THAILAND: Christian Captives Set Free

Source: Christian Freedom International, December 14, 2017

The bad news came as Christian Freedom International’s volunteers were distributing food and provisions to refugees from Pakistan last month. A Christian family who is hiding in Thailand while seeking asylum was arrested while on the way to pick up the aid and food packet.

“We prayed together from the core of our heart,” said a CFI volunteer, “and in the evening we heard the good news that immigration released them. Really, it’s a miracle.”

The UN says over 11,000 Pakistanis are seeking asylum in Thailand. All of them are Christian, according to a report by British Parliamentarians who work on International Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The flood of Christians fleeing Pakistan began with the rise of terrorist attacks on churches and false accusations of blasphemy that fuel mob violence. Christians regularly face discrimination in jobs, the judicial system, education and housing.

While waiting on the UN to act on the backlog of requests for asylum, many have overstayed their visas. With no legal status in Thailand, they cannot work legally and many children are unable to attend school. They stay hidden in small, crowded apartments and survive on day-to-day jobs and donations.

» Full story with pictures.

» Readers might also be interested in reading about a recent evangelistic crusade in neighboring Vietnam (Christian Post).

KENYA: “If the Witchdoctor Is Saved, Jesus Is Real”

KENYA: “If the Witchdoctor Is Saved, Jesus Is Real”

Source: Global Disciples, via God Reports, December 15, 2017

[Global Disciples] recently had a report from Mutunga, who directs a discipleship-mission program in Kenya.

Some of the disciple-makers went to a remote region to share the gospel. And they met Lizabet, a single woman, who was also the local witchdoctor. But in conversation with her, they learned her son had been missing for five years. He had just disappeared! And there had been no word in all that time.

The disciple-makers shared the Word of God with her, told her about Jesus, and prayed with her, especially for her lost son.

Sometime later, the team got word that Lizabet’s son had returned. So they went back to see the family.

Having seen how Jesus heard and answered the prayer for her son, Lizabet was eager to put her faith in Jesus for salvation. She gave up being a witchdoctor, discarding her old ways, and now she hosts a new fellowship in her home. And people are getting saved each week!

Now the word in her village is that “if the son is back and the witchdoctor is saved, then Jesus is real.”

For that, we give glory to God. Thanks to work of Jesus, his Son, a lost son came home, and a witchdoctor was transformed, as a church is being planted!

» Read full story, and go to the original source for more stories like this from Kenya and other locations.

SAUDI ARABIA: Christmas in a Closed Country

Source: Open Doors, December 15, 2017

It’s night in one of Saudi Arabia’s cities. The streets are empty. Two Indian men can be seen walking on the sidewalk. When they knock on a nondescript door, it is opened and immediately closed behind them.

Inside, they take off their shoes and enter a meeting room decorated with Christmas stars and garlands. They join a handful of worshippers already there. Over the next hour, over a hundred or more Indian believers will arrive here to celebrate Christmas.

Most of them have low-paying jobs in large Saudi companies or households; they are construction workers, stone cutters, electricians and cleaners. But tonight, there are no differences between them: these men and women are followers of Christ about to be encouraged and then sent back into the world with a calling to spread the light of Jesus everywhere they go.

When the celebrations begin, there’s no doubt that this is an Indian celebration. The instruments, the music; when you close your eyes you feel as if you’re right in the heart of India. Taking turns, many of the worshippers sing worship songs in their mother tongue, glorifying God who sent his Son into the world.

» Read full story.

» Also worth noting: Christian Schools in India Warned Against Celebrating Christmas (International Christian Concern).

MIDDLE EAST: Working Out with Refugees

Source: Frontiers UK, November 29, 2017

Last year, our team started a fitness class for Syrian women in a Middle Eastern refugee camp. It meets several times a week, with over fifty women in every class.

They are so dedicated that they come even when it’s over one hundred degrees—with no fans or air conditioning!

It’s been a joy to watch the women take part in the class over the months. They’ve come alive, and many are experiencing healing from trauma. For example, one woman said that she hadn’t felt joy since the loss of her newborn child last year. Since joining the fitness class, her hope and joy are returning.

After we’d been leading the fitness class for several months, we realized that we could make an even greater impact in the community. Even though the refugee women were thankful for the help, they didn’t want to always be on the receiving end. They wanted to give back and bless others.

More importantly, they are discovering the One who is the source of joy and hope.

We recently invited our trainees to discover Jesus through God’s Word. We’ve been meeting together every week to hear from the Gospels and encourage one another to live out Jesus’ commands.

They love what they are learning and are showing signs of becoming a community that prays together, supports one another, and cares for others.

» Read full story with prayer points and another from Frontiers, The Christmas Treasure, in which a family serving in Central Asia reflect on keeping Christmas in a place where Christ is not known.

12 Ways to Pray | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

12 Ways to PrayA friend relayed the story of a young boy in London attending his first-ever nativity play at school. When it was over, she asked what he thought.

“I liked it. It’s a great story. But I have one question.”

“Sure. What is it?” my friend asked.

“Why did they name the baby after a swear word?”

Ah, Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, for some. For others a source of pain. For many others little more than a day on the calendar.

As believers we have an opportunity to partner with God to increase the impact of Christmas in our own homes, in our towns, and really to the ends of the earth. As you celebrate, will you join me in lifting prayers for the nations? Many peoples are presently facing unique and challenging situations. Many who work with under-evangelized peoples find themselves with fresh but perplexing possibilities around Christmas.

Here are a dozen ways to pray in the days leading up to Christmas. And here’s a bit of cheer: In a rare moment of restraint, I refrained from framing these totally around the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and asking you to start at the beginning and pray through them all with each additional prayer request!

1. Ask Jesus to show up in dreams and visions.

When he came to Earth the first time, it pretty much caught everyone off guard. Ask him to visit in dreams and visions and once again surprise people, giving them reason to look for answers, to reach out to Christians, or to read the Bible.

2. Pray for correction of conception misconceptions.

Ask God to help many Muslims, starting with your Muslim friends, understand the miraculous nature of the birth of Jesus.

Pray for an end to lies that say God and Mary had a carnal relationship and baby Jesus was the result. (Read more.)

3. Remember school daze.

Pray for non-Christian kids navigating the craziness of Christmastime at their schools. Your schools may celebrate Christmas or they may be carefully secular, but either way it’s hard to miss the holiday hullabaloo.

Let’s empathize in prayer with kids whose cultural faith precludes Christmas. Pray for teachers as they love and guide these kids.

4. Consider Christmas in the worst possible conditions.

Let’s intercede for the Rohingya people who will pass Christmas under siege in Burma or in relatively safe but deplorable conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Up to 600,000 have fled there for their lives.

Few Rohingya celebrate Christmas, but only in their dreams can they be home for these or any other holidays. Let’s lift them up.

5. Seek fresh hope for Syria and Iraq.

Rejoice that full-scale hostilities are coming to an end in Syria and Iraq. Pray for fresh hope with the year to come.

Pray for the rebuilding process, for many believers to answer the call to help reconstruct these countries, and for the kingdom of God to grow wonderfully there.

6. May wise men and women still seek him.

Ask God to move in the hearts of many academic, political, and business leaders to seek the life Jesus offers.

Pray particularly for the leadership of Saudi Arabia where fresh reforms are being implemented and staggering ones are promised.

7. Pray for peace where cultures meet.

Pray for peace in cities where Christian neighborhoods border Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim ones… where Christmas celebrations will happen just a block away from fervent followers of other religions.

Pray not only for peace, but also winsome, loving proclamation of good news and great joy.

8. Lift up those dear to us gathered near to us.

Back in our own cities, let’s pray that tons of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others receive and respond to kind invitations to share in Christmas gatherings. May extra places be set, gifts thoughtfully purchased, and welcome warmly extended.

For many of us, Christmas is decidedly, and understandably, family time. May God give us grace to stretch the definition a bit this year.

9. Pray for new neighbors to find ancient truth.

Intercede for servants who volunteer or work full time to help refugees resettle in America or other nations.

Pray for wisdom as they host Christmas parties, deciding what to include, what to say, and what to avoid. Pray that they’d arrange joyful celebrations that appropriately honor Jesus as the main point of the party.

10. Bless the hands that prepare your holidays.

Do you realize that many, maybe most, of the gifts we purchase this Christmas and the decorations arrayed to help us celebrate were made by Chinese people?

As we wrap, open and adorn, let’s pray for the hopeful blessings of Jesus to be known in fresh ways among those through whose hands passed the material we now hold.

11. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts not cause Uncle Fred to go ballistic.

Jesus was provocative. There’s just no way around it: His birth. His life. His death. His insistence that his followers hear and obey his teaching!

Let’s pray that around Christmas tables all over this year, conversations would take place that put the teachings of Jesus front and center. Pray that many would consider afresh the relevance of his words to immigration, the refugee crisis, travel bans, and the billions presently beyond the direct touch of the gospel.

12. Remember for beautiful feet propped up before foreign fires.

Ten of my good buds and their 15 kids will celebrate Christmas in Sicily this year. You could do worse, certainly, but tears will be shed both here and there at the distance between them and the rest of their families.

Would you join me in praying for the Catania crew and the thousands of other ambassadors among the nations who will celebrate Christmas away from home? Pray also for their families.

Many tears will fall in lonely silence, seen only by the Father who knows what it’s like to have a kid away from home on Christmas.

Subversive Mobilization

Props for our Publisher

Could I ask you a favor? Missions Catalyst’s unsung publisher, Marti Wade, is a rock star. If you had to read what I write before she “helps” it, you would have stopped a long time ago! Marti works on every edition of Missions Catalyst we publish. She does so with excellence and grace. If you’ve enjoyed Missions Catalyst, it’s in large part due to Marti’s diligent editorial oversight.

If you’ve received value from it this year, please take a moment and shoot her a quick thank you. You can reply to this email and it will go directly to her. If you want to get her chocolate to feed her soul or an Amazon gift certificate to feed her book habit, you can email me for her address.

From darkness to light | World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 12.06.17

  1. PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Embers Fanned into Flame
  2. NIGERIA: Missionary Shot after Singing Amazing Grace
  3. EGYPT: 21 Churches Receive Long-Delayed Approval to Rebuild
  4. UZBEKISTAN: Silk Road Secrets
  5. USA: Dinner Churches Spring Up Nationwide

Greetings!

I LOVE Christmas hymns. For one glorious season, truth is in the air! Hymns are full of good stuff, theologically speaking. Check out my new favorite, When Love Crossed Over by Paul and Rita Baloche.

Paul told King Agrippa that Jesus told him to “cross over” to the Gentiles so that they “may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).

Do you suppose that some of these dark places would benefit from the simple, true theology of the hymns? I believe the powers of darkness hate and fear such hymns, as the Nigeria story below suggests.

Speaking of Nigeria, have you heard of the late, great Nigerian hymn writer Ikoli Harcourt Whyte? He wrote over 200 Igbo hymns with his leprosy-riddled hands. Some say that the Queen of England also became aware of his music and once requested the BBC to play his hymns on Christmas Day. Read Letter from Africa: The Nigerian Who Composed Hymns from a Leprosy Colony (BBC, with thanks to Justin Long for this find).

Rejoicing with hymns,
Pat

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Embers Fanned into Flame

Source: Ethnos 360, December 3, 2017

Underneath the palm frond canopy of the church roof sat elders and deacons representing 24 churches and three teams of missionaries. The 50 men filled the church, its half-height walls permitting the early morning light to illuminate their faces. Each face told a story. And though we only heard a portion of them, each story contained a common element: Praise to God for his faithfulness as he built his church in and through the Mouk people.

The Mouk live on the isolated island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. Their name, “Mouk,” means “a live ember on the end of a stick waved back and forth to provide light on the paths at night.”

And indeed, God has sent his light to the Mouk, embodying in them the meaning of their name as they faithfully carried his light to every Mouk village and are now carrying it cross-culturally to the neighboring Lusi, Anem, and Kove peoples.

» Full story describes what it took to reach and disciple the Mouk and how God is now using them beyond their borders. A related article includes prayer requests from a Mouk cross-cultural missionary, with insights into ways “sending” is different in their context. Does the name Mouk ring a bell? You may remember the Mouk from the popular video Ee-Taow.

NIGERIA: Missionary Shot after Singing Amazing Grace

Source: The Christian Post, November 27, 2017

A Christian missionary was shot dead in Nigeria after playing “Amazing Grace” on his guitar, two of the British survivors who were rescued in November revealed.

“Ian [Squire] was a man of faith, humor, music, and invention,” David Donovan told The Telegraph on [November 24].

The kidnapers took the Donovans and the other two hostages at gunpoint, ignoring their pleas that they were missionary medics. The missionaries explained that the men who took them belonged to the “Egbesu Boys,” a cult-like gang named after an ancient war god in local Ijaw tribal culture.

After taking the four hostages to the hut, the kidnapers decided to hand back some of their belongings, which included Squire’s acoustic guitar. The British optician decided to try and raise the spirits of the other captives by playing and singing “Amazing Grace,” which happened to be the only song he could play without using music sheets.

“It was the perfect song, and at that point things began to look not quite as bad,” David Donovan recalled, stating that it reminded the other missionaries about their decision to serve the gospel and follow their calling.

“But then, after Ian finished playing, he stood up, and a salvo of gunshots killed him instantly.”

» Read full story. A version of this story that appeared in the Guardian includes pictures of three of the four hostages.

EGYPT: 21 Churches Receive Long-Delayed Approval to Rebuild

Source: World Watch Monitor, November 29, 2017

Twenty-one churches in Egypt’s southern rural Minya governorate can restore, expand, and rebuild their churches after receiving approval from the Minya Governor. Governor Essam al-Bedeiwi approved the 21 applications over the last six months. Some of the churches had been waiting for more than 20 years for a permit to come through.

Some analysts note that the approvals have preceded several visits by international evangelical delegations to Cairo.

[On November 19], leaders from evangelical churches around the world met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, as part of the celebrations marking 500 years since the Reformation. This followed a visit in early November by a delegation of Christian evangelicals from the US to meet evangelical leaders in Egypt.

» Full story also describes other developments involving religious liberty and government actions in Egypt. Also from this source, see Syria: Homs Christians Return to Rebuild Homes and Lives.