Missions Catalyst News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

In This Issue: When the light of heaven breaks through the darkness

Greetings,

December 25 will be just another day in 14 of the world’s countries (those that do not recognize Christmas as a public holiday). See this map and try to name them (answers here). Spoiler alert: one of them is Bhutan. Recently we pointed you to two video stories about Bhutan, one about changes coming to the kingdom and one about Pema, the inspiring carver with cerebral palsy. This time I’d like to point you to a short video from some pastors in Bhutan speaking about religious rights (World Watch Monitor).

As we celebrate Jesus’ coming and bringing light to darkness, let us remember that anywhere the light of heaven breaks through the powers of darkness, it is like Christmas. Let us pray all year long, “Let earth receive her King!”

And remember this about the nature of light: the light that shines farthest shines brightest at home. The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism offers some good tools to help you speak to others about the Light of the world. See their videos on “Speaking the Story at Christmas.”

Merry Christmas,
Pat

Pat

Pat Noble has been the “news sleuth” for Missions Catalyst since 2004. In addition to churning out the news, she is working to create a SWARM (Serving World A Regional Mobilizers) in Northern New York using the NorthernChristian.org website. You can connect with her at www.whatsoeverthings.com.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA: Bright Side of Anarchy Caused by Terror Groups

Source: Mission Network News, December 11, 2014

Terrorism in the Middle East and Africa: You’ve seen the headlines about advances, bombings, death, refugees and fear… but there’s actually good news emerging, too. Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says, “God is moving in a way, in this arena of the world that, to my knowledge, in my lifetime, is unprecedented.”

“Light stands out as a stark contrast in the darkness, and people are turning toward the light. In our arena, in terms of Bible translation, people are stepping up and saying, ‘We want to make sure that the light of God’s Word gets to the rest of our people and the rest of our communities.’”

He notes that some of these people are now members of national Bible translation teams, and targeted, themselves. “In many cases, they’re undergoing the same kinds of persecution that Paul experienced. And yet, they’re willing to make that sacrifice because they believe in the power of God’s Word.”

» Read full story. See also a story from Christian Aid about those turning to Christ in the face of atrocities.

COLOMBIA: Light Pushes Back Darkness

Source: Christian Broadcasting Network, December 10, 2014

For five decades, the South American country of Colombia has been a war with Marxist insurgents. Fighting can erupt at any time throughout scattered war zones, but that doesn’t stop an intrepid messenger of peace.

For years, missionary Russell Stendal has taken Christian literature to all sides in the conflict: guerrillas, paramilitary, and government soldiers. He has forged friendships with all sides and his radio stations and solar-powered receivers pave the way.

Stendal tries to reach areas where it’s not possible to have church buildings or scheduled church services, and where it’s not possible to do normal missionary or evangelistic work.

“And so we drop these radios on guerrilla camps, by parachute. We distribute them to soldiers; we distribute them to paramilitary forces,” Stendal told CBN News.

Former journalist Dario Silva has followed the conflict for years. He now pastors House on the Rock Church, one of Bogota’s larger churches, and sends aid to suffering families in rural Colombia. Silva said that hardship and persecution have not kept the gospel from reaching the remotest corners of Colombia.

In fact, he remembers a guerrilla leader complaining: “Those Christians are the worst problem we have. Because we arrive at a remote part of the country where there is no electricity, no running water, or roads, or transportation, or a parish house, or any political figure, and there’s always some nut with a black book under his arm preaching about Jesus!”

» Read full story and watch related video, with several encouraging perspectives and testimonies.

INDIA: Christians Injured in Pre-Christmas Attacks

Source: BosNewsLife, December 13, 2014

Persecution of minority Christians in India is escalating ahead of Christmas with attacks reported in several areas including in southern regions and the capital New Delhi.

In one of the latest known incidents Saturday, December 13, evangelical Christians were attacked and beaten by Hindu militants for singing Christmas carols in India’s southern city of Hyderabad, seriously injuring a pastor and four others, rights activists told BosNewsLife.

The Hindu mob was seen surrounding the vehicle, with several shouting that believers were trying to“forcefully convert people to Christianity” by singing Christmas carols.

» Read full story.

» Editor’s note: We’re also seeing reports about an effort to “repurpose” Christmas in India and a campaign to convert 6000 people to Hinduism on December 25. Let’s seek God for peace and wisdom for India’s religious communities.

CENTRAL ASIA: “Secret Church” with Coffee and Cakes

Source: World Watch Monitor, December 5, 2014

In a country where Christians often must meet secretly to avoid arrest, a group of women have taken the opposite approach: hiding in plain sight. They meet to pray and encourage each other in a coffee shop, in one of the largest cities in Central Asia.

“It is better for us to gather in a public place such as a coffee shop than to secretly meet in an apartment,” the wife of a secret church pastor said to Open Doors International, a charity that supports Christians whose faith puts them at risk.

“Neighbors of the place where we gather for a Sunday service may know who we are and they could call the police any minute, so we have decided to gather for a Bible study in public places. A coffee shop is ideal. We just need to follow a couple of small rules for our safety,” said the pastor’s wife. While praying together they keep their eyes open and Bibles in their bags at all times. After the women pray for each others’ needs, their meeting comes to an end.

» Read full story, which also describes government restrictions on Christians in three Central Asian countries. See also Two Azerbaijani Churches Ordered to Liquidate Themselves (Barnabas Aid).

AUSTRIA: God Raising Up the Roma

Source: OM News, November 12, 2014

God is raising up one of the most discriminated [against] groups in society to build his Kingdom in powerful ways. At the start of October, there was a significant Roma conference in Budapest, Hungary. It was the first of its kind, where over 150 leaders involved in ministry among Roma gathered for training, workshops, and networking.

The week-long consultation was held in English, Serbian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Romanian. Sounds of Roma worship music and people singing praises to God filled the hall. There were incredible testimonies of how Jesus has changed individuals’ lives, freeing them from alcoholism, guiding through dreams, bringing healing, and releasing people from superstition.

“A highlight for me was to see what God is doing among the Roma,” said Simon [a member of OM] “There are huge challenges, but God is doing amazing things and miracles are happening. It was great to see the vision they have for mission.”

The name of the conference, Roma for the Nations, reflected their vision not only to share the gospel in their own communities, but also for God to use them to reach non-Roma. OM Founder George Verwer spoke, encouraging their involvement in missions.

» Read full story.

Missions Catalyst News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

In This Issue: People of the borderlands

Greetings,

I’ve been thinking about borderlands and the unique ministry opportunities they create. With this on my mind I came across the engaging speaker/adventurer Suchitra Vijayan. Since I am preparing for a trip to South Asia, I listened intently to her talk on Citizenship, Identity, and Conflict in South Asia’s Borderlands.

As I began looking for stories for this edition of Missions Catalyst, the borderlands theme kept popping up. Some stories refer to political borders but others are about climate change borders, disputed borders, closing borders, new borders being tested, etc. Take a look:

One thing the inhabitants of changing borderlands have in common is that they lack what makes the place they live a home. In a post on this topic, blogger Richelle Wright shares a list of things a home should be (borrowing from the book The Nesting Place):

  • A place to connect
  • A place of authenticity
  • A place of comfort
  • A place of rest
  • A place of joy
  • A place of contentment

What a great list of things to pray for those in the changing borderlands.

What does all this about borderlands have to do with what I am calling a fourth era of Protestant missions? I believe we are entering a season of opportunity the church has not seen before now. Email me if you’d like to discuss it.

Blessings,
Pat

Pat

Pat Noble has been the “news sleuth” for Missions Catalyst since 2004. In addition to churning out the news, she is working to create a SWARM (Serving World A Regional Mobilizers) in Northern New York using the NorthernChristian.org website. You can connect with her at www.whatsoeverthings.com.

MIDDLE EAST: Praying for Syrian Refugees

Syria Circle VideoSource: The Syrian Circle

If you don’t understand what’s going in on in the Middle East, you’re not alone. This video explains the basics in about 90 seconds.

The Syrian Circle is a prayer movement surrounding Syrian refugees, starting with 31 days of prayer in December. Ways to be part of it include subscribing to email updates, following the movement on Facebook or Instagram, and reading and writing on the prayer wall.

» Visit the website.

» See also Dispatch from Aleppo (World Watch Monitor).

AFGHANISTAN: South African Christians Killed by Taliban

Source: INContext Ministries, November 29, 2014

Our hearts are broken. We have lost a dear friend, a faithful worker, and a precious soul-mate. Werner Groenewald and his two beautiful children, Jean-Pierre and Rhodé, were killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul on Saturday, November 29. Hannelie, his wife, was not at home during the time and survived the attacked but lost everything.

Three gunmen and suicide bombers stormed the compound where Werner and his family lived in Kabul on Saturday, exchanging fire with security forces before leaving Werner and his two children dead. Six other hostages were rescued after the afternoon attack while one Afghan worker also died in the attack.

A Taliban spokesman said in a statement that it was targeting “a secret Christian missionary and foreign invaders’ intelligence center.”

How do we express our deepest empathy and condolences with the family members who now have to face the reality of losing a son, a brother, a husband, and two children in one horrific incident of terror? What words or theology can relieve the pain?

Like Jesus at the grave of Lazarus, we can only weep.

» Read full story.

» See also Taliban Murder Four Humanitarian Aid Workers in Kabul (World Watch Monitor) and SA Doctor Still in Afghanistan after Family Killed (News24).

PAKISTAN: Eldest Son Witnessed Parents’ Deaths

Source: ASSIST News Service, November 27, 2014

Shahzad Masih, 26, and Shama Bibi, 24, were burnt alive for alleged blasphemy on Tuesday, November 4, in a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan of Kasur district, 31 miles from Lahore.

Shamim Masih, writing for the British Pakistani Christian Association, says that the eldest son of the couple, who witnessed the horrendous murder of his parents, has described what occurred.

He told the journalist, “Very early in the morning, the [brick kiln] supervisor, along with a few other men, came to house and took my parents with them. We were so scared. They started beating them with sticks and slapping them hard, so we started weeping and ran after our parents.

“Soon after, my uncle, Iqbal Masih [Shahzad’s brother], came out of his house to inquire about the incident, but they didn’t listen to him and locked up our parents in a nearby room, while all us children kept on weeping and we remained with our uncle in his house.”

» Read full story, which includes disturbing details about these deaths. It also describes the underlying religious tensions in this village and what has happened to the family since this event.

» Also read about Pakistan’s FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and how minority groups are fleeing: Pakistani Sikhs Back in the ‘Dark Ages’ of Religious Persecution (IPS News).