Iraq (MNN) -- Picture this. You're a Christian. An official knocks on your door and tells you that since you're a Christian you have to:convert to Islam, pay a tax, or leave your city. If you don't, you'll be killed. While you're wrestling with that decision, you hear reports that suggest these people only want you dead.
That's exactly what's happening in Mosul, Iraq.
Dr. David Curry condemns the removal ofChristians from Mosul, Iraq.
Dr. David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, has condemned the latest action of Islamic State militants who ordered all Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul to leave the city over the weekend or face execution.
"The persecution and treatment of Christians in Mosul is unprecedented in modern times," he says. "This latest forced exodus of Christians further shows why Western governments and the people in the West need to cry out in support for religious freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere. If this does not move us concerning the near extinction of Christianity in the Middle East, it’s likely nothing else can."
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, adds: "Too many of us thought that forced conversions and expulsions of entire religious communities were part of a distant, medieval past. There was little that we could do to stop this horrible episode.
"It is not too late to realize that many others--Christians today, but certainly Jews, Baha'i, Hindus, Muslims, and others--are mortally endangered by a potent religious fanaticism that threatens tens of millions, and which still can be resisted."
According to Open Doors, the Islamic State gave Christians an ultimatum over the weekend: (1) stay and convert to Islam, (2) pay Islamic tax (which is too much for most families to pay), or (3) leave Mosul taking nothing but their clothes. Christians who stayed would be executed.
Most Christians have left Mosul now. At the checkpoints of ISIS, Christians had to leave everything behind (cars, gold, money, mobile phones). The only possessions they could keep were their clothes. They had to walk to safer places, mostly in northern Iraq, while traveling in blistering heat.
A World Watch Monitor source in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, said a Christian family in Mosul reported by phone that explosions were heard during the night last Thursday in Mosul. On Friday, as the family attempted to pass through a Mosul checkpoint, ISIS agents forced them out of their car and confiscated their belongings and put them in a separate vehicle. Then the militants drove them several minutes down the road, and ultimately forced them out to continue their journey on foot, according to the source.
Open Doors reports that some churches, many in partnership with Open Doors, have been helping the Mosul refugees. One Open Doors field worker said: "The exodus has stopped. There are no more Christians in Mosul anymore. We now need to pray that they might return one day."
Earlier last week, the Islamic State marked houses belonging to members of minority communities, including Christians, with the phrase "property of the Islamic State," including inhabited houses.
While you may not think you can make a difference, you can. Support the Open Doors emergency fund. "We're trying to raise $1.5 million just for the immediate surge to help these refugees. There [are] 3,000 Christian families from Mosul who are on the run."
Iraq is ranked No. 4 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. For more information on the list, go to www.WorldWatchList.us.
For almost 60 years Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these places. Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians in the areas of Bible and gospel development, women and children's advancement, and Christian community restoration. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535), or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Students at Grace Bible College & Theological Seminary in Bangladesh take one of their daily exams.(Image, caption courtesy FMI)
Asia (MNN) -- What do the people of Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan have in common?
"95% or more are Muslim, and most of those have never heard the Gospel," shares Bruce Allen* of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).
Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan hold a combined population of 580 million people. That means one of every 12 people in the world lives in one of these three countries. Furthermore, two-thirds of the world's Muslims live in 10 countries: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, and Morocco.
Simply put, ministries operating in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan have a significant opportunity to reach the Muslim world for Christ.
Enter: Forgotten Missionaries International.
Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI)
FMI exists to support indigenous pastors in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan who are telling unreached people groups about Christ and planting churches in these communities. They empower national missionaries instead of sending missionaries from Western nations.
"We find the guys who are trained, who are passionate about God's Word, and want to reach their own countrymen with the Gospel," explains Allen.
"Pioneer evangelists have gone in, done the evangelism and the outreach; [the men] we're partnering with are literally the 'forgotten' missionaries."
With financial support from FMI, pastors are able to stay in ministry. This support is especially important during the early years of church planting, when congregations are often too small and too poor to support their pastor.
"Rather than have them get discouraged in those years, our partners here in the U.S. say, 'We will support you financially so that you don't leave the ministry in order to feed your family,'" Allen says.
See how you can support a pastor and his family.
Throughout the Muslim world, Ramadan is a significant holiday. It's also a great opportunity for indigenous believers to teach Muslims about Jesus.
Muslim workers pause for a few minutes along an alleyway in the afternoon to offer their ritual prayers.(Image, caption courtesy FMI)
"It's a time of heightened awareness…because the Muslims at this time are praying about connecting with God and trying to 'revitalize' any sense of spirituality," explains Allen.
"Muslims are more open to spiritual conversations, especially if relationships have already been built."
As the last week of Ramadan begins, pray that missionary pastors will have a chance to introduce Muslims to Christ.
Seal of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.(Image courtesy Wikipedia)
Iraq (MNN) -- The Iraq crisis and Islamic State (formerly ISIS) terrorists have reached a new low.
"For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians," Patriarch Louis Sako told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.
Before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Mosul boasted a Christian population of approximately 60,000. A majority of believers had left by June 2014, but the Remnant was driven out by the Islamic State this weekend.
On Saturday, the following update was posted on the 8thirty8 Facebook page:
"The Remaining Christians in Mosul, Iraq (Ancient Ninevah) left today under threat of death from the 'Islamic State' terrorists. An Iraqi pastor just called and said that each Christian family departed with the clothes on their back. Their houses were spray painted with signs: 'This House is Now Property of the Islamic State.'
"This announcement was then made over Mosque loudspeakers: 'Today is the day you must choose to convert, pay the jizah tax, or die.'
"Mothers were not allowed to take diapers or formula. Everything was left behind. They headed for Kurdish controlled areas like the city of Erbil."
IS terrorists issued the same ultimatum in Syria earlier this year, and it was threatened in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
E3 Partners Middle East/Central Asia ministry is looking for ways to send help to the displaced Iraqi families. Click here to support their efforts financially.
Middle East governments are very strict when it comes to sending in funds, making it extremely difficult to support ministry partners in this region. Will you stand with E3 in prayer?
Pray for the Lord's blessing upon resources and aid being sent to Iraqi families. Pray that governments will not hinder the supplies and that they will reach believers quickly. Pray that the Iraq crisis will serve to underscore the eternal hope Christ offers.
For the latest Iraq crisis updates, follow 8thirty8 on Facebook.
For some people, the cemetery is a place of sadness.For others, it's a place of hope.(Photo by New Tribes Mission)
Mexico (NTM/MNN) -- There aren't many who relish the thought of death. It marks the beginning of something we've never really known before, and the end of what we've always known.
New Tribes Mission works with a tribe in Mexico, the Nahuatl people. They are translating the Bible into their language and constructing a literacy program to teach the people how to read.
The following story about the Nahuatl by NTM's Ian Fallis is a story that all of us can relate to. It is also a story that can inspire followers of Christ to make a difference in the world around them.
Dark is the path that leads past the little Nahuatl village to the cemetery. “It’s a path we all must walk,” said the father of a little boy crushed to death under a truck when a jack slipped. He shrugged, and walked on.
A shadowy path
Word of the boy's death reached missionaries Peter and Liesl Hypki on a Saturday. They also heard why it happened: magia negra, the villagers said without a hint of doubt: black magic. Two days later, the boy's coffin was at the head of the procession ambling down the shadowy path.
The moment the coffin began to be lowered into the grave, his father turned his back on the boy and faced east. His family followed his example, and then the whole crowd turned away. They had to: the Nahuatl people believe that if you do not, the deceased person will take your soul.
“To me, it’s the saddest part,” Peter said. “The imagery is stark.”
A path we walk with hope
It also reminds Peter of another Son who died: of Christ, rejected, dying to conquer death and bring us eternal, abundant life, and to give us hope.
This is why Peter, Liesl, and their co-workers, Rachel Chapman and Katie Moore, are there: to share this hope. In order to share God's message clearly, they must understand how the Nahuatl people think. This is the grid through which the people will understand everything that is said about God.
The walk to the cemetery is indeed a path we all must walk. But, Peter added, "For those who know Christ, it is a path we walk with hope.”
(Photo courtesy of NTM)
You can help Peter and Liesl share with the Nahuatl people the truth and security that exists in a relationship with Christ. Support Peter and Liesl by clicking here, or NTM translation efforts here.
Pray for the spiritual blindness to be lifted from this village.
Turkey (MNN) -- Think about the last time you turned on your TV. What do you remember?
(Photo courtesy of SAT-7 TURK)
A new television drama series of SAT-7 TURK, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, addresses the dangers that lurk within the content you're viewing.
Start with commercials. It's no secret people trying to sell you something have to make you desire it, out of need or want. But how often is that desire created out of the pre-existing desires of fallen human nature? Do they ever use any of the seven deadly sins--lust, envy, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, or gluttony--to draw you in?
If you think this is a ridiculous question, consider what the commercials are partitioning.
Your favorite TV show, for instance. At any point, does the show use one of the seven deadly sins to get your attention, drag the plot along, and entertain you? Maybe not your show, but you see how many programs are advertised using these themes.
The fact is, all too often these and other sins are used as entertainment value. They are glorified, commercialized, and underrated.
What's the problem?
Have you ever thought about why the seven deadly sins are called "deadly?" They seem pretty harmless, after all.
That's just it. These sins don't come with the bright orange warning label like murder, robbery, and alcoholism do. They're easy to reason with, easy to hide, and easy to fall into without noticing before they've significantly impacted your life. The consequences permeate many areas of your life without you being able to put a name from their cause.
SAT-7 is doing something about it
SAT-7 TURK is getting ready to release Seven, a drama series that addresses the implications of sin, re-sensitizing it's viewers to the seriousness and offensiveness of sin. It also serves as a platform for discussion between viewers, regardless of their religion.
*A SAT-7 TURK worker says, "It's an excellent medium for bringing up opportunity [to] further the discussion and [get] responses from people."
The audience participates in an honest, yet meaningful, conversation through a collection of texts, Facebook posts, Twitter, etc.
"That's one of the great advantages of television in Turkey," says the TURK worker: "It's popular. And people are quite open about speaking about their beliefs and their understanding about things, so that's not a problem as long as it's done, obviously, with respect in a way that doesn't attack peoples' belief."
SAT-7 TURK seeks to present discussions for the breadth and depth of the Christian life by covering many different topics.
Seven is just one of many examples of how they present these themes, and a good one, too: "It's a format that uses television really well. And because we're a television ministry, we think it's important to develop good drama, as I mentioned, that's written by people who understand their faith well and their culture well. I think it's a great way to communicate with our audience regarding the Christian faith," the worker says.
SAT-7 is a way to connect, comfort, and guide believers wherever they are around the world.
As the TURK worker explains, "The Church in Turkey really benefits from this. The Church in Turkey is very small. Many Christians are living in isolated situations where it's difficult to meet with other believers.
"Television ministry really is a key, strategic way of helping the Church."
Your support will reach all the way to the Middle East!
You can help support this programming financially here.
The TURK worker says that the main way you can help is by talking to God.
"As we broadcast day-by-day different programs and try to reflect Christian life in all its fullness, pray that those programs would be helpful to all of the different churches in Turkey, in all of the different aspects in their life and their witness."
You can also pray for SAT-7 TURK's application for a Turkish broadcast license to be accepted. It will allow SAT-7 TURK to broadcast on the best satellite for a Turkish audience. Pray also for the Turkish people to look to God for guidance amid the turmoil and unrest taking place all around them in the Middle East.
*Unidentified for security reasons
Paradise Bound Ministry Team in Tonajuyo(Photo courtesy of Paradise Bound)
Guatemala (MNN) -- Ten cents isn't much of an investment. In fact, it's an expenditure easily forgotten in the fast-paced, high-cost world we live in.
It's the same with prayer. Paradise Bound Ministries reminds us of the saying, "Don't expect a million dollar answer to a ten-cent prayer."
How often are our prayers ten-cent prayers? Easily forgotten investments of time and feeling that we throw around here and there, hoping we're making a difference but forgetting the cause.
There is a battle being fought all over the world and one that's particularly evident in one Guatemalan village. It is the fight against a cold religion that threatens to replace a warm relationship with Jesus.
Paradise Bound firmly believes in the power, importance, and reverence of prayer. They're asking for your heartfelt and engaged prayer for that village in Guatemala.
Last week, a team with Paradise Bound began the 90-home building project in Tonajuyu. The five homes this particular group is building is for the following five families that you can be in prayer for.
(List by Paradise Bound Ministries)
Be praying also for the team members to be faithful witnesses of God's love for His people. Pray for their safety as they finish up their trip today.
Continue to pray for the village of Tonajuyu as residents continue to encounter the workers of Paradise Bound. Ask God to open their eyes to eternity, even as they're earthly homes are built.
Airbus A380-841, Malaysia Airlines(Image courtesy Alex Beltyukov via Wikimedia Commons)
Ukraine (BGR/MNN) -- Though it's been dominating world news headlines, last week's Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 crash isn't the only big thing happening in Ukraine. Baptist Global Response partners say between 30 and 40 new refugees are arriving daily at a church in Kharkov, Ukraine from towns taken over by separatists.
Earlier this month, the United Nations reported that at least 42,000 people have been internally displaced by violence in eastern Ukraine. Another 18,650 Ukrainians were reportedly living in temporary housing in Russia, and 7,000 had been transferred to cities away from the border.
Many displaced families left eastern Ukraine with only the clothes on their backs. Churches and local believers are doing what they can to provide food, shelter ,and most importantly, the hope of Christ.
BGR and its humanitarian partners in the region are coming alongside those churches to provide desperately-needed resources. Using $1,000 from Global Hunger Relief and $4,000 in Southern Baptist general relief funds, they are providing food, baby products, toiletries, bedding, cots/beds, and in some cases, refrigerators, where churches have no way to keep food stores cold.
In the initial stages of the relief effort, BGR will work with a group organized from local churches to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of displaced families as they come to churches for assistance, the BGR partner in Ukraine said. Workers also will seek to identify other resources available from the government or local community.
The BGR partner asks people who care about this situation to pray:
“Intercede for those who are trying to find safe passage from areas of conflict to other regions of the country, for the love of Christ to compel believers throughout the Kharkov region to give sacrificially to provide for those fleeing their homes,” the partner said.
“Pray for the Lord's provision to meet the needs of those who have left their homes and jobs to protect their families. Pray for hearts to be drawn into a personal relationship with Jesus as His love is displayed through His people in the Kharkov region.”
Click here to come alongside believers in Ukraine.
(Map courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Churches in Kharkov are uniting their efforts to try to help meet refugee needs, but many of those churches exhausted their limited financial resources in the first month of relief efforts. No one knows how long the crisis might last, and churches may need to assist some displaced families until the conflict ends or those families are able to move on. If the crisis extends into winter, the needs will be magnified.
See the latest Ukraine updates here.
(Image courtesy VOM Canada)
International (MNN) -- No matter how long you've been a Christian, there are likely times when you've wondered: how important is prayer? God knows our every thought; He knows them even before we do. So, why is prayer important?
Well, for starters, prayer is mentioned more than 250 times in Scripture. Prayer is important to the Lord for a multitude of reasons and should therefore be a priority for us as His followers. It would make sense, then, that prayer is also the best way to help missionaries. However, money is often the first thing that comes to mind.
"When people think about missions, a lot of times they think about the resources, the finances, the personnel. But the request we get the most is for prayer," says Advancing Native Missions (ANM) CEO Oliver Asher.
That's why ANM has created a daily Prayer Guide with 31 different ways you can pray for native missionaries. Native missionaries, or indigenous missionaries, are believers who stay in their own country to tell people about Christ instead of going overseas to share the Gospel.
"Prayer is a way of life around here, so it only made sense that we should emphasize prayer and make sure that people don't forget the importance of prayer," adds Asher.
"Any great awakening, any great spiritual movement, any opening to the Gospel always begins with prayer."
(Image courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)
ANM is highlighting the 31 Ways to Pray for Native Missionaries Prayer Guide on their Web site during the month of July. But, Asher says this resource can be used year-round to intercede for native missionaries.
Download a free copy of the prayer guide here.
Would you take time to pray for a native missionary today? Pray that God would bless native missionaries and their families with every resource they may need.
Listen to the conversation with Oliver Asher about the importance of prayer.
Fist Olympic Stadium (Photo cred: jjjj56cp Flick https://flic.kr/p/7TaTur )
Greece (MNN) -- Once again, we're asking you to lace up--whether for an actual run or a less literal way of being the beautiful feet spreading God's Word (Is 52:7).
EFCA ReachGlobal impacts the world for Jesus in ministry and crisis response. One place they're making great strides in is Greece where the population is only .25% Christian.
ReachGlobal Europe and their Athens City Team is promoting the chance to catch a vision of what God is doing in Greece through their participation (and yours) in the most classic marathon around.
No, it's not the Boston marathon--not even close.
Run the original Athens Marathon, coming up in November. The marathon will begin in Marathon and end in the Olympic stadium of Athens.
The idea to participate in it as a team began with ReachGlobal's work in Kypseli which is the most ethnically diverse city in Greece. Many refugees and immigrants have taken up residence in this city.
How it started.
Starting with a children's ministry, ReachGlobal has brought together the community to begin Bible studies and church plants.
For a people who have little to do with God, the city of Kypseli is extremely open to the Gospel.
Tom Becker of ReachGlobal says, "They are responding well. I think the outreaches in Athens are very personal, and so they're coming in and getting to know the families. As families get to know that Christians are relational people and are really interested in them, they're very interested in responding to that."
The marathon will help raise awareness and funds for this ministry work. Participants will have the opportunity to visit historic sites, the Kypseli city, and the Greek Bible College.
"We're hoping that people will catch a vision for future ministry with the Athens City team, too. There's a lot of needs on the ground for short-term teams to come and help with the street festivals, leadership development, people that would be involved informally at the Greek Bible college. Music worship ministry is another need that they're talking about."
Run, give, or go!
There isn't much time left to train for a marathon if you haven't started doing so. However there are new opportunities.
"If a marathon is a long distance that you don't think you can run, there's also the opportunity to run the 10k race, or even the 5k race," Becker explains.
If you're set on doing the marathon, we have good news! ReachGlobal plans to repeat the experience once they have a better understanding of how things will work.
And for those who are just not runners, rest assured there are still opportunities to help out.
"Non-runners can still come and still have a huge impact in terms of just seeing what God is doing in Athens. They can also be involved in the trip: just going to the historical sites in Athens, seeing the Greek Bible college, going to the Kypseli neighborhood and seeing people there," Becker explains.
You can also give to the work that they are doing in Greece. Find out more here.
And finally, you can pray.
Becker says, "The Athens City Team really needs prayers to know how to invest its energies between the Bible College, the church plants in the Kypseli neighborhood, the work with the immigrants, refugees. They just need wisdom and discernment to know how to work best, how to use their time. And they also need other workers to come alongside them and help."
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/JoeCatron)
Israel (MNN) -- There's no easy way to simplify the complexities of the Gaza conflict as the Israeli ground invasion continues.
This follows days of Hamas pounding Israel with rockets and a rejected ceasefire brokered by Egypt.
E3 Partners Middle East expert Tom Doyle explains, "Israel has been threatening to send in the Israeli Defense Forces, to just 'clean house' on Hamas. The power's been cut in Gaza City. It's definitely an elevated situation."
Hamas warns of "dreadful consequences" of the conflict's escalation, while the U.S. cautions Israel on civilian casualties as the death toll rises. The ground assault began on Thursday. Initially, government reports showed a maze of tunnels dug by Hamas from Gaza into Israel. Israel wants to put a stop to the attacks and prevent future ones from occurring via the tunnels.
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/IsraeliDefenseForce)
However, this action could drag Israel further into Gaza, which increases the risk of more casualties. Doyle says, "Gaza City is a very densely-populated area, and so are the refugee camps."
Even though Israel warned residents about their plans, the risk of civilian deaths is still high. "The Gazans cannot get out, so they join with Israel in saying they would love to see the terrorists gone." Doyle says not all the Gazans support Hamas. "The Gaza believers and those that are not terrorists...live under Hamas rule, and it's been really horrible." Doyle says that Hamas has blended in with the population in places like apartment buildings, etc.
What's more, This conflict goes to show an inexorable advance of political Islamism over Islam. Specifically, the body of Christ. "They are praying that the terrorists would be stopped and that peace would be restored to Gaza. It's a difficult situation, and we just pray for the believers in the midst of Islamic terrorism in Gaza."
In short, "It's a terrible situation to be in. It's a no-win." That about sums up what's happening on a 26-mile strip of land in the Middle East.
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/IsraeliDefenseForce)
It's hard to imagine anyone has time for anything but just trying to survive the assault, says Doyle. However, the Christians are focused, even more so now. "The believers in Gaza right now are convinced that this is their time to be there, that God has a reason for them to be there. They're not running, even If they could. They want to be the light of Jesus Christ to this very dark place."
One of the Christian leaders Doyle reached by phone in Gaza told him, "I'm praying for a Hamas-free Gaza. Both Israel and the people of Gaza deserve it."
In a Facebook post on Friday, Doyle observed, "We follow Jesus who radically transformed everyone He encountered. He took Saul and turned him into Paul. A Jew killer became an Apostle. Is anything too hard for God? He could do the same thing with Hamas members. May it be, Lord! King David knew all about war. 'I cry out to the Lord. I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy' (Psalm 142:1). Looking and expecting to see the Mercy of God."
Would you help us build a prayer wall on Facebook? "The believers that live in Gaza are always so focused on what would really bring change…and it's the light of Jesus Christ."
One person is known to have died as a result of the explosion which caused this apartment building to partially collapse. It is feared that there may be more dead bodies somewhere in this pile of rubble, but that remains to be seenas it is cleared away.(Photo credit: Vasily KarpyakCaption courtesy Russian Ministries)
Ukraine (MNN) -- If your town turned into a war zone, what would you do? How would your church respond? Well, eastern Ukraine IS a war zone, and churches ARE responding.
Russian Ministries says Christians are delivering food and supplies in Slavyansk, a town that was formerly occupied by pro-Russian militants. This gives them a chance to share the hope of Christ with people who've been living in fear for months.
When separatists began taking control of towns in eastern Ukraine, many people fled for their lives. It has created a massive humanitarian crisis in central Ukraine and parts of Russia. But some families were unable to flee and remained trapped in towns controlled by rebel forces.
Supplies were running low and hope was growing dim when Ukraine's government was able to re-take some of the separatist towns earlier this month. Now that it is safe for churches and believers to enter towns like Slavyansk, they're doing what they can to help people in need.
See what believers encountered when they entered Slavyansk.
Destruction is widespread as militants often used schools, hospitals, and other public institutions as shields. The aftermath makes it clear that what happened in Slavyansk--and is now happening in Donetsk--is truly a war.
This young man helped severalfamilies carry their boxes of foodback to their homes.(Photo credit: Vasily Karpyak.Caption courtesy Russian Ministries)
Good News Church in Slavyansk is being used as a reception/sorting/distribution point for food and supplies, as well as providing hot meals to anyone who shows up. It's a display of Christ's love in action for unbelievers who dare to emerge from the war zone.
In order to help evangelical communities respond and minister effectively, Russian Ministries created the "I Care" Refugee Assistance Program. It's designed to provide training for pastors located in the war zone, counseling resources and relief aid in the form of food, personal care items, and a copy of the New Testament.
Learn more about the program and help meet the needs of refugee families here.
Pray for families in the war zone who are surrounded by destruction. Pray that the action of Christians will soften their hearts toward the Gospel. Pray for resources to enable Ukrainian churches to help more people in need.
More stories from Ukraine here.
Philippines (MNN) -- What is more frustrating than standing ready to help after a disaster but not having enough time, supplies, or resources to help this starving family, this sick child, this grieving mother?
It is knowing there are people who can help that either don't know the need or they don't care.
(Photo by Food for the Hungry)
In the news again…
Food for the Hungry says this is only the beginning of the typhoon season for the Philippines. Less than a year after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and killed over 5,000, the island civilians are knocked down again by Typhoon Rammasun.
Fortunately, the death toll was much lower this time due to disaster training and preparation, reports ReliefWeb.
FH workers report that 430,000 people were displaced Tuesday. Many will never see their homes again because the storm destroyed them. More than half a million people have been affected.
ReliefWeb says the government estimates 7,000 homes are destroyed and 20,000 more damaged.
Meanwhile, some evacuees are stranded where food and safe drinking water are running out.
Teams from FH and other organizations are already mobilized. However their struggle to support rebuilding efforts from last year's disasters are still ongoing. Frankly, money is tight and inadequate to address the basic needs of these people.
What can you do?
The Director of Emergency Response for FH, Peter Howard, is urging you to give what you can from your heart to address the shock thousands of families are facing. Along with any gift you give, he asks that you follow up with prayer for these families and workers.
It's always good to be reminded that statistics represent so much more than numbers. The value of human life doesn't change depending on location. It's more than structures being swept away: it's the constant dangers of unclean water and starvation.
(Photo by FH)
If you feel a burden for these people, you can give here.
It's about more than money.
The vehicle God has provided to help these people is His servants. This includes people on the ground and people providing the resources. Either way, their help--your help--is an important part of what shows these people in an upside-down world that God is stronger than the storm.
China (MNN) -- What does it mean to receive a Bible after years and years of being a follower of Christ?
(Photo by Bibles for China)
Many families in China will soon get to find out.
Joel Gerber of Bibles for China filled us in on the great need for the Word of God in China as they get ready to head there to distribute Bibles.
Gerber says, "We believe that taking the Word of God into China is the way that we as an organization can support the mission of the Church in China--that is, to develop Christianity in a way that is done by the Chinese Christian Council, through the Church in China rather than just sending missionaries and trying to do church in a western style."
Bibles for China operates within the laws of China, believing it to be more effective to get the Gospel to rural areas.
"This is our opportunity to get God's Word into the hands of those that are needing and wanting those Bibles so that they can learn and develop and grow, disciple and meet the call for God's plan for that nation," Gerber says.
The organization is hosted by the Chinese Christian Council who connects them to churches in need.
(Photo by Bibles for China)
"When I use the term 'church,' we're talking about fellowships of believers that might be meeting in somebody's home, they might be meeting in a very old, run-down barn in some rural areas, and there's some that have larger, established churches," says Gerber.
Through various sources, Bibles for China estimates the needs at each church. However, there are many times where much more than they were told to expect show up, and they are sometimes forced to send some families away empty handed. As it is, usually only one Bible is available per family. Gerber says it is both a logistic and emotional challenge.
"Our prayer," he says, "is that God would just continually provide the resources that are going to be more than adequate, that we'd properly prepare for how many are needed at each location."
Last year, the ministry was able to distribute 200,000 Bibles to the nation of 1.4 billion people. They hope to exceed that number this year.
Even as the July team leaves, Bibles for China is preparing for a November trip as well.
"There's a time crunch from the standpoint that for our November distribution trip, our funds need to be secured, raised, and transmitted for the purchase of the Bibles in advance. So by early September, that has to have been accomplished," Gerber says.
They are asking God for 20,000 Bibles for that trip.
Because of some internal changes in the country, the cost of Bibles has gone up slightly.
Right now, Bibles for China has a matching partner. Every Bible you buy is doubled and distributed. Each Bible is $5, and a case of 30 is $150. You can buy Bibles for believers in other countries here.
Bibles for China says in a recent newsletter: No gift is too small or too large. Help provide Bibles if you can. They are desperately needed. Each Bible purchased by Bibles for China for the November distribution will be matched Bible-for-Bible by our "in-country" partner.
Gerber asks for your prayers for safety over their travel and for discernment as they operate under the tight laws of the country.
So, what does it mean for a believer to receive his or her first Bible? Well, Gerber says it means their faith grows.
"One of the great things that we see take place is not just the distribution of God's Word, but when we come from halfway around the world and present a copy of God's Word to--in many cases--someone that has never seen a person from the United States. There is an encouragement to them that there are believers halfway around the world that are praying for them, that are providing God's Word through the Bibles that come."
(Photo courtesy World Renew)
Pakistan (WRN/MNN) -- Deserts don't strike people as "fertile" usually. However, Tharparkar, Pakistan boasts the only fertile desert in the world…up until now.
It is the third-largest province of Pakistan and in the triangle bordered by both Iran and Afghanistan. In normal years, you get the mix of monsoon rains and dry season. However, this year is anything but "normal" for the people in Tharparkar. Wayne DeJong with World Renew explains, "Most often, we've been dealing with monsoon flooding, and we responded in 2010, 2011-12 to the monsoon floods. But in November 2013, there was a failure of the monsoon rains, and about two million people were affected."
The New Normal
So, if this was a problem nine months ago, why are we still talking about it? DeJong answers, "A lot of people have been selling their livestock, and they've been able to cope [with the drought] with income received from those sales. They've also been borrowing money. But over the last nearly nine months since the drought began, many people have exhausted their coping mechanisms."
In addition, food prices have skyrocketed due to the combination of poor harvest and increasing numbers of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) and refugees due to conflict in neighboring countries.
(Photo courtesy World Renew)
According to recent research, Pakistanis could spend nearly half of their income on food and beverages. That means coping mechanisms will end much sooner than the 2014 harvest is due.
The southeast province of Sindh has been most affected, and particularly Tharparkar district. It's not that the region is cut off from help. Rather, says DeJong, "The government just didn't have the resources to adequately respond to all of the needs in the area because of the scope of the drought in that district. Also, other international organizations also didn't have the resources to respond."
Being Part of the Solution
World Renew is responding, together with the Interfaith League Against Poverty. Through a project funded by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, World Renew and ILAP are by providing food assistance to 4,290 families who have been severely impacted by the drought. World Renew’s project will focus specifically on these underserved communities that have a high percentage of minority groups.
DeJong adds, "This district is about two-thirds Muslim and about one-third Hindu." While this project isn't about overt Gospel work, the people they're helping are well aware of who motivates their teams. "It's a good way for us to demonstrate the love of Christ to people when they're in need. They hear that message loud and clear through our deed ministry."
The Long Road Ahead
Through World Renew and ILAP, families will receive a food basket that contains wheat flour, rice, lentils, cooking oil, energy biscuits, dates, salt, sugar, and tea leaves. In order to help people restore their livelihoods, World Renew will also provide fodder to keep livestock alive and healthy. "It's really a pretty straight forward project but in a fairly challenging context where there are some security concerns. So pray for the safety of their staff."
Please pray for the families struggling under drought conditions in Pakistan, for their improved health, and for their livestock health. Please pray for timely monsoon rains that will allow families to replant their crops and resume their livestock-raising livelihoods once again.
Some men in India believe that if they have AIDS or venereal disease and have sex with a virgin, they will be healed.They will pay up to $500 to have sex with a virgin girlas young as 7 years of age.(Image, caption courtesy VBB)
Nepal (MNN) -- Imagine all the 7-year-olds you know, both girls and boys. Now, picture them trapped in human trafficking, suffering in horrific, unmentionable ways. That's reality for many children in Nepal.
Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders says "most of the girls are 14, 15, 16 years old," but their ministry partners have seen seven-year-olds trapped in Nepali brothels.
"They're not even women; they're young girls who've been tricked into this and really have no escape," Romeijn notes.
VBB's ministry partners opened a safe house six months ago for girls who wanted to escape the sex trade. With 25 young women sheltered inside its walls, the house is already filled to capacity. They have to turn girls away because there's simply no room.
"There's just this huge outpouring, and they're seeing a huge number of girls wanting to come out," says Romeijn.
Native youth arrive at WarriorLeadership Summit 2014.(Image courtesy WLS Facebook page)
USA (MNN) -- Warrior Leadership Summit, an annual U.S. youth conference, is bringing revival to Native America. Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries quotes Matthew 4:16 to describe what's taking place: "The people sitting in darkness have seen a great light, and on those living in the shadow of death, a light has dawned."
"That's what happened at Warrior Leadership Summit (WLS)."
As written on the On Eagles' Wings Web site, "WLS is a conference designed to disciple and encourage Native young people, ages 15-35, in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Every summer, hundreds of young people from tribes all across the United States and Canada come together to worship, learn, have fun, and connect with each other."
"It's just for Native American young people about what Native American young people face," clarifies Hutchcraft.
Under a central theme, "Out of the Shadows," WLS speakers addressed the common issues plaguing Native American youth: suicide, addictions, sexual abuse, broken families, anger, absent fathers, and the list goes on.
"These are the most broken young people I've ever met in a lifetime of cross-cultural youth ministry," Hutchcraft observes.
According to the U.S. government statistics, Native Americans are more likely to admit using illicit drugs within the past year than any other ethnic group. More than twice as many Native Americans live in poverty than the rest of the U.S. population. In addition, Native Americans die from alcohol-related causes six times more often than the national average.
Spiritual strongholds are brokenat the cross of Christ.(Image courtesy WLS via Facebook)
Statistics among Native American young people are even harder to bear. The suicide rate of Native American youth is over three times the national average; on some reservations, it's 10 times higher. They are exposed to traumatic incidents twice as often, and Native American youth are twice as likely to die before the age of 24 as any other race.
"[Spiritual] strongholds in their lives are huge, beginning with how many ways they've been sinned against as children," notes Hutchcraft.
As young person after young person shares his or her testimony at WLS, one question keeps coming up: "How in the world could that much hurt and that much sin and that much violence happen in one life?
"It's inconceivable that this is the story of one person's young life. And yet, that's what happened."
Still, hope remains. After connecting with Native young people in their various "pain points," WLS speakers introduced Christ and the hope He offers. And, despairing youth responded.
"About one out of [every] three of the young people who attended gave their hearts to Christ at Warrior Leadership Summit," shares Hutchcraft.
"We had twice as many young people go to the lake and the waters of baptism as ever before."
As these young people return home, they need your prayers.
"Our goal here [at Warrior Leadership Summit] is that there'll be permanent, lifetime disciples who go back to their reservations as warriors, as change agents, as future leaders for their people," Hutchcraft explains.
Praise God for the victoriousnew life in Christ!(Image courtesy WLS via Facebook)
"It's not just a youth conference to give kids a spiritual high. It is to equip them to go back and change some of the most hope-starved, Gospel-starved places on this continent."
Pray for strength for these young people to stand firm in their new-found faith. Ask the Lord to encourage and uplift Native youth who are tempted by the lure of suicide. Pray for Gospel workers who are bringing His Truth to reservations in the U.S. and Canada.
Another group of 54 forever-changed Native American youth is sharing Christ with their peers on reservations in five different states. Read their latest updates here.
(Image by Crossroad Bible Institute)
USA (MNN) -- Over the past decade, the number of prison releases per year has exceeded 600,000. By year end in 2012, 637,400 prisoners were released, as reported in the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
What happens to these people when they're released?
The National Institute of Justice claims that many of the formerly incarcerated will struggle to find a job or housing and will succumb to addictions and deal with mental health issues. And as of 2011, 4.8 million offenders were living under community supervision.
Dr. David Schuringa of Crossroad Bible Institute says, "The fact is that 95% of people in prison will be released eventually, and the fact is that 75% of them will return to a life of crime unless their hearts and lives have been changed."
This is where CBI's heart is: ministering to prisoners to show them a new way of life and a new hope.
CBI's discipleship program involves three tiers of instruction. The first tier provides people in prison with a solid doctrinal foundation and guidance on how to read the Bible.
And now, CBI is revamping their second tier to address the problems that many people face when they reenter society.
"We call it our life-skills program. It's a five star re-entry curriculum: five courses that we are launching," Schuringa says.
In their 30 years of prison ministry, CBI has been able to define five key areas of growth that will help returning civilians.
The five courses are:
Christian work ethic
Developing Christian family
Godly living in community
While the first course discusses the Christian faith and the Gospel more explicitly, the second tier will make it applicable to concrete areas of life.
"We believe that all of life is the Gospel, all of life is about serving Christ and following Christ and living as His forgiven children."
Schuringa gives some examples. Teaching work ethic isn't just about getting a job to earn money. It's about using gifts from God to further His Kingdom.
Another example is the second course which addresses the problem of idolatry. "Addictions are about having other gods in your life. We want them to live a life of freedom, only serving God: not the god of alcohol or drugs or porn, but the God of the Scriptures. They need to be freed from the bonds of other gods," Schuringa says.
Some people wonder why anyone would want to help someone convicted of a crime serious enough to be imprisoned. Others, Schuringa explains, want to lock them up and throw away the key.
"Many people don't care about prisoners and don't want to think about them," he says.
But Schuringa continues to explain that even those who hate prisoners should be concerned for the sake of society.
And Christians should care because it is what Jesus does.
"God loves people in prison," says Schuringa. "Jesus says, 'Whatever you do for the least of these, you're doing it unto Me.'"
For a change of heart for these people within and without of prison, they need to encounter the Gospel.
"They need the truth of God's Word and the love of God's people. And so this is a population that we should love, that we should embrace, that we have to respect and understand that they desperately need our help."
Schuringa adds, "You'd be surprised that when we do that, how much you will grow, how much we grow."
One of the most direct ways you can be blessed while being a blessing is to sign up as an instructor for CBI. Follow this link for more information.
Stay up-to-date on the work of CBI and the condition of the USA prison system by following the CBI newsletter or watching their weekly news program.
Pray for CBI, their volunteers, and those being ministered to.
"When we help the least of these, it's not like we're reaching down with pity to help these poor people," Schuringa reminds us. "These are our equal image bearers, and God has something to teach us through them as He has something to teach them through us."
(Photo by Worldwide Christian Schools)
Uganda (WWCS/MNN) -- In a world where everything must be instantaneous for it to be right, it's amazing to see the blessings and faith that come from a slow process.
Chad Neeley of Worldwide Christian School shares an update from a school building project:
What was once a concrete skeleton is growing into a full-fledged school: Edusabo Junior School in Kasawo, Uganda!
When we first visited this school, it consisted of concrete pillars in an empty space. There are now four classrooms and offices for staff. Starting this week, they will begin the roofing process to make these rooms usable for teaching. This means they will no longer need to cram six to eight classes into their church. It means classes will not have to stop because of rain. It means that the school will not only have a reputation for great academics, but also one of growth, by the grace of God!
When we were there visiting just over a week ago, they were bragging about their kids--and rightly so. They have 415 students! Believe it or not, some of those students are Muslim as well, but that is a good thing. In order for Muslim students to be enrolled, the parents have to acknowledge that the teaching is not modified for Islam. They, too, are taught about Jesus and His love for them!
I am proud to be a part of the construction of this school. I am happy to have met the wonderful people who strive daily to keep it running. But mostly, I am proud to be a part of a project that is sustainably ministering to the people of this village every day.
The Kasawo School Project
CHAD'S ROLE AT KASAWO
My role at the Kasawo project is unique. I do not work directly with the construction teams. This project had seen great progress before I ever showed up. And if you knew Uganda well, that is momentum that could not be lost. When a mzungu [foreigner] shows up, prices increase, salaries are raised, and time is a luxury.
Instead of the traditional construction management that I would usually partake in, I consult. I work with the leadership of the school and church and organize material purchase, estimating, scheduling, and progress planning. My expertise is being used vicariously through the administrators.
Edusabo Junior School (Photo courtesy of WWCS)
I have assigned one of my trained builders to work at the project, a Ugandan. He ensures that the construction materials are made properly so that money is not wasted by making a poorly constructed building. The labor is supplied through the congregation of the church.
All in all, though this project is not being built with great speed, it is building the Kingdom! Soon, these 415 students will learn in actual classrooms!
Praise God for His faithfulness. Pray that the school would have a positive impact on the community.
If you want to contribute financially to WWCS, click here.
(Satellite imagery courtesy NASA)
Philippines (MNN) -- It's typhoon season and the first major storm has rolled through the Philippines. According to reports, Typhoon Rammasun, known locally as Glenda, has killed at least 10 people and caused hundreds of thousands to be evacuated.
Rammasun is technically the seventh typhoon to pass through the Pacific archipelago in 2014, but it is reportedly the strongest thus far. The storm carried winds upward of 93 mph and gusts nearing 115 mph. Though the storm sideswiped Manila, widespread power outages were observed, and over 370,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas.
"It was like a drill," Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada told the Associated Press. "We hauled people away from dangerous seaside areas, whether they liked it or not."
Remember the rebuilt widows' homes and kids' trauma counseling we told you about earlier this week? Those Christian Aid Mission and Operation Mobilization missionaries will be busy responding in Christ's name, not only to the aftermath of this storm, but to dozens more that are sure to come.
The Philippines see an average of 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the world's most disaster-prone nations.
Last year's historic Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people and left millions without a home. About 90% of Tacloban's structures were flattened, and the super-storm created around $2.8 billion of overall damage.
Will you keep ministry workers and the Filipino people in your prayers? Pray for strength as believers share God's love and hope. Ask the Lord to protect Haiyan survivors from more suffering. Pray that the never-changing Truth of Christ is made evident through physical disasters.
More stories from the Philippines here.
(Photo courtesy Reach Beyond)
West Africa (MNN) -- Ebola. The mere mention of the virus plague creates dread because it's a losing battle once it appears.
When you add the word epidemic to Ebola, it sends alarm and panic skittering through the international community.
That's exactly what's happening in West Africa now. An outbreak is cascading out of control in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau, leaving a trail of death and putting entire communities at risk.
In response to continuing reports of new cases and deaths attributable to Ebola virus disease (EVD), the World Health Organization (WHO) activated a Sub-regional Outbreak Coordination Center on 16 July 2014 in Guinea.
As of five days ago, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone stands at 964, including 603 deaths. It's also not connected to the earlier outbreak in Uganda and Congo. According to the Associated Press, it's linked to the human consumption of bats carrying the virus.
WHO records show the virus first appeared in 1976 near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and authorities think it was originally spread by fruit bats. Gorillas, chimpanzees, forest antelopes, and porcupines can also spread the virus. Reach Beyond Wayne Pederson says, "People travel freely across the borders, and that's how it is spread. We anticipated sending a mobile medical team this summer into Monrovia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, that part of the world. We just decided not to because of the danger involved."
(Photo courtesy Reach Beyond)
Even though they decided not to send a mobile medical team in, he adds, "We do have one person on the ground that just reported yesterday that the Ebola virus is expanding throughout all of Liberia."
Pederson goes on to say, "Kathy Mazzella, who is a nurse, is going with a team to some of the other facilities in Monrovia, helping to train new nurses since this is quite new to the people there."
Kathy and her husband Andrew joined HCJB Global (now Reach Beyond) in 2011 after serving as radio missionaries in Alaska and on Saipan since 1987. Andrew is an experienced radio broadcaster and administrator. He is currently serving as the Short-term Worker Coordinator. Kathy is walking into a death zone. "She's replacing an RN that just reported seven new Ebola babies admitted in the last 48 hours."
It is a terrible virus with no cure. Ebola has a fatality rate of nearly 90%. It inflicts excruciating pain on victims as they hemorrhage before death. Today, the victims must be quarantined because the virus spreads so easily. As a result, they die without the comfort and care of their family and friends. That’s the kind of heartbreak the Reach Beyond team is facing every day as they minister to Ebola victims in Jesus’ Name. "All their mothers had already died, and they're clinging to life themselves, so to see the human side of this apart from the statistics is pretty heartbreaking."
Pederson adds that because of the spread throughout Liberia, it's hitting ministry, too. "We're dealing with some of the realities of it. For example, we're working with ELWA, and some of the Liberian ELWA staff are afraid to show up for their shift, which adds to the stress of the situation both on the radio side and on the medical side."
(Photo courtesy Reach Beyond)
The team works around the clock to contain the deadly virus. "Pray for the protection of our medical personnel there. They're obviously exposing themselves to a very dangerous and often fatal disease. I would also ask that we pray that they would have boldness and opportunities to share Christ's love with those that are dying. We pray that, somehow, the Ebola virus would be isolated so it doesn't spread further."
OM Philippines conducted Operation Safe camps in three areas of Northern Cebu and Tacloban that had been badly affected by Typhoon Haiyan, as well as in different areas of Cebu City and Bohol. (Image, caption courtesy OM)
Philippines (OM) -- It's been months since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, but for some child survivors, recovery is starting now. Through Operation Safe, emotional scars are being healed one-by-one.
Four workers from Operation Mobilization (OM) Philippines received training in trauma counselling for individuals--especially children--in Calbayog, Samar, in March.
“This was a timely training, since Philippines recently experienced a series of disasters that have badly affected many areas and traumatized people, especially children, at different levels,” said Xenia Bodero, OM Philippines’ social worker.
Convinced of the benefits of this training, OM Philippines conducted Operation Safe camps in three areas of Northern Cebu and Tacloban that were badly affected by Typhoon Haiyan, as well as in different areas of Cebu City and Bohol that were hit by the earthquake.
Street children from Lorega Cemetery in Cebu City also underwent the program weeks after their community was destroyed by a fire in March that reportedly left 7,000 people homeless.
“These camps are basically aimed to cater for children ages seven years old and up,” said Bodero. “They facilitate psycho-emotional restoration through stress-debriefing [by means of] dance and songs, craft making, creative snacks, fun-filled Bible stories, adventure storytelling and team time. [These children] where able to ventilate their experiences and emotions caused during the disaster.”
One of the children in Northern Cebu who attended the Operation Safe camp was very quiet during the first few days of camp. He had seen his home fly away during Typhoon Haiyan.
“During the week, he slowly began to interact with other children and enjoyed the activities, especially song and dance,” noted Bodero. “By the end of the camp, he had become lively and active.”
Scholars who benefit from OM Philippines’ Scholarship Program also helped run various Operation Safe camps in Cebu City and Bohol. “Not only were they able to further develop their leadership skills, but they also had the opportunity to share God’s love with trauma survivors,” Bodero added.
OM Philippines provides training in trauma counseling for individuals, especially children, in areas that have been badly affected by recent disasters. (Image, caption courtesy OM)
One of the scholars said that Operation Safe had helped her change her attitude "because I met people who are very kind to me…. Even though they experienced great loss and trials during Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan], they still believed in God. Their smiles, even in pain, were very encouraging."
Another scholar was amazed to see how "the tragedy brought people closer to God, especially in those places where we [hosted] Operation Safe. We were greatly blessed."
Pray for more healing as Operation Safe camps continue through the summer. Learn more about OM's work in the Philippines here.
More Haiyan recovery updates here.
Jessica (summer intern) working at the front desk of Advancing Native Missions.(Photo, caption courtesy ANM)
USA (MNN) -- It's only about halfway through summer. But for some U.S. college students, it's time to pick a fall internship. Hannah Swan, Assistant Marketing Director and Next Generation Coordinator for Advancing Native Missions (ANM), says their Internship Program is geared toward the Great Commission.
"You don't have to go overseas to be part of what God is doing around the world," Swan observes.
"Our heart is to introduce the Next Generation to what God is doing through native missionaries, and for them to join in that."
For several years, ANM has operated an Internship Program they call "SERVE." But the program recently underwent an overhaul to become more holistic in application.
"Before, when interns would come, they would look very much like staff members. They would serve in primarily one department, and as far as their spiritual growth…that was primarily up to their own motivation," explains Swan.
"But what I wanted to see is [for our program] to be more intentional with the young people that the Lord brings to us. So, we added a few things."
One of the components ANM added to their SERVE Internship program involves mentorship by an ANM staff member. This allows for spiritual discipleship and counsel. Book studies provide an opportunity for more spiritual growth, and "missionary chats" with an ANM missionary visiting from the field give interns a chance to build relationships.
See how ANM's summer interns are benefiting from the revised program.
Nikki (summer intern) helping visiting students from a local Christian school summer camp as they volunteer at the Advancing Native Missions office.(Image, caption courtesy ANM)
As part of the SERVE internship program, interns join staff in fulfilling ANM's calling, which is based on Matthew 24:14 -- "And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
The deadline for fall internship applications is quickly approaching.
"We've actually extended the due date for the fall applications until this Friday, July 18th," says Swan.
Click here to get in touch with ANM.
"I'll receive that e-mail and get in touch with anybody who is looking for more information, and we can discuss that process," Swan explains.
Pray for students who are applying for a Fall internship. Ask the Lord to bring in the people He wants to take part in this program.
"Also, [pray] for the Next Generation as a whole," Swan adds. "We want this work to be carried on. We want to raise up more advocates for these native missionaries."
More about ANM's work around the world here.
(Photo courtesy Open Doors)
Nigeria (MNN/ODM) -- The leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram doesn't care about public opinion. He's just released a video mocking the plea to free 200 schoolgirls.
The Islamist militants captured the main group of girls in April. Nigeria's government has been getting help from Western governments in planning a rescue. However, the question is not whether the girls can be rescued, but how to do it without endangering their lives.
It gives Boko Haram all the fuel it needs to be smug. In the 16-minute video, the leader is seen dancing and laughing, offering sarcastic commentary while surrounded by fighters and armored vehicles. AFP distributed the video over the weekend.
His comments refer to the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls, which has gained worldwide attention and brought awareness of the insurgency to the forefront.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram attacks continued over the weekend. Authorities believe they were responsible for the bombing of a major bridge that further limits access to the Sambisa Forest. Police believe Boko Haram has several camps there and that some of the girls are being held in those camps.
(Photo courtesy Open Doors/World Watch Monitor)
Since 2011, over 22,000 people lost their lives in violence between Nigeria's security forces and Boko Haram. The Islamic insurgents want to set up a state based on strict Islamic law.
Open Doors USA says it is vital to understand how they began and what fuels their insurgency, so we can pray for each member to have a real encounter with Christ.
They've provided a comprehensive prayer guide that includes information on their roots, their history, their political alliances, their changes in leadership, and the future plans of this terrorist organization.
Click here to download the 4-page version of the guide, and then join the body of Christ in praying for Nigeria, for the release of the school girls, and for the salvation of Boko Haram's members.
Israel (MNN) -- Another failed attempt at a ceasefire occurred yesterday morning in the Gaza strip.
Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs
Egypt presented a ceasefire plan for Israel and Hamas yesterday morning. After six hours of a one-sided agreement, Israel again began firing upon the Gaza strip from which rocket attacks reportedly never stopped.
Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says, "They are responding with a very strong show that they will protect themselves, that they will stand up for themselves."
The violence has quickly resembled the conflicts in Gaza of 2012, and according to CNN, the death toll this time round is higher.
The American public may be tempted to turn away from this "old news." However, the situation is a little more tense this time.
While the conflicts continue to grow on the coast, Israel faces increased threats from the east. Read more about that here.
Nettleton explains, "As ISIS grows in territory and power, it certainly is a threat against Israel. I think there's no doubt that the leadership of ISIS has a hatred for Israel that they would like to literally push Israel off the map."
Meanwhile, the United States has to figure out whether or not they should continue to support Israel, and to what degree. Most Americans believe we should stay out of conflict, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll.
Regardless of what America's decision is, and regardless of who feels sympathetic for whom, Nettleton reminds us that Christians should be concerned about the situation.
Why? It is a time when needs run deeper than food, water, and shelter.
He says, "I think anytime there is upheaval and fear, there's an opportunity to spread the Gospel. When people are dying, the people around them are asking questions about eternity, they're asking questions about what happens after we die. Those are opportunities for witnessing; those are opportunities for ministry."
Even before this recent upsurge in violence, Christian ministry in Israel was a dangerous task.
Christian ministries already at work in Israel now have a difficult decision to make.
"Christians are forced, in some cases, to choose whether to stay and try to be a lighthouse, try to be a witness for Christ, or to flee," Nettleton says.
Voice of the Martyrs partners with nationals to minister in Israel.
"They want to stay," Nettleton says. "They want to be a witness. At the same time they want to make wise choices. They want to protect their families and their children. And so they wrestle with, 'How do we respond to this situation? What do we do here? Lord, help us to know what Your will is for us.'"
Whether you're talking politics or not, there are quite a few people who aren't really sure what is happening in the Middle East. Either that, or they don't care.
Nettleton says, "One of the real challenges that Americans face is: we're often times very ignorant about what's happening around the world.
"As I watch the news, sometimes I'm very frustrated that the news is more worried about what's happening with Angelina Jolie and her children than what's happening with people in other countries who are dying every day."
Part of the problem is that a lot of Americans don't take the time to educate themselves with global concerns. When events are happening thousands of miles away, it's too easy to dismiss them. We have our own problems to worry about, right?
"As Christians," Nettleton says, "hopefully we have less of that because hopefully we're involved, we're connected with what God's doing around the world, we're aware, and hopefully we’re passionate about it.
"Hopefully we want to know what's happening with the Church in different countries. We want to know what our brothers and sisters are doing for the Kingdom, but also what they're enduring because they're being a part of the Kingdom."
In other words, Christians should be more than just bystanders.
According to another study done by PEW Research Centers, 10% of Americans don't care about politics. These 10% are considered bystanders.
PEW defines them as people who "are not registered to vote, say they seldom or never vote, and do not follow government and public affairs most of the time."
That means 1 in 10 Americans don't care enough to act in matters locally or globally. Is it too much to guess that if they're not willing to act, they're probably not even paying attention?
A large portion of this group, 38%, are ages 18-29. That age group encompasses college-age American citizens--future leaders of America.
Nettleton has had opportunities to speak on college campuses. He says he urges them to go on missions trips telling them, "Go get your feet wet in another culture."
Most people go to college with the end goal of getting a degree that will allow them to get a good job. But if they're not globally concerned before they complete their education, why would that change after they settle into a good job, get married, and are comfortable?
Nettleton thinks mission trips could be the key for this edification, the key to inspiring a passion in God's people for God's people around the world.
He says, "Everyone's not going to be called to be a missionary. But when you come back, your eyes are going to be more opened. Your prayers are going to be enriched for what God is doing around the world, and your life is going to be changed. Your heart is going to be changed."
Nettleton explains that people who have expanded their worldview understand better how to pray for their brothers and sisters and how to represent them.
No longer is that newspaper article boring. It's about a place they visited, a people they met. Suddenly global issues become personal, meaningful.
It doesn't matter if you live in America. It doesn't matter whose fault it is that these attacks began. It does matter what you, as an individual, are going to do about it. It's about what you are doing to follow God's call to the Great Commission whether you stay at home or travel the world.
So what can you do? It's not as hard as you may think.
"The first thing to do to get involved is to pray. I think particularly as we think about the situation in Israel, as we think about the situation with ISIS, that's probably the most significant thing that we can do right now. Simply go to the throne and say, 'Lord, we don't know what's best in this situation, but we need You to work.'"
Nettleton continues to say these prayers must be a significant commitment to those who pray them. He asks also that you pray for God to encourage, protect, and strengthen Christians in Israel and that He would give them opportunities to share the hope of Christ.
Click here for information on Israel and more ways to pray.
VOM works with partners in the area to reach Arabic speakers and Palestinians. They connect with Christians facing persecution, providing them help that only fellow Christians can. If you would like to contribute to that work financially, it's as easy as following this link.
(Image courtesy Wikipedia)
Benin (WAS/MNN) -- A quick geography quiz: where is Benin?
If you guessed West Africa, you're on the right track. It's a long narrow country sharing borders with Togo on one side and Nigeria on the other. The country is also home to 67 distinct people groups.
What's significant about Benin is that it's the birthplace of voodoo, and as such, is plagued by witchdoctors, demonic activity, and even human sacrifice. About half of the country’s population practices voodoo, and another third is Muslim.
(Map courtesy Wikipedia)
Here's what's even more amazing. "Benin is a country that, up until this past year, has been completely off of our radar. We've been predominantly working with other partners in Bible translation who have instructed or shared with us where they've felt the greatest needs were." That's Brent Ropp, Vice President of Operations for Wycliffe Associates, a global organization that involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation around the world.
Unlike its cousin to the east (Nigeria), Benin has not had to deal with a Muslim insurgency or civil war. However, Ropp says, "Benin, even though it's a country we have never targeted for engagement or Bible translation, has over 2.2 million Bible-less people. Those people speak more than 20 different languages."
What's more, the request for Bible translation came from within the local Church. That set things in motion, Ropp notes. "Until very recently, Benin didn't really have a local Bible translation leadership team to make some of these needs well known."
There are 54 living languages spoken in Benin, which places it among the top 15 countries in the world in need of Bible translation. Now, Ropp explains, "We do have new national leadership. They are very energetic and enthusiastic about seeing their nation be eradicated from Bible poverty. They have invited us to come and help them by proposing that we assist in the construction of a small translation center." That means Wycliffe Associates will support the launch of critical Bible translation efforts and construct a national training center in Benin, which will provide training facilities and housing for mother-tongue translators.
(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
Because the local Church has taken ownership of the project from the outset, there is a lot of demand for a painstakingly slow project. However, "Unless the church is involved, you can have isolated projects going on, and then the project may be completed; but there's then no one ready or willing to use the newly-translated Word.
“We have an incredible opportunity to pierce the darkness of Benin with the brilliant light of God’s Word,” says Ropp.
Benin is a critical nation for Vision 2025, Wycliffe's goal to begin Bible translations in every language that needs it by 2025. Robb adds, "Pray for the national translation organization that's there that we're now partnering with, and also for the Church, which is growing. We're excited to see the Church's involvement in Bible translation from the very beginning."