IRAQ: A Monastery among the Refugees

Source: Joel News International, October 31, 2016

In 2001, Raeed answered a call from God to become a monk and joined four others in a small monastery in Iraq. But life changed dramatically when the US-led coalition moved into Iraq. He was in a taxi with another monk on his way to Baghdad when they unexpectedly collided with a tank. There was a horrible crash and the awful sound of crunching metal as the tank drove over part of the taxi. The accident killed the other monk in the car and left Raeed in a coma.

When he emerged from the coma and realized he was the only survivor from the accident, it challenged and deepened his faith. “It brought me back to my calling. I’d promised to obey Jesus, and he said, ‘Whoever follows me should not look back.’”

On August 6, 2014, Raeed found himself caught up in another invasion: ISIS was entering Qaraqosh. While he and several others were gathered for prayer, suddenly the sound of honking horns and explosions shattered the silence. He ran to the window and was startled to see cars lining up to evacuate the city. Raeed quickly gathered his belongings and prepared to abandon the monastery. The drive to Erbil took them all night.

Over the next several months Erbil became a safe haven for thousands of refugees fleeing ISIS, including many Christians escaping the atrocities. Raeed found a new calling in this crisis. He established a monastery in the middle of a refugee camp. The temporary church is usually filled to capacity on Sunday mornings, with people standing in the doorway, overflowing the service.

“God needs me to be here,” he says. “It is all about Jesus, the rock we build on. And whatever might happen, our rock will never disappear. He will always be here.”

» Read the original story (as it first appeared in WorldWatch Monitor) and pray for the people of Qaraqosh, reportedly Iraq’s largest Christian community. Christians have also been interceding for breakthrough in Erbil, praying and fasting for 50 days leading up to what they’re calling ChristDay, November 18-19.

BURUNDI: Wishing the Best for Those You Hate

Source: Simon Guillebaud, November 9, 2016

Cris Rwakasisi spoke at our Burundian National Prayer Breakfast [November 8]. Cris was Ugandan President Milton Obote’s main man back in the early 1980s. Obote gave him the choice of any post he wanted, and he ended up as Minister of Defense. He was young, powerful, rich, and arrogant. His caviar lifestyle and attitude alienated the opposition and many within his own party. He got things done, and created many enemies.

In earlier times, he and (now President) Museveni had been friends. In fact Museveni had worked under him. But their relationship had long soured, and when Obote was kicked out and Museveni came to power, they truly hated each other. Cris was imprisoned and condemned to death. When he was taken to solitary confinement, he wanted to kill himself, but there were no sharp objects in his cell. In the dark, in the corner, he thought he saw a stone. It was in fact a Bible. He used it as a pillow to begin with, but eventually began reading it.

He hated God. He picked out all the perceived contradictions and inconsistencies as he read it from cover to cover. By his third reading, however, his heart softened. This proud man was being humbled and broken. He surrendered his life to Christ in that cell. In his immature faith, he initially took Psalms in which David cursed his enemies, asking God to kill them, their children, etc. But the opposite happened, as they continued to prosper. When he changed his prayers to blessing his enemies, it was then that Museveni’s attitude softened towards him. In 2009, Musveni had signed execution orders for 28 people, and Cris was on that list, but Museveni later said to him that God spoke to him and forbade him to sign that decree. The others were all killed, whilst Cris survived.

When released out of solitary confinement into the main condemned section of the prison, he started a fellowship there which continues to this day. In total he spent a staggering 24 years in jail! Six years ago, Museveni formally pardoned him and invited him to join the cabinet. When he’d gone to prison, his children were in primary school; now they were in jobs or at university. Yet he has no bitterness. The old enemies are totally reconciled. Cris is a trophy of grace and, now 75 years old, serves as Special Advisor to the President.

Cris’s winsome manner and humor were thoroughly disarming in a room in which all Burundi’s key players sat. It was a message of reconciliation and humility we needed to hear. There was plenty of hatred between enemies in the meeting. But the strength of the [National Prayer Breakfast] movement is that our agenda is simply to get people to gather together around the teachings of Jesus, and leave politics at the door for a few hours.

» Read the rest of Simon’s story. Blessed are the peacemakers.

How Can We Tell Hard Stories?

hannelieThis year’s IDOP prayer video is a powerful one, but for me it raised a big question…

How Can We Tell Hard Stories?

By Shane Bennett

Can I invite you into my confusion? Here’s the story: This weekend at church we commemorated the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church by praying for believers in oppressive situations and watching a video produced by Voice of the Martyrs. Perhaps your church did something like this as well. I admit that the global persecuted church is not usually at the top of my agenda. In fact, I’d do well to give more thought and action to these issues. In the meantime, I’m grateful that God is raising up many from all over to pray and advocate for our sisters and brothers suffering for their faith.

Here’s my problem. The video we watched, Hannalie, was well done, intense, gripping, and heart-breaking. A lovely family moved from South Africa to minister in Afghanistan. The father and two teenage children were murdered by Afghans, leaving the mom a childless widow. The tragedy was palpable. The leader in our church who prayed after the video spoke to God through tears. The congregation was visibly moved.

Moved to pray? I hope so. But what else?

Moved to hate Muslims. Confirmed that our suspicions are valid, our anger justified. The logic is hard to escape. God called these dear people to this risky situation and they got killed. But as good Christians, we hesitate to blame God for their deaths. (Although if the children’s grandparents didn’t hesitate, we’d be hard pressed to blame them.) You can’t blame the dad; he’s dead. And who can blame a widow? So we blame the Muslims. And because we’re not too sophisticated in our understanding (and they are brown, after all) we blame all Muslims. It is desperately difficult not to extrapolate, to allow the actions of a few to characterize the attitudes and intentions of the rest.

I’m confused because honestly, Muslims did this terrible thing. And Muslims have lately done a number of terrible things, sometimes clearly in the name of Islam. Sometimes directly targeting Christians. So how do we tell those stories fairly? How can we tell them honestly, without contributing to growing fear and anger toward Muslims?

I don’t know. Do you have ideas? Good examples? Should we be balanced in our depiction of bad deeds? It seems absurd to give equal time to bad things Christians have done, although doing so might be less difficult than it first appears. I don’t think we should avoid telling such stories either. To be clear, I don’t wish to question the motivation of Voice of the Martyrs. I’m simply expressing concern about the results of telling the story in the way they did. Maybe there are better ways. I’d love your input.

In the meantime, words of Jesus ring in my ears:

“Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.”

“I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. Be as wise as serpents. As innocent as doves.”

“I’m sending you as the Father has sent me.”

And my prayer for dear believers risking their lives for Jesus is this:

Holy Father, give strength, courage, and hope to your dear children living in challenging situations. May the aroma of Christ emanate from them and the joy of Jesus permeate every molecule of their being. May their lives and deaths (should they happen) result in the purposes of God going forward mightily and the kingdom of God arriving fully.

» Respond on Facebook, email, or the Missions Catalyst website.

Subversive Mobilization: Get Out of Dodge!

So did the U.S. presidential election not go your way? Feeling like it might be a good idea to live abroad for a few months next year, or know some youngster who voted unwisely and should be sent away for a time?

I’ve got you covered! I’m looking for ten sharp people who will spent three to six months in Sicily in 2017. We need help in our long-term response effort to the refugee crisis that’s unfolding on the island.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • Mentoring by long-term workers and Italian believers.
  • Experience in sharing your life and faith with Muslims.
  • Leadership development as you oversee short-term teams.
  • Camaraderie with a small cadre of like-minded leaders.

Here’s what it will cost:

  • Time: At least three whole months.
  • Money: About $1300/month for ground expenses, plus airfare.
  • Heart: Plan to cry with people whose recent months have been hellish in ways you’d rather not think about.
  • Shoes: You’ll tromp your feet off and work hard. This won’t be a cakewalk, but it will be worth it.

» Learn more about this opportunity or write and tell me about your interest. If this might be a next step on your journey with Jesus, I’d love to help you work it out.

USA: Politics and the Persecuted Church

Source: Pat Noble, News Brief Editor

The news is full of persecution stories for the twentieth annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church which will be observed on the Sundays before and after the day of the US presidential election.

While the Missions Catalyst approach to content steers us clear of politics, we thought some readers might be interested in Trump or Clinton: How Might Their Policies Affect the Persecuted Church?

The source, INcontext Ministries, does not promote or support either of these candidates, but offers a perspective you may not have considered and reminds us that God’s agendas are bigger than human agendas. I find it refreshing to consider what the winner of this election (or others) might do for the persecuted church rather than what he or she will do for me.



» See also Resources and Mindsets for the Upcoming International Day of Prayer (Mission Network News).

NIGER: American Missionary Kidnapped

Source: World Watch Monitor, October 20, 2016

The kidnap of a pioneering American missionary in Niger is a “terrible tragedy” for the communities he served for 24 years, according to the local mayor. It has also raised security concerns among the country’s missionary community.

Jeff Woodke, 55, who worked for [a branch of] the US-based Youth With a Mission (YWAM), was abducted by unknown assailants late on Friday evening (October 14) from the town of Abalak in northern Niger.

Bilou Mohamed, the mayor of Abalak, told World Watch Monitor the community had “suffered a terrible tragedy” and locals “wept with sorrow, lamenting the loss of a friend” the day after his abduction. He added: “This man has lived among us for years, even in when it has been difficult to accompany vulnerable populations… Everyone knows his goodness.”

Woodke is known in Abalak for his devotion to Niger and its nomadic populations. He runs several development projects among the Tuareg, focusing on farming, health, literacy, primary school education and improving access to drinking water, among other things.

He has spoken internationally on the impact of climate change on nomadic peoples and is a pioneer of “sustainable nomadism”—enabling nomads to maintain their traditional lifestyles in the face of increasingly frequent drought. He is the only American in his team.

Rev. Kagninde added: “Jeff has given everything for the Tuaregs, which raises the question: how did people of malign intent kidnap a man well-known in the community without arousing the suspicion among the local population, especially given that his house is next to that of the mayor of Abalak? The kidnappers must have been outsiders.”

» Read full story.

LIBYA: The Day I Met Qaddafi

Source: Global Opportunities Tentmaking Briefs, October 11, 2016

When I was a tentmaker teacher in Libya there was not a whole lot to do for a single man on my days off. The school was far away from major cities, and I seldom met any other foreigners.

My students encouraged me to join them on weekend excursions far into the Sahara, driving with their four-wheel vehicles over massive dunes. We frequently camped at a desert oasis surrounded by palm trees, swimming in warm tepid water and drinking tea late into the night. These were also times for intense faith discussions far away from prying eyes and ears. The oasis was the perfect spot for baptisms.

One evening as the sun was setting I decided to hike to the top of a nearby sand dune. As I sat at the top waiting for the sun to set, a man with flowing robes and with his face mostly covered walked up to me out of nowhere.

He greeted me and asked where I was from. When he heard I was from Canada, he became intrigued and sat down on the sand beside me. His questions poured out in quick succession: How do you like Libya? Are people treating you well? Are you getting enough food? What do Canadians think of Libyans? Why do you come out from the city to this desert?

My reply to the last question was that I enjoy the silence, solitude, [and] clear skies at night that allow me to see the stars so clearly and that this is a good place to think about important things and hear from God.

The man responded by saying, that is why I come out here as well! We had a bonding moment. He was respectful and intriguing but seemed distressed. He earnestly listened to my story of why I was a follower of Isa.

As he stood up to leave, he asked me one final question. Should I give up my quest for nuclear weapons?

» Read full story.

YEMEN: Hope and Despair

Source: Arab World Media, October 16, 2016

The BBC recently broadcast a program about starvation in Yemen. In Our World, Starving Yemen, a reporter follows a Yemeni doctor as she visits families with malnourished children. Included is the story of an eighteen-month-old boy who is slowly starving because the only milk his body can digest is no longer available… His mother cries as she tells the doctor, “I’m losing my son and there is nothing I can do about it.”

It’s clear that many children have been dying in Yemen, while for the most part the media has looked away. Most of us know there is an ongoing war, but we know little of its devastating side effects: famine and disease.

While all of this is taking place, another hunger is clearly stirring hearts in Yemen. The Holy Spirit is moving mightily among the people of Yemen. There are no longer any foreign workers, but local believers are active and, of course, the internet is playing a crucial role.

At Arab World Media, we have had a steady stream of Yemenis getting in touch with us this year. In fact, since April there have only been two or three days without contact from at least one Yemeni.

» Read full story .

» See also More than 1,400 Suspected Cholera Cases in Yemen (Al Jazeera). And please be praying for those in two other volatile nations: See Somalia Enters Freefall Following ISIS, al-Shabaab Flurry (Mission Network News) and Ethiopia’s Massive Protests Are Getting Desperate—and Dangerous (VICE News).