LIBYA: 21 Egyptian Christians Beheaded

Source: WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News, February 17, 2015

On Sunday [February 15], the Islamic State (IS) released a video allegedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by militants pledging support to the IS in Libya.

Subsequent to the video release, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi confirmed that those killed in the video were Egyptian Christians taken hostage in Libya and announced seven days of national mourning.

In response to the killings, Egypt’s military carried out raids early on Monday against IS camps, training sites, and weapons storage areas.

  • Pray for Jesus’ comforting presence over the families grieving the loss of loved ones.
  • Pray for God’s protection over all Christians in Libya and across all the conflict areas in the Middle East.
  • Pray that those perpetrating violence would experience a change in heart, repent, and come to know God.
  • Pray for an end to all bloodshed in the Middle East.

» Read additional stories from this prayer bulletin.

» Editor’s note: Please also pray for the people of El-Aour, the small Egyptian town that was home to 13 of the men killed (NPR) and read a letter from the head of the Bible Society of Egypt. See also Murder of 21 Coptic Christians (Middle East Concern).

THAILAND: Bangkok Church Has Big Vision

Source: Godreports, February 17, 2015

In a storefront location on a bustling street near two malls and a university lies a glittering diamond in God’s kingdom, poised for growth in a nation where only one percent follows Jesus.

“We started with three people,” says Gai Tanangunvirog. She and her husband Khajorn lead Tai Church, which has grown to 100 and already planted five churches in other provinces of Thailand.

More than 70 percent of the church are former Buddhists. “Every week my staff shares the gospel,” notes Pastor Khajorn, who has an evangelist’s heart and is a sought-after speaker in other churches in Bangkok.

“We have a big dream,” says Gai. A decade ago Gai says the Lord revealed in a dream the church would grow to 60,000 people. “It’s such a big number it’s hard to imagine,” she confesses.

“People ask me why we’re so busy. I tell them our vision is not from man but from God.”

» Read full story.

Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeSowing among the Seedless: Learning to Love Jesus among the Unengaged

By Shane Bennett

Few things feel more productive, more helpful, more on task to me than speaking at a class like Perspectives or Pathways. I love it! The content is spot on and the classes tend to gather the coolest people in a given church or city, so it’s a privilege to chat with them. I’ll often start by asking students to consider why they’re taking the course. I want them to have solid motivation to do the hard work the course asks for. Without fail, some in each class say they’re taking it to find out what they should do with their lives, specifically what God wants them to do. It’s the classic, “What’s God’s will for my life?” Or, as poet, Mary Oliver frames it, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I love to hear people ask this because I love people who care what God thinks, what God is doing, and what God may have in mind for their hours and days. The down side is that the question can paralyze. Most of us reading this article are part of a set of humanity with no shortage of options. If you decided it was a good idea you could shift houses, change jobs, or even move to a different country. If you could do anything, how can you choose the next one thing to do? Kafka said, “I am free and that is why I am lost.” That’s a little heady (and depressing) for me, but I get the point.

To help people feel a little better, I’ll often tell them, “Good news: I actually know God’s will for your life!” Of course I don’t, really. Well, sort of. What I don’t have sorted is where my personal (or American) arrogance ends and solid understanding of the Bible and the world begins. Like I could really know God’s will for the life of an almost total stranger!

Yet this much I know for pretty sure. This I offer to you, your friends, the people you go to church with, myself, any of us who care what God thinks and want to answer the call of Jesus to follow him: Go where the glow is low.

Go Where the Glow Is Low

I really wish I could remember who I swiped that pithy little gut punch from, but I don’t. I didn’t make it up, but heard it from someone and it seemed both real and true. “Bloom where you are planted” may make a nice coffee mug, but “go where the glow is low” makes a better tattoo! And it’s more biblical. God told Abraham he wanted his blessing to be pressed into every family on the planet. Jesus told his disciples that the “gospel of the kingdom would be preached in the whole world as a witness to all nations” before the end would come. And his disciple John apparently saw that happen, recording in Rev. 7.9, “…I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…”

Assuming we’re in the middle of this amazing story, clearly the mandate that we (the collection of all of us who love Jesus and try, however falteringly, to follow him) have is to take the gospel of the kingdom where it isn’t seen or known yet.

Or in other words, go where the glow is low.

Where No Seeds Are Planted

One of the clearer ways to describe the lowest of the “low glow” areas is the term “unengaged.” Unengaged describes people groups among whom no one is living for the gospel, reaching out in the local language and working toward discipleship movements.  No harvesting, no growth, not even any planting. Seedless. If you’re a grape or a watermelon, seedless is good. If you’re waiting for an initial outbreak of God’s kingdom in your midst, seedless is bad.

Who’s seedless? When we’re looking at a shifting scene, numbers will vary. Reliable information, however, indicates around 1400 unengaged people groups. Frontiers sees Muslims comprising 1100 of those. Steve Richardson (of Pioneers) points out 45 Buddhist groups and 139 Hindu groups too. Completely unengaged. These are groups that are not only “lost” and “unreached,” but as far as we know, also lacking incarnational gospel witness among them.

So some of us from somewhere need to go to these places, these peoples, with a truckload of seed. We need to learn local languages, love the people we find, and seek God for his purposes among them. And many more of us ought to to pray and send and look for other creative ways to see the seed spread where it isn’t.

Is this the only thing God is doing? Certainly not. And the answer to “What’s God’s will for my life?” does not always include the word “unengaged.” But let’s not let this generation pass with any groups without someone showing them what it means to follow Jesus.

What Can We Do?

So what can we do? The Unengaged Unreached Community on Facebook encourages believers to become aware, to pray, and to obey.

Awareness

Prayer

  • Turn your knowledge into prayer here and here.

Obedience

  • Can I encourage you to find representatives of unengaged peoples near you? They may be international students, refugees, or immigrants.
  • Skim this list to spark your imagination.
  • If your desire to “go where the glow is low” begins to look like a career move, please consider linking up with an agency prioritizing the unengaged. Among many great agencies doing that, consider both Frontiers and Pioneers.

Finally, wave the flag for the unengaged. Advocate, inspire, suggest, invite. I suppose engaging all unengaged groups has never been more doable than it is right now as you reach the end of this article. It’s not easy. People will die, dreams will go unrealized, and hard work will yield little results. But it will happen. God promised it to Abraham. Jesus paid for it. And John shares the scary cool glimpse he was given of what it will ultimately look like: an uncountable multitude from among the nations proclaiming that salvation belongs to their God.

THAILAND: The Unreached People Group Next Door

Thailand videoSource: Asia Stories, International Mission Board, January 25, 2015

A number of shacks were empty, and fewer children came to the tarp than in weeks before to play games, listen to a Bible story, and make crafts. During their last visit to this small village in Thailand, the International Mission Board missionaries found out many workers were moving.

But this night was still special. Believers from another migrant worker camp just down the road came to share their testimonies. That camp is where [an] IMB missionary serves. She came to encourage her friends as they shared with the neighboring village—a huge answer to prayer.

“We’ve prayed a long time for believers in our camp to be bold,” said the faithful prayer intercessor. “They haven’t really shared their faith outside of their relatives.”

A young couple invited the missionaries and migrant believers into their home. Stepping gingerly inside the shack, the wooden floors sank under the extra weight of the visitors’ every move. “Than” and his wife were the first believers here and they were excited to see other migrant workers choosing to follow Jesus, just like them.

The visitors invited the couple out to the tarp to hear a Bible story. The wife stayed home with their newborn, but Than came out, as did several other adults, including a few who hadn’t before shown much interest.

The sweet-spirited migrant families are special to [the foreign missionary], a 40-something mother of two from Mississippi. It’s in their camps throughout northern Thailand where she sees the gospel change lives. It’s where disciples are trained to share God’s love in their home country, a place where foreigners cannot go.

The journey to reach this unreached people group began five years ago with a simple prayer—two mothers asking God where he wanted to use their families.

» Read full story and related material focusing on prayer and reaching out to immigrants.

SYRIA: Japanese Journalist Was Devout Christian

Source: GodReports, February 2, 2015

Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, beheaded by ISIS in a newly released gruesome video, also happened to be a devout Christian.

A reporter seasoned in war zones, Goto traveled to Syria hoping that Japan’s pacifist stance would grant him relative safety, unlike other journalists from nations leading airstrikes against ISIS.

He failed to take into account this new brand of terrorists is breaking all previous norms, with no apparent limits to their depravity.

“You, like your foolish allies in the Satanic coalition, have yet to understand that we, by Allah’s grace, are an Islamic caliphate with authority and power, an entire army thirsty for your blood,” a masked militant says in the video, while holding a knife to Goto’s neck.

In his reporting, Goto focused on the human cost and suffering of war, not on who was winning or losing. An Associated Press report quoted his former pastor, Hiroshi Tamura, who cited his Christian faith for inspiring his reporting.

Goto accepted Jesus in 1997, which was somewhat rare considering only two percent of the population of Japan is Christian. Christ’s call to reach the poor and broken in spirit seemed to motivate his journalism.

“I have seen horrible places and have risked my life,” he told ChristianToday.com. “I know that somehow God will always save me.”

But instead he joined the ranks of Christian martyrs who have given their lives for a higher cause—the cause of Christ. Terrorists may have taken his physical life, but they could not rob his soul of heaven’s joys.

While he focused on refugees, poverty, and innocent victims of war, his reporting also yearned for a world of peace and wellbeing, according to his mother, Junko Ishido.

Goto, 47, traveled to Syria in October 2014 to report on the war and to liberate an old friend, Haruna Yukawa, who was first captured by ISIS in August when he was peddling arms. Instead of negotiating Yukawa’s release, he himself was grabbed by the terror group.

» Read full story. See also Japanese Christian Lays Down Life for Friend ISIS Captured (Charisma News / Reuters).

MYANMAR / BURMA: Obstacle to Conversion Looms for Evangelists

Source: Christian Aid Mission, January 29, 2015

In a country where Christians face hostilities from the Buddhist majority, the upper house of Burma’s parliament last week passed a bill requiring all people wishing to convert to another religion to obtain approval from an 11-member government committee.

The punishment for applying to convert “with an intent to insult, disrespect, destroy, or to abuse a religion” would be as much as two years in jail, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). It was unclear how such intent would be proven.

The legislation, roundly condemned in the international human rights community, would add a huge obstacle to furthering the message of Christ in villages where native missionaries already encounter threats, deprivation, and violence from Buddhist monks, followers of native animistic beliefs, and village officials. An indigenous missionary whose work led to the establishing of a new church last month in the town of Pin Da Zah, Shan state, regularly faces threats of violence.

“By the grace of God, the Lord’s church has been founded in Pin Da Zah town, where strong Buddhists are fighting against other religions,” said the director of a Burma-based ministry that trains and sends native missionaries. “Please pray for them, as their lives are under threat.”

» Read full story.

» See also a story about minority Christians facing local opposition in neighboring Bangladesh, Chakma Christians Not Wanted (Mission Network News).

INDIA: Parliament Member Vows Death for Hindus Converting to Christ

Source: Worthy Christian News, January 29, 2015

An Indian lawmaker of the ruling Hindu nationalist party has promised a death sentence for any Hindu who converts to Christianity, according to the International Business Times.

“Wait for some time,” said MP Sakshi Maharaj. “A law will be passed in Parliament in which anyone indulging in cow slaughter and conversion will be punished with the death sentence.”

However, Maharaj said Indians of Christian or other non-Hindu faiths who convert to Hinduism will not be sentenced to death on the assumption that all of India’s religious minorities were all formerly Hindus.

“Ghar wapsi,” or reconversion, is not conversion, but a process to guide these people to where they actually belong, said Maharaj.

Relations between India’s different religious groups have been strained by threats of forced conversions. About 80 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people are Hindus. Muslims make up almost 15 percent of the population with other minorities making up the remaining five percent.

» Read full story. See related story in Christian Daily.

» Watch a nine-minute video, Hindu Guru Converts to Christianity (YouTube).

BHUTAN: Imprisoned Pastor Released Early

Source: Morning Star News, January 20, 2015

[On January 19] a court in Bhutan reduced a sentence of nearly four years in prison to 28 months for pastor Tandin Wangyal, resulting in the father of three remaining free to attend to his family and ministry.

More than 10 months after Pastor Wangyal was arrested for holding a public gathering in Samtse District, he was granted bail of US$1,523 for a sentence reduced from three years, 11 months to two years and four months (and 11 days) in what sources said was a move by the judiciary to dispose of a conviction for which it had no evidence.

“It has been a miracle verdict for me,” a joyous Pastor Wangyal told Morning Star News by phone minutes after the verdict in Dorokha. “I was rather surprised that the court had reduced my sentence.”

As he waited for a final verdict from the Samtse District Court, he spent three days of prayer and fasting on a mountain top with five friends, a friend wrote in an email.

“He said God prepared him for receiving his appeal’s verdict on January 19,” the friend said.

» Read full story.

» See another story of captives released: CAR Cleric and French Aid Worker Released (World Watch Monitor).