Bright Hope believes that equipping the local, in-country church is the critical element needed to combat human trafficking in India.(Image, caption courtesy Bright Hope)
International (MNN) -- Throughout the world, women are treated as less than human. Gender-based killings -- practiced everywhere from China to the U.S. -- kills thousands of baby girls before they take their first breath. In many of the world's "developing" nations, mothers and wives do 75% of the household labor.
If girls and young women make it beyond the age of five, they face a myriad of dangers specifically tied to their gender: female mutilation, the risk of becoming a child bride, being sold and/or trafficked as a sex slave, etc.
The list goes on and on.
In light of our current series about women in leadership, that begs the following question: How can you develop women leaders if their basic rights aren't even recognized?
Karin Primuth of Asian Access (A2) says not only is it possible, it's key to growing God's Kingdom.
"It's a very critical opportunity," Primuth emphasizes. "Basically, to develop a woman is to develop a family, a community, and a culture, because she is going to re-invest in her family, her children, and her community."
(Photo cred: Asian Access)
A2 helps women recognize the skills God has given them, and then use those skills to tell more people about Jesus. But, they're not the only mission agencies investing in an oft-overlooked people group.
"There are women who are trying to catalyze opportunities for other women to create ministries that encourage their development," notes Primuth.
Global Advance walks a similar path as A2: developing women in leadership.
Mission India helps women find their voice by teaching them how to read and write.
Gospel for Asia empowers women to reach other women for Christ.
Food for the Hungry uses micro-loans to help women develop economic skills, thereby decreasing her vulnerability to traffickers and similar predators.
Click on the highlighted group names above to learn more about each opportunity.
Though our series has ended, keep praying for women -- those in leadership, those who serve the Lord in silence, and those who don't know about His love. Ask the Lord if He wants you to invest in programs, like those mentioned above, that are sharing the Gospel with women around the world.
Read previous stories in the series: Part One and Part Two.
(Photo credit CBI)
Puerto Rico (CBI/MNN) -- Puerto Rico has an incarceration rate of about 332 per 100,000 people, and cocaine trafficking has nearly quadrupled in the last seven years.
New York Times reports that the increase in drug trade is due to traffickers in Columbia and Venezuela who are looking for new ways to import cocaine into the United States.
But like a shining light in the dark, Crossroad Bible Institute (CBI) is thrilled to announce the launch of a new satellite campus in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (USA).
The fast-growing campus has already enrolled 92 students and trained over 40 instructors under the direction of long-time prison chaplain Madeline Garcia.
“When Madeline approached us about starting this campus, we were excited to see how this move could help grow the ministry,” said Sandra Chang Raak, CBI international coordinator. “We believe training local Instructors is the best way to empower Puerto Rican church leaders in the area of prison ministry.”
CBI has served Puerto Rican students for many years, due largely to Garcia’s efforts to personally distribute and collect lessons throughout the island’s prisons. However, without indigenous support, these lessons had to be processed through CBI headquarters in the United States, which nearly doubled lesson turnaround rates.
Garcia realized that establishing a self-sufficient satellite campus would be the best solution to streamline lesson processing.
Garcia has worked passionately for many years to address these problems and bring rehabilitative programs to Puerto Rico’s prison population. CBI Puerto Rico will serve as a key piece in this mission, specifically at the two rehabilitation centers Garcia founded for newly-released prisoners. Garcia is already incorporating CBI’s discipleship program into each person’s treatment plan and facilitating weekly sessions in which students can complete lessons together in a classroom setting.
“CBI Puerto Rico truly embodies the vision for holistic healing that lies at Crossroad’s core,” said CBI president Dr. David Schuringa. “Our growing international program--with 20 established and 7 emerging campuses--reminds us that the need for long-term discipleship and reentry support in America is also present in prisons all around the world.”
Pray that the Puerto Rico satellite campus will continue growing and helping the lives of the prisoners. Click here to learn how you can help.
Kazakhstan (VOMC) -- The Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports that increasing numbers of Christians in Kazakhstan are being given short-term prison sentences for refusing to pay fines linked to their religious activity.
Fines are now being regularly imposed for violating the country's harsh Religion Law, which includes distributing religious literature, talking to other people about religion, and meeting with others for worship without compulsory state registration or license.
In addition, social projects run by religious groups are coming under increased scrutiny. Within the first 10 weeks of 2014 alone, 45 such fines were handed down. Generally, the fines equate to one or two months' average wages.
Recently, a believer named Nikolai Novikov faced prison for refusing to pay his fine. He served five days in prison in West Kazakhstan Region, making him the 14th known individual to face jail time for refusing to pay a fine. His fine was due to his role in a congregation that has not sought state permission in order to meet for worship.
During the month of July, another Christian, Anatoly Stakhnev, served 10 days of imprisonment in East Kazakhstan Region for refusing to pay a fine for the same charges.
In spite of ongoing pressure and intimidation, pray that Christians throughout this Central Asian country will resolve to follow Jesus despite the restrictive laws made by human authorities.
Specifically, pray that God will bless Nikolai and Anatoly, and provide for their every need. May the faith of these two men be strengthened so they can continue to serve as lights for Christ through their daily lives and unwavering witness.
Please also pray that God will use these latest obstacles in Kazakhstan to refine and further empower His church so that His name will be greatly honored and glorified.
Iraq (MNN) -- ISIS continues its offensive across Syria and Iraq, leaving many victims in its wake. The stories of ISIS killing males above 10 years old, the systematic rape of women and girls, and the looting of personal possessions is shocking, even to many Muslims.
SAT-7, a Christian satellite television network to the Middle East and North Africa, went into a refugee camp to interview victims of these heinous crimes against humanity. We've transcribed these interviews so you can get a sense of what they've experienced.
SAT-7 is coordinating a day of prayer for the Middle East this Sunday. Get your prayer kit here.
Announcer: Friends, from the heart of the land of St. Mark's Coptic Church in Sulaymaniya, which is still under construction. The hall is now being used to hold [services]and prayers, but this has been turned into a camp for displaced Christians from Mosul, among them some Egyptian Christians who we'll meet and we'll meet with Christians displaced from Mosul.
Announcer: Mr. Abu Ayzan, we welcome you and your honorable family.
Abu: Greetings to you, and thank you.
ANNOUNCER: Mr. Abu Ayzam, you were in Mosul and your wife is Iraqi. Tell us exactly what happened?
ABU: It was -- a Friday morning. A group of people in Mosul called us. My wife and kids threw our belongings together and reached a checkpoint. We took a taxi and came across armed men along the way. They asked us if we were Christians. We said, yes. They demanded, "Give us you mobile (phones), your gold, and your money." They took our mobiles and our gold.
WIFE: They took 450,000 [Dinars] ($386.93 USD) out of my husband's pocket.
ABU: They said, "Pay the jizya tax, convert to Islam or be slaughtered." We were going to pay the jizya tax. We paid it and said, "Let us pass." This happened yesterday, we were going to pay them. They said, "No, that's not going to work this time." We had hidden our money around our waistbands.
WIFE: The armed men passed by me and behind them were veiled women, wearing red clothes. And, they searched me, took my money and gold. They even searched my daughters. It was our lifesavings. They took all of it. The 450,000 dinars were in my husband's pocket and they took it. There were six batches of money they took from me and all of the gold. My parents had sold their home. I had hidden THIS money in my house in Mosul. When we were going up from Mosul they threatened us. They took our stuff and detained us along the way, like a checkpoint.
ANNOUNCER: So, they took all the savings and everything?
WIFE: Believe me, they stole everything. They said, "Let your Bishops give you money." They demanded our Bishops initiate a ransom for us. They didn't let us pay the jizya tax. They threatened us. If you saw the situation of Christians at checkpoints, you would cry. They were bringing more armed men to add more pressure on us. You see the beards … and they don't communicate. And, their manners are never pleasant.
ABU: I told her to take half her money and I'll take half, so we can pass.
WIFE: You see, the Christians look pitiful lying on the ground or crying. Some hid their money and gold in cars and even the cars were stolen. God will grant us our rights from them, God-willing. May Christ grant us our rights from them, God-willing.
MAKRAM FAHMY: My name is Brother Mkram Fahmy. I'm from Minia, Egypt.
WASFI ABDULLAH: I'm Wasfi Abdullah from Fayoum, Egypt.
ANNOUNCER: Tell us what happened to you, Brother Makram.
MAKRAM: What happened is, we were leaving Mosul. All the Christians were leaving. We went to Hamdaneya, stayed about 13 days, then [we] went to Erbil. From Erbil, we came to the church here, because this is the only place with a Coptic Church. Not just because of the church, but it's also safer here. It's safe and the people are good here.
ANNOUNCER: Isn't Erbil safe, too?
MAKRAM: Erbil is dangerous and it's not like here.
ANNOUNCER: Did you ever meet any ISIS members.?
MAKRAM: When I was working in Mosul, there were times I talked to them. At first, they seemed like good people. But, that wasn't their true selves. They were playing a part.
ANNOUNCER: And, they were in Mosul, working among you….
MAKRAM: Yes, we had no idea. People were asking them, "What do you want?" They said, "We're killing the Shiites."
ANNOUNCER: There were Shiites in Mosul? And, ISIS was killing Shiites?
MAKRAM: Yes, they knew the Shiites and were killing them, particularly the police. They turned on each other. They turned on Islam. The Muslims despise [the police].
ANNOUNCER: So, ISIS started out against Shiites and now they're against Christians and Yazidis?
MARKAM: Yes, ISIS doesn't accept equality. They despise them in Mosul.
ANNOUNCER: What would you like to say, brother (Wasfi Abdullah)?
WASFI: I was displaced from Mosul. I had moved from Egypt to Mosul.
ANNOUNCER: When was that?
WASFI: I've been in Iraq 32 years. I've lived in Mosul for 26 years and in Qaraqosh for six years. I fled Mosul, but at that time, there was no ISIS. There were other terrorist militias. They were taking a jizya tax from shops. I owned shops, thank God, that God had given me. But, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, bless the name of the Lord. It's all gone, praise God. Every so often, I paid the jizya tax.
ANNOUNCER: What kind of shops did you have?
WASFI: I had a shop selling nuts and spices. I had supermarkets with Egyptian products. I had a Christian bookshop beside the church.
ANNOUNCER: Was it all taken?
WASFI: Yes, I would bring things from Egypt, from here and there. I used to go to Egypt and get Christian products like crosses to bring back. I was selling them to the churches. I was selling the products to pay the jizya tax. I found an envelope with a bullet in it in the door of one of my shops. They said, "Pay or get out." This is the other thing. I took my family -- I'm married -- and we fled to a village called Bartella. We went from Bartella to Qaraqosh. I went to my bookshop in Qaraqosh. ISIS had arrived in Qaraqosh. I went up at 11pm. I was the last one ot leave from Qaraqosh that night. [ISIS] had set up a checkpoint. I was the last one to leave. There are people staying, but most fled. If I had taken five minutes longer, they would have detained me. We left with the shirts on our backs. They stole all our things. They burned down my bookshop and stores. And, here we are. So, we arrived in Erbil. Father Shenouda contacted us. He's responsible for Jordan, but he is also the Bishop for also northern Iraq. He would check on us from time to time to ask, "Where have you arrived now?" The association sent a car because we said, "Father, none of us have any money." He said to take a taxi at the expense of the Egyptian Church, and take everyone who wants to go to the Church.
ANNOUNCER: From Qaraqosh?
WASFI: No, from Erbil. We went from Erbil to Ainkawa. We went to Ainkawa. There were people sitting in the street in, the sun. People in the building said, "I have no mat, no food, no cold water." It's crouded. How can that be? There were more people than you can imagine.
ANNOUNCER: So, you went to Erbil?
WASFI: Of course, we went to Erbil. This long, old road was congested on both sides. Cars couldn't pass. People were sleeping in the streets. There wasn't even any food. So, our priest told us, "Take the car and go to Sulaymaniyah, all of you." I said, "What about the checkpoints?" He said, "Don't worry about it. The Church will pay the bill, inform the authorities, and get you there." Praise God, we got to Sulaymaniyah. We arrived. We asked our priest about the money. He said, "Get it from the church." I said, "This is too much to pay." He said, "It was an order from the archbishop to pay as much as it costs for your safety." He said, "We'll pay for you. If you want to travel, travel on the church's tab." Thank God we didn't need anything. We're staying, but we're exhausted. We don't know what our future is. What is our fate? We don't know. We're confused and lost. I've been in Iraq 31 years. There's nothing left from me in Egypt.
ANNOUNCER: God willing, this land will be freed and you can return where you were before.
WASFI: And then? The shops are burned down. Where will we work? After all that, how will we work? I can't go back to my work. At my age, I can't start over.
ANNOUNCER: Ms. Nehad Nejmi Yaqoub, we welcome you to SAT-7. You're from the Chaldean Church and you serve here in the Coptic Church. We learned you were up all night checking on the patrols of all the people traveling. Tell us about your experience helping the displaced Christians who are fleeing.
NEHAD: in July, they began coming here from Mosul. The priest called me late at night and said, "You have to help." Our brothers, they're all coming from the checkpoint, because there was crowding from the Yazidis and Christian groups. It was difficult to enter Sulaymaniyah. The director of the checkpoint is a friend. We called him and made it easy, we said, "Bring them up to the church."
ANNOUNCER: Who are the 900 people we heard about? What happened to them?
NEHAD: There were 900 factory works and engineers in Salah al-Din City. There was an attack on the factory and our priest called us. We called my cousin and he helped them out. He's the director of security in Ainkawa.
ANNOUNCER: Where did they go?
NEHAD: They all went to Egypt. They're all Christians.
ANNOUNCER: God bless you. How do you feel now about the situation and the future?
NEHAD: I'm happy because all of the Christians came together a the church in unity. The important thing is we're Christians. I don't like to say Coptic, Catholic, Syriac. We're Christians. We're all one.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you Ms. Nehad and may God bless you and your work.
Iraqi woman: God have mercy on us and on all Christians and on Muslim refugees. Deliver us from this crisis. Help us return home. We don't care if the house is empty or destroyed. We can live by its wall. Living there among ruins is better than living here.
Iraqi man: I pray God will deliver us from this persecution and tyranny. God knows what is happening and will give us justice.
Iraqi Woman: I pray for all Iraq and for all the Middle East as well.
Iraqi Man: I ask God, what did these people do, these peaceful, simple people? Was their crime that they go to church and pray? I pray to God to solve this problem.
Iraqi Woman: I don't want anything but to go back home…home with peace and safety. This is my only request of God.
Iraqi Man: I pray that the situation gets better
Iraqi Girl: I want to go back to my school.
Smiling faces of a family whojust received free Christian literature.(Photo courtesy of Christian Resources International)
Philippines (MNN) -- Pretend you have to travel hours to get to a concert you've been looking forward to for months. You realize that there is likelihood for you to be late. So you call up the information desk where the concert is going to be held and ask them, "Will I still get my Bible?"
Christian Resources International returned from the Philippines earlier this month. What they found was a hunger for the word of God.
During this trip, CRI held a concert/evangelistic meeting with Christian music where those in attendance would receive a free Bible. They also heard the testimony of Jason Woolford, CRI's executive director. The meeting was held in Cuenta Astrodome. "We had 4,000 people come and get to hear the word of God preached," Woolford says.
This was part one of their distribution of the $3 million worth of Bibles and Christian books collected and shipped to the Philippines earlier this year.
One pastor who was helping organize the concert said he received many calls, e-mails, and texts from people concerned they would not be able to get a Bible since they were late. There were no questions regarding whether or not they would still have their seat, or how close they would get to the stage!
Out of the 4,000 who heard the message of Jesus Christ, many decided to follow Him. Many more rededicated their lives to serve Him.
Woolford says, "I'll try to be very conservative on these numbers. At least from what we could count with the lights just barely up, that we could see, were over 500 people who asked Jesus Christ into their life for the first time, and hundreds that rededicated their life to the Lord."
The second purpose of the trip was a Pastor's Conference. Woolford reminds us that being a pastor is hard work. "Statistics show it's one of the fastest occupations where people feel defeated and give up and get out of that line of work, so to speak. And so we were able to speak an encouraging word--a message into their life, reminding them that God will see them through, one way or the other."
One of the ways of giving encouragement was to provide the 700 pastors with multiple boxes of Bibles and Christian books each. These resources will help them disciple people who non-believers, new believers, and even those in seminary.
One of CRI's partners also donated food for them to hand out to the pastors. The pastors could choose what they needed most: food or Bibles.
Woolford says every one of the pastors chose the Bibles. "It just choked me up to see that they have an understanding that 'man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'"
It's often the case that Christians who go to bless others are blessed by those they go serve. "I was just overwhelmed to meet these men and women of God who just were impacted by God," Woolford says.
After Woolford shared his testimony, a man approached him. He explained that he left the ministry 8 years earlier when his 8-year-old son was shot and killed in the car by a drive-by shooter.
He stepped out of the ministry because he was angry at the situation and confused at why God would allow such a horrible thing.
He explained to Woolford that he had thought several times about going back into ministry, which was why he showed up at the conference. He thanked Woolford for sharing his story, and assured him that he was heading back into ministry.
The final part of the trip was to establish two distribution centers in Northern Manila. These distribution centers are essentially bookstores where people pick up the books they need--for free.
"No one's being charged for the Word of God; people are coming to be able to get it for free, and lives are going to be changed. This will be an ongoing program that we will have, and we're so excited for it," Woolford says.
And it goes on--with your help!
CRI stepped out into faith in order to distribute these Bibles and provide encouragement for the people of the Philippines. The financial costs, once the books were given, were immense. But CRI trusted God to provide the means to complete what He had called them to.
Woolford says, "When God calls us to do things, He doesn't always call us to do it when everything's in order."
Woolford says that following God's call even when it's hard is to follow the Kingdom path, not the common path.
Will you help them continue this vital work? Become a book missionary with CRI: donate that extra Bible sitting on your shelf, or the Christian books you've already read through.
Or, you can help by contributing toward the $10,900 cost of shipping the next container of books.
For more information, call 517-223-3193, or visit the CRI Web site here.
Finally, watch for their video highlighting the events that took place on their trip.
Woolford leaves us with this prayer: "As you live a life for God, I know God will make a way for you. I pray that He will meet your needs in the realms spiritual, physical, and financial as you honor Him, in Jesus' name."
Annise Parker (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
USA (MNN) -- Houston Mayor Annise Parker has decided to withdraw the subpoena of sermons and other communications belonging to several pastors in a lawsuit involving the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The mayor made the announcement Wednesday during a press conference.
Background: after the ordinance passed, people who took issue with the rights the law extends to gay and transgender residents launched a petition to repeal it. The city claimed a large number of petition signatures were not valid. That prompted a lawsuit, and the sermon subpoenas were part of the research in the suit. Bethany Christian Services president and CEO Bill Blacquiere says the problem was: overstepping authority. "We now have a society that has not had any experience with religion, and they have no knowledge of the Constitution. Therefore, anybody who makes statements that go against someone else's beliefs, they attack."
Public outcry forced the mayor's office to backpedal, but it did little to quiet the protest. "They just changed the word 'sermons' to 'speeches.' What it shows is a total lack of knowledge of our Constitution and of our religious rights, and I think that is going to start to impact organized religion."
The protest extended to a flood of Bibles (between 500 and 1,000) being sent directly to the mayor's office from around the country. Pastors from across the nation descended on Houston on Tuesday to support the pastors who were subpoenaed.
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Blacquiere says the situation reveals an uncomfortable future for Christian ministries. When you add in campus access issues for groups like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, lawsuits to force pastors into conducting same-sex marriages, Blacquiere thinks it won't be long before the pressure becomes more obvious and widespread. However, "One of our strongly-held core beliefs is that we will always be a Christian organization. We need to work on legislation, we need to work on policies and administrative rules that protect the religious freedom of faith-based organizations like Bethany."
Hiring practices could be next in line after campus access issues, says Blacquiere. "Some of the attempts that are going on in society and with our government would be to limit the proclamation of the Gospel and what it really means to be a Christian organization." None of this happened overnight. Ordinances passed with little opposition. By the time it gets to laws involving bigger Constitutional issues, it'll be too late.
Bill Blacquiere (Photo courtesy Bethany Christian Services)
Fortunately, says Blacquiere, there are still religious freedom advocates who are narrowly focused on the United States' issues. "The good news is that I think there are still a lot of individuals who hold office who want to protect religious freedom. The concern would be that people would try limiting Bethany's practice in how we do adoption, how we do foster care, how we carry out our ministry."
And stay alert. "Pray for the church body that we would have wisdom in how we deal with these challenges to carrying out our faith and proclaiming our faith."
Iran (MNN/SAT7) -- Iran is #9 on the Open Doors World Watch List, a list of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians. Seeking out God or spreading the gospel in Iran can lead to imprisonment or other serious consequences. And though fear was present, a stranger slipped a note to a young Iranian woman on the bus. This note explained to the woman what the Gospel was and how she could accept Christ.
The Iranian woman we’ll call "Sara" disregarded the note for eight years, until a TV channel caught her eye. SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, reminded her of the note she received many years ago.
Compelled, she called the phone number displayed on the screen and was able to receive information from a SAT-7 counselor. She learned more about the Gospel and how to connect with Christians near her. Sara was even blessed to find a house church nearby to attend.
In Sara’s case, she is quite fortunate to have found a house church. Small groups usually meet together in private, but they’re hard to find and slow to grow due to fears of raids and imprisonment.
Often those who seek out fellowship with other Christians cannot attend church since churches have even been pressured to ban Farsi-speaking Christians from services. Identification is even required before entering.
With SAT-7 PARS, God has provided a way for Farsi-speaking Christians to learn more about Him and His Word. The ministry is broadcasted in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, offering engaging and biblically-sound programming options that help to present Christ and strengthen those with Christian faith.
SAT-7 PARS also offers programs to inspire individual Christians as well as programs for children who can watch from the safety of their own homes. It is providing much-needed answers to life’s greatest questions each and every day for people who cannot learn biblical truths in almost any other way.
SAT-7 is completely donor-funded. If you would like to make a donation, click here. Your gift of $10 supports 10 viewers for 1 year!
Pray that the Farsi-speaking Christians would find ways to connect with other Christians and that they would grow in their faith.
(Photo credit UN Women)
International (MNN) -- In Part Two of our series about women in leadership, MNN is going "straight to the source." As women in roles of leadership themselves, Kӓrin Primuth of Asian Access and Wendy Wilson with Missio Nexus have a lot to say on the subject.
In this article, Kӓrin and Wendy explore the "pros and cons" surrounding the issue of women in leadership.
Women in Leadership: "Pros"
As the CEO of visionSynergy and the only woman on the Asian Access Board of Directors, Kӓrin Primuth has plenty of first-hand experience to share. Primuth says she has "naturally gravitated" toward positions of responsibility throughout her life.
"I was very fortunate to not really have gender be an issue in my 'growing up' years, so I never felt like being a woman was a barrier or prevented me from stepping into opportunities for leadership," Primuth states.
"I think for many who move [to positions of leadership], especially within a Christian ministry or mission context, they aren't necessarily aspiring to a role like that. It's often a fairly 'meandering' journey, and eventually they may be asked into a position because their leadership gifts have been recognized. I know that's certainly been the case for me."
(Photo courtesy Steve Wilson via Flickr)
Women in leadership positions are often called "career-minded," and it can be assumed that female leaders prioritize work over family responsibilities. Stepping away from work to start a family is sometimes seen as a "deal-breaker" for young women in leadership.
"We can tend to see those years at home with our kids as a barrier to progress," Wilson observes.
But for Primuth, it's more about life seasons than making an either/or decision. Becoming a "stay-at-home mom" didn't mean she stopped being a leader; rather, opportunity took on a different shape.
"I continued to build a lot of skills in those years, even as a young mom. I didn't feel like I had to step out [away from]…leadership development opportunities," Primuth says.
Volunteering in her church and community helped Primuth learn how to organize events, lead diverse people groups, and it equipped her for public speaking.
"I think that's one thing I would encourage women who have a sense of giftedness in providing leadership: continue to nurture those skills and abilities, even if [it means stepping out] of formal roles of responsibilities."
Women in Leadership: "Cons"
The advantages and disadvantages of placing women in leadership roles may differ for each organization, family, and individual. But as Wendy Wilson shares, more and more mission agencies are looking for women leaders.
"Missio Nexus [desires] to help more agencies steward well the gifts of their women," Wilson says. "Part of my role is to help them figure out ways to do that."
Wilson shares three obstacles she often encounters when helping ministries develop women leaders:
(Image courtesy RHM/OEW)
In the full interview, Wilson describes each barrier and how Missio Nexus helps ministries and individuals overcome them.
"If we can think through those, probably a lot of barriers would kind of 'dissolve,'" she shares.
When barriers come down and women start to develop their leadership skills, "They begin to gain more confidence and vision for how they can serve, and other people notice what they're doing and how they're able to serve."
Women in Leadership and you
This series isn't limited to women or people in leadership. However God has shaped you, and wherever He has placed you, you can respond to this story by taking action.
(Image courtesy Bethany)
First of all, pray for women in leadership positions around the world. Ask the Lord to help women realize their gifts and become the people He's designed them to be. Secondly, if you do happen to be a woman, ask the Lord if He's designed you to be a leader.
"If you are drawn to be in a role to provide leadership, in some kind of context, look for ways to see how God would open the door for you to be able to use those gifts," Primuth advises.
Tomorrow, Kӓrin and Wendy share the spiritual impact and opportunities surrounding the topic of women in leadership.
Read Women in Leadership: Part One here.
(Image by Wycliffe Associates)
International (WAS)—Wycliffe Associates, a global organization that empowers national Bible translators around the world, has launched a new, free app that makes Bible stories accessible to smartphone users worldwide.
Called translationStudio, the Android operating system app is available for download on Google Play .
“God’s Word in every language took a giant step toward reality as our translationStudio app was released for free download in the Google Play store,” says Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “This is just the beginning of developing a tool that puts Bible translation within the reach of Christians worldwide.”
Earlier this year, Wycliffe Associates tested the beta version of the app with translation teams working in some of the most difficult and dangerous regions of the world for Christians. Their feedback has been incorporated into the current release.
The translationStudio app features “Open Bible Stories,” a set of 50 fully-illustrated Bible stories. Open Bible Stories has been released under Creative Commons’ Attribution Share-Alike licensing, which allows translation into any language, anywhere, at any time, and by anyone--without copyright limitations.
(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)
Open Bible Stories currently includes a collection of 21 Old Testament stories and 29 New Testament stories, and provides a chronological overview of God’s relationship with humanity, from creation to redemption.
“In the coming months, we will have Open Bible Stories loaded in at least 50 gateway languages, enabling people who are bilingual in any of these languages to begin translating these Bible stories into their own language,” says Smith. “Once local translators have completed the Open Bible Stories, they can easily make the transition into a full Bible translation program. The Open Bible Stories method actually fits perfectly into the culture of many language groups that have a tradition of storytelling handed down through generations.”
The Resource section of the app provides information on key terms and how to overcome translation challenges, intended to assist local translators in creating translations that are clear, natural, and accurate. In addition, collaboration tools enable any number of people to work together, online or offline, to draft and revise their work for the best possible result.
“We are also working to load English source text for the entire Old and New Testament that will be licensed to allow immediate translation into any language, without copyright limitations,” says Smith. “All of this is available at no cost to the local church or their translators.”
The digital format enables the Scriptures to be published immediately and at very low cost through the Internet or by sharing memory cards.
“This project is not finished. It is really just beginning,” says Smith. “We need technicians, app developers, trainers, and Bible scholars to share in maximizing the benefit of these resources to the global church. We need financial partners to include this strategy in their stewardship priorities as a blessing to the world. We need partners to lift this up in prayer, seeking God’s continuing wisdom and guidance for everyone involved.”
If you fit one of these descriptions and want to help, contact Wycliffe Associates here.
Pray that God will open the right doors and lead the right workers to help with this project.
About Wycliffe Associates: Organized in 1967 by friends of Bible translators, Wycliffe Associates is a ministry that participates in Bible translation worldwide. Because millions of people around the world still wait to read the Scriptures in the language of their heart, Wycliffe Associates is working as quickly as it can to see every verse of God’s Word translated into every tongue to speak to every heart. Wycliffe Associate empowers national Bible translators to provide God’s Word in their own language; partners with the local church to direct and guard translation work, harnessing their passion and desire for God’s Word; and engages people from all around the world to provide resources, technology, training, and support for Bible translation. Last year alone, 3,145 Wycliffe Associates team members worked to speed Bible translations in 71 different countries.
(Photo courtesy of China Partner)
China (MNN) -- A lot is happening for the Church in China. Make sure you're not missing it.
In China, house churches are often not legally registered as the government demands of them. These churches are small and imitate the house churches described in Acts. They provide a place of intimate community and solid discipleship. The problem is: they do not have a lot of freedom to operate.
China Partner comes alongside the registered Church in China to support them. Working with the Church that's recognized by the government gives them more freedom to operate as a foreign entity.
Erik Burklin says China Partner starts with the leaders. "We're equipping especially lay pastors and volunteer church leaders--those who are actually doing the ministry of local churches, many of them who come from rural churches."
China Partner is on the ground right now in Fuzho, the capital of the Fujian province. On this trip they will visit two more provinces.
The pastors from various churches are invited to a training center where they are taught Christian leadership through spiritual formation. At the training center this time, Burklin says there are some new topics being covered: "This is very exciting. We are starting to focus more on some of the more of the practical issues of the pastoral leadership. One of them is marriage and family."
Burklin explains that lay and volunteer pastors in China are too often expected to be in "ministry mode" at all times, ready to address the many needs of the congregation at any moment. Meanwhile, they have to work a job or run a business on the side in order to provide for their family. Part of the training will address what boundaries are appropriate to set up, and how to keep them so that the pastors can take care of their family.
"The other thing that we're concentrating on is youth ministry training. The way we're doing that is through some much-needed small group ministry training, just helping them to understand the principles of how small groups can actually help build community amongst one another. Therefore, in a smaller group setting, they have a little bit of a better way to also reach the next generation for Christ," Burklin says.
Burklin explains that these small groups are really no different from house churches except that the government doesn't interfere with them.
"House churches are really small groups meeting in a home," he says. Small groups are becoming more and more necessary for registered churches as they grow rapidly.
"Within the registered churches there is really a tremendous need of teaching them how to operate in a small group ministry setting because so many of these churches are huge," Burklin says.
"Many people have come to faith over the last few years, but now the big challenge is: 'Okay, how do we train these new believers? How do we disciple them, how do we equip them?' A small group ministry model is very helpful" for that context.
While this small group setting can reap some of the same benefits as the house churches do, they also have another advantage. Registered churches in China often have a good relationship with the government, depending on the location. Burklin says there is an extreme mutual respect. While the churches don't agree with all aspects of the government, they are respecting the leadership that God has put into place without compromising their morals.
And sometimes, churches even use their relationship to witness to government officials.
As pastors come to seek this valuable training, there are many things you can do to help. Most importantly, you can pray.
Burklin says, "Pray for their spiritual health and also their families. They have tremendous pressure put on them to...be ministers 24/7."
Here are some other ways to get involved.
For more background on China Partner, check out these stories.
Guatemala (MNN) -- There are over 163 million orphans in this world. UNICEF estimates that more than 370,000 of those orphans live in Guatemala. These orphans plunge beneath the poverty line, living in orphanages, slums, and on the streets. They are helpless, but not hopeless.
Orphan Outreach has always worked to help children in need. They help to create long-lasting effects in lives by sharing the word of God, feeding the hungry, building homes, and spending time with kids.
They also work to provide medical care, and this year they are in dire need of more medical professionals.
In past years, three days had been dedicated to medical clinics in the Lake Atitlan region for the community of Santiago. Volunteers were able to help more than 900 people. But this year, a fourth day has been added, and Orphan Outreach is eager to see how many they will be able to serve.
They say, “Physicians, Physicians Assistants, Nurses, and all medical professionals are needed to make this trip a success!”
As Orphan Outreach is in need of medical professionals, they also extend an invitation to non-medical professionals with a passion for children. They will help to minister to children and provide support.
The Guatemala 2015 trip will take place from March 14 to March 23, a ten-day trip that will change lives. The cost is $2250 per person, but Orphan Outreach says that cost should not frighten volunteers off because most people are able to raise their support for the trip.
You can make a difference. Just take a leap of faith.
Pray that God will send enough volunteers to Orphan Outreach, and that the March 2015 Guatemala trip will be a success.
For information on how to volunteer, click here.
Liberia (GAiN) -- Editor's Note: Finally, some GOOD news about the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The World Health Organization has declared both Senegal and Nigeria free of Ebola transmission. Things remain serious in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, but health workers are daring to hope. What follows is a recent post from Global Aid Network's Cru partners in Liberia:
(Photo courtesy Global Aid Network/CRU)
It seems the enemy force has not only succeeded in paralyzing our economy and causing an untold suffering to people who were gradually rebuilding their lives after fourteen years of armed conflict. The virus also subjected the entire country to fear and uncertainty regarding who would be hit next. The government, therefore, instituted emergency measures, such as declaring a state of emergency, imposing a curfew, closure of public and private institutions of learning, and requesting nonessential government staff to remain home for a period of ninety days to limit the spread of the virus.
Despite these stringent measures, the virus has killed about 2,316 persons in Liberia as of October 14.
There is a saying that “when one door closes, God opens another.” Our primary environment for doing ministry is university campuses. Therefore, the closure of these campuses indefinitely is very frustrating. However, the students accepted the situation and quickly saw the open doors for ministry opportunity in the midst of the Ebola virus epidemic.
The first door of opportunity was a “Mobile Prayer Chain.” Two leading mobile phone companies offered promotions offering periods of free calling. So, five students used this opportunity to great advantage. They prayed on their cell phones for one hour after every two days. Right now, this mobile prayer chain has grown from 5 to 65 students into groups of at least 5 students per group. “My involvement in this mobile chain hasn’t only improved my prayer life, but I have learned to pray strategically using Scriptures,” said Fatu, a student at the University of Liberia.
The second door of opportunity is a campaign called “Ebola kills, Jesus heals.” This campaign is an ongoing community effort to stop the spread of the virus using two primary approaches:
Public Service Training -- The usage of PowerPoint presentations and video clips of the virus with emphasis on the cause, how it kills and preventive measures. The PowerPoint presentation transitions from the negative effect “Ebola kills” to the gospel message “Jesus heals,” providing the audience the opportunity to make decisions for Christ. This campaign started on the 7th of August and ended on the 12th due to the imposition of a night curfew. However, 266 people watched the presentation, and 20 prayed to receive the gift of salvation!
(Photo courtesy Global Aid Network/CRU)
Community Task Force Training -- Every community has set up a task force to fight against the spread of the virus. Two communities invited us to help train their task force with focus on the history of Ebola, the cause, preventive measures, contact tracing, the usage of the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and the gospel presentation. This training brought together 110 participants. Thirty-two persons made decisions for Christ.
The third Door of Opportunity provides students the ability to help with ongoing distribution of medical and food supplies in several places, including hospitals with Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), quarantined communities, and disabled communities. The humanitarian aid supplied was provided by our major donor, GAiN International, based in Plano, Texas, USA.
The fourth door of opportunity involves the “In Touch Messenger.” This device contains the New Testament Bible and prerecorded inspirational messages by Rev. Charles Stanley. Our primary focus is to give each device to an Ebola survivor to help him or her understand that if no one will accept them as they get reintegrated into communities, Jesus will. On the 7th of October, 21 Ebola survivors were discharged from Ebola Treatment Unit at E.L.W.A. Each received a copy of the device.
It is so unfortunate that there is not much publicity regarding Ebola survivors being discharged from ETUs across the country. There are more than 500 confirmed cases in which infected people have survived. It is even more frustrating that few resources exist to help survivors rejoin their communities after losing almost everything during their misfortune. As students make follow-up visits in communities where survivors have returned, it is so disheartening to note that some return to empty homes with no mattress, food, clothes, or other basic necessities.
Fortunately, the students have begun distributing humanitarian aid to survivors, and include the In Touch Messenger. By meeting the physical and spiritual needs of Ebola victims, and by equipping communities to confront the Ebola crisis, the name of Christ is shining brightly in the darkness.
Please continue to pray. Please continue to share.
(Photo cred: Wikipedia)
Indonesia (MNN) -- What emotions rise to the surface when a new president takes office in your country? Perhaps hope and optimism shine brightly, or maybe the public's reaction is more like a mix of frustration and anger.
In Muslim-dominate Indonesia, many evangelical Christian communities are reacting positively to their new President, Joko Widodo.
"Every Christian that I know in Indonesia is feeling relief and delight that this man becomes their new leader," shares Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).
Joko Widodo: a brief summary
Nicknamed "Jokowi", 53-year-old Joko Widodo made history a week ago as he was sworn into office as Indonesia's first president not to have a background in politics or military service. He grew up in the slums of Java and rose quickly from the position of mayor to president.
On Sunday, Joko Widodo made history again by choosing the country's first female Foreign Minister.
Allen explains why you should care about Indonesia's new president in the full interview.
The first speech of Indonesia's 7th president Joko Widodo on October 20, 2014, during his inauguration ceremony.(Photo, caption courtesy Wikipedia)
Widodo is not only charting new territory in the realm of politics, he's setting a new standard in the realm of religion, too. During his first speech to Parliament last week, Joko Widodo acknowledged the Christians who were present.
"All the previous presidents, in that opening address to Parliament, have given the traditional Muslim greeting," Allen explains. "Joko Widodo said that traditional Muslim greeting, but then he also said, 'I want to greet my Christian countrymen, and so I also say 'God bless you' and 'greetings in peace' to the Christians."
National Gospel workers helped by FMI hope to see more efforts like these to extend kindness and inclusion to Indonesian Christians.
Allen says, "[Widodo is] making very serious overtures to say, 'I'm a Muslim, but I am a leader of all the people.'"
Religious freedom in Indonesia
Christians are one of the six religions protected by Indonesian law. However, Allen says, those legally-protected freedoms are often infringed upon in the world's largest Muslim-dominate nation.
"Many things tilt in favor of the Muslims," says Allen. "If there is opposition to Christian outreach locally, or if someone is attacking a church or a pastor, the local police department--probably led by a Muslim--[says], 'We'll get to that in a few hours.'
"There are still abuses toward Christians, even though they are legally protected."
Javanese dance featuring Ramayana Ballet.(Photo, caption courtesy Gunawan Kartapranata via Wikimedia Commons)
Indonesian believers hope Joko Widodo's tolerance and acceptance of religious minorities will change this persistent reality.
"They're looking for fewer restrictions; they're looking for many changes that will show that Indonesia is much more open," states Allen.
In light of the growing ISIS caliphate, pray that other Islamic nations will follow Indonesia's example, as set forth by its new president.
"Right now, our news is being dominated by so much bad news about the Muslim world, especially with ISIS running rampant," Allen says.
"Here is the world's largest, Muslim-dominate country turning its back on ISIS, so to speak, and saying, 'We welcome the contribution that Christians are having in this country.'"
More Muslim ministry stories from FMI here.
(Photo credit World Bank)
International (MNN) -- Putting women in leadership has been a controversial subject since the turn of the century, both in sacred and secular circles. Over the next few days, MNN will investigate the issue as it relates to global missions.
The goal of this mini-series is not to debate or choose a side (i.e. women leaders are better than men leaders, or vice-versa). Instead, these reports explore the advantages and disadvantages of women in leadership roles, as well as ministry opportunities and challenges the issue presents.
"We've got to expand [our] investing in women," Joe Handley of Asian Access (A2) states boldly. "It's important that we empower and platform people from any walk of life.
"It doesn't matter if they're women or young people, [a] different ethnic group, whatever; we need to empower [people] to expand the Kingdom."
Empowering women leaders
A2's mission is to develop and empower national church leaders who can share the Gospel and make disciples in Asia. While that has traditionally involved training men in leadership skills, A2 has been "branching out" in recent years to include women.
Learn more about A2's ministry here.
"We're not doing it big-scale yet," Handley clarifies, "but we have a vision to 'ramp that up' in the future."
(Photo credit Asian Access)
In one Asian nation, unnamed for security reasons, A2 has been training women in leadership skills for several years.
"The results have been profound," says Handley. "They bring together women four times a year for an intense, deep dive with Jesus, and an intense, deep dive with 'how do you grow as a leader?'"
At the quarterly retreat, women in this country are mentored by other female leaders and taught how to develop the leadership skills God has gifted them with.
"The six of us attending A2 from our church are all cell group leaders, and we have changed," says one participant in a written testimony. "Through A2, we have learned that the Christian life is not just about performance or service, but rather our personal relationship with God. We want to help our brothers and sisters deepen their relationships with Jesus as ours have deepened."
Please pray for A2 as they develop this area of ministry.
"We know that we're just scratching the surface," Handley admits. "We need a lot more work in this area."
Tomorrow, we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of placing women in leadership with Kӓrin Primuth, the only female member of A2's Board of Directors, and Wendy Wilson, leader of the Women's Development Track for Missio Nexus.
In the Comments section below, please let us know what you think: should women be placed in leadership roles? Why or why not?
(Image captured from VOM Canada video footage)
USA (USCIRF/MNN) -- Did you know that October 27 was International Religious Freedom Day?
If you didn't, you're not alone. The commemoration of the 16th anniversary of the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) went unremarked by most mainstream media. It also slipped under the radars of religious watchdog groups. Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry says, "It's fair to say that our government hasn't really been focused as it should be on religious freedom around the world. It's becoming the centerpiece of some of the main issues we're facing."
How do politics fit into religious causes? Curry explains, "Because the West has overlooked the importance of religious freedom, we have issues with groups like the Islamic State, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt." You might be wondering, "What does this have to do with me?"
Everything. Religious freedom is part of the American identity as a free nation. It's also central to peace and stability worldwide. "When we look back at the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act, which was what this day (October 27) was meant to celebrate, it really was meant to highlight that we, as the American people, have an interest in religious freedom. Where there's religious freedom, it's a bellwether of how everything else is going to go within civil society."
By enacting IRFA, Congress and the President recognized that religious freedom matters. Among its provisions, IRFA created an international religious freedom office in the State Department and the U.S. Commission on Intentional Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The USCIRF is a bipartisan entity tasked with monitoring religious freedom worldwide and making policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.
According to information from the USCIRF in the 2014 Annual Report, 8 nations were recommended to the State Department’s existing list of “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, including: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan,Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. (The State Department subsequently designated Turkmenistan a CPC.) USCIRF also recommended that the following countries be re-designated as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.
Curry notes that "Open Doors is focused on trying to maintain freedom for Christians around the world--get them the Bibles and the supplies they need. I think it's important, within the general realm as well, that people have the freedom to choose what they want to believe and how they want to worship." Since that's oppressed on pain of death in many of the CPCs, two things need to happen: Speak up about the issues, and pray.
"This Saturday, there's a simulcast where we're going to be interviewing persecuted believers from around the world," says Curry. "It's going to be an interactive event. It's going to be really powerful. There also is an event for churches and groups on Sunday, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church."
Even as conditions deteriorate for Christians in areas where the Islamic State group has hold or Boko Haram menaces, here's what persecuted believers are asking: "Pray for us to stand strong. Don't pray that the persecution goes away or that we have an easy life." Believers want to stand strong and share their faith in the midst of difficulties, says Curry. Plus, "They want to know that they're not alone, that there are other believers praying for them and caring for them."
(Photo courtesy of SAT-7)
Egypt (MNN/SAT-7) -- Children seem to be in charge of the television. If parents aren’t watching something as compelling as Dora, then children feel the need to expose parents to their world of color and helping dogs find clues.
For Fady and Marian, a couple in Tanta, Egypt, they think their son, Fares, seems to have the television bug for SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa.
Last year, the couple showed their two-and-a-half-year-old son the SAT-7 KIDS channel, and ever since, if the channel wasn't set on SAT-7 KIDS, Fares would switch it to the correct channel.
After becoming so enthusiastic about the show, the family drove 52 miles to Cairo to speak with SAT-7.
Fady and Marian told the station they are so pleased that they became supporters and even have regular contact with some of the SAT-7 presenters.
“In our culture, we teach children from a very young age,” Fady explained. “We give children the freedom to make their own choices at 20 or 30, but at a young age we want to give them the foundations.” SAT-7 KIDS fits the bill perfectly, they said, “because it’s safe, there are no bad words or actions” and because they wanted Fares to know about Christ from a young age.
SAT-7 also ministers to adults, giving them hope in God and faith in prayer. During the post-revolution turmoil of the last three days, Marian recalls, “All the prayers on SAT-7 were saying not to fear or worry about what happened. They first encouraged the adults and then they encouraged the kids.”
“We are used to living with these pressures,” Fady said, but watching SAT-7 KIDS has “been a way to run away from all the noise around us.”
Pray that SAT-7 will continue ministering to families all across the Middle East and North Africa, giving them hope.
(Graphic credit MNN)
Ukraine (MNN) -- Ukraine elections are producing a mix of hope and uncertainty. For the first time since 1991, Ukraine is likely to lack a Communist voice in its Parliament. However, newly-elected leaders are facing a series of big decisions, which could further divide the country.
And, "It's been a very, very tense situation in Ukraine for the past several months," adds Joel Griffith of Slavic Gospel Association (SGA).
"A lot of violent conflict; people have lost their lives. There's an enormous refugee crisis that continues right now."
Ukraine elections: a reason to hope
The latest exit polls show pro-Western parties with a significant lead in Sunday's Parliamentary elections. Final results will reportedly be announced on Thursday.
"That does bode a hopeful side, because if they're pro-Western, they're obviously going to be pro-freedom," says Griffith. "Of all the former Soviet republics, Ukraine has been the freest, and this seems to indicate that that's going to continue."
(Photo crediy Carpetblogger via Flickr)
There are a few factors to consider, though. Millions of eligible voters in rebel-held territory and Crimea failed to cast a vote. In addition, pro-Russian separatists claim they're holding their own elections next month, according to BBC News.
While Russia seems to be losing its influence in the country's Parliament, state-controlled news agencies quote a favorable response to Ukraine elections from Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.
"I think we will recognize this election because it is very important for us that Ukraine finally will have authorities which do not fight one another, do not drag Ukraine to the West or to the East, but which will deal with the real problems facing the country," Lavrov is quoted by the RIA as saying.
Whether this position is true, and not just "lip-service," remains to be seen. On Friday, Russian President Putin admitted to helping former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych flee the country in February. According to Reuters, NATO says Russia is still helping separatists in eastern Ukraine by sending soldiers and equipment.
(Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association/Eric Mock)
"How are [the] eastern regions [of Ukraine] going to respond to the results once they are finalized? What will Russia do in the long-term?" asks Griffith.
These are just some of the questions raised by the Ukraine elections, which will only be answered in time, he notes. But, SGA remains focused on helping Ukraine churches respond to that crisis, and there are a few ways you can help.
According to some of the latest available statistics, nearly 4,000 people have been killed during the ongoing Ukraine unrest. Approximately 800,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere in Ukraine, or in one of the neighboring countries.
As a harsh winter approaches, this situation will likely grow more dire.
"These are very real human needs that are going to be ongoing," Griffith notes.
SGA-sponsored Bible schools have been helping refugees by providing mattresses, bed linens, and other materials. (Photo, caption courtesy SGA)
SGA’s Crisis Evangelism Fund helps Ukrainian churches distribute much-needed food aid, as well as Bibles, Christian literature, and other essentials. Most important of all, distressed families and individuals hear the life-changing Gospel and experience the love of Christ. The Crisis Evangelism Fund helps Ukrainian Christians make an eternal difference in the lives of men, women, and children whose hearts have been broken by what has happened to their lives and to their country.
"These are people whose lives have been shattered, turned upside-down. They don't know what the future of their country's going to be; they're not even quite sure what their own future's going to be," says Griffith.
"But when you can give them the hope of the Gospel, when you can meet their physical needs…that's a hope that has to be provided."
You can help by coming alongside SGA's efforts here.
Most importantly, continue to pray for the Ukraine crisis. Pray for peace in Ukraine. Ask the Lord to guide and direct the country's newly-elected leaders. Pray for protection and wisdom for those helping refugees in Christ's name.
More Ukraine updates here.
(Screenshot courtesy Global Advance)
South Asia (MNN) -- Two weeks ago, the Pakistani Army started shelling Indian positions along the Line of Control, or more accurately: the border between India and Pakistan.
Ceasefires, violations, control. That's what a decades-long conflict is boiling down to. Recent peace talks haven't made a huge headline splash, maybe because the peace talks weren't following the traditional diplomatic lines.
In fact, the talks were part of a training conference hosted by Global Advance, and they involved not politicians, but church leaders. Global Advance founder David Shibley explains, "Global Advance was able to convene 10 delegates from Northern India--very strategic church leaders--and 10 delegates from Pakistan. We came together in a third neutral nation for what we called a 'Tri-Nation Summit.'"
Despite the state conflict, says Shibley, "There was no contention between the delegates at all. In fact, it was wonderful to see what the Holy Spirit did in a real unity of heart and purpose to see this area of the world be discipled for the Lord Jesus Christ."
Here's one reason why: these were leaders of the body of Christ. The biblical message of peace they share unites them. It was born out of a Lausanne committee meeting several years back. Putting feet on the dream took longer. "We convened 16 months ago the first Tri-Nation Summit. This was the second one following up and allowing for a greater development of strategy for each one of those nations." As the 2013 Summit concluded, delegates agreed to pray and fast on the third day of each month, which laid the foundation for the 2015 gathering.
(Photo courtesy Global Advance)
Once the leaders came together, they discovered the joy of common purpose. In fact, the joint prayer meetings could be considered a breakthrough for the Gospel in this region. It puts the phrase "peace talks" in a whole new light. "They met together individually...as national representatives and came away with fresh new plans for fresh evangelistic initiatives in each of their three nations, and also for very creative ways to continue praying for each other."
Shibley goes on to note that some of the leaders witnessed an answer to prayer 16 months ago that gave them confidence to move forward. "Immediately after the summit, India and Pakistan lessened their border restrictions. We think that was significant, and we think that it was an indication that the Lord really is up to something in that part of the world."
Referencing The Kathmandu Commitment from 2013, Shibley says, "They came away with an emphasis in two areas: first of all, being sure that each unengaged, unreached people group would be reached. Most of them are targeting the year 2020. Secondly, [they came away with] a fresh commitment to the mentoring of young men and women who feel called into Christian vocational ministry." They renewed that commitment once more. Global Advance is coming alongside church leaders with vital resources. The challenges these church leaders face carry more risk than ever before. "In certain pockets of these areas, the Church is growing at unprecedented rates, which is also increasing hostility against the Church and against Christianity in general. So, we need to be praying that believers will stand boldly, that they will be winsome, that they'll be gracious."
West Africa (MNN/BGR) -- Ebola continues to eat away at lives in eight countries, causing over 4,000 deaths to date.
In an effort to help spread awareness, Baptists in West Africa and Baptist Global Response are working together to educate West Africans about the deadly disease. Through education, these groups hope to help end the spread of Ebola.
Some of the ways BGR is trying to educate people is through storytelling and role-playing.
“We have been hosting workshops, teaching the believers in our church a story of two women who react very differently to Ebola,” says a Christian worker in Guinea we’ll call Lily Ronaldo. “Through the story and the discussion that follows, we are able to share what Ebola is, how it is transmitted, simple things people can do to protect themselves from being infected, and how to help stop the spread of the disease.”
Workshops usually last between 3-4 hours.
Surprisingly, Ronaldo says, “There are still people that do not even believe that Ebola is real. Some believe the government had the disease brought in to postpone elections, and others believe it is a way for the government to get financial help from the outside; even some well-educated people believe some of these lies.”
International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Trevor Yoakum confirmed similar beliefs in Togo.
BGR partnered with Yoakum and his wife to form a campaign in order to distribute 15,000 informational brochures on Ebola. The brochures will inform people about the spread of Ebola, and they will be disseminated in various ways, including a televised meeting to provide a nationwide public service announcement.
Distribution of the brochures to villages should take less than a month. Yoakum hopes for positive feedback and adds that if 5 people see one brochure, they could reach up to 75,000 people.
Pray that those living in Ebola-affected areas would receive proper education and would look to God during these difficult times.
(Image courtesy of Family Christian Stores)
Dominican Republic (MNN) -- Did you know that one of your favorite bookstores actively supports Christian mission?
For years, and under an array of names, Family Christian Stores have blessed families in the United States with easy access to Christian resources.
But Family Christian Stores didn't want to stop at equipping consumers for Christ. For the past 11 years they have focused their attention on James 1:27 which says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (NIV).
Last year, Family Christian Stores became a non-profit business to ensure all of its earnings go to Christian charities. The trajectory of the company has long been to serve those in need around the world.
Steve Biondo of Family Christian says while studying James 1:27, they had to ask themselves, "In the orphan world, who are those that are most traumatized? Where is the most distress?"
It wasn't too hard to find the answer. "There's this massive evil across the globe. It's concentrated in certain parts of the world, but there's this massive evil: and it's estimated that 27 million children and sometimes adults are held captive against their will."
What is this massive evil? Human Trafficking.
"They're tortured, and often times their very life is taken from them through horrific acts of violence. And so we began to fix in our minds that this is a place that we've got to go. We've got to go and work here, we've got to stand up against this kind of injustice. We've got to go ahead and break the cycle," Biondo says.
With this issue on their heart, Family Christian decided to partner with Destiny Rescue.
"Destiny Rescue is really a powerful organization that started in Australia," Biondo says. It is "internationally recognized, faith-based, Christian-based, not-for-profit that is 100% dedicated to rescuing children from the human trafficking and sexual exploitation trade."
With this frontline partnership, Family Christian hopes not only to address the exploitation of these human beings, but also to share the love of Christ with them.
"What we want to do is work alongside [Destiny Rescue] in a more deliberate way, in a very profound and strategic way."
Stay tuned to our Web site over the next month to see what this initiative is going to look like and how you can help.
Pray for God to prepare and burden the hearts of those who are able to help. Ask Him to protect the hearts of children caught in human trafficking.
As Biondo puts it, "We need to push back darkness. We need to take action as individuals through our donations or through going into these places, short-term trips, or sponsoring rescues, sponsoring girls who have been trafficked."
Click here to find out more about Family Christian Stores.
USA (MNN) -- 25 years ago in a small closet studio in the back of Cornerstone University's radio station, His Kids Radio (then known as the Children's Sonshine Network) went on the air on October 23, 1989.
It was a momentous day and just the beginning of many years of 24-hour broadcast ministry to kids and families. The kids' network aired classic programs like Children's Bible Hour and Ranger Bill, and played songs from the Music Machine and Psalty the Singing Songbook.
Through the years, His Kids Radio has grown with the latest technology, shifting from SCA broadcast and satellite delivery nationwide to digital and internet-based listening.
What better way, then, to celebrate 25 years than to mark a new beginning with a new name? His Kids Radio is now Keys for Kids Radio.
Though the name is changing, the mission stays the same: to point children to Jesus through songs and radio drama. Many favorite programs will still be heard on Keys for Kids Radio, including Paws and Tails, Wee Kids, Karen and Kids, and Kid’s Corner.
Kids for Keys Executive Director Terre Ritchie says, “They [Cornerstone Radio] have offered us the opportunity to take it over, and as a focused children’s ministry, we are more than excited.”
Keys for Kids Ministries is an international Christian ministry based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, producing and distributing excellent media resources to evangelize and disciple kids and their families.
Ritchie asks for prayer as there will be a lot of work shared among only a few people. Also pray that Keys for Kids will help more children and families grow in Christ.
If you’d like to donate, click here.
Current military situation as of October 20, 2014. The gray-shaded area signifies Islamic State territory.(Map obtained via Wikpedia)
Middle East (MNN) -- When the school year began last month in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), extremists had adjusted the curriculum.
We spoke with Vice President of Operations for Kids Alive International, Jed Hamoud, in Lebanon at their children's home. He explains, "Basically, arts are taken out of school; music is taken out of school; a certain degree of sports are taken out of the schooling system." It didn't stop there. "If you're going to higher education, topics like psychology, psychiatry, or counseling are being removed from the curriculum as well."
Hamoud says they're already preparing for one possible outcome. "It's going to increase the duration of our involvement with ][refugees]. The duration of the services that we provide to them is going to increase." Why? Even if the political situation were to change tomorrow, refugees might choose to stay in Lebanon. Hamoud says parents are asking themselves this question: "'Do we want to take our children back to enroll in a curriculum that's a very highly Islamic-centered curriculum?'"
Some refugees in Lebanon have enrolled in Lebanese schools and have been following the Lebanese curriculum, which, to a large degree, is modeled around French and English systems. However, others can't get into the schools because their kids have fallen behind due to the disruption of the civil war in Syria prior to the ISIS advance.
(Image courtesy Kid's Alive)
This is where Kids Alive is adjusting their outreach. "What we're doing initially is providing them with a literacy program, helping them to catch up. Many of those children have not been in school for a year or two or three years, in terms of their academic standard; [we're trying] to streamline them into the Lebanese system." Once they're up to speed, "We do have our current Lebanese curriculum that we teach in our school. We have a 35 [student] school setup here in Lebanon at Kids Alive: a registered school with the government that takes the kids up to sixth grade."
That's just one aspect of what they're seeing in refugee kids. Hamoud adds, "The kids we're taking in: emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically, they're very tender because a lot of them have gone through experiences that no child should go through." Uncertainty keeps a lot of kids isolated, because "many of them are going to come to us wondering, 'Is this going to be the last stop, or just a stop along the way?' The prayer of many people could be that this may be their last stop."
(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)
As refugees face the possibility of resettling long-term, Hamoud says the new "normal" won't change their mission. "We are Bible-centered, Scripture-centered. The Scripture is the core of everything we do here at Kids Alive in Lebanon."
Pray that the ministry of Kids Alive makes a lasting difference in the lives of refugee children and their families. "They see the love of Christ here, they see that we are Christ-centered so that they desire the life that we demonstrate here, and they would want it for themselves as well."
(Map credit YourMiddleEast.com)
Iraq (CAM) -- In Iraq’s northern areas, where Islamic State (ISIS) militants have extended their brutal campaign to establish a caliphate, coveted copies of the Bible are playing a key role in the lives of displaced people from a myriad of religious backgrounds.
Supply is limited (some Bibles are available locally while others need to be shipped in), but the demand appears to be endless, especially among refugees and internally displaced people.
“Every time we try to open a box or container to distribute Bibles, we get ‘attacked’ by people in their eagerness to get a copy,” the director of a locally-based ministry said. “We have never had a problem giving them away.”
Nominal members of historic churches are seeking the Bible, as are Yazidis and Sunni and Shia Muslims. Yazidis practice a blend of Christian, Islamic, and Zoroastrian rituals.
“The religious nature of the region makes faith matters of great interest and an important part of their lives, and the search for the truth has become one of the priorities of the Muslims,” he said, adding that ISIS militants’ religiously motivated murders of civilians have provided a golden opportunity to present the “loving and peaceful Christ.”
The native ministry, which Christian Aid Mission assists, provides Bibles along with material aid such as food and blankets. While meeting their immediate needs is crucial, the knowledge of God found in the Bible provides refugees a more enduring benefit, said Christian Aid Mission’s Middle East director.
People of all religious backgroundsand ages are eager to receive Biblesin Kurdistan.(Image, caption courtesy Christian Aid)
“Muslims come with a worldview that is full of fear, and the message of a God who gives Himself for you and cares for you as a child of God is new to them,” he said. “It gives them great hope, and as people who have lost everything, this hope is a thousand times more meaningful to them.”
“The Bible is the preacher who can reach people, stay with them at home, and talk to them every day about Jesus, which is something we cannot always do due to lack of preachers,” he said. “We don't have so many in the area, and the nature of the ministry among thousands makes the Bible the #1 tool for salvation of people.”
While acknowledging that ISIS atrocities, such as religiously motivated beheadings of non-Muslims, were committed in the early years of Islam, the Muslim refugees do not regard the militants as true Muslims.
“All the displaced Muslims say ISIS is a criminal gang and that they are not true Muslims,” he said. “Some feel ashamed of such actions, especially as it occurred at the dawn of Islam and its expansion, while others are trying by all means to deny it is part of the Islamic religion and dismiss it as part of a plot by Zionists against Arabs.”
Most Muslims who are committing their lives to Jesus Christ were already disillusioned with Islam, he said.
“For this reason hundreds find their way to Christ today, in secret or in public.”
Besides Muslims and people of minority religions such as Yazidis, displaced persons belonging to historical churches that discourage them from reading the Bible are also showing up to claim copies. The director said nominal members of the Syriac Orthodox, Catholic, and other churches have responded to the evangelical witness by putting their trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life.
“They are becoming born again, attending churches, being discipled, and trying to adjust to the new way of learning and reading the Bible,” said the director, adding that the ministry strives to work with historical churches by building ties of friendship.
Displaced people and refugees whobecome Christians meet wherever they can.(Image, caption courtesy Christian Aid)
The new Christians from varied backgrounds are mixing together as a new people in Christ, though living as displaced peoples means that some remain in isolated pockets.
“According to their geographical locations, many would prefer to come to the local churches and the house churches if they could. But because of the difficulty of travel and making a living and the challenges of life--which predominantly are like those of homelessness, some remain in their places until the brothers reach out to them,” he said.
Because of restrictions by countries in the Middle East to print and distribute Bibles, there is a continual need to purchase Bibles, he added. Whole Bibles in Arabic, Aramaic, and Kurdish languages are sought, as well as children’s versions of the same. Also needed are New Testaments in Kurdish, Sorani, and Bahdinani languages. The ministry also distributes Christian literature as well as illustrated Bible stories for all ages, designed for Muslims who know nothing about Jesus.
The books of illustrated Bible stories and the children's Bible cost $5 each. A whole Bible costs $4, with hardcover copies going for $5 to $8. New Testaments printed locally cost $2.
“For the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the tents in the fields everywhere, in the mountains and the Kurdistan area, it’s the right time for us to give Bibles.” the Iraqi ministry director said.
“I strongly believe God’s hand is in this situation, and God brought all these people to us and wants us to act as fast as we can.”
If you'd like to help provide Bibles, click here.
USA (MNN) -- There's a reason we don't all have the same life experiences. It's through our experiences, good and bad, that we learn life lessons. Can you imagine having to learn all life lessons by yourself? That would probably be pretty painful, and even more confusing than life already is.
The Body of Christ is an excellent example of how life lessons can be shared. For David and Sally Gallagher, a big life lesson was learning how precious individuals with physical or mental challenges are, and how they are unique image bearers of God.
(Image by The King's Table Ministries)
Sally's sister was born with developmental disabilities when Sally was three. As the two sisters got older, Sally developed a special bond with her sister. David Gallagher's oldest daughter, Katie, was born with Down syndrome.
Sally Gallagher, executive director of The King's Table Ministries says, "My husband and I both, I believe, were sculpted by God over the years to love this people group and become an advocate for them."
This advocacy is now a well-extended ministry. Gallagher explains, "We help churches to develop programming in their church for special needs children and adults so that when they're young ,then the parents have the ability to still be able to worship together and join a Sunday school class because now there's a place for their child to be able to learn about God also."
Gallagher says a lot of times churches hesitate to institute these types of programs on their own. Why? She says, "I think sometimes churches feel like they're not adequately equipped as far as their staff, their volunteers." Other times, churches may feel they wouldn't be able to afford this kind of programming.
"You need a few people who have a heart for it, and a few dollars, and that's about it," Gallagher explains.
The King's Table Ministries exists to help equip churches and to let them know it is possible to carry these programs.
This ministry doesn't stop in the church, however. King's Table Ministries also works within the local public school system and adult foster care homes.
This is done through volunteers from the churches. For residents of adult foster care homes, Gallagher says, "They have a real need for having people to not only love them but just to be a part of their life, to be an advocate to them, and to be Jesus to them."
And while public schools usually have a budget set aside to address the different needs for students with physical or mental disabilities, money is tight.
The King's Table Ministries helps not only financially, but "when we come in, we bring the nuances that add special touches such as the staff/teacher luncheon that we do once a year, [and] the landscaping. We also do a carnival picnic for a welcome back to school for the families and the children," says Gallagher.
The school can help connect families with the resources The King's Table Ministries has. Sometimes they provide a wheelchair or a shower chair, for instance.
Families who have a hard time with insurance covering these supplies find it helpful to connect with The King's Table Ministries.
The name "King's Table" comes from 2 Samuel 9, where King David invites Jonathan's son to eat with him at his table.
As with any advocacy effort, The King's Table Ministries runs into some challenges with their audience.
Gallagher says that "the most difficult thing to explain to them is the need for families and for children, and the fact that they're a special image of Christ."
To learn more about The King's Table Ministries and how you can help, click here.
Gallagher says this is how you can pray: "Pray for protection from the evil one. When you're moving a ministry like this, when you're looking at a special image of Christ in their uniqueness, the spiritual attacks can be really heavy because he doesn't want that to be able to move."
(Photo credit Open Doors)
Iraq (MNN) -- As ISIS digs in their heels and grows their radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, hope grows evermore dim for religious minorities in the region. Al-Monitor reports 90% of Orthodox Christians in Iraq are displaced. Only 30 families out of 600 remain in Baghdad, and there are less than 10 families left in Mosul.
"The return of those who have been displaced back to their homes is linked to the political and security situation. We cannot urge anyone to go back now, in light of this ongoing war in different regions in Iraq," Greek Orthodox Bishop Ghattas Hazim told Al-Monitor.
"We are a main element in this region's culture; Christians and Muslims from all confessions are threatened."
Christians in Iraq: a brief history
Being forced to flee their homes is nothing new for Christians in Iraq. Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA says over 75% of Christians have left the country since 2003.
(Photo credit Open Doors)
"That's the ones who've actually had to leave the country, not just the ones who've been displaced," she clarifies. "It's increasing more and more as ISIS continues to target Christians.
"We've actually been working in Iraq for more than 20 years, as persecution has been increasing, and it's increased the most in the past 10 years."
It's not just Christians in Iraq facing trouble from ISIS; all religious minorities, including moderate Muslims, are at-risk. As Fuentes points out, Islamic State militants are "putting down roots" in Iraq.
"That affects everyone," she explains. "It turns countries that once [had] religions living side-by-side peacefully… [and takes] that away, and it changes the face of Iraq."
How to help Christians in Iraq
While statistics can be overwhelming, there are ways you can help Christians in Iraq, whether they're taking refuge in Iraq's Kurdistan region or in a neighboring nation.
Open Doors works with indigenous Christian leaders to provide for every need of persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria, and surrounding countries affected by ISIS. By providing refugee care, Bibles, Christian training, trauma counseling and other resources, we aim to meet all of the refugees' needs
"There's one pastor in particular who's made it his mission to create a church [that's] not labeled as a 'refugee center,' but more of a 'safe area,'" Fuentes shares.
The pastor had pools and games for refugee kids during the summer season to help take their mind off of the ISIS crisis. He made it a point to share the love of Christ with kids and their families, no matter what background they came from.
As believers respond to the ISIS crisis with the love of Jesus, other religious minorities take note. Suddenly, a new interest in the Gospel develops.
"Not only were there doors opened [for the Gospel], but they were caring for all [the children's] needs: physical, emotional, and spiritual needs," says Fuentes. "It's been a great way to reach people with God's love in this region, in spite of all the atrocities going on."
Info graphic created in July 2014 (Courtesy Open Doors)
Stories like these aren't being shared just to keep you informed -- there are ways you can help Christians in Iraq. Fuentes says the first thing those of us in the West should do is pray.
"Many of them are just absolutely surprised to know that…they're not alone, that the Body of Christ is surrounding them in prayer," Fuentes shares. "From a practical standpoint, you can give to help not only Christians in Iraq, but in surrounding countries, too."
See how you can help Christians in Iraq through Open Doors.