A Message That Must Be Heard | World News Briefs

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VOM China Bibles image

Reading God’s Word in China. Image: Voice of the Martyrs (story below).

In This Issue:

  1. EUROPE: Is God Reviving Europe Through Refugees?
  2. ALGERIA: Believer Faces Blasphemy Charges
  3. ARMENIA: First Scriptures in Armenian Sign Language
  4. MUSLIM WORLD: A Message That Must Be Heard
  5. CHINA: Bible Smugglers Arrested, Deported, and Banned

QUOTABLE

“Looking back, I believe the need for Bibles in China was so acute in the 1980s that if the Body of Christ had failed to unite to provide God’s Word, the state of Christianity would be markedly different from what it is today. Each Bible was like placing a log on the revival fires blazing throughout the country. When the final page of Church history is written, the forty-year revival in China may go down numerically as the greatest revival in history.”

— Paul Hattaway, An Asian Harvest (autobiography). Asia Harvest has provided some 10 million Bibles to persecuted believers and supported hundreds of Asian evangelists among the unreached.

EUROPE: Is God Reviving Europe Through Refugees?

Source: Sam George, Lausanne Global Analysis, May 2017

In December 2016, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand what God is doing among and through the refugees in Europe. I travelled through ten cities in five countries over three weeks visiting many refugee camps, as well as churches and missions agencies working with them. A month before, I visited three cities in three other countries. Over this period, I interviewed many refugee ministry leaders in Europe in order to assess and study the desperate situation and the response of God’s people to it.

It was amazing for me to be present at meetings where hundreds of refugees turned to Christ. I visited several fellowships and churches that have baptized hundreds of refugees. One church in Germany had baptized over a thousand Syrian and Kurdish people over the previous six months. At our own meetings each night in different cities in Greece and Germany, we saw almost all of the refugees present responding to the gospel. There are over 100 Arabic-speaking churches across Europe, some predating the crisis and others started in response to it. They are not only very engaged with the issue, but also highly effective on account of their linguistic and cultural proximity to the refugees.

Only God could have turned such a desperate situation into such a mission opportunity, and what is happening lies beyond the strategic planning of any church or mission agency.

» Read full story.

» The UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, released this week, reports that the world’s forcibly displaced population remained at a record high. Use and share their “Trends at a Glance” summary as well as further analysis.

ALGERIA: Believer Facing Blasphemy Charges

Source: Missions Network News, June 5, 2017

Some of the most dangerous regulations [believers in Algeria face] are the strict blasphemy laws. “The blasphemy laws are used often against people who are expressing their views and religious beliefs on social media,” says [Miles Windsor of Middle East Concern].

That’s how Slimane Bouhafs ended up with a five-year prison sentence.

Bouhafs, a 50-year-old Christian who was formerly Muslim, was convicted of blasphemy on September 6, 2016. According to Windsor, “He was accused of insulting the prophet Mohammed” when he proclaimed his faith on Facebook. Since September, his sentence has been slightly reduced, but Windsor says the government has stubbornly resisted or ignored many of Bouhafs’s appeals.

“We can lobby human authorities, but the most powerful authority that we can turn to is the Lord,” says Windsor.

» Read full story, as well as more about Slimane Bouhafs and his experiences (Open Doors).

» Morning Star News just published a new report about developments regarding blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Evidently the government-run Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) began sending text messages to all mobile phone users warning that “uploading & sharing of blasphemous content on Internet is a punishable offence under the law” and providing a government email address for reporting such content.

ARMENIA: First Scriptures in Armenian Sign Language

Source: United Bible Societies, April 2017

In Armenia, the day before an election is called “the day of silence” because political parties are no longer allowed to campaign. This year’s day of silence took place on April 1—the same day that Armenia’s Deaf community celebrated the launch of the first Scriptures in their mother tongue, Armenian Sign Language.

“The silence is broken!” said the Bible Society in Armenia’s Project Director Arshavir Kapoudjian of the joyful and colorful event, attended by many Deaf people, their families, and church representatives.

Bible Society General Secretary Yeznik Petroysan encouraged the Deaf community to spread the Word of God.

“As we began to understand, things flowed easily and we became more and more aware that we can’t just keep the divine Word to ourselves—we must share it with everyone… God entrusted his Word to be shared through chosen people, such as prophets, apostles, Church fathers. Today, you have the translation of the first part of the Holy Bible in your language. God has chosen you to spread his Word to the people.”

» See full story with lots of pictures. Looks like quite the celebration!

MUSLIM WORLD: A Message That Must Be Heard

Source: Mike Jones, Frontiers UK, June 2, 2017

When my Muslim friend Jemal came to our home, he wanted to talk to me about the spirits that had been bothering him in his bedroom. We’d only been living in Jemal’s country for less than a year, so, aware of my limited language ability, I decided to point him to some Bible stories showing Jesus’ authority over spirits. As we started reading, he shut the Bible and said, “I don’t want to talk about spirits. Tell me, who was Jesus and why did he come?”

As I reflect on that hot summer evening and my weak attempt to answer Jemal’s wonderful question, I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s request to the early church: “Pray for us… that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ… Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:4).

If Paul could imagine himself speaking the gospel in a way that was not clear, bold, and powerful, how much more can we imagine that for ourselves? Think of it: The greatest gospel ambassador who ever lived (besides the Lord Jesus) said the effectiveness of his speaking about Christ depended on the prayers of the Church. If that was true for Paul, it is true many times over for us.

As we ask God to open up doors in the great unreached areas of the Muslim world, we encourage you to join us in praying that our workers have a clear and powerful message to take through those doors.

» Read full story.

» As we pray for Muslims and Muslim communities we should remember that they are quite diverse. See Challenging the Concept of the Muslim World (Circumpolar blog).

CHINA: Bible Smugglers Arrested, Deported, and Banned

Source: Voice of the Martyrs, June 13, 2017

In May, several men split into three small groups to cross into mainland China. With bags stuffed with Bibles, they timed their entries 20 minutes apart to increase their odds of getting copies of God’s Word into the communist country.

The final group and a member of the second group, however, were stopped by customs officials in Shenzhen, one of China’s largest cities, while on their way to Guangzhou. The men were detained for 10 hours and, after being questioned by 50 officials, were banned from the country for three years.

The men, plus another Bible smuggler not tied to their organization who happened to be crossing into China at the same time, were interrogated for six hours. Officials confiscated everyone’s Bibles and other Christian materials.

“These books are forbidden in China,” one official said, pointing to the Bibles. “They are foreign-published.”

Since opening in 1987, China’s only government-approved Bible printer, Amity Printing Company, has printed more than 115 million Bibles. However, the majority of these Bibles are for export. The relative few that remain in country are sold by China’s official Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches. Even so, Amity alone cannot meet the Chinese citizens’ demand for the Bible, as Bibles wear out and as new people become believers.

» Read full story.

Walking in the Weeds | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeRamadan, Refugees, and the Power of Walking in the Weeds

By Shane Bennett

Ever wonder what the coolest city in the world is? You’re going to know in less than three seconds: Catania, Sicily. Surprised? Me, too, but I’m shooting you straight. Although there is a slight chance I may be biased, inasmuch as this city, where I am off and on again this summer, has my heart. It’s a fascinating city at its core and is now home to a burgeoning population of migrants and asylum seekers from East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, and pretty much everywhere else.

I’m writing this month from Catania and want to float out three quick topics for you chew on. Wait—it being Ramadan and all, let’s say, “mull over.”

1. Ramadan, Halfway Gone

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in Sicily the sun rises early, burns hot, and hangs out late. Faithful Muslims don’t eat until the sun sets at 8:15pm. If you stop eating at 5am, that makes for a long stretch. Of course in some places the days are shorter; I suppose there’s no whining this year if you’re a Muslim in Cape Town.

Regardless of where they live, faithful Muslims are giving it a go this month (May 26 to June 24), exercising self-discipline, trying to honor God, and excelling in good works, charity, and gifts to the poor. I imagine you’re likely already praying for Muslims and the Muslim world this month. If you’d like a brief aid to prayer, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you a one-page Ramadan Prayer Outline.

God told Israel through Jeremiah that if they’d seek him, they would find him (Jeremiah 29). Scholars brighter than me might disagree, but I hope we can lean into that promise and apply it to Muslims this season: To the degree they’re honestly seeking God, may they find him in fresh ways.

2. Refugees, Like Never Before

This afternoon I played Jenga with some guys from Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, and Egypt. They’ve all fled persecution, abuse, and economic deprivation in Libya and/or in their homelands. As I write, two of our team members are leading a late-night discovery Bible study with a young guy from Senegal.

Christians now have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with Muslims from many of the most challenging places on the planet. We’re living through an epic shift in humanity which opens doors of staggering breadth for Christians, offering us a chance to act like Jesus toward people who have never experienced such and to extend Jesus’ invitation to follow him to those who’ve never heard it. What are you doing to engage this opportunity?

Of course, none of us is asked by God to do everything. But to the degree to which God is inviting you and me and our churches to this effort, let’s dream big, show up early, and work hard until the sun goes down.

If you speak French, Arabic, Bengali, or Italian, I’d love a chance to buy you all the cannoli you can eat right here in Catania! We feel like we’re wading knee-deep through Luke 10:2 right here, and our city is only one small part of the current global refugee situation.

June PM Pic

3. The Power of Walking in the Weeds

Finally, can I remind you of something you already know? Nothing will expand your view of the world like talking to someone very different from you. I know it’s fun to cheer with like-minded friends and have long conversations with people who agree with you; it’s good to hang with your tribe. But it’s also really good to get off the smooth path and into the weeds from time to time.

We were walking home late last night after celebrating Geralyn’s birthday at dinner. She’s the lone African-American woman in our group. We were carrying left-over pizza and hoping to give it away to some hungry people on the way to our vans. We passed some Nigerian guys prepping to sleep on the sidewalk and found out they were Christians. This, and their hunger, made them good candidates for our pizza, which was laden with pork.

As we shared it with them we talked about the road that led them to this place. Deep in the conversation someone mentioned it was Geralyn’s birthday, and then an amazing thing happened: They proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to her—from their pallets in the streets of downtown Catania, Sicily, hands greasy from leftover pizza. You just don’t get that in Suburb-istan. It will be a long time before Geralyn and the rest of us forget that birthday song.

Since most of us have had these moments off the beaten tracks, let’s be the best cheerleaders to provide such experiences for others. In fact, let’s actually take them along.

  • This Sunday after church, invite a couple people to go with you on their first trip to an Indian restaurant.
  • Grab some buds and spend an afternoon in an ethnic neighborhood.
  • Start planning now for a late fall or early spring trip to a place that requires a passport and a plane ticket.

And take care. When you get off the paved paths, there are thorns, bugs, and snakes. But few worthy adventures come danger-free.

Until next month,
Shane

Comment on our website or Facebook page or email Shane.

Seeking God’s Power and Protection | World News Briefs

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  1. NIGERIA: Christians Return as Boko Haram Faces Pressure
  2. SOUTH ASIA: Church in USA Helps Free Hundreds of Slaves
  3. UGANDA: Lives Transformed, Churches Planted
  4. INDONESIA: Gospel Makes Inroads with Hindu Leader
  5. GLOBAL: Christian Hackers Using Their Talents for God

Greetings,

Ramadan has begun. Every year I try to use the 30 Days prayer guide (see excerpts online) but also find myself narrowing my focus to a certain country or people. This year my oldest daughter, getting her Master’s in Conflict Resolution, is doing a presentation on Syria. She asked me to send her anything I might come across. Here are a few to fuel our prayers:

blessings,
Pat

NIGERIA: Christians Return as Boko Haram Faces Pressure

SIM Nigeria photoPray for God’s protection over Nigerian Christians returning to their communities.

Source: SIM, May 2017

After years of persecution and violence, Christians in the northeast of Nigeria are beginning to return to their communities. But while northeast Nigeria is still a dangerous place, the government has been fighting back against Boko Haram. There are now many hopeful signs.

Many of the people are subsistence farmers. The current food shortage has been made worse by people not farming through fear of being attacked by Boko Haram and by Boko Haram raiding food stores. In one safe area, SIM has worked through one of its Nigerian mission partners to train people in dry season farming so they can provide food for themselves. SIM workers now intend to do the same for rainy season farming in the next few months.

Many people lost their livelihoods, so SIM is also aiming to help carpenters, mechanics, shopkeepers, pharmacists, and others re-start businesses.

The ultimate goal is to help people spiritually, to disciple those who already know the Lord, and to help them share the gospel with Muslim neighbors.

» Read full story and be encouraged by SIM Nigeria’s work and vision.

» See also a short article published after the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester which includes insights on praying and serving in tense situations (Pioneers in Europe).

SOUTH ASIA: Church in USA Helps Free Hundreds of Slaves

Source: God Reports, May 9, 2017

A church of 400 people in California undertook a big project—to build a school in South Asia. But one thing led to another and on their fourth mission trip to the unnamed country, two church members negotiated with a Taliban leader to free 4500 Christian slaves working at a brick factory.

They also participated in an evangelistic outreach that saw two Muslim clerics receive Christ. One of the imams had a powerful vision of Jesus as the Great Physician in the middle of the night following the outreach, which resulted in his miraculous healing and salvation.

It may have been the most productive short-term mission trip since Paul’s visit to Macedonia.

» Read the rest of this long, crazy story of cross-cultural partnership.