World News Briefs


  1. AZERBAIJAN: Dreaming for Muslims to Believe in Christ
  2. GAMBIA: No Longer an Islamic Republic
  3. MYANMAR: Study Shows High Incidence of Suicide among Refugees
  4. TURKEY: The Malatya Murders and Ten Years of Forgiveness

…and lots of links to more!

iraq-smile A group of Iraqi Christians lined up to travel several hours so they could celebrate Easter in their own church, damaged by the fighting. Read their story (Open Doors).


There are some exciting things afoot in the here-but-not-yet Kingdom! Explore how networks are changing the shape of world mission (Mission Frontiers) and read about the once-a-generation gathering of European students to celebrate the Resurrection (Evangelical Focus).

Partner with the Moroccan church by praying for a very timely need: Moroccan Christians sent a letter to their prime minister calling on authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure Christian basic rights like freedom of worship. Pray also for the Church in Turkey; watch the video mentioned in a related story below.

If, like me, you don’t want the Easter holiday to end, learn about Eastertide or join Eastern Christians in observing Pentecostarion. I plan to incorporate the vision of the International Day for the Unreached into these new-to-me holiday seasons. Got ideas on how to do this well? Let me know.


AZERBAIJAN: Dreaming for Muslims to Believe in Christ

Source: Joel News International, April 2017

Azerbaijan is a Muslim majority country where the freedom to practice any other faith often comes with a price. According to estimates there are only 10,000 evangelical Christians.

Sari Mirzoev should know. In 1991, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he became the first Azeri Muslim to convert to Christianity. “Nobody understood why I did this, but as I saw God at work in my life, I realized that everyone around me was spiritually dead.” He accepted Christ while attending a Russian congregation. At the time, there wasn’t a single church for ethnic Azeri people. “All the believers that I knew were Russian.”

In 1995, Mirzoev says God gave him a prophetic word that Azeri Muslims would come to Christ as a result of his testimony. Twenty-two years later, he leads the largest Azeri evangelical church in the country called Love Baptist Church. “Sometimes we have as many as 30-40 people who accept Christ as their personal Savior in a single service,” says Mirzoev.

» The full story appeared in Joel News International; subscribe here. To learn more, read/watch a related report from CBN News.

» See also Uncovering the Unreached, the story of a western worker mobilizing Ukrainians and Russians to pray for Muslims and other unreached groups in their region (Send International).

GAMBIA: No Longer an Islamic Republic

Source: Open Doors, February 6, 2017

At the end of 2015, Gambia’s then President Yahya Jammeh pronounced the West African country to be the Islamic Republic of Gambia, saying the decision to make it an Islamic state was made because Islam is the religion of the majority of Gambian citizens. This decision raised fears among the Christian minority and human rights groups, but now Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, has pledged reforms, including removing laws in Gambia’s constitution that violate freedom of religion.

Speaking at his first news conference since taking office on January 26, President Barrow said the country’s official name will no longer contain the word “Islamic.” Gambia, whose population is 90 percent Muslim, with the remainder of the population being Christian and animist, will move forward as the Republic of Gambia, rather than the “Islamic Republic of Gambia.” These encouraging changes are a welcome sign to Gambia’s Christian minority that the new administration will be more disposed than the outgoing president to safeguard religious freedoms for all citizens of Gambia.

» See full story with picture and prayer points.

MYANMAR: Study Shows High Incidence of Suicide among Refugees

Source: World Watch Monitor, January 2017

A new study has found a high incidence of suicide among women in camps housing long-term refugees fleeing Myanmar’s ethnic conflict, reports the BBC News Magazine.

In a study of refugees in Thailand’s Mae La camp, where 90% are ethnically Karen—a group that mainly identifies as Christian—Dr. Gracia Fellmeth found that last year, suicide was “too common” in the camp, accounting for half of all deaths among pregnant women and new mothers.

With 40,000 residents, Mae La is the biggest of the camps on the Thai-Myanmar border, which combined are home to more than 100,000 people.

Dr. Fellmeth, who reported her findings in the British Medical Journal, visited the camp as part of a study into the mental health of mothers around the time they give birth. It focused on a couple who had committed suicide together by swallowing weed killer, despite the pregnant woman showing no alarming signs at an antenatal clinic days before. It also found that a quarter of all the women they spoke to thought about suicide, with about three percent having made an attempt.

The report concluded that “refugee populations are at risk of developing mental disorders as a result of their marginalized status, socioeconomic disadvantage and exposure to trauma.”

» Read full story. From neighboring Thailand, read Changed: Healed to Help Others and watch a video with Pastor Mao’s testimony about how the Lord spared him from the debilitating results of a brain tumor and gave him a growing ministry in his village (GNPI).

» See also a few more reports about refugee populations: No Place for Eritreans (Carnegie Council) and a story about more than 40 refugees, including women and children, shot dead off the coast of Yemen (Your Middle East).

TURKEY: The Malatya Murders and Ten Years of Forgiveness

Source: International Mission Board, April 18, 2017

Ten years ago in the city of Malatya, Turkey, three Christians were martyred for their faith by men who pretended to be interested in the gospel.

In the days following, the press spoke to one of the widows, and she declared her forgiveness for the murderers. In Turkish culture, [it] was unheard of that someone could forgive such an act of evil. So the story spread, and people across Turkey were talking about it in their homes, tea houses, and places of business.

During the fifty-plus years of evangelical Christian work in [modern] Turkey, this message of forgiveness has been proclaimed hundreds of thousands of times. Sometimes it is proclaimed through God’s Word, sometimes through preaching and prayer, but rarely has it been declared more vividly than in the sacrifice of our brothers and in the words of this widow.

Currently, the evangelical church of Turkey lists its number of believers at around six thousand, a number that is about double the number of believers in 2007, the year of the murders.

» Read full story and see also a few additional stories of forgiveness, both connected to Egypt’s Palm Sunday attacks: Wife of Slain Security Guard in Egypt: “I Forgive My Husband’s Killer” and Widow of Palm Sunday Martyr: “He Asked Me to Wait for Him… But He Never Came Back” (Open Doors).

» April 18 was the Global Day of Prayer for Turkey in commemoration of the Malatya martyrs (watch a four-minute video below). Also pray for Turkey’s future on the heels of a significant political referendum.


World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeAsia Harvest image - HP India

With mountains up to 6,800 meters (22,300 feet) above sea level, Himachal Pradesh, India, contains many hidden tribes and ethnic groups that have yet to hear the gospel. “Sarita” was the first known Christian in her village. See related story below (Asia Harvest).

Missions Catalyst News Briefs 04.05.17

  1. WORLD: The Good Country Index
  2. INDIA: The Eagle and the Cell Phone
  3. NEPAL: The Top of Karma’s Prayer List
  4. SUDAN: Petr Jasek Speaks of His Imprisonment
  5. TAJIKISTAN: Churches Investigated for Underage Attendees
  6. USA/TURKEY: New York Times Publishes Story of Former Jihadist

Greetings and Happy (Almost) Easter!

This time of year usually sees many showings of movies about Jesus. Do you plan to watch any of these with your family or friends? Some are good, others not so good. I am looking forward to a new one, The Case for Christ.

Thanks to all of you who responded with sources on St. Patrick. So I’ll seek your wisdom again: what, in your opinion, is the best movie on the life of Christ? Comment on our Facebook page or website, or send me an email.

Have you heard about Harvard Law professor Simon Greenleaf and his investigation into the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection? I hadn’t. Maybe someone should make a film about that!

Because Jesus has risen,


WORLD: The Good Country Index

Source: INcontext Ministries, March 20, 2017

The idea of the Good Country Index is simple: to measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away, relative to its size. Using a wide range of data from the UN and other international organizations, a balance sheet for each country is drawn up showing at a glance whether it’s a net creditor to mankind, a burden on the planet, or something in between. So in this context, good means the opposite of selfish, not the opposite of bad.

The Good Country Index does not include religion, so this report aims to connect the dots [between] what people believe and how this relates to the benefit of mankind.

» Read the INcontext report; it draws some interesting conclusions about the influence of Christianity. You might also want to watch a 2014 TED talk about the Good Country Index. We might differ with the speaker about what’s wrong with the world and the root of those problems, but good food for thought nevertheless.

» See also Changed in a Day in which Justin Long makes a case that sustained church growth over decades is the key to see national transformation.

INDIA: The Eagle and the Cell Phone

Source: Asia Harvest, March 15, 2017

Last year a teenage girl we will call Sarita heard the gospel and believed. She was the first known Christian in her village, and the Hindu leaders were angry and tried to get her to renounce Christ. Sarita refused, and continued to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.

One day Sarita went to the forest to cut grass for the animals. After working several hours she sat down for a rest, when a crow suddenly swooped down, snatched up her cell phone in its claws and flew off! The young sister was deeply upset, as she had not owned the phone for long and she used it to communicate with Christian friends and receive online Bible teaching.

When she returned home, Sarita shared what had happened and the Hindu villagers mocked her. Undeterred, the young Christian told them that Jesus is the Living God who controls nature. She told them she was going to pray and ask him to do a miracle. This made them laugh even more.

Three days later, when many of the villagers were outside working in the hot sun, they saw an eagle slowly circling overhead with an object in its claws. They watched in amazement as the eagle glided in low to the ground (something they never do) [and dropped] the object right next to where Sarita was sitting. The people rushed over and were astonished to see that the eagle had returned Sarita’s cell phone, still in perfect working condition!

This miracle had a powerful impact on the whole community. They no longer opposed Sarita’s faith, and they agreed that Jesus is the Living God. Many asked to hear about God, and the gospel spread to many Hindus who had never previously heard the name of Jesus Christ before in their lives. Today there is a church in this remote village.

» Read full story.

NEPAL: The Top of Karma’s Prayer List

Source: Act Beyond, April 2017

Karma was all by himself when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015. The door to the room his was in was jammed shut from the shaking. It brought Karma to a point of crises in his faith. Was he going to trust only in Jesus or trust in other religious superstitions of his Tibetan Buddhist background? A few days after the earthquake Jesus visited Karma in dream and Karma decided to wholeheartedly follow Jesus.

Several months later the Beyond team members started a Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with Karma and two other believers. Over the next year that DBS developed into a small church that meets together each week. Karma is one of the two leaders that leads that fellowship.

It’s been nearly two years since the earthquake and Karma has just had another breakthrough. Ever since the DBS started, Karma has been worried about what his village leader might think. Even though Karma lives in the capital city he still felt pressure to have the approval from his village leader. So, on the very first day of planning for the DBS, Karma made a prayer list that hung on the very same door that was jammed shut after the earthquake. On the top of that list was the village leader’s name.

Each day for the next 18 months he prayed for his village leader. Recently he went and met with the village leader and told him all about the fellowship and his desire to see his people follow Jesus. The result? The village leader encouraged him to keep up the good work! Yes, a Tibetan Buddhist village leader encouraged Karma to continue spreading the gospel!

» Read full story.

SUDAN: Petr Jasek Speaks of His Imprisonment

Source: Voice of the Martyrs, March 31, 2017

Petr Jasek, a Czech national and [Voice of the Martyr’s] Africa regional director, spent 445 days in a Sudanese prison. Days after returning home, Petr sat down with VOM Radio to share his story and thank the thousands of people who prayed for him and his co-defendants during his long months in prison.

Listen in as Petr shares about going to the airport to leave Sudan in December of 2015, and the point when he knew that what he faced was much more than a routine security screening. He’ll share how he kept praying as he was questioned, and how he found out that his cell mates were members of ISIS. Your faith will be encouraged as you hear how God had been preparing Petr—even years before his arrest—to remain faithful during months in prison.

» Read full story and listen to interview (three separate broadcasts, each 28 minutes long).