Missions Catalyst News Briefs

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In This Issue:

  1. EDITOR’S NOTE: Taking Risks
  2. LIBERIA: Ebola Giving Christ Center Stage
  3. NIGERIA: Market Price for a Christian’s Life
  4. UKRAINE: Christians Captured and Killed
  5. MIDDLE EAST: Children at Risk
  6. SAUDI ARABIA: Is God at Work?
For additional news, see our Twitter feed.

Dear readers, 

I’ve been thinking about risk: those at risk, those who take risks, and those for whom life has become too risky. You may have heard our local story about the Amish girls kidnapped and miraculously released. This happened about 10 miles from my home. Then there are the girls still missing in Nigeria, the Christian and Yazidi women and children in Iraq, and many in Gaza and Syria. What about the children who risk all to cross a border because life in their home country is far worse? How do we “think Christianly” about this?

Also hotly debated in the news are those who take risks, like missionaries that get Ebola, saints like the Vicar of Bagdad, and those that run to the battle.

I once heard it said that the risk ratio is the wrong number to look at if we wish to quantify risk. Rather, we should measure what might be gained by taking that risk. This way of quantifying risk is more useful when deciding if a risk is good or bad. John Piper says it better in his book, Risk Is Right:

“There are a thousand ways to magnify Christ in life and death. None should be scorned. All are important. But none makes the worth of Christ shine more brightly than sacrificial love for other people in the name of Jesus.”

Blessings,
Pat

riskisright

Pat

Pat Noble has been the “news sleuth” for Missions Catalyst since 2004. In addition to churning out the news, she is working to create a SWARM (Serving World A Regional Mobilizers) in Northern New York using the NorthernChristian.org website. You can connect with her at www.whatsoeverthings.com.

LIBERIA: Ebola Giving Christ Center Stage

Source: Mission Network News, August 11, 2014

It’s now being called a “public health emergency of international concern.” We’re talking about Ebola. While you may not think it’ll affect you, the World Health Organization (WHO) made that statement to wake you up to the problem. WHO says Ebola took an additional 29 lives between Tuesday and Wednesday alone. Their report indicates Ebola has killed 961 people and sickened 1,779 others. This makes it the worst outbreak in history.

Two U.S. citizens, medical missionaries with SIM International Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, have been brought to United States for treatment.

In a statement release by Dr. Brantly, he said, “We went to Liberia because we believe God called us to serve him at ELWA Hospital. One thing I have learned is that following God often leads us to unexpected places. When Ebola spread into Liberia, my usual hospital work turned more and more toward treating the increasing number of Ebola patients. I held the hands of countless individuals as this terrible disease took their lives away from them. I witnessed the horror firsthand, and I can still remember every face and name.”

Since these Americans have contracted the disease, [SIM USA President Bruce] Johnson says doctors have responded by volunteering to go to Liberia to serve. “It’s that kind of sacrificial spirit that’s been such an encouragement to me, and I think really has been an encouragement to the whole church to see the sacrifice and willingness of our brothers and sisters to do that.”

Johnson says he could never have imagined being in the middle of this international media firestorm. SIM has been on many major television and radio networks. “We feel God is saying, ‘Express my glory through this,’ both in testimony as well as to help the U.S. government and other governments.”

» Read full story.

» See also Why Missionaries Put Their Lives on the Line (CNN

NIGERIA: Market Price for a Christian’s Life

Source: Jubilee Campaign

Seven suspected Boko Haram men alleged to have masterminded the attack on Ekklizivar Yan’uwa A Nigeria (EYN) Church in Biu, Borno State recently said they were paid N7, 000 [Nigerian Naira, local currency] each to carry out the attack which left no fewer than three worshipers dead.

One of the seven suspects, Ibrahim Mohammed Babangida, who spoke with journalists from his custody said one Magaji Bala, a butcher paid him to carry out the dastardly act.

“I was sleeping in my house when Magaji called me and handed over N7,000 to me for the operation,” he said, even as one of the suspects also corroborated the claim. The suspects told newsmen in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, yesterday that they were butchers by profession in Biu Market and were picked up in their different houses in Biu by the JTF operatives.

The suspects also claimed to hail from Jigawa and Katsina states, adding that they came to Biu, about 187 kilometers to Maiduguri and South of Borno, to eke a living.

So how much is 7000 Naira? It is about US$45. That is how much the life of a Christian in Nigeria is worth these days.

» Read full story.

» See also a Jubilee Campaign interview with one of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria (YouTube) and read Boko Haram Terrorists Find Salvation (WIN Reporter).

UKRAINE: Christians Captured and Killed

Source: ASSIST News Service, August 7, 2014

Four young volunteers with Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) who were recently captured by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine were brutally beaten to death simply for being Christians, according to a report from the organization last week.

“These men volunteered for FEBC with zeal, passionately helping to spread the Gospel throughout Ukraine,” the organization reported. We are deeply saddened and shocked.”

According to a report from National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), just weeks prior to this horrific tragedy, FEBC’s Eastern Ukrainian broadcast tower in Slavyansk – that for months has been in the middle of the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian central government – was shot down and completely destroyed.

While FEBC is still broadcasting in Western Ukraine and reaching millions there, they are now looking for a new location to resume broadcasting to Eastern Ukraine.

“We are doing everything we can to give hope to people in a seemingly hopeless situation, but more than ever, we are desperate for your prayers and for God to move in the lives of the people of Ukraine,” the ministry shared last week.

“Please pray for those who continue to serve and risk their lives every day to see the gospel go forth. Pray for peace in Russia and Ukraine.”

» Read full story.

» Also watch the video In the Midst, about Ukrainians finding new life in Christ, and read several related stories, including Crisis Draws a Nation Back to God (Commission Stories).

MIDDLE EAST: Children at Risk

Source: Stand4Kids, August 19, 2014

In the ongoing, violent conflict between Israel and Hamas, almost 2,000 people have been killed (as of August 10). The majority of those killed were civilians in Gaza, including 452 children. More than 2,800 Palestinian children have been injured in the violence. Over a half million people have been displaced.

  • Pray for those on both sides of this conflict who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Pray for God’s comforting peace to surround and sustain them.
  • Please pray for the thousands of children and families made homeless in Gaza. Pray for those in Israel who have had to abandon their homes and communities.
  • Pray God will bring healing to the hundreds of thousands of children who’ve seen horrors no child should ever have to witness. Pray for children who have already lived through multiple wars in their short lifetimes.
  • Please pray for a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement between Israeli troops and Hamas militants. Give God thanks for the previous ceasefires that have allowed more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
  • Pray the diplomatic talks in Cairo, Egypt will bear fruit; that mediators will reach a peace agreement that stops this devastating conflict. Pray for a sustainable peace in this region.

» Read full story. If you’re interested, sign up for weekly updates from Stand4Kids on how to pray for at-risk children around the world.

SAUDI ARABIA: Is God at Work?

Source: Arab World Media, August 15, 2014

Saudis are taught from a very young age that Islam is the only true religion and that the Christian Bible is corrupt. Anyone who questions these basic teachings faces harassment and harsh penalties from their family and acquaintances. Sometimes it results in their death. You can imagine, therefore, how difficult it is for them to change their mind about these things or even to express an opinion on the subject.

But regardless of the penalties, Saudis are responding to Christian media. This month our video of a Saudi man’s testimony has continued to generate a large number of comments and inquiries. There are several known local believers and many of them came to faith at least partly through Christian media. Since Sharia law includes the death penalty for leaving Islam, local believers must use extreme caution in telling others about their new faith. Many attempt to leave Saudi Arabia to avoid detection.

Our prayer is that God will touch the hearts of relatives and friends of these Saudi believers so that they too will believe, and that the Christian church will be birthed in Saudi Arabia.

You may think that it is not possible for foreigners to live in Saudi, or at least, that if they do, everything must be forbidden. But I am happy to say that I have lived here for ten years with my husband and children and I love it!

» Read full story.

Missions Catalyst News Briefs

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In this issue: Schisms and signs of solidarity

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Dear Readers,

Recent headlines are filled with story after story about conflicts between cultural and religious groups; see stories below. This brings to my mind a book by one of my favorite analysts, Richard Swenson, titled Hurtling toward Oblivion: A Logical Argument for the End of the Age. Are things getting worse?

I’m also reading Steve Addison’s Movements that Change the World. Though I’m not known to be a pessimist, I can’t help but think: Is it too little too late?

Maybe both can be true in the end. Doesn’t scripture give us both narratives, that it gets better and that it gets worse? An article on the Evangelical persecution complex asserts that among Christians, a sense of victimization may be exaggerated with results that are dangerous or at least distracting.

Some of the conflicts seem to be rooted in the desire of more and more groups to be separated from those they consider to be “other.” Identity and self-determination or freedom will probably be driving forces in both movements to Christ and the race to destruction. One thing is for sure: The next generation will be key. The children of Syria and Gaza are being taught very early that death is better than being swallowed up by the “other.” Watch the video Syrian Children on the Frontline (jump to the 10-minute mark to hear from the children).

Solidarity is a beacon of hope in this tumultuous time. I was encouraged by a seven-minute video from YWAM New Zealand, Resolutions to Impact the World (shared by INcontext Ministries). Whether you believe we are hurtling toward oblivion or seeing movements to Christ that will change our world, please watch this video and resolve to impact the world that God “so loves.”

Standing in solidarity with you,
Pat

Pat

Pat Noble has been the “news sleuth” for Missions Catalyst since 2004. In addition to churning out the news, she is working to create a SWARM (Serving World A Regional Mobilizers) in Northern New York using the NorthernChristian.org website. You can connect with her at www.whatsoeverthings.com.

IRAQ: From Symbol of Terror to Sign of Solidarity

Source: Assyrian International News Agency, August 8, 2014

Assyrian people in Fairfield [Australia] and across the globe have changed their profile picture on social media to the Arabic letter “N” in a show of support for people being persecuted by Islamic State terrorists in northern Iraq.

On July 19, Christians in the city of Mosul and on the surrounding Nineveh Plains were issued with an ultimatum to leave, pay a tax, or face death by the sword. The next day IS fighters drew the Arabic letter “N” on all property owned by Assyrian Christians.

Nasrani is the Arabic word for Christian and the letter was being used in a way that harkened back to the Nazis’ use of the Jewish star before World War II.

Within days Assyrian Christians were changing their profile picture and over the course of the week T-shirts proclaiming #WeAreN were being sold. An effort to send aid to those displaced by the conflict also got underway. Twenty-three-year-old Steven Barkho of Cecil Hills was one of the thousands of people [and many more worldwide] who changed his profile picture. “We didn’t think it would go viral as quickly as it has,” he said. “It isn’t just Assyrians changing their profile picture, it’s Christians and other people everywhere. For me it is just a way of saying to ISIS, ‘If you want to go for these people you have to come for us.’”

» Read full story, and see Assyrians Demonstrate Worldwide against ISIS Persecution.

» See also In Pictures: Iraq United vs Islamic State (Al Jazeera). Also note that today (August 6), a Global Day of Prayer for Iraqi Christians has been called.

PHILIPPINES: Village of Christians Seeks Exclusion from Islamic Region

Source: Worthy News, August 4, 2014

A Christian town in Mindanao is protesting its incorporation into the newly created, semi-independent Islamic region of Bangsamoro in the Philippines, according to Barnabas Aid.

Wao’s mayor, Elvino Balicao, is seeking an exemption from Bangsamoro’s Islamic law and has asked that his town remain directly under the administration of the Philippine government.

Wao is located in the middle of the Muslim-majority province of Lanao del Sur; Wao is the only Christian-majority town in the province.

After a decades-long insurgency, the Philippines signed off on a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to establish Bangsamoro.

» Read full story.

GAZA: Church Bells Silenced

Source: Mission Network News, August 4, 2014

Church bells have been silenced at a small Baptist church in Gaza. Since the region has turned into a war zone over the past few weeks, the small Baptist community is no longer holding church services.

An Open Doors contact shares: “We considered having a church service in our church on Sunday during the ceasefire. But since it became very clear that the ceasefire was not being kept, we decided it was irresponsible to meet together in the church.”

To encourage each other, the members of the church stay in touch with each other through telephone—if the lines are working—and also through organizing house meetings.

Apart from the Baptist church, the only two other active churches in all the Gaza Strip are the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Both churches have welcomed refugees from areas in Gaza that have taken heavy incoming artillery fire. Among the 1.7 million Muslims, there are approximately 1,500-2,000 Christians.

» Read full story and a related story on the emotional and spiritual toll of the war in Gaza.

»See also Colin Chapman’s analysis piece, Trying to Make Sense of Gaza (The Institute of Middle East Studies).