In this issue: St Patrick, Captives freed, famines, and Jesus sightings
- MIDDLE EAST: Jesus Appears to Jailer, Leading to Release of Imprisoned Pastors
- BANGLADESH: Despite Persecution, Christianity Exploding
- NIGERIA: Christians Cry Out as Authorities Begin Church Demolition
- SUDAN: Czech Aid Worker Released, Two Sudanese Pastors Remain in Prison
- MADAGASCAR: Witch Doctor Finds Peace in Christ
- KOREA: The Blossoming of a Mission Movement
We are just two days away from my favorite holiday celebrating a person: St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not Irish but I am named after him as I was born one day before his day. I’ve come to think the March 17th revelry (which sometimes gets out of hand) as a Western version of India’s Holi Festival.
If you’ve been a Missions Catalyst reader for long, you may have noticed I like to leverage “holy days” for the Great Commission. Could St. Patrick’s Day be the least leveraged and most powerful holiday for mission mobilizers?
Christ’s words to love our enemies come to life in the story of Patrick. What stories could be more relevant for the church today? Read and share the stories of some modern-day Patricks below.
Celebrating saints past and present,
Editor’s Note: I (Marti) was pleased to come across a new book about missionary monks which gives Patrick a whole chapter. Reading it now!
St. Patrick’s Day header designed by Freepik.
Source: God Reports, February 8, 2017
Two pastors conducting a Bible study for new believers in an underground Middle East church were beaten, arrested by police, and taken to a secret jail. But after Jesus appeared to an official at the prison, their situation changed dramatically.
After the first two months, they became discouraged and cried out to the Lord: “Where are you? Why won’t you come and save us?” They prayed, “If we have done any sin and iniquities, forgive us and purify us by your precious blood and save us from this situation.”
Three days after their heartfelt cry to the Lord for help, a top-ranking officer of the jails visited them. The official ordered the guards to give them larger servings of food, and then disappeared into his office.
Then they were surprised when the officer returned alone that night, entered their cell, and sat down on the floor beside them. Then he did something even more surprising—he asked them to pray for him!
[In one of a series of dreams] Jesus [had] appeared before him and said, “My children are being tortured in your jail. I leave them before you. My children are the apple of my eyes.”
So the official quickly canceled his other plans and rushed to the jail. For three days he stayed in the official residence of the prison, but spent most of his time with the pastors—praying and learning more about Jesus and the Bible.
» Read full story or go to its source, a report from Bibles4Mideast.
Source: Christian Freedom International, March 9, 2017
According to official estimates, the religious composition of Bangladesh is 89.1 percent Muslim, 10 percent Hindi, with less than one percent Christian in a nation of over 156 million people. But unofficially, Christianity is much larger and growing, especially in the rural areas.
Official reports on religious composition only count “traditional Christians,” i.e., people who are born into the Christian faith and attend government-approved churches. But “converts,” those who change their religion from Islam to Christianity are not counted and no surveys have been made.
The consensus among “converts” is that Christians in Bangladesh make up of at least 10 percent of the population and is growing more every day. Some indigenous evangelists tell CFI they believe that Bangladesh will become a Christian nation in their lifetimes.
» See full story with details and photos or watch a CBN News report based on this report.
Source: World Watch Monitor, January 23, 2017
Anxiety is high among Christian communities in Nigeria’s northern state of Jigawa after authorities began demolishing church buildings in Dutse, the state capital.
On January 11, bulldozers, escorted by security forces, reduced to rubble the Redeem Christian Church of God and the Lord Chosen Church.
They arrived at the Redeem Church at about 10am, according to Rev. Yakubu Musa, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for Jigawa. The Executive Secretary of Urban Development and some key police officers were at the scene. The police blocked all the entrances to prevent church members from entering the premises. Those who tried to take pictures were chased away by police officers.
The bulldozers first removed the fence. They then demolished a small building inside the premises, before destroying the main church building. At around 12 noon, they went to the second church, which was also completely demolished.
“It was a terrible experience, with so many Christians who witnessed the demolition crying,” said Rev. Musa. “I felt so bitter because we were in a situation were you have been cheated and you cannot talk.”
» Full story provides helpful context about the situation. Read other recent news from Nigeria from World Watch Monitor.
» See also Education Is Forbidden about Boko Haram’s attacks on education; this article has great visuals (Roads and Kingdoms).
Source: Morning Star News, February 27, 2017
Sudan released Czech aid worker Petr Jasek on [February 25], nearly one month after a court in Khartoum sentenced him to life in prison for espionage and other charges, according to reports. Christian leaders in Sudan confirmed the release of the Czech aid worker.
Two Sudanese Christians remain behind bars, though they were convicted of “aiding and abetting” Jasek’s alleged espionage and sentenced to 12 years in prison. It was not clear whether Sudan would consider releasing the two Church leaders. Their cases are awaiting appeal.
» Read full story. See also reports that Sudan has ordered demolition of 25 churches in the Khartoum area.
» Christians in neighboring South Sudan are thankful to report the release of eight Samaritan’s Purse aid workers who had been kidnapped. Pray for South Sudan which is on the brink of famine, as are Somalia and Yemen.
Source: Operation Mobilization, March 3, 2017
Fomesoa looks like a typical Malagasy man. He is slight in frame with brown eyes, and his black hair is speckled with gray from age. What is not so typical is that at 15 years of age, Fomesoa became a witch doctor.
“I didn’t get it from people,” he explained. “An evil spirit came directly to me and guided me to buy a particular type of wood [to start making charms].”
In early 2016 Fomesoa’s life changed. “In the beginning, there was no one who told me about Jesus, but I just started to not care about my idols. I think that is when Jesus first came into my life,” said Fomesoa.
A few weeks later, he met [an OM mission worker named] Fara, who told him about Jesus and urged him to get rid of his idols and charms. Filled with conviction, Fomesoa lit a fire outside his house and threw the charms in. Looking back, he knows now that his indifference to the charms was God working in his life. “I felt something changing in my life, I felt happy [burning the idols],” Fomesoa said.
“I feel peace in my life now,” said Fomesoa with a smile.
» Read full story, and also read Exponential Potential, in which an OM writer describes a multi-agency partnership to mobilize missionaries from the Arabian Peninsula to go to some of the world’s least reached peoples.
» See also Nursing Schools Fight off Witch Doctors in Uganda (Mission Network News).
Source: GMI Missiographics
The Korean mission movement is an amazing mission story of the past 40 years. For much of that time, it has been well documented by the Korea Research Institute for Mission, and the picture is very clear. Praise God for it, and also pray for it as the growth has slowed down a great deal in recent years.
» Learn more or download an infographic.
- IRAQ: A Little Hope in Mosul
- VANUATU: How Cultural Imperialism Obscures the Gospel
- QATAR: Christian Migrants Build Stadiums for World Cup
- PAKISTAN: One Man Risks Death to Share the Gospel
- MALAWI: When the Bible Preaches Itself
Children in a Mosul neighborhood; story below (Preemptive Love Coalition).
Several of today’s news briefs steer us away from the headlines with glimpses of smaller stories that tend to get lost in the shadows:
- A ministry working in Iraq finds a sign of hope amid devastation.
- Immigrants find work (and exploitation) building stadiums for World Cup soccer.
- A missionary thinks about contextualization while watching an Oscar-nominated foreign film.
Where do you go to seek out stories from the shadows? Our news briefs are, by necessity, brief. Longer works may make a bigger impact. Have you seen any international films or documentaries that have made you think? What about books? Recently National Geographic (partnering with the audio-book company Audible) put together a list called Around the World in 12 Books, which could give you a year’s worth of armchair travel, or, maybe better, inspire you to make a list of your own.
Share your picks with us through Twitter, Facebook, or the Missions Catalyst website, especially if you’ve found good candidates to use with a small group, team, church, or family.
Editor’s note: Much thanks to all who let us know that the video about churches among the unreached which we featured in last week’s Missions Catalyst is no longer accessible. Sorry! The producers found a mistake they couldn’t fix and felt they had to take it down.
Source: Preemptive Love Coalition, February 19, 2017
A devout Muslim, Waleed worked for years as a soldier with Special Forces, and he has the sorrow and stories to prove it. He is more than qualified to work as a security specialist on our front-line deliveries. But now, standing there with that big grin on his scarred face, he looked more like a little kid.
How can he be smiling? We’re in a bombed-out church in the heart of Mosul, where ISIS had painted a giant black flag on the cross out front. Where thousands of Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter “N,” their lives threatened with the sword, their possessions looted [and] families ultimately driven out of their ancestral neighborhoods like cattle.
Already that day, we’d picked through airstrike wreckage, seen rotted bodies of ISIS fighters, heard and felt and seen the battles of this god-forsaken war, heard stories of untold suffering—and now, standing in this bombed out, burned-up church, Waleed had the nerve to grin at the destruction?
“See? Look up… they missed it.”
» Read full story and/or watch the two-minute video.
» See also Mass Christian Immigration from Iraq Makes Future of Church Uncertain (Voice of America), and read about Burmese Christians ministering in Mosul (Christianity Today).
Source: International Mission Board, February 22, 2017
Every year when the list of Oscar nominees is released, I scour it to find obscure titles tucked away in each category. One group that is always full of gems is “Best Foreign Language Film.” The five movies included are selected from the best of the best that the international film community has to offer. Foreign films offer me something most of the Hollywood-produced ones don’t—a glimpse into a different culture’s worldview. Although I live and serve in Africa, a submission from Australia caught my attention this year.
Tanna, directed by Bentley Dean and Martin Butler and filmed on the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, is a classic Romeo and Juliet tale of forbidden love. However, since the story was conceived and acted by the indigenous people of Yakel, it’s full of insights into their values, fears, and attempts (and failures) to answer the questions of life.
The challenge the characters in Tanna confront—what cultural norms must be abandoned to preserve life—is similar to one Christians ministering cross-culturally often face: What elements of a culture must be abandoned in order to follow Christ?
Watching films created in different cultural contexts helps me evaluate my own cultural biases and appreciate the diversity of life in our world.
» Read full story and another recent IMB article about biblically faithful contextualization.
» Readers might also be interested the film The Enemy God, recently made available for streaming and download. Want training in film making? Check out the news about the Academy of Frontier Media and Arts (with thanks to Brigada for the tip!)