Missions Catalyst News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn this Issue: Stories from Niger, New York, and North Africa

Dear readers,

Our last edition of News Briefs featured a piece from Justin Long analyzing the annual status of global mission for 2015. You might also want to take a look at a follow-up article which points out that 70% of the least evangelized people live in just 70 states and provinces.

This week, we point you to an analysis piece from Wycliffe Global Alliance on the status of worldwide Bible translation.

Readers may have already seen another piece of recent global analysis, Open Doors’ World Watch List. The annual list ranks the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution and reports that it wasn’t an increase in violence, primarily, that drove religious persecution to record levels in this last year but rather increased “cultural marginalization” of Christians. Take a look at the report itself, Open Doors’ press release, or Not Forgotten: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Most Difficult to Be a Christian (Christianity Today).

Finally, we hope you’ll appreciate more personal stories from Niger, New York, North Africa, and France.


Marti Wade

WORLD: Latest Statistics on Scripture Access


Source: Wycliffe Global Alliance, November 2014

Today, millions more people around the world have access to God’s Word in the language they understand best. God is accomplishing his mission through his power and through partnership.

There are about 7000 languages in active use and at least one book of Scripture exists in almost 2,900 of these languages.

There is known active translation and/or linguistic development happening in 2,195 languages across more than 130 countries.

As of October 1, 2014, estimates suggest around 180 million people speaking at least 1,860 languages are understood to “likely need Bible translation to begin.”

» Read full article (available in six languages) and view related charts. As the authors helpfully point out, “Statistics are rarely as simple as the numbers imply. Please read the FAQ sheet before quoting these figures.”

» See also an animated slideshow based on this data (Wycliffe Canada) and 23 maps and charts on language (Vox.com).

NIGER: 10 People Killed, Churches Burned

Source: Mission Network News, January 20, 2015

Picture this: You go to church one Sunday. You worship God, hear an inspiring message, pray, talk to friends and then you leave, hoping to return the following week. Unfortunately, when you return, your church has been burned to the ground by protesters.

That’s exactly what happened to 61 churches in Niger over the weekend, says missionary Neal Childs who’s working there. “Last week, churches all across the nation went on without any idea that churches would be burned.”

Childs works with churches in the region. “Four of our churches were attacked. Three [they] actually got in and did great damage. Two of our pastors’ homes were also burned. A Bible school was also burned.”

Childs says the attacks happened simultaneously in Niamey. It appears police and other security officers were overwhelmed and couldn’t control it.

How has this affected the church? “The church is strong in Niger, and it’s growing. And we believe that as a result of the persecution, it’s going to grow even more. All this senseless attack will only be turned around for the growth of the church.”

» Read full story.

» Editor’s note: Reports from the BBC (and elsewhere) mention only 45 churches burned in Niger but also attacks on French-linked businesses. The violence is connected to anger at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, also felt in other former French colonies. See also Niger: Christians, Churches Targeted in Protests (Open Doors).

UNITED STATES: Discipling toward Faith

Source: Pioneers, January 13, 2015

We filled the house with joy and food, and then we packed in 30 international students for a holiday meal in our tiny New York City apartment. I watched the organized chaos and wondered if their first impression of a meal in an American home would forever be tainted with having to crawl under the table in order to get to the kitchen for refills?

For the past few months, these students have been participating in Bible studies. We, like so many others around the world, use a method that disciples people toward faith in Christ—before they have faith in Christ. They are in the process of discovering for themselves who God is, what the Bible says, and whether he is worth following?

Each week we ask them these simple questions:

What are you thankful for this week? (teaching them to thank God)
What problems do you have this week? (giving them opportunity to intercede for others)
What can this group help you with this week? (teaching them to serve one another)

Then, while studying scripture, we ask:

What does this passage teach me about God?
What does it teach me about man?
If this is true, how does this change the way I view God?
Is there anything I need to obey from what I just learned?
Who can I share this story with this week?

Each week they amaze me with their desire to learn from the Bible. They wrestle with hard truths and eagerly share what they learn with others. But they have not yet expressed faith in God.

» Read full story.

» See also Training without Speaking (Act Beyond).

NORTH AFRICA: The Little Things

Source: Operation Mobilization, January 16, 2015

Small successes are marked with big celebrations in a therapy center for handicapped children in a North African country.

“If a child shows a little movement somewhere, it means the brain is generating new cells,” explained “Alex,” the co-field leader. “It can take months to see one little improvement.”

Therapists who have been working with the children over time see the tiniest twitch and recognize the months of preparation behind the movement. But other people easily miss it.

Church planting in this country is the same. “We miss [the movement] with believers and with non-believers,” said Alex. “Someone sits with you. You have a conversation and [recognize] there’s something happening here. Then there’s nothing again for another two months. You can easily miss it and give up with this person, or you can slowly continue on, and God will bring the fruit.”

Some workers have been in the country for over 10 years without seeing a single person come to faith. Work is still in the pioneering stage with church planting efforts.

Here, planting churches is the difference between microwaving and marinating, according to Alex. “We from the West are so quick in everything. We come to the Arab world, and it’s different. Things seem to take forever… There are no short cuts, no quick results.”

» Read full story. See also another recent OM story, this one about ministering in the Arabian Peninsula: Marriage Changes Everything.

FRANCE: Tragedy Leaves Parisians Open to the Gospel

Source: Eurasia Stories, International Mission Board, January 15, 2015

Christian workers living among the Muslims of Paris were surprised during [last] week’s Bible distribution as non-Muslim Parisians were the ones to stop for a spiritual discussion.

“We usually have many (Muslims) who stop and want to engage us in conversation, but that was not the case on Saturday,” said [a Christian worker] ministering among the Muslim immigrants of Paris.

This new openness by native Parisians comes on the heels of [the January 7] terrorist tragedy targeting the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a secular satirical newspaper famous for its cartoon depictions of Muhammad, and a kosher supermarket. A total of 20 people, including the three gunmen, were killed in the attacks. Al Qaeda of Yemen (AQAP) has claimed responsibility.

France is a secular state that doesn’t care much for religion of any kind. Charlie Hebdo is a shining beacon of that secularism, using paper and ink to mock, scrutinize, and defame anything considered sacred.

The Parisians who stopped to receive a Bible were young adults, and this gives the workers hope. “We pray that an openness to the gospel will be the description of this upcoming generation.”

» Read full story. Consider joining a campaign launched before the Charlie Hebdo events, The Pray for France Challenge.

» You might appreciate another article from a related IMB source, 13 Things Mission-Minded People Do Differently that Set Them Apart.

INDONESIA: AirAsia Crash Kills 41 Members of an Indonesian Church

Source: The Gospel Coalition, January 5, 2015

One of the largest church networks in Indonesia, Mawar Sharon Church, lost 46 members in the recent crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, and only seven percent of the population is Christian. Yet almost one-third of the victims in the crash were Indonesian Christians.

According to CNN, the church members weren’t heading to one event and didn’t all necessarily know one another, having attended services at different churches mostly around Surabaya.

Philip Mantofa, pastor of the Mawar Sharon Church in Surabaya, was shocked when he found out that 41 of the victims were from his church. Another congregation, Bethany Church, lost five members of the same family.

Another church, Gereja Kristen Indonesia Ngagel, a Presbyterian congregation of around 2,000, also lost members in the crash. Florida Rambu Bangi Roni said three members of her church—two adults and their child—died on the flight.

“The tragedy of AirAsia is a reminder,” she said. “We don’t know what time we will die.”

» Read full story (also reported in other sources).

WORLD: Status of Global Mission

Source: The Long View, January 6, 2015

Every year in the January issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, the Status of Global Mission is published. This table is particularly important for succinctly laying out the global trends over 150 years (1900-2050) and locating our current position among them.

Christians (of all kinds) presently number 2.4 billion; Muslims, second, number 1.7 billion. Christianity is growing at 1.35% per annum—good news, in that it is faster than the population. But Islam is growing at 1.88% per annum—faster than Christianity. The trend line does not envision a point when Islam becomes the largest religion—even by 2050, Christians will likely number 3.4 billion vs. Islam’s 2.0 billion.

The number of missionaries dropped from an estimated 420,000 in 2000 to an estimated 400,000 today. What is more disturbing is a new line added to the Status this year—the percentage of non-Christians who know a Christian: 14%. This means that 86% of all non-believers do not personally know a believer from whom they can receive good news.

The percentage of the world that is unevangelized dropped from 54% in 1900 to 29.3% today, and is projected to continue to drop. This is good news. Unfortunately, due to population growth, the absolute number of unevangelized individuals has grown: from 880 million in 1900 to 2.1 billion today. And it is continuing to rise: to 2.3 billion by 2025, and 2.6 billion by 2050. The end of the task continues to recede away from us.

» Read full article from The Long View. The article and table to which it refers (which includes all kinds of useful statistics with up-to-date numbers) is also online and free, but you’ll have to register with the IBMR for access.

UKRAINE: Churches Launch Yearlong Campaign for Evangelism and Discipleship

Source: Crossfield News, December 21, 2014

As snow falls outside, most of the people milling inside Central Baptist Church [in Kiev] keep their winter coats on. The parkas testify to the financial crunch that Ukraine has suffered with its recent civil strife and the concurrent economic slump. As tensions with Russian-backed separatists in two eastern provinces have heated up, churches like Central Baptist have turned the heat down to save money.

Today’s crowd of about 120 people has come to help kick off Mission Ukraine, a yearlong evangelism training effort organized by leaders of several Ukrainian Protestant denominations and Minneapolis-based GoodWORD Partnership. The goal: Train leaders across Ukraine in evangelism and discipleship. Those leaders then will teach people in their churches how to share their faith and, in turn, help the anticipated new believers to follow Christ and share their faith.

Mission Ukraine organizers hope to train people in as many of Ukraine’s 10,600 Protestant churches as possible before next fall. This in a country that began 2014 in relative peace but ends it mourning more than 4,700 deaths and more than 500,000 internally displaced people, the result of fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

» Read full story, which includes pictures and interviews with church leaders. Does this story sound familiar? We included an earlier report about the campaign in one of our November editions.

» See also another story from Ukraine, Now Is the Time for the Church to Shine (Operation Mobilization). And thanks for praying for Ukraine, a nation standing at the crossroads.