In This Issue: 100 million in search of grace
- INDIA: 100 Million in Search of Grace
- NORTH KOREA: Planting Churches
- PAKISTAN: Closure in Blasphemy Case
- LAOS: Celebrating a Momentous Day
- SYRIA: Conflict Creates Openness
- NEPAL: Tract Leads to Lifetime of Faith
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Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Kumbh Mela, 2001.
INDIA: 100 Million in Search of Grace
Source: 24-7 Prayer, January 17, 2013
This January and February are expected to see the biggest religious gathering on earth as 100 million Hindu pilgrims flock to Allahabad in Northern India.
Every 12 years, the 55-day festival known as Kumbh Mela occurs at the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati – mudflats surrounding the delta are transformed into a city of tents.
During the festival the 100 million Hindu pilgrims will bathe at the converging point of the rivers, believing it will cleanse their sins and help to bring salvation.
The Kumbh Mela festival is not only the biggest religious gathering on Earth, but the largest gathering of humans for any event. As millions are gathering to try and find cleansing (purification of sin) in the waters of the Ganges, it illustrates the longing in the heart of every person to encounter grace.
These months provide a perfect opportunity to pray the Hindu world.
» Download a Kumbh Mela prayer guide (South Asian Peoples).
NORTH KOREA: Planting Churches
Source: Christian Aid Mission, February 5, 2013
“Mr. E.” leads three underground churches in North Korea, with a total of 87 members. He became a Christian in 2006. The following year he was arrested by the police and charged with espionage for helping North Korean refugees escape across the border into China. The penalty for his crime against the government was 18 years in prison.
Another underground church leader provided money to help Mr. E., and his sentence was reduced to five years. He was released and returned home to his family in 2012. Mr. E. lives in his mother’s one-room house with seven people. His desire is to have a house with a large room to host house church meetings.
Mr. E. already is seeing the fruits of his labors as the network of believers and house churches increases. He travels about 80 miles to lead worship services and meetings.
“He is now fully active and more energetic in the ministry,” said our missionary contact. “He has become a good partner in planting underground home churches.”
» See also Two North Koreans Killed for Their Faith (GodReports).
PAKISTAN: Closure in Blasphemy Case
Source: World Watch Monitor, January 16, 2013
The Pakistan Supreme Court [has thrown] out an appeal to reopen a blasphemy case against a Christian teen who had been accused of burning pages containing verses from the Koran.
Rimsha Masih had been acquitted of the charges in November by the High Court in Islamabad. The lower court’s decision was appealed to the nation’s highest court.
Federal Minister for National Harmony Paul Bhatti told Asia News he was satisfied with the decision of the Supreme Court confirming “Rimsha Masih is innocent.”
According to Vatican Radio, the minister said these were “days of stress and tension” but “justice had prevailed.” Bhatti is the brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, the government Minorities Minister who was assassinated for calling for reform of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law.
Religious liberty advocates hope the case will set a precedent for the way future blasphemy allegations are investigated, and that the court’s remarks will have a positive bearing on other outstanding cases, including that of Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.
» Full story.
LAOS: Celebrating A Momentous Day
Source: United Bible Society, January 29, 2013
Silver wisps of hair waving in the wind, 83-year-old Kam Bay stood at the back of the church in Vientiane, Laos’s capital city, with hands as frail as parchment raised high for the entire service.
Her joy at the launch of the new revised translation of the Bible in the common language of Laos was clear, as was the joy of so many others as tears of joy and thanksgiving flowed freely.
As children dressed in traditional attire to celebrate the momentous day, the senior leaders carried the new Bible down the aisle on a velvet covered silver dish, a reverent silence falling over the crowd as they did so. The importance and significance of this revision was felt deeply by those present, many of whom, like Kam Bay, have been praying for years for its completion.
“This is a miraculous day,” she told staff from the local Bible society responsible for the translation. “God allowed this revision to be completed, so that our people can understand God’s Word more easily. Praise be to God!”
» Full story with picture.
SYRIA: Conflict Creates Openness
Source: Mission Network News, January 30, 2013
“Really, only God could pull this one off.” Those were the words of Tom Doyle of E3 Partners, talking about the miraculous way the Gospel is reaching the hearts of the Syrian people.
While nobody likes war, Doyle says, 20,000 Syrians left Syria just this week. “Because of the war in Syria, we’re hearing 300,000 now maybe in Jordan. They’ve been displaced. They have nothing, but in Jordan they don’t have the Syrian government looking over their shoulder.”
Doyle and his wife met with Muslim women who are being served by Jordanian Christians. “They were so gracious. They were so thankful and [told] us stories about how the believers were reaching out to them: basically they’re the only ones that they trust right now.”
“Our leaders believe that this is the time to reach Syrians like never before. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? [Will President] Assad stand, or will he fall? We don’t know. God has opened this door. His hand is all over it.”
» Full story.
» See also: 60,000 Dead in Syria? Why the Death Toll Is Likely Even Higher (The Atlantic).
NEPAL: Tract Leads to Lifetime of Faith
Source: OM International, January 24, 2013
Although Miriam is 73 years old and barely 1.2 meters (four feet) tall, her huge faith and strong prayer life provided encouragement to two short-term workers who met her while trekking through a Nepal’s rural town.
After spending a few days with one of OM Nepal’s long-term workers, “Paul” and another short-termer embarked on the journey. “Be prepared to meet Miriam,” the long-term worker had playfully told them.
When they met Miriam, Paul didn’t know what to think. Why the warning for such a small, old person? And when she introduced herself with her infectious smile, they found themselves smiling ear to ear. “Follow me to my clinic,” she said [and] explained that she personally ran a clinic for pregnant women. “She is an amazing woman,” Paul later remarked. “She never stops.”
Miriam has not stopped since she became a believer 32 years ago. “I read a tract somebody had given me,” she said, “and from there I started to attend church to seek the answers of who Jesus really is.” Her story is not unfamiliar. But 32 years ago it was illegal to become a Christian, and she soon found herself imprisoned for her new-found faith. [That] did not diminish what the Lord had begun in her life.
» Full story.
» See also: A No-Trafficking Village, the story of another amazing woman in Nepal (RUN Ministries).
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.