Missions Catalyst News Feature

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue: Move of God in the Middle East

Dear readers,

As our recent edition of news stories with happy endings was quite well received, we thought we would also pass on this encouraging feature just out from God Reports.

This special edition also includes an infographic from GMI calling us to prayer for the Middle East. Very timely in light of the upcoming International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church to be observed November 2 and 9. If you’re interested, check out a November 1 and 2 live webcast from Open Doors featuring special guests David Platt and Nik Ripkin and a November 2 radio broadcast from Mission Network News featuring Voice of the Martyr’s Todd Nettleton.

Thanks for reading and for praying. May God be glorified in the Middle East… and, indeed, among all the nations!

Marti Wade
Managing Editor

The Extraordinary Move of God in the Middle East

By Mark Ellis, God Reports, October 28, 2014

The nightly news may present disturbing images and a bleak outlook for the Middle East. Yet behind the horror of war, God is touching hearts in powerful ways, unleashing his Spirit among refugees, their families, and into surrounding communities and nations.

“There is something happening right now that is unprecedented,” says Brother Thomas (pseudonym), a Middle East coordinator for All Nations. “The spiritual openness is incredible.”

On a recent trip into a refugee camp he met with a Muslim family inside their tent. The father—the patriarch of the family—started to tell him about his son Yusuf, who sat next to him. (Yusuf is the Arabic equivalent of the biblical name Joseph)

“Do you know about the prophet Joseph?” Thomas inquired.

“Yes, he’s one of my favorites; he’s the dreamer,” the man replied.

“Have you had any dreams of significance?” Thomas asked the son.

“No, but my mother has…”

His mother excitedly broke in: “Ever since he was a child I’ve had dreams of a man in glowing white hugging my son. In the last dream he was crying, and his tears were coming down his beard and on to my son’s head.

“I have such a warmth for this prophet,” she continued. “I know he is a prophet.”

“I know who that person is in your dream,” Thomas said with assurance.

The woman’s eyes widened with intense interest. “Who is it?”

“It is Jesus.”

Then Brother Thomas told them the story of Jesus’ love for children, when He said, “Let the little children come to me.”

The woman began to cry. “It was so moving for her to hear someone loves her family so much he would give her dreams demonstrating his love.”

As he toured the ramshackle refugee camp with structures composed of cardboard, wood slats, and plastic tarps, he found many who had similar encounters with God. “Almost every family we visited had some kind of experience, either through dreams or someone had given them a New Testament in the medical clinic or prayed for them,” he noted.

Brother Thomas observed a feeling of desperation that pervaded the camps. “There was a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future,” he discovered. “Every family has lost people through warfare or has a story of pain. Because the war is Muslim against Muslim they have a feeling there has to be something better. They are looking for answers.”

“Over and over we saw people who have questions, who want to know more about Jesus.”

Brother Thomas knows other Christian workers equally amazed. “I have friends who have been here 17-20 years and it’s mind boggling for them,” he says. “Previously they shared with someone for seven or eight years before they came to know Jesus. Now it happens in two or three months and they bring others with them.”

While this move of God seems to have originated in the refugee camps, it is not contained there. “It’s happening everywhere, but mostly around the refugees,” Thomas notes. “There is something happening in the spiritual atmosphere because these refugees are so open and so hungry.

“As they respond, the neighboring countries are responding in the same way. Something is being stirred up. People are coming into the kingdom practically without us—we get to be the midwives.”

Brother Thomas is struck by the contrast between the grim news portrayed on television and the reality of God’s work behind the scenes. “When I watch the news, it seems like things are getting worse,” he observes. “But when I talk to my friends in the area I see the Kingdom is coming—people are coming to the Lord. Whole families are coming to Christ, communities are changing, I can see the Kingdom expanding.”

» Full story with pictures.

Middle East Call to Prayer

Middle East Missiographic 2Source: GMI Missiographics, October 28, 2014

How did the area of the world known as the birthplace of civilization and later Christianity become a place so hostile to the followers of Jesus? Explore some of the history of Christianity in the Middle East, the current decline in Christian population and the glimmers of hope that are visible if you know where to look.

» View or download infographic and commentary.

Missions Catalyst 10.30.13 – Special Edition

This week’s special edition comes from a long-time friend of Missions Catalyst who now works with the Center for Mission Mobilization, home to a variety of mobilization ministries. Check ‘em out at www.mobilization.org.

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

A Purpose Bigger than Ourselves: Thinking Big about Kids and the Kingdom         

By Karen Hardin

We all know some pint-sized members of God’s family – kids. They have the simple faith God requires, eagerly crave involvement, and long to be committed to a cause. By God’s spirit, believing children are full members of Christ’s body. Yet we as adults often minimize the contribution they can make, putting kids on hold until they’re older or more grounded in their faith.

It’s time to think big. What if we teach children that God loves not only them, but also all the peoples of the world, and is at work making his name great among the nations? What if we affirm that our kids’ lives have meaning because God has uniquely designed them to partner with him in a work that impacts eternity? What if we give children opportunities to commit to the greatest purpose of all – advancing the kingdom of God?

Two sets of adults are uniquely positioned to turn these “what ifs” into reality – parents and children’s ministry leaders. Here are some resources to inspire and equip the boys and girls sitting around your dinner table or in your church class.

Free Resources from Weave

Weave, a new children and family ministry of the Center for Mission Mobilization, has created the following tools to help families to embrace both the person and purposes of Christ in their home discipleship.

Family Handouts

The Journey family handouts reflect the same themes as the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. This set of 15, one-page lessons was crafted to help parents shape their family into World Christians.

Each handout includes a Bible passage, thought-provoking discussion points, suggested family activities, and prayer points. Free to download.

Web-based Activities

The Weave website provides monthly activities that connect families to the global story of God. Free subscription.

Content includes:

eBook

If you register with the site, you will receive a free copy of Living Your Legacy, an eBook that helps families develop a vision statement that reflects their unique makeup and aligns with God’s purposes.

Three Ministries Focused on Kids

Kidz at Heart

Kids at Heart offers families a way to learn about other cultures and cultivate a heart for the world through their Kidz Kan program. Monthly content focuses on different countries like Uganda, India, and Latvia. Activities include crafts, games, recipes, stories, memory verses, and giving opportunities. US$22 annual subscription; discounts available for bulk orders.

Window International Network

Window International Network has developed Window Kids, a mission website that helps children explore countries and peoples in the 10/40 Window. Kids can visit the 10/40 Window Wardrobe to create their own character, learn geography, play online games, and explore cultures through photos, music, and recipes. This website also includes a monthly online magazine and offers opportunities for children to pray for their peers in unreached cultures. Free subscription.

Woman’s Missionary Union 

The WorldCrafts division of WMU has four sets of felt finger puppets you can use introduce preschoolers to people from other cultures around the world: South America, West Africa, World Set A, and World Set B. Each five-puppet set is US$19.99.

Fall Observances

Churches worldwide participate in the following observances in November. Here are related activities and lessons for children and families.

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday is November 3. My Life As An Orphan is a 45-minute simulation that helps children compare their daily life with that of boys and girls living in orphanages. Rotating through five stations, participants read short stories and look at photos from several different countries. The simulation culminates with scripture on God’s heart for orphans as well as prayer. This is a great large-group activity for parents and children to participate in together. A related activity for youth groups is a Pizza and Porridge Movie Night. Both lessons are free downloads.

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is November 10. Here are two lessons for children that explore forms of persecution around the world, address reasons why God allows persecution, and explain how God uses the suffering of his children to expand his kingdom. Both lessons introduce our God-given responsibility towards believers who suffer as well as towards those who persecute them. Persecution: What Can I Do?  is a 45-minute lesson for children in grades 1-3. Persecution: What and Why? is a 60-minute lesson for grades 5-8. Both include hand-on activities, scripture, and prayer. Download each for US$5.

Karen Hardin serves with Weave, a children and family ministry of the Center for Mission Mobilization.

Missions Catalyst 9.4.13 – Special Edition

In This Issue: Special Edition on Egypt

Dear Readers,

This week we bring you a special edition. The two opinion pieces below, from Answering Islam and Operation Mobilization, offer different angles on the situation in Egypt and its spiritual implications. May they help you pray!

See also John Piper’s meditation on Isaiah 19, What God Says to Egypt, and the Windows International Network article, The Lord Will Bring Egypt from the Brink of Self-destruction.

Quotable:

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.

In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

Isaiah 19:23-25

About Us

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

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.

 

 

Are Diabolic Forces Undermining Egypt?

Source: Roland Clarke, Answering Islam, August 2013

Egypt is embroiled in its worst crisis in thirty years. What does all this bloodshed mean? It seems significant numbers of Egyptians have woken up to the fact that their aspirations for freedom have been hijacked by radical religionists.

Under Morsi’s sharia-driven regime, Muslims attacked churches and Christians with impunity. Not only so, no sooner did the military start disbanding obstinate camps of protesters than a series of attacks broke out against Christians. Within a week, six dozen churches were burned, vandalized, or attacked. Morsi’s supporters also attacked several dozen Christian schools, businesses, and institutions. Among these were two Bible Society shops which were completely destroyed.

During this same period of rage, an article was published online showing pictures of Islamists vandalizing a church (This Is What It Looks Like Just Before the Muslim Brotherhood Jumps You). What makes this incident so astonishing is that it evoked a backlash within the Muslim Brotherhood ranks and caused them to deep embarrassment.

[Another article,] Egyptian Churches Burn as the Muslim Brotherhood Shows its True Face, quotes a Twitter statement by the Brotherhood spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad: “We will always be non-violent and peaceful… Our peacefulness is our strength and we will never be dragged into violence. We unequivocally reject all forms of violence/vandalism.” However, the burning and looting of dozens of churches [tells] a different story.

On August 16, I received a letter from an evangelical church leader in Egypt that voiced similar concerns. Speaking as an insider, he gives a very different picture to reports in the mainstream media.

“I speak with absolute certainty when I say that, for the vast majority of Egyptians, the military are finally doing what the people have been asking – this is not part of a military coup but rather a restoration of control to the majority of Egyptian people. Although the huge number of mortalities is both tragic and regrettable, they could have been avoided, had the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) entered into peaceful productive dialogue with the transitional government, as the military so often invited them to over the past six weeks.”

[In Understanding the Present Situation in Egypt, another respected Egyptian leader, Ramez Atallah (General Secretary for The Bible Society of Egypt), confirms what my friend wrote:

“Many of us involved in Christian ministry in Egypt are appalled at the misunderstandings about the situation in Egypt being propagated by even normally balanced international media like the BBC, and the way it has, in general, portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as the victims of injustice…

“In November 2012, he [Morsi] illegally gave himself new sweeping powers to act without censure and rushed through a new pro-Islamic constitution despite the protests and boycotts from liberals, moderate Muslims, and Christians, and then he refused to call for new elections – as had previously been agreed to do after a new constitution had been adopted.”

It seems that more and more peace-loving Muslims feel anguish and deep embarrassment at the never-ending atrocities (as well as pervasive deceit) perpetrated in the name of Allah. The bloodshed in Egypt and Syria – indeed, across the Muslim world – is causing many Muslims to feel disillusioned and to yearn for real peace.

» Full story here.

» Feel free to ask Roland Clarke any questions related to this article. You may also be interested in these articles he mentions: Egyptian Ambassador: ‘It Became Necessary to Finish This Thing Today’, Muslim Brotherhood Kills Its Own, and Inside Egypt’s Terrorist Camps: Torture, Rape, Mass Murder.

Egypt: Breaking the Fear Barrier!

Source: Debbie Meroff, OM News, August 18, 2013

A lot more is happening in Egypt these days than is apparent on our nightly news. A Christian worker on the ground in Cairo, whom we will call John Nyalls to protect his security, reports a groundswell of excitement among the Christian population who are involved in reaching Muslims. He declares, “One year of Morsi’s government has done more to advance Christianity in Egypt than all the decades before it.”

Media attention to Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations gives the impression that this group is much bigger than it actually is. John estimates that only about one-half to one percent of the population are avid pro-Brotherhood and up to five percent may be ultra-conservative Islamists. But after Morsi failed in his promise to represent all the people rather than the Islamist faction and [passed] an Islamist-favored constitution, the vast majority of Egyptians made it clear they’d had enough.

So unpopular is the Muslim Brotherhood these days, observes John, that many shopkeepers are refusing to serve men with long beards (the usual Brotherhood trademark), and taxi drivers are refusing to pick them up. Some Muslims have shaved off their beards in self-defense.

Christians – especially young people from the churches – have become proactive, handing out thousands of copies of Bibles, New Testaments, [copies] of the JESUS Film, and other material. Very few Arabic Bibles are refused. Believers add that they’ve even observed some covered Muslim women, after receiving Bibles, lift the book to their lips in a reverent kiss.

It hasn’t all been easy for the Christian population, however. Ultra-conservative Muslims have retaliated against what they called Christian support for Morsi’s removal. A number of attacks have been launched against churches and Christians, particularly those who live in Brotherhood strongholds.

“Now,” says John, “the wolf – the Brotherhood – is no longer pretending to be a sheep. Members are now unbridled in going after churches and Christians. And this is turning more moderate Muslims against them.”

He pointed out the astonishing fact that tens of thousands of Bibles are being downloaded each month in the Muslim world. The website aljazeera.net published an interview with Ahmad Al Qataan, an important Islamic cleric, who said that every year six million Muslims convert to Christianity. Unfortunately, most disillusioned Muslims will turn to atheism rather than Christianity unless more people seize the day. John reports that Christian Egyptians who have been reaching out are coming across a significant enough number of atheists; they are feeling the need for specific training on how to reach them.

» Full story here.

Missions Catalyst 10.17.12 – Feature Article

In This Issue: Could it be the key to evangelism in our day?

  • Editor’s Note
  • Hospitality and the Great Commission

“In a progressively post-Christian society, the importance of hospitality as an evangelistic asset is growing rapidly. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage the unbelieving with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes.”

Continue reading Missions Catalyst 10.17.12 – Feature Article

Compelling Cultural Encounters: Seven Ways to Connect People with the World

By Marti Wade

Hey, mobilizers! You’ve got the missions bug and want to spread it. What can you do? Here’s a starter list of ways to create compelling events and encounters of a cross-cultural kind. Some of them can be done without much time or money, though putting more heart into them will likely improve the results. Ready to think outside the box?

1. Cultural simulation

Get people’s attention and lodge an experience in their memories by creating a bit of tension. I know none of us likes to be  uncomfortable for very long. But the few moments of pain and surprise that come with a cross-cultural simulation can be great teachers.

Mission mobilizers have facilitated this by re-creating a border crossing, a police raid on an underground church, or simply what it’s like to be in another culture. Sandra, with World Relief, offers a good example: she coordinates The Refugee Project. This three-hour simulation transforms groups into refugees who are escaping for their lives, seeking safety somewhere, anywhere.

Carefully handled, a simulation like this can help us understand a bit more what life is like for someone with whom we may have never felt a point of identification.

2. Make it a meal

Maybe you’d like to avoid the “wow, those people are so different from us” dynamic. You can still go for the cultural simulation, but instead of dramatizing the differences, design it to build on more common ground.

Coordinators for Encountering the World of Islam tell their students to come to the next class session hungry and on time, because they’ll be sharing a meal. Praying for students’ appreciation for Muslims and Muslim cultures to increase, they simulate what it’s like to visit a Muslim home for dinner (complete, of course, with yummy food). Write them for a document that includes tips and recipes.

Such an experience helps students appreciate that while they may not feel up to debating the theology of the Trinity with a Muslim they may meet, they can sit down and eat together and make some new friends.

3. Fun for kids means more fun for all

Plan your cultural exposure event with fun in mind. Make it a family event, complete with games, food, music, videos, and other creative bells and whistles designed to hold the attention of the younger set. Have the kids participate by singing a song, leading an activity, or serving snacks. Chances are good the kids will want to be there and probably bring their parents, too. Maybe everyone will find it more fun than a more grown-up event would be, and the memories are more likely to “stick.”

Shane took this idea and turned it into a field trip. He took families from his church to a nearby city full of refugees. The kids went into shops and tried things they’d never seen before, hosted a kaleidoscope of refugee kids for a homegrown carnival, and worked like dogs deep-cleaning a local community center. A year and a half later, people still talk about it and want to do it again.

It’s one thing to have a cultural experience in the safety of, say, your home or church, but you can take it a step further by venturing out on someone else’s turf.

4. The best way to serve may be letting them serve you

Matt used to live in the Middle East. He recognizes that the Muslim community in his California town wants more than anything to be respected and known as people who are friendly and hospitable. During Ramadan he rounds up small groups of Christians interested in reaching out to people from different cultures and takes them to visit the local mosque for iftar, the meal served at sunset after a long day of fasting.

If that sounds too intimidating, a little research can probably identify festivals and events near you that celebrate specific cultures or holidays. Gather friends and family and take them there. Honor your hosts by giving them the chance to show you all they have to offer.

5. Get out of the mission trip bubble

If you are organizing a short-term mission trip in a cross-cultural situation, look for ways to make sure those who go get out of the foreign bubble. A real, ongoing friendship would be best, but even a brief encounter can be a highlight of the trip.

Maybe you can finagle an invitation to join a soccer game or attend a wedding. Visit an English class and hang out with the students afterwards. Pair up your short-termers and send them home with a trusted local friend for lunch or, better yet, make it an overnight home-stay. When your local partner makes this opportunity known in the community, you may have no lack of volunteers!

“Divine appointments” can’t be controlled or arranged in advance, but when you take a team overseas, put this on your to-do list: look for someone born and raised in your host community to give you and your teammates a culture briefing, language lesson, city tour, or all three. Any of those things will help you get a look behind the scenes.

6. Coordinate a cultural scavenger hunt

Most of us need a little push before we’re willing to embarrass ourselves or ask for help, but few things do more to endear us to others than to let them laugh at us or just give us a hand.

When short-term teams come to visit Angie, she makes sure they get a cultural orientation and sets up a cultural immersion experience:

“We take the group to the largest market in South America, pair them up, and tell them to write down a dictated list of items. Here’s the catch: the list is in Spanish. We give them some Bolivian money and tell them to go buy the things on the list.”

“If it works out right they are forced to interact personally with Bolivian people in the heart language of the people. Any fears or barriers start to crumble or disintegrate completely. What fun to discover, with the help of kind and patient Bolivian shop owners, what crazy things you can find, like pomelo, goma eva, guantes, pil frut, and un cuaderno. They come back to the bus with a sense of accomplishment and a connection with the Bolivian people that lasts for the whole trip and hopefully beyond.”

Want to know what those words mean? You’ll have to look them up, or make your own trip to the market!

7. Be neighborly with someone from another nation

Maybe you’ll never get on another airplane, but you’re in luck: the nations are coming to your town. Can you put out the welcome mat for them? You’ve heard the statistics about how few international students ever visit a local home. Consider being one of those rare people who bucks this trend!

I don’t know about you, but when I think of hosting internationals, what comes to mind are the exchange students from Germany or France who came to my high school for a year at a time. Many schools and international student ministries set up home-stay situations that do not require such a big commitment. You might be able to host an Arab or Chinese student for just a meal, a weekend, or a week. As a bonus, your own kids (if you have some) will never forget it. They’ll be more likely to reach out to people different from them when you set the example yourself.

Explore the cross-cultural hospitality options in your town, then let your church or network know about them. Then, be the first one to sign up to participate.

Fuel inspiration and encouragement for this kind of ministry with a fun event like those described above or a you-can-do-it book like Donna Thomas’ Faces in the Crowd.

Conclusion

There you have it, seven creative ways to break down the barriers and create cultural encounters. Have you done some of these? We’d love to hear about it. Go to our website or Facebook page to tell your stories or share more ideas.

Marti Wade is a writer, speaker, and project manager for the Church Partnerships Team at Pioneers. Since the mid-90s she has also helped prepare cultural research teams to explore unreached communities and mobilize efforts to serve them.

Marti has managed and published Missions Catalyst since 2004 and is the author of Through Her Eyes, a book about the lives of women serving cross-culturally in the Muslim world. She married Chris Wade in May 2012.