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US paves the way for tighter sanctions on North Korea

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 05:02:20 -0500

North Korea (MNN) -- The United States' President Donald Trump put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism on Monday. This designation will allow the US to put harder sanctions on North Korea. This move has been praised by leadership in South Korea, Japan, and Australia. The hope is that harder sanctions will pressure North Korea to step down from its dangerous nuclear posturing. The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has continued to pursue nuclear and missile programs, despite sanctions from the United Nations Security Council. However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang is concerned the US designation will exacerbate the “precarious situation” on the Korean Peninsula. (Map of North Korea courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Meanwhile, Voice of the Martyrs is monitoring Gospel ministry efforts into North Korea and they have noted a tightening grip of control from within North Korea. VOM’s Todd Nettleton shares, “One of the things we’ve seen in recent months is a dramatic decrease in traffic across the river into China. That border had been pretty porous. There was a lot of crossing back and forth. There was a lot of trade back and forth, of people who made their living by going to China and buying products and then carrying them back into North Korea and selling them. That traffic has decreased, by some estimates, 70 percent in the last few months. “We don’t know exactly what that means other than the regime is obviously trying to exert its influence, exert its power. But that also affects ministry because a lot of the ministry that was happening involved transfers across that border with China. So when there’s less people crossing, that means there’s less ministry going on there.” In the midst of escalating tensions with North Korea internationally and tightening border control internally, we asked Nettleton if any of this is affecting the North Korean people within. Nettleton’s response: not really. “It’s interesting because our interview this week on the VOM Radio podcast is with the leader of our office in South Korea and he says no, it doesn’t change things on the ground. In fact, he says the average North Korean citizen would be very surprised to know that any of this is even happening because their media certainly is not covering it in an open fashion. So their lives on a day to day basis are the same as they were a week ago, a month ago, a year ago. They don’t notice any change.” Click here to listen to the VOM Radio podcast with Dr. Eric Foley, the President of VOM-Korea. Despite more difficult access at the North Korea-China border, Nettleton says creative Gospel ministry into and within North Korean continues. “Voice of the Martyrs’ ministry into North Korea, it’s kind of somewhat of an iceberg. There’s ten percent we can talk about and then there’s 90 percent we can’t talk about for security reasons. A couple of the things we can talk about; we do balloon launches carrying both Gospel tracts and now carrying complete New Testaments across the border into North Korea. “Another thing we do is radio broadcasts telling the stories of persecuted Christians to encourage North Korean Christians. As well, a part of the radio broadcasts we sponsor is simply reading the Scriptures in a very slow, deliberate voice designed to help North Koreans be able to write down what is being said because it is so difficult, almost impossible for them to get a copy of the Bible of their own. So that radio broadcast Bible is the only access they may have to God’s Word.” (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA) It is understandable to feel the quickening of fear any time an update on tensions with North Korea flashes across our screen or in the papers. But Nettleton emphasizes that as believers, we should be intentional in our response. “I hope that every time we see the name 'North Korea', we’re reminded to pray. Because I think that is the correct response. There’s a tendency to feel fearful as we see the news rep[...]

Media Files:

Kenyan deaf population rises, cause unclear

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 05:01:31 -0500

Kenya (MNN) -- For the past few months, most of Kenya’s headlines have been about the election. But a recent study shows the Kenyan deaf population is rising. One out of every 10 Kenyans, or 10 percent of the population, reportedly has significant hearing loss. That’s up from an estimated five percent 20 years ago. Reasons behind this trend are unknown, the study reports. But Rob Myers of DOOR International says it could simply be that Deaf awareness is growing. “Deaf children often get hidden within communities,” Myers explains. “It’s very often the case that parents have a misunderstanding about deafness, and then they act upon that misunderstanding. “They feel like that deaf child has a curse on them and that’s why they’re deaf. Or, the deaf child is demon-possessed; or, the village might think that the parents sinned and that’s what caused the child to be deaf.”

Reaching Kenyan Deaf for Christ

Because of misunderstandings like these, Kenyan Deaf children – who eventually become Deaf adults – have little to no access to education and employment. They’re even cut off from the most important resource of all: God’s Word. It’s estimated that over 350 sign languages are used worldwide. None of them has a complete Bible translation. "That group (the Deaf) desperately needs access to Scripture, they need access to training. They need access to things that many of us take for granted."

Kenyan Deaf translators review a Scripture portion with their Consultant-In-Training (CIT). (Photo courtesy of DOOR International)

This is why DOOR International exists, says Myers. DOOR is a Deaf ministry with Bible translation and training work around the world. Five global offices hold Deaf translation teams, while Deaf church planters are spreading the Gospel in 17 nations. DOOR’s largest translation and training center is located in Nairobi, Kenya. DOOR’s Deaf staff are also sharing sign language Scripture in Deaf schools and training Kenyan Deaf church leaders. “For the first time they are able to teach God’s Word with confidence because they’re not trying to do it through a second language like English. They’re able to do it with resources in their heart language, Kenyan Sign Language.” Less than two percent of the world’s 70 million Deaf people know Christ. Reaching them is a monumental task. Will you pray? “Bringing the Gospel to a group of people that haven’t had it for thousands of years is definitely an endeavor where we can’t be successful without prayer.” Click here to learn more about DOOR’s work.

Media Files:

Free event in West Michigan highlights spiritual warfare

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 05:00:00 -0500

United States (MNN) – What do we know about spiritual warfare and how it impacts our lives on a physical and mental level? According to Dean Vander Mey of Set Free Ministries and Dr. Marcus Warner of Deeper Walk International, the general population doesn’t know enough. On December 6, Set Free Ministries is hosting a free event in West Michigan where Dr. Warner will delve into the issues of the wounded heart—something we have all dealt with at some level. Set Free Ministries and Deeper Walk International got connected a couple of decades ago at a conferenced held by the International Center for Biblical Counseling which is now a part of Deeper Walk as of 2006. Warner explains, “Deeper Walk was started in 1986 by Dr. Mark Bubeck who wrote the books ‘The Adversary’ and ‘Overcoming the Adversary.’ [It] started out as a series of counseling centers. And we have since branched out from there to do training in both counseling and leadership.” Understanding the Wounded Heart The title of Dr. Warner’s talk is ‘Understanding the Wounded Heart.’ This is also the name of a book by Warner. During the event, he will discuss mankind’s “three classic enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil,” and present a model for understanding what happens when our hearts get wounded so that we can address the issues that result. Warner says, “When the world wounds us, our hearts break. And then the devil lies to us. And when the devil’s lies—they kind of get planted in our wounded places in our hearts like seeds in the fertile soil. And when our flesh believes those lies, our flesh then makes vows about how we’re going to live.” We might say that we’re never going to let ourselves get hurt again. We might resolve to put ourselves first or to quit reaching out in relationship. We might withdraw from any situation that might possibly allow for more pain. And we might even act out in a way that hurts others or ourselves. These sorts of vows give us hard hearts and can cause us to doubt God’s love for us. They allow strongholds for the enemy to operate in our lives. Freedom in the Gospel But fortunately, Warner says, there are three core truths wrapped up in the Gospel that can help us break down those strongholds, abandon those vows, and develop soft hearts. “We describe what we do as heart-focused, Gospel-based discipleship. So, the Gospel teaches that we’ve died with Christ. And because we died with Christ to the world and the devil, … the purpose of our death was so that we could be set free from those things. So, the very foundations of the Gospel are that Christians should be free from sin, from Satan, from the world, and from the things that ensnare and entrap us.” The second truth is that we have been raised to a new life with a new identity in Christ. This means we are called to live life differently as children of God. “We deal with our wounded hearts because a lot of times our wounded hearts are keeping us stuck so that we are still entrapped in things [that] enslave us that don’t need to and that we aren’t living out of the true identity that God’s given to us.” Finally, he says “The Gospel, of course, tells us that we are born of the Spirit in being born again. And so, now we need to know, what does life in the Spirit really look like?” This is just a preview of the kinds of things Warner will talk about on December 6. And no matter where you are in life or what trials you face, the topic is relevant. As Warner puts it, we all have wounded hearts or, at the very least, interact with people who do. “It is designed to do a couple things. One is just to get the word out in the community about the resources that Set Free Ministries has to offer in the Grand Rapids and western Michigan area. It’s also designed to give people some practical tools that they can immediately put into practice in their own life. And if they’re trying to help somebody else, it gives them some guid[...]

Media Files:

Myanmar open to repatriation of Rohingya refugees

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 05:02:59 -0500

Bangladesh (MNN) -- Myanmar and Bangladesh are currently in talks to repatriate Rohingya refugees. Myanmar’s military scorched-earth campaign began August 25th targeting Rohingya minorities in Rakhine state. The nation has received harsh international criticism for this horrific ethnic cleansing. The United Nations General Assembly committee demanded last week that Myanmar end the military campaign targeting Rohingya which has “led to the systematic violation and abuse of human rights”. Shep Owen with Food for the Hungry says, “The people are still arriving every day and the current number of refugees is estimated at around 800,000. When this began a couple of months ago, the population was in the high 300,000s…. Fifty-two percent of the refugees are children, which is an interesting and alarming statistic.” A Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of FMI) According to CNN, the estimated number of Rohingya refugees is estimated to grow past one million in the coming weeks. And those arriving every day in Bangladesh are in desperate need. The International Research Committee says 40,000 Rohingya children currently need life-saving treatment for malnutrition. Three-quarters of Rohingya refugees have a lack of food and 95 percent are drinking unclean water. On Monday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed that Myanmar enact a ceasefire to end the ethnic cleansing, begin repatriation of Rohingya refugees, and work towards a long-term poverty alleviation solution. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, said Rohingya who can prove they were residents in Myanmar would be allowed to return. But with their homes destroyed and their communities scattered, what is there to go back to? And is it safe or even advisable? Currently, Myanmar plans to resettle most returning refugees in new “model villages”. The UN has criticized this move, saying it would just be creating permanent camps to contain the Rohingya within Myanmar. Of the Rohingya, Owen says, “They are a group of Muslim people who live in a primarily Buddhist area that borders Myanmar and Bangladesh, and it’s an area that has been a bit disputed in terms of which country they belong to.” Myanmar is a Buddhist-majority nation, and the Muslim Rohingya minority has suffered severe oppression for generations. The government has denied them citizenship and refused to recognize them as an ethnic group. Food for the Hungry has been working in Bangladesh since 1971. They primarily serve communities with long-term development programs to enact sustainable solutions to poverty. “We’ve been monitoring the [Rohingya refugee] problem for some years actually. This has been brewing and it’s really hit a peak this last year. So we decided we can no longer simply just watch the situation and realized the government and the actors that were responding needed help. We went in quickly to do an assessment with some partners, including the teams that are with one of our partners on the ground right now.” As FH works with government and humanitarian agencies to provide aid for Rohingya, Owen says they could really use the support and prayers of the Body of Christ. “[Be in] prayer primarily for obviously the refugees, but also for the political situation in Myanmar and also between Myanmar and Bangladesh…. Pray for our teams as we work there, that they’ll be safe and that the government of Bangladesh will continue to be a helpful partner in allowing us to help there.” If you’d like to give in support of FH’s aid work among the Rohingya, click here.   Header photo courtesy of Jordi Bernabeu Farrús via Flickr: [...]

Media Files:

International students, your family, and the holiday season

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 05:00:59 -0500

USA (MNN) – Thanksgiving is one of the United States’ largest holidays and it's only two days away. Soon, many of us Americans will be enjoying roasted turkey (or ham), buttery rolls, and quality time with our families. But, for international college students who can’t go home, their holidays are spent alone. Of all the international students who study in the US, about 70 percent never set foot in an American home. They don’t experience what it's like to join a typical American family for a night. They don't even get to experience a traditional Thanksgiving meal in the home. However, if you'll extend your table to include just one or two more people, this could change. Alone During the Holidays (Photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship). “International students come to this country to study an oftentimes to do more. To meet Americans, to understand American culture and society, and they are people who have deep interests in what the United States is, including the faith of the United States,” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Director of International Student Ministries Marc Papai shares. “It is a great opportunity for us to be able to share our lives in honest ways with those from outside the country. And we get a chance to cross cultures without leaving our dining room table.” Furthermore, Papai says there have been many students who've come to faith through InterVarsity’s ministry and connecting with Christian families. Plus, these students are already used to crossing cultures. After all, navigating such things comes with the territory of studying in another country. And while being invited into an American home may be a new experience, any cultural differences they’d face won't be. Rather, it will be a chance for them to learn more about the country they're living in and connect with people outside of the typical college setting. As anyone who has studied in college knows, sometimes having that break from the world of academia can be some much needed fresh air. But, with nowhere to go during the holidays, these students don't get that break. They just get empty classrooms, quiet dorms, and a bit too much time spent alone on campus. Opening Up The Home Or, instead, these students could be spending what would be one of their loneliest times in the country growing in friendships with local families. “I think the opportunity for us to be able to build these kinds of friendships will not only help international students, but will help us to understand the richness of culture and the richness of the Gospel as it applies in the culture. So, we’ve seen many actually longer term friendships develop out of simply inviting an international student to one’s home,” Papai says. (Photo courtesy of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship) Most families stay in contact with the international students they meet and have over for dinner. In fact, these families open up and kind of gain a new member of the group. They’ll often invite their international students to family events, athletic events, concerts, and more. And as these relationships evolve, grow, and become stronger the opportunities to share one’s faith open-up For this type of relationship to be built this time of year is really quite fitting. That's because the American Thanksgiving is about inclusion, sharing, and teaching others the ropes of an unknown land. So this Thanksgiving, and the rest of this holiday season, will you consider doing just that? Get in Touch With an International Student Don't know where to start? Well, begin by getting in touch with your church and finding out if they have any students needing a family this holiday. Also, reach out to local colleges and universities to see if they can put you in contact with students who'd be interested in spending a day with an American family. And finally, contact InterVarsity about getting in touch with the international stude[...]

Media Files:

SOAR: giving simple this Giving Tuesday

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 05:00:27 -0500

Int'l (MNN) – Giving Tuesday is just a week away. But SOAR International recognizes that days like this can be overwhelming, especially amidst the holiday season. Joanna Mangione of SOAR says, “I think sometimes it can be really intimidating for anybody when they’re asked ‘hey, there’s a need,  can you please give?’ because everybody has their own financial requirements that they have to fulfill themselves and so to be asked to give more money, it can be sometimes daunting.” That’s why SOAR International is sharing simple and attainable ways to support ministry in Russia and Abkhazia with maximum impact. Mangione says they’re hoping to make Giving Tuesday a little bit more approachable by reminding people that a little gift goes a long way. Through e-mail and Facebook, SOAR has been sending out new ideas on impacting the lives of children and families in Russia and Abkhazia. For example, they’ve encouraged people to “buy them a coffee.” In other words, rather than break the bank, just gift the amount you might spend on a cup of coffee. “Even that amount can make such a difference because $5 pays for a Bible and that is huge—that right there is the Gospel and changes lives for eternity,” Mangione says.

Giving Tuesday: a pause from the go, go, go

Giving Tuesday first began in 2012 as a way to push back on the consumerism surrounding the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mangione says it serves an additional purpose, as well: “Giving Tuesday is a great way to kind of pull in the reigns a little bit and pause and take a breath and think ‘Ok, look at this year. Look at what God has done for us,’ and ‘How can we give something of ourselves in just a small way?’” And because they believe in the power of prayer, SOAR is asking for people to participate regardless of their financial capabilities.

(Photo courtesy of SOAR International)

“Even if it’s not financial—even if Giving Tuesday becomes a day of prayer. Even if Giving Tuesday becomes that day where you volunteer. It kind of brings us down back to earth.” For believers, it’s a reminder of what God has called us to—to reach out in love in his name, to share the Gospel. “Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity for us to, before we celebrate Christ’s birth, to model in humility a day of giving.” You can keep up to date with SOAR’s Giving Tuesday ideas on their Facebook, here. If you’d like to learn more about SOAR and ways to get involved, click here.

Media Files:

UPR recommends Pakistan repeal blasphemy law

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 05:02:26 -0500

Pakistan (MNN) – During last week's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), numerous countries called for Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy law. Call For End to Blasphemy Law The UPR, held in Geneva, Switzerland, was established by the United Nations’ general assembly in 2006 and is a committee that periodically reviews human rights records in all 193 countries in the UN. (Photo courtesy of FMI via Facebook) “This week, Pakistan was being reviewed,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. “The members of the committee were…talking about rights of minorities, such as Christians, issues about human trafficking…When it came the US’s turn to speak, Jesse Bernstein, who is the US’s representative on the committee also said we would like to see Pakistan repeal the blasphemy law.” In the past, Pakistan has been asked to reform its blasphemy law, which is often used to target minorities. However, it hasn't been asked to entirely repeal it until now. The United Kingdom representative also called for an establishment of an independent national commission for minorities from all the faith communities in Pakistan with their own representatives. Pakistan Declines Recommendation However, these recommendations and calls for repeal are not binding, Pakistan does not have to follow them. Last Thursday, Pakistan announced that it will not be accepting the recommendations to repeal or change its blasphemy law. “Even if they don’t immediately repeal the blasphemy law, it is starting a large discussion within Pakistan about how they’re perceived by the rest of the world,” Allen explains. “There is a surging momentum of people in society saying, 'you need to take a second look at this,' and the Lord can still work through that sort of movement as well.” History Lessons by Journalists Pakistani newspapers have begun questioning how the blasphemy law came to be where it is today. They've examined blasphemy cases where evidence wasn't required to convict individuals and sentence them to a mandatory death sentence. Allen says one Pakistani journalist analyzing the situation included facts about the blasphemy law in relation to Islam. “In the past historically, non-Muslims were not held to the same standards as Muslims,” Allen shares. “So if there was a case of blasphemy and someone was being tried for it, the people in charge of that trial [used to take] into consideration [if] the offender was a Muslim or not.” For a case where the offender was Muslim, the punishment would be more severe than if the offender was not a Muslim. The reasoning for this had been that Muslims couldn’t expect non-Muslims to uphold the same beliefs. Therefore, non-Muslims would previously only receive a verbal reprimand. Baptism in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy of FMI for MNN use.) Enter present day Pakistan and non-Muslims are often purposely targeted and accused of blasphemy. The law is used to silence them, destroy lives, and to avenge personal vendettas. It goes without saying, the law is abused. “I’m intrigued and pleased that it is at least opening up dialogue in the Muslim community-- the population at large in Pakistan-- and people are beginning to discuss, ‘How did we get here? What really should this look like?' and, 'Oh my, this is how the world is perceiving what we’re doing,’” Allen says. Moving Forward Furthermore, Pakistan relies on foreign aid and, for the most part, the country doesn’t want to jeopardize that. But, on a positive note, FMI has already seen more Pakistanis come to Christ in the first half of 2017 than the ministry did in 2015 and 2016 combined. Regardless of man’s laws, God is still moving. Please, pray for change in Pakistan and for God to move in the hearts of these Pakistani leaders. Also, pray for the minority religions in Pakistan. Pray for Christians. Open Doors’ World Watch List (WWL) ranks P[...]

Media Files:

Pouring into marriages means pouring into ministry in China

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 05:01:41 -0500

China (MNN) -- A healthy ministry starts with a healthy home. That’s the philosophy behind the marriage seminars and classes China Partner held during their recent trip to China. Erik Burklin of China Partner said the team conducted a retreat for over 23 pastors and their spouses. “As a marriage goes, so goes your ministry, and so it’s very important for us to pour into marriages in China, specifically for the church leaders,” Burklin said. Burklin said many of these Christian leaders are overworked and there is consistently high demand for their time and energy, which can be taxing on any marriage. What’s more, China’s “honor-shame” culture means many couples don’t show affection in public and rarely show physical affection to one another. Photo Courtesy China Partner So when couples started giggling and the mood turned “electric,” the team knew they were making progress. One leader asked the couples to write down three things each person appreciated about his or her spouse. “Couples looked at each other bashfully, they were giggling, they were blushing, one husband even dabbed his wife’s tears away as they were running down her cheeks,” Burklin said. “As we followed up with questions people were saying ‘I feel happy again’ or ‘I feel like we’re back at the beginning of our relationship.’” Twenty-three couples walked into the classroom focusing on what they didn’t like about one another. Now, Burklin said they’re focused on mending their relationships, and China Partner is continuing to work with the couples even after the team has left the country. “We will continue to encourage them, pray with them, and answer questions they might have so this ministry, just because the training is done, does not stop here,” Burklin said. Study materials have been shipped to the couples, counselors and pastors are checking in with them via social media and online communication, and China Partner has already been invited back to do follow-up work in 2018. (Photo courtesy of China Partner) But at the end of the day, Burklin said the victory didn’t belong to China Partner. “God can come into a couple’s hearts and change how they communicate with one another, how they communicate with their children, how they communicate with their neighbors,” Burklin said. “That is the Gospel. “After they return from these kinds of gatherings ... they’re going to be better for it, they’re going to be much better leaders, they’re going to be able to invest in their people wherever God has placed them as church leaders.” Photo Courtesy China Partner China Partner is continuing to equip pastors and believers in China in the coming year, pouring into them so they can pour into others. “It’s not just about sharing the good news of Jesus with the Chinese but it’s actually about equipping pastors who have been called by God to be Gospel declarers so they can become even more effective and efficient in their ministry so that many more people can come to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Burklin said. Right now China Partner is building a ministry strategy and plan for 2018. From a return trip to check up on the couples in March to youth ministry training at a seminary in China to more pastoral training in May and October, there are plenty of projects you can support with your time, money, and prayer. “As we can be a part of that mission, we’re actually accomplishing together with Him what He is all about, and that is to make relationships whole again.” [...]

Media Files:

Orality ‘one of the best-kept secrets in missions’

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 05:00:58 -0500

International (MNN) – If you needed to give someone life-saving information immediately, you would want to make sure they received that information in the way they understood best. There’s no time to solve puzzles, translate, or think through what the information might mean. It has to be clear. The same is true for sharing the Gospel. Part of sharing the Gospel in a way people understand involves translation. Another part involves communication and learning styles. We caught up with Dr. Yohannes of Spoken Worldwide to look at a topic that is changing ministry in a creative access country known for its hostility towards Christians. We’re referring to orality—a form of communicating information audibly whether that’s through storytelling, song, or other methods like dances and plays. Yohannes explains the goal of Spoken Worldwide in this nation is to grow partnerships on the ground and help the Church disciple more people. (Photo and header photo courtesy of Spoken Worldwide) Orality might mean slightly different things to different people, he explains. But that usually has to do with cultural communication styles more than anything else. Today, work to share the Gospel hinges primarily on literate forms of communication. But Yohannes says that orality, “one of the best-kept secrets in missions,” is an important and growing tool for ministry work. And according to the ministry’s website, two-thirds of the world’s population understands information best when it is spoken to them. This might be because the culture is not literate, or because they are preferentially oral learners. This might be a shocking percentage to some readers. However, Yohannes explains that even for a thoroughly educated individual such as himself, orality plays a key part in his communication style. It’s not just about whether or not someone is literate. Asking questions to answer needs With this realization Spoken Worldwide continues to ask themselves this question as they move forward in ministry: “For us to go and make disciples, especially if we were to teach them all that Jesus has commanded us to observe, how do we teach someone to observe all that Christ has commanded us to observe if the written Word is inaccessible to them?” And the brilliance of this question is that it has a different answer depending on where the ministry is taking place. It helps ministries realize—they need to rely on local leadership to best identify challenges, needs, and effective strategies. “We believe in local leadership, or indigenous leadership. We believe in grassroots work… So we come together, we come to consult, we sit down,” Yohannes says. Changing the narrative through orality For an example, Yohannes gives us the case study of the Samburu people, a semi-nomadic pastoral group. “The [Samburu] believe in their creation narrative that God created all cows and gave [the cows] to them. So when a Samburu goes and raids the neighboring tribe and take their cows, what they are doing is really recovering what is rightfully theirs because that’s what they believe. That’s their worldview. (Photo courtesy of Spoken Worldwide) “So you really have to communicate to replace that narrative with another narrative if we’re to address the root causes of those things-- if we’re going to transform that society by the power of the Gospel and God’s truth.” Orality is not just a method of sharing the Gospel. Rather, it is an effective means of sharing the Gospel. So many cultures have relied on oral communication for centuries past in order to pass on most important information to their community. This is why orality is also a great way to address humanitarian needs.  Sharing vital information about hygiene and clean water can transform a community, and it is share[...]

Media Files:

Military takeover in Zimbabwe conjures concern for future leadership

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 05:02:43 -0500

Zimbabwe (MNN) -- The last 48 hours in Zimbabwe have been politically intense since the military seized control of state institutions Wednesday. President Robert Mugabe has been placed under house arrest. Opposition leaders, including Morgan Tsvangirai, are calling for Mugabe’s resignation. In addition to state institutions, the military took over the state television broadcaster ZBC to downplay rumors of a coup. But analysts are calling it what it is. This recent coup takeover has many in Zimbabwe wondering, what’s next for the nation’s political leadership? The buildup to these recent events has been going on for decades. Mugabe has held his position of power for 37 years. Previous efforts to share power or have effective elections have been thwarted by Mugabe. Recently, opinions around who should succeed Mugabe as president were split between Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe and former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Last week, Mugabe terminated Mnangagwa, a powerful national figure with significant military support. This move was the tipping point which spurred the military takeover. Since Wednesday’s coup, popular opposition leader Tsvangirai has returned to Harare after receiving cancer treatment out of the country. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party is encouraging a peaceful transition of power. But it is still unclear whether or not Mugabe will step down quietly. In Zimbabwe, Global Disciples has a staff member and 12 ministry programs training pastors to plant churches, especially in areas least-reached with the Gospel. Global Disciples heard from their staff on the ground Wednesday with urgent requests for prayer over the situation. Barry* with Global Disciples reports that while their staff member says Zimbabweans have remained relatively peaceful, the ministry is warily watchful for the days and weeks ahead. “It’s hard to know what’s going to happen. There are a few programs that are in the development stages that aren’t fully established yet, so it could impact them. It’s just hard to say what will happen for sure. I’m sure if there is a change and there is a significant level of violence and bloodshed, that will impact our team significantly.” Harare, Zimbabwe So far, the biggest impact on the average citizen has been the economic collapse in the wake of Zimbabwe’s military takeover. “The economy has been unstable for a while and prices have been rising, but just within the last couple of days, they’re saying that prices are soaring by at least 50 percent. So that’s pretty significant. If you think about your budget, all of a sudden everything you spend money on increasing by half, that’s going to impact your budget.” Barry points out it’s not just Zimbabwe wrestling with political leadership turmoil. Several of their ministry leaders in various African countries are having to rely on God and continue their Gospel witness in the midst of an uncertain national future. “There are a number of other nations in Africa as well that are dealing with a number of challenges -- DR Congo where we have teams there, Kenya also, there is some unrest and uncertainty in those nations as well.... One of our team members there just mentioned, ‘Our prayer request is that over the next 24 hours that things could be peaceful.’ But then his comment was, ‘Remember, this is Africa.’ And we’re just believing for a new day in Africa, that [in] some of these governments and nations there can be a new day in how leaders are functioning and working with their people.” (Photo courtesy of Global Disciples)So how you can you best be an encouragement to believers in Zimbabwe? Barry says, “They’re asking for prayer, that even though the tensions are there and the economy is challenged a[...]

Media Files:

Preparing Sudanese Christians to be bringers of light

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 05:01:52 -0500

Sudan (MNN) -- Ministering in Muslim majority countries can be dangerous and difficult. However, in Beirut, Lebanon the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) prepares Christians from around the world to step into challenging places and preach the Gospel. For over 50 years, students have come to ABTS to learn sound doctrine and the practical skills needed for spreading the good news in Arab countries. They come from a variety of countries in Africa and the Middle East, but all share the same passion and mission. They want to return to their home ministries and churches to bring a fuller understanding of the Bible to their people. The seminary’s Development and Partner Relations Manager, Wissam al-Saliby, explains that this has been the goal of ABTS since its start: to serve both the global body of Christ and the whole of the Arab world. Teaching those who are called This year the seminary is training 33 residential students, plus more than 50 enrolled in the new online program--giving them the tools and teaching they need to go back to the challenging places they are called to serve. At many similar institutions, only a small percentage of graduates go back to their countries to teach. However, at ABTS, most of their graduates return home. Studying the Bible in order to teach others. (Courtesy of This difference is intentional. The institution communicates clearly from the start that its mission is to equip students to go back to their home mission fields. Al-Saliby explains, “We accept students who are called to ministry, called to serve God, sent by their church, endorsed by their pastor. We contact the pastor. We make phone calls to make sure that this is a person, who with a 3-year investment in him or her, will lead up to going back to equipping and serving the Church.” However, even with ABTS’s high return rates, one part of the Arab world sees more graduates return than others. Providence for Sudan Beginning in the early 1990s ABTS saw a large number of Sudanese students coming to the school. At that time, North Sudan and South Sudan were one country. Yet as the struggles between the Christian and Animists intensified against the Muslim North, the notion of separate nations grew.  As the rift grew into a vote for independence, the seminary began to receive more students from the north. Al-Saliby sees God’s hand in this. “Slowly we had more people from North Sudan, even before the split, as if God was preparing also His Church in Sudan for what was to come, for the split.” (Map courtesy the Voice of the Martyrs) Independence did not bring the conflict to an end.   A more radical version of Islam took over northern Sudan, and many Christians were exiled. But still, the Church was not silenced. God sent Sudanese Christians to ABTS, anchoring their theology and faith as they prepared to go back as pastors and teachers in an increasingly hostile place. This kind of heavenly provision is not random. As al-Saliby says, “Wherever God is planting his Church, growing his Church, the Church would feel the need for theological leadership formation. And that’s why we’ve seen a lot of Sudanese churches and leaders sending people here to us, to learn and be equipped and go back and to have impactful ministries.” Ready for service The Church felt the need, and God responded. With training from ABTS, Sudanese Christians are going back to preach the Gospel. In fact, since the 1990s the seminary has graduated proportionally more Sudanese students from its programs than any other area. Now ABTS is seeing Sudanese graduates find ways to reach their tribes and nation, continue into South Sudan, minister in refugee camps, and travel to Cairo to work with the hu[...]

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Bringing safety to children of the red light districts in India

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 05:00:41 -0500

India (MNN) –The US State Department says that for all forms of human trafficking, India serves as a source, destination, and passage nation. This includes the millions of women who are enslaved in prostitution today. And that means millions of children are also growing up in the red light districts in India. Children exposed to this lifestyle have a greater chance of thinking its normal. Some will follow their mother’s footsteps as a sex slave. Others will learn from the exploiters. Even if they take a different trajectory, they will likely face abuse and neglect during their time in the brothels. And, especially for young girls, there is a greater risk that they will be coerced into the business by their mother’s pimp. This is why India Partners is working with their partners on the ground to make sure that mothers, even if they feel like they cannot escape the sex trade, have a choice about how their children grow up. This Christmas, one of the items included in India Partners Gift Catalog is “Days of Safety.” While safety for a child is truly invaluable, a small gift from someone like you can make it a reality. Donna Glass of India Partners explains that they get to know some of the women in the red light districts and let them know there is another option for their child—one that includes education and a healthy, safe environment. A girl named Asha Right now, there are many children who are trapped because of the lifestyle their mother is living in order to provide for them. Because they work at night, mothers and their children sleep during the day, and so the children do not get to go to school. But what happens when the mother is working at night? Glass shares the story of one little girl named Asha who is still stuck in the red light district. “In the evenings, she’ll hear someone knocking on the door and once that evening time hits, she gets kicked out of the home and is forced to wait on the streets while her mother works... She sees men coming into her mom’s room every single night. She says she wants to just shout and run away, but she can’t. She has no place to go.” Asha is also at risk of following her mother’s footsteps. Already she has been a victim of sexual abuse. Glass says one time when Asha fell in the street, a couple of men came to help her up, but they began to touch her inappropriately. “She cries when she recalls this memory and she says she just hated it!” Glass says. But with help from people like you, children like Asha can grow up in an environment where she is loved and valued and encouraged to pursue a better, more sustainable future. She can find healing and discover her self-worth. Days of Safety “Fifty dollars will provide a week of safety where the child can be in a place that she’ll receive food, medical care, education, counseling as needed, and most importantly, a safe place to sleep every night,” Glass says. With the “Days of Safety,” the children get to experience an alternative life where they see that human life is valued and that there is hope for the future. India Partners is also involved in outreach to the women, too. They recognize that women are often tricked or coerced into the trade where they will continue to be the victim over and over again. “It seems like when you’re living in a brothel area that this becomes a normal way of life. And that doesn’t mean a person likes it. I think many of the women who are there feel trapped. And so we also work with them, providing counseling and also coordinating with other agencies in Mumbai who provide safe homes for women.” In these homes, women who choose to leave will have access to resources like literacy training. It is an effort to help the[...]

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Proxy war: the refugee perspective in Lebanon

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 05:03:08 -0500

Lebanon (MNN) – Saudi Arabia and Iran have been warned against using Lebanon as a proxy for conflict. This, after the remote resignation of its prime minister, Saad Hariri, from Saudi Arabia, triggered a crisis that threatened to upset Lebanon’s fragile coalition.  Hariri has yet to return to Lebanon to clarify the next steps so the government can function. (Photo courtesy of Triumphant Mercy) The Shiite leader of Hezbollah, an ally of Iran, accused Saudi Arabia of declaring war on his country.  Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation, has been battling Iran for decades for dominance in the region.  This is precisely what the Lebanese don’t want. *Nuna, the founder of Triumphant Mercy, a ministry in Lebanon, says, “We pray that Lebanon would not be a proxy nation where people would just fight their fight.  It’s not our fight.  It’s not a Lebanese fight, a civil war, or a Lebanon with any other country.  It’s going to be a proxy war which is Saudi Arabia and Iran in our land.” However, the tension is palpable.  Overnight, the circumstances changed in the country.  If the Lebanese are feeling it, that’s exacerbated tenfold for the refugees from Iraq and Syria who are staying there.  “Even this week, I was sitting with some of them.  They were expressing how they’d fled their countries because of what was happening, and now they’re feeling they don’t know where to go…again. “ (Photo courtesy Triumphant Mercy) In fact, some of the refugees are worried enough, “People are starting to think of ‘what’s next?’  ‘Where should I flee next?  This is hard for people to live in this kind of insecurity and rumors of war…” Triumphant Mercy has been meeting the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of these refugees since the crisis began.  Some have managed to re-establish a sense of normalcy again through the schools and other training programs.  To have that ‘new normal’ upset escalates their fear because they’ve already experienced destabilization -- some more than once.  They’re asking questions of a team that has been a steady presence in their lives. Many times, these questions land on ‘Where is God?’  Nuna says, “In these last few years, Lebanon has been a beacon of light, spreading the good news all over -- but mainly God bring refugees in so that they can hear the Gospel.” The refugees are finding comfort in a hope and faith in Christ.  Nuna observes, “There is a change in their own culture -- and we can see transformation all over the place, not only in Lebanon, but the whole Middle East is being transformed now.” (Photo courtesy of Triumphant Mercy) She adds that the hand of God is shaping some amazing things.  “I don’t think, ever, we’ve seen what is happening now.  The Saudi Arabian king received the Patriarch of Lebanon and is going to open a church in Saudi Arabia-- this is unprecedented!” What will Lebanon’s fate be?  There’s no way to know, but Nuna has watched God open doors that were previously closed to the Gospel.  Prayer covered a lot of that and she urges others to pray with them, too.  They’re praying wisdom and creativity in how they’ll respond to the changing situations; asking God to resource the ministry to continue to share the hope of the Gospel; praying that Lebanon stays out of the proxy war; praying that the followers of Christ will find ways to encourage the new believers among the refugees. Even with the maelstrom of political machinations in motion, her steadying moment comes from holding onto what God has done and plans to do in Lebanon.  Simply put: she’s hanging on for the ride.  “I love it! I love just to be blown away by God’s interv[...]

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You don’t have to be rich to give a Bible

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 05:01:55 -0500

China (MNN) -- It takes just $5 to put a Bible into the hands of someone who may have never held one before. And people around the world are catching that vision. They know that their $5 gift can completely change someone’s world by providing them with a direct connection to the Word of God in their own language. “We are receiving a monthly gift through the internet and through our social community from Zambia, Africa,” says President of Bibles for China, Wendell Rovenstine. “When I went to the website and looked at these folks … we should be helping them out. They have a heart to make a difference in China through Bibles.” He adds that when Bibles for China started over five years ago, they never envisioned teaming up with so many international partners. (Photo courtesy of Bibles for China). “Individuals from around the world in countries that are less affluent and have less wealth and prosperity, individuals in those countries are giving to Bibles for China,” he says. “Numerous stories this year have come out of how the Lord miraculously moved people to provide a Bible. God’s called them to the ministry through our social media contact throughout the world." Previous generations in China did not have the freedom to own and distribute Bibles in the way that Chinese people do today. According to the Bibles for China website, “There are probably 100 million Christians in China, and many subsist on far too little income to afford an entire Bible.” Rovenstine says Bibles for China has many testimonies of people who have received their own Bible for the first time and individuals who have been miraculously touched or healed. “They go to hospitals and talk to people about the Lord and those people leave the hospital, come back and join the body of believers; they become preaching point leaders.” He says that in China, the Lord has been using difficult situations to bring people to himself. “He is really moving through difficult circumstances, circumstances of finance, circumstances of family, circumstances of misunderstanding, circumstances of relationships and circumstances of physical need,” Rovenstine says. “We hear testimony after testimony of people who have come to faith in Christ through adversity and through difficult things that we usually try to run from and that’s been very encouraging to us.” Rovenstine encourages supporters to pray for Bibles for China as they look to the future. (Photo courtesy of Bibles for China) “Being 79 years old, I’m really seeking the Lord to give us our next leader, a person who takes my position that it would be someone who really loves God’s Word,” he says. “Please read and use God’s Word and study God’s Word on a daily basis. Wait upon the Lord for leadership and trust him to give you direction and leadership for what he wants you to do.” He also asks people to spread the word about the ministry. “Every time you see something for Bibles for China, share it with your friends, share it with your network, share it with your church. Put it on an LED board at your church or in your business. Let them know that Bibles for China has a significant opportunity to make a tremendous difference in China with a Bible that goes to a family that touches a family for Christ for eternity’s sake.” If you'd like to give someone a Bible today, click here. [...]

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New course in a Bible study for prisoners is bridging the gap

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 05:00:45 -0500

International (MNN) -- Societal changes are to be expected over the years. And changes within prison populations are no exception. Crossroads Prison Ministries has been serving prisoners for over 30 years. Today's prisoner demographics have led them to add a new introductory course to their Bible study curriculum for men and women in prisons. Dara Nykamp, Crossroads’ Director of Curriculum Development, explains, “About two years ago, Crossroads did a really in-depth study through a number of different partner organizations in a number of different prisons and really took a hard look at this program and realized that we had a growing attrition rate -- so a growing number of people that were dropping out of the program. They really dug into why that was and really there were two things they found that were the biggest indicators and issues that popped up." First, she says, “The number of students that were potential students I should say, [in both] men and women [prisons], the education level had dropped compared to where people were even 10-15 years ago. So we’re talking about there’s usually about a third-grade reading level for most prisoners on average. There are definitely people who excel way past that, and those students were doing exceptionally well with our program. “The other thing they realized within those conversations was people were coming into prison and into our program with less Bible knowledge. Our executive director likes to say, you know, back 10-15 years ago, grandma used to take grandkids with her to church. Even if mom or dad weren’t going, the grandkids still had some basic Bible education. And that’s not the case anymore.” (Photo courtesy of Crossroads Prison Ministries) Because of this, Crossroads saw the need for a new intro course to their Bible study. The short, three-lesson course is called “Who Are You?” and is aimed to bridge the gaps so students can better dive into God’s Word. “It’s essentially designed so that our students and mentors can get to know each other a little bit better before digging in and studying further. It’s also kind of designed to help students, men and women in prison, get an idea of who God is and kind of how God sees them as his creation, people made in his image, and has a desire to have a relationship with them.” For example, “Who Are You?” leans away from asking the student to look up a multitude of verses -- something that could overwhelm someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible or who has a lower reading level. Rather, the intro course offers stories from Scripture to connect to the life of the student. They’ve tested the new intro course with a number of local prison Bible study groups and received helpful feedback. Crossroads launched the pilot course this week with the first 100 students. “They’ll be taking those three lessons probably over the next three to four months and then once we get feedback from that and any suggestions or changes that we have from them, we’ll be looking at doing the final project and releasing it to a larger amount of the student body.” And what's exciting is that there are several ways you can support this ministry! Nykamp says, “The first one is definitely prayer. Please be praying if you can for the pilot students and mentors that are stepping into that pilot program with them to do that first course, and for the ministry at large as we move forward with our curriculum expansion -- that the materials we’re adding to our already solid program will do even more to reach men and women in prison and empower them to really become the Church where they are.” (Image courtesy[...]

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Iran: shock, trauma and crisis

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:03:59 -0500

Iran (MNN) – Rescuers and Iranians began digging through rubble in a frantic search for quake survivors on Sunday and Monday, soon after a powerful earthquake struck near the Iraqi border.  By Tuesday, Iran's Emergency Medical Services said they were ending the search for survivors; officials were forced to acknowledge that finding survivors buried in the rubble was unlikely. Rescue of victim trapped in rubble, Iran earthquake. (Photo courtesy Globovisión via Flickr: Seismologists in the country said it was the biggest quake to hit the western part of Iran, and the deadliest of 2017 so far. The temblor measured 7.3-magnitude, killed more than hundreds (over 500 and counting as of Tuesday), injured thousands of others (8,000 and counting according to state media), and left hundreds of thousands sleeping in the streets in fear of aftershocks. As buildings shifted with the movement, rescue work was delicate and dangerous.  The rubble is also blocking roads in and around the hardest hit villages, which makes getting aid supplies to the survivors a challenge. Iran declared three days of national mourning, while at the same time struggling to meet the trials of a natural disaster.   Yet it is no stranger to this kind of calamity.  Iran sits on a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian plates.  When the plates shift, the quakes that result have proven among the deadliest.  In 2003, 26,000 people died when a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the southeastern city of Bam. (Epicenter, Iran. Image courtesy Google Maps) This week’s events have brought the shattering nightmare back to reality.  People are scared.  They remember how long it took to get supplies the last time, and wonder if they’ll survive this calamity.  Nazanin Baghestani, Heart4Iran, supervises the ministry’s counseling call center.  She says people are trying to process the trauma, and their call center is getting inundated.  For example, “A mom called with a daughter.  She is dazed—just fled their house after it shook.  They’re just in the middle of nowhere.  Its fall there and they’re freezing.  They cannot go back home; there are so many aftershocks.” In the early stages of a natural disaster like this, first responders and rescuers have to be able to do their jobs and find the survivors.  The government is scrambling to get aid to the worst-hit Kermanshah province, where hundreds of homes were destroyed.  Heart4Iran is standing by until they can get a team in to do an assessment.  The priorities, says Baghestani, are obvious.  “Get shelter—that’s the first thing; get them to a safe place; give them the basic things.  Those who are hurt, help them because it’s hard to take everyone to the hospital, so the nurses have to go out to these places and help the hurt ones.” Mourners grieving, Iran quake. (Photo courtesy of Globovisión via Flickr: Less obvious are the spiritual and emotional traumas.  Heart4Iran is helping people process their loss and grief.  In these days following the quake, the fear among the survivors is palpable.  “When fear comes, you are handicapped. You just close up and you don’t want to do anything, think anything, but once the fear is gone, you can talk to God. You can receive His comfort and peace.” That’s why Heart4Iran operates a call center.  When people call in to share their distress, there are Iranian believers who are just willing to listen, comfort and pray.  “In these times, people are looking for God. They’re asking questions. They want to know ‘where is God in this situ[...]

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Blasphemy law case finds a twist

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:01:12 -0500

Pakistan (MNN) – We’ve been following the blasphemy case of Ahmed, a highly influential co-laborer of the Gospel who’s strategically placed in Pakistan. The third hearing in his trial was postponed because of rioting in the courtroom. Now, the judge has rescheduled it for this Friday, November 17. New Hearing in Blasphemy Case Mosque Lahore in Pakistan. (Photo Courtesy FMI for MNN use) FMI’s Bruce Allen shares that the judge handling Ahmed’s case has been very sympathetic to Ahmed’s safety and security situation. In combination with hearing the case in his private chamber, the judge has also agreed to not have Ahmed physically present during the court proceedings because of safety concerns. “[The judge] has already advised the prosecution that if they do not present any evidence, that they have not been able to do so in hearing number one or hearing number two, he’s going to dismiss the case,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. The judge has also instructed the prosecution that it can only have the prosecutor, one accuser, and the prosecutor’s assistant present at the hearing. However, this judge’s fairness and his lawfulness in the case has angered the prosecutors to the point that they've threatened the judge’s life. These threats have not made the judge waver on hearing this case. But even if the case is dismissed, it’s not going to stop the accusers from attempting to destroy Ahmed’s life. Since the judge will not bend to their will, last Friday the accusers attained a fatwa against Ahmed. Looming Danger A fatwa is an Islamic legal pronouncement pertaining to a specific situation that is issued by an expert in religious law. Anyone who kills under the fatwa’s command is not held accountable for their actions. This means people could burn down Ahmed’s home, and in the process kill his family, and there would not justice for those deaths. The fatwa has already been distributed throughout Pakistan. “The fatwa says ‘Renounce this apostate.’ They list his name and residence, and they say, ‘He’s misleading Muslim youths. He’s bringing them to Christianity. He’s insulting our prophet.’ And then the end of the fatwa gives instructions to society at large, wherever you find him, kill him. And this is how you will embrace paradise.’” The fatwa also includes verses from the Koran instructing Muslims to kill infidels and the importance of killing them. What this means is that even if Ahmed’s case is dismissed and he is legally cleared, most of the people in Pakistan are looking to kill him. Yet, despite these threats to his life, Ahmed isn’t concerned for himself, but for the people of Pakistan. Ahmed's Heart for God “He wants them to come to know the truth of Jesus Christ,” Allen explains. “Number two, he’s concerned for his family. He’s separated from them right now and yet this fatwa lists the section of the city where they live. And so, he’s concerned for their safety and he’s not there.” Pakistani Flag. (Photo Courtesy of FMI) In a recent conversation, Ahmed told Allen that he’s joyful and feels blessed that God’s chosen him to face this persecution. Not because persecution is fun, but because it allows him to be a source of testimony for others. Ahmed also has faith that God will deliver him from the hands of his accusers. “Regardless of what happens, [Ahmed] says, ‘My remaining days, whether they are weeks, months, years; I’m going to focus on living well and living for Christ,’” Allen says. “It’s very much that sentiment that apostle Paul had of 'for me to live is Christ[...]

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Deaf-centric conference fosters fellowship for Deaf millennial Christians

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:00:44 -0500

USA (MNN) -- Last month, Deaf Bible Society hosted a one-of-a-kind conference called Together: Inspiring Our Generation. Together was all about gathering Deaf millennial Christians for a time of worship and fellowship with one another. The conference took place from October 21-22 in Arlington, Texas. Jason Suhr with Deaf Bible shares, “We wanted to create an event where young people are able to come together and see this and say, ‘Hey, I’m like you. I have a similar understanding -- not with an older generation, and not with a younger generation.’ We were purposefully targeting this group [to] have this interaction -- you know, what challenges they’re currently facing, what life questions they may have.” (Image capture courtesy of Deaf Bible Society) Together was a uniquely Deaf-centric conference. Everything was organized around the Deaf Christian experience and community. “In our ministries, we have videos that use American Sign Language, or ASL, with verses. That’s one thing that we do. We are able to hear God’s Word, if you will, through our heart and our native language. And through our heart language, that is what we’re looking at in making a Deaf-centric approach.” For example, although some Christian conferences are Deaf accessible, that doesn’t always translate well in moments that are tailored towards a hearing audience. “With a lot of hearing audiences, you’ve got famous singers that are producing great lyrics and beautiful songs. The problem is when you’re copying that song word-for-word from English to American Sign Language, it’s almost robotic in some sense. You’re just throwing out these words and it’s missing the bigger piece. You’re signing these words. But where is that spirit? Where is that excitement? Where is that opportunity for us to open ourselves up and express how we want to worship God?” The time of worship at Together was held in American Sign Language and encouraged Deaf young men and women to really engage with praising God in their heart language. (Photo courtesy of Bert Heymans under Creative Commons via Flickr: “So that ASL song base where we’re signing allows room for our people to look at each other and say, ‘Oh, you know what? Wow, you’re signing this a little differently than me. I’m expressing this, my facial expressions are different than yours, my inflection is different. I can actually worship the Lord with my ASL.’” Suhr also adds, “The other thing we’re doing is the idea of poetry. This is actually related and correlated back with the result of inspiring our generation. We’re developing several different pieces that match that and help Deaf people understand and say, ‘Wow, that was really clever. That was a really good way to express and make a connection using our language.’” In addition to ASL worship and poetry, Together also featured sessions and break-out groups where attendees could gather and ask questions. “They were very deep level questions -- you know, spiritual questions, God-related questions, community questions, how it applies to them. There was a lot of communication that was occurring and that caused me to look back and see, wow, they are really hungry. This group is hungry for that connection, for the understanding and a deeper level of understanding of what the Scriptures mean and [ask] where is God in our community? Where can I find God in our language? In our identities?” Suhr says the idea for a conference like this all started when Deaf Bible Society noticed a need to[...]

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Lebanon possibly pulled from the brink of war

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 05:02:11 -0500

Lebanon (MNN) -- Saad-al Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon, has announced from Saudi Arabia that he’s resigning. In doing so, he may have pulled Lebanon from the brink of war. Here’s why: The Middle East has long been defined by conflicts between Sunni and Shia Muslims. On the Sunni side, you have Saudi Arabia ‘calling the shots’. On the Shiite side, there’s powerhouse Iran motivating Hezbollah – an Islamist political party entrenched in Lebanon.  The rivalry between the Sunni-Shia set the stage for generational conflict which dragged multiple players of the Middle East into the fight. Lebanon is one of those key players that often gets caught in the middle of the Sunni-Shia struggle. Lebanon had a delicate balance of power going with a Maronite Christian president, a Shia Muslim speaker of the parliament, and a Sunni Muslim prime minister -- until recent events tipped that balance. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile from Yemen headed to the Saudi capital. The Saudis pinned it on Iran-backed Hezbollah, declaring it an “act of war”. Saudi Arabia demanded that Lebanon "deal" with Hezbollah’s influence in the country, which upset the Shiites in Iran. Saad-al Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of State via Wikimedia Commons) Lebanon was caught in the middle and rumblings of war rippled through both sides. The international community braced for war to break out in Lebanon. On November 4, from Saudi Arabia, Harari announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister. If Harari finalizes his resignation, his cabinet would dissolve. The redistribution of power in Lebanon could put pressure on Hezbollah to back down and satisfy all parties for now -- effectively avoiding a possible war. But Heart for Lebanon’s Tom Atema points out there’s a catch to Harari’s resignation. “Harari can’t really resign [outside of Lebanon]. He has to do it in-country and to the president verbally first. So there’s a technicality that his resignation that he did in Saudi doesn’t count.” So the big question now is, will Harari officially resign when he returns to Lebanon? Either way, the stop-action has injected some clarity into the situation. “People have come to their senses and realized the track they were on would have been war, and big-time war.” To boil it all down, Atema explains, “The bottom-line issue for Saudi  -- and still is to a degree -- is they would like Lebanon to fight and get rid of Hezbollah, and that involves Iran. The problem with that is, if I can draw the analogy between the US and North Korea, the can has been kicked, the issue has been kicked so hard and so long down the road that it’s very complicated to deal with. You can’t just kick Hezbollah out. It’s too entrenched. And for Saudi to ask Lebanon to do it, Lebanon said, ‘Why don’t you do it if you don’t like it? Why don’t you try to put pressure on and get rid of them?’ And somehow in the middle of all of this, Harari resigned.” He adds, “All that to say is that this new arrangement that came out over the weekend that’s going to be implemented this week, if nothing else changes, is a good thing for the country of Lebanon. It keeps them the most democratic.” Meanwhile, the biggest thing that is going to advance peace in the Middle East is changed hearts, which can only happen through the power of the Gospel. “This whole thing is a reminder for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord that[...]

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Century-old Russian revolution echoes still today

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 05:01:27 -0500

Russia (MNN) -- It’s been 100 years since the October Revolution that put Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist revolutionary, in control of Russia, an event that affected the next century of world history. The Russian Revolution The revolution rose out of despair during a time when the Russian people were facing great hunger, failing crops, and poverty. Then came World War I when the Russian government sent off its men to fight in Europe. Women were forced to not only work in factories for the war effort, but then to turn around and take care of the home, their children, and their farms. (Image courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association) To deepen the injury to the Russian people, the ruling tsar at the time lived in luxury while his people suffered. And while Russians at the time loved the royal family, there was no turning a blind eye to their own needs. The people called for the tsar’s abdication, and in March 1917, the tsar obliged. Seeing his opportunity, Vladimir Lenin, a member of the Bolshevik Party, returned to his home state from living abroad in Switzerland. Lenin riled up the Russian people, leading them in the call, “We need peace, land, and bread.” Lenin then used this energy to call for a revolution in supposed efforts to get this peace, land, and bread. Then, on the current calendar date November 7, 1917, Vladimir Lenin seized power in Russia; an event that led to the establishment of the Soviet Union, also known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In time, the Soviet Union seized control of all aspects of Russian life. There was hardly such a thing as private ownership, even when it came to hot water. Everything belonged to and was run by the government. Shaping History The Russian Revolution is considered to be one of the key factors in filling the 20th century with bloodshed; Lenin and then his successor, Josef Stalin, both harshly ruled over the people. Then at the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union aided Adolf Hitler. It wasn’t until 1991 that the Soviet Union came to an end, but not before the country helped aid other countries, such as China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and more in their communist political agendas. In just 74 years as a sovereign state, the Soviet Union had done irreparable damage. It also led to decades of persecution against the Evangelical church. Peter Deyneka, the founder of Slavic Gospel Association, has been survived by one daughter, Ruth Erdel, who still remembers the Soviet Union’s attack on the Church. “Lenin, his goal was to eliminate all religion. He didn’t distinguish. He said there is no God, and the Bible was a book of myths, and he began to destroy. So, what happens, many many churches were destroyed, and this included the Russian Orthodox churches as well as the evangelicals,” Erdel recalls. Erdel says evangelical pastors, Christians, and Orthodox priests were harassed and beat. Pastors and their families were even exiled to Siberia, never to return home. Bibles and Christian literature were destroyed and communism was taught in the schools. The Cost of Following Christ In Bible believing and teaching homes, children were taken away from parents. Children who believed in God were punished by low scores on schoolwork, regardless of actual content. And if a Christian decided to apply for university, the first question on an application was; ‘Do you believe in God?’ If checked yes, the application was ripped up. “I recently met a lady who cried when she told me how she wrote such [...]

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Christmas preparations under way for Haiti

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 05:00:49 -0500

Haiti (MNN) – For Haiti With Love is gearing up for its annual Christmas party. On Christmas day, the ministry celebrates Christ’s birth with the poorest of the poor children in Haiti. Christmas Celebrations in Haiti The Christmas day celebrations include the Gospel, a meal, and a present for each child. And to ensure For Haiti With Love is reaching the poorest of the poor, the ministry invites children by invitation. Christmas Dinner. (Photo Courtesy For Haiti With Love) Furthermore, since Haiti is a poor country, it’s tradition for Christmas Eve to be the night of excitement as families gather together to attend a church service. This is because Haitians do not necessarily celebrate Christmas with gifts. And so, there are few, if any, Christmas day celebrations. But this presents an opportunity to teach and tangibly share Christ’s love and the Gospel. This is part of the reason why For Haiti With Love holds its Christmas party on Christmas day. And in preparation for the party, the ministry recently sent another shipment of party supplies to its compound in Haiti, where the Christmas Day party is held. Supplies for a Haitian Celebration For Haiti With Loves tries to purchase party supplies in Haiti as much as possible, like ingredients for the celebratory meal. The meal is a typical Haitian dish including chicken, rice, and beans. While chicken and rice may not seem too fancy, in previous years the ministry has tried giving the children richer food but it upset their stomachs because they weren't used to it. However not everything can be purchased locally, hence the shipment. “These are the things that absolutely cannot be purchased in Haiti. Their resources are very limited down there, so for party supplies and that sort of thing, they have to be imported,” For Haiti With Love’s Eva DeHart shares. This includes the presents for children. Thanks to the generous gifts of For Haiti With Love supporters, the ministry purchases these supplies in the United States and ships them either by sea or air to Haiti. For Haiti With Love Christmas Day party. (Photo Courtesy For Haiti With Love) “And so the supplies for the party are on their way down. We have churches that may come make cookies for the party. And those will be scheduled to go down December 14th. And, we have room for some really small toys to go in with that,” DeHart explains. The December shipment will have to be sent by air, which is more expensive than by sea. However, shipping these supplies by air ensures that is will arrive in time for the party. Once this shipment arrives, For Haiti With Love will be all ready for the party. Still, it costs $1.50 per pound to ship, and For Haiti With Love will be shipping 300 pounds. How To Help So please, would you consider giving to Haiti With Love to help with the costs of sending these party supplies and the cost of food? (Any overflow of donations will roll over for supplies in the burn clinic.) To donate, click here! Also, if you would, pray for this Christmas party and the kids who will attend. Pray for these kids to encounter Christ and be transformed by Christ’s tangible love at this celebration. Learn more about For Haiti With Love’s Christmas party here! [...]

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Conversations in adoption tax credit’s near-repeal a reminder to the Church

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 05:02:34 -0500

USA (MNN) -- Potential adoptive families in the United States can breathe a sigh of relief. The adoption tax credit has officially been taken off the chopping block by Congress as of last Thursday. The proposal to cut the adoption tax credit was unveiled by House Republicans two weeks ago as part of a 429-page tax reform. But the proposal to repeal this credit caused an uproar from groups on both sides of the aisle. From the Christian community, Focus on the Family and Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman were among those who spoke out against its repeal. The adoption tax credit has been available for the past 20 years. With this break, adoptive families can be credited up to $13,460 after their taxes. Kris Faasse, Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations at Bethany Christian Services, explains, “The tax credit is not a deduction. It’s actually a credit that someone gets when they get done with all of their other taxes. And the adoption tax credit, which is indexed for inflation and is now over $13,000, it’s really meant to help families who bring a child into their family through adoption with either the cost of adoption or the cost of just bringing that child into your family and accessing the necessary medical or psychological treatment that kids might need.” Without the adoption tax credit, Faasse points out the cost of adoption would be overbearing for many families. “The average cost depends on the type of adoption first and foremost and then it depends on the state where the adoption is taking place because adoption law and requirements are state law. Generally, adoption of a child out of foster care is at no cost to the adoptive parent or at very low cost because those kids are the wards of the state and it’s certainly in the interest of the state to have those kids move into a permanent family. “Domestic, infant adoption can range anywhere from say $25,000, I’ve heard of some agencies in some states that may charge up to $50,000. Intercountry adoption is also in that range, and that is very much impacted by the travel cost to the country where the child is and the fees that might be charged by that country as well as any expenses to pay for the staff and the process here in the states. So again, it’s a range.” However, even for families that adopt a child in foster care, they can still face substantial costs. “Kids who’ve been in foster care who are available for adoption are in foster care because of abuse and/or neglect. So they come with hurts and traumas that families need to and want to address, and the tax credit makes that more possible because not everything is covered by insurance. A lot has to come out-of-pocket.” While the adoption tax credit is here to stay, Faasse says the conversations it has generated should serve as a reminder to the Church of our biblical mandate to care for orphans. “We’ve always seen a role for the Church in wrapping around families, having adoption ministries, providing that ongoing support for families.... We know a lot of churches may step in and help with fundraisers for the family to meet the cost of adoption.” Bethany has several opportunities for you and your church to get involved in caring for orphans and vulnerable children. In doing so, you can be a tangible extension of Christ’s love and grace in a kid’s life. Click here to learn more at Bethany’s website! [...]

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Syrian refugees find Christ’s love through long-term help

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 05:01:45 -0500

Lebanon (MNN) -- It’s no secret that the crisis in Syria isn’t getting better. City after city continues to get destroyed by the fighting. And for many refugees who have fled to Lebanon, there’s no hope to return home. There’s nothing left for them in Syria. War in Syria (Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon via Facebook). “Unfortunately as we continue watching how the war in Syria’s progressing, we’re realizing that the situation is not getting any better,” Heart for Lebanon’s Executive Director and Founder Camille Melki says. “Maybe conflict there is shifting from one town to another, from one region to the next, but the refugees who are living here don’t feel secure and safe to go back. And what are they going to go back to? [All] these large cities are totally destroyed; they’re brought down to ashes.” In the Bekka Valley, just 20 kilometers from Syria, Heart for Lebanon's consistency helps build trust with refugees in camps. This valley is usually the first place where Syrians come when fleeing their country. The valley is home to roughly 400,000 locals, but those locals are overwhelmed with more than 650,000 Syrian refugees. And most of these refugees have been living in Lebanon for more than six years now. Heart For Lebanon Regardless of how long the refugees stay in Lebanon, Heart for Lebanon is there trying to help them. “In every attempt we do, in our food and basic hygiene supply and distributions, we’re trying to give some sort of assurance that we are here with them for the long haul,” Melki shares. Heart for Lebanon is working with the long-term solutions in mind. This means helping provide refugees with a safety net and food security. The organization doesn’t want to build a dependency, but a trusting relationship. That’s why what Heart for Lebanon provides serves as a supplement to what the refugees have. (Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon via Facebook). One of the ways Heart for Lebanon is doing this is through its new chicken farm. At the farm, Heart for Lebanon is teaching refugees how to take care of chickens, the ways that a chicken can be a source of protein through eggs, and how they can eat the chicken once it’s no longer producing eggs. And as Heart for Lebanon continues to work with refugees and prove to them that the organization is there for the long-haul, they begin to build trusted relationships. But part of the hesitancy on the refugees’ part to trust the Lebanese Christians is the fact that Lebanon was occupied by the Syrian regime for 30 years and the Syrian government meddled in Lebanese politics during its civil war. Refugees See Christ Many of the Lebanese have their own painful stories of what they suffered at the hands of Syria. And this piece of history has many refugees asking, ‘Why do you care?’ Heart for Lebanon’s answer: because of Christ. However, the questions don’t stop there. “When that relationship of trust is built, then the refugees are asking now deeper questions,” Melki says. “You know, you say you are Christians, what does that mean? We see something different on your faces. We see a smile on your faces. We see you people of hope and we are living in despair.” These questions have opened the doors to share why these Lebanese Christians have forgiven the Syrians and why they have hope and peace—a peace that doesn’t come from a stable economic or political situation, but from the peace the [...]

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For some children, this is the first Christmas gift they’ve ever gotten

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 05:00:17 -0500

Russia (MNN) – Christmas is growing ever nearer, and that means ministries are beginning to wrap up planning and preparation for their Christmas outreach. But there is still time to get involved in impacting the world for Christ in a major way. SOAR International, for instance, still needs people to step up and support the Stuff a Stocking project in Russia. This year, the team has a goal of handing out 2,500 stockings to children in Russia. These are children who are orphaned or come from impoverished or otherwise difficult backgrounds. The stockings will be distributed in Ryazan and St. Petersburg the first two weeks of January. Joanna Mangione of SOAR says, “We’re really excited for this year. Again, our goal this year is 2,500 stockings to reach all of the kids. And included in the stockings are the hygiene products, and the small toys, and gifts like hats and gloves, and then the Bible as well. And as we visit each of these locations, the Gospel is shared. So that’s a huge impact there that you can be a part of.” They still need sponsors for the stockings and Bibles, as well as for people to write letters and sew stockings. The eternal impact of Stuff a Stocking This project began as a bridge project to help local pastors build relationships with orphanages in and around their communities. The Christmas outreach continues to be a launching pad for other ministries throughout the year. And because it invites the global Body of Christ to help, it also serves as a great encouragement for churches in Russia. (Photo courtesy of SOAR International) So, what does it mean for a child to receive one of these stockings? “You’ll hear from some kids, ‘I’ve never received a gift in my life. This is the first time I’ve ever received a gift.’ And that is such a big deal because not only is [it] wonderful to see that they’re getting their first gift, but [also] that their first gift includes a Bible and their first gift includes the Gospel message in letter form, in a puppet show, and in little tricks that our director does as he tells the Gospel.” And because the gifts are thoughtful and include a personal letter, it communicates love to children who likely have never felt love before. “This is their time when they are acknowledged and loved and they just soak it up,” Mangione says. But the impact doesn’t even stop at the children. The directors have been impacted, too. First of all, they often see a change overcome the children after the Christmas season. Somehow this gift of love and the teaching on Jesus changes how they act. And secondly, some of the directors are even engaging with the Bibles given to the children. “We have heard from directors ‘I finally understand the Bible. It was difficult in the adult Bibles but I have borrowed the youth Bible that you gave, and I’m starting to understand.’” Mangione says they hear stories like this year after year. This kind of impact has also opened doors for SOAR to go back and plug into the community in other ways throughout the year. Stuff a Stocking made possible by people like you Projects like these require a number of pieces to come together. In other words, people need to step up to pray, give, or go. And it’s God who brings it all together. SOAR has seen this time and time again over the years. “We have been in the middle of a project before [needing] additional funds. And,[...]

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Witnessing for Christ: through the eyes of a persecuted pastor in Sudan

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 05:02:53 -0500

Sudan (MNN) -- The situation facing pastors in Sudan is difficult, to say the least. With extreme levels of persecution against Christians in the Muslim-dominate country, many Sudanese pastors have been killed, fled the country, or suffered imprisonment. James* is a pastor in Sudan and has witnessed the depleting pool of fellow clergy. “Some foreigners were deported from Khartoum. And pastors from South Sudan, they went to South Sudan. Those who remain in Sudan are few. The pastors who shared the Bible and teach the Bible, they are few.” Because of this, James has to wear many spiritual hats. He pastors a Baptist church, serves as chairman of a council of Baptist churches, preaches the Bible at conferences, and has even taught the New Testament in some Christian schools. As he puts it, being a pastor in a country like Sudan can be lonely and he has even suffered persecution himself. “In these situations, the person looks at himself [thinking] maybe he is alone. Of course, we get discouraged. But I believe that God is involved.” On Open Doors’ World Watch List, Sudan has consistently ranked in the top 20 countries with the hardest persecution against Christians since 1993. This year, Sudan is listed as the fifth worst country for treatment of believers. (Image capture courtesy of Prayercast/Sudan) James chalks a lot of it up to the government’s agenda to make Sudan a one-religion nation under Islam. “Sudan itself as a society and community, people as Muslims or Christians, we share together and we live together. But what happened I think is just from the government. How this situation will be changed, maybe it will change [in] the government itself or something will happen with the government to change the way they deal with the Church.” As there are fewer and fewer pastors in Sudan, the challenge to be bold for Christ is a dangerous one. “Those who face the persecution are the pastors who are active -- those who have relationships with missionaries or organizations, they’re able to go out and travel here and there and have activities inside as preaching -- they’re the ones who face the persecution,” James explains. However, he adds faithfully, “I’m in the Church, I serve the Church, I do my duty.” The picture for Christians in Sudan may seem dire because the challenges and dangers are very real. But the biggest thing James wants the global Body of Christ to know is that our Sudanese Christian brothers and sisters have not despaired. “I want to say, as a ministry in Sudan, we want people to know that in spite of the situations that we are going through, that Christianity and the Church in Sudan I think is still strong. What has happened has astonished us. But the simple Christians or simple Church or simple people who believe that God is involved in this situation, they encourage us and give us the hope that Christianity will not finish in Sudan. We continue and I want people to know that Christianity in Sudan is still alive.” James's request for Sudan is singular and powerful: “We need to pray for the believers, Christians in Sudan, and for the situation of political issues in the government.” Pray that Sudanese Christians would know they are not forgotten by the global Body of Christ. Ask God to strengthen and encourage them in their witness through the Holy Spirit. Pray for the hearts of unbelievers i[...]

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In India, Christian leadership comes from the marketplace

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 05:01:06 -0500

India (MNN) – Whether it’s conscious or not, the global Church seems to have adopted a mindset that says “Work is work, evangelism is evangelism, and the only time those two things converge is when you’re a full-time missionary.” However, more and more people are coming to realize this simply isn’t  true, nor should believers act like it is. The places where this is the most obvious is in countries where the window for traditional outreach is closing and marketplace missions might be the primary means of sharing the Gospel. (Photo courtesy of Global Advance) Recently, Global Advance brought a team to India to encourage believers in the marketplace to use their position in a way that worships God and opens opportunities to tell others about him. India in particular is one of those places where ministry is facing a number of challenges. It's becoming increasingly difficult for foreign ministries to fund outreach. Jonathan Shibley of Global Advance says, “There may come a day where it’s almost impossible to get money into closed access nations and that’s why it is so strategic to raise up godly kingdom marketplace leaders who will be the ones that are not only called to be salt and light, but from a practical standpoint, they’re going to be the ones that are going to financially fund kingdom work within their own nations.” For the past 14 years or so, Global Advance has encouraged this strategy among marketplace leaders. They have come alongside Indians to support them and to help them see  “that their work is a form of worship to God, that God can use them in the marketplace through whatever realm of business or activity that they’re in to be salt and light in the nation and in a nation like India where some of the states are really cracking down on proselytizing.” The trend of raising up native leadership is vital in many nations when you consider cultural relevance and security concerns. Jesus called us to be fishers of men There are many different ways to engage with people and begin to build relationships with them where spiritual things like salvation can be discussed. Global Advance believes that we should not forget the marketplace as one of these avenues. The organization draws parallels between Christ’s disciples and us today. The disciples were ordinary, working men who God called to serve him in evangelism.  He called them to be fishers of men, and he calls all of us to do the same today. “People are still open to the Gospel in the sense that everyone is wired the same way, globally. Everyone cares about their family, their future, and their finances. So if we can fish with the correct bait, people will be always drawn to the message and the hope of Christ.” The correct bait is the Gospel given in a context that meets people where they are. That is because the thing that everyone is looking for is fulfillment and meaning in life, something that only truly comes through the Gospel. It is this mindset that Global Advance wants to encourage among marketplace believers. A construction company with a heart for lost people One of the examples Shibley talks about is a construction company in India.  The company employs many believers and some non-believers. (Image courtesy of Global Advance) “The owners have a great vision to use that business to be a blessing there in the c[...]

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Free resource download helps Church bridge gap to immigrants

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 05:00:45 -0500

Iran (MNN) – The United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. While that’s widely accepted, this ‘melting pot’ comes with challenges—like ethnic barriers and stereotypes. Diversity and Challenges That’s proven a constant difficulty since the uptick in Muslim extremist terror attacks around the world. As rhetoric heats up, it’s the Church that plays a key role in helping change the attitude towards immigrants-- in this case, Muslims-- in the name of Christ. (Photo courtesy of Owen Blacker via Flickr: “In comparison to many other western countries, the United States excels at immigrant assimilation and immigration,” Dr. Mike Ansari explains. “Yet, since [the] 9/11 attack, public attitude towards Muslim immigrants has been influenced dramatically, which has adversely affected Muslim demographic assimilation.” It doesn’t help that the Church has been struggling to find a way to help Muslim immigrants integrate and assimilate into the United States while also pursuing the Great Commission with them. Anxiety was injected into the mix and that stymied some of the best intentions. Sharing the Gospel Enter: Dr. Ansari, who leads a movement called Heart 4 Iran (H4I) to reach more Iranians with the Gospel message. Under the auspices of H4I is Mohabat TV, of which he serves as the Director of Operations, God gave him a burden to bring unity to the Church and help equip the persecuted Church. But his dreams got bigger. Aside from partnering with as many like-minded ministries as he can, he says their team has been developing a resource to help bridge the gap between ‘what people want to do’ and knowing ‘how to do it’. The new resource in development is a free digital pamphlet called ‘Reaching the Muslims Next Door’. “Our heart at Heart 4 Iran, is to sow the seed of missional encouragement to the American Christian population in reaching the Muslims in their community. The key question to ask is what would Jesus do and what can I do in reaching the Muslims next door,” Ansari shares. That’s where the free digital pamphlet comes in: it addresses some of the basic cultural differences and worldviews between the West and the East. It also provides some points to help create trusted relationships. “The biggest factor in the American Church not reaching out in a mission fashion to the immigrant population in America is fear,” Ansari says, adding that sometimes we might lack the initiative to understand those cultures. “It is very important to understand that not everybody who is a Muslim and has moved to America is a terrorist. It’s important to understand that not everyone who is a Muslim hates America.” Bridging Gaps In fact, many of the Muslims immigrating to the US are hard-working individuals contributing to society. It’s also worth noting that Muslims tend to be easier to approach about Christ than say atheists or the post-modern person. “It’s extremely important for us to understand that the traditional mission field has changed dramatically and now the nations are coming to us,” Ansari shares. (Photo Courtesy Olga Caprotti via Flickr: “Therefore more Christians can take part in [the] Great Commission. [The] Great Commission says go therefore and make disciples [...]

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Saudi ban: disaster for Yemen

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 05:02:38 -0500

Yemen (MNN) – The United Nations warns that Saudi Arabia’s decision to close the borders to Yemen could be ruinous. The Saudi-led coalition sealed the borders to stem the flow of arms from Iran after intercepting a missile Saturday, headed for Riyadh, the country’s capital city.  Miles Windsor, a spokesman for Middle East Concern explains, “They claim that it was an Iranian missile launched by the Houthis in Yemen with Hezbollah help.”  On Sunday, he adds, “There were a string of Daesh suicide attacks on government targets in Aden, which led to about 35 deaths, mostly police.” Concerns mounted after a July missile attack revealed the weapon came from Iran.  Iran has also been accused of illegal arms deals and military support in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria.  The root: Islam’s ancient schism between the Sunni and Shia.  The powerhouse states behind the Sunnis are Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites look to Iran. However, in its effort to throttle the alleged weapons flow, Saudi Arabia will shut off humanitarian aid to Yemen because the air, land, and sea ports where most aid is delivered are closed.   Windsor says, “The population has been largely living in a dire situation and there’s been a cholera epidemic as well. Nearly a million people have contracted cholera and there’ve been more than two thousand deaths. But, I gather that epidemic seems to be more under control than it was.” (Map courtesy of Middle East Concern) The timing couldn’t be worse.  Red Cross said medicines vital to fighting an ongoing cholera outbreak were blocked.  The UN named Yemen its number one humanitarian crisis and says this blockade puts seven million Yemenis on the brink of famine. For a country that relies on imports for virtually everything civilians need to survive, ‘disastrous’ doesn’t begin to describe the potential impact of the blockade.  Oddly, for the severity the emergency, it hasn’t really come across people’s news feeds much. Information is hard to come by, but Windsor observes a couple things.  First thing to note: there is a Christian body, which means the Gospel has had an impact.   However, “The situation of Christians, in many ways, is in large part the same as the situation of most Yemenis as the result of as food shortages and war and everything else that’s happening there.”  Plus, “Christians face pressure, largely from family and society, and to an extent as well, from the extremist groups that are flourishing in the power vacuum there. Most of the pressure will come on Christians who are converts from Islam.” (Image capture courtesy of Prayercast/Yemen) The struggle for these believers comes not only on a day-to-day survival basis, but also one where they are trying to figure out how are they to live out their faith in this context. However, there are reasons for encouragement in Yemen. There is a growing Christian community and an Underground Church, explains Windsor.  “Most of those [expatriates] had to leave as a result of the conflict [with the ouster of the president in 2012]. What we’re seeing is Yemeni believers growing and taking responsibility of leadership and flourishing, actually.” Aside from the glimmer of hope, there’s one thing Yemen’s followers of Christ are asking for: prayer.  “W[...]

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Clean water saves lives and this Christmas, you can too

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 05:01:23 -0500

Ghana (MNN) – Ten percent of the world’s population today does not have access to clean water, according to the Joint Monitoring Program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. The implications of dirty water are deadly. WHO also reports that every minute, a newborn dies because of a lack of clean water and environment. While the numbers are startling, you yourself can make a life or death difference in a community today. (Capture courtesy of Compassion International) Karyn Stehman of Compassion International shares the story of a girl named Anita and her rural community in Ghana where a team from Compassion recently visited. “Anita was just a joy to meet. Her face was just shining. She was a beautiful young lady. And when we entered her community … the entire village met us at the end of the road and they had all these instruments and they were singing and dancing and they were trying to get us sing and dance with them, and they wanted to lead us into their village with this musical celebration parade.” Why were they celebrating? Because they finally had clean water—something they had desperately needed for a long time. Anita led the team to the river where the villagers used to get their water. Stehman says the murky water, which people were using to bathe, looked more like mud. And what was in the water had, for many years, been wreaking havoc on the community. The river where they once drew their drinking water. (Capture courtesy of Compassion International) “Anita explained to us that the people in the community used to always be very sick. The children would miss school. It was kind of a dire situation without clean and safe water for them to drink and use at their home.” The well was made possible because of a project promoted through Compassion’s gift catalog. “Through gifts to the catalog, they were able to build a community well, and this well was not only for the children at the Compassion Center or the church, it was for the entire community. And there was so much rejoicing and praising to the Lord the day that that well opened.” The pastor in the community was overjoyed to tell them about their resourcefulness. After getting the well installed, there was enough gift money left over for a pipe extension, allowing an additional spigot and water tank at the other end of the village. The entire community got together to dig a line to install the pipe. “It was just fabulous being with them and being able to really see how they give all of the glory to God and [they were] just praising him and celebrating—it was just beautiful,” Stehman says. Compassion’s Gift Catalog When people give to projects like this, they want to know their money is going to good use. The catalog allows for people to see what exactly their money is going to, meaning they can select from projects that they are particularly passionate about. And with Compassion, they’re able to witness the impact. (Photo courtesy of Compassion International) “When people give to the gift catalog, we do report back on how the money was able to be spent. And we show these stories of children like Anita and Noah and other children all over the world-- that have been impacted.” These projects are life-changing and, as we’v[...]

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Prayers for ministry in Lebanon

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 05:00:31 -0500

Lebanon (MNN) -- For security reasons, we haven't posted a web article here. However, we are asking you to pray with us for the ministries in Lebanon. Pray creativity as they reach out to reconcile the young people to the love of Christ. Pray for open hearts to the message of peace that comes from the hope that passes understanding. Pray for true heart transformation.

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Blasphemy trial continues for Ahmed in Pakistan

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 05:02:36 -0500

Pakistan (MNN) – We’re continuing with an inside look at the legal proceedings of Pakistan’s blasphemy law through the case of Ahmed: a highly influential co-laborer for the Gospel inside Pakistan. Blasphemy Law Challenges Recently, Pakistan asked Facebook and Twitter to help the government in finding Pakistanis outside of the country who are posting blasphemous content. If Facebook and Twitter comply, the Pakistani government could extradite individuals for blasphemy trials in Pakistan. No information has been given as to whether Facebook and Twitter will help. (Photo Courtesy of FMI) Pakistani Flag “When you look at how the blasphemy laws are used in Pakistan, the majority of cases are centered in one region of the country. And that’s the region where most of the people who are minorities, like Christians, live. So, they’re facing quite a bit of legal challenge in their own country,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. In fact, the blasphemy law doesn’t even require the accusers to provide evidence of the blasphemy case, yet, the penalty of the crime is a mandatory death sentence. But, it seems that in Ahmed’s case, the judge is requiring evidence. However, Ahmed is still facing challenges in his trial. Ahmed’s Case “Since the prosecution knows that so much of their case is fabricated--over the weekend the prosecuting attorney went to the defense attorney’s office to hold a meeting,” Allen explains. “And he literally threatened the defense lawyer’s life. [He] said, ‘If you do not withdraw from supporting Ahmed and defending him against these charges, we will kill you.'” The threat on Ahmed’s defense lawyer’s life is not an unusual one. Other lawyers have received similar death threats in the past while defending an individual accused of blasphemy. Still, these threats are not to be taken lightly. In the past, Pakistani lawyers have had outright brawls in the courtroom, opponents have been killed in front of judges, and lawyers have been murdered for defending individuals accused of blasphemy. However, despite the threats, Ahmed’s lawyer stood up to the person(s) threatening him and is continuing with Ahmed’s case. The next problem, though, comes when Ahmed was supposed to have his third hearing of the trial on Tuesday. But, because of disruptions in the court, the hearing had to be postponed. It was also at this time Ahmed’s lawyer was going to bring to the attention of the judge the death threat he had received from the prosecuting attorney. (Photo Courtesy FMI for MNN use.) Mosque Lahore in Pakistan. “We see much more than just a legal battle going on, we see spiritual warfare where enemies of Christ are so bent on destroying and defaming this co-laborer for the Gospel inside Pakistan that they will stop at nothing to get rid of him…as well as anyone who supports him,” Allen explains. The prosecuting attorney has also tried to add on additional charges to Ahmed’s case. This maneuver is illegal and Ahmed’s lawyer is appealing to have these additional charges dismissed. How to Pray Regardless of the attacks, though, God has been faithful in Ahmed’s case, and it’s not in his nature to be unfaithful. So please, will you join in pray[...]

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Light breaking through the darkness in Nicaragua

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 05:01:24 -0500

Nicaragua (MNN) – Fifteen years ago, missionary Steve Bakos entered a region of the world shrouded in spiritual darkness. The people group he encountered had very little access to Scripture and among them were those practicing witchcraft. Steve Bakos has been a missionary for 27 years, starting in Mexico for the first 12 and serving in Nicaragua to the present time. He has been distributing booklets from World Missionary Press for over two decades. While Nicaragua is mostly a Spanish-speaking nation, there are minority language groups. Bakos says, “Up in the [Northeastern] part of the country, there is an indigenous people group, the Miskito Indians which have their own dialect and the vast majority of them speak no Spanish. So when the Lord led us there 15 years ago—it is a very remote region, a lot of poverty. But having worked in Mexico amongst poverty, what impacted me the most was not the poverty of the people but [a] region void of the Word of God.” When he encountered the Miskito people, he partnered with World Missionary Press to begin translating their Scripture booklets into the Miskito language. Twenty-four months later, the project was completed. “For about 96% of the entire population in that region, it was the first time they had ever seen the Word of God in their own written language. And since that time the impact that the Word of God has brought to that region is unbelievable. There’s story after story." Local witch turns to freedom in Christ One of Bakos’ favorite stories, for example, is about a man named General from one of the Miskito villages. He says, “General was the most feared witch on the entire Río Coco river—over 50 years practicing witchcraft. And it was a very, very, dark, dark region. Very active spiritually in the witchcraft. But as we began to come in there with the Gospel and again leaving the literature, explaining the literature, it began to transform that region. “And one particular trip we made, General came up to me and basically said, you know ‘I never knew about this, but will you tell me how I can accept Jesus?’ and that day he received Jesus, burned all of his tools, if you will, of the trade and has never looked back. And he’s been living for the Lord ever since and that was over 12 years ago.” Meeting the Provider (Photo courtesy of World Missionary Press) Not only were hearts transformed by the bringing of the Gospel, but those who accepted Jesus began to see their circumstances in a new light. The Miskito people, Bakos says, live a simple life in a remote part of the world. So remote, in fact, that the different villages are most easily accessed along the river in dugout canoes. These people farm for their food. They have no electricity, and everything is done by hand. For many years, their efforts to produce a strong crop to feed their communities has been thwarted by a number of difficulties. “Year after year they were cursed with plagues. The rice wouldn’t produce or the river would flood and they would lose their crops and they went years without food. And as the Gospel came in, I’d tell them ... , ‘God is the provider. Look to the Lord, not to man to meet your needs.[...]

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Christmas Blessing packages will encourage Egypt’s persecuted Christians

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 05:00:26 -0500

Egypt (MNN) -- As believers around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Voice of the Martyrs Canada is preparing to host their Christmas Blessing project. Each year, VOM Canada’s Christmas Blessing packages are sent to Christian families suffering persecution, with a special focus on children. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Valkova via Unsplash) In the past few years, Christmas Blessing packages were sent to Christian families in Syria and Jordan. This year, VOM Canada’s Levi MacGregor says they’ll send the Christmas Blessing packages to Egypt. “The reason we are picking Egypt this year is due to the fact that there has been a lot of attacks in Egypt this year in particular -- a lot of churches have been attacked, a lot of bombings, a lot of fires set, a lot of damage to churches. So the Christian community there really needs some encouragement.” Minority Coptic Christians and Muslim-background believers in Egypt face increasing hostility from their Muslim neighbors. This year, twin bombings in two Egyptian churches on Palm Sunday killed 45 people. It was the worst terror attack on Christians in Egypt’s modern history and a reflection of the growing hatred against this religious minority. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA) MacGregor adds, “Something else we found out was that there is actually a lot of Christian refugees coming from Iraq and Syria and actually taking refuge in Egypt, and they could use some encouragement as well.” Christmas Blessing gifts mainly have items for children such as school supplies and a children’s picture Bible. But they also provide the family with food items like bags of rice. Their goal this year is to encourage 3,000 Christian families in nine Egyptian villages with Christmas Blessing packages. “Really the focus is on letting them know they are not forgotten, they are loved, cared for, and prayed for.” VOM Canada has also found in years past those families who receive Christmas Blessing gifts will often multiply them. “We’ve heard of a number of families in Syria and also in Jordan a few years before where the families that are blessed by this project take the extra rice and extra food we give them in this project and they host a Christmas dinner and invite their Muslim neighbors over. This has an overflow effect into allowing our persecuted brothers and sisters to actually have an impact and to evangelize those Muslims around them that are often one of the causes of the persecution that they face.” Christmas Blessing is one of VOM Canada’s largest projects in the year and provides significant encouragement at Christmastime to Christian families who may be struggling or suffering persecution. If you would like to support Christmas Blessing with VOM Canada, click here to give at their website. You can also make it a family effort! “There are some families that we have even heard of who, instead of doing Christmas presents for themselves, they will choose to make a donation to a non-profit organization,” MacGregor shares. “I’ve experienced that myself. There was one time where my own family decided we were going to make a donation to a non-profit[...]

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Search for answers begins in the Sutherland Springs aftermath

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:02:38 -0500

USA (MNN) – Even as Sutherland Springs, Texas reels in shock from Sunday’s attack, the quest for answers begins.  It's undisputed that the small community of First Baptist Church was targeted.  It's also undisputed that 26 people from toddler to senior citizens -- four percent of the small town’s population -- died at the hands of a gun-wielding suspect, Devin Patrick Kelley. (Map capture courtesy of Google Maps) There is a bigger question being investigated now.  Why? Global Advance equips and empowers national church leaders to share the message of a Savior with their countrymen. Their context is usually in countries hostile to the Gospel or in developing nations.  However, this tragedy struck close to their hearts for two reasons: first, because it’s a church body; second, because it happened in Texas, home to the ministry headquarters.  Founder David Shibley shared some of his thoughts in the moments following the breaking news: “Our hearts and prayers are with the families forever affected by the despicable massacre of innocent worshippers at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. This hideous display of cowardice defies reason. As we sort through this, we need to restate what we know for sure. "As Scripture foretold, a spirit of lawlessness is now rampant in our nation and throughout much of the world. As followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we are to defy this by living and ministering in the opposite spirit. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ...' (Galatians 5:22). By God's grace we will be instruments of His peace and proclaimers of His gospel of peace. Among other things this means we as Christians must allow God's Spirit to filter what we say and the tone in which we say it. God grant us both civility and holy boldness. Mere ranting against evil is pointless and powerless. 'The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God' (James 1:20, ESV). (Photo courtesy of "Attacks against churches are increasing here and worldwide. This is part of a satanic scheme that seeks to intimidate Christian believers from living out our faith in public worship. Again, let's defy this by 'not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near' (Hebrews 10:25, ESV). To some of you 'tough guys' who send your wife and kids to church while you sit at home and drink beer -- put on your big boy pants, take the reins of spiritual leadership in your family, and get back in church! Today's events ought to make every true believer want to stand up and be counted with God's people. This isn't said in anger but as a siren call for us all to rise to the challenge of our times. "I'm sure no one went to First Baptist in Sutherland Springs this morning intending to become a martyr. But tragedy has thrust upon them this noble status. They are now safe in the arms of Jesus. They were faithful unto death. They will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). "A final thought: We need to be sensitized in prayer, and we need to be sensitized in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. W[...]

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Wycliffe USA celebrates 75 years of Bible translation

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:01:13 -0500

International (MNN) – More and more people are coming to recognize that Bible translation could very well be completed in our lifetime. But several decades ago, the worldwide movement of Bible translation had barely begun. One of the champions of the movement is Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. Kristie Frieze of Wycliffe USA shares an exciting announcement:  “This is our 75th anniversary. It’s pretty exciting to think about what God has done for the last 75 years through this work. There are just so many great stories.” To mark the anniversary and to tell these stories comprehensively, the group has released a coffee table book called “Till All Have Heard.” The book goes through the history of Wycliffe and partner ministries decade by decade to show how God has been working through the ministry. Frieze says it was exciting to be a part of the process of reviewing the stories from years past. The beginning Header photo: courtesy of Wycliffe USA. Above: Cameron Townsend in 1936, studying the language of a young Aztec man in Tetelcingo, Morales Mexico. (Photo/caption courtesy of Wycliffe USA) William Cameron Townsend is the founder of Wycliffe USA. Frieze refers to him as “Uncle Cam”. He first became burdened for people to have their own languages when he recognized minority language groups among Spanish speakers. “Uncle Cam went out into Mexico and Guatemala and he was selling Spanish Bibles and he realized that they didn’t speak Spanish and he wanted for them to have the Bible in their heart language. And L.L. Legters was the one who said to him ‘we need to think about this for the whole world’ and he really enlarged that vision.” With this challenge, Townsend went on to found Wycliffe USA, SIL, and JAARS. These groups today are working side by side to meet the needs of the thousands of languages in our world that have zero Scripture. And so while they look to the past, Wycliffe USA is also staying true to their vision of getting Scripture into all languages. Groundbreaking ministry There are a couple of ways that Wycliffe has been and continues to be a groundbreaking ministry. Even at the very beginning, Wycliffe's focus was unique in the Great Commision. Frieze says, “It’s just exciting to see the beginnings of Wycliffe and how they really looked at that vision. It was just unheard of at the time and translation wasn’t always popular… To think that they were bold enough to do those things and to step out and prioritize heart language and translation is just really exciting for me to hear.” Another way Wycliffe has been ahead of its time can be found in who was included in the projects. Frieze points specifically to the inclusion of women. (Photo courtesy of Wycliffe USA) Despite Legters' warnings that people would talk, Townsend sent a team of single women into a part of Mexico where even men had not been sent. The women, Eunice Pike and Florence Hansen, were excited to be a part of the translation work among the Mazatec people and they completed the rough draft of the New Testament in just six years. Another story about the inclusion of [...]

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Mission organizations aim to reach entire Muslim world with the Gospel by 2025

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:00:17 -0500

International (MNN) -- There are currently 1,053 Muslim people groups who don’t have anyone sharing the Gospel with them. Some of these people groups have population numbers in the millions. (Photo courtesy of Frank van Leersum via Flickr) For Christians who have a passion to share the Gospel with Muslims, those numbers can seem overwhelming. But Vision 5:9, a network of over 180 missions organizations, has an audacious goal -- to reach the rest of the Muslim world for Christ by 2025. To that end, Vision 5:9 gathered around 900 Christian leaders and missionaries for their Abide and Bear Fruit consultation last month in Thailand. Because they recognize, in order to get the Good News of Jesus out to all unreached Muslim peoples by 2025, they can’t do it alone. Perry LaHaie with Frontiers USA was one of the Christian leaders at the consultation. He shares, “The theme of the conference Abide and Bear Fruit is very important here. It was stressed to us that in order to bear fruit, in order to make disciples, in order to reach this incredible, monumental goal of engaging the Muslim world, we have to take a counterintuitive approach. We’ve got to be abiding, spending extravagant time with Jesus, being connected to him, and only when we remain connected to Jesus can we bear fruit, can we make disciples in the Muslim world.” Additionally, LaHaie says, “Twenty-five percent of the people at the conference were Christian leaders from a Muslim background and there was a strong sense from the Muslim-background believers in Jesus that, ‘It’s our time to rise up. It’s our time to take the baton as well and reach our own people.’” One of the moving moments at the Abide and Bear Fruit consultation was when one of the mission leaders shared what God had placed on his heart. “He had been spending some time in fasting and prayer and he just had this sense that God was saying to him, ‘I want to bring into my family ten percent of the Muslim world in the next ten years.’ Now that’s incredible. We’re talking 170 million-plus Muslims into the Kingdom in the next ten years.” Muslims in a mosque in Saudi Arabia. The consultation attendees embraced this faith goal to bring ten percent of the Muslim world into God’s family over the next ten years. They’ve committed to a season of ten years of fasting, praying, and spreading God’s Word towards this end. Another leader got up as well and shared Isaiah 43:19 where God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” “Then this leader went on to say, ‘Serving Muslims has been hard. You feel you have little fruit. But behold, I believe God is doing a new thing…. Would you believe that God wants to pour out his spirit on the Muslim world in ways you have never even dreamed of?’” LaHaie says the Christian and missions leaders at the consultation realized that, bottom line, their faith must increase in order to boldly reach Muslims for Christ. And they would love if every believer in t[...]

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Advocacy for Christians returning to Northern Iraq

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 05:02:23 -0500

Iraq (MNN) – Over the last month, residents of the Nineveh plains in Northern Iraq have again had to flee for their safety. This time they weren’t running from ISIS, but from the conflict between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga. The uptick in conflict began on September 25 when the Kurdish people held a referendum vote for independence from Iraq.  The votes were overwhelmingly in support of independence.  The Iraqi government has called the vote illegal, and Iraqi forces began fighting to take back some of the land. At the end of October, the two sides reportedly called a ceasefire and the Kurdish leader resigned.  However, disputes about who controls the borders are just one example of the tension threatening another outbreak of conflict. The recent history of Christian displacement in Northern Iraq (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA) But before the conflict calmed down, Christian Solidarity Worldwide raised some concerns about the town of Teleskuf where the Kurdish Peshmerga entered to hold off the Iraqi army. The news outlet said hundreds of Christians had had to flee to neighboring towns as the two armies fought and many of them were wounded. So, even with ISIS mostly eradicated from Iraq and this most recent bout of fighting calmed down, the instability in the region continues. Open Doors USA’s Kristin Wright shares, “There’s certainly a very difficult and tense unfolding situation in Iraq right now, and unfortunately, Christians are caught in the middle of it.” Going back home This comes at a time when many Christians were ready to head back home and begin rebuilding their towns. Teleskuf was one of the first towns for Christians to return to and, with the help of Hungary and other international aid, they had already spent much time rebuilding before the fighting broke out. Wright says that some Christians have decided to risk the insecurity anyway.  They are certainly familiar with instability and uncertainty. Before ISIS invaded Northern Iraq, the Nineveh plains had been viewed as a safe haven for Christians who had undergone attacks in the major cities. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA) Wright recalls the period of time soon after the ISIS began causing major displacements in Syria and Iraq in 2014. She visited some of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps and met with Christians there. “I met Christians who were living several families crowded together in … a trailer that sometimes they called a caravan. And those were the primary living conditions for Christians for a long time until Christians have started to return but … in some instances because of the violence and because of the tension, they’ve had to flee once more and that’s made the situation increasingly difficult.” Wright asks us to imagine having to flee our homes with nothing but the clothes we had on. This is the common story among the people who’ve been living displaced for the last few years.  They’ve lived in limbo, wondering when, and if, they could return home. “This has been basically years of[...]

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#MeToo: what does it mean to you?

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 05:01:41 -0500

USA (MNN) – The recent #MeToo social media tag took off like a spark when women across the United States began sharing their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted. The purpose of the trend? To speak out. Why #MeToo? The #MeToo movement came about as a response to public figures who have been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault, beginning primarily with the revelations of the Harvey Weinstein case. As a result, women began taking to Facebook and Twitter to share their experiences of sexual harassment and/or assault, tagging their stories with #MeToo. It became a way for women to group together and break the silence about the sexual harassment and/or assault they’ve experienced. The social media movement has also helped raise awareness about the scope of the problem. And for many people, the #MeToo movement awoke the startling reality that sexual harassment and sexual assault is a much larger problem than possibly previously thought. Even Christian figures, like Beth Moore and Kay Warren, took to social media to share their stories. ”I think you can hear national statistics, but when you put a face to that statistic, I think it just causes people to feel that more deeply,” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Greek Communication’s Director Alison Smith shares. “Me as a woman, I felt seen and heard by it. A lot of times when I have shared experiences where I have felt uncomfortable in a situation or I have experienced sexual harassment, sometimes people can brush it off or minimize that. So, I think it was powerful for me to see women who I respect and look up to, be honest and open about their experience[s].” And for men, Smith believes it was powerful for them to see the number of women both inside and outside of their personal lives share their real stories of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Defining Sexual Harassment/Assault “On college campuses especially, I’ve been with InterVarsity for nine years, and every year on campus I have had at least one woman tell me that she has been sexually assaulted,” Smith shares. “And with that, you hear antidotes all the time of unwanted flirtation, unwanted sexual comments. Inappropriate things that even professors have said to my female students.” In her lifetime 1 out of every 6 women will have experienced an attempted or completed rape in the US. This number doesn’t include other forms of sexual assault such as groping, etc. And while statistics are not available on sexual harassment, Smith says it’s probably accurate to say that about 99.9 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment. Some might argue that the term sexual harassment is too ambiguous or subjective to use. But, in some ways, it's actually quite straightforward. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sexual harassment as the uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature. (Photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship). “I think a lot of time women are just so used to [sexual harassment],[...]

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Specialized missions trips in the coming year

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 05:00:56 -0500

International (MNN) -- Short-term trips give believers a chance to partner with on-the-ground Christ-followers worldwide to spread the truth of Christ. Ever considered being a part of one? Orphan’s Heart might have an opportunity for you in 2018. Andrew Tattrie of Orphan’s Heart says there are plenty of specialized trips planned for the coming year, and chances are one of them is right for you. For example, a father-son trip is headed to the Dominican Republic in June and July to work with other fathers and sons through children’s ministries and sports programs. During the same week, a mother-daughter trip is going to Guatemala, where they’ll be partnering with other mothers and daughters to work at a malnutrition center. In April, a senior adults trip is headed to Nicaragua to work with a children’s ministry and a nursing home. And if you're a medical professional, Tattrie says, “We’re looking for doctors and nurses that will join us to be a part of our medical clinics that we’ve been able to be a part of in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Uganda, and other locations where we serve.” (Photo courtesy of Orphan's Heart) Even if none of these trips are for you, Orphan’s Heart has plenty of opportunities, and their staff members help take care of planning for transportation, food, and more so you can concentrate on serving. “We’ve got the logistics covered,” Tattrie says. And you’re not the only one they’re partnering with. “The other thing that Orphan’s Heart provides is meaningful ministry opportunities while you’re in country, so we have long-term, long-standing partnerships in each of the countries where we serve, Tattrie says. “We don’t just jump around and do different ministries. Instead, we really try to focus in on our partnerships and work on long-term solutions with them.” Those long-term solutions are changing lives. Just ask Lydia, a young girl from Romania who desperately needed leg surgery. “We were able to present that need to our constituents, to those who follow us on social media and other places, and we were able to help get donations in to help her receive the surgery that she needed,” Tattrie says. They also set her up for sponsorship, and now, in addition to the surgery fees provided by Orphan’s Heart partners, little Lydia has been set up with a sponsor. Photo courtesy of Orphan's Heart Last month, a team was sent to Romania to work with the Roma people, and the team members got to meet, pray with, and encourage Lydia firsthand. That’s because Orphan’s Heart thinks ministry is about more than just taking care of physical needs. “We see that as a bridge to be able to share the Gospel, just to help on the spiritual side through prayer, through encouragement, through evangelism, and through discipleship programs,” Tattrie says. Want to help? "The philosophy of Orphan’s Heart is to work with disadvantaged children and help them physically and spiritually,” and you can find ways[...]

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Letter writing campaign encourages persecuted believers from North Korea

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 05:02:55 -0400

North Korea (MNN) -- With the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church approaching this Sunday, November 5th, there is an obvious focus on praying for persecuted believers. But there’s something else you can do as well to encourage them: write a letter. Each year, the Orange Letter Campaign with Uncharted Ministries focuses on a specific group of believers suffering for their faith to send letters to - and these letters are from fellow Christians around the world. Two years ago, they sent encouraging letters from believers to the widows of the Egyptian men who were martyred on the beach in Libya by ISIS. In fact, the Orange Letter Campaign was so named in honor of these men for the orange jumpsuits they all wore as they were led to their deaths for their faith in Christ. Then in 2016, Orange Letter Campaign’s letters went to Syrian Christian leaders on the frontlines. The past few years, they’ve been able to send around 2,000-3,000 letters, and this year they’re hoping for even more! This year, the letters will be going to persecuted North Korean believers who defected out of the country. Tom Doyle, author of “Standing in the Fire" and with e3 Partners, explains, “This year, we felt like our focus should be North Korea. We have a partnership with Voice of the Martyrs Korea and we know this that there is at least 100,000 believers in North Korea, which is phenomenal when you think about that it is the worst country in the globe to live as a believer…. There are at least 100,000 believers, but 30,000 of them are in prison.” (Map of North Korea courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) North Korea has been at the top of Open Doors’ World Watch List for 14 years in a row as the country with the harshest persecution of Christians. “So we’re writing letters to North Korean defectors, new believers that have come out of North Korea that we’ll meet with and encourage them. Also, Voice of the Martyrs and our new ministry, Uncharted, will be broadcasting into North Korea by radio to read some of the letters to believers there that have radios that hide at night and listen to Christian broadcasts coming out of South Korea.” If you’d like to write a letter of encouragement to a North Korean Christian, you can send your letter in an email to Or you submit your letter at Uncharted Ministries' website here! Doyle notes, “When you think about believers in North Korea, many of them know very little about their faith. So if people decide to write a letter, try to stay away from Christianese terms. They have no idea what those things are. But they know that Kim Jong Un is not God, that they’re searching for God, they’ve heard about Jesus. Some of them may even have smuggled Bibles in North Korea, and they meet privately -- some of them in very small groups. It’s dangerous for them. “But here’s the real story: the truth has set them free. Even in a terrible country like North Korea, they are f[...]

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IDOP Sunday; pray with FMI

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 05:01:18 -0400

International (MNN) -- In the United States, daylight savings this Sunday means an extra hour of sleep. But, what if instead of sleeping in, we prayed for persecuted Christians? After all, this Sunday is also the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted Church. FMI's Work with Persecuted Christians FMI works in the world’s three largest Muslim dominate countries; Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan, where Christian persecution is severe. Each of these countries is listed on Open Doors USA's World Watch List* (WWL). (Photo courtesy of FMI via Facebook) In fact, FMI knows of a very strategically placed and highly influential co-laborer for the Gospel of Jesus Christ inside Pakistan has been charged with blasphemy. Oftentimes the Pakistan’s blasphemy law is used to persecute Christians. Learn more about Pakistan’s blasphemy law and this Pakistani Christian’s charges here! Will you also pray for the Christians serving in these countries? If you’re not quite sure how to pray, follow along with FMI’s Bruce Allen’s prayer below. Pray with FMI “Lord Jesus, the earth is yours and the fullness of it. So even these places where there is darkness, where people are abusing your children, these are still your places. "And we claim your sovereignty over those places. We pray that your light breaks through in magnificent ways. Even to give encouragement to people as they’re going through difficult times. "Whether they’re in a prison and feeling lonely and abandoned. Or, whether they’re facing persecution out in the community from employers or their own family members, we pray for their ability to continue living the life that you want them to live in these places. That they would see you as a good Father. Someone who gives them bread and not stones when bread is what they need. A rural church in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of FMI) "We pray for you to give them the peace that passes any understanding, not just so that they can be at ease in the difficult situation, but so that those who have their eyes on those Christians will see that peace and it will strike a chord of curiosity. "And as I have seen you work in families in some of these situations, that those that have even been doing the persecution will be convicted by that light, by that peace, by that hope. And they will come to place their faith in you as well. It’s in your great name we pray, and for the sake of your kingdom, Amen.” More Ways to Get Involved Please also pray for the Pakistani Christian facing a blasphemy charge. Pray for God’s hand in the court process, for the judge to dismiss all charges against this man, and for the protection and encouragement of both him and his family. Learn more about his story here!  For more ways to pray with FMI, click here! Learn more about International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians here!   * The WWL lists the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe.[...]

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This Christmas, give the gift of the Christmas story with Wycliffe USA

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 05:00:46 -0400

International (MNN) – As you celebrate Christmas this year, why not add to the celebration by making it possible for someone else to hear the Christmas story, in their language, perhaps for the first time? This is the premise behind Wycliffe Bible Translator USA’s gift catalog. Pixie Christensen of Wycliffe USA says, “The catalog is our favorite project of the entire year because we get to think about it not only in terms of the translation projects and getting the Word in people’s language, getting it out there, but we think about it from the perspective of a person who’s looking at the catalog and thinking of giving a gift that has eternal value.” The catalog has 18 gift options and while they each come with a suggested gift price, any donation is accepted. The gifts range from the very beginning of written translation work to methods of getting God’s word out through media. But what they all have in common is opening the door for people to hear the Good News of Jesus and learn more about him. Christensen says, “The Word of God is foundational to a personal growth in getting to know Christ, to Church growth, to evangelism ... Having the Word is what we need—it’s what everyone needs to draw closer to Christ, to get to know him and to find out about the message of God’s love for each person and the fact that at Christmas, God showed his love to us by sending his only Son to take that human form. It’s just a time that we can celebrate that and celebrate the joy of Christ.” This year's gifts Christensen is especially excited about a gift that brings another mission organization in. The JESUS Film Project has partnered with Wycliffe to work on translating the 'JESUS' film into Chuka, a language group out of Kenya. Help get the 'JESUS' film into the Chuka language. (Photo courtesy of Wycliffe USA) There are plenty of other projects that have to do with oral communication of the Bible, as well. Christensen says judging by last year’s response, people are starting to realize just how important these audio methods of sharing the Gospel are. “We have audio Scripture and video Scripture portions. And we have several projects for that and those are wonderful projects for people that are not only in communities that have strong oral traditions, but in communities where they may have difficulty accessing any printed Scripture.” Another project focuses on training women to share the Gospel using Bible stories. “It’s in Asia and it’s in the areas of the world where women are sometimes marginalized and this project will help provide workshops where the women can go and not only learn the stories themselves (select Scripture stories in their language), but they can learn how to tell them and how to share them with other people. "So, it’s a wonderful project for involving women and having women be able to share [the Gospel] in one-on-one or in a small group setting w[...]

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Validity of Kenya’s election in question

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 05:02:33 -0400

Kenya (MNN) -- Kenya is in an uproar following the recent repeat vote that determined the country’s president. The election results declared Uhuru Kenyatta the winner, but not everyone is accepting it as a legitimate win. Election Win Questionable Since pulling out of the revote for the election, and as part of a National Resistance Movement, Raila Odinga encouraged his followers to not take part in the re-election voting process. DOOR International’s Rob Myers shares that Odinga’s hope did indeed come true, but not just because his followers boycotted the polls. Kenya's current President Uhurua Kenyatta. (Photo courtesy Uhuru Kenyatta via Flickr: “Some people simply feared the violence that was taking place in or around some of these polling places,” Myers explains. “There were a lot of police clashes happening with people on the repeat election that happened on October 16th.” In several areas, the election had to be postponed for days because the violence became so severe. Following this, the commission in charge of the election announced the Kenyatta was again elected by a vote of 7.6 million people. Resisting Results However, Odinga Kenyatta, after announcing misinformation about the election results, is still calling for continued resistance. At least two petitions are currently in the court challenging the validity of Thursday's poll. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the cases in the coming weeks. “Odinga is now calling for a continuing of the National Resistance Movement that their party is leading,” Myers shares. “Right now, what he’s calling for specifically are peaceful protests, some forms of picketing, some economic boycotts to happen. But, there is concern that if things continue, violence could escalate in the country.” The situation in Kenya continues to develop day by day and many people are keeping an eye on it. However, it is possible that if there is an escalation in violence, it could affect ministry operations in the country. “Some ministry is continuing to happen on the ground, particularly among nationals. People are trying to continue to live their lives, but they also realize that at any moment somebody could make an announcement and violence could erupt, other things could happen,” Myers says. “Living in the midst of that uncertainty could be very difficult.” How to Pray (Image courtesy Wikipedia) Please, pray for peace and justice in Kenya. Myers also asks for prayers for a truly democratic process to take place in Kenya. Pray for the Kenyan people to work through the government processes that are available to solve political issues rather than resorting to violence. And pray for ministries in the country to be able to continue despite the political unrest. “It’s very difficult to help people focus on some of their spiritual needs when they feel even physical uncer[...]

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Preparing for IDOP: Learning the stories of the persecuted Church

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 05:01:20 -0400

International (MNN) -- We’re focusing on the persecuted Church this week in preparation for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church this Sunday, November 5th. But in order to pray for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters, we have to get to know them and their stories. (Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs) Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says there are resources available to connect us to persecuted believers. “I think one of the things we need to do is to know the names if we can and find out through ministries like Voice of the Martyrs Canada and US, Open Doors, etc. Find out the names and pray for them. And in many cases, you may be led to write letters to the people that are suffering.” Open Doors reports that every month approximately 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 acts of violence* are committed against believers. But, Musselman shares, “As we see the numbers increasing in terms of those that are being persecuted for their faith around the world, at the same time, we’re seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming to Christ.” One way to get to know the persecuted Church is to pray for specific countries where believers are suffering. For example, North Korea is the top country on Open Doors’ World Watch List where Christian persecution is the harshest. Musselman explains, “You have what’s called a juche system or ideology which is a worship of the Kim family. So in that particular country, you’re not allowed to have any other kinds of deities or gods that you worship. So as a result of that, Christianity is basically banned there. Believers have to be very careful, they can’t meet together…. If they are caught with Bibles or meeting with other Christians, they are put into concentration-type camps and their life is very difficult.” Though it’s difficult to get accurate reports out of the hermit nation, most estimates say that tens of thousands of Christians are imprisoned in North Korea today. “North Korea is the worst because they attack not only the belief in Jesus, but the brainwashing that goes on, the propaganda. We see it on the world stage all the time with Kim Jong Un and his program of developing nuclear weapons and constantly threatening South Korea and other countries.” Other countries with extreme persecution of Christians include those Muslim majority nations with radical Muslim group presence. You have al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram from Nigeria, al-Qaeda operating from Afghanistan, and ISIS based in Iraq and Syria. (Photo courtesy of thierry ehrmann via Flickr: “When we’re talking about these Muslim countries, you have to understand that not all the citizens of the country go along with these groups like Taliban. But even beyond the [...]

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National Adoption Awareness Month: one family’s adoption story

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 05:00:18 -0400

United States (MNN) – Beth and Harold Schnyders have adopted six children over the last 17 years. Their oldest is 17 years old. The youngest is eight months. We got in contact with the Schnyders through Bethany Christian Services, the adoption agency they have worked with for all six adoptions. For National Adoption Awareness Month, they shared their adoption story. When the Schnyder’s decided it was time to start a family, they learned that they couldn’t have biological children. But this isn’t where their adoption story began. In fact, for Beth, it started several years earlier. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services) She says, “For me, that was just fine. [God] had placed adoption on my heart at a very young age and I had been open and willing to do that for quite some time.” But Harold had a few reservations about the adoption. He explains that a lot of it grew out of a misunderstanding about what adoption, particularly open adoption, looked like in reality. Reservations about adoption Growing up, he witnessed at least one open adoption in his church. The adoptive parents invited the child’s birth mother to church, and she often joined them. “It was always rather mysterious to me how that all worked,” Harold says. He wondered if there were any disputes between the parents and birth mother about raising the child. His concerns seem pretty reasonable and are probably not all that uncommon. “I didn’t know what to expect for some child that wasn’t mine because … I think we all have possibly an idolatrous view of what we would wish in a child. We would like them, maybe, to look a whole lot like us and I don’t doubt that was rattling around in my head as well. “And it was the skepticism of my broader family and other people that I knew that surely got into my head as well. They had not been first-party to an adoption before. They had witnessed it from afar.” Some of these people had strong opinions on the subject and it made Harold a bit hesitant. But the couple decided to start the process anyway. Everything changed… Beth says, “We were both very excited about what God was going to do through this and our first daughter came April 4, 2000. And I would say—and Harold would probably say—definitely yes that once we brought her home, he had no hesitation about adoption at all after that.” (Picture courtesy Bethany Christian Services) As with any new child, there were some growing pains. Beth says they had to work through challenges specifically related to the open aspect of the adoption. With their daughter came new relationships with her birth mother, sister, and grandparents. But through these relationships, God opened their eyes to the struggles of other people and grew their compassion. Their child's biological family became their family, too. “[...]

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Blasphemy law used to accuse Pakistani Christians

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 05:02:52 -0400

Pakistan (MNN) – Pakistan, it’s listed as the fourth country where Christians face the worst persecution according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List* (WWL). And one reason why is its blasphemy law which is frequently used to attack Christians. Blasphemy Law Abuse “The blasphemy law in Pakistan [makes] sure that nobody defames the prophet Muhammad, or speaks [derogatorily] of the Quran, or treats a Quran in an irreverent way. So, they’re just protecting the Islamic faith,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. Pakistani Flag. “The abuse comes when people will say, ‘I charged XYZ person with blasphemy,’ simply in order to defame them, derail them, ruin their lives. Because-- here’s the kicker -- it’s a mandatory death sentence if you’re convicted of blasphemy.” Allen says that often, the people being accused of blasphemy have not done anything to be considered truly blasphemous by the blasphemy law. Once accused, though, they are imprisoned and then sent to trial. But, it’s not uncommon for the individuals accused of blasphemy to not even make it to prison. That is because individuals in their community often take it upon themselves to right the supposed wrong of blasphemy. “Once people in society know that someone has been accused of blasphemy, it just turns into mob violence and people in the street attack that person who’s being accused. They don’t care about looking for evidence, they just want to protect the honor of their Prophet or their book,” Allen explains. “And so they will kill that person in the streets. They will burn down that person’s home. Family members are impacted. It really has gotten out of hand over the last few years in Pakistan.” And now, the misuse of this blasphemy law is hitting close to home. Pakistani Christian Falsely Accused “I received some distressing news over the weekend regarding someone involved in Christian ministry. A very strategically placed and highly influential co-laborer for the Gospel of Jesus Christ inside Pakistan. And, he was just served with a warrant for his arrest on charges of blasphemy,” Allen says. If convicted, this man, who we’ll call Ahmed for security reasons, would face a death sentence and a fine. And oftentimes, individuals are charged with blasphemy without substantial evidence. Allen, who has seen the police report for the blasphemy charge, says that there’s no information listed regarding the location of the incident or even what Ahmed did that was blasphemous. “It was simply just 'we’re charging this person with blasphemy,'” Allen says. To throw in a plot twist, when Ahmed received the blasphemy charges, he discovered he didn’t even know his accuser. In fact, other information listed, such as an incorrect address for the accused, further revealed that the person accu[...]

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International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is November 5th

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 05:01:43 -0400

International (MNN) -- This coming Sunday, November 5th, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). We’re doing a series of feature stories on the persecuted Church and how we can pray leading to IDOP. First, we reached out to Todd Nettleton with the Voice of the Martyrs USA to ask, why is this day is so important? Your prayers are powerful. (Photo courtesy of the Voice of the Martyrs) “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is a day where we hope every church will take some time out to follow the scriptural mandate that says, ‘Remember those in bonds as if you were bound with them.’” He also says, “This is the first thing that persecuted Christians ask us to do. When our VOM staff travel around the world, we sit down, we meet with Christians facing persecution, we say, ‘We’re going back to America. How can American Christians help you?’ The first thing they ask is, ‘Pray for us. Please pray for us.’” The power of prayer is clear throughout the Bible. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, believers are commanded to “pray without ceasing”. And when Jesus began the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, verse one says, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” When it comes to the suffering, a tendency can be to focus our prayers on an end to the suffering. While not a bad thing to pray for, Nettleton says our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters tend to have a different perspective on suffering and faith. “The challenging thing to me is that their prayer request is not, ‘Pray that we won’t have to suffer anymore. Pray that our government will change and suddenly we’ll be free to worship.’ Their prayer request is, ‘Pray that we’ll be faithful to Christ no matter the cost.’” So on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, he reflects, “We’re literally joining hands with our persecuted brothers and sisters in hostile and restricted nations and we’re being unified with them through our prayers.” Get Your Church Involved! It’s not too late for your church to participate in IDOP this coming Sunday. The Voice of the Martyrs has several resources free for your church to utilize as you join the persecuted Church in prayer. (Image courtesy of the Voice of the Martyrs) “One of the things we do every year is a show in your service on Sunday morning as you lead into the prayer time and it really illustrates the need for prayer. The video this year from VOM USA is a video that shares the story from Richard Wurmbrand’s imprisonment. Richard Wurmbrand was the founder of our ministry. He spent 14 years in prison and one of the things that the video says this year is, remember, we’re not only[...]

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‘Seasons of hope’ for Native America; turning a moment into a movement

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 05:00:08 -0400

North America (MNN) -- On Eagles’ Wings Summer of Hope, a Gospel outreach team to Native America, finished a while ago. But the reverberating impact of Summer of Hope is still echoing into the year. As Ron Hutchcraft with Ron Hutchcraft Ministries says, it’s a moment that is turning into a movement. “Maybe we should call it ‘Seasons of Hope’ because it isn’t just a Summer of Hope!!” Hutchcraft quips. “What a shame it would be if it was just confined to the summer. And the reason we call it a Summer of Hope is because hope has been so hard to find in Native America for a long, long time. They are a people who have been so betrayed and who have lost so much and who have, unfortunately, come to believe that Jesus is the white man’s God because so much that was taken from them was taken in the name of Christianity.” Suicide rates, addiction, and sexual violence are off the charts among Native communities. Today, only four percent of Native Americans know Christ, even though they were the first mission field in North America around 400 years ago. So how does the moment of spiritual outreach among Native Americans become a movement that leads a generation to Christ? (Photo courtesy of On Eagles' Wings) This past summer was the 25th summer of On Eagles’ Wings ministry. Hutchcraft traveled with the team of 48 young Native men and women who are passionate about reaching their communities with the Gospel’s hope. After around 4,000 miles of travel and visiting Native American reservations, they saw hundreds of Native people come to Christ. “The messengers of hope have turned out to be young Native Americans that we call an On Eagles’ Wings team and they’re breaking through -- well, God is breaking through, through them in a way that, from everything I can tell, is unprecedented in 400 years!” Youth Ministry Ripple Effect One reservation the On Eagles’ Wings team went to was inundated with drug overdose deaths. Hutchcraft says you would walk around the reservation and see all the old, discarded needles from drug use. The shadow of death was tangible. When the team went in and held their outreach events this past summer, they saw God move. The team declared the Gospel to the tribe’s young people and several committed their lives to Christ. The On Eagles’ Wings team then met with some of the local Christians for a youth ministry roundtable to affirm an ongoing ministry strategy. From there, Hutchcraft reports, “Within days of the team leaving, [the local youth ministry] had their first event, and guess what? Seventeen more came to Christ! And the team was gone! The movement has begun. Then they did a second event and more people came to Christ! So following the model of On Eagles’ Wings to the best they can[...]

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Church leaders arrested in Sudan

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 05:02:12 -0400

Sudan (MNN) – Last week Sunday five church leaders from the Sudanese Church of Christ were arrested. They were released several hours later, but the event has highlighted once again the disturbing trend of the government trying to gain total control over Christian activity in Sudan. According to Morning Star News, the arrest took place after the leaders refused to cancel worship as ordered by the police. The arrests were reportedly made under the charge of disturbing the public. This follows a series of similar arrests in recent months. Kamal Fahmi of Set My People Free says that much of the trouble is rooted in the current government’s favor of Islam. “They are very much anti-Christianity or non-Muslims. The president … after the separation of the south, he said he [wanted] to make the north 100 percent Muslim. So, in a way, the Church is going through pressure after pressure.” Lekwongole Presbyterian Church. (Photo and caption courtesy of Judy McCallum via Flickr: According to Fahmi, last Sunday’s incident was a symptom of this growing pressure. “Their leadership was arrested (this is the Church of Christ) and they tried to interfere with the church affairs,” he says, explaining that the government has tried to control when believers meet and who is allowed to attend. And, they’re taking that control a step further. “They even want to change the leadership to have a leadership which is kind of standing with the government which would put even more pressure on active Christians within that denomination.” Fahmi says another way the government has tried to interfere with church on Sundays is to require the educational weekend to be Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. And so, believing students have started taking three days off so they can still attend church services. It’s not ideal for their education, but Fahmi says they are taking a stand. Influence of foreign powers When the United States eased sanctions on Sudan at the beginning of this year, Fahmi says they were hoping that things would largely improve across the nation. But this has not happened. “What I have realized with this government, since [they began ruling in] 1989, they go two steps forward, pushing [the] Islamic agenda. When they’re facing pressure, they go back one step. But then again, they go two steps forward. And so, in a way, things have not really changed from last year despite the sanctions [being] lifted because properties have been confiscated, there is pressure.” Even so, he says they are thankful for the policy changes by the American government within Sudan under the new Administration. He explains that a recent dispute between the Church and the govern[...]

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Protestant Reformation: what it means 500 years later

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 05:00:44 -0400

(MNN) – It’s been half a millennium since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany. That event kick-started the Protestant Reformation of the Church, starting in Germany and quickly traveling around the world. As Protestants around the world celebrate 500 years of reformation, you might ask the question, how is the event still relevant today, other than the impact it’s had? Hans Combrink of Biblica says today, there’s no separating the importance of modern Bible translation and literacy from what took place during the Reformation. Where it all began... Combrink brings us back to Luther’s story which began with an uncertainty of the state of his soul and a struggle to know the one, true God. In an in-depth study of Scripture, he finally discovered what having faith meant. Roman’s 3:28 was a turning point for him. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28, ESV) What he learned sharply disagreed with what was being practiced by the Catholic Church at that time. But while Luther’s theses brought the practices into the light for questioning by people everywhere, it was the power of the Word that began to transform hearts. Combrink explains, “Luther succeeded in getting God’s Word to the German people in a language that they can understand. And that is Biblica’s mission today. Biblica exists to provide God’s Word in accurate, contemporary translations and formats so that more people around the world have the opportunity to engage with Jesus Christ.” Luther and his team of translators found it extremely difficult to bring the ancient texts into the German language, but with the hard work there was much joy. German people could now discover God’s Word for themselves, and pursue God in a personal relationship. The power of Scripture we can understand Today, the Bible is still helping believers pursue a deeper understanding of who God is. It’s also helped us staple down the truth of who we are, and what the Gospel means in our lives. Combrink says this is extremely important when we consider the post-modern thinking that has saturated our culture today. “We live in a world of skepticism, of relativism where the old reliable norms are being called into question and where the old foundations are crumbling. "Much of this, of course, is a reaction to the optimism of the modern era which basically said that by using our reason and senses, we can get behind the stories and the narratives to the objective and verifiable truths. But we now know that modernism did not succeed. The world has not increasingly become a better place.” That is why today’s generations often [...]

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40 Days for Life’s peaceful vigils are changing hearts

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 05:00:02 -0400

International (MNN) -- This week is the last week of 40 Days for Life. It’s a pro-life movement of prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil in front of abortion clinics all around the world. They’re finishing strong this week, so it’s not too late to get involved! Tom Lothamer with Life Matters Worldwide says, specifically, the prayer warriors with 40 Days for Life are “praying for those going in for their [abortion] services, praying for the staff, and especially for the doctors who are performing abortions and asking God to change their minds about this...and choosing life. But also [they are] asking God to rid our communities of abortion. They do that with a constant vigil, 24-7 prayer for 40 days.” (Photo courtesy of John Pisciotta via Flickr under Creative Commons License) The 40 Days for Life movement began in 2007 and they’ve seen God do amazing things through their prayers and presence. According to their website, over 13,600 lives have been saved from abortion, 156 abortion workers have quit, and 90 abortion clinics have closed since the movement began. The heart of this campaign is to peacefully and lovingly bring together the Body of Christ in prayer for God to move society from a culture of death to a culture of life and bring an end to abortion. Occasionally, 40 Days for Life’s peaceful vigils are met with opposition. “Sometimes people go by and they’re not very happy with the prayer warriors so they’ll honk their horns or they’ll say something maybe nasty,” says Lothamer. “This year too in Grand Rapids we’ve had the group Antifa -- which basically stands for anti-fascists, it’s kind of a radical political group -- and they just come and they don’t necessarily do anything to the people who are praying, but they’re just there with their...masks in all black and they’re just there to intimidate and make them feel uncomfortable. “But the people that are praying, we have the Holy Spirit of God who is giving us the power to not notice that so much but to continue their prayers.” These prayer warriors are also available to speak with people outside of the clinics, and it’s from these encouraging conversations that hearts are encouraged towards life. “A number of times, one of the prayer warriors will have a chance to actually connect with a client going in [the abortion clinic] and be able to talk to them and they’ll try to encourage them saying there are other options. In fact, if you wish, we can take you over to the local pregnancy center and you can get an ultrasound and you can get counseling for yourself. There’s a number of times people will take them up on that. Other times, they’ll go in and then[...]

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Amidst military offensives and IDP camps, God is moving in Syria

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 05:02:08 -0400

Syria (MNN) -- It’s been nearly two weeks since the Syrian city of Raqqa was liberated from ISIS’ control. Raqqa was formerly ISIS’s de facto capital and operated as their command center. But even as Syria celebrates the end of Raqqa’s offensive, the war with ISIS is not over. Steve Van Valkenburg with Christian Aid Mission says, “Now that the ISIS strongholds are being defeated like in Raqqa and other places near Iraq, there is an impact on the rest of Syria. One is that before, [ISIS] was all in one place. So they could be targeted there. Now as they spread out, they’re going to be coming up anywhere. So in some ways, it’s going to be less secure within areas that are now at peace.” “The second implication from that is that because of government-backed ISIS type groups, that there are large population areas that are accessible because there is now peace there. That means that people can travel among large areas of Syria and that means Christians can travel in those areas too.” In the coming months, citizens who fled Raqqa may begin to return home. But after the past several months of fighting, the infrastructure in Raqqa was destroyed -- everything from water systems and sewage to the power grids. And even beyond Raqqa, the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Syria don't fare much better. Syrian children in a refugee camp. (Photo courtesy of Christian Aid Mission) Van Valkenburg says, “Often obviously they need food, but also there’s a lot of need for medical, dental type of services. There’s a real big need for counseling. People have seen all kinds of atrocities and they’ve experienced all kinds of griefs.” The ministries that Christian Aid Supports in Syria provide trauma relief and humanitarian aid. “We’re continually sending funds to ministries in Syria as they are able to meet people and to meet physical needs like medical, dental, counseling needs, emotional needs, and there’s always the need for funds for those kinds of things.” Report from a Ministry Worker in Syria Timothy* is a ministry partner supported by Christian Aid who is able to get into Syria with desperately needed aid. He is even able to go into regions and cities where NGOs can’t or won’t go. Timothy says, “The problem is there are no organizations who are inside very much who are helping, comparing with other countries around Syria.” Syrian refugee children in Turkey receiving aid from an indigenous ministry. (Photo courtesy of Christian Aid Mission) As we approach the winter season, there’s going to be a major need for blankets, hot water bottles, tents, and electric heaters. They’re also loo[...]

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Pakistan’s pledge to fight terror: can it be taken seriously?

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 05:01:52 -0400

Pakistan (MNN) -- Pakistan has again pledged itself in the fight against terrorism after a recent visit by the United States’ Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Pakistan's Empty Words “When you look at that meeting between Tillerson and Prime Minister Abbasi, in Pakistan, even the Pakistani citizens themselves, Christians included, scoffed and laughed at Prime Minister Abbasi’s promise to ramp up the country’s counter-terrorism efforts,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. “They see these pledges as political posturing and just empty words. And words that are easy to speak by this prime minister because he’s only an interim prime minister…and his days are very limited.” Currently, a lot of terrorist groups are operating in Pakistan. In fact, the US President has even threated to withdraw aid if Pakistani counter-terrorism measures are not what the US considered effective. But, being effective and actually combating terrorism are two different things. Pakistan has taken steps to fight against terrorism in the country; such as raids on terrorist holdings and its recent assistance in securing the release of a kidnapped Canadian family. But it’s things like this that provide evidence that can be misleading in the country’s efforts to combat terror. Corruption Within Pakistan parliamentarians. (Photo courtesy of FMI) Terrorists in Pakistan have paid money to politicians in support of their re-election as a trade for future protection. In fact, most counter-terrorism efforts, according to Allen, are raids on training camps or areas where terrorists have had large areas under their control. “I just received a list of the names of dozens of political leaders who have aided and abetted terrorists in recent months and years, and they’re still holding office,” Allen explains. “So, sometimes they are aiding the terrorists by contributions, you know financially. Other times it's safekeeping or hiding them in certain areas. So, you get this thing where they say one thing, they can legitimately point to success stories in their counter-terrorism efforts. It’s a double speech mentality.” Questionable Trust Pakistani leaders aren’t necessarily lying about their commitment to combat terrorism, as they have performed operations to do just that. But, they are making decisions that best support their individual political standings. That is why many people doubt Prime Minister Abbasi’s pledge. "In my opinion, it’s entirely out of question that any credible kind of war against terrorism can be fought under the supervision of wholly corr[...]

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Mission Cry on track to meet audacious goal

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 05:00:10 -0400

Belize (MNN) – Have you ever set a goal that was so lofty that you knew, short of a miracle, there was no way you could meet it? That’s exactly what Jason Woolford and his team did at Mission Cry several months ago when they set out to equip the entire country of Belize with Bibles and Christian books. For recap, he says, “The goal was that every home in the entire country of Belize would have access to a free Bible or Christian book. Our goal was that by November 17th that that would come to pass. We’re so excited. We need to send six sea containers in order to fulfill those quantities to be able to freely distribute those Bibles and Christian books.” Woolford says by God’s favor, they’ve already been able to send three sea containers to Belize, and leaders from all seven districts are currently distributing about 90,000 books. November trip is right around the corner! This November, Woolford will be traveling with a team of 27 people to minister in Belize. One event he is especially looking forward to is a kid’s outreach and Michael Maher concert in San Ignacio. He says the concert is not just another entertainment event, but one that will encourage Belizean believers to study the Word. Woolford will also spend time preaching and sharing his testimony. (Photo courtesy of Mission Cry) “The main goal is that we’re going and we’re preaching the Gospel but we’re leaving behind the Word that doesn’t return void,” he says. Recently, he got some exciting news about the event. “The awesome thing is, outside of giving everyone a Bible or Christian book, those people that can’t attend the event, we just found out on Sunday that this event is going to be streamed live through their TV station in the entire country of Belize, and then also it’s going to be broadcast live on multiple radio stations.” Big goals met with big faith It wouldn’t be off base for anyone who had heard the original goal to be stunned. It takes a while to process the idea of one ministry project expected to reach a whole nation. So we asked Woolford, did you believe this could happen? “I’m a firm believer in God in his Word saying that he’ll do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we think or ask and I can say that I’m humbled and I’m in awe of God just continuing to show up.” Woolford explains that because the goal Mission Cry set was so audacious, they know God is in it. “That was a lofty one. And quite honestly, it can be a little scary along the way. But you know, God has been so good and so faithful in just bringing people—people who are no[...]

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Rohingya refugees flooding into Bangladesh

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 05:02:28 -0400

Bangladesh (MNN) – About one million Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh in a refugee crisis that the UN is calling the worst it has seen in decades. Why? Because there’s no hope for these refugees to return home. Rohingya Refugees Flee Home A Rohingya refugee camp near the border with Myanmar, around Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (Photo Courtesy of James Tan) “Their homes have been destroyed back in Myanmar. Their crops, their livestock have been eradicated, burned. So, there’s no home for them to go back to,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. “So now, you have these stateless people who feel very stuck. And then Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorer countries. So, they can’t do this on their own.” Allen says these refugees are packed into a small area between the short border of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Now, because of the volume of people in the area and the fact that they are persecuted Muslims fleeing a non-Muslim country, a lot of these refugees have been overflowing further into Bangladesh, a welcoming Muslim-dominate country. In fact, Bangladesh is now making plans to clear out 1,000 acres of forest lands to make room for all the incoming refugees and to set up more camps. However, this won’t be enough. Camps are temporary shelters and these people will more than likely be in Bangladesh long-term. Scars, Pain, and the Unknown Furthermore, a lot of refugees are arriving with physical injuries from the attacks they face in Myanmar. Pregnant women, especially, are in need of care. “I know of one young man whose elbow was shattered by a bullet back in Myanmar. He’s getting treated in a hospital in Bangladesh now,” Allen shares. And in the face of all of this need, FMI partners are trying to help. “FMI does have church planters serving in that area and others who have come from different parts of Bangladesh to come down and minister to the refugees. They’re going into the refugee camps and interviewing them, finding out what is their status,” Allen shares. One of the pastors associated with FMI (wearing head bandana), serves as a translator for a team interviewing the refugees. This pastor's church also supports several Bangladeshi children's Sunday School classes in the area.(PhotoCourtesy of James Tan) “Tell us your stories and what are your immediate needs. But also, often people think of immediate needs just being physical. But now, [here are] opportunities to talk about spiritual needs; which are ultimate and eternal.” However, to keep helping refugees, FMI’s partners need a bit of help, too. Already these[...]

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Reaching kids with the Alliance For The Unreached

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 05:01:40 -0400

International (MNN) -- In the next few decades, Africa’s population will more than double in size, and more than half of that new number will be children under the age of 14. At least eight of out every ten kids who hear and understand the Gospel choose to follow Christ. It’s that combination of statistics that drives Zimzam Global to train leaders and church planters to bring the truth of Christ to children on a global scale “Our goal is to provide a church for every child around the world,” says Dave Meyers, President of Zimzam. Meyers believes it’s especially important to reach kids in traditionally vulnerable areas of the world. In areas of North Africa, for example, “It’s really a race of who’s going to get to those kids first,” Meyers said. “Is it going to be that radicalized ideology or is it going to be the truth of the one true God capturing the hearts of these kids?” Photo courtesy of Zimzam Global Additionally, he says,“If you don’t go younger in your Great Commission strategy you will miss the majority of the Great Commission population.” But it’s a daunting task for a relatively new ministry to tackle alone. That’s why Zimzam Global is teaming up with the Alliance For The Unreached -- the group of organizations behind the International Day for the Unreached -- to maximize their impact. “This opportunity is so significant, so important that we need to align together to really see the Great Commission fulfilled and see these people groups have the opportunity to know love and serve Jesus Christ,” Meyers said. In many of the areas the Alliance targets, kids are looking for answers, and Meyers hopes Zimzam can partner with others to provide those answers. “Statistics prove that if you give a child a chance, they’ll believe,” Meyers said. “I think they’re some of the greatest influencers in a community.” If you want to join the movement of the Alliance For The Unreached, your help goes a long way. You can spread the news of organizations like Zimzam Global, reach out to neighbors for support, financially support the work of on-the-ground partners, and, above all else, pray. Photo Courtesy Zimzam Global “I think we have a responsibility as believers and followers of Christ, with Jesus himself living inside us as the Holy Spirit,” Meyers said. “He is the lover of children and so we need to line up already with what Jesus has modeled for us and be a part of what He sees as significant.” [...]

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Hurricane Harvey: Keys for Kids responds

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 05:00:33 -0400

USA (MNN) -- After the recent strike of Hurricane Harvey, countless organizations flocked to Texas to provide aid to hurting families. Keys for Kids wanted to help, but they needed a partner who could get them on the ground. That’s why Keys for Kids teamed up with International Aid to bring help to the hurting in Texas. “They were providing some resources to them including hygiene kits, etc, and one of the things they received at that distribution point was a Keys for Kids storybook,” said Greg Yoder of Keys for Kids. And the impact of those books is already starting to show. Yoder heard one story of a single mother who was invited to church when picking up her care package. After reading through the book with her daughter, she decided to go. Photo courtesy of Keys for Kids “She had prayed that the Lord would just kind of lead her there, and when she got there she had tons of questions,” Yoder said. “She wanted to know ‘Why would a loving God allow this to happen?’ Well the pastor was able to talk to her and pray with her and, eventually, share the Gospel with her, and she came to Christ.” Yoder says this is just one of many stories of the eternal and physical impact of the partnership between Keys for Kids and International Aid, and his organization is already actively searching out more partners and preparing for their next opportunity. “We’re actually in discussions right now about how we can kind of make it a perpetual thing, responding to various needs in areas of the world in which they work, both in English and in some of the other languages we’re working in right now,” Yoder said. “Right now we’re using funds to make sure that we have thousands of copies of these devotional books and storybooks that we can distribute when there’s a need.” Photo courtesy of Keys for Kids Yoder believes that too often, kids are overlooked when disaster strikes, so he’s hoping “Keys for Kids will be that partnering agency who can see the spiritual side of the kids’ needs met.” Want to help? Keys for Kids needs your prayer and support if they’re going to move forward and bring hope to kids facing crisis around the world. “We can have all the plans we want, but unless they’re God’s plans they’re just going to shrivel up and die, so that’s the most important thing to pray for,” Yoder said. “The second thing is that we have the funding and the resources we need. $100 actually provides 100 devotionals.” [...]

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Philippines Marawi City siege ends after five months

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 05:03:37 -0400

Philippines (MNN) – After five months, the Philippines’ military siege in Marawi City is finally over. The city, on the south island of Mindanau, was liberated Tuesday, October 17. Philippines Siege It left over 1,100 people dead, a number which is supposed to include over 900 militants. About 350,000 people have been displaced as a result. Reserve soldiers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) The siege, which began on May 23 earlier this year, was a response to a takeover by Islamic extremists in an attempt to establish a foothold for ISIS in the southern Philippines. For weeks, the ISIS black flag flew over the city and the extremist group reigned. But over the last five months, Philippines military has been fighting to regain control over the city, and it did. But with this victory comes a word of caution. “For this city, this particular battle is over. I think some of the rhetoric that has been issued around this, the fact that the defense minister of the Philippines, said now terrorism has been defeated, I don’t think we can quite go that far,” Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton shares. “I think we can say this battle has been won. Anybody, I think, who watches the Philippines, who knows the situation in the southern Philippines, knows there’s going to be other battles. Thankfully this one has been won, but it doesn’t mean the war is over.” Battle Won, War Not Over For example, the Philippines’ government is still in the process of working towards putting a law, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), in place that would create an Islamic autonomous region in the south. The region would be given its own executive, legislative, and fiscal powers. “If it is passed though, you can sign an entire area over to Islamic law, Islamic control. So, that raises some questions,” Nettleton shares. “Obviously, questions of religious freedom. Questions of how Christians in that area will be treated. So, there are a lot of questions that the Philippines is still going to be answering in the coming months.” (Photo Courtesy Steve Conover via Flickr Despite fighting terrorism being a high priority, the Philippines still has terrorist roots, animosity, and extremism within the Islamic minority. And while Christians may sometimes seem to be the main target of Islamic terrorists, everyone in Marawi City has suffered from the recent siege. And if such a situation can’t be prevented in t[...]

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Help give a gift that saves a life this holiday

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 05:01:29 -0400

International (MNN) -- Christmas is on its way. And instead of handing out the usual gifts, have you considered giving to Compassion International’s gift catalog? All of the gifts in the catalog have great potential to impact lives in a positive way. In fact, one of the gifts that can be given through the catalog is life-saving surgery for a child. Meet Noah “Over the summer I was able to be in Ghana, in West Africa. And I met one boy, Noah was his name. Just six months ago he needed surgery. He would always be very tired, his heart would beat fast. There would be times where he would even pass out,” Compassion’s Karyn Stehman says. (Photo courtesy of Compassion International) Noah’s mother couldn’t help but think, “what is wrong with my child?” Soon enough, she had her answer. During a regular medical screening at a Compassion center, Noah and his mother discovered that he had a defect and a hole in his heart. Without open heart surgery, he would soon encounter fatal heart problems. Through Compassion, it takes $10,000 to provide a lifesaving surgery for one child. “Because of generous donations to the catalog, Noah was able to get that surgery pretty fast. And I met Noah just two months after he has this pretty intense surgery and he was running around,” Stehman explains. “I met him at his school. He was out on the field playing soccer with his friends and he was killing it on that soccer field. And he was racing his friends through the village and he didn’t want to stop, he just wanted to run.” Now, Noah shows off his scar from his surgery, telling people it makes him strong. And every chance she has, Noah’s mother thanks God for her son’s life. Because honestly, two months ago this mother didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to hold her son. “[Noah] had nothing but gratitude to express for people who made his surgery possible,” Stehman shares. “But, what I really loved about Noah’s family was when we talked to his mother, she would just stop in the middle of an interview, or in the middle of a conversation, and just singing praises to the Lord. Because she knows that is was because of the Lord that her son was able to live, and that he [is] able to live the life that he [is] meant to live.” Help Give a Gift So as you prepare for holiday shopping, will you consider giving to Compassion’s gift catalog to help change or even save a child’s life? In helping a child in need, you've t[...]

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Thailand: King’s funeral marks uncertain future

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 05:01:05 -0400

Thailand (MNN) – For over a year, Thailand’s citizens have dressed in black to mourn the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej who passed away on October 13 of last year. Yesterday, the nation began a five-day funeral to celebrate and honor their King. Today, he will be cremated in accordance with his Buddhist beliefs. The ceremony comes with a price tag of about 90 million dollars and is expected to draw a quarter of a million mourners while millions more watch the events remotely. AMG International has work in the area, and so we spoke to Tasos Ioannidis of AMG to get some context. He says, “It is a tradition in Thailand and the King is a very revered figure, especially King Bhumibol. He reigned for approximately 70 years and he was highly respected. His reign was a good reign, the people liked him a lot. And he’s revered almost as a god, one would say.” According to Ionannidis, Bhumibol had a relatively stable reign and a great reputation. He was a unifying figure that the people of Thailand desperately needed, due to the shifting forms of the government. King Bhumibol (Photo courtesy of Dinhin Rakpong-Asoke via Flickr: “Outside of the monarchy of Thailand, there has been a tradition also of political instability. There have been a lot of changes in government over the years in Thailand. They have kind of gone from democratically elected governments to military regimes and it has kind of gone back and forth but one aspect that has not changed, and the person for whom there was always great respect, was the King.” When Bhumibol passed away, his son, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun ascended the throne and is expected to be crowned after the funeral is over. And while he is the heir of a well-revered king, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding him. Ionnidis explains, “The king who’s now taking over-- there are more questions about his character. He has a reputation of living a life that was not the best, of being a playboy. So there are questions about his reign, how it will evolve, whether he will reign wisely.” The other element which is creating uncertainty is the military regime currently in place. Ioannidis says this has been of particular concern for their ministry as well as other western-based ministries. “Some things are becoming more difficult for specifically western Gospel workers. There are talks about visas becoming harder to get for peo[...]

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Tunisian marriage ban rescinded; freedoms for women grow

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 05:03:12 -0400

Tunisia (MNN) – Since 1973, Tunisian women have been prohibited from marrying men who were not of the state religion. But this recently changed, according to Women for Middle East Hope, a project of SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Free to Marry (Photo Courtesy of SAT-7's Women for Middle East Hope via Facebook) The goal of Women for Middle East Hope is to bring awareness to the United States about the issues that women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) deal with. One of these issues in Tunisia was the marriage stipulations. And while marriage in the US and other western countries is both a freedom and a personal choice, that isn’t the case in the MENA region. “In the Middle East, it is a [completely] different world. Women don’t have the right to choose their spouse,” SAT-7’s Project Manager of Women for Middle East Hope, Kim Wriston, shares. “They are told who to they will marry ... many times based on religion. So, this was a huge, huge breakthrough for the Tunisian women. And I just wanted to bring it to the forefront as a great victory for women in general.” About the Marriage Ban Interestingly enough, men who followed the state religion had not been confined to this ban on inter-faith marriages, it was only the women. However, men who were not following the state religion could only marry women who were also not of the state religion. This law targeted minority religions, giving them less freedom to choose who to marry. After all, if these women weren’t marrying a man of the state religion, they couldn’t marry at all. In this way, it actually encouraged conversions to Islam as a couple could marry if the man converted and provided proof of the conversion. After campaigning for some time, women and human rights groups in Tunisia were able to see the marriage ban lifted. Even Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi agreed that the marriage ban went against Tunisia’s 2014 constitution. Women in Tunisia Tunisia's President is actually in favor of women’s freedoms in Tunisia. Wriston says that he is indeed trying to help bring equality to his countrywomen. Why? Because he recognizes their contribution to society and the economy. “In many parts of the Middle East, the Tunisian women would be considered as progressive in many areas. They are able to work outside of the home. They are actually able to t[...]

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ASM reflects on and celebrates 50 years of ministry

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 05:02:34 -0400

International (MNN) -- Audio Scripture Ministries just hit an exciting milestone this month -- 50 years of ministry! Their mission is to provide the Bible in audio so everyone will have the opportunity to hear God’s Word in their own language. Naomi Frizzell, ASM’s Executive Director, says any outreach based in technology is bound to go through a lot of changes in 50 years. “The ministry started with a small, cardboard audio player, moved into the high-tech hand-crank cassette players, moving into solar cassette players and through lots of other technology. Just think how technology has changed in the world over 50 years! And ASM has sought to use the most current and relevant technology as they’ve shared God’s Word in audio. Now we’re using small digital players [and] we’re working on an app in one of our locations as well.” Audio Scripture Ministries' audio Bible distribution to pastors in India. (Photo courtesy of Crista Ballard Photography) Approximately 5.7 billion people around the world are oral learners -- people who learn through spoken communication rather than literate communication and may not even be able to read. For these types of learners, a written Bible is ineffective. It’s these people that ASM is especially trying to reach with God’s Word in audio. “We’re also looking at learning from the past at what types of resources meet the needs of the most number of people, those resources that are effective in sharing the Gospel, and of course, our focus remains on sharing the Word of God in audio.” For example, says Frizzell, “The Joshua Project reports that an estimated 95 percent of pastors worldwide have had no formal training and that 1,000 new pastors a day are needed to keep up with church plants. In the global south, many of those pastors and church leaders don’t have access to Bible colleges or seminaries, and even if they did, those in oral cultures may not read and that means the materials may be inaccessible to them. So we’re looking at audio theological resources that could really make a difference in the lives of these pastors and their congregations.” They hope to continue partnering with mission organizations, churches, and individuals to advance future audio Bible production and distribution and, potentially, other biblical resources in audio, as well. So how is ASM celebrating half a century of ministry[...]

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Tent Schools International responds to massive tremors in Mexico

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 05:01:09 -0400

Mexico (MNN) – It’s been over a month since a pair of earthquakes in Mexico killed hundreds of people and destroyed thousands of homes. While relief efforts are well underway, the trauma many have faced will require a much lengthier healing process. (Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International) On September 8, a magnitude 8.1 quake struck just off the southern coast, killing over 60 people. Less than two weeks later, a 7.1 magnitude quake struck the capital city, killing over 200 and destroying thousands of buildings. Tent Schools International is one organization working to give children, specifically, a sense of hope and normalcy. It recently developed a crisis response fund to allow them to respond quickly to disasters and ensure that children continue to receive an education. “First of all, there’s the rescue and recovery phases, and when that phase is over, I’m speaking in our case here, you have thousands and thousands of children without anywhere to go, particularly after suffering the trauma of seeing whole villages wiped away, or in the earthquake, buildings, even schools, crumbling upon some of their classmates,” Tent Schools’ Dale Dieleman says. “We have requests, for example, from Mexico, following the two major earthquakes on September 7 and 19, where more than 5,000 schools were affected in some of the poorest states within Mexico…They are asking us, or calling out to us, and saying, ‘Can you just supply some funds where we can buy some materials to put up a temporary school shelter for children so they can try to find some normalcy in their life, even with all the rubble and everything else that’s surrounding them, until the reconstruction of schools can take place, which could be a very long time?’” (Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International) Often times, crisis situations can soften even the hardest of hearts. Dieleman says Tent Schools is motivated by the love of Jesus, and they’re making sure that love is evident to the people they serve. “We’ve let it be known, particularly to the people who are requesting in this particular situation, that we are not only there to try to raise funds and awareness within the donor community to respond to this, but we’re also reaching out to them in prayer,” Dieleman says. “We’re there to support them as the hands and feet of Jesus. [...]

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Christians face increased persecution in Vietnam

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 05:02:31 -0400

Vietnam (MNN) – For Christians in Vietnam, the future is looking bleak. Last November, the country’s National Assembly ratified its first ever Law on Belief and Religion, which significantly limits religious freedom in the Buddhist-majority country. The law doesn’t take effect until next January, but increases in persecution toward Christians are already evident. Tim Muret with Open Doors USA explains, “Vietnam is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the Asia Pacific region, which means that the vast majority of citizens follow ethnic or tribal religion, or no religion at all. What that means is that Christians in the country are a clear minority, and that also means that the Protestant believers typically belong to an ethnic minority. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA) “These ethnic minorities are very tribal, and they’re very protective of their customs, their regions, and they have a lot of authority in their local governments. They view Christianity as a threat basically, something that is challenging their culture, their heritage. In many cases, they can operate with impunity. They can attack, they force people out of their villages, there’s violence, there are homes being burned, and so on, if people do not convert back to the local customs.” Vietnam sits at No. 17 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. Muret says churches must register with the government, list all of its members, and even provide a calendar listing each sermon and its topic every year. The New Law on Belief and Religion, many human rights groups say, will be used to restrict religious freedom even more. Parliamentarians, human rights groups, and religious groups say the law fails to meet international standards on freedom of religion or belief. They say vague phrasing in clauses prohibiting using religion to undermine “national security, “national unity,” and “public order” could be used to further repress religious expression. “The government there claims the law will, their language is, ‘Optimize their ability’ to sort of administer religious affairs," Muret says. “However, our team on the ground there is a little nervous about what it might mean in terms of more restrictions in terms of what churches can and cannot do. Can they hold outreac[...]

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Mission India spotlighting Karnataka state for ministry this month

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 05:01:43 -0400

India (MNN/MNI) – The state of Karnataka in India is comprised of about 61 million people, roughly three times the population of Florida. Yet, nearly 95 percent of the people in Karnataka are unreached with the Gospel -- over 57 million people. Less than two percent have accepted Christ. Erik Morsehead with Mission India says, “Every state is different, just in the United States every state is different. The demographics are different. But Karnataka is up there in terms of the unreached and the small number of Christians in that state.” (Graphic courtesy of Mission India) Mission India has been serving in the country since 1984. Their ministry focuses on three different outreach programs: Church Planter Training, Adult Literacy Classes, and Children’s Bible Clubs. This month, Mission India partnered with all their teams to focus on fundraising efforts that will spur the spread of the Gospel in the state of Karnataka. “We are looking at how do we raise the money and the funds quickly to start training church planters so that they can go on their own to start planting churches in their local communities in Karnataka. At the same time, we’re looking to raise resources for our Adult Literacy Classes, and that means training leaders to go into their local communities in Karnataka and reach those who are illiterate and call them out of illiteracy and poverty. Thirdly, with the Children’s Bible Clubs, you’re training up young leaders to go in and help educate the boys and girls in Karnataka and share the good news with them.” Morsehead explains, “Between those three programs, our hope and our goal and our prayer is that those numbers will be higher than two percent Christian and the unreached number would go down as a result of our fundraising efforts.” A Karnataka Story of Spiritual Transformation God is definitely moving in the state of Karnataka, and Mission India has witnessed it. For example, they shared this story about a young girl and her family, and how Mission India’s Children’s Bible Club in Karnataka changed their lives for eternity. (Photo courtesy of Mission India) Nanda’s parents struggled to feed their four children in the state of Karnataka, even though they both worked hard. But, when Nanda’s uncle approached them asking for money during a[...]

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Christmas gifts that change, save lives

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 05:00:17 -0400

Int’l (MNN) – According to a Pew Research Center survey, what most Americans look forward to when it comes to Christmas is the time spent with family and friends. What they dread, however, is the materialism surrounding the holiday. And yet, it seems like pressure to buy continues while the true meaning of Christmas is forgotten. Compassion International’s Gift Catalog is a great way for families to come together and impact lives both spiritually and physically. These aren’t gifts that will be hidden in a closet for Christmases to come. They are gifts that connect the hope of Christ’s birth to the felt needs of people all around the globe. Karyn Stehman of Compassion International says, “This year we’re really encouraging people to think about their gift-giving budget a little bit differently and think about how a gift to the catalog could make such an eternal difference for a child living in poverty.” (Photo courtesy of Compassion International). Compassion International focuses on holistic care of people in need all around the world. They have over 6,700 international church partners. Through these relationships, they are serving almost two million children in the name of Jesus.  The Gift Catalog invites people to support these programs, even if they cannot commit to full child sponsorship. It also breaks down some of the ways Compassion is helping in communities all over. Stehman says, “We have over 40 gifts and each gift in our catalog is really chosen as something that’s going to impact the children and the families that are in our program.” Through these gifts, lives are being changed and, in some cases, saved! Livestock like chickens, goats, pigs, and cows are some of the most frequently bought gifts in this catalog. It is an effective way to help a family in need because the benefits are ongoing. Stehman explains, “A goat will allow a family to have milk, will allow them to sell the milk to the market, earn an income. So, it’s not only a resource for the family to have nutrition, but also a resource for them to earn an income.” If you are especially passionate about the spiritual development of children through Scripture, you might consider giving a Bible. “The Bibles are given to children in their own language tha[...]

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Venezuela, travel ban, and praying for a solution

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 05:02:26 -0400

Venezuela (MNN) – President Trump’s latest travel ban was announced late last month. Added to the list this time is North Korea and Venezuela. By last week, two federal judges had blocked the new ban. One of the questions raised about the new additions was, why Venezuela? Some people believe that the addition of these two countries was a move to debunk the theory that Trump’s bans have discriminated against Muslims. These are the only two non-Muslim-majority countries on the list. However, Steve Shantz of Trans World Radio believes that it was more of a “symbolic gesture” from the United States to Venezuela, representing the dissidence between the two nations. Officially, the reason behind the ban on Venezuela has to do with the government not sharing public safety and terrorism-related information. The ban on Venezuela is unique because regular citizens are not included in the ban. It only applies to some government workers and their immediate families. However, it is true that the United States has held a poor opinion of Venezuela’s current government for some time. Venezuela’s economic crisis continues to spiral downward. Within and without the country, there are a variety of opinions on what the problem is and how to fix the situation. The United States has been particularly critical and acted upon the situation by slapping sanctions on the Venezuelan government. Shantz says he believes Venezuela might have been added “to address the situation in Venezuela where the US government feels that the Venezuelan government [is] not being cooperative in bringing about the reforms in the country that the United States would like to see.” Tension among the people Last week, Venezuela held regional elections for state governors and there was an overwhelming win for the socialist party. The governors were sworn in last week, despite the opposition’s refusal to accept the results. This represents the split of opinions among the Venezuelan people. Because each school of thought holds to their opinions so strongly, it’s created a tense situation that’s led to protests in recent months. While some have blamed the government for the current economic crisis, Shantz says, “There are other people in the country who [...]

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Learning: a global crisis

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 05:01:49 -0400

International (MNN) – Recently the UN released a statistic that six out of ten children in the world aren’t meeting levels of proficiency in learning. The details of this statistic were recently outlined by BBC News. Learning Across the Globe “In the economically disadvantaged parts of the world, there is an absolute crisis in education...we really do have a crisis on our hands, a global crisis. And it’s the responsibility of the Church,” Teach Beyond International’s George Durance explains. “We think this is a Church-based issue and it gives us a wonderful opportunity to bring a Biblical worldview into countries that are still in their formative stage. So, we see it as a tragic opportunity really.” (Photo courtesy of Teach Beyond via Facebook) And once you see a tragic opportunity, how can you not choose to be a part of the solution? However, this isn’t a problem that’s suddenly being realized. Durance shares that Teach Beyond sees colleagues across the globe already working on solutions. And, Durance says it's their privilege to come alongside them. “The local people are keenly aware of what’s going on. I think we have to get over our patronizing attitude and realize that the local people are appalled at that issue there and many of our church leaders are," Durance says. "They are doing their very best to address the issue and this is where those in the international community, the global Church, can come alongside and really give them a boost.” More Than Resources But the need for resources for education is only a portion of the problem. The learning gap has to be approached with a holistic solution. One of the problems is poverty. And poverty, as Durance puts it, creates a poor learning environment. “We’ve also got, you know huge issues related to students coming into the classroom completely ill-prepared to learn. There’s malnutrition and all the associated problems that you have with malnutrition. The impact that has on a person physically and mentally. They come from homes and communities that don’t value education," Durance explains. Because of this, teachers aren't always paid and occasionally fail to come to work. The problems facing education globally are [...]

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Parenting curriculum created for parents from at-risk backgrounds

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 05:00:16 -0400

International (MNN) -- When it comes to parenting curriculum, there are several options out there. But while Susan Espenlaub worked with at-risk families, she found that the available curriculum options for these parents were lacking. (Photo courtesy of SAT-7 USA via Facebook) Espenlaub shares, “The population I have worked with and continue to work with are people whose families are at-risk for a variety of reasons. These families may be coming from poverty. They may not have English as their primary language. They’re not highly educated and often have a lot of challenges in their families such as abuse, domestic violence, drugs, and so on. “I saw a great need for just basic parenting skills such as knowing how to communicate with your children [and] understanding some positive discipline strategies. I saw that they needed help in knowing how to raise responsible children and children with moral character. And as I began to think about these needs the parents had, the Lord compelled me to leave my current position and he challenged me to begin writing a parent curriculum that would address the needs I saw in families.” That’s how “Putting the Pieces Together” came about. “Putting the Pieces Together” is a parenting curriculum offering biblically-based lessons and practical tools for families from at-risk backgrounds. Espenlaub says that while her parenting curriculum started off as a singular venture in the United States, God has taken this resource and used it in communities around the world as various ministries request it. Ministries in Moldova and Ukraine have used “Putting the Pieces Together” in their outreaches to national at-risk families. And parents are seeing results from the curriculum. “I very recently went to Moldova and Ukraine and there were people there who came up to me and said, ‘I still remember what you taught us a couple of years ago, and I’m using these ideas!’ So that was really so wonderful to hear that God was using it.” (Photo courtesy of Mohabat TV via Facebook) Espenlaub adds, “Most recently, this curriculum has been translated into Farsi and was programmed by Mohabat TV to be streamed into Farsi-speaking commun[...]

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Raqqa liberated: Now what?

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 05:02:38 -0400

Syria (MNN) – With all of the hype surrounding North Korea, the tit-for-tat Twitter wars surrounding the White House and policy issues, the roar over what’s happening in the Middle East has been downgraded to less urgent news. (Image courtesy of Global Catalytic Ministries) Three days ago, a Reuter’s headline trumpeted “ISIS has fallen in its last Syrian stronghold”.  Yet, by Friday, newscasts had relegated the story to a mere mention, considering the significance of a three-year struggle for liberation. Raqqa was considered the de facto capital city for the caliphate.  By the time US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces raised a militia flag inside the main stadium, there wasn’t much of the city left that wasn’t in ruins.   Even as celebrations began, the United States Central Command stopped short of declaring victory, noting pockets of ISIS fighters remain. Even though they’ve lost much of the ground they snatched up in 2014, the group isn’t gone. They’ve already begun preparing for a new phase. Mohamed of Global Catalytic Ministries (GCM) explains, “Because this ideology is still alive, ISIS will morph into something new.  That’s the key question: Praise God that ISIS has fallen and they’re leaving Iraq and Syria, but what about the ideology?” He added that there will still be funded groups around like the Taliban and al Qaeda that share a similar view on ultraconservative Islam.  When asked what would change that kind of worldview, he responded, “We need to show people that the true way of following God is not by killing yourself, blowing yourself up and killing anyone who’s not like you, but loving on people and showing them that God is love and God is full of forgiveness.”  More to the point, he noted the admonition in Matthew 10:16 regarding being ‘wise as serpents and harmless as doves’, even when surrounded by tens of millions of Muslims who are devoted to Sharia Law which mandates that those who turn away from Islam must be punished and killed. (Image courtesy Global Catalytic Ministries) Now is the time to introduce hope—especially with the elation of freedom in Iraq and Syria.  “One of the [...]

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JESUS Film recorded for two more Iranian people groups

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 05:01:30 -0400

Iran (MNN) -- Nearly 90 percent of the people groups in Iran are considered unreached with the Gospel, according to The Joshua Project. Furthermore, 99.6 percent of the Iranian population is part of an unreached people group. (Photo courtesy of Jesus Film Project) But this year, the Jesus Film Project is celebrating the completion of two new JESUS Film recording translations for the Qashqai and Kurmanji language groups in Iran. The JESUS Film is a popular tool for reaching unreached, unengaged people around the world -- especially those in oral cultures -- with the story of Jesus Christ and the hope he provides. Both Qashqai and Kurmanji have around one million speakers. And they’re both on the unreached, unengaged people group list for Iran. JESUS Film in Qashqai The Qashqai language has been on Jesus Film Project’s radar since the 80s, but they were unable to make progress. (Photo courtesy of Ninara via Flickr under Creative Commons via Flickr: ) Jennifer Richardson with Jesus Film Project explains, “Qashqai had zero Gospel material available in their language. They’re mainly a nomadic people group, and that number is slowly decreasing [with] urbanization and moving into cities. But there is still a pretty large number that are still nomadic and it’s an oral language, there’s no written Qashqai language.” Recently, God connected Jesus Film Project with a Qashqai believer who was able to volunteer for the JESUS Film recording. Up until that point, they needed at least 20 voice actors to do a full translation of the JESUS Film. But the ministry came out with a new process called single-voice narration for JESUS Film recordings where they only need one speaker. “There are a lot of languages on the unreached, unengaged people group list where it would be really hard to find 20 voice actors, which is what we use for the full voice translation. And this especially works great in the oral cultures where they are used to storytelling anyway. So all we need is one person to do the translation of this single-voice narration script and they actually narrate the film.” Jesus Film Projec[...]

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World Student Day and how to pray

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 05:00:00 -0400

International (MNN) – Today is World Student Day, a global event founded by International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. World Student Day has been going on for over 10 years and was born out of a desire to tangibly encourage students. In fact, according to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Kurt Thiel, IFES was founded by nine international Christian student movements, including InterVarsity, at Harvard in 1947. These movements joined forces to connect internationally. Since its founding, IFES has added over 150 more movements from across the world. World Student Day (Photo courtesy of InterVarsity via Facebook) “It’s one day, which happens once every year, where we try to gather students from movements all around the world to pray together. That’s a hard thing to do physically, but we have developed lots of digital tools to help us do that," IFES’s Jonathan Greenaway shares. "Central to that is a special website, which is And there, students can send in their prayer requests and see prayer requests from countries all around the world.” Currently, there are seventy-five countries represented on the site with at least one-hundred-and-sixty prayer request submissions. And despite World Student Day being considered a one-day event, so many students from so many countries across the globe take part in it that the event lasts a bit longer than the typical 24 hours. “We actually started at midday UK time, which was about midnight somewhere in the South Pacific,” Greenaway explains. “[It] will run for a whole 48 hours until the sun sets somewhere in the Pacific again.” Yet, World Student Day isn’t only encouraging students, it’s also encouraging those who have helped bring this day to fruition. “It’s been really encouraging for me. I’ve been doing lots of the tech, building the technical support for this event for a while,” Greenaway shares. “But, just reading through some of the prayer cards this week, when we’re editing them, is really encouraging to see students in different context talking about the challenges that they face.” Joined in C[...]

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Doors continue to close for Myanmar’s Rohingya

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 05:02:31 -0400

Bangladesh (MNN) -- Myanmar’s Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority are running out of options. During the past seven weeks, over half a million Rohingya have fled Rakhine State in Buddhist-majority Myanmar from what the U.N. has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Myanmar’s government refuses to recognize them as one of the country’s official ethnic groups, while security forces and Buddhist vigilantes have raped and killed villagers and burned entire villages. (Photo courtesy of Asian Access) Bangladesh estimates that 800,000 refugees now live in camps in its border town of Cox’s Bazaar, the coastal city where refugees arrive by boat. The camps are overcrowded and unsanitary, while food, water, and shelter are scarce. “We don’t know how long the Bangladesh government will take care of that, but by seeing the situation, the way they live is inhuman,” Peter Mazumder, Asian Access’ national co-director in Bangladesh, says. Mazumder recently visited the camps to witness the suffering firsthand. The Bangladeshi government has provided refugees with temporary ID cards, which allows them access to food rations. However, they are not formally recognized as refugees, meaning they don't have access to education or the ability to move freely around the country. Mazumder, who also works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is helping make sure they aren’t forgotten. He says they raised money at a recent student conference to help meet refugees’ physical needs. “Praise God that we got permission from the government,” Mazumder says. “Our local church and the students will be going next week to distribute this food.” Mazumder says there are also 200,000 children in the camps in need of medical assistance. Thankfully, there is a Christian hospital nearby providing assistance. Photo courtesy of Jordi Bernabeu Farrús via Flickr: “We are praying that we may raise a little more money, especially to respond [to] the children, to take care of their medical needs,” Mazumder says. “We are thankful to God that the[...]

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Ukrainian men give up dreams to serve in conflict zone

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 05:02:05 -0400

Ukraine (MNN) -- Yesterday, we shared that Slavic Gospel Association’s Crisis Evangelism Fund is helping churches in war-torn Ukraine. However, it’s through self-sacrificing individuals that this aid is being distributed. A tale of two men SGA’s Vice President of Ministry Operations, Eric Mock, recently visited churches serving in the conflict zone of Ukraine. While there, Mock was able to help distribute food and see first hand the dangers and challenges the Christians endure in their ministry. Yet, despite these challenges, there’s also a light that’s shining through the Christians: Christ’s light. (Photo/caption courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association) The fighting in eastern Ukraine has shattered the lives of many, and has resulted in thousands of refugees. “As we walked into the church, there was a young man* walking out and in his hands were two large buckets of chicken soup,” Mock recounts. “And he walked out to the car and he was loading the soup into the car with another person, and I turned to the young man who had been with us, and said, ‘where’s that soup going?’ And he said, ‘Well, my friend and I made a decision to move out here and minister to the village.’ And I kind of shook my head and said, ‘How old are you?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m 23-years-old.’” Rather than running away from the danger, these men are running into it for Jesus. They’ve forgone attending college and chasing their hopes and dreams to serve and disciple the people in the conflict zone. And these two young men don’t just visit the conflict zone, they’ve moved to and reside in it. Living and serving in the conflict zone To paint a picture, homes in the conflict zone are indiscriminately hit by artillery. And most the people living in this region are either too elderly to leave or have nowhere to go if they do flee. Rather, they’re stuck in a land where any moment could be their last. And it’s this reason why the pastor of a church in this region decided to leave. But just because the pastor left didn’t mean the co[...]

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Sewing machines: an opportunity to pay it forward

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 05:00:45 -0400

India (MNN) – Imagine living as a woman in an impoverished area of India. Fortunately, your husband is healthy enough for work, but work availability is unreliable and the wages low. You want to send your child to school, but food comes first.  For a variety of reasons—be it a lack of education or cultural barriers— you’re not able to get a job that can help support your family. In effect, you feel powerless to help those you love most. Now, imagine just a bit of compassionate care added to that equation. Today Donna Glass of India Partners shares a story where one woman took a gift and paid it forward. Background: tailoring in India In the United States, we’re used to buying clothes ready-made. The act of making our own clothes or even working with a tailor is a novelty. But in some parts of India, this is the primary way women get their clothing which means tailors are in high demand. India Partners has been providing women with the training and tools they need to start their own viable career as a tailor. Glass says, “We started, originally, with just one or two tailoring schools that were serving women in villages and we have added over the years. And now, we are supporting eight tailoring schools that are serving women in different villages.” (Photo courtesy of India Partners) These classes are offered to women, free of charge. One of the schools they opened up more recently is in a different sort of location than the others—it’s in the slums of an average sized city. “’These are very poor people in these areas … they’re definitely below the poverty level," Glass says, explaining that they make much less than $2 a day. Time and time again, India Partners has watched the gift of sewing change that reality. At the end of the six-month training, women receive treadle-operated sewing machines. This means that regardless of their access to electricity, they’ll be able to keep up with their work. The multiplication of a gift Glass shares the story of one woman who recently graduated fr[...]

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Kenya elections continue to take dramatic shifts

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 05:03:58 -0400

Kenya (MNN) – To say this Kenyan election season has been dramatic and fast-developing is an understatement. The Supreme Court ordered a revote to take place later this month after its historic move to throw out August’s election results. Last week opposition leader Raila Odinga announced he was dropping out. Earlier this week, he called upon his supporters to protest until changes to the election process are made. But the story continues to shift. Raila Odinga as Prime Minister (Photo courtesy of Utenriksdepartementet UD via Flickr: Bernice Gatere of Trans World Radio Kenya has been helping us follow the story. Earlier this week she said, “The slogan is, ‘no reforms, no elections.’ But the government has banned protests in three major cities—the city of Nairobi, the city of Kisumu, and the city of Mombasa—the biggest cities in the country, saying that they are causing destruction of properties.” Opposition groups originally said they would not heed the bans. However, there were reports yesterday that Odinga called off the protests and that the government ended the bans. On Sunday, Human Rights Watch reported that as many as 67 people have been killed by police in the protests since the failed August election. The constitution gives 60 days for the revote to take place, putting the deadline at November 1st. Gatere says, “Odinga has said that he has withdrawn from the re-run which was scheduled for the 26th of October. But the Electoral body, the IEBC, they say that he has not yet filled the form that he needs to fill—form 24A—in order to officially withdraw from the race.” Kenya's current President Uhurua Kenyatta. (Photo courtesy Uhuru Kenyatta via Flickr: Even though Odinga insists he will not take part in the election, Gatere says some analysists are pointing out the fact that he similarly declared he would not protest the initial election before the Supreme Court, which he eventually did. “There are people[...]

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SGA helping churches in war-torn Ukraine

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 05:02:18 -0400

Ukraine (MNN) – Churches in Ukraine are continuing to try and meet the needs of people living in the crossfire of the Ukrainian Crisis. Living in conflict 2014's fighting in Ukraine catches civilians right in the middle. (Photo courtesy SGA via Facebook) Slavic Gospel Association’s Vice President of Ministry Operations, Eric Mock, was recently in the country. He shares what the current situation is at the frontlines of fighting. “Even though we don’t hear much about Ukraine, the fighting is every day up and down this line. And even though they’re not supposed to continue this (the fighting) the reality is that it does happen and people are dying every day." People living in the conflict zone of Ukraine never know what moment will be their last. As Mock says, artillery indiscriminately hits homes. Sometimes, the artillery doesn’t even need to hit a home to destroy it. “Shells land next to houses and the percussion of the shell going off is so great that it destroys the roof and the electrical systems of houses nearby,” Mock explains. “We’re talking about artillery shells that would hit in the middle of the house and kill everyone in the house.” Yet, some people are still choosing to not abandon their homes. For some, it’s because they are older and have a hard time moving. And for others, it’s families who, even if they were to leave, would have nowhere else to go. Within a couple of hours of Mock leaving the war zone of Ukraine where he was visiting churches, an artillery shell hit the area and homes were destroyed. Mock has yet to hear if there were any deaths. Churches risk it all to share Christ Yet, despite this danger and destruction, churches are still ministering to both the physical and spiritual needs of the people in this area. Through SGA’s Crisis Evangelism Fund, SGA has been helping provide churches with the resources needed to reach out to people in the conflict zone. “Our focus is on getting the Gospel, getting th[...]

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Prayer chains and trips gird ministry to reach the least-reached

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 05:00:53 -0400

International (MNN) -- The Bible makes it clear that prayer is more than just empty words, but that prayer enacts change within God’s will. Global Disciples believes wholeheartedly in the power of prayer when it comes to their mission to reach the least-reached for the Great Commission. That’s why Global Disciples has someone praying for the advance of God’s Kingdom and their ministry every hour of every day year-round. The Prayer Chain Barry* with Global Disciples says, “We have over 1,000 programs which are training programs for church planters focused on least-reached areas. Each of them is called to have an intercessory prayer team that supports them. We then use those teams and those teams are all over the world and invite them to choose an hour sometime during the month that they are going to pray every month.” There are approximately 944 hours in a 31-day month, so the 1,000 teams easily cover each month with 24-hour continuous prayer. It’s been going on for a year now, and Global Disciples is planning to keep it going! By covering their ministry in continuous prayer, these prayer teams are girding Global Disciples' evangelists, church planters, and pastors in spiritual protection and providing round-the-clock encouragement as God opens doors for outreach. If you would like to join a team or even create your own team of at least two or more people to take an hour of prayer for Global Disciples and missions to the least-reached, you can contact Global Disciples to learn more! Prayer Journeys But their focus on prayer doesn’t stop there. Global Disciples also has prayer trips that add a whole new dimension to the purpose and power of prayer. (Photo courtesy of Global Disciples) “We believe that prayer also is effective in breaking ground, in a sense, sowing seeds of faith and prayer and breaking ground in some new territories where we’re looking to push into with our programming, with our church planter training,[...]

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Somalia sees bloodiest terror attack in country’s history

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:59 -0400

Somalia (MNN) – On October 14, Somalia experienced the worst terror attack ever to occur on its soil. The government is blaming al-Shabaab for the truck bomb attack in a crowded street in the capital city of Mogadishu that killed at least 300 and injured hundreds of others. (Photo courtesy Open Doors USA) Authorities say the truck was packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives, then was detonated outside a hotel near the foreign ministry. We spoke with Open Doors USA President David Curry for some context: “Somalia is a highly tribal society. The city of Mogadishu is almost a country unto itself, and it’s really what the government can try to control, which is why they’re trying to do these bombings in the heart of Mogadishu. But the rest of the country is very tribal and led in large part by religious leaders, and al-Shabaab plays an important part in that. So they want to destabilize the government.” This attack is nothing new. In the past decade, al-Shabaab has carried out more than 360 attacks in Somalia alone. Its second-bloodiest attack was April 2, 2015, when gunmen targeted an early morning prayer meeting at Garissa University College in Kenya. The gunmen took several Christian students hostage but freed most of the Muslim students. They killed 148 people and wounded at least 79. The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab holds to a Saudi-inspired Wahhabi branch of Islam, said to be the main source of global terrorism. The group enforces Sharia Law, a strict, literal interpretation of the Koran. "This is a virulent strain of Wahhabi Islam, and they want to eliminate Christians,” Curry says. “Al-Shabaab has made their call known. It’s not just a political movement. They want to create a caliphate in Somalia, in Kenya, and they will attack and destabilize governments to do so.” Somalia ranks No. 2 on Open Doors’ World Watch List for countries where it’s mos[...]

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Emergency medical flight gets conjoined twin infants to life-saving surgery

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:46 -0400

DRC (MNN/MAF) -- The recent natural birth of conjoined twin baby girls in the bush of the Democratic Republic of Congo was a rare occurrence. The closest hospital in Vanga was a two-day drive by motorbike, and even that hospital was not fully equipped to separate conjoined infants. The next closest hospital was in Kinshasa, another 12-14 hours away and with treacherous roads. (Photo courtesy of Jaclyn Reierson with MAF) The birth of conjoined twins is very rare, accounting for only one out of every 200,000 births according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Conjoined twins have their skin or often even internal organs fused together in the womb. Around 40-60 percent of conjoined twins are stillborn and 35 percent only live one day. Only between 5-25 percent of conjoined twins survive. Pilot Brett Reierson with Mission Aviation Fellowship in West DRC knew something was up when he saw a crowd some 200-strong headed toward the airplane in Vanga. The doctor ushered a woman aboard with a bundle in her arms. The doctor explained that the woman had given birth to conjoined twins nine days before, in a village so far away that no one in Vanga knew where it was. The twin girls were joined at the naval and shared some intestines. After reaching a nearby health center, the family then traveled 250 km further on a motorcycle to reach the Vanga Evangelical Hospital. The doctors in Vanga contacted a team of volunteer surgeons in Kinshasa who operate free of charge on children born with deformities. (Photo courtesy of Jaclyn Reierson with MAF) According to the doctor in Vanga, “The big problem was their transport from Vanga to Kinshasa. The newborns were stable but fragile and could not tolerate another, longer, overland journey over difficult roads to Kinshasa. MAF was contacted and without hesitation agreed to transport these children. The airplane transported these kids the next day [...]

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Christmas short-term mission opportunities!

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:00 -0400

Int’l (MNN) – Aside from the religious background, Christmas often comes paired with a handful of keywords like family, tradition, and gifts. But what if this year we included phrases like outreach, families in need, orphans, and ministry? How would that change your Christmas experience? Orphan’s Heart ministers in over a dozen nations to meet the particular needs of vulnerable children and their families as they share the truth of the Gospel. This December, they’re inviting people like you to join them as they celebrate Christmas by serving those in need in the name of Jesus. And, you’ll still be home for Christmas. The trips take place December 16-22nd. One will be in the Dominican Republic, and the other in Guatemala. Andrew Tattrie is the Assistant Vice President of Operations at Orphan’s Heart. He says this isn’t your typical mission trip. “What we plan to do is have Christmas parties with some of our sponsored children and children that are part of our ministries." This will include handing out gifts, playing games, and even going on trips with the children. Tattrie says the point is to celebrate what God has done over the past year, as well as celebrate the birth of Jesus all while blessing the children they work with. “Both of these trips are open to anybody. So if there’s a church group that would like to join those weeks, that would be wonderful. If there are individuals that would like to join, that would be great.” What Orphan's Heart is doing in... Dominican Republic In the Dominican Republic, Orphan’s Heart focuses on community development. In a three-way partnership between the local Church, the government, and Orphan’s Heart, they are providing families in difficult situations with housing. Building site and the community transformation center. (Photo courtesy of Orphan's Heart) And these aren’t just basic[...]

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The faces and stories behind World Food Day

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 05:00:56 -0400

International (MNN) -- Today is World Food Day and Gary Edmonds with Food for the Hungry says it needs to serve not just as a call to awareness, but also to action. (Photo courtesy of Christian Aid Mission) “When we talk about World Food Day, we need to realize that many times we’re not aware of just the reality of people -- literally around two-thirds of the planet -- who often are food insecure. They don’t know when the next meal is going to come,” Edmonds explains. “We are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of the second World War. In parts ... of East Africa and the Middle East, they are literally at risk. The numbers are astounding -- 20 million people who are at risk of starvation right now.” In addition to the global statistics on food insecurity, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that one out of nine people in the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment between 2014-2016. A Story of Hunger Talking about the reality of hunger and food insecurity is one thing. But witnessing it will change your life. For example, Edmonds was traveling in an African country and agreed to visit a community’s school. “They said, ‘You’re going to go into a school today where several children have been killed by classmates simply for the sake of obtaining the plate of food that their classmates possessed.’ And I thought, how horrific. That is just unconscionable.” “They went on to say that...all of these children, they’re in families, they’re in home environments where many of them have not eaten for the past three or four days and so because of their desperation, they did something very desperate.” (Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry) It’s time for the Church to step up. Christians in the United States are only tithing 2.5 percent per capita. Bu[...]

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State elections draw near in India, spark anti-Christian sentiment

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 05:00:54 -0400

India (MNN) – On paper, Christians in India are allowed to practice their faith freely. In reality, there is growing opposition threatening to silence Christian activity on multiple levels. We’ve been focusing on India for many reasons recently—rising reports of persecution, the physical needs due to natural disasters, and the upcoming state and national elections. Eight state elections will take place in 2018 with national elections following the next year. The proximity to the elections has been one cause in the uptick of violence against minorities. Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says, “It’s not your imagination. There has been a dramatic increase of persecution incidents in India since the ascension of Prime Minister Modi and his radical Hindu nationalist government. Government ministers have talked openly about making India a 100 percent Hindu nation where Christians and other minority religions are no longer welcome. And we have seen it move in that direction since he’s taken control.” Nettleton is referencing Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi who is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The values of both these groups support a Hindu-only nation. But because every voter matters, Nettleton says he won’t be surprised to hear these values hushed when politicians speak to minority groups. Prime Minister Modi (Photo courtesy of Speaker John Boehner via Flickr: “You may see some public overtures towards minority groups—towards Muslims, towards Christians as all of the parties are trying to get to that 51 percent where they can take control. It will be interesting to see if any of that talk matches any action on the part of these government parties.” As we mentioned last week, the cur[...]

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Russian churches begin new youth programs

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 05:00:18 -0400

Russia (MNN) – When you think about youth ministry, do you think of nights spent entertaining young people with fun games? Well, this isn’t the case for churches in Russia. In fact, in Russia, it’s the youth who are the arms and legs of the local churches. Slavic Gospel Association's Eric Mock recalls talking to youths at a conference in the United States where they relayed to him their many talents. However, they didn't have an outlet in the Church to use the gifts God has given them. “I think a lot of times in the Church if we train the youths to either be entertained or to just sit in the pews until they get older, when they’re older, they will either look for a church that’s entertaining or find one where they can just sit in the pews,” Mock says. However, something different is taking place in Russian churches. A new youth program “They’re instituting a program that we support through the Youth in Ministry program that not only focuses on the spiritual development of youths, but also enables them to serve alongside the missionary pastors and the different outreach opportunities that they have through these local churches.” Mock shares. The new concept for Youth in Ministry is in place and support will begin. Simply, the support of SGA partners provides for the National Youth Ministry team in Moscow to more directly train and equip youth leaders in key locations, for the youth leaders to invest more in their own youth, and to provide a means for them to reach out once a month. (Photo/Caption courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association via Facebook) While the term youths refer to ages 12 to 18 in the United States, the term in Russia refers to ages 17 to 30. And, these youths aren’t looked at as the future generation of ministry, but the present. In fact,[...]

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Brunson case: prosecutor recommends severe punishment

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 05:00:13 -0400

Turkey (MNN) – The situation surrounding Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment in Turkey continues to be grim. In August, new charges were filed against the American pastor. Recently, the prosecutor raised the stakes when he asked for a particularly harsh sentencing. Andrew and Norine Brunson (Photo courtesy of World Watch Monitor) Middle East Concern’s Miles Windsor says, “Realistically, this isn’t about prosecuting somebody who’s committed a crime. This is about gaining leverage from somebody who is seen as somebody of value. "So, actually what’s being leveled at him is ... very severe, and that’s four consecutive life sentences.” At the end of September, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed suspicions that he was using Brunson as a political pawn.  “They would like the Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, returned to Turkey in exchange for Brunson,” Windsor explains. President Erdogan blames Gulen for the 2016 coup attempt. Windsor says because it’s not actually a prisoner-for-prisoner exchange, it’s highly unlikely that the United States would hand Gulen over. “It’s also the case that Andrew is in prison on completely false charges and it’s been clear since fairly early on that he was being used for this purpose.” Similar charges have been filed against tens of thousands of other political prisoners arrested after the coup attempt. Among them are judges, soldiers, academics, and activists. Brunson is not the only American accused of being a part of the coup attempt, either. Many of these prisoners are still awaiting trial and sentencing. “There’s huge amounts of injustice being perpetrated in Turkey at the moment and it’s Turkey’s great shame,” Windsor says. A song from prison But despi[...]

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JESUS Film Project introduces JESUS Film gift cards

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 05:00:11 -0400

International (MNN) – Jesus Film Project has a new strategy to help share the Gospel— gift cards! While there are many ways to share the JESUS Film, a whole new door has opened for it. JESUS Film Gift Cards “The gift card allows you to give this to someone. One of my favorite ways of doing that is somebody who’s helped me, an attendant at a gas station, a waitress, a waiter, somebody who’s given me some service,” Jesus Film Project’s Ray Rohland shares. (Photo Courtesy of Jesus Film Project) “I say, ‘You were very kind to me, can I give you a gift?’ And, 99.9% of the time they’ll say yes. When they get the card, the card has a QR code on it or a URL, and they can follow those links, put in a promotion code, and they’re left on a page that says to them, ‘What language do you speak?’” From here, individuals have to opportunity to download or stream the JESUS Film in their heart language. The JESUS Film (classic version) is currently in 1,542 languages. The JESUS Film gift cards are meant to help reach the non-English speakers living in the United States and Canada. Normally, for a promotion card, Rohland says you can expect about one percent of the people to respond to it. However, with the JESUS Film gift cards, the ministry has had about a 10 percent response rate. Advantage of the Film While many people involved in missions use the JESUS Film abroad, it hasn’t been a tool heavily utilized in the US. “It’s an interesting thing. The film was originally developed in 1979. The nice thing about it being that old is that it’s been having time now to be translated into nearly 1,600 languages,” Rohland shares. “So, you get the trade-off. An older film but translated into all these langu[...]

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If Christian ministries are kicked out of India, who will share the Gospel?

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 05:00:08 -0400

India (MNN) --  You’ve heard us talk about Christian ministries being kicked out of India, including Compassion International earlier this year. A report from India Briefing last month shows that 24,000 NGOs have now lost their licenses under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act in the last year. That is one-third of the NGOs that previously existed in India before the FCRA. Many organizations lost their NGO status in India for simply not filing the proper paperwork. But the NGO reporting requirements have shifting demands and sometimes sudden deadlines. Ministries have shared it seems like these are hurdles meant to make it increasingly difficult for non-Hindu groups to stay in the country. One of the high-profile cases was Compassion International whose license in India was revoked earlier this year. They were carrying out ministry to vulnerable children through local partners in the country. The Voice of the Martyrs USA’s Todd Nettleton explains, “Many of those local partners were rejected from a license to accept funding from outside the country. So what the Indian government basically did is cut off the flow of funds that were helping those Christian organizations do that ministry on the ground in India. Because of that, many of those organizations have had to stop the ministry. Many of the outside groups have had to stop funding ministry in India because that money is not allowed to be transferred into the country.” Since India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in 2014, hostilities against Christians have nearly doubled. His background with radical Hindu nationalists and the RSS have emboldened those groups in their push to make India a totally Hindu nation. So if Christia[...]

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Religious minorities in India see freedoms erode

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 05:01:47 -0400

India (MNN) – In India, religious minorities are seeing their freedoms slowly erode. The northeastern state of Jharkhand recently became the ninth state to pass anti-conversion laws, which are often used to suppress any religion other than Hinduism. (Photo courtesy of Bibles For The World) “I think in the little over three years that we’ve had this government in place, we’ve certainly seen those states that have the anti-conversion laws get stronger in trying to implement those laws,” says John Pudaite with Bibles For The World, an organization that works with indigenous nationals in India to distribute Bibles and provide education. “They’re getting more galvanized. They feel they have the support of the central government behind them.” India is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, a right-wing Hindu nationalist group. Reports from after the March 2017 election say physical violence against Christians have risen 40 percent since 2016, while murders of Christians have doubled. “In some states, we’ve heard that now they are requiring, if someone wants to change their religion, they first have to go down to the equivalent of a district magistrate, a judge, and file paperwork stating their intent to convert from one religion to another,” Pudaite says. “We’ve also seen a movement by some of the Hindu nationalist groups, that they’re trying to pay people to come back to Hinduism. They’re paying for Christians to come back, for Muslims to come back to Hinduism.” Pudaite says Bibles For The World has many workers on the ground in the northeastern provinces of Assam and Manipur, neither of which have a Christian majority. He says the governments there[...]

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Give the gift of disaster relief in India

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 05:00:11 -0400

India (MNN) – The most effective disaster relief is ready to go even before disaster hits. This is the thinking behind India Partner’s Disaster Relief Fund. With a network of partners on the ground and resources ready to go, they are ready to respond almost immediately. Donna Glass of India Partners draws up a story from 2004 when a 9.1 magnitude earthquake hit, causing over 230,000 deaths in 14 different countries. The earthquake generated a massive tsunami. Glass says, “Because our partners were there, within an hour of the tsunami hitting the shores, we were there with relief. We were there with supplies. We were there to help people deal with the counseling as well as the immediate physical needs.” When this family lost their home in a fire, India Partners was able to step in and help.(Photo courtesy of India Partners) The thing about disasters is this—you usually cannot predict them, and even when you can, it’s hard to know just how much of a disaster they will be. In India, disasters range from natural and seasonal events to more unpredictable things like fires. India Partners has been able to step into all sorts of situations. Glass says, “Disaster relief will vary depending on what the disaster is. You never know what kind of disaster is going to hit. I mean, as we have seen, just recently, with the earthquakes in Mexico, the numerous hurricanes that have hit Texas and Florida and the US Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.” India’s vast landscape experiences the ravages of drought in some areas while others are absolutely inundated with monsoon rains. Drought Glass says, “There [have] been drough[...]

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Odinga drops from Kenya’s presidential elections

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 05:00:04 -0400

Kenya (MNN) -- On Tuesday, the opposition party leader Raila Odinga dropped out of Kenya's presidential election. He was the only other major candidate running against President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (Photo courtesy of MAKE IT KENYA PHOTO / STUART PRICE via Wikimedia Commons) Odinga challenged the former election results from August 8th when Kenyatta won, saying the process was corrupt. The Supreme Court ordered a re-election for October 26th between the top two candidates, but Odinga withdrew saying the election process hasn’t changed and would still be corrupted. Kenya’s Supreme Court has opened the re-election to the other minor presidential candidates who participated in the August 8th election. However, all the other minor candidates got less than one percent of the votes combined from August 8th. Kenyatta’s party says he should automatically win now that Odinga withdrew, but the Supreme Court’s order upholds that Kenyatta should face some opposition in the re-election. The re-election must happen before November 1st, according to the Constitution. Meanwhile, tribal tensions are getting more and more volatile. In Nairobi on Wednesday, thousands of opposition protesters were dispersed by police using tear gas. Four people were shot and wounded in Kisumu City where police used live ammunition against protesters, according to ABC News. DOOR International has team members in Kenya working on Scripture translations for the Deaf. Rob Myers with DOOR International says, “I think a lot of people are keeping their eye on [the situation] and trying to figure out, do we pull out any inte[...]

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FMI expanding in USA, looking to fill staff positions

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 05:00:56 -0400

USA (MNN) – FMI has some exciting changes coming up, some of which that could involve you. Expansion and Growth “The number of our church planters are increasing. The number of our ministry sites are increasing,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. “We were trusting in the Lord this year for opportunities to plant 17 new churches. Well, already by last month, this year, we have 42 new ministry sites.” (Photo courtesy of FMI via Facebook) FMI has been growing much more quickly than expected. But this means the ministry needs to expand in other areas, as well. FMI has been purposely keeping its US staff lean to ensure the ministry had funds for overseas partners. Previously, it only had one employee, the Executive International Director, as the foundation for the overseas partners. However, this is about to change. “Because of what is happening, the growth that God is allowing and the number of new churches being planted, the number of people coming to place their faith in Jesus Christ, we need to give a very strong foundation to that. So, our board has recognized that we need to expand here, locally, in the US as well,” Allen explains. FMI is Hiring FMI is now hiring two new positions, including an Executive Assistant and a Manager of Capital Development. Both of these jobs can be done from anywhere around the US, as long as there is access to the internet. So, there will be no need to relocate. The jobs will not require overseas travel. There’s currently no deadline for applications, but Allen says he wants to fill these positions soon. And while bringing on two new employees may[...]

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Three weeks after Hurricane Maria, most of Puerto Rico still without power

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 05:00:25 -0400

Puerto Rico (MNN) -- It’s been exactly three weeks since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. But today, almost 90 percent of the island is still without power. Puerto Rico took a direct hit from the Category 5 hurricane and their major power lines over the central mountain region were lost. Citizen-Soldiers of the Puerto Rico National Guard patrol one of the main highway of the metropolitan area, affected by the flood after the Hurricane Maria. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/PRNG-PAO via Flickr) In addition, nearly half of the nation’s grocery stores are out of drinkable water. All of Puerto Rico is under a boil advisory, meaning you have to boil any water before ingesting it. But with the power down, a boil advisory does no good when you have no power to boil your water. Omar Haedo, President and CEO of Elan Insurance Group, explains, “All of that infrastructure was torn to pieces. I mean, the big power lines looked like dental floss…. That takes down the power grid, that takes down the water supply, that takes down communications. So the government in San Juan couldn’t even speak to the policemen and rescue…. You have a situation where you have 3.5-3.6 million American citizens with no power, no water, no communications, no cell phone, no internet, and everything is dark.” Christian Aid Mission has a solid relationship with several local churches in Puerto Rico. When the hurricane ripped through the island, Christian Aid’s Latin America Director Luis Janeiro immediately reached out to their contacts. Janeiro says, “We have a long story with [...]

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World Mission sees Gospel touch hostile hearts

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 05:00:18 -0400

Int’l (MNN) – Around the world, God is penetrating even the most hostile hearts with the truth of the Gospel. (Photo courtesy of World Mission) That’s what organizations like World Mission are seeing happening. By supporting indigenous Gospel workers throughout Africa and Asia, World Mission is using humanitarian aid to open doors the Gospel. “The way we seek to influence is to help them whenever there are particularly humanitarian needs, even in some of the Hindu areas as well as some of the Buddhist areas that are aggressive against evangelization,” World Mission’s International Training Director Jerry Smith says. “We are finding that some of our partners are having a lot of favor primarily through water well drilling. “On top of that, they’re going in with the Treasure, with this audio Bible. If they just went in evangelizing, they have no inroads, even as nationals, they wouldn’t have any credibility, but when they come and bring the village aid, and they’re not asking anything in return, generally speaking, the elders will not only permit the Treasures to be distributed, and even Jesus films, but they’ll actually welcome it.” World Mission is seeing a similar phenomenon in the Middle East. Smith says the trauma refugees have faced has opened their hearts to new beliefs. “When anybody’s situation is radically upturned, we psychologically become open to different things. We become open to change,” Smith says. “So what they’re seeing in some of these refugee camps is these Treasures are having a dram[...]

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Unregistered Syrian refugees face obstacles in Lebanon

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 05:00:52 -0400

Lebanon (MNN) -- The United Nations stopped registering Syrian refugees in Lebanon back in May 2015. It’s been over two years now and the UN only formally recognizes just over one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. However, they admit that that population today has probably almost doubled. Plight of the unregistered refugee (Photo courtesy of Christian Aid Mission) Camille* with Heart for Lebanon shares, “I was shocked to hear that the United Nations has stopped registering refugees in Lebanon since December 2015.… The key word here is those who are ‘registered’ with the United Nations. They would tell you there are easily an additional 600,000-700,000 refugees from Syria who live in Lebanon who are not registered.” For displaced individuals, not being registered means you can’t get any government assistance. Any aid pledged by the UN can only go to registered refugees. This means around 40 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are outside the reach of government aid. “You’re talking about around 1.7-1.8 million [Syrian] refugees living in Lebanon. This is a country that has a population of 4 million individuals. After [those]1.8 million Syrian refugees, another 100,000 Iraqi refugees, and another half a million Palestinian refugees, more than half the population in Lebanon today is a refugee from a neighboring country.” Restoring dignity Heart for Lebanon is serving 3,000 Syrian refugee families each month -- around 27,000 individuals -- with schooling and physical aid. Camille explains, [...]

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15 days of prayer for the Hindu world

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 05:00:14 -0400

Int’l (MNN) – For nearly 25 years, Paul Filidis of has been inviting believers around the world to pray for Muslims through the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World prayer guide. But for the first time, Filidis has created a prayer guide focused on the one-billion-plus followers of Hinduism. How the prayer guide came about Filidis is originally from Germany. His heart for Muslim people began when he was living in Afghanistan where he met his wife, became a believer, and started ministering. For the past 25 years, he’s lived in the United States, providing resources to Christians through his online bookstore. The Hindu god, Ganesh. When Filidis was first asked to be a part of creating a guide that helped Christians pray for Muslims, he thought it would be a one-time project. But, he says, “It continued to grow and grow and it’s a big thing on everyone’s mind because we see the Islamic world featured every night on TV. And a lot of Christians may not know any Muslims and therefore the attitude that they have towards Muslims is one of fear or hatred.” Every year, about 100,000 booklets are distributed in North America. More booklets are sent to other nations as well. Through prayer, believers around the world are growing their heart for Muslims as they ask God to reveal Jesus to them. A heart for Hindus, too But the growing interest got people thinking about what other prayer guides could be created.  Filidis says last year, he was approached by peo[...]

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House passes bill criminalizing abortion after 20 weeks

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 05:00:12 -0400

United States (MNN) – There’s been significant political action recently in favor of the sanctity of human life. On Oct 3, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, save for situations of incest, rape, or when the life of the mother is threatened. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services) Kris Faase with Bethany Christian Services explains: “This has been introduced into Congress before, but it basically is taking the knowledge that we now have, which is different than what we knew in 1973 when Roe v. Wade passed, that a baby, a preborn child at the 20 weeks gestation, or earlier, can feel pain, and responds to pain.” In January 2017, Republican Representative Trent Franks reintroduced the bill, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, in the House. Similar legislation passed the House in 2013 and 2015, but failed in the Senate. After passing the House with a vote of 237-189, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham reintroduced it into the Senate two days later. The bill argues from the premise that infants are capable of feeling pain by the time they are 20 weeks old. Doctors disagree on whether this is true, since pain is a subjective experience, but they do provide anesthetics for both the mother and fetus at this stage during fetal operations. “One of the issues in the early abortion discussion talked about age of viability,” Faase says. “What we know with medica[...]

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ISIS progresses toward mass genocide of Christians and Yezidis

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 05:00:44 -0400

Iraq (MNN) – For religious minorities in Iraq, time is running short. (Photo Courtesy of Open Doors USA) The Islamic State is inching closer to its goal of eradicating Christians and Yezidis from their historic homeland. Over the past 14 years, the number of Iraq’s Christians has dropped from 1.5 million to 250,000. About 3,000 men and women of the Yezidi minority—ethnically Kurdish people whose religion contains elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam—remain enslaved by ISIS. Former Congressman Frank Wolf recently testified before the U.S. House and Senate following his trip to Iraq. He discussed the severity of the situation and the opportunity we have to prevent it. He finished his testimony with four recommendations, as reported by Religion News Service: Our government needs “fresh eyes” in Iraq with regard to our current policies to provide humanitarian aid as well as protect our national security interests. President Trump should issue a Presidential Decision Directive or Presidential Memorandum directing the State Department and USAID to immediately address the needs to communities identified by Secretary Tillerson as having been targeted for genocide. A post should be established by the White House for an inter-agency coordinator to guarantee that the needs of these communities are adequately addressed to ensure their safety and preservation consistent with U.S. foreign policy. Congress should [...]

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InterVarsity to host Urbana18 conference

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 05:00:40 -0400

USA (MNN) – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is inching towards hosting Urbana18, a college-aged student missions conference. The conference is held every three years in St. Louis, Missouri and is considered the largest missions conference in North America. What is Urbana (Photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship via Facebook) “The upcoming Urbana18 is actually the 25th conference that we will have. Its focus is really on inviting the student generation to give their whole lives to God’s global missions. So, the focus is two things; students and global missions,” InterVarsity’s Joyce Hiendarto shares. “It features powerful multicultural worship, closely studying scripture, well-known speakers, testimonies from the global Church, and over 200 missions organizations for you to connect with. This is all designed to help you gain a bigger, more global view of God and challenge you to seek how he wants you to use your gifts and passions to influence the world.” The InterVarsity missions conference, Urbana, was first held in Toronto in 1946, and was held in Urbana, Illinois for many years before moving to St. Louis in 2006.This year's conference lasts for five days and will take place December 27-31, 2018. The overall theme for the Urbana conferences usually focuses on how God works in different parts of the world, what global expression of missional work looks like, and how North American[...]

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Wycliffe Associates launching hundreds of translations in next few months

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 05:00:00 -0400

Int’l (MNN) – In many ways, the Great Commission is a task of intention and urgency. This is especially true when it comes to Bible translation. Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, recently shared some exciting news. “We have helped to launch 383 new Bible translations over the past 12 months. So that’s an unprecedented pace of new Bible translation starts. “The interesting thing is what it has actually done is actually increase the demand of support from language groups that are still without Scripture who are looking for help starting their translations. We’re currently facing a backlog of about 600 languages now that are asking for assistance to train them with our MAST methodology and provide technical resources to help them get started.” (Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates) The uptick in requests has called for Wycliffe Associates to pick up the pace and shift into a new gear. They’ve established an astonishing goal to launch hundreds of new translation projects in less than 90 days from now. MAST, or Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation, is Wycliffe Associate’s translation support methodology. Through collaboration with mother-tongue translators in the field, this method is dramatically reducing the translation process from several years to months. Teams trained in the MAST methodology are positioned around the world. They a[...]

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Literacy changes lives for children in India

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 05:00:51 -0400

India (MNN) – Americans spend a huge amount of money on Christmas. In 2015, the average American spent almost $900. On that scale, $22 won’t get you very far. But in the right place, it makes a life-size difference over and over again. In the next few weeks as we gear up for Christmas, we’ll be looking at how we can bring hope to the people of India through India Partner’s gift catalog. Today, we’re talking about literacy. Current numbers estimate that about 70 percent of India is literate. While that is the overwhelming majority of the nation, we have to take India’s size into consideration. This percentage means that nearly 400 million people still cannot read or write in India. (Photo courtesy of India Partners) There’s also a difference in literacy rates between genders and locations. Women have a significantly lower rate of literacy, as do people from rural areas. India’s constitution guarantees the free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of six and 14. Education is viewed as a basic right. However, in some rural areas or in tribal villages, schools don’t exist. We know the lack of education can arrest communities in cycles of poverty. The lack of the most basic education, not being able to read or write, can make things difficult for people trying to run a business or ensure they are getting paid fairly [...]

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