World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn this Issue: Sometimes the news is not what you expect

  1. INDIA: Witch Hunts Not a Thing of the Past
  2. INDONESIA: Attack Unites Muslims and Christians
  3. NEPAL: The Day Jesus Invaded a Buddhist Monastery
  4. GERMANY: Hundreds of Muslims Turn to Christ

For additional news, see our Twitter feed.


A new film about the life of Muhammad is causing a stir in the Muslim world.

Dear Readers,

Have you noticed that sometimes the news is just plain confusing? For example, the recently released film Mohammad: The Messenger of God (trailer above) is causing a stir in the Muslim world. It took me by surprise to read that Iranians made the film, while the fatwa against it is coming from Muslims in India. Wouldn’t you expect people in India, home of Bollywood, to support the project, while Iran, with so many hardliners about the arts, to object? But it’s not so simple. I had the same weird feeling when I read about that Pakistan is one of the top exporters of bagpipes: a challenge to my sensibilities. And maybe that’s a good thing!

I am wired to try to see connections and often God seems to use this gift. But I have to be careful how I use it and avoid any kind of “witch hunt” (see India story below). Some see a connection between the tragedy this week in Mecca and God’s judgment. My heart, though, hurts for those who sacrificed to seek God and were met with injury and death in their most holy place.

I do see a connection between the Muslim Hajj (September 21-23) and Jewish Yom Kippur (September 23) as they overlap this year. That means that, this month, many of the world’s people will be seeking to be cleansed from sin by a pilgrimage to their most holy places. Don’t miss the opportunity to pray for their cleansing—by the blood of Christ.

May they enter the true Holy of Holies with Jesus,

INDIA: Witch Hunts Not a Thing of the Past

Source: Mission Network News, September 3, 2015

It’s easy to assume that the extreme superstition that fueled historical tragedies like the Salem witch trials is a thing of the past, but Mission India says that’s not the case. Fear-driven witch hunts are a very real and disturbingly common part of society in many of India’s states. The problem is especially serious in Jharkland, where 37 percent of all witchcraft-related murders occur.

For example, in early August, five women were killed in the state of Jharkland when villagers claimed they were witches. The entire village contributed to the angry mob that blamed the women for many of the community’s issues, including illness and poor crop yields.

Last August in the state of Assam, a 63-year-old woman was beheaded on the basis that she had cursed the village with an illness. In July, a couple and four of their children were killed in their sleep when their own relatives accused them of causing the sickness that was spreading among infants in the village.

» Read full story, which links to a 2014 article with analysis of the phenomenon (Washington Post).

» Also read the secular coverage of the same event, Five Women Killed in India, and a story on witchcraft in Afghanistan, The Fortune Teller of Kabul, both from The Guardian. And check out Occult Beliefs on the Rise among Chinese Communist Leaders and Satan Has Come to Detroit: Try Not to Worry (Christian Today).

INDONESIA: Attack Unites Muslims and Christians

Source: Missions Network News, September 11, 2015

Muslims and Christians aren’t known for working together. But in rural Indonesia, Muslims and Christians in a small village are going “against the grain.”

Four radical Muslims brutally attacked Pastor Yuda, an indigenous church planter in Borneo supported by Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).

“The local people [Muslims] are coming together with the church members to try and find out who the person [was] who hit and attacked Pastor Yuda, and bring that person to the police” [reports FMI’s Bruce Allen].

Pastor Yuda’s village is 98 percent Muslim, and “the leader of that village, although he’s Muslim, does not want any conflict between Muslims and Christians or the church members in that area,” Allen shares.

» Read full story and prayer points.

NEPAL: The Day Jesus Invaded a Buddhist Monastery

Source: GodReports, September 4, 2105

Tyler Connell, with Ekballo Project, is currently in the Himalayan Mountains in one of the most unreached places of the world, distributing Bibles, praying for the sick, and preaching the Good News. A month ago, Tyler and his team trekked to one of the highest villages in the Tibetan region of Nepal. They split into groups of four and prayed for the Holy Spirit to direct their paths. Tyler’s group felt led to walk to the highest point of the village where they observed ancient ruins protruding above them.

At the moment they reached the promontory, a monk appeared, smiling as he approached them. “Hi, I’m Jems,” he said in perfect English. “We’ve been watching you guys; it is rare for anyone foreign to come to our village. Would you like to come inside our monastery?”

“We are followers of Jesus, the man and God greater than any other god,” Tyler told the monk.

“Oh, I once heard of Jesus, in India, but wasn’t able to do any reading on who he was,” the man replied.

“Can we introduce you to him through the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus?” one asked.

» Read full story and watch related video series Life in the Himalayas. The Ekballo Project uses film as a mobilizing spark on college campuses and churches to send believers into the unreached, unengaged regions of the world. See also Tyler’s recent article in Mission Frontiers.

GERMANY: Hundreds of Muslims Turn to Christ

Source: Christian Broadcasting Network, September 13, 2015

In Germany, hundreds of Muslim refugees are turning to Christ at a Berlin church. The Evangelical Trinity Church has swelled from 150 to 600 members in just two years, and many are Muslims fleeing Iran and Afghanistan.

Mohammed Ali Zonoobi, an Iranian asylum seeker, was recently baptized.

“I feel like I am born again,” he sobbed.

Many of the refugees are seeking asylum in Germany, and converting to Christianity can increase their chances of staying. If they’re sent home, converts can be persecuted—even put to death—for leaving Islam.

The church’s pastor said he believes the power of Christ is changing their lives.

“I know that sometimes people also come here because their hope is that they will be granted asylum status,” he said. “I invite these people in because I think that coming here does change people, despite their original motivation for doing so.”

Pastor Martens said only about 10 percent of those who are baptized do not return [to the church].

» Read full story and watch video report or read At a Berlin Church, Muslim Refugees Converted in Droves (Associated Press).

» See also this 16-minute video about Syrians that decided to walk to Germany (The Guardian), and read The Significance of Syria in the Bible History and Civilizations (Rev. Peter Sadid).

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 9.2.15

  1. WORLD: A Time of Anguish for the Globally Displaced
  2. ALGERIA: Exponential Growth of Kabyle Berber Church
  3. MIDDLE EAST: The Middle Eastern Mesh
  4. CENTRAL ASIA: Share Tea, Share Life
For additional news, see our Twitter feed.



Image: Gissur Simonarson. This photo of a Syrian father selling pens in the streets of Beirut raised more than US$150,000 for the Syrian refugee.

Dear Readers,

Last month a viral Tweet changed the lives of a Syrian refugee and his daughter (pictured above) when thousands of dollars were donated to help the two. We read that thousands of Icelanders have offered to take refugees into their homes. Syrians at train station in Hungary did not fare so well.

Such glimpses into the life of refugees are powerful. I am also looking forward to the film Salam Neighbor coming out this fall; it follows the journey of Zach and Chris, the first two filmmakers allowed to register and receive a tent inside a refugee camp. You might also be interested in the story of a recent Bethlehem Bible College graduate who took a step of faith and led his entire youth group, Palestinians, on an eye-opening short-term trip to minister to Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

Here in the US, we are entering election season, and immigration is a hot and divisive topic. That may be why we don’t hear much about immigration from the pulpit, says Matt Soeren, who points us to studies and sermon resources that could turn that around (Leadership Journal).

Politics aside, mission leaders like J.D. Payne point out that international migration is at the nexus of many of the world’s most challenging problems. You might want to listen in on J.D.’s conversation about migration and missions with leading diaspora missiologist Enoch Wan.

Don’t know where or how to begin to help refugees? Check out Exodus World Service. Working with Exodus, members of The Village Presbyterian Church in Northbrook, Illinois recently delivered their 100th Welcome to America! Pack. The church’s dedication to welcoming arriving refugee families over the last decade is a wonderful demonstration of God’s faithful care and concern for the stranger in our midst.

Love sports? Read Sports, Soccer, and Boxing as they Relate to Diaspora Missions and Evangelism (Billy Graham Center for Evangelism). Amy Walters of SEND International provides some helpful tips on reaching out to refugees. However you reach out, keep in mind these best practices of immigrant ministry from the Wesleyan ministry Global Partners.

Finally, several years ago, faithful Missions Catalyst reader Neal Pirolo published a motivating book on reaching internationals who live among us, and it’s full of great ideas related to ministry among refugees, immigrants, international students, and more.


WORLD: A Time of Anguish for the Globally Displaced

Source: INcontext Ministries, August 2015

During this year of spiraling crises, with millions of people already forced to flee from their homes and many thousands dying while trying to get to safety, the global humanitarian system has been severely stretched. Global forced displacement is currently reaching unprecedented levels:

  • 59.5 million individuals are forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations.
  • 51% of all refugees are children below the age of 18 years.
  • 86% of these refuges were hosted by developing nations.
  • 42,500 people are forced to leave their homes every day.
  • 53% of all refugees come from three nations alone: Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
  • 30 million people are currently subject to slavery.
  • 162 nations have slave practices.
  • 22% of these are subject to sexual exploitation

In this age of unprecedented displacement and suffering, the church needs an unparalleled response and a renewed global commitment to imitate Christ, the father of all compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3).

In John 11:35, we find the heart of Christ for those in need: “Jesus wept.” Tears of compassion well become Christians and make them most resemble Christ. It is indeed a season for anguish.

» Read full story and watch David Wilkerson’s message A Call to Anguish.

ALGERIA: Exponential Growth of Kabyle Church

Source: SAT-7 News and Prayer, August 2015

Now in its third year of broadcast, My Church in Algeria [a program in the Kabyle Berber language] is reaching thousands of remote communities across North Africa.

A secluded Protestant church in the Algerian mountains has quickly grown to over 1600 members. Daughter churches are now meeting in different cities to accommodate numbers.

Program producer Samia Jallali Kessai is heartened by the commitment of many members: “In the winter, it is very difficult to find a way up to the mountains. People have to wake up at 5:00am to get transport. The church service starts at 9:30am, but by 8:00am you will find that the church is full and many cannot find a seat.”

Every Sunday, SAT-7 broadcasts from the church. My Church in Algeria is one of the few programs broadcast in Berber on SAT-7 Arabic. A viewer from Morocco says, “Before we start our cell group church in my house on Sundays, we watch My Church in Algeria because it is in Berber.” Samia helps subtitle the recordings into Arabic: “We want to make it available to as many people as possible. It is particularly exciting as there are many communities in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Somalia where Berber is better understood than Arabic.”

» Read full story. See also a longer version on the SAT-7 UK website. SAT-7 also broadcasts a documentary series featuring the stories of Algerian men and women who have come to faith in Christ.

CENTRAL ASIA: Share Tea, Share Life

Source: IMB Connecting, August 1, 2015

“Farishta,” a young, unmarried woman from a large Central Asian family, wanted to show “Marcie” [an IMB missionary] how to perform namaz, the Islamic ritual prayer done five times a day.

Marcie shifted on the tea-stained couch and slowly shook her head as she told Farishta it wasn’t necessary.

Pointing to her cup of milk tea, Marcie asked, “When I leave and you wash this cup, will you wash the outside and the inside?”

“I’ll wash both the outside and the inside,” Farishta said.

“If you don’t wash the inside of the cup, will it still be dirty?”

“When we pray, it is important to have clean hearts before God. When I pray, I am sharing my heart with God and then listening to how he wants me to pray. Sometimes how God wants me to pray is different than I thought.”

Farishta looked at Marcie inquisitively, but changed the topic. A few minutes later, however, she brought up the topic again.

“Let me just show you how to do namaz,” Farishta insisted with a warm smile. Farishta did not understand why Marcie didn’t want to do Islamic ritual prayers. Everyone in Farishta’s community performs namaz.

“You know, namaz prayer has a special reward from God if you do it. I can show you how to do it right now,” Farishta said.

» Read the rest of the conversation. Also see sidebar stories about praying for Muslim women and hosting a women’s prayer tea.

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
For additional news, see our Twitter feed.


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.