ALGERIA: Jailed Christian Gets Partial Presidential Pardon

Source: World Watch Monitor, July 12, 2017

A Christian imprisoned for three years for “insulting Islam and the prophet Muhammad” in his social media posts has received a partial presidential pardon.

Slimane Bouhafs, who converted to Christianity from Islam in 1997, was arrested almost a year ago (July 31, 2016) for posting a message on social media about the light of Jesus overcoming the “lie” of Islam and its prophet. Such a message was judged by the authorities to insult Islam—the state religion in Algeria, according to its constitution.

He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on September 6, 2016.

But now his sentence has been reduced by 16 months, following a partial pardon granted by Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of Algeria’s independence (July 5).

This pardon means he could be released nine months from now.

According to his daughter, Bouhafs’ health has deteriorated significantly since his arrest, exacerbating an existing condition—he suffers from inflammatory rheumatism, which requires a diet that is impossible to ensure in prison.

He reportedly also suffers aggression from his fellow prisoners because of his Christian faith, about which he is open.

» Read full story. Thanks for praying.

» Please also continue to lift up Jeff Woodke, a missionary abducted in Niger last October whose wife pleads with abductors to contact her, and for Andrew Brunson, a believer imprisoned in Turkey since October. According to a mutual friend, “Andrew is in a cell built for eight, but occupied by 20 extremist Muslims who are harassing him as a ‘dirty Christian.’ Pray for love, forgiveness, comfort, his family, and a quick release.”

UKRAINE: 1,759 People Want to Know More about Jesus

Source: Jews for Jesus, June 19, 2017

You don’t see much about the war in Ukraine in the news, but the crisis that began in 2013 and erupted into violence in Kiev in 2014 continues to this day.

Uncertainty and violence in the world sometimes prompt people to question their inner conflicts and wonder why there is no peace—not only in the world of politics but [also] in their own relationships. Maybe that is why our team in Kiev found so much openness to the gospel during our recent outreach there.

“Vlad” told our campaigner Ella how, two years ago, he was fleeing the war in eastern Ukraine. As he and two friends were driving away from Lugansk, a bomb fell on their car and his friends were instantly killed. But Vlad awoke from a coma in the hospital. Describing his experience to Ella he said, “I was outside my body when I heard a voice saying, ‘Go back.’ And then I woke up. I did not know whose voice it was. I never thought Jesus was anything but a myth. Can you explain why I returned?”

Ella answered, “God gave you a second chance.”

“Then what should I do next?” he asked. Ella explained the gospel to Vlad and he prayed with her, asking God for forgiveness and a new life based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Then he gave Ella his contact information so our Kiev team can keep in touch and help him grow in his new faith.

Vlad was one of nine Jewish people who prayed to be reconciled to God through Jesus during our campaign. Thirty-nine Gentiles prayed likewise! Not only that, but another 617 Jewish people and 1,142 Gentiles [also] gave our Kiev team their contact info to hear more about Jesus. Please pray that God will reveal his truth to them, so that they can know and love the Prince of Peace.

» Read full story.

PAKISTAN: Building Bridges to Reach Muslims through Music

Source: Lausanne Global Analysis, July 2017

Because of constitutional restrictions and Islamic influence, traditional methods of mission in Pakistan have often made little impact. However, media and art are emerging as vehicles for evangelization. Given the low literacy rate in Pakistan (ranking 160 out of 198 countries), indigenous art is a powerful tool for sharing the gospel with Muslims. Pakistan has a colorful range of poetic-musical expressions with diverse musical forms. Indeed the book of Psalms (Zabor) was translated into Punjabi lyrical poetry in the late nineteenth century and a Muslim convert and a Hindu musician were hired to compose tunes.

One of the major reasons for the lack of success of Western missions in the Muslim world is the misunderstanding of Muslim music culture, as all branches of Islam have their own musical traditions. Muslim music culture also features in socio-political spheres of life:

  • Saudi women are demanding their equal rights through music video.
  • The Pakistan Army released a music video to pay tribute to the victims of Peshawar school attack by Taliban in December 2014.
  • The Taliban themselves endorse songs that legitimate their ideology and use poetry and songs to recruit new jihadis.

» Read the rest of the article.

» Learn the story of the Punjabi Psalms (International Bulletin of Missionary Research). For another story from Pakistan, see Preaching in a Mosque… from the Bible (FEBC).

CENTRAL ASIA: Sharing Worship Songs

Source: OM International, May 8, 2017

About two years ago, “Asim” created a small worship app to enable his church to have access to Turkish worship songs. At the time he didn’t imagine that it would one day be utilized by Christians throughout West and Central Asia. With 27 languages available already and more on the way, the scope of this app continues to grow.

Throughout Central Asia large churches are uncommon. Believers instead gather in small groups in people’s houses or small congregations in shared locations. These groups are pursuing and loving Christ together and growing in the knowledge of God. However, with a smaller pool there is not always someone with the time and passion to perform the role of a music pastor. The churches are often unaware of each other, so if one congregation has a couple of original or translated songs, the others have very few means of accessing them.

[Workers in Central Asia] are gathering Russian, Kazakh, Uzbek, and Uighur praise and worship songs. The files are then loaded including lyrics, chords, MP3 files—even the ability to project from a computer. The team includes links between the songs in different languages so that they can be shared between community groups as well as churches.

The app has been a huge hit. One house church leader stated, “I love the worship app you have been working on. I am using it all the time for our small meetings.”

» Read full story.

LEBANON: Fire Destroys Homes in Refugee Camps

Source: Missions Network News, July 6, 2017

On [Sunday, July 2], a fire broke out in the largest Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. It was followed by another fire on Tuesday [July 4] in a separate camp. Both fires took place in the Bekaa valley, and both claimed the lives of at least one person.

Preliminary investigations suggest the first fire began electrically. The fire spread quickly, too, due to the materials used in the camp to construct tents—materials like cardboard and tarps. To make matters worse, propane tanks used to fuel stoves stood in the way of the fire.

The cause of the fire actually proves just how desperate these refugee families are. The way [Heart for Lebanon spokesman Tom] Atema sees it, there are three outcomes in the camps for people in this situation.

One, he says, is that organizations [could] step up and fill the gap in “humanitarian aid, Christ’s love, conversations, delivering what they need to sustain life, and bring them into a relationship with Jesus Christ for eternal life.”

But if organizations and ministries don’t attempt to fill that gap, someone else will. This is the second outcome: “Radical groups fill that gap—and they will, and they are filling that gap with hatred and hiring kids as early as eight years of age to march for pay against the West.”

And finally, if neither of the previous outcomes have come true yet, they will steal what they need to survive. This final outcome seems to have contributed to the fire.

“Too many people were stealing electricity off the pole, and it caught fire, went down, and lit a tent on fire,” Atema explains.

» Read full story, which also tells the story of a family who lost their six-year-old daughter in one of these fires.

» See also 10 Principles for Serving Refugees (International Mission Board).

Ten Lessons for Mission Trip Leaders | Practical Mobilization

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10STM Lessons EtnaBy Shane Bennett

This morning, the Rome airport was like an obstacle course of groups young and old, all wearing matching T-shirts, polos, or hoodies. The young lady next to me on the plane somehow managed to appear after the door was closed, crushing my dreams of a free middle seat. She’s heading home from Rome and off to Thailand in a couple of weeks. It’s short-term mission season.

There are a hundred snarky, patronizing, or arrogant things to say to denigrate short-term mission trips. But if you know me, you know I’m a big fan, particularly when they’re done well. Leading two teams to Catania, Sicily this month reinforced ten quick lessons for me.

1. Think ahead.

This probably only applies to the percentage of you who share my weakness in this area. Briefly: Don’t wait until your money runs out to go exchange more.

I was getting scarily lean on food cash for my team of 33 last week, so I went to the post office to change more. After a fair wait, I was informed that I needed the other post office! Then, after a fair wait there, the dear lady told me, “No. You can’t change money today. Come back next month.” What?!?

Turns out next month (Monday, July 1) was just around the corner, but you know, I needed the money then. I took a quick dart down the road to a private exchange office, and my hopes were dashed to find their sign put away, the lights out, and the proprietor literally locking the office door! Hearing my plea and seeing my distraught face, he consoled, “We are always open for tourists.” I took a hit on the rate, but the team ate!

Since this story is a little embarrassing, let’s just keep it between us, okay?

2. Get prayed for.

I asked for more prayer for this team than perhaps any other I’ve led. I shared my apprehension at the team size and ask people to pray for success. I’m cautious about assigning causal relationships between prayers and results, but you be the judge: We drove four huge vans with nine people each for seven days, crawling through the tiny streets of Catania. When we turned in the vans this morning, we paid for one parking ticket and were charged for one scratch.

Miraculous? You make the call! I smile just thinking about it.

3. Delegate.

I was hugely blessed to have a co-leader on this team. Nate covered bases, picked up slack, and basically helped the whole effort succeed. We also enlisted four people to input receipts generated by their sub-teams every day. So as I type, just hours after bidding the team adieu, 95% of the receipts are already entered into our expense report.

Yep, the missing 5% are mine. I am so glad it did not all rest on me.

4. Communicate often and well.

This team was huge! The nearly-daily pre-breakfast leader meetings went a long way to keeping everyone on track, in sync and happy.

5. Communicate, 2.0.

This team and another group earlier this spring both used an app called GroupMe to keep their teams in touch. A message entered once in the app flies out to everyone in the pre-arranged group. GroupMe banks on everyone having a data connection, charged phones, and sufficient cell coverage. When that was in place, it was super helpful.

6. Connect with the local church.

If your short-term team is going somewhere in which there is no local church, good on you! We need more like that. If, however, there is a local church and sufficient humility on the part of your team, connecting with them can shower blessings all the way around.

We experienced this as our team collaborated with a local Sicilian church to put on a “day away” for migrant boys living in a couple of asylum seeker facilities. The church opened up their rustic retreat facility, providing a cooler, outdoorsy venue to escape the city. We provided a bunch of bright, smiling faces to hang out, kick soccer balls, eat, and chat with the two busloads of boys who made the trek.

7. Take measured risks.

Midway through the day away, we loaded everyone up and rolled our nine-vehicle convoy up Mount Etna, whose claim to fame is being the “highest, most active volcano in Europe.” Someone had donated money to pay for the buses; I could imagine how cool it would be for the boys to look down on their new city from 6,000 feet up and I knew the break from the heat would be nice for everyone. But oh, it felt risky. My fears ranged from the mundane to the outrageous: What if their shoes are insufficient to protect their feet? What if lose one of the boys? If they fall in a crater maybe?

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different and I’m not suggesting you go rogue on God. But sometimes we need to push it a bit. In this instance I’m glad we did.

8. Engage with people along the way, even Muslims!

I continue to be delighted at the openness our short termers in Sicily experience as they engage the Muslims we are serving there. Where we find common language capacity, we almost always find willingness to laugh and talk and reconnect. This might not be the case everywhere, but on the off-chance things are trending this way, let’s keep initiating.

If you’re thinking, “No Muslims where I’m going,” I’ll concede the point (but I’ll bet you a bottle of malaria pills there are Muslims in the airport along the way).

9. Prioritize debriefing.

As schedules sometimes do, ours evolved to the point that we debriefed pretty late on our last night in Sicily. (It’s possible there was some lack of planning as well. See lesson 1 above!) There are many high-quality resources to help debrief, so we have no excuse not to. It’s not a good trade to do one more ministry activity when it means bouncing your processing time off the schedule.

Since I’m a pretty simple guy, I usually just ask three questions:

  • What did God do to you? (or say “in you” for more sensitive souls!)
  • What did God do through you?
  • How does this experience fit into the rest of your life?

10. Prep a response to “How was your trip?”

The final debrief assignment we worked on, when people were feeling pretty tired, was thinking about how to answer the question they will be asked a dozen times their first Sunday back at church, “How was your trip?”

As I see it, you’ve got about 30 seconds to respond to this. Aim to tell one thing God did; tell it in a provocative way and in the form of a brief story.

What’s a lesson you learned from a short-term trip this summer or before?

Comment on our website or through Twitter or Facebook or email Shane.

 

 

 

 

Reasons to Celebrate | World News Briefs

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Vietnam

 

Click on the image above for a new prayer video for Vietnam from Prayercast; related story below.

In this issue: Reasons to celebrate

  1. MIDDLE EAST: An Unscheduled Appointment
  2. IRAQ: First-ever Sorani Kurdish Bible Published
  3. VIETNAM: God Is on the Move
  4. BURMA: Baptist Pastor Jailed for Spying Falls Ill
  5. CENTRAL ASIA: Believers Standing Firm

Greetings,

As I wrap up this batch of news I can hear distant fireworks as tomorrow is my nation’s birthday. But actually, because I live 20 miles from Canada and get their radio stations, I know that our northern neighbor just turned 150 years old. That is a big deal! Someone had a great idea to celebrate with 150 murals made across the nation. They are truly beautiful. I hope to visit Toronto this month. Maybe I can see one of these murals up close.

Two short videos challenged me on this eve of US Independence Day: Russell Moore on Whether America Is a Christian Nation (The Gospel Coalition) and Do American Christians Love Muslims? (Jihad of Love).

Some of our long-time readers may remember we shared this great flash mob celebration of Resurrection Sunday in Budapest, Hungary in 2011. As the song says, “Freedom was paid for on Calvary.” Enjoy!

Pat

MIDDLE EAST: An Unscheduled Appointment

Source: Arab World Media, June 30, 2017

[Soon after he gave his life to Jesus,] Abdul moved to a new part of the country and began working at a bus station. One day, he helped a family find their way. They came to thank him and asked if he was a Christian. Abdul replied, “Yes.”

The family were thrilled that they had met an evangelical Christian. They told Abdul that they were Orthodox Christians who had been praying to know the Christian faith better and be rooted in the Bible. They had been watching a well-known Christian TV channel, but the priest at their church had told them it was a bad, evangelical TV channel.

The family had prayed that God would send them someone from the evangelical church to tell them about the Christian faith. It seems he chose to use an unlikely individual—a new believer from a Muslim background. They asked Abdul if he would be willing to help them. Of course, Abdul said yes! They have since formed a group and have been studying Genesis.

Praise God for the wonderful way in which he moves, bringing people together at just the right time. Lift up this small group as they delve into the Word together. May they encourage and strengthen one another, and may they see their numbers increase as God continues to use them.

» Read full story. Praise God for 52 people who gave their lives to Christ in conversations with AWM responders during Ramadan and pray for efforts to share the gospel with Arab Muslims vacationing in Europe.

» See also Invisible Atheists: The Spread of Disbelief in the Arab World (New Republic).

IRAQ: First-ever Sorani Kurdish Bible Published

Source: Mission Network News, June 26, 2017

After 28 years, [a translation] team in Kurdistan is finished, and the Kurds have “an accurate, contemporary translation” of the entire Bible.

Hans Combrink of Biblica said it wasn’t an easy road. “There have been starts and stops, there have been wars, there have been disruptions of all kinds, but the team persevered and they finally saw the work brought to completion.”

Kurdistan is “a sensitive part of the world that’s difficult to work in,” explained Combrink. Since the region is made up of pieces of several countries, he thinks this new translation [in the Sorani dialect of Kurdish] will help the Kurds feel a sense of identity and camaraderie.

“Bible translation is obviously tied up in language and culture—you can’t separate one from the other,” said Combrink. “It forms people’s sense of identity.”

“Relationships are key in any kind of work that we do, especially in sensitive parts of the world,” said Combrink. Kurdistan’s conflicts and religious context certainly qualifies, which is why Biblica teams worked side-by-side with indigenous translators instead of simply shipping copies in from somewhere offsite.

» Read full story and a related story which adds that this Sorani Kurdish Bible translation is also now available on YouVersion and BibleGateway, providing access for those who can’t afford, don’t have access to, or can’t read printed Bibles (Biblica).