Iran (VOM) -- A judge has rescheduled the August 12 sentencing date for an Iranian Christian imprisoned outside Tehran, Iran. “Amir” was set to be executed after being imprisoned two years ago after being caught transporting a truckload of Bibles. Publishing, importing, or reprinting Bibles or Christian literature is illegal in Iran. Though the sentencing trial has been delayed, his family remains very concerned for him.
Posted on www.icommittopray.com on August 8, more than 250 people from 18 nations have committed to pray for Amir.These are just a few of the prayers that have been offered on behalf of Amir and his family:
(Photo Courtesy icommittopray.com)
“Lord Jesus, my heart breaks for Amir and his family. Please move the judicial system in Iran to free him. I pray for a great awakening in Iran.”
— Debbie S. (USA)
“Dear Father in heaven, I sincerely thank You for the life of Amir. Gracious Father, I pray that his faith will not fail in these trying times of his life. The Scriptures say, “Indeed, all who desire to live a holy life in Christ will be persecuted.” I pray that You reverse the execution, and through that,even the executioners will come to the knowledge of Chris.”
— Christina Afua N. (Ghana)
“Thank You, Lord, for this young man. Oh Lord, Your works and Your people are powerful. Oh God, let Your will be done. But we ask that if Your will be to release this man … that many more may come to Christ through him. Release him like You did Peter. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
— Charles A. (India)
Like Charles, many others prayed in the spirit of Acts 12, in which “constant prayer was offered to God for [Peter] by the church,” and Peter escaped from prison. We praise God that Amir’s execution date was postponed, and we pray that God’s perfect will would be done. Continue to offer constant prayers for Amir and his family. Join others in prayer at www.icommittopray.com.
(Photo credit Assyrian International News Agency)
Iraq (MNN) -- Are you "N"? Being "N" in Iraq means you have four options: convert to Islam, pay up, get out, or die. Here's why: the letter "N" stands for the Arabic word nasara, which means Nazarene, and is being used by Islamic State (IS) terrorists to identify the homes of Iraqi Christians.
The "N" symbol, spray-painted in red on believers' homes in Mosul, Iraq, essentially became a target in mid-July. It paralleled an ultimatum issued to Christians by the terrorists. Now, Voice of the Martyrs USA is using this "N" symbol as a way for believers in the West to support their persecuted brothers and sisters.
When believers were forced to flee Mosul for their lives, some people only had whatever they were wearing at the time. VOM USA is helping these believers by providing daily necessities. They're also assessing future needs of persecuted Iraqi Christians.
Looking to help Iraqi Christians?
The real question should be, "Are you N?" If you're willing to claim your faith and stand with those that do--even when it means persecution, you can show that support by purchasing an "I Am N" T-shirt.
Are you "N"?(Image credit VOM USA)
Buying 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 persecuted Iraqi Christians.
Find more details and order a T-shirt at VOM's "I Am N" Web site.
Financial needs are obvious, but could you please cover Iraqi Christians in prayer, too? Pray for their protection and safety. Pray that hardships they're enduring will make them cling even tighter to the Lord. Pray for VOM USA as they assess future needs and develop a response strategy.
More about VOM USA's work around the world 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.
(Photo credit Christian Aid)
Nepal (CAM) -- Nearly 300 people have died and more than 100 are missing due to severe Nepal flooding. Heavy rain, which began August 13, has affected 25 of Nepal’s 75 districts, overflowing riverbanks and causing landslides. More than 22,000 people have been displaced.
“Most of the believers from two of our churches lost their shelters, household items, cattle, and food grains,” says a ministry leader supported by Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, in Bardia. Bardia is one of the four districts most-affected by Nepal's flooding.
The leader reports that he has “never, in the past 52 years,” seen this kind of flooding in Bardia. “All of the sudden, the Orai River changed its course, and within a few minutes entire villages were washed away without any time for the people to react.”
Before the rains began, the majority of the flood victims lived in extreme poverty. They now have nothing.
Many homeless families are living at the school run by this ministry--a school that recently received negative attention from a news channel in Nepal after it became known that several children converted to Christianity there. Converting someone to a religion other than Hinduism was illegal in Nepal until 2008, when it changed from the world’s only Hindu Kingdom to a secular state.
India’s newly-elected Prime Minister, a Hindu Nationalist, is fueling Christian persecution in Nepal. The Nepal flooding is presenting local Christians with an opportunity to share the love of Christ with their persecutors.
International aid agencies are trying to help the victims but aren’t able to communicate with and reach many regions that remain without electricity and are inaccessible to outsiders.
The Nepalese government is ill-equipped to respond to such a disaster. According to one ministry leader assisted by Christian Aid Mission, the government is calling upon “each able individual to contribute 100 rupees [$1] for the people in the affected regions.”
Indigenous ministries inside Nepal are in a unique position to reach out to their hurting neighbors in Jesus’ name immediately, with help wired directly from Christian Aid Mission.
Among the most-needed items are food, blankets, and tents. Your gift will enable native missionaries to provide these basic necessities to those who have lost everything.
Click here to help Nepal flooding victims through Christian Aid.
Iraq (VOM) -- Editor's note: Among the most common complaints we hear from would-be Mission Network News participants is that the news is not family friendly. In a day and age where not much in the world is "safe" for little ears, Voice of the Martyrs shared a wonderful, thought-provoking blog post offering a way to keep your kids informed, as well as what they can do to be part of the solution.
What follows is the blog post, in its entirety:
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
Yesterday, my husband met with Christian families who fled Mosul. He and I talked over Skype about what the families had shared with him. After a few minutes, my three-year-old climbed up in my lap and asked what we were talking about.
I paused for a moment before I told him, “Papa met with a lot of people who are sad because some mean people took away all their things and made them leave their houses because they love Jesus.” My son looked serious as he thought about that. Then I emphasized, “They even took away all their toys.” At that, he got very somber. I wish I had a picture of his concerned little face. “But why, Mama?”
“Well, the mean people do not like that our friends love Jesus,” I told him. “We need to pray for our friends because they are sad, and we need to pray that the mean people will come to love Jesus and stop doing bad things."
Later, we looked at pictures of some of the Christians who fled Mosul. Some of them were families with young kids. I can’t imagine what it must be like to care for infants and toddlers while camping out in an unknown city because you’ve just fled from your home.
That night when I put him to bed, we prayed for “the people who lost their toys” and those who need to know and love Jesus. While some parents might have tried to shield their kids from this type of information, I think it is important for kids to know that following Christ can be difficult from the beginning. In our family, we talk about who God is and that He’s in control of everything, but that bad things happen, and that when they do, we need to pray for our friends (our brothers and sisters in Christ) and encourage them. When my son misses his dad when he is gone, we tell him that he is doing his job by sitting with the sad people and encouraging them. As he grows older, we’ll expand on the information that we share with him.
In this country, our kids grow up with so much. I believe it’s important for them to learn early on that many others have a lot less than they do, and that the ease with which we worship Jesus is not something everyone enjoys. I’m glad to know that VOM offers resources for teaching kids about Christians around the world and persecution through www.kidsofcourage.com. With discernment, I hope to raise my kids knowing the truth about what our brothers and sisters face, as well as the truth about what they might have to give up if they are really committed to following Christ.
(Image courtesy Faith Comes by Hearing)
International (MNN/FCBH) -- The idea of the mashup is not new. The first one came about in 1906, but it was called a sound collage.
Today, it's more connected to music than to spoken audio content; however, Faith Comes By Hearing is leading the way in the trend.
Wikipedia describes mashup as "a web page, or web application, that uses and combines data, presentation, or functionality from two or more sources to create new services...frequently using open application programming interfaces (API) and data sources to produce enriched results."
FCBH spokesman Bill Lohr explains, "We're bringing some content (The JESUS Film Project is bringing in some content), and then we're mashing it up (that's the term mashup). And then we're bringing out a product where people can read the Bible, listen to the Bible, or watch the Bible on their mobile devices."
The Mashup accelerates the user's engagement with Scripture. Less than a decade ago, it would have been unthinkable to have access to the Bible in audio, text, and video on your cell phone. Lohr says to make it work, ministries have to cooperate. "We have content that is text and audio, and we put that into bible.is. Then we have partners like JESUS Film, and they allow us to bring that film in to show in the bible.is app."
While this opens the door for convenience and accessibility for the average user in North America, for those where persecution has forced the Church underground, it is a lifeline. Lohr says, "That stream goes out to their device, it's coming from our digital Bible platform, and it runs through their device. They can listen to God's Word in a secure manner and then have no record of their listening time in their device."
(Image courtesy Faith Comes by Hearing)
Here's how it works: API (application programming interface) technology allows full sharing of content between organizations and across digital platforms. Let's take a church's Web site, for example. Most churches have vision statements, staff pages, event pages, and other basic info. Some might include an audio player so people can listen to sermons. "They don't have to be bible.is. They don't have to be Faith Comes by Hearing. All of the content comes into their Web site, they have a page with the text and the audio available, and they've created a Bible page right on their Web site." Utilizing the API technology changes the game for them, says Lohr. They can include ALL of the content for reference purposes to any and all seekers.
Why offer all this for free? It's an answer to the access and availability question. "We want to get God's Word in as many languages as possible. That's the mission of Faith Comes By Hearing. We're getting God's Word into a format people can use and into the many different languages of the world."
Lohr adds that by sharing this digital content, doors open exponentially. "We're just really excited that we give unmatched access to God's Word in over 800 languages around the world. Believe it or not, those 800 languages represent 5.7 billion people."
Jesus Film Media adds, "The advanced technology partnership between Jesus Film Media and Faith Comes By Hearing now brings over a thousand language versions of the JESUS film to millions of Bible.is users. We are excited about this breakthrough in both mobile technology and partnership which will resonate throughout the Kingdom and in every user's heart."
In addition to sharing content with Jesus Film Media, Faith Comes By Hearing also offers Digital Bible Platform access to approved developers seeking to join them in bringing the Gospel to the world.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. William Begley/Released)
Iraq (MNN) -- Some Iraqi Christians are hopeful following multiple U.S. airstrikes near the Mosul Dam. Previously an Islamic State (IS) stronghold, U.S. bombardments keep loosening the terrorists' grip.
"Around the dam area, there's a lot more freedom. The families actually are filled with hope in that they might be able to return," says Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders (VBB).
"A lot of the homes have been destroyed; a lot of bombs and things like that [have fallen], so the areas still aren't safe for them to return home. But at least they have hope that, eventually, they will be able to return home."
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 96 airstrikes have been performed across Iraq since August 8. Of those attacks, 62 have been in areas near the Mosul Dam.
Right now, the U.S. is searching for help from Iraq's neighbors in the fight against ISIS. Speaking to reporters from a U.S. military aircraft on Sunday, U.S. General Martin Dempsey said defeating IS would take more than military strength. He mentioned a long-term strategy which would involve "reaching out" to Iraqi neighbors Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
Christian homes in Mosul were marked with the Arabic letter "N" for Nazarite and "Property of the Islamic State."(Image, caption courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)
Meanwhile, VBB is gathering help for Iraqi believers.
"We're just trying to help meet basic needs [right now]," Romeijn explains. "[We're] sending money to help the churches purchase food to help feed these people. Also, we're working to send a container."
A recent update from ministry contacts in Iraq spurred VBB to take immediate action.
"The situation is horrible for our Christian brothers. It is indescribable. Maybe this is the worst thing since the massacre of 1915!" writes VBB's ministry contact. "The churches don't have anything left, they can't help anymore.... It is really time to help. Thank you for your prayers!"
Click here to send funds to VBB, or call them at 406-587-2321 if you need more details.
Romeijn says believers can "just get in touch with us and they can let us know how they would like to help and be involved."
Most importantly, pray for the people caught up in this crisis.
"Pray for healing. So many people who've escaped have still witnessed terrible brutalities and atrocities, and they just need that healing power of Jesus."
More Iraq updates here.
(Photo credit IMB South Asia)
India (MNN) -- Have you ever been asked to find a woman? We're not talking about dating or hide-and-go-seek. imbStudents, the student and young adult mobilization ministry of the International Mission Board, is asking college students to help missionaries find the hidden women of India.
If female college students should accept this call to adventure, they will spend six months helping Southern Baptist missionaries connect with the "hidden women" of India.
More information here.
This nation's women don't become "hidden" by choice. Regarded as "less than human," hidden women are tucked away in alleys and slums, isolated in small apartments, or kept locked in a brothel, waiting for the next paying customer.
This adventure isn't for the faint-hearted. Students will likely be trekking through dirty alleyways and slums to find India's hidden women, or to distant villages that are only accessible by foot.
(Photo cred: IMB South Asia)
What's the goal of this search for India's hidden women? It's the same as that of Jesus Christ: to find the lost, the hurt, the outcast. Christ came to bring redemption and new life to the hidden women and hidden sinners of this world.
On this IMB adventure, female college students will become the feet of Christ, carrying hope and Good News to the outskirts of society.
Please pray for the young women God is calling to embark on this journey. Pray for the hidden women of India, that they will find hope and eternal salvation through Christ. Pray that IMB missionaries will be encouraged and helped greatly by the students.
More India stories here.
Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram.(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Nigeria (MNN) -- It's happening. Emboldened by the success of the Islamic State, Boko Haram has named its own caliphate.
Boko Haram forces have killed thousands since launching an uprising in 2009. They are seen as the biggest security threat to the continent's leading energy producer. Todd Nettleton, spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, shares one concern about what happened. "What we've typically seen with Boko Haram is that they'll attack and then pull back. They haven't been one to try to take territory and try to control it on a regular basis."
(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)
On 24 August, the group released the first video to state a territorial claim in more than five years of violent insurrection. It shows the violent take-over of Gwoza town in Borno State three days earlier. Nettleton says, "If this is the first case of them doing that, it really does show a change of direction, and I think it shows the influence of the Islamic State and the influence that they've had." World Watch Monitor reports that the group slaughtered over 100 people, including a prominent church leader, Pastor Musa Ayuba, from Church of Christ in Nations.
The WWM article also reported the arson of churches, shops, houses, and government buildings in the takeover. Hundreds of residents escaped to the surrounding mountains. But can they keep the territory they've taken? Nettleton explains, "I don't think that Boko Haram has the manpower, or the military expertise, or the equipment to sweep through wide swaths of land in Nigeria and really maintain control."
Nettleton goes on to say that the Islamic State will be tougher to dislodge for a number of reasons. "One of the things that IS has going for it is they have several of Saddam Hussein's former military leaders that have signed on with them that are providing a lot of expertise. They also have almost unlimited funding."
Still, it hasn't deterred Boko Haram much. They've gotten help to organize and plan. They've executed a coordinated series attacks. Gwoza is also not the first attempt at establishing a caliphate in Nigeria. A month ago, the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency was alerted to an influx of more than 15,000 Internally Displaced People after Boko Haram overran Damboa. (The story also notes that the army has since driven Boko Haram out of Damboa).
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs)
Since then, Boko Haram intensified its campaign to eradicate Christians in the region, targeting several Christian places of worship.
Nettleton says just because they may not succeed the same way does not mean Boko Haram can be dismissed. They are every bit as brutal as the Islamic State. "If Boko Haram does follow through and really tries to establish a base of domination, and a base of radical sharia law, that really does pose a threat to the Christians who are there. They will either have to leave the area or move to some kind of underground or hidden status."
VOM encourages believers to pray for the Christians of Nigeria. Pray for their protection and safety as they gather to meet.
More importantly, Nettleton reminds us to be praying for our enemies. God can turn things around…and fast. There's proof in the New Testament. "We need to pray for many more 'Sauls' to become many more 'Pauls' in Boko Haram, in IS, in al-Shabaab, in all of the radical Islamic groups. That needs to be a consistent part of our prayer in these situations." To get involved, click here for details.
(Photo credit Florida Baptist Children's Home/Orphan's Heart)
USA (MNN) -- Have you ever wished you could do more for a ministry than write a check? Then you need to listen to this story.
Kristen Hitchcock of Orphan's Heart says their donors faced that same dilemma. Then, a few of them decided to do something about it. They took action and formed the Women of Compassion Giving Society.
"[They want] to help children, but they want to know what they're doing and how they're helping," Hitchcock observes of U.S. Christian women in general.
Referring specifically to Women of Compassion, Hitchcock says, "It started with a couple of women who were saying, 'You know, I want to do more. I want to know what I'm giving to, and be able to guide that.'"
Women of Compassion
(Photo credit Florida Baptist Children's Home/Orphan's Heart)
The Women of Compassion Giving Society has since grown to approximately 120 members, mostly from the state of Florida. Each year, the group meets to vote on a Florida Baptist Children's Home or Orphan's Heart ministry project they'll support with a $1,000 gift.
"It's different every single year; you never know what's going to be on the ballot that they're voting on," notes Hitchcock.
"It all has to do with helping children come to know Christ in some way."
Last year, the Women of Compassion helped construct 70 homes in the Dominican Republic for impoverished single mothers and their children. They have also helped fund two orphanages in Africa: one in Tanzania, and another in Uganda.
(Photo credit Florida Baptist Children's Home/Orphan's Heart)
The Women of Compassion are more than fundraisers: they are a community. Some of them are mentoring vulnerable girls rescued from the streets in Florida. Others are beginning a running and walking club in 2014.
Learn how you can team up with the Women of Compassion here.
"[There are] so many opportunities for them to go on mission trips and to stay 'in-the-know' of what's going on across the world," says Hitchcock.
Listen to the full interview here for more stories and details about Women of Compassion.