In the shadow of the day’s headlines | World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

  1. NORTH KOREA: Canadian Pastor Freed after More Than Two Years
  2. GUAM: Radio Broadcasting into North Korea
  3. NEPAL: Freedom of Religion Leads to Church Growth
  4. CHAD: “It’s Your Fault He Died!”

… And find more stories in our Twitter feed.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Chad_2017_0270101337Christians may face the wrath of the community when they turn their backs on worship of ancestors and things like trees and mountains to serve the creator God. This was the case with Samuel from southern Chad. See story below (Open Doors).

Greetings,

In putting together the news briefs we try to sidestep both political news and editorials, yet intriguing stories of kingdom challenges and advance are sometimes found in the shadows of the day’s headlines. This edition includes several such stories.

You might also be interested in several articles about Syria, one describing the escape of seven Armenian Christians from ISIS-held Raqqa, another providing chilling details from the findings of a study of torture in ISIS prisons, and a third about how Christians are persevering in Aleppo.

For short, thoughtful, biblical insights on current events, consider subscribing to a monthly editorial from the director of INcontext. This month’s article is about our sometimes conflicting desires for certainty and understanding.

Blessings,
Pat

NORTH KOREA: Canadian Pastor Freed after More Than Two Years in Prison

Source: INcontext, August 10, 2017

North Korea freed a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence on humanitarian grounds, the official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday, just hours after the United States warned it would counter any threat from the North with “fire and fury.”

There was no clear connection between the release of [62-year-old] Hyeon Soo Lim and the heightened rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang.

Lim, who served in one of the largest churches in Canada, had been sentenced to hard labor for life in December 2015 after North Korea accused him of attempting to overthrow the regime.

Lim’s Toronto-area church has said he visited the North more than 100 times since 1997 and helped set up an orphanage and nursing home. Last year, Lim told CNN he spent eight hours a day digging holes at a labor camp where he had not seen any other prisoners.

» Read full story and see a moving story about Lin’s experiences (CBC).

GUAM: Radio Broadcasting into North Korea

Source: Mission Network News, August 15, 2017

Recently, North Korea threatened to launch missiles at the US territory of Guam. But even as North Korea postures with missile launch threats, Trans World Radio (TWR) in Guam has already been launching something else into North Korea… radio broadcasts of the gospel. In doing so, TWR is encouraging the remnant Church in North Korea. But the job is risky. North Korea is the number one persecutor of Christians, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List. And an outside radio is considered an illegal commodity in North Korea.

“The stories we’ve got is that people who have a radio keep it in a plastic bag and will bury it during the daytime and then dig it up at night and listen to the broadcast. A lot of times, people listen in very small groups in homes. We know that there are groups of believers in North Korea and we know that the church is alive and well and probably growing under persecution,” [says TWR’s Lauren Libby].

TWR currently hopes to increase their programming into North Korea by up to two hours so they can reach more people, whoever can listen, with the good news of Jesus Christ.

» Read full story or a related article on TWR’s website. You might also appreciate a short video with messages from Christian radio listeners in North Korea.

NEPAL: Freedom of Religion Leads to Church Growth

Source: Mission Network News, August 8, 2017

“Nepal has become the country where Christianity is growing at the fastest pace of any nation in the world,” says John Pudaite, President of Bibles For The World (BFTW). “The Body of Christ has been growing at almost ten percent per year, and we’re just blessed to be a part of what God is doing in Nepal.”

But why the sudden spiritual growth spurt? Pudaite says it comes from politics. “For centuries, Nepal was under a very restrictive monarchy and as the country opened up to democracy and developed its own constitution, all of a sudden people realized they did have a choice when it came to what they believed.” Christ’s message of mercy and truth is appealing to many, causing the Church to grow at an unprecedented rate.

Newfound freedom of religion also means newfound challenges, Pudaite says.

» Read full story.

» For another glimpse of this country, see Nepali Hindus Celebrate Sacred Thread Festival (Huffington Post).

CHAD: “It’s Your Fault He Died!”

Source: Open Doors, August 3, 2017

Samuel entered the dark hut to see his cousin lying on a mat, drenched in sweat and curled up in excruciating pain. Occasionally Alphonse mustered what little strength was left in his body to lift himself onto one elbow and vomit into a bucket his children had placed next to him.

“You need to take your father to a hospital,” Samuel told Alphonse’s children. “This looks like appendicitis.”

The children refused. They were determined to stick to superstitious medicinal concoctions instead, afraid they might offend the spirits by seeking modern medical care. When there was no improvement a few days later they decided to take Alphonse to the hospital but it was too late. Alphonse died shortly after surgery.

A family member phoned from the hospital to tell Samuel the tragic news and then declared, “It is your fault he has died! You told us to take him to hospital, and that is where he died!”

Samuel knew the community would side with the family of Alphonse so he gathered all his family members and sought refuge at the home of the village head. While Samuel’s family was safe inside those walls, their property was sat unguarded. Alphonse’s children burned it all down.

“I lost everything,” Samuel remembers. “We had a barn full of food, farm produce, farm equipment, and other personal belongings. Everything was lost in the fire. All we had left were the clothes on our bodies. Initially, I filed a lawsuit against them. But then I had second thoughts. I concluded that it was not worth it. Even though I continue to receive threats from them, I have decided to forgive everything. I have forgiven them completely.”

When Open Doors heard about the incident, we visited Samuel and his family to encourage them and pray with them. We also helped them afford a temporary place to stay while they rebuilt their home. The project has since been completed and Samuel’s family have moved into their new home.

“I have hope because I know that nothing is impossible for God. Even if men forsake me, God will never forsake me,” Samuel said. “He will restore me unto his glory.”

» Read full story with prayer points.

» See also a story on the cost of conversion in a West African culture where peace is everything (Pioneers).

Tremendous obstacles, transformed lives | World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue:

  1. THAILAND: Some Jungles Have Wifi
  2. NORTH KOREA: Government Agent Accepted Jesus on His Deathbed
  3. MALAWI: Saladin’s Struggle
  4. GREECE: Turning Hearts of Stone to Hearts of Flesh
  5. SAUDI ARABIA: Reaching Mecca

… And find more stories in our Twitter feed. We’re approaching 5,000 followers and would love to have you join us there!

Greetings,

Midsummer is a time when many in North America are more likely to be awed by the night sky. I am looking forward to watching the lunar eclipse August 21.  If you are in the US, you might find this tool helpful to determine when it will affect your city.

As I read the headlines, I am constantly asking what “news” is heaven interested in? One could also ask what AWES heaven? What should awe Christians? Rev. Tad de Bordenave of Anglican Frontier Missions ponders this in his recent post Bottom Dwellers, Black Holes, and the Bagri. In light of today’s edition, I might add to the alliteration: Bangkok.

In AWE of him who created all,
Pat

THAILAND: Some Jungles Have Wifi

Source: Commnet Media

The Bangkok Metro Region is home to nearly 15 million people. Less than one percent of them follow Jesus. That means millions may not even know a single believer. Not one. It’s our prayer to see that change. It’s going to take a ridiculous amount of work in a place that’s hotter, harder, and more complex that you can imagine. It’s not going to be easy.

» Thanks for praying and mobilizing for Thailand. See more resources from Commnet, including four more new videos about ministry in Thailand. Any you use in your own context?

NORTH KOREA: Government Agent Accepted Jesus on His Deathbed

Source: ASSIST News Service, July 25, 2017

“Like so many Christian families, our family was banished in the 1950s to a remote village,” Kim Sang-Hwa told Open Doors. “They continued to hide their faith from the outside world.”

“When I was 12, I accidentally found a Bible my parents had hidden in their closet. I don’t know why, but I started to feel inside the cabinet with my hand, pulled out a book and began to read.”

“To me all those stories and ideas were so interesting. I also read the Bible for myself. But I realized it was dangerous. My father always emphasized not to share anything with anyone else. Then he would start to pray in whispers, almost inaudible. ‘Father, help the North Korean people to seek your Kingdom first’.”

She learned that her father met people in secret location, as part of the underground church. “Many children of believers came to that location too and learned the Bible. We prayed together.”

But Sang-Hwa and her parents were unaware that government agents had infiltrated the underground meetings. “Among the people visiting the secret meetings were some non-believers too, even spies,” she told Open Doors.

When one of those visitors was dying, her father went to see him on his deathbed. The man confessed his duplicitous intentions: “I know everything about you, your family and your faith. I was a spy and ordered to watch you,” he told her startled father.

Amazingly, the government agent never turned them in. As he observed the believers praying and singing, his heart softened toward them.

“You are a good man. I never told anyone you were a Christian,” he told Sang-Hwa’s father. “Tell me how I can become a Christian too.”

» Read full story and the more complete report from Open Doors.

» See another story from Open Doors, this one from Myanmar: How an Ex-Soldier Braved Demons to Bring a Buddhist Village to Christ.

MALAWI: Saladin’s Struggle

Source: FEBC, July 31, 2017

Saladin is from Malawi in Africa, and had been a Muslim for over 38 years before becoming a Christian. Saladin held a number of positions in local Muslim leadership. He was the secretary of the Muslim council in the eastern region of Malawi, and also worked as the vice president of the Muslim Teachers Union.

While in these positions and practicing his Muslim faith, he kneeled down to pray late one evening.

“As I was doing this I saw a vision. I saw Muslims, a large multitude of Muslims, who were weeping, and I saw my brother and I saw my uncle, and they were filled with sorrow. I saw that they were crying, saying, ‘Saladin, please rescue us!’”

Saladin woke up and wrote down what he’d just dreamt about, and from there, he left Islam in search of the truth. Soon he found Jesus Christ and accepted him as his Lord and Savior.

“After I accepted Jesus Christ, I was rejected by my family and treated as an outcast. The Muslim Teachers Union told me I was going to be killed according to Sharia law. I told them that I wasn’t there to attack them, I am here to preach about the one true, living God.”

It continues to be a struggle for Saladin, yet he now goes door to door telling people to accept Jesus Christ. He has been threatened and scorned, yet God has protected him.

» Read full story and more news from FEBC, a radio broadcasting ministry.

» For another article about God raising up and sending out messengers, see The Secret Lives of Chinese Missionaries in Northern Iraq (South China Morning Post).

GREECE: Turning Hearts of Stone to Hearts of Flesh

Source: Beyond, August 2017

There was an Afghan man that would come to an Athens refugee center regularly named Ali. He was devout in his faith and threatened anyone he saw that showed interest in Christ or asked questions.

In January, Ali gathered a group of Afghan men and surrounded an Iranian believer, Fardin, and said he needed to come do namaz (Muslim prayers) or they were going to kill him. Thankfully some people came and broke it all up before they could hurt him.

A few months after this incident Ali had an extended family member that really needed help. We provided Ali with the resources necessary to help. [Later] he said with tears in his eyes, “You covered my shame by allowing me to be involved and you restored my honor. I will never forget this.” After saying that he left.

Last month, Fardin was leaving our refugee center and heard Ali shout, “Hey, Fardin. Come over here.” Fardin said his stomach dropped and he wondered if he was going to get beaten again, and he even asked God why he let Ali find him again. When Fardin approached Ali, Ali threw his arms around him and called him brother. Ali said, “We are brothers now! I believe. I love Jesus!” Fardin stood there with his mouth opened, shocked at what had just happened. Ali said, “Why do you look so surprised? God is big! I believe!”

We serve a God that is actively turning hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

» Read full story, followed by one about new believers starting house churches within a week of coming to know the Lord.