World News Briefs

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elam-baptism-photoImage: ELAM Ministries. See a related article about ministry in Iran, Rapid Church Growth: How Is It Happening? This edition of News Briefs includes stories of God doing what Gracia Burnham (see below) describes as “what only he can do.”

  1. SYRIA: Refugee Finds Light in Ongoing Nightmare
  2. USA: Gracia Burnham Reflects after Captivity in Philippines
  3. SOUTH ASIA: From North Carolina to Bhutan and Nepal
  4. IRAQ: A Monastery among the Refugees
  5. BURUNDI: Wishing the Best for Those You Hate

SYRIA: Refugee Finds Light in Ongoing Nightmare

Source: Christian Aid Mission, September 29, 2016

Even as civil war rages on in Syria after another failed cease-fire, those who remain in the country are finding the light of God, including one mother who benefited from dreams amid the ongoing nightmare.

The director of a ministry based in Syria said the woman dreamt repeatedly of a man who told her that three people would come and bring her good news.

“She continued to have this dream for six days in a row,” said the director, who granted Christian Aid Mission permission to publish his comments. “On the seventh day, one of our teams was doing home visits and decided to visit a new house. The three of them sat down in this woman’s house to have a short visit, but when they opened their Bible, she instantly fell to her knees.”

When her husband and children came in later, she could not contain her excitement.

“These are the people that the man in my dream told me to meet!” she told them.

» Read full story. Readers might also be interested in news from another country in this region: See God Bringing Momentous Growth to Iranian Church (ASSIST News Service).

USA: Gracia Burnham Reflects after Captivity in Philippines

Source: Mission Network News, November 8, 2016

If you’ve read In the Presence of My Enemies, you know the story of Martin and Gracia Burnham. They were missionaries in the Philippines who were kidnapped from a resort in 2001 with several others by the Abu Sayyaf, a Jihadist terror group. They were kept hostage for a year. The Philippine army attack that rescued Gracia also killed her husband, Martin.

There have been miraculous developments in Burnham’s story. “I have found some of the guys who held us captive, [who are] in a maximum security prison in Manila, and I’ve been able to work with them in a small way through a missionary couple who works in the prison. So far, four former Abu Sayyaf have come to know Jesus as their Savior.”

“God writes really good stories. All of that could be happening in the Philippines, and I wouldn’t even know about it. But the Lord let me even be in on some of it, and I’m just very grateful to him.”

Coming off the heels of the International Day of Prayer and the focus on the worldwide Church, we asked Gracia how her life experience has influenced her thoughts on missions.

“I think my philosophy on missions is you just love people and you invite them into your circumstances. You tell them your story and what God did for you—and how God can work in their hearts and lives as well.”

Ultimately, says Burnham, “It’s an honor to tell my story… I just try to love people and do what I can do, and watch God do what only he can do.”

» Read full story. And check out Gracia Burnham’s second book, To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life.

SOUTH ASIA: From North Carolina to Bhutan and Nepal

Source: Mobile Ministry Forum, October 18, 2016

Three years ago I met Pastor Naina, a Bhutanese Nepali pastor who was a refugee relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina. Naina speaks nine languages. The day I met him, I showed him the JESUS Film mobile app and helped him install it on his mobile phone. Naina knew lots of people who spoke different mother tongues, and they spoke many other languages too. A lot of them had a mobile phone.

Two weeks later I had a chance to stop by and see him again. After I’d left earlier, he emailed or texted 142 different people the app in their appropriate language. Then he put it on Facebook for 550 friends to see. All in one day.

The first afternoon he sent it to Ruben, a young relative near Washington DC, who was also a refugee. Ruben downloaded it and played it for some buddies who’d been playing soccer together. After watching, three of the four received Christ. People also opened the app and watched the film in Bhutan, India, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and several states in the US. Comments and stories started flowing back.

Kumar, a pastor still near the refugee camp in Nepal, opened it, and downloaded it. Every evening over the next two weeks he showed it to 14 families near his home. Four of the families (22 people) received Christ. Kumar’s church was growing. Over the next six months, Kumar, using his mobile phone, planted five more churches in five nearby villages.

» Read full story. See also Make the Case: Why Mobile Ministry? and a story from India about church planting with MicroSD cards.

» You might check out a curated list of sites and apps to help you share scripture (and more) with Arabic-speaking friends (Arab World Media).

IRAQ: A Monastery among the Refugees

Source: Joel News International, October 31, 2016

In 2001, Raeed answered a call from God to become a monk and joined four others in a small monastery in Iraq. But life changed dramatically when the US-led coalition moved into Iraq. He was in a taxi with another monk on his way to Baghdad when they unexpectedly collided with a tank. There was a horrible crash and the awful sound of crunching metal as the tank drove over part of the taxi. The accident killed the other monk in the car and left Raeed in a coma.

When he emerged from the coma and realized he was the only survivor from the accident, it challenged and deepened his faith. “It brought me back to my calling. I’d promised to obey Jesus, and he said, ‘Whoever follows me should not look back.’”

On August 6, 2014, Raeed found himself caught up in another invasion: ISIS was entering Qaraqosh. While he and several others were gathered for prayer, suddenly the sound of honking horns and explosions shattered the silence. He ran to the window and was startled to see cars lining up to evacuate the city. Raeed quickly gathered his belongings and prepared to abandon the monastery. The drive to Erbil took them all night.

Over the next several months Erbil became a safe haven for thousands of refugees fleeing ISIS, including many Christians escaping the atrocities. Raeed found a new calling in this crisis. He established a monastery in the middle of a refugee camp. The temporary church is usually filled to capacity on Sunday mornings, with people standing in the doorway, overflowing the service.

“God needs me to be here,” he says. “It is all about Jesus, the rock we build on. And whatever might happen, our rock will never disappear. He will always be here.”

» Read the original story (as it first appeared in WorldWatch Monitor) and pray for the people of Qaraqosh, reportedly Iraq’s largest Christian community. Christians have also been interceding for breakthrough in Erbil, praying and fasting for 50 days leading up to what they’re calling ChristDay, November 18-19.

BURUNDI: Wishing the Best for Those You Hate

Source: Simon Guillebaud, November 9, 2016

Cris Rwakasisi spoke at our Burundian National Prayer Breakfast [November 8]. Cris was Ugandan President Milton Obote’s main man back in the early 1980s. Obote gave him the choice of any post he wanted, and he ended up as Minister of Defense. He was young, powerful, rich, and arrogant. His caviar lifestyle and attitude alienated the opposition and many within his own party. He got things done, and created many enemies.

In earlier times, he and (now President) Museveni had been friends. In fact Museveni had worked under him. But their relationship had long soured, and when Obote was kicked out and Museveni came to power, they truly hated each other. Cris was imprisoned and condemned to death. When he was taken to solitary confinement, he wanted to kill himself, but there were no sharp objects in his cell. In the dark, in the corner, he thought he saw a stone. It was in fact a Bible. He used it as a pillow to begin with, but eventually began reading it.

He hated God. He picked out all the perceived contradictions and inconsistencies as he read it from cover to cover. By his third reading, however, his heart softened. This proud man was being humbled and broken. He surrendered his life to Christ in that cell. In his immature faith, he initially took Psalms in which David cursed his enemies, asking God to kill them, their children, etc. But the opposite happened, as they continued to prosper. When he changed his prayers to blessing his enemies, it was then that Museveni’s attitude softened towards him. In 2009, Musveni had signed execution orders for 28 people, and Cris was on that list, but Museveni later said to him that God spoke to him and forbade him to sign that decree. The others were all killed, whilst Cris survived.

When released out of solitary confinement into the main condemned section of the prison, he started a fellowship there which continues to this day. In total he spent a staggering 24 years in jail! Six years ago, Museveni formally pardoned him and invited him to join the cabinet. When he’d gone to prison, his children were in primary school; now they were in jobs or at university. Yet he has no bitterness. The old enemies are totally reconciled. Cris is a trophy of grace and, now 75 years old, serves as Special Advisor to the President.

Cris’s winsome manner and humor were thoroughly disarming in a room in which all Burundi’s key players sat. It was a message of reconciliation and humility we needed to hear. There was plenty of hatred between enemies in the meeting. But the strength of the [National Prayer Breakfast] movement is that our agenda is simply to get people to gather together around the teachings of Jesus, and leave politics at the door for a few hours.

» Read the rest of Simon’s story. Blessed are the peacemakers.

USA: Politics and the Persecuted Church

Source: Pat Noble, News Brief Editor

The news is full of persecution stories for the twentieth annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church which will be observed on the Sundays before and after the day of the US presidential election.

While the Missions Catalyst approach to content steers us clear of politics, we thought some readers might be interested in Trump or Clinton: How Might Their Policies Affect the Persecuted Church?

The source, INcontext Ministries, does not promote or support either of these candidates, but offers a perspective you may not have considered and reminds us that God’s agendas are bigger than human agendas. I find it refreshing to consider what the winner of this election (or others) might do for the persecuted church rather than what he or she will do for me.

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» See also Resources and Mindsets for the Upcoming International Day of Prayer (Mission Network News).

LIBYA: The Day I Met Qaddafi

Source: Global Opportunities Tentmaking Briefs, October 11, 2016

When I was a tentmaker teacher in Libya there was not a whole lot to do for a single man on my days off. The school was far away from major cities, and I seldom met any other foreigners.

My students encouraged me to join them on weekend excursions far into the Sahara, driving with their four-wheel vehicles over massive dunes. We frequently camped at a desert oasis surrounded by palm trees, swimming in warm tepid water and drinking tea late into the night. These were also times for intense faith discussions far away from prying eyes and ears. The oasis was the perfect spot for baptisms.

One evening as the sun was setting I decided to hike to the top of a nearby sand dune. As I sat at the top waiting for the sun to set, a man with flowing robes and with his face mostly covered walked up to me out of nowhere.

He greeted me and asked where I was from. When he heard I was from Canada, he became intrigued and sat down on the sand beside me. His questions poured out in quick succession: How do you like Libya? Are people treating you well? Are you getting enough food? What do Canadians think of Libyans? Why do you come out from the city to this desert?

My reply to the last question was that I enjoy the silence, solitude, [and] clear skies at night that allow me to see the stars so clearly and that this is a good place to think about important things and hear from God.

The man responded by saying, that is why I come out here as well! We had a bonding moment. He was respectful and intriguing but seemed distressed. He earnestly listened to my story of why I was a follower of Isa.

As he stood up to leave, he asked me one final question. Should I give up my quest for nuclear weapons?

» Read full story.

YEMEN: Hope and Despair

Source: Arab World Media, October 16, 2016

The BBC recently broadcast a program about starvation in Yemen. In Our World, Starving Yemen, a reporter follows a Yemeni doctor as she visits families with malnourished children. Included is the story of an eighteen-month-old boy who is slowly starving because the only milk his body can digest is no longer available… His mother cries as she tells the doctor, “I’m losing my son and there is nothing I can do about it.”

It’s clear that many children have been dying in Yemen, while for the most part the media has looked away. Most of us know there is an ongoing war, but we know little of its devastating side effects: famine and disease.

While all of this is taking place, another hunger is clearly stirring hearts in Yemen. The Holy Spirit is moving mightily among the people of Yemen. There are no longer any foreign workers, but local believers are active and, of course, the internet is playing a crucial role.

At Arab World Media, we have had a steady stream of Yemenis getting in touch with us this year. In fact, since April there have only been two or three days without contact from at least one Yemeni.

» Read full story .

» See also More than 1,400 Suspected Cholera Cases in Yemen (Al Jazeera). And please be praying for those in two other volatile nations: See Somalia Enters Freefall Following ISIS, al-Shabaab Flurry (Mission Network News) and Ethiopia’s Massive Protests Are Getting Desperate—and Dangerous (VICE News).

GLOBAL: State of the World 2016

ylg-image-2Source: Lausanne Movement

“These are tumultuous times. Change in every sphere of life seems to be accelerating. What really is happening in the world? And how does this relate to the staggering scale, complexity, and urgency of the Great Commission?”

In this 32-minute presentation, Jason Mandryk and Molly Wall, editors of Operation World, give insight to key issues in the church, Great Commission, and the world based on their extensive research and encounters around the world.

[It] was given at the third Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG2016) held in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 2-10, 2016.

» See full story. You can also download the presentation and the accompanying notes.