World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 8.19.15

  1. EAST AFRICA: Muslim Imam Risks Life to Become Christian
  2. TURKEY: Kurdish Pilgrim Touched by Jesus in Mecca
  3. CENTRAL ASIA: Thirsty for God’s Word
  4. ALGERIA: “No Competition” between Churches
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Image: United Bible Societies (from Algeria story below).

Dear Readers,

While we usually aim for a balance of personal stories, traditional “news,” and broader analysis, today’s edition has a bumper crop of personal testimonies and encounters with Christ. As you skim them, you might pause to praise God for his work in the lives of individuals all over the world and linger to read the rest of the stories that catch your interest.

Reports like these bring several thoughts to mind. I’m skeptical enough to question how some of them are told; have others pressured storytellers to frame their testimonies in certain ways? As I pick and choose, cut and paste, am I doing the same thing? Yet I also ask myself if I am as faithful in seeking God in impossible situations and telling others how he has been at work close to me.

As you read, ask God to sustain those he has called to himself as he builds his kingdom worldwide. Seek the Lord to open doors to share these stories (and your own) with others so that they might give him glory and grow in their knowledge of him.


EAST AFRICA: Muslim Imam Risks Life to Become Christian

Source: World Watch Monitor, July 31, 2015

Tofik trained to become an imam at an Islamic (madrasa) school in Africa. “In school I only learned about Islam,” he said. “Parts of our teaching were about destroying Christianity. So we did what we learned, by attacking Christians once we finished our training.”

He said he was taught that Christians are bad people, and that he and the other students were encouraged to steal from and kill non-Muslims.

“We beat them, attacked the church and burnt their Bibles… Our teachers would tell us every time there was a new church in town and we were told to go and attack the people and destroy the church. So that’s what we did,” Tofik said.

Tofik was one of 14 students selected by the local mosque to be trained in Saudi Arabia for further Islamic studies. After finishing his education, he became an imam. He led the construction of 16 mosques in his area. He also imposed a rule: No village leaders or visitors could preach Christianity in his town.

[But then] Tofik began working with Christians when a church in a neighboring village started a project and appointed him as a coordinator for the area’s social work…

» Read about what happened next or watch him tell the story on video.

» Other stories with “Saul to Paul” themes include Yazidi Leader Healed and 136 More Come to Christ (Godreports), Cambodian “Saul” Killed for the Khmer Rouge, Transformed into “Paul” by the Word and the Spirit (ASSIST News Service), Boko Haram Members Convert to Christianity (Christian Today) and Former Sandinista Now Part of God’s Army (ASSIST News Service). Let’s ask God for some extremist monks to come to Christ, too! (Asian Correspondent).

TURKEY: Kurdish Pilgrim Touched by Jesus in Mecca

Source: ASSIST News Service, via Godreports, June 30, 2015

Ali Pektash grew up in a Kurdish family with 10 children. He was rejected by his mother, which opened a deep wound in his life. He was taken in by his uncle, but he too chased him out.

He met and married Zehra, but succumbed to heavy drinking, which began to destroy his life. He would start to shake if he didn’t have a drink and things got so bad that he was beating his wife several times a day and struggling to breathe after just a few steps.

Friends persuaded him to find work in Saudi Arabia, where the sale of alcohol is forbidden. But he was surprised to discover there was plenty of it available there.

Perhaps Mecca held the key to success, friends suggested, so he agreed to join a group on hajj (pilgrimage) during his time in Arabia.

“I knew I belonged to God somehow—he was my friend—but I did not belong to a religion I could find. I circled the Ka’ba seven times (one of the specified rites involved in the pilgrimage), and watched everybody kissing this black stone. But I walked the other way. I believed in a living God, not in a rock.”

When they retreated to their tents for the night, he chose to sleep under the stars because it was so hot.

Then something remarkable happened in the middle of the night.

“Jesus came to me in a dream, put his finger on my forehead and his hand on my heart. He was smiling at me and said: ‘Get up and leave this place.’”

» Full story with pictures.

» Editor’s note: A different sort of pilgrimage will happen in the USA soon and can use our prayers. Read this insightful piece about “Burning Man”: A Journey towards Understanding Alternative Spiritualities (Billy Graham Center for Evangelism).

CENTRAL ASIA: Thirsty for God’s Word

Source: IMB Connecting, July 2015

One airplane ride, a two-and-a-half-day bus ride, and a seven-hour camel ride away from the StoryTogether [gospel storytelling] workshop location, Central Asian believers regularly gather for prayer, praise, and teaching in a dry mountainous region among some of the world’s fiercest Muslim extremists.

For 15 years since the gospel first penetrated “behind the mountains that are behind the mountains,” as one workshop attendee describes his home, many of the 20 people groups within the church network have persevered in following Jesus with no Scripture to guide them.

[Several missionaries in another area] worked with their national partner to bring church leaders from two languages groups to their hub city for the first of four StoryTogether workshops. The workshop goals are to produce “story crafters” who will learn to tell biblically accurate stories about God and the church in their culture’s style, and begin building a canon of stories the story crafters will then teach to others.

The men, thirsty for God’s Word, were eager students as they learned the first story—Jesus’ parable of the sower and the four soils. Tasked to go out into the community and retell the story, one group found camel herders who spoke their language. The other language group visited a labor camp filled with thousands of Central Asian men, some of whom spoke their language.

One hundred laborers—sleeping 5 to 10 men in a space the size of a dorm room and working six to seven days a week in extreme conditions—listened carefully as the visitors recounted the parable of the soils. The next day, the StoryTogether students returned, prepared to tell a second story.

“When they got there, they found the 100 men that had heard the first story waiting eagerly for the StoryTogether team. The laborers told the StoryTogether participants that they could not sleep and they could not stop thinking and talking about what they had heard the night before.” After discussing the stories until late in the night, 20 laborers stood up and said they wanted to follow Jesus.

» Full story with photos and prayer points.

» Other stories from Central Asia: Seeking Work but Finding Faith and Reading with Bibi (both from Operation Mobilization). Readers might also be interested in reports of broadcast ministries reaching Albanian Muslims in the Balkans (Godreports).

ALGERIA: “No Competition” between Churches

Source: United Bible Societies, July 27, 2015

What I enjoy most about my visits to Algeria are the Christians from all walks of life who I get to meet, and their love for the Bible. Earlier this year I met a Catholic priest who is a frequent visitor to the Bible Society. He told me how he provides New Testaments or Bibles to people who come to his church to request Scriptures.

“Father B” isn’t a typical priest here, where the Catholic Church is very wary of being accused of proselytism. He explains that when he first arrived in Algeria, he asked his bishop for Bibles for those who requested one. He was told: “Let’s wait a little…” Then the people who had requested a Bible looked everywhere for one on the Internet, and some ended up receiving one from a cult abroad.

“Since then, it is agreed that I can give a New Testament or even a Bible to whoever requests one,” explains Father B. “The Bible Society is the only place in Algeria where we can buy Scriptures and, despite the long drive, I regularly go to Algiers to bring some back.”

Ali Khidri, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Algeria, nods with a big smile: Father B is a regular customer at the Bible Society and they get on well. It is so good to see a Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor collaborate with such enthusiasm. It is true that the first Protestant “house church” is many miles away from Father B’s parish—but, really, the concept of competition is the last thing on his mind.

“A young man who became a Christian several months ago and who is doing Bible studies with me was baptized last week by a Protestant pastor he also talks with from time to time,” he says. “I was delighted! There is no competition between us.”

» Read full story.

» We’ve run out of space in this edition! If you’ve got time, though, check out Amazing Peace in a Region of Iraq (World Evangelical Alliance) and Fighting for the Forgotten Pygmies (Mission Network News).

KOSOVA: Breakthrough during Ramadan

Stone Bridge KosovaSinan Pasha Mosque and stone bridge in Kosovo (Wikipedia / Tobias Klenze).

Source: Train International, July 2015

During the month of Ramadan, while our Muslims cousins were fasting across the globe, a great many Christian brothers and sisters were united in prayer for them. Midway through the month, God moved in a powerful way in Kosova (Kosovo), a Muslim-majority country in Eastern Europe. Powerful, and practically without precedent in the collective memory of both Kosovar nationals and international missionaries serving in the area.

The leaders and elders of a village of about 500 people, located in the patriotic heartland of the country, reached out to a group of Kosovar followers of Christ. These Muslim men had made the trip to a distant city where they knew Christians lived; there were none in their village or even their near vicinity. Their request? “Come tell us about your Jesus.”

Curious about what prompted many of the Kosovars to leave their traditions for the way of Christ, these leaders asked for a delegation of converts to visit their village, share their story of conversion, and explain the gospel and how they could get in on it if they so desired.

When the day came, nine followers of Christ made the trip and were welcomed hospitably in this village. They shared their story, shared the good news, and 27 Kosovars immediately responded, asking to follow the way of Christ. Two days later, 27 had grown to 300!

In that remote village where there had been no church, no Christians, and no missionaries, God was working to stir up hearts and draw his people back to himself. It’s not likely a coincidence that this took place during a time of intense concentration of united, worldwide prayer for the Muslim world. Let’s keep praying for breakthroughs and for the Lord to draw people to himself, responding to opportunities he brings, and celebrating his power.

» Editor’s note: Thanks to the reader who submitted and confirmed this article. No, you won’t find it on their website. Let us know if you’ve heard other reports of how our prayers were answered!

WORLD: Engineers Enlisted to Reach the World’s Unconnected

Source: Faith Comes by Hearing, May 11, 2015

Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH) continues to press forward with an ambitious agenda to provide digital Bible access to the most remote and hard-to-reach regions on the planet. FCBH has awarded a contract to Integrity Applications Incorporated (IAI) to determine the best way to provide the Digital Bible to “unconnected” people in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and China by leveraging space and telecommunications capabilities.

Founded in 1999, IAI is a veteran-owned business with over 600 employees. IAI supports multiple commercial and government customers. On average, IAI employees have over 22 years of engineering experience, hands-on experience with all critical space system components and multiple skill sets to address any space system need. IAI will leverage its expertise in communications, system engineering, and space and ground systems to analyze end-to-end architectures to provide the Digital Bible to these regions.

“[They] are the best-of-the-best in finding communication solutions for the most difficult problems,” said Troy Carl, FCBH vice president and architect of the ministry’s expanding digital outreach. “We are honored to be working with them to fulfill the task of providing access to the Bible in even the most remote locations on earth.”

» Read full press release.

LEBANON: 90 Deaf People Receive Christ

Source: Christian Aid Mission, July 16, 2015

When a Christian organization based in Lebanon began reaching out to the Deaf five years ago, it discovered what amounted to an unreached people group longing for belonging.

Introducing sign-language into the ministry’s existing outreaches to the primarily Muslim people in Lebanon has resulted in nearly 90 Deaf people putting their faith in Christ, the ministry director said. Two groups of 40 to 45 people each meet for prayer.

“We’ve been shocked by the number of people coming to Christ these days,” the director said. “We’ve been seeing miracles happening these days among the Muslim people. So many are turning to Christ.”

» Read full story, with a picture and opportunity to be involved.

SOUTH SUDAN: Pastors’ Final Hearing Set for August 5

Source: Mission Network News, July 30, 2015

The final hearing of South Sudanese pastors Yat Michael Rout and Peter Yein Reith will be on August 5. The results could lead to the death penalty.

On December 2, 2014, police in North Khartoum beat, arrested, and fined 38 Christians. They were released that night. Pastor Michael was invited to encourage the church to stand firm despite the persecution. But after giving a sermon on December 14, 2014, he was arrested and detained.

Several weeks later, Pastor Reith was arrested for submitting a letter from leaders in the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church that asked about Michael’s whereabouts.

The pastors have been charged with committing crimes with other churches, spying for outsiders, and collecting and leaking information of Sudanese national security. Two charges include the death sentence.

» Read full story, which includes a picture of the two men and links to other news sources. For several other recent stories about believers in this part of Africa, see the Open Doors Newsroom.