SUDAN: Czech Aid Worker Released, Two Sudanese Pastors Remain in Prison

Source: Morning Star News, February 27, 2017

Sudan released Czech aid worker Petr Jasek on [February 25], nearly one month after a court in Khartoum sentenced him to life in prison for espionage and other charges, according to reports. Christian leaders in Sudan confirmed the release of the Czech aid worker.

Two Sudanese Christians remain behind bars, though they were convicted of “aiding and abetting” Jasek’s alleged espionage and sentenced to 12 years in prison. It was not clear whether Sudan would consider releasing the two Church leaders. Their cases are awaiting appeal.

» Read full story. See also reports that Sudan has ordered demolition of 25 churches in the Khartoum area.

» Christians in neighboring South Sudan are thankful to report the release of eight Samaritan’s Purse aid workers who had been kidnapped. Pray for South Sudan which is on the brink of famine, as are Somalia and Yemen.

MADAGASCAR: Witch Doctor Finds Peace in Christ

Source: Operation Mobilization, March 3, 2017

Fomesoa looks like a typical Malagasy man. He is slight in frame with brown eyes, and his black hair is speckled with gray from age. What is not so typical is that at 15 years of age, Fomesoa became a witch doctor.

“I didn’t get it from people,” he explained. “An evil spirit came directly to me and guided me to buy a particular type of wood [to start making charms].”

In early 2016 Fomesoa’s life changed. “In the beginning, there was no one who told me about Jesus, but I just started to not care about my idols. I think that is when Jesus first came into my life,” said Fomesoa.

A few weeks later, he met [an OM mission worker named] Fara, who told him about Jesus and urged him to get rid of his idols and charms. Filled with conviction, Fomesoa lit a fire outside his house and threw the charms in. Looking back, he knows now that his indifference to the charms was God working in his life. “I felt something changing in my life, I felt happy [burning the idols],” Fomesoa said.

“I feel peace in my life now,” said Fomesoa with a smile.

» Read full story, and also read Exponential Potential, in which an OM writer describes a multi-agency partnership to mobilize missionaries from the Arabian Peninsula to go to some of the world’s least reached peoples.

» See also Nursing Schools Fight off Witch Doctors in Uganda (Mission Network News).

KOREA: The Blossoming of a Mission Movement

Source: GMI Missiographics

The Korean mission movement is an amazing mission story of the past 40 years. For much of that time, it has been well documented by the Korea Research Institute for Mission, and the picture is very clear. Praise God for it, and also pray for it as the growth has slowed down a great deal in recent years.

» Learn more or download an infographic.

Six Reasons to Bail Out of Overseas Missions This Summer

HereNowBy Shane Bennett

If you’ve read more than two of my columns, you know I have totally drunk the short-term missions Kool-Aid. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger advocate. In fact, I’m dying to invite you to come on a short-term to Sicily with me! But just for fun, this month we’re going to look at why you might not want to go overseas—why instead, you may want to do something just as cool but that’s within a stone’s throw (or a day’s drive) of your house.

So here are six reasons why you and your church should not plan an amazing trip to Faroffistan this summer, but rather do something equally strategic and helpful nearby. [Click to tweet this]

  1. Because you live here!

I for one have stood on the rooftop of my short-term housing in Faroffistan and wistfully watched planes fly away, whispering in the darkness of my own heart, “Someday soon I will be on one of you!” Being more spiritual than me, you probably have felt another kind of sadness nearing the end of a short-term assignment: something like regret that you couldn’t stay longer, a sense of tearing as new found relationships come to an end, a wish that you could complete or at least continue the work your team began.

Well, good news: If you do a short-term trip near where you live, you live near there! (Take whatever time you need to process that logic, then read on!) You can go back next month or next weekend. You can have your new friends over for a barbecue. No plane ticket. No passport or shots. Just gas money equivalent to the change you can scrounge from under the couch cushions.

  1. Everyone is “here” now.

For many of us, the key value of dropping into a foreign culture can be pretty much accomplished within driving range, sometimes walking range, of our house. If you arrange your efforts to focus on people different from you and to engage them in conversation, you’ll get at least a little bit of cultural disorientation (and connection).

Furthermore, if you focus well, and perhaps drive a little farther, you can serve unreached people. There may be communities near you representing whole peoples who’ve largely been overlooked in our sharing of the kingdom of God.

  1. We need to play the home games, too.

If you’re into missions, you may have heard this, “I don’t know about going all the way to Faroffistan. We have plenty of needs right here and the Bible says to bloom where you’re planted.” Well, we do and it doesn’t, but there is a point here. Steve Hawthorne said that being exclusively concerned about overseas stuff is like a team who only plays “away” games. It’s silly. God has placed us where we are and we do have a certain stewardship for our place. It would do us well to look around a bit and ask God what he’s up to here.

  1. You have kids! (Well, some of you do.)

And you’re telling me you’re going to take them overseas? Let them get groped by TSA along the way? Expose them to Zika? Probably lose them in a crowded train station in Calcutta? (Yes, I am reading your mom’s email!) I’m all for taking kids overseas, but I figure the effort required to shift the family is large enough to make a one-year stay the minimum for most families. And cross-cultural exposure is so important that if you don’t already live someplace like San Francisco or Amsterdam, you may need to make some special efforts to get your munchkins immersed among people different from them. If you don’t want to give Mum a coronary, doing that domestically may be a good start.

  1. Lower cost means more workers.

OK, work this out to its logical extreme and the cheapest thing to do is stay on the couch! I get that. But making a cross-cultural experience more accessible to more people is a worthwhile idea. For good reasons or bad, some of our friends cannot imagine finding $2500 to spend a week in Faroffistan. But they might pony up US$250 for a long weekend of immersion in a nearby city. And sometimes it only takes three or four days of hugs and hummus to change minds and knit hearts to newcomers. [Click to tweet this]

  1. Action beats whining … every time.

While I was writing this column, President Trump was signing a new executive order limiting refugee admittance and temporarily banning travel to the US from several countries. We may think the order is ill-advised and will do little to increase the security of Americans, but this much also seems true: We shouldn’t complain if we’re not willing to act. I feel a little foolish ranting and raving about my country not letting in refugees while I myself fail to drive across town for tea with some who beat the ban. This spring break or summer could be a really good time to go hang out with refugees.

Conclusion

What have you done to connect with unreached peoples domestically? If you were going to take a small group from your church to reach out to refugees nearby you, what would you do? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

» Please take a moment to share them with us below or through Facebook.

If this kind of experience seems like a good idea for your church, but you don’t know where to start, let’s chat. A good bud and I are once again dreaming and scheming about effective, high-caliber, domestic, unreached-focused, short-term trips. And, well … we need some guinea pigs!

» Email Shane.

Subversive Mobilization: What’s the View from the Pew?

You’re smart, right? I’d like to hear what you think about a couple of things: What are Paul and Patty Pewsitter thinking about Muslims? What are their honest concerns? What’s behind their anger, if that’s present? How do you see them connecting or are they largely apathetic? And secondly, what will help shift them to more intentional engagement?

If you guessed that I’m asking as an effort to do some crowd-sourcing for Muslim Connect, you’re right. In case you missed our previous promotion of this new effort, it’s a 300-word drip feed to help us think about Muslims the way God does and to love them like Jesus. I’d love for you to subscribe and share it in your circle of influence. Together we can shift the foundation of thought and action toward Muslims.

» Comment below or on our Facebook page or send Shane an email.

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

  1. IRAQ: A Little Hope in Mosul
  2. VANUATU: How Cultural Imperialism Obscures the Gospel
  3. QATAR: Christian Migrants Build Stadiums for World Cup
  4. PAKISTAN: One Man Risks Death to Share the Gospel
  5. MALAWI: When the Bible Preaches Itself

Preemptive Love photo of childrenChildren in a Mosul neighborhood; story below (Preemptive Love Coalition).

Greetings!

Several of today’s news briefs steer us away from the headlines with glimpses of smaller stories that tend to get lost in the shadows:

  • A ministry working in Iraq finds a sign of hope amid devastation.
  • Immigrants find work (and exploitation) building stadiums for World Cup soccer.
  • A missionary thinks about contextualization while watching an Oscar-nominated foreign film.

Where do you go to seek out stories from the shadows? Our news briefs are, by necessity, brief. Longer works may make a bigger impact. Have you seen any international films or documentaries that have made you think? What about books? Recently National Geographic (partnering with the audio-book company Audible) put together a list called Around the World in 12 Books, which could give you a year’s worth of armchair travel, or, maybe better, inspire you to make a list of your own.

Share your picks with us through Twitter, Facebook, or the Missions Catalyst website, especially if you’ve found good candidates to use with a small group, team, church, or family.

Blessings,
Pat

Editor’s note: Much thanks to all who let us know that the video about churches among the unreached which we featured in last week’s Missions Catalyst is no longer accessible. Sorry! The producers found a mistake they couldn’t fix and felt they had to take it down.

IRAQ: A Little Hope in Mosul

Source: Preemptive Love Coalition, February 19, 2017

A devout Muslim, Waleed worked for years as a soldier with Special Forces, and he has the sorrow and stories to prove it. He is more than qualified to work as a security specialist on our front-line deliveries. But now, standing there with that big grin on his scarred face, he looked more like a little kid.

How can he be smiling? We’re in a bombed-out church in the heart of Mosul, where ISIS had painted a giant black flag on the cross out front. Where thousands of Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter “N,” their lives threatened with the sword, their possessions looted [and] families ultimately driven out of their ancestral neighborhoods like cattle.

Already that day, we’d picked through airstrike wreckage, seen rotted bodies of ISIS fighters, heard and felt and seen the battles of this god-forsaken war, heard stories of untold suffering—and now, standing in this bombed out, burned-up church, Waleed had the nerve to grin at the destruction?

“See? Look up… they missed it.”

» Read full story and/or watch the two-minute video.

» See also Mass Christian Immigration from Iraq Makes Future of Church Uncertain (Voice of America), and read about Burmese Christians ministering in Mosul (Christianity Today).

VANUATU: How Cultural Imperialism Obscures the Gospel

Source: International Mission Board, February 22, 2017

Every year when the list of Oscar nominees is released, I scour it to find obscure titles tucked away in each category. One group that is always full of gems is “Best Foreign Language Film.” The five movies included are selected from the best of the best that the international film community has to offer. Foreign films offer me something most of the Hollywood-produced ones don’t—a glimpse into a different culture’s worldview. Although I live and serve in Africa, a submission from Australia caught my attention this year.

Tanna, directed by Bentley Dean and Martin Butler and filmed on the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, is a classic Romeo and Juliet tale of forbidden love. However, since the story was conceived and acted by the indigenous people of Yakel, it’s full of insights into their values, fears, and attempts (and failures) to answer the questions of life.

The challenge the characters in Tanna confront—what cultural norms must be abandoned to preserve life—is similar to one Christians ministering cross-culturally often face: What elements of a culture must be abandoned in order to follow Christ?

Watching films created in different cultural contexts helps me evaluate my own cultural biases and appreciate the diversity of life in our world.

» Read full story and another recent IMB article about biblically faithful contextualization.

» Readers might also be interested the film The Enemy God, recently made available for streaming and download. Want training in film making? Check out the news about the Academy of Frontier Media and Arts (with thanks to Brigada for the tip!)

QATAR: Christian Migrants Build Stadiums for World Cup

Source: World Watch Monitor, February 20, 2017

Ten white plastic chairs are arranged in a circle on the roof terrace of a four-story apartment block housing hundreds of Asian laborers. This is a part of Qatar where tourists never come—Doha’s Industrial Zone, where all the hard groundwork is done to maintain Qatar’s image as a modern state. The roads here in some areas are bad, there are no streetlights, and the air is filled with fumes.

Although it is officially illegal to meet outside of government-approved areas, tonight a group of Christians will meet here together to read the Bible and pray.

Most visitors will see only grand, extravagant palaces, brightly illuminated skyscrapers, and futuristically designed mosques in Doha, the capital. Within a few years, a dozen new architectural accomplishments are going to join those landmark buildings—state-of-the-art football stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which are said to be costing the country $500m a week.

But the FIFA PR show cannot hide the other side of Qatar—a profoundly intolerant country for non-Muslims. There is a deep division between the extremely rich Qatari nationals, who are now a tiny minority in their own country, and the hundreds of thousands of often exploited laborers, mostly from Asian countries. Reports from charities such as Open Doors suggest there are serious dangers for those not part of Qatar’s Muslim elite. Qatar is ranked 20th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries in which it is most difficult to be a Christian.

» Read full story. A related article describes Christianity in the Arabian Peninsula.

» Also check out Qatar Needs to Stop “Playing the Victim Card,” in which a Qatari author touches on domestic worker abuse (Doha News).