IRAQ: Syrian Christian Hostages Free

Source: WorldWatch Monitor, October 13, 2014

The last of a group of 20 Syrian Christians kidnapped October 5 have been released as their pastor awaits trial before an Islamic court.

Rev. Hanna Jallouf, a Franciscan priest in the northeastern Syria town of Knayeh, was abducted with about 20 other Christians. The town, in Idlib province, is eight kilometers from the Turkish border, an area where al-Nusra Front and other rebel groups have been fighting the Syrian army for three years.

Citing Franciscan administrators in the region as well as “local sources,” the Vatican news agency Fides reported October 7 that Jallouf and “several men of the Christian village” had been abducted. Several children were reported to be among the abductees. Three Franciscan nuns who run a youth center and dispensary in the village were inside the St. Joseph Convent at the time of the kidnappings and escaped capture.

» Read full story.

» See also Kurdish School Children Released by Islamic Militants (AINA) and Boko Haram Frees 27 Hostages Says Cameroon Government (The Guardian).

MALI: Christians Return Home

Source: Barnabas Fund, September 26, 2014

Many Christians who were driven from northern Mali by Islamist rebels have begun to return to their homes in the region, which was liberated by French troops in early 2013.

Upon arriving in their communities, Christians have found that their churches were looted and desecrated by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamists. The cities of Timbuktu and Gao were left with no churches intact.

Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim Yattara, president of the Baptist Church in Mali, told World Watch Monitor that properties and vehicles belonging to Christians were also damaged and that an important community water project set up by a church in Timbuktu was all but destroyed by the Islamists. The substantial cost of rebuilding churches and infrastructure will be a heavy burden for Christians who have returned with very little.

» Read full story.

NIGERIA: Pastor Escapes Boko Haram in Deluge

Source: Godreports, October 13, 2014

He was held for 10 months by Boko Haram, the same Islamist group that has terrorized northern Nigeria and kidnapped some 300 schoolgirls. But God brought a downpour of heavy rain and a flood to wash away his captors and secure his escape.

Rotimi Obajimi, pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, was kidnapped January 6, 2014 as he traveled from his rural church toward Maiduguri, according to a story by the Sahara Reporters.

The radical group took him to Sambisa Forest, a former game preserve filled with leopards and lions that has become a haven for Boko Haram. It is suspected the group is holding the Nigerian schoolgirls in the same area.

Pastor Obajimi was tied up for months in the forest, while many in his church prayed fervently for his freedom.

During the first week of October heavy rains began. It was a deluge so strong that the camp began to flood. Because of the flooding, his captors deserted the camp and Pastor Obajimi managed to free himself.

For days he walked through the dense forest before he finally wandered into a village October 7, where soldiers picked him up. He was treated at Maimallari Hospital and debriefed by the military before he was allowed to return to Maiduguri.

“We were so amazed to see him because we have been praying earnestly for a long time trusting Jesus that he would surely come back but lo and behold he was brought to our headquarters in Maiduguri by the military,” a pastor from the Redeemed Christian Church told Sahara Reporters.

» Read full story.

» Read about another escapee and learn about Russia’s hidden workers: the slaves of Dagestan (The Guardian).

Practical Mobilization

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 In This Issue:

About Us

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

About Shane Bennett

Shane has been loving Muslims and connecting people who love Jesus with Muslims for more than 20 years. He speaks like he writes – in a practical, humorous, and easy-to-relate-to way –  about God’s passion to bring all peoples into his kingdom.

» Contact him to speak to your people.

Hold onto Hope

13178045623_577c206d9a_oBy Shane Bennett

Month after month, year after year, beyond the bounds of a decade, every “prayer and praise” list on my friend’s missionary letter started with this request: “Please pray with us for one family to follow Jesus.” This friend is one of the best people I know. He worked hard, pursued friends relentlessly, learned a tough language, and held on for a long time with a young and growing family. A border dispute between his home country and his adopted one resulted in his visa evaporating and his return home without a single family having followed Jesus as a result of his labor. Not one.

How do you hold onto hope through that? I don’t know. My friend is a much better person than I am. But hold on he did. And now, as a silver lining to the devastatingly black cloud over sections of the Middle East, he’s getting reports from among the people he was serving. Ones and twos reading the Bible. A dozen baptized this week. Families beginning to follow Jesus. Not just one, but many!

When Hoping Is Hard

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).

If you find yourself in the first half of that famous proverb and honestly wondering if the second half will ever happen for you, you are not alone. If you find your vision for God’s purposes taking on water and threatening to slip below the waves, you are not alone. If you wonder if God’s kingdom will come, if the good news of Jesus will ever make it to thousands of remaining unreached peoples, you are not alone.

A pastor friend of mine once confessed, “If I were ever to leave the faith, it would be because it’s been around so long and the world still looks as it does.” I can relate to that. I wish that the impact of God’s kingdom was already more pervasive.

Sometimes I walk among groups of people in my own country and see the sadness on their faces and bodies bent with worry and pain, and I wonder, “Where is the kingdom? When will it come?” And mind you, it’s not lost on me, this is in America; one of the healthiest, richest, opportunity-laden cultures in history. In many places, people struggle for day-to-day survival in ways I’ll never understand. Where is the kingdom?

I don’t want to be one of the scoffers Peter quotes in chapter three of his second letter, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). But sometimes hoping is hard.

So what can we do? At the risk of being trite, may I float out four things that help me?

1. Hold onto the Bible and a smart God.

Peter goes on to say, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God knows what he is doing and his timetable is not mine.

2. Encourage light where ever you see it.

For years I’ve prayed for reunification of the Koreas, that doors would open and the hope of the gospel flood the North. As I write, something new is afoot on the peninsula, maybe something huge. So I’m strengthening my hope by praying that today will be the day, that this is the answer to so many people’s prayers.

Where you see the smallest smoldering spark, encourage it to flame with the breath of your prayers.

3. Trade up on your hope.

Sometimes, perhaps in an effort to defer heart sickness, we only allow ourselves small and anemic hopes. I wonder if God finds our hopes too small. Maybe we should go after something bigger than not being “left behind.”

Can I share a big hope brewing in my heart? I’m scheming and dreaming for a huge move of God among immigrants and refugees in the Italian city of Catania. In the midst of great suffering and despair, I’m asking God to raise up six to eight churches who will focus their efforts over the next three to five years on sparking disciple-making movements among refugees in Catania.

If that sounds like a fun sandbox to you, hit me up for the dream sheet.

4. Follow Jesus with some friends.

Rarely will everyone in your posse find themselves without hope at the same time. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

As you can imagine, it’s smart to build your posse before you really need them. And when you’re full of hope, let it leak out on them!

God will accomplish his purposes: From the audacious “blessing to all families” promise to Abraham to the kaleidoscopic worship John sees in Revelation 5:9, what God has promised, he will do. Don’t give up. It doesn’t look exactly like we’d hoped, but it will end up better than we can imagine.

Photo: Long Chung, Flikr.

Subversive Mobilization: You Can Quit Anything on a Thursday!

The provocative and winsome Bob Goff, author of Love Does, famously asserts that you can quit anything on a Thursday! And he does. Reportedly Bob quits something every Thursday. I wonder what he’s quitting today?

His logic is that you can’t get the really good stuff into your life if your life is already stuffed with other things.

Makes sense to me. So what should I quit today? TV? Writing the Practical Mob column? I considered quitting Facebook, but then I thought maybe I should invite you to be my friend there.

Here’s what I am quitting. First the easy one, then the harder one:

1. I’m quitting the Christmas gift edition of Practical Mobilization that has occupied my December slot for the past five years. Thank you, Thursday!

2. I’m also going to quit thinking and acting like people who think differently from me are dumb. They may be wrong. And heck, they may be dumb, but I don’t want to assume that, and I certainly don’t want to imply that in conversations with others.

So how about you? It’s Thursday. What are you going to quit?

Missions Catalyst News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue: How (and why) not to be ignorant about the world

RoslingsDear readers,

I highly recommend that you watch and share the TED talk, How Not to Be Ignorant about the World, in which a father-son team explain biases and give helpful tips for a healthier, more accurate perspective on the world. Ola, the son, talks about how we often see causation where there is none. This reminded of me a humorous list of bizarre correlations I’d seen, and then I found a whole website devoted to churning out these weird stats. Did you know that if you consider yourself hairier than most you are more likely to drink Mountain Dew?!

Assumed causation is a serious matter, though, and can cost lives. See the story below about what happened to Ebola workers in Guinea. Some readers might also be interested in Karen Armstrong’s recent article on the myth of religious violence (“The popular belief that religion is the cause of the world’s bloodiest conflicts is central to our modern conviction that faith and politics should never mix. But the messy history of their separation suggests it was never so simple”).

I believe our greatest incentive to be well informed is for intercession. There is a true correlation between prayer and events; we may not have empirical evidence of this, but we have the promises of God. This week we join Christians who are praying for an end to Ebola, and others interceding for Hindus during their Navratri festival (see below).

Many are also praying for Muslims on the Hajj pilgrimage and Jews observing the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (October 3-4). When I pray for people of other faiths during times of repentance and cleansing, sometimes I pray through the lyrics of the song Rock of Ages, changing the “I” and “me” to “they” and “them.” Try it this week and think of the millions of Muslims circling the rock in Mecca and those Jews who have “rejected the stone.”

Praying with you for the sons of Abraham (and others),
Pat

P.S.: Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International, quoted in one of our recent news briefs, said one of you was trying to reach him after reading our story. He accidentally deleted your email. Try again!

Pat

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.

IRAQ: A Child’s Prayer

Source: SAT-7, September 29, 2014

The takeover of several Iraqi towns by extremist group ISIS (or Islamic State) has been devastating in recent weeks. Children in particular are sensitive to such tragedies. Mario, a regular fan of the SAT-7 KIDS program “Why Is That,” called the studio last week to pray for Iraq and all the Arab countries.

The young boy called from his home in Tanta, just north of Cairo in Egypt. As soon as Mario’s voice came over the air, presenter “Mr. Know” recognized him. Even though Mario lives hundreds of miles away from Iraq, he is touched by the plight of families suffering there.

The innocence and goodwill of a child’s prayers are an uplifting witness during such trying times. They give hope that God can use the next generation to shape a different future for the region according to his will.

» Read full story and listen to Mario’s prayer.

» Also read Informed Intercession: The Wonderful Marriage of Research + Prayer (Mission Frontiers) and inspire others to pray by sharing answers to prayer (Catalyst Services).

» Check out amazing footage on the Islamic State (VICE News).

SAUDI ARABIA: Millions Head toward Mecca

Source: Prayercast, September 28, 2014

Roughly three million people will descend on Mecca, Saudi Arabia from October 1-6 for the largest annual pilgrimage in the world: the Hajj. This journey is the life-long aspiration of one-fifth of the world’s population, and, when accomplished, is the spiritual climax of their lives. Being the fifth pillar of Islam, this pilgrimage and its accompanying rituals are supposed to increase Muslims’ chances to attain paradise and forgiveness. The Hajj represents an opportunity to be reborn.

Millions will circle the Ka’bah and perform countless rituals, seeking answers, assurance, and absolution from a god who cannot hear and will not answer. May Muslims on this year’s Hajj encounter the Living God through his son Jesus Christ, and may countless masses be truly born again by the power of the cross.

» Subscribe to updates from Prayercast.

» Download a video and prayer materials about the Hajj from Praying through the Arabian Peninsula, and see ISIS Threatens Mecca (WIN Reporter), Taking the Hajj to Heaven (Crossroads Arabia), and a story about breakthroughs in Christian broadcasting in Saudi Arabia (Arab World Media).

GUINEA: Ebola Team Members Killed over Tragic Misunderstanding

Source: ASSIST News Service, September 25, 2014

Rev. Moise Mamy and seven others in an Ebola education delegation were killed by villagers in southern Guinea [in mid-September]. According to a news release from Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA), government officials and news reporters were also among those who died.

Wome [where this happened] is located in Guinea’s forestière region—a densely forested, mountainous and resource-rich area where villagers have long settled their own affairs.

CAMA said Mamy was a member of the Eau de Vie (Water of Life) Ebola awareness team, a ministry of CAMA, the relief and development arm of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA). In addition, Mamy was an evangelist and district superintendent of the CMA church among the Mano, the people group of his ethnic origin. CAMA said he was also the executive secretary of Eau de Vie and cofounder of Hope Clinic, a CAMA-initiated medical and surgical facility that provides treatment for villagers in southern Guinea who otherwise would have no access to medical care.

“Many places accepted (the awareness team’s) teaching,” wrote Jon Erickson, an Alliance international worker and close friend of Mamy, with whom he cofounded Hope Clinic, “but some villagers had heard a rumor that the (bleach they were distributing), which kills the Ebola virus, was actually the virus itself.”

In the ensuing chaos, the team members were attacked and killed. The BBC reported that the bodies were recovered from a septic tank at the local primary school.

Mamy is survived by his wife and five grown children.

» Read full story.

» Our friends at SIM have called Christians to pray all this week for an end to Ebola. Learn more. And this just in, free educational resources in French and English available to ministries working in Ebola-affected countries (Women of Hope International).