BURUNDI: Risen from the Dead

Source: Simon Guillebaud, September 5, 2016

Last month we sent out 701 volunteers for two weeks, who worked in every single province and in twenty-two different hospitals. This outreach was formally approved by both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health (which is amazing considering the current tensions and suspicions in the country because of rebel movements). The hospital authorities were mostly very receptive, although there was some opposition. Sometimes the opposition was overcome by the whole team donating blood.

Seventeen-year-old Aristide from Cibitoke was pronounced dead by the doctor, who withdrew the drip and covered his body with a sheet. The mother started weeping hysterically, and her cries drew the attention of our team nearby. One of them came rushing in, and felt led to claim his life back from the dead. After praying over the corpse, Aristide started breathing again, and he and his mother promptly gave their lives to the Lord, along with another forty-one people who witnessed or heard about what happened.

So our 701 folks spent their time washing seeping wounds, soiled patients, stinking societal rejects, and loving them in practical ways like doing their cooking, laundry, and general cleaning. They prayed for them, encouraged them, and listened to them. Just under 7,000 inpatients were ministered to, along with many more family members and staff. They reckon about 24,000 heard the gospel and 3,345 people made commitments.

Loving people in word and deed. Bringing hope and healing in humility.

Beautiful.

» Read full story.

WORLD: Help Influence Urban History

Source: World Evangelical Alliance, September 19, 2016

We are living in decisive times for the future of our urban world and the health and integrity of God’s creation. These two realities—cities and towns in the next 20-30 years growing from 50 percent of the world’s population to 75 percent living in urban areas, and the integrity of the world’s ecosystems that all life is dependent upon—are inseparably linked and both vitally important to the wellbeing of humanity. This is why the decisions being made for the “New Urban Agenda” that will be launched at the United Nations Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador (October 17-20, 2016) will be historically important and influential.

We believe Christians have a lot to learn about urbanism at UN Habitat III, but we also have a lot to offer from our biblical perspective, experiences, expertise, concerns, and values. The question is, however: Will Christians show up at this decisive time or just sit on the sidelines watching?

» Read full story and learn about the “Urban Shalom” project. Sounds interesting.

» Also check out the Brookings Institute’s Cities and Refugees: The European Response.

The Five-Minute Guide to Choosing Where to Send Your Church’s Short-Term Teams

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeyouthairportThe Five-Minute Guide to Choosing Where to Send Your Church’s Short-Term Teams

By Shane Bennett

A prominent pastor recently railed, “Short-term missions are the work of Satan designed to distract us from the real work, waste millions of dollars, and hasten an age of global darkness!”

Okay, so nobody actually said that… but you wondered, right? At least until the “global age of darkness” bit. That went too far. You wondered because you know that some people really think short-term missions are a bad idea. I’m not one of them. Oh sure, dumb short terms abound. No doubt about that. But the idea is sound, the heart is good, and the intentions are smart and honorable. I stand by my statement that very few people go long term without first going short term.

The trick then is doing the right short terms. This Five-Minute Guide will help you help your church choose or develop smart ones that accomplish God’s purposes.

Five key questions will get you started.

1. What is the broad missions strategy of your church?

What? You church doesn’t have this? Hmmm, better start with the Five-Minute Guide to Developing a Global Missions Focus at Your Church. (Trouble is, that Guide’s not written yet. Darn.) Even if your church strategy’s not written down, chances are good there are some understood parameters. What’s been done in the past serves as a good indicator of what’s considered normal and doable.

Let’s say you do have some defined direction regarding how you sense God using you all in the world. In that case, you’d want short-term trips to fit into that long-term strategy. So you would evaluate a short-term possibility, in part, by asking how it fulfills the church’s mission statement and to what degree it honors or advances the basic values of the church. Sending prayer journeys to unreached cities would be consistent for a church with a heavy emphasis on prayer. A church with a laser focus on disciple-making might want to think twice about a short term that is 90% construction.

If you are dialing in on a focused work or a certain people group, look for short-term efforts that contribute to that: activities that advance the long-term goals and work that prepares your people to make career-level investment in your strategic focus. Essentially, your short terms exist for your long terms.

2. Who are you already connected to?

Most of us are concerned that we know and obey God’s will for our lives. It’s legit to ask, “What does God want me to do?” But what we don’t ask enough is, “Who does God want me to do it with?” This is a good question to ask on the corporate level as well. As you think of short-term teams for the coming year, consider whom your church is connected to denominationally, internationally, and locally. (If you find you have no connections, you may want to refer to the Five-Minute Guide on How Not to Be So Dang Independent. Although it’s also not written yet.)

Take a minute and look at your mission bulletin board or web page. Scan the faces and places and ask yourself how a few of you could spend a few days and really serve those people. Honestly, some would rather you not come over. That’s their prerogative. But for some of them, a week or two with a handful of good-hearted amateurs might actually be an asset. Again, you want short-term efforts to contribute to the long-term vision and work of your church.

3. What skills do you have?

Turn from looking at the missions bulletin board and gaze out over the congregation. What do you see? With what gifts, capacity, and resources has God equipped you all? Ask if there are things you can do that others can’t. Like the crazy great list of presents God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:2-4, God has poured gifts into your body. Maybe you’re flush with educators or medical staff. Maybe there’s a core of entrepreneurial magma flowing through any given Sunday morning. Maybe years of focused effort have built expertise in caring for people who tend to be marginalized.

What are those gifts and tendencies? How might they bundle up in the vehicle of a short-term mission and drive out among the unreached?

4. What is your faith horizon?

Faith is another gift from God. And depending on its relative abundance among your people, you’ll be able to do some things while you’d be wise to let other things go for the time being. It would be great to see you “swing for the fence”! If, however, you’ve managed to only send one short term in the past five years and that was a weekend effort to re-roof a shed at the denominational church camp, maybe you shouldn’t plan to take 25 people to plant churches in North India for a month. At least not this year.

Consider carefully what faith, coupled with wisdom, would lead you to do in terms of the number of people, expense of the experience, and type and location of the work. If you and I share a little of the same mobilizer spirit, push it a bit. But just a bit. Your pastor is carrying burdens you don’t understand, and it’s legit that he’s concerned about a bunch of you getting kidnapped!

5. Where is God at work?

Remember what Grandpa Henry said: Right now, God is working all around you. Similarly, you may recall the sons of Issachar who famously “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” I can imagine particular situations in which God is noticeably at work, but that you’ll want to go elsewhere simply because so many of God’s people are already responding. Other times, you’ll sense that, “Yes, this is a current move of God, and we are uniquely equipped to contribute, facilitate, and move it forward.” Or maybe, “God is doing something, and, though I don’t know why, but he is irresistibly calling us into it!”

Where is God moving today? Obviously or maybe below the surface? What is he calling the broader church to in these days and where do you fit in that?

Conclusion

Clearly these questions comprise a starting point, not a complete recipe for short-term bliss. I’d welcome your additional thoughts and wisdom. If you’d like to talk to me about how your church might implement some killer short-terms, start that conversation by emailing me. Finally, if you have ideas for additional Five-Minute Guides, I want to hear about those, too! Maybe we could write some together.

» Please feel free to comment and share your ideas with us on Facebook, Twitter, or on our website.

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 9.7.16

GERMANY: Refugees in Europe
UZBEKISTAN: Pastor and Family Granted Asylum in US
INDIA: Secret Christians Multiplying
YEMEN: Hope amid Chaos
CENTRAL ASIA: Experiencing Life and Death

Khudni Maak Screenshot

Watch Arab Christians sing Khudni Maak (Take Me With You), a Yemeni worship song. Beautiful words and music!

Greetings!

I am amazed at the dangers people will face to get to safety. The Guardian reported this week that an Afghan man spent 22 hours strapped to the lorry bound for Spain after paying a trafficker to help him reach Europe. This week’s news is full of stories of such desperate attempts.

This week is also the beginning of Hajj season. Last year’s Hajj disaster shows even holy sites are not safe. Pray for the expected 2 million pilgrims and that they might meet Christ on their spiritual journeys.

A group of Arab Christians knows where safety lies; see above. What beautiful music and words. Thanks to Global Worship for sharing this.

Blessed is he who knows where to find refuge (Psalm 34:8).

Pat

GERMANY: Refugees in Europe

Source: INcontext Perspectives, August 2016

In July, an INcontext team traveled to Germany to meet with key leaders in an attempt to unravel the challenges, opportunities, and approaches concerning the hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing European borders.

Interview after interview confirmed the fact that Muslims are turning to Christ. There is some suspicion that converts may be confessing Christ in the hope of receiving asylum, and there are fears that the salvation of many Muslims may come at the expense of Europe, but the general feeling is that God is building his kingdom and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

  • An Iranian pastor in Wiesbaden shared how, in the 22 years that he has ministered in Germany, more than 3,000 Iranians have accepted Christ, most of them in the last three years.
  • A Syrian pastor shared how “God is doing a mighty work.” Eighty-five percent of his church are refugees.
  • In the Café International in Leipzig, there are 20-30 refugees attending Bible classes once a week.
  • One Iraqi convert in Giessen stated, “I would rather die as a Christian than live as a Muslim,” after coming to know Christ.
  • In Frankfurt, a local church offered the Alpha course to refugees and ended up with a waiting list of 40 Muslims.
  • In Wiesbaden, there are now three Farsi and three Arabic-speaking churches.
  • One Iranian convert shared that in 2014 he was the only foreigner in the German church he attended. There are now 40 Iranians in the church.

» Read the full report. The 11-page PDF includes much data and analysis.

» See also The Rescuers, reporting on a German NGO that assists refugees with safe passage on the Mediterranean (Foreign Policy).

UZBEKISTAN: Pastor and Family Granted Asylum in US

Source: World Watch Monitor, September 2, 2016

Finally, their journey is over. Three years since fleeing Uzbekistan—following four years in a labor camp, house arrest, and death threats—Pastor Dmitry Shestakov has arrived in the United States, where he and his family have been granted asylum.

It’s been almost 10 years since Shestakov was first detained, after a raid on his Full Gospel Church in Andijan, southeastern Uzbekistan.

When eventually he was released, only two church members went to collect him.

“No one else dared to come, because they’re afraid to attract unwanted attention due to their connection with him,” a charity worker with Open Doors, which advocates for Christians like Shestakov, said afterwards. “Pastor Dmitry has to be very careful and everything he does will be strictly monitored. This includes the people he will be talking to, everything he says, everywhere he goes, and much more.”

Shestakov himself said he had been “ordered to follow strict guidelines and regulations.” He added: “I am a pastor and I want to serve God, but I have to find a wise way to do this.”

But two years later it became apparent that staying in Uzbekistan was no longer possible. After being made to ask the police for written permission to leave his house, and then receiving death threats, Dmitry Shestakov took his family to Ukraine, where they were granted refugee status by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

» Read full story.

» See also another report from Open Doors, this one describing tensions surrounding the faith of another Central Asian believer who apparently has remained in the region.

INDIA: Secret Christians Multiplying

Source: Christian Aid Mission, August 25, 2016

In the strongly communal nature of life in Udhampur District, in the Jammu region [of Northern India], friends and relatives are the fiercest enemies of those who embrace Christ.

“So many people come to us secretly,” [one] ministry leader said, “but they don’t want to come on Sunday due to the fear of the people, because everyone knows it’s the day Christians come to worship in the church.”

The ministry, which shares the Good News to see lives transformed among the Dogri-speaking people of the area through the efforts of its 22 indigenous evangelists, has also been able to stage big-tent, evangelistic campaigns in the past two years. With many people coming from surrounding villages, those at the events who put their faith in Christ also may keep it hidden from their family and friends.

“They know Jesus is the truth, Jesus is the way of salvation, but they are afraid of their friends and relatives,” the director said. “You may see 200 people accept Christ, but only 30, 40, or 50 take baptism. We’ve prayed so many times for the sick people in the community, and they get healed immediately, but they remain secret believers. We believe that one day God will bring a break-through, but there are thousands of secret believers.”

» See full story with pictures.

YEMEN: Hope amid Chaos

Source: Voice of the Martyrs, August 13, 2016

Thousands have died and hundreds of thousands are in need of food, clean water, and medical care. Numerous homes, schools, and marketplaces have been left in ruins. Amid the chaos, the persecution of Christians continues—but these believers have hope.

“The Lord Almighty is the one who gives us strength and the ability to resist discouragement,” says one local Christian leader who is part of a ministry organization providing for a variety of needs in conflict-torn country of Yemen.

In Yemen, Christians face intense persecution from militant groups, such as al-Qaida, but they also face persecution from their Muslim neighbors. One believer said these difficulties are “encouraging believers to build the family altar.”

Although local Christians must be careful about sharing their faith, many say the war has taken some of the pressures off their community. As a result, believers are becoming more united as they share resources and to meet together to pray and worship.

More Muslims are coming to Christ, too. A local ministry leader said, “Every two or three days we discover a new believer.” Leaders are now discussing how to best shepherd these new brothers and sisters.

» Full story with pictures.

» One report says, “Unofficial statistics suggest that there are some 2,500 indigenous Christians in the nation, practicing their faith underground.” Read more at Gatestone Institute.

CENTRAL ASIA: Experiencing Life and Death

Source: Pioneers USA, August 18, 2016

Central Asia is breathtaking in its scenic vistas and the hospitality of its people. Its history and spiritual need after centuries of being a crossroads also take your breath away.

Middle Ground Screen shotIn this second video of our Middle Ground series, our tour guide heads out of the city with Pioneers workers to visit a mountain village and a traditional jailo, or summer pasture, where a shepherd tends his flock. Rob experiences both the rich hospitality of a meal with his hosts and the unsettling reality of what it took to make that meal possible.

» Read full story or watch Rob Experiences Life and Death (nine minutes long).

» Viewers might also be interested in the World Nomad Games now happening in Kyrgyzstan, “where 40 nations compete in eagle hunting, stick wrestling, and goat-carcass polo.”

Resource Reviews

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

In This Issue: When following Jesus doesn’t make sense

  1. FILM/EVENT: The Insanity of God
  2. DVD: Transformation of a Kentucky Mountain Town
  3. BOOK: Healing the Wounds of Trauma
  4. EVENT: Debriefing Retreat for Missionaries
  5. EVENTS: Upcoming Conferences, Courses, and More

Greetings,

Some months we have more books to review than you can possibly read (sorry… kind of!) This month, though, it’s films. One of the two documentaries mentioned in this edition is only in US theaters, and just for a one-night showing (so far), and the other one is only available for purchase on DVD, though you can watch an extended trailer online.

We also came across a few more videos you might be able to use, all of them new offerings from media ministries we’ve featured previously. They are online and include additional material you can use for group discussions. Take a look at these (and other films from these groups).

  • Lift Up Your Eyes, from Moving Works, is a short film that tells a story about church planting in Quebec; French with English subtitles.
  • The Ordinanance, from Deidox, is 32 minutes long and tells the story of some Texas churches and cities taking unprecedented action to protect those in need from the payday loan industry.
  • The Caribbean nation of Grenada and the young African country of South Sudan are the focus of two beautiful new short prayer videos from Prayercast.

Blessings,
Marti