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This edition gives us a lot to think about when we think of what it means to be the Church. Many point out the Church is not just a building or institution, and I heartily agree. But buildings and institutions can be important tools.
Watch Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017) share his perspective on life and death in a message he shared in Houston in June.
In keeping with our theme of the Church, let me say the Church has lost a gift with the death of author and apologist Nabeel Qureshi. Christian news sites on the internet are blowing up with this news as eulogies, condolences, video clips, and quotes from Nabeel abound. Please pray with me for his family and friends, including David Wood who led him to Jesus (I hope I get to see their crazy handshake in heaven).
Nabeel summed up his recent battle with cancer well in saying:
“Without Jesus, we approach life with the expectation of death. With Jesus, we approach death with the expectation of life.”
The Church has lost the gift of Nabeel the man, but she has inherited an amazing, powerful legacy.
This summer, a new radio station started airing Words of Hope Dinka radio broadcasts in South Sudan. This allows programming to be heard in more parts of the country than was previously possible. The close partnership between Words of Hope and the station allows for Christian programming to be coupled with better listener follow-up in this remote area.
The country of South Sudan continues to struggle with a long-running civil war and refugee crisis. Words of Hope currently supports radio broadcasts in three languages in South Sudan: Dinka, Nuer, and Bari. The ongoing civil war has forced many Nuer and Bari listeners out of the country and into refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda. The Words of Hope Dinka studio, located on a compound in the city of Rumbek, has been able to operate continuously since it was dedicated in May of 2013.
» Read full story and pray for growing collaboration between broadcasters, local churches, and Christian workers so that all who hear the good news and respond may be discipled.
Source: SBC International Mission Board, September 14, 2017
“There is no church here. There are no Christians, and,” he added, “there never will be.” His tenor and words stung. They exposed at once the great need of our city of 450,000, as well as the seemingly impossible task. But what this grizzled Muslim man, a stranger to me, didn’t know was that already there were five Muslim-background Christians meeting in my nearby home.
Today, four years later, the fledgling church in that city has disbanded. All missionaries have been forced to leave. The dozen or so local believers who once gathered have mostly moved on. Those who remain live either in isolation or secrecy. Others have fallen away. And I’m left to wonder if perhaps there was something the old man knew that I didn’t. That maybe his city is unreachable. That maybe church planting is impossible.
Without a doubt, missionaries in the Muslim world face an incredible assignment. Usually we think first of the danger or the obvious antagonism to Christianity. While such challenges are real, I can honestly say they may be the least of our worries when we seek to establish a church where there is none.
In some ways it’s easy to be an evangelist in the Muslim world. I’ve found the people friendly and hospitable. Many are overtly religious, relational, and even appreciate lively conversation about religion, God, and Jesus—more so than most Christians I know.
The challenge is this: how do you gather those who do believe?
In the last couple of years, Pastor Vazir and his church made the decision to reach out to their community and bless the children there with the gospel.
Then, this summer the number of Christians in Pakistan began growing after Pastor Vazir essentially put his church’s VBS program on wheels.
“He ran 55 different VBS programs across the city of Lahore and outlying areas over the course of the three months this summer,” Bruce Allen [of Forgotten Missionaries International] shares.
“Seven thousand people attended those VBS programs and nearly 2,800 people placed their faith in Jesus Christ as a result.”
“In developing this ministry team that has fanned out in the Punjab province, what they wanted to do was identify places where there were a ton of children and youths, without a VBS program, but at least had Christians living in the community who would be there on site for follow-up,” Allens explains.
A Pentecostal church in Ethiopia has been ordered to stop meeting in a residential area in the wake of a mob attack on the church after which a church member was arrested for “illegal activities” that “incited religious clashes.”
The Full Gospel Church in Tikil Dingaye, 20km from the historic city of Gondar in Amhara State, previously applied for land on which to build a church, but its application was refused, leading the church to purchase a house in which to meet.
Although Ethiopia guarantees religious freedom on paper, Pentecostal churches in rural areas often face restrictions in a society dominated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).
The attack on the church took place early in the morning of Sunday, June 11, when a mob destroyed the church’s meeting hall, offices, and the accommodation of a church worker. They also stole money from church members and assaulted some of them, including one man whose front teeth had to be removed due to the injuries he sustained.
The attackers are thought to have belonged to a student movement called Mahibere Kidusan, seen by its critics as “fanatical” in the way it operates to protect the traditions and dominance of the EOC in society.
… And find more stories in our social media streams.
Do you know Graham Kendrick’s 1987 praise song Shine, Jesus, Shine? With all of the stories of flooding in the news this past week, not only Texas but also in South Asia and Africa, I keep thinking of these lyrics:
“Shine, Jesus, shine! Flood the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light.”
Even as nations like Bangladesh and Niger are experiencing flooding, they are sending out workers to flood the nations with grace and mercy! See stories below.
The fourth annual district conference of The Wesleyan Church of Bangladesh was held in May 2017. Seventy-one delegates were in attendance. More than 100 people gathered for the occasion. Four years ago, this partnership started with 14 churches and 700 members. Today, there are 46 vibrant Wesleyan churches and 2,160 members! Bangladesh is an Islamic nation, but many people are open to the good news of Jesus Christ.
[Over the last] four years, the Bangladesh church [has been] equipping leaders. There are now three ordained ministers and nine licensed pastors serving the church. Thirty young leaders are engaged in Ministry Training Institute (MTI). MTI is a week of intensive sessions and classes held twice a year for leaders who are seriously pursuing ordination.
Pray that The Wesleyan Church of Bangladesh would continue to flourish. Pray that the leaders and the members would remain faithful to the Lord, especially when faced with the many challenges of proclaiming truth and following Jesus.
The Evangelical Church of Niger (EERN) has a goal to plant 52 new churches inside the country. In a place like Niger where the population is 97% Muslim and less than 1% Christian, this is no small feat, and Words of Hope is coming alongside the EERN to assist them in their efforts. Before a church is planted in a certain region, radio broadcasts are begun in the heart language of the local people in order to introduce the gospel message in a non-threatening manner.
One of the newly planted churches recently had the joy of celebrating nine new baptisms. Formerly Muslim soldiers who have now converted to Christianity volunteered to guard the pastor on his way to the church to perform the baptisms. The soldiers celebrated at the church upon the pastor’s arrival and carried him into the building, where they had prepared a big ceremony.
Thank you for remembering our brothers and sisters in Niger. Please pray with us that every person in Niger gets the opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus in their heart language.
» Readers interested in Africa might also appreciate a recent opinion piece from Nicholas Kristoff titled Good News, Despite What You’ve Heard. He reports on great gains in the battle against extreme poverty, illiteracy, and disease (New York Times).
A new satellite television channel, SAT-7 ACADEMY, [launched] on September 1, 2017. Broadcasting round-the-clock in Arabic, the channel will offer millions of displaced or refugee children complementary learning opportunities through a variety of television programs.
War has forced 13 million children out of school across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Schools that have not been destroyed are overcrowded, and the fear of violence has caused parents to keep their children at home and teachers to abandon their posts. Families flee conflict to save their lives, leaving behind their homes and jobs as well as putting their children’s futures at risk. These children are in danger of becoming a “lost” generation.
By launching SAT-7 ACADEMY, SAT-7 is striving to help bridge the gap in education, equipping children, parents, and teachers across the region.
“Through this new channel and the different online platforms bearing our already trusted name, we will provide essential educational services to thousands of families who are in circumstances of considerable hardship. They will be able to access our learning content from any place, at any moment and, soon, through any device,” explains SAT-7 Founder and CEO, Dr. Terence Ascott.