TURKEY: Update on American Pastor Andrew Brunson

Source: Middle East Concern, January 2, 2017

An appeal for the release of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor imprisoned in Izmir, has been turned down. On December 9, Andrew Brunson, the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, was brought before a court in Izmir for questioning. The court ordered that Andrew be imprisoned on the grounds that he is linked to a terrorist organization. This accusation is based on the testimony of a ”secret informant.“

Andrew, a US citizen, was originally arrested with his wife Norine on October 7. They were told that they were to be deported as “a threat to national security.” Norine was subsequently released, but Andrew was held in an immigration detention facility until he was transferred to a prison in Aliaga, Izmir, after the court appearance.

On December 29 an appeal for Andrew’s release filed by his lawyer was rejected, but a further appeal can be made to a higher court.

Those close to Andrew Brunson request prayer that God will strengthen and encourage Andrew, speaking to him during his imprisonment, and comfort and protect his family; that the accusations against Andrew will be clearly repudiated; that family visits and telephone calls will not be obstructed; that Andrew will soon be released from detention and allowed to return home; and that Christians in Turkey will not be intimidated by these and other recent pressures.

» Read full story.

NORTH AFRICA: Why Focus on Nomads?

Source: Mission Frontiers, January 1, 2017

In Africa’s Sahel, 100 people gathered to listen to a well-known presenter on Disciple-Making Movements (DMM). After the teaching, one of the Tamajeq (Tuareg) believers stood and asked, “How can DMM be applied in my setting?”

The translator was befuddled by what appeared to be a very general question.

As he began to translate, a rather bold fellow interrupted him and attempted to explain to everyone the context this question came from. With some confidence he asserted that the question was rooted in the general poverty and great needs of the desert-dwelling Tamajeq people. Then he [presumptuously] rephrased the question this way, “How can DMM succeed when so many Tamajeq people are hungry, needy, and dying?” The presenter answered as one might expect, advising that attention be paid to the needs of the suffering before doing DMM.

The Tamajeq man sat quietly but I squirmed in my seat. We settled people have a default that identifies nomads as suffering people who barely eke out a living. We believe that nomads would succeed if they would only settle down. The fact is the Tamajeq are great nomadic pastoralists of the desert. They range over vast swaths of the Sahara Desert, living where most of us would likely die.

Neither the translator, the bold fellow, nor the presenter understood that this man was struggling to apply the principles of DMM in a nomadic society. Ideas and strategies like DMM are not imagined or purposed for people who live as they do. How, for instance, was this man to convene weekly meetings with people who are always moving in different directions? He and his Tamajeq colleagues needed answers.

» Full story unpacks missiological shifts required to reach nomadic peoples. January edition of Mission Frontiers is focused on nomads. You might also be interested in the Nomadic Peoples Network.

UKRAINE: Seminar/Retreat for Pastors from Conflict Zone

Source: Operation Mobilization, December 21, 2016

Local churches continue to work from within and nearby the conflict zone in the east of Ukraine. ОМ Ukraine, together with crisis management specialists held a seminar-retreat for pastors, who work every day in stressful situations serving people on both sides of the conflict zone.

The OM team realized that investing in pastors is of utmost necessity, because a healthy pastor can grow a healthy church.

Along with receiving a time of rest, the participants were also able to learn new material presented by the team. Just like the prophet Elijah, after being fed and resting they were able to go back and attend to the calling God has for them.

“We haven’t had such rest for long time!” was one of the positive comments made. The most important time for participants during this seminar was quiet time with God in a place where they didn’t have to serve but were served instead.

» Read full story and pray for renewal for weary workers.

Greetings and Merry CHRISTmas!

why-all-world-maps-are-wrong

Source: Flowing Data

I have a couple of gifts for you.

Maps

I love maps. My favorite missionary quote is “To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map” (William Carey). So I give you some virtual maps. First, remember that all maps are wrong. Then use this amazing tool to see the how big the world truly is.

Here’s a fun Christmas game (after you have eaten so much you can hardly move): drag all of the nations close to the equator and compete with others to see who can put them back the fastest. I wish I had a wireless mouse and keyboard for my large screen TV (hint to Santa!).

Music

My church is continuing the Advent candle tradition with the themes of joy, hope, love, and peace. This year I’ve been challenged to think of freedom as a Christmas theme, too. A rendition of Handel’s Messiah that beautifully highlights the freedom theme is Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, especially Track 8, Glory to God, the angels’ announcement with some Martin Luther King dubbed in. Wow! There you go, another gift for you.

Rejoicing with you,
Pat

MIDDLE EAST: Snake-bitten Woman Healed through Dream

Source: God Reports, December 14, 2016

“Hajira” was raised in a prominent, loving, Muslim family in the Middle East. One evening her family, along with their cooks, drivers, and servants, went out to the desert to enjoy an evening bonfire under the moonlight. It was an annual tradition, and this year they set up camp near some rocky hills.

After dinner she went for a short walk through the desert with her brothers and sisters. Her father and mothers remained near the bonfire with the servants.

“While we were walking, I knew something bite my leg,” she recounts. “We saw a big snake moving fast after biting me.” Within seconds Hajira became unconscious and they rushed her to the hospital. She lapsed into a coma that lasted four days.

When she finally woke up she was unable to move and felt severe pain. “I heard doctors discussing renal failure and increasing fibrinolysis. Nobody thought I would live.”

Listening to the doctors, Hajira began to lose hope and tried to prepare herself for death. “I turned my face to the wall and wept. I did not want others to see my tears. I prayed to God for a painless death.” Then she drifted off to sleep.

While Hajira slept, something very unusual happened. An angel appeared to her and said, “Call upon Jesus, the Son of the Most High, who was crucified and died for you and rose from the dead.”

The words of the angel irritated her. “Prophet Jesus, the son of Mary? He was not crucified; and also he was not greater than my prophet,” she told the angel, reflecting her teachings under Islam.

“You are wrong,” the angel replied. “Jesus is the Lord of the prophets. He is the true Savior. He can heal you from all sickness and save you from sin and death. Call upon him with your heart and mouth.”

When Hajira awakened she saw her brother standing beside her. “Did you have a dream?” he asked. “I heard you were talking … something about the prophet Jesus?”

She described what the angel said in her dream. “I thought he would become angry,” she recounts, but his response surprised her.

He said he had an experience with Jesus in a dust storm when he and his team were involved in a military operation. The experience touched his heart and left him with many questions.

Hajira and her brother joined hands at the bedside, and he began to pray: “Jesus, if you are the true savior, show us the way. Jesus, if you are the true savior, forgive our sins. Jesus, if you are the true savior, heal both our physical and mental sickness. Jesus, if you are the true savior, send somebody to us for further guidance.”

» Read full story or see original story (Bibles for Mideast).

» Readers might also appreciate a story about a Middle-eastern man who gave God five hours to prove himself before he planned to commit suicide (Arab World Media). Another describes a movement among Gypsies who have moved from fortunetelling to fervent Christianity (BBC).

KAZAKHSTAN: Pensioners Fined for Praying with Hospice Residents

Source: Forum 18, December 16, 2016

Three pensioners were fined more than two months’ pension for praying with hospice residents and offering New Testaments. [All three] pensioners, between the ages of 61 and 72, are members of Rodnik Baptist Church in Oskemen. For many years the church has helped residents of the privately run Zhandauren Hospice with clothes, wheelchairs, and medicines.

“The place is quite poor, sad, and depressing,” one church member told Forum 18, “and the 100 or so lonely elderly residents rarely have any visitors. Some of them live there for years, forsaken by their children or relatives, either unable to care for themselves or having no other place to live, and some require round-the-clock care.”

On the afternoon of October 14, the three women brought tea and sweets for the residents, talking to and praying with some of them and offering copies of the New Testament.

“Our ladies only visited and met with those who invited them to come,” the church member added. “They did not impose themselves or their care on anyone, nor did they create any disturbance. The staff, particularly the head manager, were always open and happy to see them and others from Rodnik there and had no objections.”

However, on the afternoon of October 14, about ten officials “in dark clothes” suddenly arrived, Kerbele noted. “They split us up, wouldn’t listen to us, and wouldn’t answer our questions as to what it was about and what had happened,” she later told the news website Ratel.kz. “We couldn’t take one step left or one step right.” She recalled that she had been questioned “as if I had done something terrible.”

» Read full story. From another part of Central Asia, see Azerbaijani Christians Fined over Illegal Prayer Meeting (World Watch Monitor).

NEPAL: Eight Christians Acquitted

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, December 6, 2016

[Eight Christian leaders] were arrested in June this year. The group was held in police custody for nine days and poorly treated in prison. Before being released on bail, local police officials charged them with attempting to convert children to Christianity through distributing a comic book which explains the story of Jesus.

The charges are thought to be the first in Nepal’s history in which Article 26 (3) of the newly promulgated constitution was quoted, which states that “No person shall, in the exercise of the right conferred by this Article … convert another person from one religion to another, or any act or conduct that may jeopardize others’ religion and such act shall be punishable by law.”

The arrests took place following two trauma counseling sessions organized by Teach Nepal, a Kathmandu-based non-governmental organization (NGO), at two schools in Charikot. At the end of the sessions, the organizers distributed a small gift pack to the children, which included a 23-page Christian comic book.

The final hearing in the case was postponed four times this year before it was held on December 6, and the court delivered an oral verdict dropping all charges and calling for the bail money to be returned to the eight Christians. The written verdict is expected within a month.

» Read full story.

» Please pray for a US pastor jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges and for Compassion International, which runs a child-sponsorship program in India in danger of being closed down under new government restrictions.

FRANCE: New Church Plant Opens with Christmas Service

Source: Pioneers Australia, December 2016

Lourdes is a Catholic town with a population of around 15,000 people. It hosts almost six million pilgrims every year who come seeking the Virgin Mary for healing. It was here in Lourdes in 1858 that 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous saw apparitions of a lady who declared herself to be the Immaculate Conception. Nearly 800 years before, the region had been given to the authority of the Virgin Mary. Today the town is filled with hotels and religious souvenir shops for pilgrims and the entire economy of Lourdes is dependent on the business of Mary-worship.

There hasn’t been a Protestant church in Lourdes for more than 35 years. In 2015, a Pioneers team moved into town. They have been laboring through prayer and relationship-building over many years towards the goal the Lord placed on their hearts: that Jesus would be worshiped by a body of believers in Lourdes. This has required a battle in the heavenly realms, as they are facing an opposition that is felt but often unseen. We are excited to share that on December 10 the new evangelical church was launched in Lourdes with a Christmas gathering. Official services will begin in 2017.

» Read full story.

MOZAMBIQUE: Gospel Confronts Witch Doctor

Source: Baptist Press, December 2, 2016

Local witch doctor Adelina assisted villagers with divination and spells in a grass-roofed hut beside her home. But still, Adelina allowed [missionaries Brian and Becky Harrell] to use her home to share Bible stories with a weekly group. After a year of seemingly fruitless prayer for Adelina, Brian and Becky were about to give up. Adelina would listen carefully to the stories yet continue practicing witchcraft.

“We just couldn’t [continue sharing the gospel] right there next to this witch doctor hut,” Brian said. “What was the message that we were sending to the local community?”

Then one day when the group was preparing to pray, Adelina suddenly rose and said: “I need you to help me to do something. I know that what I have been doing is wrong, and I want to get rid of my witchcraft.”

The following Sunday a group of believers gathered to sing songs, dismantle the hut, and pray. They burned the gourds and all the paraphernalia Adelina used in practicing witchcraft.

“It was incredible,” Brian said. “It was an extremely intense day for her. … This was something we had been hoping for and praying for.”

Since then, Adelina has given birth to her seventh child.

“She says that all of her neighbors told her that this child would not live because she is no longer doing witchcraft,” Becky said. “This baby … is still very healthy. Adelina is now eagerly sharing her testimony, boldly explaining to people what God has done in her life.”

» Read full story.

» See also a story from Taiwan, One Less Idol Shelf (OMF International).