In This Issue: “Family is beautiful. I didn’t know what a family was.”
- GERMANY: Former Pimp’s Message to Fathers
- TURKEY: Jailed House Church Couple Flee Iranian Authorities
- MALI: Swiss Missionary Kidnapped Twice
- MOROCCO: Declaration Calls Muslim Nations to Protect Christians
- INDIA: “You Showed Me That God Can Use Women”
- GREECE: Partnering with Albanians to Plant a Church
The short film The Sum of Life’s Parts suggests that an average person spends 15 months looking for things lost, 67 days experiencing heartbreak, and only 14 minutes in pure joy. It’s an interesting film; watch it to the end. But aren’t you glad that Jesus came that we might have joy… and have it abundantly?
Chinese New Year is upon us, but the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, comes at the same time. Will you pray for these mountain dwellers to experience new heights of joy in Jesus? Get a beautiful 15-day prayer guide and spread the word that Losar begins February 9. (Thanks, Act Beyond!)
After we sent our last edition of the Missions Catalyst events calendar, we learned that our friends at Missio Nexus had planned several webinars for February which might interest readers, especially readers who lead mission organizations. The February 18 presentation will deal with global mission in the context of opposition and hostility (including the sort of places we often report on here). Do take a look.
Source: IMB Commission Stories, January 20, 2016
Broken homes are often hereditary, but God’s grace can end the cycle. That is the message reverberating from the testimony of pimp-turned-preacher Thierry Kopp. Today at 54, with a wife, two small children, and an evangelistic ministry, Kopp wants to pass on a legacy of love and truth to his children.
“Family is beautiful. I didn’t know what a family was, but God restored me [and] healed my heart. He showed me that he is my Father. And I like to be a father for my children,” he said.
At 23, Kopp was his own god. Selling drugs, pimping women, and accumulating riches, he lived the life he thought he wanted. But his life was empty until the day he met Christ.
With tears in his eyes, he explained in broken English what happened 20 years ago that changed his vocation from pimp to preacher. “I know, I know he loves me, and this is what changed my life—his love. Because… I have a lot of rejection. And his love was so strong, it changed my life—the love of God. Only love can change us,” he said.
» Read full story and watch related video. Commission Stories offers extended coverage of human trafficking issues, along with resources and ways to connect.
Source: SAT-7 USA, January 28, 2016
Imprisoned and blacklisted by the authorities because of their Christian activities, Arshia and his wife, Mahanaz, felt they had no choice but to flee Iran.
The couple shared their story with SAT-7 for a special documentary filmed throughout Greece and Turkey about Iranian and Afghani Christians who have had to leave their homelands because of persecution.
Baptized in Armenia, they returned to Iran and led a house church from their home in the mountains. They were discovered by the authorities, imprisoned and blacklisted. Upon their release, they were told they would be arrested again if they continued practicing their faith and would face severe consequences.
Arshia and Mahanaz felt they could not meet with other believers for fear of endangering them. Feeling silenced and isolated, the couple decided to flee Iran. Leaving everything behind, they walked for four days from Iran to Ankara, Turkey.
The couple have been living in a refugee camp for over a year now. “It is challenging,” says Arshia. “Our curfew is 10pm. However, it does give us safety. God is good. We go to the Iranian church here and can worship freely.”
Arshia and his wife have managed to find employment in a restaurant. They are still waiting for their documents from the camp to receive permission to move on and make a home elsewhere.
Please pray for Arshia and Mahanaz as they continue to follow Christ—wherever he may lead.
» Read full story or watch documentary (made for Persian-speaking audiences, but here with English subtitles).
- Source: World Watch Monitor, January 11, 2016
A Swiss missionary abducted for 10 days in 2012 has been kidnapped again in Mali’s northern city of Timbuktu, sources tell World Watch Monitor.
Beatrice Stockly was taken from her residence before dawn on January 8 by armed men who arrived in four pickup trucks, according to the sources, whose names are being kept confidential for their safety.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Militant Islamist groups are active in the region, where two attacks within [the last few months], one of them at a Christian radio station just before Christmas, have left 25 people dead.
A local church leader who claimed to have previously worked with Stockly told World Watch Monitor the missionary settled in Timbuktu in 2000, working for a Swiss church, before starting work alone, unaffiliated with any church.
He said Stockly is in her forties and leads an austere life, selling flowers and handing out Christian material. She was described as sociable, particularly among women and children.
» Read full story. As multiple news sources report, Stockly appears in a video released last week (January 26) by Al Queda’s North Africa affiliate. The video demands release of other prisoners in exchange for her.
» Also read about Maud Kells, another woman who would not stay away from the people she loved (Christian Today).
Source: Christian Broadcasting Network, January 29, 2015
[In January] over 250 Muslim leaders met in Morocco to release the Marrakesh Declaration, a groundbreaking document calling for Muslim nations to defend Christians against persecution.
To combat the increased violence towards Christians in Muslim countries, Texas mega-church pastor Bob Roberts has been forming strategic relationships with Muslim leaders.
His efforts led to nearly 200 imams and evangelical pastors attending the October “Spreading the Peace Convocation,” hosted by him and Imam Muhammad Magid.
Roberts recently took his peace efforts further by traveling to Morocco with more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, scholars, and heads of states to release the Marrakesh Declaration. The declaration is a 750-word document calling on Muslim countries to grant religious freedom to non-Muslims.
In an interview with Christianity Today, Roberts said he is “blown away” at the success of the Morocco summit.
The Marrakesh Declaration is based off of Muhammad’s Charter of Medina, a seventh century document instructing how to govern a religious pluralistic state.
» Read full story and watch related video. As you might expect, responses to this initiative are varied. Check out coverage from Christianity Today, for example, then read a dissenting opinion here.
» Read reports about Cameroonian Christians and Muslims who are working to protect each other from Boko Haram (Voice of America).
Source: Act Beyond, February 2016
The partners of our team in North India were visiting some churches out in the villages. Most of the churches are comprised of families who became followers of Jesus in the past year. These families are snake charmers. They sit near the Taj Mahal and other tourist sites, playing a flute, coaxing the cobra to rise out of the basket and “dance.” Many of them worship the cobra, particularly because it’s their main source of income. However, now there are several of these families following Jesus.
Seth and Jay hadn’t visited this area in several months [but on the second day of their recent visit] led a Bible study during which they shared several examples of “normal, everyday” people in Scripture who obeyed Jesus’ command to “make disciples.” Some stories included women.
After the training session was over, a young woman, named “Parul,” approached Seth and Jay. With tears pouring down her cheeks, she declared, “I am a girl. I can’t do anything… at least, that’s what I’ve always believed. But today my prayers are answered. You showed me that God can use women. If those women could do it, I can do it, too. Now I know there is a place for me in Jesus’ Kingdom.”
In the past eight months alone, 68 snake-charmer families from this one village have decided to follow Jesus, as well as another 19 families from other caste backgrounds. These families now meet as multiple churches in their village. Most came to faith through the efforts of an illiterate (uneducated), twenty-something-year-old young man.
» Read full story.
» Speaking of what women can or cannot do, observe the creative way these women in Colombia created their own city (Al Jazeera).
Source: Pioneers USA, January 14, 2016 After living in Albania for several years, Andrew and Alecia moved to Greece to make disciples among Albanians who have immigrated there. They recently partnered with local believers to plant an Albanian-speaking fellowship at the foot of Mars Hill in Athens, just steps from where Paul preached the gospel 2,000 years ago. » Watch video (or click image below).
In This Issue:
- BURKINA FASO: Seven Servants Go Home
- IRAN: Prostitute Hired to Hear the Gospel
- NEAR EAST: 2015, the Year of Displacement
- WORLD: World Watch List 2016
- CENTRAL ASIA: Doing Business, Expanding the Kingdom
By now you have probably heard that Saeed Abedini has been freed. After more than three years in Iran he will soon be home with his wife and children.
You may know that another Christian brother, Michael Riddering, has “gone home” this week as well, but his wife is mourning. Will you rejoice with me that the Ridderings gave up leasing yachts in South Florida to serve the poor and sick in West Africa? I have a new hero in Mike. His story is not likely to inspire more workers in hard places, but it inspires me to live more purposefully and trust God to lead me, anywhere. Read on.
Rejoice in the Lord… always!
Mike Riddering, 45, from Florida had been working as a missionary in Burkina Faso since 2011. (Mike Riddering/Facebook, via World Watch Monitor)
Source: Mission Network News, January 20, 2016
Burkina Faso ends three days of national mourning today.
The president said security would be stepped up in the capital and the country’s borders after Islamic militants killed at least 28 people last week.
Six of those who died were from Canada, on a mission trip, while a seventh was a U.S. missionary. According to Brietbart and World Watch Monitor, the seventh victim was 45-year-old Michael Riddering, a native of Florida. He was in Ouagadougou with Pastor Valentin, his Burkinabe associate, to pick up a team of missionaries visiting from a church in Florida. They were early, so they stopped by the Cappuccino Cafe to wait.
Not long after they arrived, [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] launched the attack, beginning with the café. Valentin called [Riddering’s wife] Amy to ask her to pray urgently, but the line went dead before he finished what he was saying. Valentin was eventually found and rescued by security forces. Mike was found in a morgue 24 hours later.
In the days following her husband’s death, the community the Ridderings served has come around Amy and are mourning with her. She posted on her Facebook page her struggle to come to grips with what happened, her love for Mike, and her hope in Christ. That came through yesterday, when amid her grief she posted this: “One of our ladies as the Women’s Center gave birth two days ago. She wanted me to name her child. Her name is Chantal Relwende. ‘Relwende’ … means ‘Lean on God.’”
» Read full story and see also Burkina Faso Dead Include Seven Mission Workers (World Watch Monitor) and note that on the same day as this attack, an Australian doctor and his wife were kidnapped in Ouagadougou. Please keep Ken and Jocelyn Elliot in your prayers.
» Readers might also be interested in an article from Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper honoring Michael Riddering and learning about the ministry with which he served, Sheltering Wings.
Source: Iran Alive Ministries, January 1, 2016
Farhad, a volunteer evangelist for Iran Alive’s online ministry, did not know at first what to think when he sensed the Holy Spirit guiding him to pick up a prostitute. All he knew is that he needed to obey and that he had help waiting at home.
“I picked up one of the prostitutes waiting for clients and took her to my home. When we got there, she prepared to take off her clothes. I quickly stopped her and explained I wanted nothing to do with her physically. I said, “Please sit here behind the computer with me and listen to what they say in this chat room.”
“She became very upset and thought I would not pay her. I told her not to worry, and that I would pay her what I had promised. She agreed and sat down.
“The chat room was Iran Alive’s Church7 online service conducted every Friday night. As we were listening, the pastor said, ‘The Lord is saying that those of you who think there is no hope left, you who think addiction is the answer to your pain, you who think being a prostitute is the only way to make money, there is hope for you.’ This caught the woman’s attention. Then the pastor said, ‘God is able to open new doors in your life. God is waiting for you.’”
» Read what happened next.