BURUNDI: Missionary Surgeon Recognized for Outstanding Service

Source: Joel News International, February 6, 2017

A missionary surgeon to Burundi has won the first-ever $500,000 Gerson L’Chaim prize for outstanding Christian medical service. Jason Fader, whose parents were also medical missionaries, is one of 13 surgeons serving the 10 million people in the sub-Saharan African country. Three-quarters of the population are malnourished, making Burundi the hungriest country in the world.

Fader, who grew up in Kenya, has been in Burundi since 2013. In addition to caring for about 25,000 patients a year with his team, he trains local doctors. “Jason is doing surgeries that no one else has done before in Burundi,” fellow doctor Rachel McLaughlin said. “He’s teaching medical students surgical skills and management.”

The prize money will be used to create the country’s first postgraduate medical training, add 48 new beds to the 172 at Kibuye Hope Hospital, and improve lower-limb fracture care—a crucial need in a country that travels by foot. “Literally hundreds of people will walk because of this prize,” Fader said. “Thousands of people will be cared for. And tens of thousands will be helped by the doctors we train here.”

Fader is part of a recent resurgence of medical missionaries. Attendance at the Global Missions Health Conference has ballooned more than tenfold over the past 10 years. Attendance at the Christian Community Health Fellowship conference has quadrupled. And the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board reported an all-time high of 300 medical missionaries on the field in 2013.

The African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF), co-founder of the Gerson Prize, was created in 2010 to promote health care in Africa, where Christian mission hospitals provide about a third of all medical work.

» Read full story from Joel News, or watch a short video from AMHF.

» We also read that Kenya’s health system is on the verge of collapse as a doctors’ strike grinds on (The Guardian).

TURKEY: Letter Campaign Seeks Release of Imprisoned US Pastor

Source: WEA Religious Liberty Commission, January 30, 2017

For over three months, US pastor Dr. Andrew Brunson has been detained in Izmir, Turkey for his Christian faith. Charged falsely with holding “membership in an armed terrorist group,” he now desperately needs your help. The WEA is launching a letter-writing campaign to demand his release. We also encourage you to sign the ACLJ petition for Andrew.

» Read full story and view the sample letter.

» Also pray for three men in Sudan, one a Czech national, as they seek to appeal lengthy prison sentences (Voice of the Martyrs).

PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi Story Highlighted on Day of Social Justice

Source: Jubilee Campaign, February 13, 2017

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice, February 20.

Though justice has not yet been brought to Asia, believers worldwide still pray for her freedom. Efforts have been made in the US to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department.

» Read full story.

SUDAN: Rescued Refugee Returns with Gospel

Source: International Mission Board, February 14, 2017

The world has watched in horror over the last several years as millions of people have been displaced from their homes in South Sudan as a result of civil war. It’s easy to wonder what good can come from children and families being forced from their homes, torn from any sense of safety and security.

But in God’s amazing grace, he is redeeming the stories of these lives, one by one, calling refugees to himself, and sending them back out to share the gospel with the nations. Abuk, a disciple of Christ and an IMB missionary, is one of them.

Abuk is subtly redefining what many people believe missionaries to be. Her humble spirit and inspiring story shows how they are ordinary followers of Jesus.

As a young girl, Abuk was displaced with her family and landed in Amarillo, Texas, right in America’s heartland. Abuk has now embarked on a journey to obediently answer God’s call to return to Africa to make disciples. Through her obedient response to the call to the nations, Abuk is subtly redefining what many people believe missionaries to be. Her humble spirit and inspiring story shows how they are ordinary followers of Jesus, each with his or her own story of redemption [and] part to play in God’s mission.

» Read full story and watch a related five-minute video.

» See also this encouraging story about ministry among refugees and immigrants in the UK from World Outreach (Nations Magazine).

Can Normal People Love Jesus, Muslims, and America—at the Same Time?

By Shane Bennett

If you live in America or you’re packing a US passport in a far-away land, you may be aware that we’re living through some crazy days here. Really, we talk about it all over, so even if you’re not an American you may be aware as well. I’m not super old, but I’ve never seen a situation like what’s going down here. We could argue ad nauseum about what’s right, what’s wrong, who did what first, and who’s just doing what was done to them. Pretty soon, we might look like a couple of fourth graders arguing over who should wash the dishes. Nobody wants that.

But we do want to follow Jesus, right? I was only sort of kidding when I said to a bud at lunch today that maybe it’s time to bring back “What Would Jesus Do?” And what would Jesus think? And how would Jesus love?

I think people who love Jesus and want to follow in his ways have a wonderful opportunity to do that in these days. Not an easy opportunity. One fraught with peril and risk, but equally or even more filled with possibility.

What if we rose up in the love and spirit of Jesus and set an example for others? What if we were asked to call our sisters and brothers to a straighter path? If God is calling us to that on large scale or if he’s just calling you to step into that in a low key and local way, how might it happen?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’m not going to tell you what to think. Land sakes, you’ve got Facebook to do that! But I’m going to give you five ways normal people like you can love Jesus, love Muslims, and love America. All at the same time. (In case it doesn’t quite “go without saying,” people who love Jesus, should love him more than both American and Muslims combined. We’re all cool with that, right?)

1. Separate the “political” from the “human.”

This solid insight came from my friend Tommy at MidIndia Mission. God’s kingdom and the American government have been linked of late in some awkward ways. In case you missed the Super Bowl, here’s the image that comes to mind.

As followers of Jesus, we need to discern the difference between what the government is called to do and what individuals who believe the Bible are called to do. Again, I’m not saying what you should think. But the two have gotten conflated of late to an extraordinary degree. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Let’s hope not, but let’s also realize that we are not our government. National efforts to keep terrorists out of our country perhaps do not need to be imitated on a personal level by advocating suspicion against Muslims in our communities.

2. Take advantage of your sphere of influence.

Who cares what you think? Who’s watching what you do? Besides the NSA? (I’m kidding. Just kidding!) Who around you has a sense that you know what it means to be a follower of Jesus? My hunch: More people than you suspect! Scary, isn’t it? But true.

If you were to say, “Hey, I had coffee with a Muslim guy today and it was sort of interesting,” who among your friends would reply, “Yeah? What happened?” Those are the people you might humbly, kindly influence to think in new ways in this national debate. That woman who just came to mind? Yep, that’s her. Talk to her. Does your pastor answer your texts? Send a couple. (Just a couple, please! I’m passing that on based on what my pastor tells me!)

God has given you influence for a purpose. I don’t suppose I know what that purpose is, entirely, but I’d sure love to see you leverage some it if to help us through this tricky time.

3. Recognize fear on both sides.

Happily, as followers of Jesus, we’re invited to pursue a fear-free life. But most of us aren’t there yet. Some Christians are honestly concerned that Muslims are taking over the world. It does no good to lightly gloss over that fear. Nor does it help to imply they’re stupid for being afraid. We must meet people where they are, fears and all, and look with them for a way out.

At the same time, let’s be honest: many Muslims in the US are afraid. A friend of mine recently related, “A young woman told me that after the election she stopped wearing her head covering out of fear. ‘Fear of what?’ I asked her. ‘I live in a neighborhood that is surrounded by churches,’ she answered.” Dang.

Let’s acknowledge what’s going on in people’s hearts and lives, but then let’s live and love, speak and write in such a way to show a better alternative to fear.

4. Get used to the sight of your own blood.

If you step out of line of the predominant political narrative these days, you may take some shots. Heck, if you oppose the predominant opposition narrative these days, you may want to duck! With Jesus (always) as our model and Peter wisely advising us to not get beaten for being stupid, let’s take some risks for what is right. With humility, patience, and winsome words, let’s invite our fellow believers to wrestle with what is right these days. We can love Jesus and Muslims and America.

5. Put your money where your mouth is, and take your friends.

OK, that metaphor may have broken down before it reached the end of the sentence, but here’s my point: It does little or maybe no good at all to wax eloquently about how much Jesus loves refugees and how he’d never institute a “Muslim ban” if he were president, when you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves and link your life with some of them. As papa John says, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

While continuing a lively debate on how many refugees should be allowed into the US and whether or not “extreme vetting” should include keeping one of their kidneys in a cooler, let’s do the relatively harder work of caring for the ones who have come. And as you do that, grab a pal by the hand and take them along with you. Visit a mosque with some skeptical friends. (Turns out, it’s not cheating on Jesus!) Enlist your small group to gather some clothes and take them to refugees. Compile a list of what normal people can do in your town, like my bud Tim is doing for Portland.

Speak passionately and act practically. We can, by God’s abundant grace and lots of work, show a good way forward. The love of Jesus is big enough to include both 320 million Americans and 1.5 billion Muslims and the seven million or so who are both.

Subversive Mobilization

A Serious, Once-every-decade Kind of Request

As part of my effort to go all Luke 10:2 on the American church (Send them out, Father!), I’m launching a weekly email. It will help us think about Muslims the way God does and love them like Jesus. It will help you understand what the heck is going on and will give you solid, gracious, and sometimes funny stuff to share with your friends, pastor, and Facebook friends. Would something like that help you?

Muslim Connect is a complement, not a competitor to Missions Catalyst. It’s a 300-word, weekly drip feed about you and me, Jesus, and Muslims. I’d be crazy grateful to have you sign up. If you do so now, you’ll get the next one that comes out tomorrow.

» Subscribe to Muslim Connect. Thanks.

» Read previous articles by Shane Bennett or respond to this one on Facebook, email, or the Missions Catalyst website.

CANADA: First Inuit Bible Translation Conference

Inuit-MapSource: United Bible Societies, January 27, 2017

The Inuit people inhabit the rugged Arctic terrain on the north coast of North America from Alaska to Greenland, including the Canadian Arctic and Labrador. Though this is a single ethnic and linguistic family, by historical criteria there is not one, but rather several distinct Inuit languages spoken across the Arctic today. The indigenous peoples continue to initiate translation of the Bible into their “heart language.”

Christianity was embraced by many Inuit peoples of the North; in fact, there are several churches today that are thriving in Inuit communities. Today, there is a resurgence of indigenous languages and cultures, and in the church, a corresponding desire for Scripture that speaks to cultural expression and a vibrant indigenous faith community.

In this moment of renewal and eagerness to preserve indigenous language and cultivate Scriptural translations for the whole community, the Canadian Bible Society (CBS) is hosting the first ever Inuit Bible Translation Conference taking place in Toronto, January 30 to February 3, 2017.

» Read full story with pictures and prayer points.

To learn more, see related article from the Canadian Bible Society.

» Another story from the world of translation: Critical Shareholders describes Wycliffe Germany’s free, annual “parents weekend,” serving the needs of translators’ families back home. What a great idea!

UK: Prayer-based Relational Network Equips “Ordinary” Christians for Ministry to Muslims

Source: Lausanne Global Analysis, January 19, 2017

Over the last year or so, Christians across the UK have been confronted with a sudden escalation of media accounts of the actions of extremist Muslims, with stories of terrible atrocities and bloodshed in Iraq and Syria. What has shocked them even more is that British Muslims by the hundreds have gone out to these war zones to give their support to ISIS and other extremist groups. Many Christians have focused on the effects of Islamization and on the persecuted church, responding with fear and alienating themselves from face-to-face interaction with their Muslim neighbors.

In this context, a new phenomenon networking both agencies and churches has proved to be a catalyst to unity and prayer. This prayer-based relational network is called Mahabba (“love” in Arabic); and it has flourished over the last four years, mainly because of the unprecedented opportunity in the UK. Its emphasis is on motivating and mobilizing “ordinary” Christians rather than just “specialists” to reach their Muslim neighbors. The model is a prayer-based relational network which equips local churches with mentoring and training materials, and which helps church leaders to train ordinary members of their churches to relate to Muslims in love and be able to explain the gospel clearly.

» Read full article and see also the rest of the January issue of Lausanne Global Analysis.

UGANDA: Pastor, Eight Others Missing

Source: Morning Star News, January 29, 2017

A pastor in eastern Uganda and eight other Christians are missing two weeks after a Muslim mob attacked a church prayer meeting, locked the congregation in, beat several members, and raped 15 women, sources said.

The approximately 90 Muslims broke into the evening prayer meeting of Katira Church of Uganda, in Katira village, Budaka District at about 8:30pm on January 15 and beat them with clubs and sticks, area sources said. Previously Muslims had only thrown stones at the roof of the church building to disrupt church services of the 500-member congregation, villagers said.

At the evening service, about 80 members were present, and among those who escaped before the doors were locked was a Christian who heard one of the assailants shout, “Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity,” a church leader said.

On the morning after the attack, some church members intent on retaliating gathered, and as tensions mounted police intervened, convening a meeting with Christian, Muslim, and local political leaders on January 22.

Christians were planning to destroy the village mosque in order to send a message that they were not cowards, but Pastor Mukenye pleaded for them to adopt an attitude of forgiveness, and they refrained, he said.

» See full story with picture.

» We were encouraged to read that four teenaged girls in Ethiopia, arrested for distributing copies of a Christian book, are in good health following their release from prison.

TURKEY: The Christmas Visitors

Source: Christian Aid Mission, January 19, 2017

Recent terrorist attacks in Turkey led a pastor to limit invitations to his church’s Christmas Day event to his own congregation. Then a multitude of visitors showed up.

God had other plans, he said, as Muslim seekers and Christians from churches in the region arrived.

“There were rumors that ISIS was planning to attack churches during the Christmas season, and therefore with prayer and apprehension we planned to celebrate Christmas only with our own congregation,” the pastor said. “However, the Lord as always did the extraordinary, and the meal we had planned for only 60-70 individuals was shared with hundreds of guests.”

The church members in the undisclosed town on the Black Sea coast gladly offered their seats to the guests, and after [the pastor] delivered a sermon, he noticed a timid young woman trying to tell him something. She had difficulty speaking through her tears.

“I had the impression that she was probably facing a serious problem and wanted me to pray for her, but soon I discovered that hers were tears of joy as she wanted to give her heart to Christ,” he said.

Another person also received Christ that day, and Pastor Matta said his team of indigenous missionaries were encouraged by such signs that the Lord is working in Turkey, where nationalist sentiment has long blocked gospel advance. Rare instances of Turks putting their faith in Christ show that seeds indigenous missionaries sow may produce fruit in two months, 20 months, or many years, he said.

» See full story with pictures; it’s quite encouraging.