who have fled the group's attacks elsewhere.
They've killed thousands since 2009, including at least 2,000 in 2014 alone. The U.N. estimates their attacks have created more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, in addition to some 57,000 refugees outside of the country.
It appears they've been emboldened by the success of the Islamic State, notes Musselman. However, the Boko Haram is at a distinct disadvantage by comparison. "They're not getting as many foreign fighters coming in as what's going on in the Middle East, but they're becoming more bold. They're definitely using the same kinds of tactics. They just don't quite have as much money."
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Talatu Carmen)
There have been concerns voiced over multiple caliphates coming together into a juggernaut of Islamic extremism. Musselman agrees that "there are similar situations: there are beheadings, you've got the forced marriages, of course the situation where all these girls were kidnapped. Some of them escaped, and some 200 still remain in captivity." However, working together long-term? "If all these groups came together and radical Islam took over the world, it would eventually implode. It's violent. If you don't go along exactly with what they think, they will take each other out."
Already, there are rivalries between leaders in al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State. Rivalries would likely occur between the different factions, too, VOM USA's spokesman Todd Nettleton noted earlier.
As the caliphate is established, though, one thing is common: bloodshed. Christians are being purged out of the extremist-dominated areas. Yet, that isn't stopping followers of Christ from sharing their stories or praying. "We've not ever been in a time in history where more Muslims are becoming Christians than we are right now," says Musselman, adding that prayer is key in spiritual warfare. "I've met many from these kinds of groups that have had a dream or vision of Jesus, or found a Bible and became Christians. They become amazing evangelists. We need to continue to pray that God will get a hold of the hearts of the enemies of the Gospel."
Scores of Christians have been killed, and numerous churches and a Bible school have been forced to close down, after militants from Boko Haram recently seized towns and villages in several states. "Boko Haram violence has been getting worse every day, and our members are fleeing the area by the thousands," a church leader shares. "Borno and Adamawa states, where our churches are located, have seen Boko Haram take over the army base. As a result, about 350 Christians have been killed."
What can you do? "Stand beside them saying, 'We're with them.' The practical way is by helping ministries like the Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, those that work with persecuted Christians in Nigeria. And then pray that God will give our brothers and sisters wisdom."
(Image courtesy of SOAR International)
Abkhazia (MNN) -- Sometimes entire countries feel isolated from the rest of the world. One of these is Abkhazia, a small disputed country, south of the Russian border near Sochi.
Most of the world considers it a part of Georgia, though some countries count it independent.
In the early '90s and 2000s, Georgia and Abkhazia fought against each other over the latter's independence. Recently the country has become a focus of a particular ministry effort of SOAR International.
Greg Mangione of SOAR says, "Without getting into the politics and the right and wrong of that part of it, the result has been a very visibly war-torn country: high unemployment, high poverty, a lack of a lot of basic infrastructure."
During their time working in Sochi, SOAR partnered with many churches who worked with churches in Abkhazia, and they began providing aid for spiritual needs.
Mangione says, "Last year we put together these little backpacks with school supplies in them and shipped them over to the churches for them to give them out. Items of all kinds are greatly needed."
Mangione was later able to meet with the majority of the pastors who helped distribute the bags.
He says ,"They just couldn't stop talking about how positive that was--sending those backpacks with school supplies, how it encouraged them and helped their ministries. The kids loved them, and they see the kids still carrying these backpacks here almost a year later."
SOAR is doing the project again, and this year they're also putting together a container with basic humanitarian needs including dried food, clothes, bed sheets, and shoes.
They hope to ship the container out by the end of this month or early next month.
Mangione says they are very excited to minister to these communities.
"We just appreciate prayers that these humanitarian aid shipments will both meet a physical need...and also give the church further respect in the community and an opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ."
Mangione explains that the people of this country feel lonely, abandoned, and politically isolated. "I was struck by the encouragement of our short two-day visit with these pastors...in an area not too far away from Russia. They definitely were hungry for fellowship and meeting with folks outside."
Many of the pastors eagerly shared about their ministries. "The Gospel is changing lives," Mangione says.
One of the big things this partnership focuses on is assuring the people of Abkhazia that they are interested in ministering to the individual, not different groups. They want to share the hope of Christ with everyone.
The container will be shipped from Washington. If you're interested in helping SOAR with this and future ministry to this country, click here or contact SOAR here.
How can you pray for Abkhazia?
Pray "that the churches would grow, would be strengthened. Everywhere I go these days, it seems like a big prayer need is more ministers, more people to work in the church. The pastors there are spread very thin as they're trying to take care of their church members, take care of their families," Mangione says.
Flag used by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Middle East (MNN) -- As ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) spreads throughout the Middle East like a plague, more and more people are getting hurt. Are you wondering how to help ISIS victims and those displaced by the reign of terror?
While financial support is needed, there's more to helping people than just giving money. Food for the Hungry (FH), SAT-7 USA and Voice of the Martyrs USA (VOM) are sharing creative ways to be a voice for the voiceless.
How to help ISIS victims: Get on Facebook
Courtesy of Wikimedia commons (public domain)
FH and the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) are partnering to help Iraqi Christian families who’ve fled to Lebanon. The groups are currently providing shelter, food, education, and the Gospel to approximately 7,000 Syrian families in Lebanon and Syria each month, and they want to extend the same help to Iraqi refugees.
This is where you come in.
FH created the “I Am Your Voice” campaign to raise awareness and funding for LSESD, so they can get the resources they need to serve refugee families. You can give to help ISIS victims, or you can share one of these photos on social media to help raise awareness.
How to help ISIS victims: Paint a Picture
ISIS terrorists say they're carrying out the will of God, or "Allah:" this can be confusing to people who don't know the Lord. They might assume Christians and Muslims serve the same god, but we know Yahweh (the one True God) is love, not hate.
That's why SAT-7 created their #BecauseGodIsLove campaign.
This campaign is designed to help Christians remind ISIS victims and others that "God is love," as described in 1 John 4:7-12. You can take action by painting a picture of this message and sharing it on social media or by demonstrating God's love to others.
How to help ISIS victims: Wear a T-shirt
This summer, ISIS used the letter "N" (nusara in Arabic, meaning Nazarene) to identify and target Christian homes in Mosul. Today, VOM USA is using "N" as a way for Christians around the world to stand with their Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ.
Are you "N"?(Image credit VOM USA)
Wearing an “N” t-shirt doesn’t just show your support for persecuted Iraqi Christians. It’s also a conversation starter. When people ask what the shirt’s symbol means, you can tell them about the persecution being largely overlooked by major news outlets. In addition, half of the sale proceeds are used to help ISIS victims.
Actions mean nothing if they're not preceded by prayer. Only prayer can change hearts and situations, and God's peace provides the ultimate comfort. So, along with taking action to help ISIS victims, keep surrounding them in prayer.
Ask the Lord to comfort people who've been terrorized by ISIS, and bring them peace.
Pray for an end to ISIS terror in the Middle East.
Pray for the Gospel to advance, despite severe ISIS threats to Christians.
More Middle East stories here.