MIDDLE EAST: Good News

Source: Act Beyond, July 2015

Most of what we hear about the Middle East is terrible news. But the turmoil and warfare there are creating desperation that has lead to an openness to the gospel for many people. We heard several Syrians quoted as saying, “Satan has caused this war in Syria, but God has used it to lead us to Jesus, which never would have happened otherwise.”

Amal was a young boy when he started having scary dreams of death and hell. He could never get away from them. For several years he said that he was tormented by these dreams. When he was about 12 years old he cried out to God begging him to please take away these dreams, to show him how he could get peace.

Amal is now a disciple who makes disciples. He has received some training from some long term workers with whom we work. With their help and encouragement Amal started several groups with men interested in the gospel. Many are now believers and have also started groups. God is at work!

» Read full story.

NIGERIA: Workers Stand Firm amid Violence

Source: Christian Aid Mission, July 2, 2015

Far from allowing the Islamic extremist violence of Boko Haram to drive them out, native Christian workers in Nigeria’s northeast have expanded their church-planting ministry to meet the needs of displaced people.

An evangelistic ministry based in Nigeria has long focused its efforts on the primarily Muslim, northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, which have been under a state of emergency since May 2013. Many of the thousands of displaced people have fled to camps in Adamawa’s state capital of Yola. The indigenous ministry is still working in northeast Nigerian villages, albeit much more discreetly, but it has expanded to camps for the internally displaced—not only offering humanitarian assistance, but proclaiming Christ at a time when few are bold enough to do so.

“There are more than 70,000 people in the camps there, so it becomes another mission field for us,” said the director of the indigenous ministry. “We used to reach them with the gospel in their villages, but now we reach them not only with the gospel; we reach them with food, we reach them with medicine, we reach them with Bibles.”

» Read full story.

Practical Mobilization

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In This Issue: Beware the Florida of the Mind

Mel2Mel Sumrall, founding pastor of Denton Bible Church, continues to inspire.

Beware the Florida of the Mind

“Your Story Is Still Being Written”

By Shane Bennett

Mel Sumrall grew up in a large Depression-era family in the Texas panhandle. At 17 he joined the Marines and spent the next three years in the South Pacific. Upon returning to the US, he went to the University of Colorado where he picked up a degree in mechanical engineering—and a wife. He and Patty moved to Pueblo, Colorado, and Mel quickly moved up to production supervisor at a large steel mill.

They were living the dream: great job, financial security, four beautiful little kids, and fine standing in the community. Then disaster struck and fundamentally altered the course of the Sumralls’ lives. Patty took their baby, Pamela, to the doctor because she wasn’t feeling well. By that afternoon Pamela was dead.

In the midst of the deep depression that followed, God began to speak to Mel through a wise and caring friend who prayed with him and shared the Bible with him. Even though Mel had prayed to accept Jesus when he was eight years old, this was the first time he’d been intentionally discipled. Slowly he shifted from living for himself to living for Jesus.

Mel’s discipler had continually challenged him to shift his skills and kingdom investment from running a steel mill to running a church. So at 48, the Sumralls traded the security of their Colorado situation for seminary in Texas. As four years of seminary drew to a close and no church seemed eager to turn Mel loose with his emphasis on discipleship and the equipping of the saints, the Sumralls decided to start their own. Denton Bible Church was formed.

As the church grew, Mel wisely brought it a partner, Tommy Nelson. Nine years after Tommy stepped into DBC’s pulpit, Mel stepped out of it.

At 62, Mel was near retirement age, but Mel wasn’t big on retiring. Mel and Patty began a third career: training pastors internationally. Together, they ministered in over 40 countries, developed training courses, discipled pastors, and left a mark that is visible today in thousands of churches world-wide.

Last week I got to hear this man speak. He’s now nearing 90. I felt as if I was in the presence of one of Jesus’ buddies. I thought, “I want to be like Mel.” I wondered how many “maybe-Mels” are out there wondering if God is done with them.

What does Mel’s life tell us? Your whole story has not yet been written. Yes, you may have more days behind you on this earth than ahead. Yes, your culture may be intimating (or outright shouting) “Move over, Buddy, you’ve had your chance. Make way for new blood.” Yes, you may be tired and discouraged.

But Mel Sumrall and our Father in Heaven would say you are not done. “No matter how old you are, your story still matters,” says Mel. “You have something to offer us. Your story is still being written. Your contribution is not locked up in the past in years gone by.”

Can you imagine starting something at 50 or 60 years old that is so big it eclipses whatever you’ve done up to that point? What if working on problems and overcoming challenges is how God brings renewal to our lives? What if you are just getting started and the past decades have been preparation for what’s next?

It’s okay to celebrate what has happened. It’s okay to be tired. But it’s not okay to be cynical. There is a real-life Florida, a paradise for retirement. But (with apologies to hard-working Floridians) there is also a “Florida of the mind,” and you shouldn’t go there. Don’t give up. Remember Saint Paul wrestling with this in 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re done. We need you. The unreached and unengaged peoples of the world need you. We need you, like Caleb in Joshua 14, to ask for another mountain or two.

What is your next mountain? That step that will require the best you have to give and then some?

_________

Thanks to Lawana Robinson for her great bio on the life of Mel Sumrall and Denton Bible Church and to my Indiana pastor, Matt Carder, for much of the verbiage at the end of this article. Please listen to Matt’s whole encouraging sermon. Thanks to MissionNext for helping cut trails for significant work among the nations, especially for those later in life. And thanks to Mel and Patty Sumrall for a wonderful example.

» We welcome your comments on this article on our website or Facebook page. Please forward or share it freely.

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 7.1.15

  1. WORLD: Wars and Statistics
  2. INDIA: Holiday Wars
  3. LEBANON: Muslim Leaders Condemn Persecution of Christians
  4. WORLD: Refugees, Crisis or Opportunity?
  5. INDONESIA: Former Jihadist Starts Jesus Communities

HopeinJesusListen to Josh Lavender sing Hope in Jesus.

Greetings!

How do you communicate hope? Before we can communicate hope to others we must learn to make them feel welcome. I am finding that the tools that a missionary needs to communicate well are also needed close to home. The pluralistic West hosts many subcultures, even where I live in upstate New York. In light of that, my pastor sent me a helpful list of seven things to say to church visitors and from the same source ten things you should never say (Thom Rainer).

Even more helpful is this list of things to avoid saying in an honor/shame context (HonorShame.com). The explanations are SO helpful. I think some of my relatives are from an honor/shame subculture!

Communicating hope must also be done with prayer. Are you praying this Ramadan for Muslims? Here are some ways to pray for Muslims besieged by war (Zwemer Center).

Communicating hope in Jesus,

Pat

WORLD: Wars and Statistics

Sources: various via Pat Noble, June 2015

Did you realize that Monday, June 29 was the one-year anniversary of the declared “caliphate” by ISIS? It bought to mind  an interview with Philip Jenkins by The Gospel Coalition which discussed Jenkins’ latest book, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade. Meanwhile, many evangelicals in the U.S. and elsewhere are despairing about the moral decline of society.

All this causes me to think about social changes, especially those that are ideologically driven. How is the enemy leveraging ideologies? How do we pray, or act? The first thing may be to recognize when what we’re hearing is propaganda and to combat it, if only in our own minds, with hard facts. Since data is inherently boring, I try to find information presented with great graphics, like those from INContext and Missiographics.

Some creative types use their art to humanize the data. Check out Hard Data, a five-minute video and music piece illustrating military data about casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jump in and watch from 8:50 to 10:10 to hear the artist describe this work (Flowing Data). Another great data visual about war is an interactive 15-minute piece, The Fallen of World War II (Neil Haloren). While the civilian and military deaths have gone down, the number of “other casualties” of conflict, refugees and internally displaced people, has risen steadily. See a New York Times visualization of the flight of refugees around the globe.

But back to holy wars and the utopian ideals that often drive them. Their appeal may be that they give hope to those who have none. Scripture calls hope, specifically “the hope set before us” as believers, the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:18-20). And take a look at the context: this hope is for “we who have fled for refuge.” We can keep praying for more of those seeking social change or simply seeking refuge to know such a hope!

INDIA: Holiday Wars

Source: World Watch Monitor, June 29, 2015

As you may have seen, June 21 was the first-ever International Yoga Day, observed from New Delhi to New York. In yoga’s birthplace, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself led a yoga session attended by 37,000 people in the heart of Indian capital. June 21 also was a Sunday, and that’s why several of India’s Christian organizations voiced their opposition—not to yoga itself, but to another big national event scheduled on a Christian holy day.

“It’s not that we do not welcome yoga, minus its (Hindu) religious connotation, since it has merits for mind exercise and relieving stress. However, the hype and overboard is just too much,” said [a senior Presbyterian church leader in the north-east of India and former leader in the National Council of Churches in India].

Yoga Day is the latest of several attempts by India’s government to hold high-profile events on Christian holy days. The government declared a nationwide observance of “Good Governance Day” on Christmas. It convened a national conference of judges on Good Friday. India’s education minister has said yoga would become part of the federal school curriculum, and a top official of one of India’s 29 states told a Catholic convention that Christians should start reciting Hindu mantras as part of their worship services.

» Read full story.

WORLD: Refugees, Crisis or Opportunity?

Source: Mission Network News, June 16, 2015

Amnesty’s 35-page report The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect blames the world and its leaders for failing to “fix” desperate circumstances currently surrounding 50 million people.

“The global refugee crisis may be fueled by conflict and persecution,” part of the report reads, “but it is compounded by the neglect of the international community in the face of this human suffering.”

About two-thirds of the world’s refugees have been in exile for more than five years, many of them with no end in sight. Approximately 86% live in developing nations; Turkey, Lebanon, and Pakistan each host over one million refugees.

Outlining crises in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, [Amnesty] calls for a “paradigm shift” in the way people view the global refugee crisis. It also blames the global community for refugee deaths.

“The current approaches to the world’s many refugee crises are failing—and the toll in lives lost and lives blighted is far higher than many armed conflicts.”

» Read full story.

» See also: The Global Refugee Crisis in Unprecedented and Getting Worse (VICE News), A Record Year in Misery: the World Has Never Seen a Refugee Crisis This Bad (Foreign Policy), the four-minute video Interview with a Refugee Pastor (IAFR), summaries of a Brookings panel on Europe’s Migration Crisis, the moving Diary of a Teenage Refugee (Tearfund), and Migrant Deaths Worldwide (Carnegie Council). Many refugees are coming from a country many people have never heard of: Eritrea. Read about why they are fleeing what has been called the “North Korea of Africa.”

LEBANON: Muslim Leaders Condemn Persecution of Christians

Source: Catholic News Agency, June 17, 2015

The leaders of four branches of Islam in Lebanon gathered earlier this month to issue a joint statement in the face of sectarianism and the rise of the Islamic State, denouncing attacks against Christians in the region.

“In the name of religious, humanitarian and national principles, the summit condemns religiously motivated attacks against Eastern Christians, including attacks against their homes, villages, property, and places of worship, when in fact the Prophet had recommended that they be respected, protected, and defended,” the participants said in a June 2 statement.

Such attacks, “like those suffered by other Muslims and non-Muslims belonging to other faiths and cultures, like the Yazidis, are tantamount to aggression against Islam itself,” they added, according to abouna.org, a site edited by Fr. Rif’at Bader, a priest of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The June summit included representatives of the Sunni, Shia, Druze, and Alawite communities.

» Read full story.

INDONESIA: Former Jihadist Starts Jesus Communities

Source: Joel News, June 23, 2015

Raharjo (not his real name) was a school drop-out on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi looking for work, when he was recruited by a jihadist organization. Like many young Muslim men, he was paid to attack Christian villages with the aim to force the Christians out of the area. However, as a result of the increased “war on terror” by the United States after the 9-11 attack, his group fell apart and he lost his job. Raharjo returned to Jakarta, traumatized and depressed. There he joined a punk group and started to use heroin.

One night Raharjo had a dream. A person who introduced himself as Jesus (Isa) spoke to him in “bright and strong language” and told him to “Follow me!” In the dream Raharjo decided to follow this person. When he woke up, he found himself healthy, sober, and without any desire to use drugs.

His newfound faith struck deep roots in Raharjo and changed him over time. He introduced all his gang members to his new Christian friends, and one after another began to take an interest in Jesus.

The method they used to “discover Jesus” was simple: they followed the instructions of the Quran to read the Gospels and also parts of the Old Testament. Questions that arose were answered cautiously. In this way the young men were able to discover their faith by themselves.

» Learn more or subscribe to Joel News.

» Readers might also be interested in a recent report from CBN News about Muslims turning to faith in Jesus in response to atrocities committed by Islamic extremists, though some of its claims seem a bit, well, extreme.

Resource Reviews

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9046279700_e701593057_zImage from Tommyscapes / Flikr

In This Issue: Road-trip reading, Ramadan, and more

Dear Readers,

In a few weeks my husband and I plan to drive some 3,000 miles across the country to take up residence in Columbia, South Carolina. If Missions Catalyst slows down a bit during the transition, you’ll understand why! With such a long car trip ahead of me, I’m looking for podcasts and audio books to inspire and edify me along the way. Recommendations? Let me know!

History suggests that many Missions Catalyst readers will also be traveling in the next few months. Want a good read for the plane, train, car, or beach? The first item in this edition highlights some of our recent reviews and other finds and might give you some ideas.

Blessings,