(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)
Somalia (ODM/MNN) -- Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby confirms that the terrorist group al-Shabaab utilized Somalia's failed state chaos as an opportunity to grow. A Monday air strike in Somalia by U.S. armed forces targeted the leader of the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab.
The group shifted its approach last year, highlighted when it killed at least 67 people in an attack on a Kenyan shopping mall. Militants have also carried out guerrilla attacks in Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda.
Al-Shabaab wants to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state. It was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government in March 2008. Three years later, Somalia’s problems were exacerbated by the worst drought in six decades, leaving millions on the verge of starvation.
That same year, the Kenyan government ordered a cross-border incursion intended to create a security buffer zone in southern Somalia after attacks on tourist destinations in northern Kenya that it blamed on al-Shabaab. A United Nations report noted that the al-Qaeda affiliate has grown into an economic powerhouse, raising tens of millions of dollars in cash from extortion and illegal taxation.
(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)
In 2009, the parliament approved implementation of Shariah law nationwide. The government also banned proselytizing. There is a strong drive to purge Christianity from Somalia altogether, according to Open Doors USA. Christian converts from Islam are estimated at fewer than 200 people. Most Somali Christians are secret believers who worship in house churches, more so now that they're being targeted by al-Shabaab as well. Ten believers are reported to have been killed by members of al-Shabaab in 2013. There is a high level of fear and mistrust among believers, who have to hide their faith for fear of betrayal.
When Christians are discovered by al-Shabaab, they are sometimes beheaded on the spot, as occurred with a 17-year-old boy in 2011 in Mogadishu. Militant agents have also murdered Christians after following them to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Groups like the Voice of the Martyrs have joined Open Doors in responding to the plight of the Church in Somalia. In 2012, VOM helped evangelists start small businesses so they could support themselves and their families while sharing the gospel. VOM also provides safe houses for persecuted Muslim converts.
Three ways you can be praying:
*Praise God that, despite the pressures, He has preserved a Christian witness in Somalia.
*Ask God to provide ways for believers to mature in Christ.
*Pray that Christians would have more freedom to worship Jesus.
(Photo credit SIM)
Liberia (SIM/MNN) -- Another U.S. missionary doctor has contracted Ebola while working in Liberia. Serving In Missions USA (SIM USA) confirmed the announcement yesterday afternoon, adding that the doctor is "doing well and is in good spirits."
We've included SIM's initial announcement below, edited for relevance.
"SIM USA reported today that one of its missionary doctors in Liberia has tested positive for the Ebola virus.
The American doctor was treating obstetrics patients at SIM's ELWA hospital in Monrovia. He was not treating Ebola patients in ELWA's Ebola isolation unit, a facility separate from the main hospital on the mission organization's 136-acre campus. It is not yet known how the doctor contracted the virus specifically.
Upon onset of the symptoms, the doctor immediately isolated himself and has since been transferred to the ELWA Ebola isolation unit. The doctor is doing well and is in good spirits.
"My heart was deeply saddened, but my faith was not shaken when I learned another of our missionary doctors contracted Ebola," said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA.
"As a global mission, we are surrounding our missionary with prayer, as well as our Liberian SIM/ELWA colleagues, who continue fighting the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. We have gifted Liberian doctors, medical staff, and support staff who are carrying on the fight."
The latest updates on SIM's role in the Ebola epidemic in Liberia are available at www.simusa.org/ebolacrisis."
(Photo courtesy Global Advance)
Kenya (MNN) -- In mid-June, dozens of extremists attacked a coastal town in Kenya for hours, killing those who weren't Muslim and those who didn't know the Somali language.
Even as the ruins lay smoking, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the vicious attack. David Shibley with Global Advance says, "In recent months, there has been a very pronounced spike in persecution against believers by radicalized Islamic groups, particularly in the coastal region city of Mombasa." The radicals promised more to come, too. The coast and northwest areas of the country have traditionally been Muslim, and Muslims are attempting to Islamize those regions and establish Sharia law.
Yet Kenyans, by law, have freedom of religion. Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports nearly half of the population identifies as evangelical Christian. With the threat of the radicals on their doorstep, a new word has been introduced into the local vocabulary: apostate. Converts from Islam to Christianity are subject to harassment, persecution, and violence. Shibley says, "Christians have been threatened, some have been physically harassed and abused, churches have been burned; so pastors were very much in need of encouragement at this time."
Global Advance began making preparations to answer the call in August, says Shibley. However, with destruction of the June attack still visible, last-minute changes were made. "We had intended to have the conference originally in the city of Mombasa. [But] the council of our Kenyan brothers felt that it might be a bit too dangerous to assemble that many pastors together at that time."
(Photo courtesy Global Advance)
Logistically, it was an answer to prayer. Global Advanced moved everything to safety. "We brought them out to a safer city, a couple of hours inland, and also invited the pastors of that particular region. Altogether, 110 senior pastors came to that wonderful Frontline Shepherd's Conference event."
Relieved of the constant threat, the church leaders were free to rest, adds Shibley. "It was a tremendous time of bonding, refreshing, strengthening, deep in their inner person. They left with a fresh resolve to once again be lovingly courageous in proclaiming the Gospel."
It was a timely intervention, too. "There was a marvelous window of opportunity with many disillusioned people in those areas, so we need to be praying for courageous brothers and sisters who are boldly and lovingly sharing the love of God in Christ."
Here's what's interesting: even though Global Advance was equipping the church leaders through a Frontline Shepherd's Conference, it was the teaching team that learned a few lessons in those two days. First, they learned firsthand what boldness looks like. "When we were told that the area where we would be staying for several nights had also come under threats from radicalized groups, their response was simply, "As always, we will trust God." This boldness was accompanied by grateful hearts, so there was absolutely no complaining about the opposition they face from al-Shabaab. Lastly, says Shibley, he saw resilience that comes from the peace that passes understanding. All told, "We, in the Western Church, need to learn from our brothers and sisters in the majority world simply to trust God and to trust His faithfulness to us."
Even as these pastors move forward in areas that are regularly attacked by terrorists, they're only asking the body of Christ to pray this way: "Pray for a real resurgence in evangelism and response to the Gospel."
Shibley adds a request for this month's plans. "Global Advance is going to be involved in September in 10 training events in nine nations of the world. We're very, very grateful for that opportunity, but with the pronounced spike in persecution against believers in much of the world, we at Global Advance certainly need prayer as well that our teams will be protected, and that the Word of the Lord will run swiftly."
Pakistan is no stranger to unrest.
UPDATE: Bruce Allen sent this late-breaking update to MNN, noting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is appealing to radical Muslims in Pakistan: http://tribune.com.pk/story/757186/spillover-effect-isis-making-inroads-into-pakistan-afghanistan/
Pakistan (MNN) -- Pakistan protests are entering their third week, and protestors are reportedly ratcheting up their intensity, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif clings to power.
"The whole country is on a knife's edge right now," says Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaires International (FMI). "It's gotten fairly violent in the clashes with police, as they're trying to maintain order and calm."
In mid-August, thousands of protestors began filing into the capital city of Islamabad to voice disapproval of what they deemed a "corrupt government." Two prominent figures are at the helm of the unrest, Allen says.
"One is a former cricket player turned politician; another is an Islamic cleric from Canada who's arrived on the scene. He's also Pakistani," states Allen.
"They've rallied support against what they call a 'very corrupt' government and are calling for the ouster of the Prime Minister."
(Photo cred: FMI)
While this unrest may look very similar to demonstrations that formed the Arab Spring--widespread civilian uprisings against corrupt government institutions, Allen says these Pakistan protests aren't shaped from the same mold.
"This is, sad to say, 'politics as usual' for Pakistan," he explains.
Ever since Pakistan was partitioned out of India in 1947, there has only been one successful democratic transfer of power. Sharif himself was ousted during his second reign as Pakistan's Prime Minister in 1999.
"In the past, it's always been assassinations, coups, or martial law," says Allen, referring to the way power is transferred in Pakistan.
Christians sometimes bear the brunt of community unhappiness during times of unrest, he adds.
"When the majority population [feels] frustrated with what's happening in the country, [they] take it out on a Christian," Allen says.
An elder of a Pakistani village church. It is estimated that only about 2% of the nation's population claim to be Christian.(Photo, caption courtesy FMI)
Even in the midst of turmoil, Pakistani Gospel workers helped by FMI are continuing to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. One pastor is trying street evangelism to share the Gospel with curious Muslims, and FMI was also able to sponsor the distribution of 500 New Testaments in northern Pakistan.
Click here to help pastors and church planters through sponsorship.
"We currently support about 40 pastors and evangelists, church planters in Pakistan. We have 20 online who are in need of support," says Allen. "They're doing an incredibly courageous work."
Pray for peace, and pray for an end to these Pakistan protests. Pray that believers would avoid being tangled up in corrupt politics.
Click here to learn more about FMI.
(Image by Open Doors USA)
Libya (ODM/MNN) -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has promised to take action in the aftermath of four kidnappings in Libya last week.
Open Doors USA shares a report that four Egyptian Christians were kidnapped this week in Libya near the city of Sirte. According to the Libya Herald, the four were kidnapped by unknown armed persons when they were on their way from Tripoli to the Egyptian border to leave the country.
According to the Libya Herald, “They were in a vehicle with three other Egyptians, who are Muslims, and had just passed through Sirte when they were stopped at a checkpoint. Armed men asked to see the passengers’ papers and passports. Then they began asking each passenger about his religious beliefs".
According to one of the other passengers, when the armed men realized that four of the Egyptians were Christians, they ordered them to disembark and ordered the driver to depart with the other three.
One of the passengers and the driver tried to asked what was going to happen to the victims. The abductors became angry and began to threaten them, telling them to leave immediately.
When the remaining passengers reached Egypt, one of them informed the family of the victims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been notified and has promised to take action.
Libya is the scene of fierce fighting between different militia. The weak, national government is unable to control the violence in the country. Several foreign Christians have been killed during this year. Many foreign workers have left the country because of the security situation.
(Photo by Open Doors USA)
Open Doors recognizes this incident is a result of the current insecure situation in the country. The position of national and foreign believers is rapidly deteriorating.
Please pray for the four kidnapped men. Please also pray for the other Christians in the country to stay strong in their faith.
How big is God? Big enough to coordinate a reunion five years and 1.2 billion people in the making.(Photo credit ASM)
India (MNN) -- How big is God? It's a silly question, but this story helps put His greatness in human perspective. In 2009, JP Sundararajan and an Audio Scripture Ministries team reached out to their cab drivers in India.
Sundararajan recounts the amazing journey God took him on, in his own words:
"We decided as a team in India (WCOI) that we would take a whole week off and head down south to do what was then the biggest distribution we had ever done. We distributed 1000 audio Bibles that day! Every member of our staff (including little Leila) got to participate in this special event. Following that distribution, we hired two cabs that would take our WCOI team up the hills of Kerala. This is easily one of the most beautiful parts on planet earth. We spent the rest of our time at a beautiful facility refreshing our hearts and sharing stories of God at work in us. We needed this time apart to bond as a staff, considering we had never done it before!
I must explain that when you rent cabs in India, the protocol is that cabdrivers are part of the package. These guys come with you wherever you go (lurking in the corners), eat where you eat (at a far-away table), and hang out where you hang out (out of sight). However, they never joined you or associated with your group. Simply put, they were there to drive the cars and that is all they were “supposed” to do. We did not want to make a big deal about it but we desired to be an example of God's love to them. So when we did eat out at restaurants, we invited the drivers to join us for the meal at our table. When we did group activities, we again asked them to join us. Sometimes the drivers joined us, and sometimes they did not. But either way, by the end of the trip they were well aware of the fact that there was always an invitation open at our table.
A hairpin bend in the Western Ghats, Kerala, India.(Photo credit Rohini via Wikimedia Commons)
The hills and roads of Kerala take some getting used to. Plenty of roads and switchbacks form the backbone of these picturesque mountains. And as we went up and down these hills during our week, we discovered to our chagrin that most of our group suffered from motion sickness! This meant pulling over to the side of the road repeatedly so people could… ahem…revisit meals!
This must have been very annoying to our drivers, but they never showed it. They were patient and kind through the process. When our final destination was reached, I decided to take a couple of minutes to chat with these drivers. I took them aside and told them how much I appreciated their willingness to drive safely up and down the mountains, their desire to be kind and patient with our group in spite of our many travel troubles, and mostly for being amazing human beings. It was at this point that one of the drivers waited for me to finish, and then looked me in the eye and said, ”Sir, nobody has ever taken care of us like you did. You made us feel like a part of everything you did. Thank you for involving us in that. We were honored to be your drivers." He then asked me something that continues to haunt me to this day. He asked, “Sir, those Bibles that you were giving out (at the distribution): can I have one of those?"
Now, I have the two-bit title of sorts called India-Asia director for Audio Scripture Ministries. This man had seen us embody the Gospel for an entire week, and now he wanted to know more about this Jesus whom we followed. And so he asked me--the one person on this planet who actually could help them out with these sorts of requests. The reason that question continues to haunt me is because I had to look this brother in the eye and tell him, "I am so sorry but I don't have anymore audio Bibles to give you." [It was] devastating because in a country like India, the odds of running into somebody like him again are astronomical, impossible even.
I shared this story with a church after I came back to the U.S. when an older lady came up to me, handed me a check for $70, and told me, “Here is money for two Bibles. This is for the next time you encounter this situation.” And for the past five years, I have carried two Bibles in my backpack as a symbolic reminder of the spiritual thirst in India and the paucity of our resources here to provide for that need.
(Photo courtesy John Burdon via Wikimedia Commons)
A few weeks ago I was back in India, and coincidentally, we had another meeting at the same town where we did the distribution 5 years ago. We arranged cabs yet again, and the pastor told us that he was going to use a cab company that he used last time. A big part of me surged with expectation that maybe, just maybe, we would have the same drivers. But that hope quickly turned into despair when I was reminded of just how incredibly big India is and how transient drivers are in cab companies.
Nevertheless, I packed two Tamil audio Bibles in my backpack with a fleeting hope that perhaps one of those drivers would show back up. The train trundled into our final stop. And as we got off the train, we met up with the two drivers who would be our drivers for the next couple of days. As soon as they saw us, one of the drivers looked at my father and said, "Sir, do you remember me? I took care of you the last time you were here!”
While I was very excited to hear this news, I decided to bide my time. Following the end of this trip when they dropped us off at our final destination, I told my group to wait and I brought the drivers inside the hotel lobby where we would be staying. I said to them, “I don't know if you remember me, but five years ago you asked me for an audio Bible and I did not have any for you.” The driver looked at me with a smile that lit up the room and said, “Sir, I remember!” I told him about how much I’d been thinking about him, praying for him, and sharing his story.
(Photo cred: ASM)
With a heart that was full, I was able to then reach out to this brother of mine and give him an audio Bible that I had carried for him symbolically for the last five years.
So yes… there are thousands upon thousands of people in India waiting for audio Bibles, and I don't think we will ever be able to fully quench that thirst. However, I am grateful that for those thousands of people, their stories matter to God! I am grateful that I am given this incredible task of helping people receive this precious gift. And I am grateful to have people like you who enable us to do this."
Reading this story is enough to put one in awe. But listening to Sundararajan tell it is even better! Click here to listen to this story in his own words, along with details left out of the print version.
The displaced sleep out in the open in Syrian and Iraq, victims of ISIS terror.
Middle East (MNN) -- While the world continues to watch ISIS with fear and concern, a ministry leader reports God is using it for His good. While many people use Romans 8:28 for comfort, it's quite another to actually see it played out in people's lives. That's what's happening in Syria and Iraq, as ISIS continues its reign of terror.
Steven VanValkenburg with Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, says the terror that ISIS has inflicted has been incredible. "A lot of people are still lying out in the desert dead. A lot of people are still fleeing. There may be a couple hundred thousand in Erbil. And then, [there are] others throughout the whole Kurdistan area, so there may be a couple of million people who are displaced or refugees."
National missionaries are doing everything they can to help those who were told by ISIS to convert to Islam or die. "They are displaced. They have no work. They left everything behind. The basic need would be food and water. The temperatures have been up to 120 degrees [Fahrenheit]."
There are spiritual needs, too. Many of those forced from their homes are being called Christians because they're non-Muslims. VanValkenburg says many are "cultural Christians, and this is a real wake-up call for them spiritually, to search themselves in terms of what they really believe and if they really do trust in Christ."
VanValkenburg says it's a good time for those sharing Christ because hearts are ready to talk about spiritual things. Even Muslims are open. "There is no problem with trying to say, 'There's a problem with Islam.' They know there's a problem. They've seen all the fighting and stuff. They're very open and interested in finding out 'who is Jesus Christ, what does He mean to me?'"
So, is the situation tragic? VanValkenberg says yes, but "it's a time when people's spiritual antennae are up, and they're very much listening and willing to hear. They're very, very open to finding out what is an answer to the way they look at the world and deal with 'my own walk with God.'"
While Christians are providing much-needed aid, Scripture, testimonies, and love come with that aid. It's making a difference.
Through your generosity, Christian Aid Mission is providing funding for these programs in Iraq. While you may feel like your hands are tied, being thousands of miles away, you can make a difference with your financial support.
Click here to make a generous donation to Christian Aid Mission's work in Iraq.
World Renew is partnering to help Ukrainians displaced.
Ukraine (MNN/WR) -- While the world continues watching ISIS take control of part of Syria and Iraq, much of the world has forgotten about the conflict in Ukraine. It hasn't eased any. Satellite imagery late last week appears to show Russian artillery troops crossing the border into the Donetsk region to bolster separatists.
Many military strategists say this is a Russian invasion. Casualties in the fighting between Russian separatists and Ukrainian soldiers exceeds 2000. Those displaced continue to grow.
According to World Renew, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that as of early August 2014, 117,910 people had been displaced within Ukraine, and 168,677 people had crossed the Russian border in search of safety as a result of this conflict. These figures are estimates, and the actual numbers are believed to be higher.
In the midst of this conflict, World Renew and its partners are responding with food assistance as well as counseling and employment assistance for those who have been forced from their homes.
The people who are displaced are mostly vulnerable women and children who are fleeing to central and western Ukraine, as well as the Rostov region of Russia. Many are in desperate need of food assistance. In Luhansk city, for example, food supplies are not properly replenished and shops are working with reduced hours to sell the existing stocks of food; one city supermarket has been shelled.
World Renew is partnering with Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM), Association for Spiritual Renewal (ASR), and Russian Ministries to provide food packages to internally displaced families. Russian Ministries and ASR are also striving to provide assistance to families that are trapped in the war zones and unable to leave.
"The ASR and Russian Ministries staff are working closely with the local church and community leaders to determine which of the internally displaced people (IDPs) have the greatest need," explains World Renew's Director of Disaster Response, Wayne de Jong. "They are also working with the Russian Ministries’ School Without Walls program students to assemble and transport food packages to the local churches and IDP sites on a weekly basis. We are so grateful for these dedicated individuals who are risking their personal safely to bless people in desperate need of food."
In addition to food assistance, World Renew's partners are providing seminars and materials to pastors and Christian counselors to equip them to provide holistic outreach and counseling to affected families.
ASR is also providing coaching to people in finding jobs in their new areas of residence, to help reduce their reliance on food assistance and help them settle more into the regions where they are currently living.
Please pray for the families who are affected by this tragic conflict, and for the organizations who are responding to the urgent needs.
Support World Renew's efforts here.
What does sponsorship mean for a child? (Photo courtesy of International Needs)
Ghana (MNN) -- Any Christian should be concerned when they hear that a Bible is luxury for someone who wants to learn about Jesus. Well, that’s true for many individuals.
International Needs supports 10 schools in the Volta Region of Ghana where 6,000 children, many supported by sponsors like you, are getting a Christian Education.
Rody Rodeheaver of International Needs says, “Ghana is one of our programs that has a high emphasis on education. It started as a program that was working with the trokosi slave girls.”
The schools provide education for the children of slave girls and for the communities in the Volta Region.
Rodeheaver says, “It’s an area where there’s a high level of poverty, a high level of illiteracy. So to be able to put children in a school is a very major thing, and we’re doing that through our child sponsorship program.”
While an education could spell a different future for these children, International Needs wants to address their eternal future as well. They plan to do this through their One Kid, One Bible campaign.
“One of the things that we really wanted to accomplish was to put a Bible in the hand of every one of those children as well as every teacher. This is a very poor area, and having a Bible is really a luxury,” says Rodeheaver.
Not only do the children get an education, they get to hear about their Savior. (Photo courtesy of International Needs)
He explains that when they distribute these Bibles, they will have the ability to start a Bible Club that teaches students and teachers how to read them.
“It’s not just purchasing Bibles--which is very important in getting those to those children, but it is that extra step that helps them learn how to read it and how to apply it.”
Rodeheaver says the students are matched with teachers and mentors in the school to be discipled.
“Not only will they graduate from school with an education, but they will graduate from school with a knowledge of the Scripture that will help them all through their lives apply God’s work and help them make decisions.”
By late July, International Needs had raised the funds needed to provide Bibles to the children of the school--a cost of around $150,000.
Rodeheaver says there are two ways you can help. “We need to pray the Bibles will be in en route and will be in the hands of those children, hopefully, in the first part of September when those kids go back to school.”
The other thing you can do is to sponsor a child. Sponsorship provides an education and an opportunity to learn about Christ. Get connected here.
“People are dying--physically and spiritually.This is a wakeup call for the Church.We are taking our nation for Jesus.”(Photo credit Christian Aid)
Liberia (CAM) -- Fourteen years of civil war. The fourth-poorest country on earth. Now the Ebola epidemic threatens to wipe out thousands of lives. Is there hope for Liberia?
James Cuffee certainly thinks so. The dynamic leader of Christ Evangelical Fellowship Ministries (CEFM) recently told Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, that churches across the country have been “very busy fasting and praying” for God’s intervention in this health crisis.
“The Church in Liberia has agreed to stand together in faith and pray against this killer disease. I strongly believe the Lord will surely work miracles as we pray in Jesus’ name,” he said.
Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea in March, 1,552 infected individuals in four West African countries have died. Liberia has reported the most cases (1,378) and seen the most deaths: 694 as of Aug. 28. Those figures surpass the total number of deaths for all previous outbreaks of the disease combined.
Reports of 13 suspected Ebola deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have heightened fears that the disease will spread further into Africa. The DRC is located in the central part of the continent, and, according to health officials, tests show this strain of the virus is different from the one in West Africa.
Two weeks ago, two American missionaries were released from an Atlanta hospital after undergoing intense treatment to save their lives. Both contracted the disease while caring for Ebola patients at a medical facility in Liberia. Through God’s healing power, their miraculous recovery offers hope that the disease can be contained and treated in Africa, too.
If the outbreak worsens in Liberia, officials worry it could have an impact on the nation’s already tenuous food supply. Subsistence agriculture is practiced by the majority of rural Liberians.
(Photo credit Christian Aid)
Farmers barely grow enough to feed their families, and they are always at the mercy of floods and droughts. If the family provider should fall victim to Ebola and is unable to tend to crops, his or her loved ones may simply go hungry.
The situation isn’t helped by the series of internal conflicts that ended in 2003 with the nation’s infrastructure and economy in shambles. More than a decade later, much of the country lacks electricity and water services, and 80% of the people live below the poverty line.
“People are dying--physically and spiritually. This is a wakeup call for the Church,” Cuffee said. “We are taking our nation for Jesus.”
CEFM wants to step up its efforts to meet some of the food needs through a variety of agricultural projects. When farmers returned to their villages after years of exile as war refugees, they had to rebuild their homes and livelihoods from scratch. They had no seeds, no fertilizer, no tools, and no tilled soil for planting crops.
Even today, farming is done by hand. Draft animals and tractors are almost non-existent. Rice is the primary staple, but Liberians must rely on imported food to sustain them.
The ministry oversaw agricultural projects from 2007 through 2009, but stopped due to a lack of ongoing funding. At that time they planted 10 acres of cassava outside a village in Bomi County. The villagers cultivated and sold the crop, generating a good income. Gospel workers also saw a spiritual harvest as a church was started there that is now attended by about 100 people.
Cuffee’s goal is to resurrect the project, this time planting corn, beans, cassava, and other produce on 50-acre tracts in four villages. CEFM would provide seeds, farming implements, and mechanized equipment so villagers can raise enough food to feed themselves and have some left over to sell at a local market.
Support the work of Christ Evangelical Fellowship Ministries here.
(Photo credit USAID via Flickr)
As a component of the agricultural program, the ministry would also like to provide livestock and poultry for needy families to raise. A pair of pigs ($150) will produce offspring that can be given to other families in the community for eventual breeding and for meat. A goat ($70) supplies fresh milk for children. Chickens ($5 each) can yield a steady source of eggs rich in protein and other nutrients.
In one village, a CEFM Gospel worker gave a very poor couple a few chickens. “At the end of the year, the husband built a two-room house for his family from the sale of eggs and some of the chickens,” said Cuffee. “The man was a Christian, and some of his neighbors later came to Christ because of him.”
That’s the ultimate objective of CEFM, a ministry started by Cuffee nearly 30 years ago to satisfy his people’s greatest need: the spiritual hunger of their souls. As CEFM missionaries develop relationships within the villages, they have opportunities to share God’s Word in small group Bible studies and at open air crusades that typically draw 2,000 to 3,000 attendees.
Many of the villages are located in the interior of the country, where people still practice animism and idol worship. These faithful workers know they are putting their lives at risk, but, like the medical personnel treating Ebola patients, they desire to make Christ known so that souls will be saved for eternity.
“All of these projects open the door to reach more unbelievers. It’s proof that the Church loves, cares, and is concerned about people’s needs,” Cuffee said. “Jesus saw and met needs, and because of that, the multitudes followed Him. The early Church did the same when they followed the principles of Christ.
"So, if we as the Church, and as a ministry, can follow Jesus and the apostles and do these things, we will gain more converts.”
(Photo cred: Christian Aid)
The strategy must be working, as CEFM has planted 25 churches. With assistance from Christian Aid, the ministry also cares for 100 orphaned or abandoned children and distributes food packages and necessity items to thousands of refugees still living in overcrowded settlements.
In addition, plans are underway to build a medical clinic in one rural area so villagers will no longer need to travel three to five hours to seek basic treatment. An estimated $23,000 is needed to complete the construction.
Cuffee thanked Christian Aid donors for their generous financial support that enables his ministry to reach villagers in Liberia who have never heard the name of Jesus.
“Most of the individuals we help become believers because they see the true love of God manifested through His people. They turn from idol worship and give their lives to God. They know He is providing for them."
(Photo credit GFA)
Nepal (GFA/MNN) -- August was a month of destruction as Nepal floods and landslides, triggered by severe monsoon rains, affected over 200,000 people. Gospel for Asia (GFA) is one of the groups responding to this disaster, giving food and the hope of Christ to flood survivors.
In one village, flood waters completely destroyed three temporary church buildings, and two more permanent church structures were filled with water. As pictured below, a line of GFA workers stood in knee-deep water in pouring rain to hand packets of food to 100 needy families.
The leader of GFA's work in the area gave a message of encouragement, and the team handed out packets that included 22 pounds of rice and 4 pounds each of dal and potatoes.
“I don’t have words to say thank you for this item of ration,” said one recipient. “My family is in great agony.... My house is under the water now; we are living on the village pathway under the plastic sheets provided by the government.
GFA workers gave food packets to 100 families in this flooded Nepali village. (Image courtesy GFA)
"We are seven members in our family. The ration items given by the church are more than sufficient for us to eat for several days. My children will not starve to death now. Thank you so much.”
The same flooding that ransacked this village forced its way into a total of 80 villages in the region. Last week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued an emergency appeal to help families affected by the Nepal floods.
Back in the village mentioned above, most believers are staying on the streets because their homes are flooded.
Many children who attend one of GFA’s Bridge of Hope centers live on riverbanks. Twenty-nine of these children have lost their homes. Now, the students are not only homeless but also without food, clean water, or clothing.
“We have nothing--nothing,” cried one mother. “What we had has been taken away by the flood. We do not have home, food, water, proper clothes. How shall we survive?”
The home of a GFA-supported pastor.(Photo credit GFA)
“I have given all to make this house,” shared the father of a Bridge of Hope student, “but the flood has taken away all my life’s effort, making my family empty-handed. This was my 20-years saving and effort. Now I am old and I have no hope of rebuilding it. I do not know what steps I should take.”
Gospel for Asia is working to aid individuals along with the families of the Bridge of Hope students who have been affected by Nepal floods.
You can come alongside their efforts here.
Contact Vision Beyond Borders to geta copy of 'By Faith Alone.'
USA (MNN) -- How do you get Bibles into a country where they're outlawed? By faith alone--which also happens to be the title of a new book by Patrick Klein, Vision Beyond Borders president.
"I'm hoping what it will do is encourage us, as Christians in America, that people still around the world are putting their lives on the line for the Gospel," Klein says.
By Faith Alone is a collection of stories Klein wrote about God's faithfulness. They're true stories about all the times God has helped VBB teams smuggle Bibles into closed countries.
Here's why VBB brings Bibles across closed borders.
Klein says he first became excited about Bible smuggling after reading God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. In case you've never read it, God's Smuggler is a true-story account of Christian missionary Andrew van der Bijl's adventures in Bible smuggling during the Cold War.
"I think it's really important to build faith in people today and get excited that God is at work around the world today; it's an exciting time to be alive," shares Klein.
Just as God's Smuggler motivated him as a young Christian, Klein hopes By Faith Alone inspires those who read it.
"I hope it encourages more people to step out in faith and say, 'God, what do you want me to do? What is it You have for my life?'"
With a $15 USD donation, you can get a copy of By Faith Alone and help God's Word reach believers in closed countries.
"All the money from the book goes right back into printing more Bibles and getting more Bibles around the world," Klein explains.
Contact Vision Beyond Borders to get a copy of By Faith Alone.
(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
Cameroon (WAS/MNN) -- Just as a crucible can withstand very high temperatures, so is Cameroon being tested by the heat of persecution.
Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, explains that the country is wedged in between Nigeria and the Central African Republic. "The borders of these countries are somewhat porous. This is the situation that Cameroon is starting to experience: they're being impacted from the West from the Boko Haram terrorism, and they're being impacted by the East from the Seleka rebels and things like that in the CAR."
Violence from both insurgencies is disruptive, but rather than stopping Gospel workers, it's spurring them to greater action. Smith explains that because so many people are facing their mortality, there's an increased appetite for Truth.
The national translation team remains focused on one thing: "We've got to act now to get God's Word to our people so that these outside pressures don't overcome us."
Wycliffe Associates responded by launching plans to help build a translation center in Maroua, Cameroon. If it sounds familiar, here's why: "The Translation Training Center that we're working on developing with our Cameroonian partners is in the northern part of the country that's actually under the greatest religious pressure, right now," says Smith. Specifically, it's the same area where two Italian priests and a Canadian nun were kidnapped on April 5 by suspected members of the terrorist group Boko Haram and later released.
Local partners believe they have an open window of only a few months to establish relationships and resources to continue Bible translation efforts. They recognize the struggle for what it is: spiritual warfare. "We need the sword of the Spirit," says Smith. "We need the Word of God. We need offensive and defensive Scriptural weapons here in order to really participate in this battle effectively and defend ourselves. So, they're the ones whose commitment is really being tested and being proven to really increase, despite the opposition they're facing."
(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
While Cameroon’s official languages are English and French, there are 280 living languages spoken in Cameroon, including 24 major African language groups. Currently, there are 130 Bible translation projects underway, and 70 translations of the Scriptures have been completed so far. Smith emphasizes that it's this diversity that drives the national translators forward. "This is a Center that will be a resource for training, supporting, and equipping Cameroonian translators to do work in their own languages in this arena of the country." He goes on to say, "Entire communities are asking--begging--to have Scripture in their own heart language."
As part of Wycliffe Associates' support of development projects and literacy training being conducted by local Bible translation partners, the organization aims to raise $175,000 which will be used to train local translators, form relationships with communities, and help direct translation efforts.
From here, it's important to translate the intention into action, Smith adds. Then, "Listen to the news and remember that behind the news, there is always a story about the implications for the Church in that arena. In light of Wycliffe Associates' mission of Bible translation, remember that translation teams are affected by these stories, as well."
(Image courtesy World Mission)
Myanmar (MNN) -- Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is at a crossroads.
Three months ago, Burma was considering a controversial "Religious Conversion Law." It bore resemblance to the anti-conversion laws of India with language like "people found to be applying for conversion, with the intent of insulting or destroying a religion, can face imprisonment of up to two years."
Additionally, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in its 2014 report that “political reforms in Burma have not improved legal protections for religious freedom and have done little to curtail anti-Muslim violence, incitement and discrimination, particularly targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority.”
An August visit proved disappointing as observers noted “state-sponsored discrimination and state-condoned violence against Rohingya and Kaman ethnic Muslim minorities also continued, and ethnic minority Christians faced serious abuses during recent military incursions in Kachin state.”
Being Burmese is synonymous with being Buddhist, so those who deviate have been traditionally seen as traitors or threats. World Mission CEO and Executive Director Greg Kelley says, "Many times when you give your life to Christ, in the Buddhist context here, you are literally losing almost everything."
(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
Despite the risk of being socially ostracized, Kelley says, "These people are responding to an authentic Christian." In fact, he adds, "We just received a report from a village that 25 people had given their lives to Christ. Most of them are being baptized now. We're so excited about the Word of God not returning void in Myanmar."
The Treasure is World Mission's digital audio Bible. The palm-sized unit has a built-in solar panel with rechargeable batteries. It brings the gospel to life for these unreached oral learners. "Most of them have never heard the Gospel [even] one time. So we distribute The Treasure. We set up listening groups in the Burmese language. About 100 people will hear the Gospel every time we send in The Treasure."
What happens to those who've been rejected by their communities? They don't remain alone, says Kelley. "In many instances, as these Christians mature, they're able to reintroduce and get re-acclimated into their communities and gain favor with these same people who maybe ostracized them at one point in time."
In the meantime, Kelley says, "It becomes really critical that there is a community of believers that you are being nurtured in and being discipled in." World Mission is also responding to that need next month by offering leadership development and training. "We'll be gathering 50 leaders from about six different key areas of northern Myanmar. They do the heavy lifting, so it's our opportunity over a couple of days to just really pour into them and encourage them."
The final point: it takes all of us together to take the Gospel where it has never gone before. "I think it's important that we acknowledge that God has already positioned strategic people to advance the Gospel to these areas. As we can, lift them up and pray for them to represent the ends of the earth and resource them with things like The Treasure. That's a great role on our end." Click here to get started.
(Photo credit ANM)
USA (MNN) -- Ever wonder how God uses women in the global mission field? Advancing Native Missions' (ANM) Thrive conference answers that question and more.
"Women have this great ability to reach out where sometimes others cannot," notes ANM's Autumn Nims. "God is using women more and more in the Church today to reach out."
ANM created the Thrive conferences to connect women in the U.S. to international women missionaries.
"The International Women's Ministry team at Advancing Native Missions brainstormed and came up with this event because women missionaries overseas need someone to advocate for them," shares Nims.
"If women get involved in this and come to a conference and hear what we're doing, it will be life-changing. We're having one on the East coast and one on the West coast in September."
Get more details and sign up for a Thrive conference here.
Nims says the women missionaries speaking at these events are coming from Egypt, Slovenia, Philippines, and Algeria.
"Folks are literally going to get a taste of what's happening in God's Kingdom around the world," she notes.
ANM's Thrive conferences give women missionaries a platform.(Logo cred: ANM)
"Our goal for these events is to gain friends for missionary women who are working in difficult mission fields. Not only does this bless the missionary women…but all of the women that attend are encouraged by the testimonies."
If you can't make it to a Thrive conference this year, would you pray for women missionaries around the world?
"Pray that God's message gets out to women, and pray that God would use these mighty vessels," Nims requests.
"Pray for strength, pray for resources for them, pray for their safety. Many of the women that we work with work in secret [or] work in underground churches; some of them have been imprisoned for their faith."
More stories from ANM here.
(Photo courtesy of Baptist Global Response)
Zimbabwe (BGR/MNN) -- Some people have a photographic memory and can sit in class, listen to the lesson, and pass all their tests flawlessly even without studying. The majority of students know they have to take notes if they’re going to pass.
But in some places, kids are failing classes simply because they do not have the ability to take notes. This is something that is easily overlooked in the big picture of education in developing countries. But a simple problem with a simple fix has caused people to fall behind several grades.
Baptist Global Response addresses a wide variety of needs in many countries, including education for orphans in Zimbabwe. BGR desires to help people in need reach the fullness of life that God has designed for them by administering His love in these areas. Take the following story, for instance.
Anold was failing primary school--not because he didn’t understand the lessons or because he was too lazy to study. Anold was failing because he had no paper for taking notes.
An orphan in Zimbabwe, the boy lived with extended family who didn’t have the financial means to buy him notebooks. So he went to class each day, sat in his seat, and hoped he could remember the teacher’s lessons. His efforts proved fruitless on test days.
Year after year, Anold kept failing tests and repeating grades until teachers were forced to push him on to the next level, regardless of whether he had learned their material. He just kept getting further and further behind in the lessons. Eventually, he dropped out.
When he turned 12, however, Anold’s life and grades turned around.
That year, he moved into the Caring Center. The Center provided a home for orphans during the school term, made sure they ate well, and gave them school and sports uniforms. The Caring Center also paid school fees for the children and used BGR funds to equip them with pens, notebooks, and other supplies for class. Anold finally had paper for his notes and homework.
Sufficiently equipped, Anold enrolled in classes once again, studied hard, and caught up on several grades of failed lessons. Over time, he began to pass his classes and move through the educational system on his own merit instead of by default.
After four years at the center, Anold is now 16 years old and in the 6th grade, steadily moving forward in school with his notebooks in hand. He might still be behind his age group, but now he is happily getting a real education.
You can help ministries like these continue. Give here.
Pray for Anold to be a blessing wherever he goes and that he would attribute his educational opportunities to God.
USA (BP/MNN) -- Someone pretty radical is going to be the new president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. It's a person you've probably read about or least heard about if you're connected with missions.
David Platt speaks at a news conference.
According to Baptist Press, David Platt was elected president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board by board trustees, meeting at the IMB's International Learning Center in Rockville, Virginia this week.
Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a Southern Baptist congregation in Birmingham, Ala., will take office effective immediately as president of the 169-year-old organization, the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 4,800 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve worldwide.
Platt succeeds former missionary, pastor, and Southern Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since March 2011. Elliff asked the agency's trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor. Elliff and his wife, Jeannie, plan to return to their home state, Oklahoma.
The author of the bestselling books "Radical" and "Follow Me," among others, Platt has been pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, which counts about 4,500 members, since 2006.
He also founded and leads Radical, a ministry that exists to serve the church in accomplishing the mission of Christ. Radical provides resources that support disciple-making in local churches worldwide, organizing events, and facilitating opportunities through multiple avenues, all aimed at encouraging followers of Christ in God's global purposes. Platt has traveled extensively to teach the Bible alongside church leaders and missionaries throughout the United States and around the world. He and his wife, Heather, have four children: Caleb, Joshua, Mara Ruth, and Isaiah.
"We talk all the time at Brook Hills about laying down a blank check with our lives before God, with no strings attached, willing to go wherever He leads, give whatever He asks, and do whatever He commands in order to make His glory known among the nations," Platt said in a letter to his church, released Aug. 27. "Over these past months, God has made it abundantly clear to both Heather and me that He is filling in that blank check in our lives and family with a different assignment. Along the way, God has used the elders of our church to affirm His call, and today He used the leadership of the IMB to confirm it."
In an interview, Platt said God had done a unique work in his life over the past 12 to 18 months, particularly since taking an overseas journey during which he saw a stark representation of just how many people have never heard the name of Jesus.
"This is not something I saw coming," he said. "I love pastoring The Church at Brook Hills. I love shepherding this local church on mission for the glory of God among the nations and could picture myself doing that for decades to come. At the same time, God has been doing an unusual work in my heart and life. The only way I can describe it is that He's been instilling in me a deeper, narrowing, Romans 15 kind of ambition, where [the Apostle] Paul said, 'I want to see Christ preached where He has not been named'.... He has given me a deeper desire to spend more of my time and energy and resources in the short life He has given me, seeing Christ preached where He's not been named. The concept of unreached peoples--of nearly 2 billion people who have never heard the Gospel--is just totally intolerable."
During a February trip to Nepal, Platt recounted, his team trekked for five days before they encountered a single follower of Christ. He also witnessed Hindu families burning the bodies of newly-deceased loved ones and scattering their ashes over a sacred river in hopes that they would be reincarnated. Most, if not all, of them presumably had died without ever hearing of Christ.
"It just gripped me in a deeper way," Platt said. "I came back with a desire to say, 'How can my life more intentionally be used to get the Gospel to unreached peoples? Maybe I need to move overseas.' Then the [trustee] search team contacted me and said, 'Would you be willing to consider [becoming IMB president]?' And I'm sitting there thinking, 'Why would I be willing to consider moving overseas, but not be willing to consider mobilizing thousands of people in a more intentional way to do that?'
"The Lord has made it so clear, clearer than just about anything else I've ever done in my life. I told my wife the only thing I can compare it to is asking her to marry me."
Platt's passion for people lost without Christ--and his calling to reach them--inspired members of the IMB trustee search committee, according to trustee and search committee chairman David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla.
"When we realized his sense of call, whether that meant serving as IMB president or going himself,...we realized how passionate, how deeply committed and called he was to the nations," Uth said in an interview. "That began for us a new season of discussions with him--and I will add, too, with his wife. The picture we saw of them was a beautiful picture of a one-flesh marriage moving together, following the same call. We sensed as much call in Heather as we did David.
"One more thing that really was consuming for us: his passion for lostness. To bring back passion for lostness within the context of Southern Baptist life would be so refreshing. I think it would be a [denominational] rebirth."
Uth said the trustees are excited about Platt's influence among thousands of Southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders through The Church at Brook Hills, the Radical network, and other arenas.
"We weren't looking for a man who knew how to talk about it; we were looking for a man who was doing it and using the influence he had to affect the nations," Uth said. "When we considered what Brook Hills was doing to send couples [to the mission field] and to engage people in the pew in kingdom work, we felt like those were clues to how effective he was at mobilizing and getting people to follow the vision that God had given him."
The ongoing crisis in financial support for missionaries is a major issue for Southern Baptists and IMB leadership, Uth acknowledged, and will challenge Platt as it has challenged Elliff during his tenure. But the potential of young, God-called missionaries in an emerging generation is far greater.
"I think the missionary force, the young people God is calling...represents one of the greatest forces in Christian history right now," Uth stressed. "While the world is becoming more hostile and anti-Christian in some places, it's as if [young missionaries'] passion is growing equally to go to those hard places. That's where we hear young couples saying they want to go, that they want to be radically obedient to what God has called us to do for the nations. The passion is there. How do we equip them and resource them? How do we incorporate strategy that's effective? David is going to address that in a way that's going to bring maximum impact."
Platt particularly hopes to use his influence to multiply the involvement of local Southern Baptist churches for missions in a way that glorifies God and His Word.
"I want to see the IMB first and foremost exalting Christ as the center of the church and mission," Platt said. "He's the One who's going to accomplish the Great Commission. He's given us the joy of being involved with Him in it. That means in everything the IMB does, we've got to be in tune with His Word, His plan, His Spirit, reflecting His character. I want to take whatever influence the Lord has given me--and will give me in this position--to sound the trumpet among followers of Christ (Southern Baptists and non-Southern Baptists) to say missions is not a compartmentalized program. The local church is the agent God has promised to bless for the spread of the Gospel to the nations. The role of the IMB is to equip and empower and encourage the local church to do this."
Message to missionaries
For IMB missionaries overseas, Platt has a simple message:
"I just [want] to say to you, more than anything, that the vision of the IMB remains the same: a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ.... If you don't hear anything else, please hear me say that all I want to do is lock arms with you, with what you're doing on the frontlines, with what's going on back here in mobilizing churches, to go after that vision.... I've been so thankful over the years pastoring in the church to partner with so many of you in different parts of the world. I'm thinking about specific brothers and sisters that I've had the joy of serving alongside and many others that I look forward to serving alongside in different ways. And I just don't believe that there is a means that God has blessed so greatly as He has the IMB and this coalition of 40,000 [Southern Baptist] churches working together for the spread of the Gospel to the nations.
"I am honored, humbled, overjoyed, and overwhelmed to be in this role, and I just want you to hear from me from the beginning that I am committed to praying for you, to supporting you, to listening to you, to learning from you.... How can we most effectively work together to make disciples of all nations?....I love you, I'm praying for you, and I'm honored to serve alongside you in what is the greatest mission on this earth."
Platt asks for prayer for The Church at Brook Hills and for his family as he begins the transition to his new role at the International Mission Board.
The Platts are natives of Atlanta. He received two bachelor of arts degrees from the University of Georgia in Athens and master of divinity, master of theology, and doctor of philosophy degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Before becoming pastor at Brook Hills, he served as an assistant professor of expository preaching and apologetics at New Orleans seminary and as staff evangelist at Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans.
Refugees in Iraq (e3 partner photo)
Middle East (MNN) -- More threats are coming out of radical Islam. Yesterday, chatter was intercepted in the U.S. that terrorists had identified targets for an attack on U.S. soil.
Middle East expert with E3 Partners, Tom Doyle, says we need to be careful what we believe. "Lots of it is false. Lots of it is to tie up the government. Lots of it is to produce fear in the hearts of people. Look at the obsessive news coverage that we're seeing. These guys are pretty savvy with media."
Doyle points to the James Foley murder as an example of that. "Everything was rehearsed and scripted. To be able to be put out and tied to Guantanamo Bay, the way he was dressed and with an English-speaking Muslim. All of that is done to just show fear."
It reminds him of the Assyrian Empire, who did the same thing. Entire villages would kill themselves knowing the Assyrians were coming.
Doyle points to another example. "This week there was an e-mail going around saying the Christians were being lined up and being beheaded. That didn't happen. Someone put that out. We need to be careful. Christians shouldn't live in a state of fear, but we need to be prepared."
Doyle says if the media would ignore the threats, much of it would go away. "I'm thankful for Mission Network News. You cover the real story, what's happening with believers, and the progress of the Gospel in the midst of all the destruction."
Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, Iraqi Christians aren't hopeless. They're training nationals to share Christ and plant churches. "They're training people to share the Gospel. They're training them to plant small, little house churches. Whether they return to Mosul or where ever they go, they don't want the Gospel to just stay with them. Obviously the need is to let it spread and let the light shine."
While it appears dismal, Doyle doesn't think so. "I believe this is one of the church's finest hours with believers arming themselves with the Word of God, continuing the mission, knowing that if ISIS isn't stopped, they'll be killed."
Support the work of E3 Partners.
(Photo credit WYC)
International (MNN) -- Bible translation is changing. It's not just about translating the written Word anymore, but that's not a bad thing.
Bob Creson, President and CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, also known as Wycliffe USA, shares why in this report.
"In the past, we would start translating maybe the Gospel of Mark, or the Gospel of Luke. Now, communities are saying, 'We learn orally. Would you help us translate a set of stories that would start a project?'" Creson states.
Previously, Wycliffe would assign a team to translate the entire New Testament for a group of people who didn't have God's Word in their native tongue.
"It often took up to 20 years-25 years to translate a New Testament," explains Creson.
Today, translation needs are driven by the local community. People groups are taking more ownership of translating Scripture into their own language. And, they're working together to make it happen.
Creson says, "You might find five or six language communities working together to produce the materials that they want."
Why does it matter?
(Photo credit Wycliffe USA)
"We really believe within the next 10 or 15 years every community will have some opportunity to hear this Good News of the Gospel in a language and a form they understand," says Creson.
Some people hear that and think, "Well, good! The needs are all taken care of," Creson notes. But, he adds, that's not really true. There are still 1,800 communities who have no Bible translation projects started in their language.
Will you join Wycliffe USA and be part of the "push" that gets the final translation projects started? Find ways to get involved here.
It's not just translators that are needed, Creson adds.
"We need teachers, we need administrators, we need IT people, we still need pilots," he says.
Find a complete list here.
"People can pray, and they can also give if they can't go."
The Ouachita River Correctional Unit in Arkansas.
USA (MNN) -- A number of factors contribute to why people in the U.S. commit crimes and end up serving prison time. The way inmates were raised tells a lot about their life path and decisions.
In this report, David Schuringa of Crossroad Bible Institute (CBI) explores the connection between childhood and a life of crime.
"Upbringing has so much to do with direction," Schuringa states.
"Take the background and childhood of an average prisoner…we know that their homes were chaos, 24/7; that they were neglected. 80% of them had no father in the home."
(Photo credit CBI)
A 2012 study by The Sentencing Project, which "works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms," describes the childhood environments of inmates who received Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP) sentences.
JLWOP prison time is given to people under the age of 18 who commit serious crimes.
According to the study, 79% witnessed violence in their homes. A third of participants were raised in poverty, and 18% were homeless before their incarceration. Nearly 80% of female "juvenile lifers" experienced physical abuse, and over 77% reported histories of sexual abuse.
The Good News in all of this is Jesus redeems. Accepting Christ as their Savior introduces prisoners to a new life and a new way of living. Prison time ends up being a blessing in disguise.
See how CBI introduces inmates to Christ here.
Schuringa describes four ways redemption impacts prisoners:
The blood of Christ covers all sin.
Prisoners' heavenly Father is perfect.
God's Word transforms their minds.
Inmates encounter of the love of a Christian community.
His last point is where you come in.
(Photo credit CBI)
"I would ask [readers] to get prayerfully involved right now," Schuringa encourages. "We can always use more Bible study correctors, or 'instructors,' as we call them."
Sign up to correct inmates' Bible lessons here.
Prayer and getting involved in prison ministry are important, but so is awareness. Click here to learn more about the Democracy Restoration Act (DRA), which would restore voting rights to ex-felons.
Ibrahim and the Dreamer
USA (MNN) -- It's a new method of evangelism and church planting. Well, it sounds new, but it's been around since the beginning of time. It's an evangelism technique used successfully by the best evangelist who ever lived: Jesus Christ. It's called, storytelling.
Scriptures In Use has just launched a new Web site to help us understand the technique a little better. At Tell-The-Story.org you can discover how this ministry is using storytelling to share the Gospel with those who won't and don't read and write.
A Scriptures In Use worker tells MNN, "Through storytelling, just telling the stories of the Bible, people come to a process of discovery learning. People hear the stories of the Bible, and it affects them deeply."
God is using storytelling to lead Muslims to Christ in great number. This is a huge priority for SIU. "They seem to be the elephant in the room that nobody wants to deal with, but the need is overwhelming within Islam. What's amazing to me, though, is how many Muslim people are very open to the Gospel when we move outside those traditional western models."
This worker explains why Muslim are turning to Christ in large numbers. "I think may Muslims are disgusted with the violence. Not all of them agree with the violence by Muslims. Certainly not all of them agree with what's going on worldwide."
SIU has produced a film to help you understand how storytelling lays the groundwork for evangelism. It's called Ibrahim and the Dreamer. "It kind of models what we would do in the field as an organization. We want to teach and spread storytelling.... That's what we're trying to do. So, we wanted to make a movie that was demonstrating that."
You can get a free copy of the DVD by clicking on the link on this page. This SIU worker is asking you "to really make an effort to understand we're talking about something different from most western church models. If they can overcome that barrier, then they're in a much better place to say, 'Hey, how can I really help SIU?'"
That could mean going on a trip with them, sending a check, or praying.
To get your copy of Ibrahim and the Dreamer, click here.
Ukrainian soldiers read Gospel of Luke.
Ukraine (MNN) -- A new front has been opened in eastern Ukraine in recent days. According to reports, tanks, artillery, and infantry crossed from Russia into Novoazovsk, a border town near Russia. These attacks caused panic among Ukrainian forces in what Ukrainian and Western military officials described as a stealth invasion. Some believe Russia orchestrated it to help the separatists, who have been on retreat for the last couple of weeks.
One of the areas where Ukrainian soldiers successfully pushed out the separatists was Slavyansk. President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba was just in that region. "The people of Ukraine are exhausted, and they really, really want to have peace in their communities."
President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba in Ukraine.
Rakhuba was there to talk to church leaders about how to help the victims of the conflict. He was able to personally hand out the Russian Ministries I Care packs. "I saw the Christian work in the midst of the crisis, and I'm so proud to see these young Christian leaders, these pastors. They are getting the Gospel advanced through the crisis."
Good News Church in Slavyansk was taken over by Russian separatists. Rakhuba says, "Their Sunday School classes were stuffed with explosives and weapons."
After Ukrainian soldiers retook the city, church members pooled finances and bought billboards. "The billboard was saying, 'Hope is still here. Hope is in God. Slavyansk citizens, believe, and God will come and rescue you.'' So, there is hope."
Rakhuba was able to worship with these brothers and sisters. "Half of the congregation are mostly new people that came because of the crisis. The church helped them during the crisis, and they expect the church to double in size."
What was it like to worship with them? "I could not hold my tears back, hearing that congregation of over 500 or 600 singing Hallelujah to God, Holy, Holy, Holy. They were praising God that He saved their lives."
Russian Ministries 'I Care' Packs distribution.
The I Care packs from Russian Ministries have made both a physical and spiritual impact on the community. Rakhuba says revival could happen. "People are so open to the Gospel. People are so open to God. I want to encourage [Christians] to continue praying that God would move the leaders of the Ukrainian church to advance the Gospel."
Russian Ministries is in the midst of training more pastors to use I Care packs to help refugees physically, but also meet their spiritual needs. More I Care packs are needed. It costs just $50 to provide enough food for a week for a whole family, along with counseling and God's Word.
You can listen to the full interview with Sergey Rakhuba, below
Click here to make a generous donation.
Below is a video of the Good News Church worship service this past Sunday, which Rakhuba attended.
(Photo credit Jan Seftl via Flickr)
Iraq (ODM/MNN) -- More Western nations are rallying together to support Kurdistan forces in the fight against Islamic State (IS) terrorists. Meanwhile, believers are coming alongside Iraqi refugees in the name of Christ.
Britain and six other countries have agreed to supply Kurdish militia with small arms and ammunition. On Tuesday, U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel praised the UK, France, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, and Albania for their commitment to equip the Kurdish "peshmerga."
According to this BBC profile, peshmerga are the armed defendants of Kurdistan.
"The determination of the Iraqi people and the international community to counter the threat posed by [IS] is only growing," Hagel stated.
The faces of tragedy
On the ground in Erbil, Open Doors USA is addressing the physical and spiritual needs of Iraqi refugees. The following is a first-hand account shared by "Lydia:"
(Photo cred: Open Doors)
"In Ankawa, the Christian neighborhood in Erbil, many people have found refuge in a public park. Open areas are now packed with tents. Clothes are tightened between the trees so people can find shelter from the burning sun. Temperatures are over 100.
The park is across from Mart Shmoni, a Syriac Catholic church. On the street, next to the church gate, is a small room. A line of people is in front of it, waiting for their turn to visit the room, one by one.
Father Emmanuel Adel Kallo took us inside the room. He explains that most people couldn’t take any official papers with them, such as birth, baptism, and marriage certificates. If refugees want to leave the country, they need those papers as a proof they are Christian when seeking for asylum. In the room, church workers fill out these forms under supervision of a priest.
Seeing the number of people, it means that many Christians will leave the country or at least want to be prepared for it. And who will blame them? A man tells me he has no hope that he will be able to go back to Mosul again. He lived in a neighborhood where Muslims and Christian lived together in peace. They had meals together. They shared a cup of tea. They were friends.
However, when Islamic State (IS) came, even his Muslims friends turned against the Christians and wanted them to leave. They even helped IS drive them out. “It felt like a stab in the back. I was betrayed by close friends. This time I can’t go back,” he says.
Looking around, I see the same sorrow and disillusion in other faces. It breaks my heart, and I have to swallow hard to keep my emotions in the right balance. Some tears are fine, but I don’t want to burst out crying here.
(Photo credit Open Doors)
Father Emmanuel showed us the church yard and the public park. Lane after lane, tent after tent, every tree or place of shadow is occupied by elderly people, mothers, fathers, young adults, teenagers, and children. In total there are about 650 families, and every day there are new people arriving. The place is crowded. At night, even the walking areas are used by people to lay down a mattress. People sleep in the open air, accompanied by centipedes, cockroaches, and other nasty bugs.
Back on the street we visited a big tent: the medical clinic. There is hustle at the entrance of the tent. A man is aggressive. He is stressed and ready to fight his way into the clinic. Father Emmanuel takes control. He tries to calm the man down and keep him from fighting. The man has been given a place to sit, but he is still stressed and speaking with a loud voice. At last he is quiet.
People are worn out. It is hot and they are traumatized. Thank God there is comforting as well.
During the tour, Father Emmanuel is called on the phone many times. Everywhere he goes, people ask him to solve problems or just to have a chat. And every time he shows them kindness, attention, and compassion. This man must be under a lot of pressure, and still he is able to help and is kind to everyone. Not only Christians, but also to Muslims refugees, Yezidi, and other minorities. “Because,” he says, “Jesus loves everyone! He will provide."
(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)
A senior man tapped me on my shoulder. While indicating his thirst, he points to the little bottle I have. It moves me because I realize that in a normal situation he would never have asked such a thing from a foreign woman. I give it to him immediately.
I pray that God will mend the broken and He will quench all of peoples’ thirst, whether it be physical or spiritual."
To help Iraqi refugees through Open Doors USA, click here.
DID YOU KNOW?: The chocolate chip cookie was created by accident.
France (MNN) -- What happens when God interrupts your plans? Do you get upset, or do you view it as an opportunity? In the kitchen, good chefs view changes to their plan-- occasionally caused by a shortage of ingredients or broken appliance--as an opportunity to create something new.
The chocolate chip cookie is a perfect example.
Legend has it the sweet treat was invented in 1930, when a U.S. inn-owner realized she had run out of baker's chocolate. Guests were expecting her "infamous" cookies, so Ruth Wakefield threw in a chopped up bar of Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate.
Thus, the birth of one of America's most iconic desserts: the chocolate chip cookie. French believer Helio De Almeida's life took a similar course.
As a child, De Almeida was fascinated with French cuisine and pursued it into culinary school. But before he could finish his training, God interrupted De Almeida's plans and called him into full-time ministry.
Read more of his story here.
Today, De Almeida and his wife are native missionaries supported by Advancing Native Missions. They're "cooking up change" by planting churches and introducing their French neighbors to Christ.
Nearly 50 million French people have no true connection with a Christian church, according to Operation World. More than 300 cities with a population of over 10,000 people have no evangelical presence.
(Photo credit ANM)
Helio and Annie De Almeida are focusing their church-planting efforts in "la Boucle de la Seine," a Paris suburb. It holds around 100,000 residents, but no Protestant church.
Will you pray for the De Almeida family as they explain the Bible and God's message of hope to their community?
Pray for their financial provision. Pray also for a bigger meeting space for their growing church. Pray that more French communities find hope in Christ as the Gospel spreads.
See how God is using native missionaries to advance His Kingdom around the world.
MAF plane getting fuel in Kalimantan.
USA (MNN) -- You know what it's like to go to the gas station to fill up your car, only to realize prices have gone through the ceiling. You know prices are high, but you need to get to work or take your family places they need to go. Imagine what would happen if you couldn't afford gasoline for your car. What would you do? Probably invest in a bike, right?
For missionary aviators, they don't have that option.
Director of Aviation Resources for Mission Aviation Fellowship David Rask says, "Fuel is our biggest expense in operating our airplanes. Over the life of an airplane, the cost of the fuel you burn in the airplane far exceeds the cost of the airplane itself."
Today, there are two types of fuel: Aviation gasoline and jet fuel. Rask says traditional piston engine airplanes burn Avgas. "We can pay anywhere from $8 to $22 a gallon for aviation gasoline and roughly $5 to $6 for jet fuel anywhere in the world."
MAF provides transportation to national and international missionaries, pastors, and humanitarian aid workers to get into areas inaccessible by roads. MAF also serves as an air ambulance for those who need medical care.
That's why increasing fuel prices have a big impact on MAF's work around the world. Right now, in places like Mozambique, MAF is paying over 30% more for fuel than they did just two years ago.
That's why MAF has been in the process of a major transition. "More and more," says Rask, "we've been transitioning to turbo prop airplanes that burn jet fuel. Jet fuel is available all over the world, and the price is relatively stable all over the world."
Rask adds, "Those airplanes not only carry two to three times as much as our older Cessna 206s, but they burn the more cost effective jet fuel. And on top of that, they fly faster.” That means they spend less time flying.
Rask says the newer planes can deliver a pound of freight or a person for half the cost of the older planes.
MAF is asking you to help by donating $100 for the cost of fuel. "One of our turbine airplanes would go about 70 miles, which doesn't seem like a long distance, but it could take somebody days to cover that 70 miles on the ground."
Rask says your fuel donation helps MAF in two ways. "Everywhere we go we bring the love of Jesus Chris. And sometimes before [people] can hear the message of the Gospel, they need to have some of their physical needs taken care of. Our goal is to see lives transformed for eternity."
If you'd like to donate, click here.
You can also listen to our complete interview with MAF's David Rask below.