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.


Practical Mobilization

Adobe Spark (19)5 Mobilization Lessons from a Couple of Guys Named Phil

By Shane Bennett

Way too recently I realized the Apostle Philip was not the guy who took a carriage ride with the Ethiopian eunuch. Turns out there are two Philips! One is an Apostle, and the other a deacon and evangelist. Both have cameos in the beginning of the New Testament, though, and a quick look at their lives reveals some valuable lessons for mission mobilizers.

1. Called to go with Jesus

John gets Philip the Apostle’s story rolling in chapter one of his Gospel. He says two really cool things: “Jesus decided to leave for Galilee,” and “Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 1:43).

I can still remember being in college and reading a mission book or article about this idea. It had a picture of Jesus with a backpack, looking over his shoulder, making a little “come along” gesture with his hand. The caption said something like, “Jesus is on his way to the nations and he’s inviting us to come with him!”

Campy? Yes. Effective? Yes, for me, at least!

I love it that Jesus decided to go to Galilee: to the hard places. To the overlooked people. And having decided such, he invited Philip to join him. This must have been a little tough on the boy. On one hand, “Jesus picked me!” On the other hand, “I’m pretty sure I promised Mom I wouldn’t go to places like that!” Apparently the invitation won out.

There is something powerful about a personal invitation. [click to tweet]

Jesus said to Philip, as he says to us today, “I’m going to the nations and I’d like you to come with me.” You and I are invited by the risen Son of God to participate in the blessings of God being pressed into every nook and cranny on the planet, being planted within every family. Can you even imagine that?

Sometimes we wonder about our part in it, though, don’t we? “I don’t measure up.” “Maybe God doesn’t use people like me.” “Maybe I’m just making all this up in my head.” This is why you should never take a short-term mission team of twelve people, by the way: Each person will at some point think they’re the Judas in the group! You’re better off leaving someone at home or conscripting someone at the airport!

Take heart. God has in mind to use you in ways that are stunning and glorious for his name. He’s your dad, he loves you, and he’s quite pleased to have you working at his side. [click to tweet]

One last thought. These are good days to be called. Seriously! If you’re going to follow Jesus, why not do it during times in which it really matters? When we see the disconcerting rise of nationalism, in the midst of an unprecedented refugee crisis, and when migration has brought the ends of the earth to the end of your street, you and Jesus might not need a backpack but be fine with an iPhone and a Clif Bar!

I’m telling you, these are good days to be a Christian. We have a message to bring. We have power that needs to be unleashed into the world, unleashed with humility, winsomeness, and the very love of Jesus.

2. Encouraged to bring friends along

Philip said yes to Jesus (probably the lesson from his life that we need the most). Immediately he went to get Nathanael. I wonder if there was a little bit of, “No way I’m going to Galilee without backup, Bro. You need to come with me!” At any rate, Philip’s response to this crazy-great invitation was to grab a bud to go along. I love that!

When Nate expresses some doubts about whether this guy could be the guy, Philip simply and brilliantly responds, “Come and see” (John 1:46).

That’s the ticket, my mobilizing friends: asking our friends to come and see.

  • See the invitation of God to join him.
  • See the power of sacrifice in the purposes of that great God.
  • Experience the fun of connecting with people from other cultures.
  • Feel the weight of honor of participation in the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

That’s why I say to people, “Come and see what God is doing among Muslim refugees in Sicily.” That’s why I invite people to sign up for my weekly email, Muslim Connect, to see how normal Christians can practically engage with these huge issues and the normal individuals caught up in them. That’s why I invite people to consider the hard places and overlooked people.

Look around in your sphere of influence. Who’s waiting for you to say, “Come and see”?

3. Not disqualified for stumbling

At this point in the story, the music goes all minor and foreboding. Philip, who started so well, falters at two key points.

We read, “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’” (John 6:5-7).

It was a test and Philip failed! Give him an F- for the cheeky hyperbole, “…for everyone to have a bite!” Apparently Philip had a hard time understanding what Jesus could do. I’m glad I never struggle with that. It must be hard and sad. Poor Philip.

Actually, I wonder how many tests like this I fail, too. Happily, the canon is closed; John is not taking notes on my life!

Later, and more poignantly, we read that Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:8-10).

Not only did Philip not understand what Jesus could do, he didn’t understand who he was. This seems to have been for Jesus a preview of the pain of the cross.

If Philip, walking with Jesus as he did, had such a hard time seeing clearly, what hope do we have? He failed the test, ate a hearty dinner, and then stumbled again! If my life heretofore is any indication, I’m going to stumble. You, too? We’re going to stumble.

I remember sitting in the living room of a Muslim neighbor in our town in England. As he shared his conviction that we’re all fine because we’re all finding our own way to God, I found myself nodding in assent! As if from outside my body looking on, part of my brain was shouting, “Don’t nod! You don’t believe that!” But I did. The conversation moved on; I drank my coffee and left. Stumbled. Big time.

Please remember: to stumble does not equal disqualification. An older, wiser John writes, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

There is no mess too big for God. The trick is to get back up when you stumble. Don’t lay in your filth! God’s work to redeem all things includes you. [click to tweet]

And should your friends stumble, help them up, lending a hand as someone who has stumbled or may likely stumble in a similar way.

Watch for the second part of this article. We’ll shift to Philip the Evangelist and watch as he responds to Jesus’s call, literally in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

» Comment on our website or Facebook page or email Shane.

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).

TAJIKISTAN: Churches Investigated for Underage Attendees

Source: Mission Network News, March 31, 2017

A network of churches in Tajikistan is under heavy scrutiny. Their crime? Having children and teens under the age of 18 at religious services.

In Tajikistan, it’s illegal for underage minors to engage in religious activities, even if they’re with their parents. Several security officers attended Sunday services in two towns to film and take photos for evidence.

Kristin Wright, Advocacy Director with Open Doors USA, says they’re keeping an eye on the still-unfolding situation. “Since then, there’s been a criminal investigation against the church and against the members. These members are being questioned on a daily basis. It’s a situation of real concern for Christians, not just of this church, but churches across Tajikistan where these severe regulations really prohibit parents from even bringing their children to church and introducing them to the gospel.

“Right now, the authorities are planning to close the churches and make the activity completely prohibited. So that’s obviously the worst-case scenario, as well as just that constant stress the members are under, being questioned on a regular basis.”

» Read full story. See also an intriguing article from neighboring China about a church challenging government restrictions (WORLD Magazine).

USA/TURKEY: New York Times Publishes Story of Former Jihadist

Source: God Reports, March 28, 2017

In the New York Times Saturday Profile on March 24, journalist Patrick Kingsley introduced a subject that rarely appears in [its] gray pages—a profile of a jihadist who had his life transformed by Jesus Christ.

It seems Kingsley was shocked when he stumbled upon an Istanbul basement filled with 22 Christian refugees—many of whom were former Muslims.

While Kingsley noted that some refugees fake their conversion to Christianity for immigration purposes, “Mr. Mohammad’s particular experience, however, does not fit easily into this narrative…

» Read complete story and Kingsley’s article.

» See also Muslim Converts Revitalize Europe’s Fading Christian Churches (Gospel Herald).