TRAINING: Zwemer Center

Source: Columbia International University

Have you heard about the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies? Since 1979 they’ve been equipping Christians to reach out to Muslims.

Now they’re also making many resources available online. The new virtual Zwemer Center is live at Designed to train Christians to understand Islam and build relationships with Muslims for the purpose of an effective witness in the model of Samuel Zwemer, the site offers an online Masters Degree in Muslim Studies, non-degree certificate-level courses, and church training modules. It also includes articles and podcasts by prominent scholars and missiologists as well as practical training guides.

The Zwemer Center is a part of the College of Intercultural Studies at Columbia International University, which for 90 years has been educating students from a biblical worldview to reach the nations for Jesus Christ.

» Learn more. Editor’s note: As I’m pursuing a CIU degree myself (part of the upcoming move to South Carolina), I’ve taken several Zwemer classes in the last few years and found them very helpful.

EVENTS: Conferences, Training Events, and More

June 24 to July 4, Breathe Conference (Wilderswil, Switzerland). Ten-day retreat for renewal and encouragement for cross-cultural workers.

June 25-27, National African-American Missions Conference (Vienna, VA, USA).

June 30, Four Things Every Team Leader Should Do After a Short-term Mission Trip (webinar). Provided by DELTA Ministries.

July 5-15, Refresh! (Thailand). Retreat for cross-cultural workers, provided by Heartstream Resources.

July 6-9, Global Consultation on Music and Missions (Chiang Mai, Thailand).

July 6 to November 8 Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Course (online). Provided by the Perspectives Study Program.

July 7, Do Missionaries Destroy Culture? (online). Free, interactive webinar from The Mission Table.

July 12-17, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Re-entry and debriefing for singles, couples, and families. Provided by TRAIN International.

July 14-17, Thrive Retreat (Breckenridge, CO, USA). For North American women serving cross-culturally.

July 15, Making Disciples Across Cultures: Tools for Evaluating and Recalibrating Methods (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus

July 16-17, Disciple Making Movements Experience (Nashville, TN, USA). Hosted by Long Hollow Baptist Church.

July 18-25, New Wilmington Mission Conference (Western Pennsylvania, USA). Annual, week-long multi-generational mission conference; a tradition for more than 100 years.

July 19-25, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Grapevine, TX, USA). One-week intensive.

July 19 to August 7, Manarah (Detroit, MI, USA). Muslim evangelism training provided by Christar. Also offered elsewhere in Spanish.

July 22-23, Support-raising Bootcamp (Rogers, AR, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

July 28, How to Protect Yourself after a Short-term Mission Trip (webinar). Provided by DELTA Ministries.

July 26 to August 1, ReBoot Re-entry Program (Kitchener, ON, Canada). For returning missionary kids, ages 17-20, transitioning to life in Canada.

August 3-9, MK/TCK Re-entry Retreat (Gaston, SC, USA). Retreat designed for teens transitioning to college from missionary families.

August 8-14, ReBoot Re-entry Program (Calgary, AB, Canada). For returning missionary kids, ages 17-20, transitioning to life in Canada.

August 9-15, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Pittsburgh, PA, USA). One-week intensive.

August 11, Four Things Every Friend of a Short-term Missionary Needs to Know (webinar). Provided by DELTA Ministries.

August 17 to December 20, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Course (online). Provided by the Perspectives Study Program.

August 20-21, Support-raising Bootcamp (Blooomfield, NJ, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

» View the complete calendar and/or submit an item.

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue: Challenging our assumptions

African Men


Have you ever observed someone and wondered why they act that way? Or assumed that someone was part of a certain group because of the way they behave? I find it refreshing when my own assumptions are challenged, and sometimes it helps me laugh at myself. The video How Do You Distinguish Americans? provided such an opportunity. See also African Men, Hollywood Stereotypes, in which some young Africans were able to laugh at themselves, too.

The young, who haven’t yet learned how they are “supposed” to behave, are sometimes more ready, willing vessels for God because of it. For example, read a New York Times piece about the Child Preachers of Brazil.

Ramadan begins this evening. I find it a great time to face my stereotypes head on and devoting time to learning about and praying for the Muslim world. The reading and viewing list I hope to tackle this Ramadan will take me into the world of extremists. See a few links from my collection below, as well as another piece we shared this time last year, a report from St. Francis Magazine on Ramadan’s effects on spiritual openness.

This Saturday, June 20, is World Refugee Day. This year’s theme is “Get to Know a Refugee.” Download the UNHCR’s toolkit on this topic.

Getting to know the “other” (and myself),


ISLAMIC WORLD: Thought-provoking Presentations

Various sources, via Pat Noble

A semi-annual Conference on Religion, Politics, and Public Life was held last month in Florida and included insightful presentations on the topic The Islamic State: Understanding its Ideology and Theology. You can listen to the audio recordings or read the transcripts.

Earlier this month, Brookings Institution convened a US-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Watch nine videos from that event. First on my list is one on Pluralism in the Islamic World.

My list would not be complete without some TED talks; this time, a playlist on terrorism.

I saved the best for last: Lausanne’s 2014 Global Consultation on Islam includes informative presentations on Progressive and Liberative Islam.

TURKEY: Yazidi People Ask Jesus to Help Them Find a Permanent Home

Source: CryOut prayer email, June 8, 2015

A coordinated plan is underway among several Yazidi refugee camps throughout Turkey to leave their camps [and] migrate to the northwest border of Turkey. Their intent is to bring attention to their plight so that the international community might agree to relocate them to a permanent home in non-Muslim countries, which is their desire.

After nine months in makeshift tent camps where temperatures can reach 120-degrees, where baby formula and diapers are in short supply for mothers unable to produce milk due to PTSD and where very few educational resources are available to children/youth, staying put is no longer an option. Many have come to a point that they would rather risk their lives than waste away, forgotten about, with no promise of relocation.

As a marginalized people they are asking the Christian community for help, and based on what they know of Christians and previous interactions with them, they believe Christians will help them.

Leaders in a local church near one of the camps in southeast Turkey have been studying the Gospels with a Kurd from a nearby local church and have indicated that they believe Jesus will help them in their plight and have begun to call out to him in prayer.

» Read full article, browse CryOut archives, or subscribe to updates.

» Also see Christians Among 88 Eritrean Refugees Kidnapped by ISIS (The Christian Post).

WORLD: Migration and the Future of Faith

Source: INcontext, June 2015

Editor’s Note: This is from a larger analysis of the recent Pew Forum report on religion, but it’s from the section on migration, something not always factored into population studies.

International migration will influence the projected size of religious groups in various regions and countries. Numbers are, however, difficult to determine because migration is often linked to government policies and international events that can change quickly. For this reason, many population projections do not include migration in their models. But the Pew Research Center has developed an innovative way of using data on past migration patterns to estimate the religious composition of migrant flows in the decades ahead.

In Europe, the Muslim share of the population is expected to increase from 5.9% in 2010 to 10.2% in 2050 when migration is taken into account. Without migration, the Muslim share of Europe’s population in 2050 is projected to be nearly two percentage points lower (8.4%).

In North America, the Hindu share of the population is expected to nearly double in the decades ahead, from 0.7% in 2010 to 1.3% in 2050, when migration is included in the projection models. Without migration, the Hindu share of the region’s population would remain about the same (0.8%).

In the Middle East and North Africa, the continued migration of Christians into the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is expected to offset the exodus of Christians from other countries in the region. With migration factored in, the estimated Christian share of the population is expected to be just above 3% (down from nearly 4% in 2010).

» Read full story.

» See also these three finds: State of the World / The Task Reminaing (a short video from Global Frontier Missions), The Top 20 Countries Where Christianity Is Growing the Fastest (, and Are Hindus Being Undercounted in Religion Surveys? (Worldwide Religious News).

PHILIPPINES: Congressional Committee Approves Bill Creating Islamic Region

Source: Christian Aid Mission, June 4, 2015

A congressional committee in the Philippines approved a bill last month that would create an independent Islamic state in five provinces on the island of Mindanao, where Christians have long faced hostilities from Islamic militants and Muslim family members.

The Philippines’ second-largest island would thus harbor an independent state under rule of Islamic law (sharia) on its western flank in provinces with sizeable non-Muslim populations. Currently the area already has a measure of autonomy as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would give it even greater independence.

President Benigno Aquino III submitted the bill to Congress last September as a means of ending violence in the region.

» Read full story, which includes the comments of a ministry leader concerned about how this move could affect Christians in the area. Note that the Congress has yet to pass the proposed bill and will not reconvene until July 20 (GMA News).

MEXICO: Treasure in the Sierra Madre

Source: Pioneers-USA, June 2, 2015

The Tarahumara [are] a people group scattered throughout the canyons and mountains of the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico—within 150 miles of the US border.

Displaced from the verdant valleys of northern Mexico by Spanish conquistadors, the Tarahumara fled into the canyons and mountains of the Sierra Madre. Like the buried treasure in Jesus’ parable, a people group of 120,000 has remained hidden from the outside world for centuries.

Reaching the tiny settlements connected by a spider web of footpaths, learning the language, and finding culturally understandable inroads for the gospel have proven daunting for Christian workers.

“I can count on one hand in the last 500 years the number of missionaries who have learned the Tarahumara language,” notes [a Christian worker].

But that is all changing…

» See full story with pictures and watch a related video.

Practical Mobilization



Three kids in Sana’a, Yemen. Source: yeowatzup (Flikr/Creative Commons).

Engaged, Unengaged

What You Can Do for Those Waiting for their Day to Come

By Shane Bennett

The big news in my family is that our oldest, Joseph, has gotten engaged. This is a whole new world for us. I’m happy the only boy in the clan is the one diving in first because I hear it’s a bigger deal when daughters have weddings! With that in mind, and the reality that it was only, what, a month ago, the girls were all diapers and cheerios, I’m must say I’m glad they’re so far unengaged. But that likely won’t last, will it? There is good reason to hope that their day will likewise come.

In recent years missions experts have begun to talk about people groups still waiting for their day to come, for perhaps the first efforts for the gospel to begin among them. They’ve called these groups unengaged. Though the way the term is used may vary, the actual definition is precise: a people group is unreached when the number of Evangelical Christians is less than 2% of its population. It is further called unengaged when there is no church planting strategy consistent with Evangelical faith and practice under way. A people group in not engaged when it has been merely adopted, is the object of focused prayer, or is part of an advocacy strategy.

Mike Latsko, in an article for Mission Frontiers asserts that 34% of all unreached Hindu peoples are unengaged, as are 43% of all Buddhist unreached and 59% of all Muslim unreached.

That 59% number translates into 1168 distinct Muslim people groups among whom, as far as we can tell, no one is currently living, speaking a local language, and working hard to spark movements of disciples to Jesus. That means if each church in my home state of Indiana took on one group, they would all be covered… with churches to spare for Hindus and Buddhists!

Can It Be Done?

Like many things, engaging the unengaged is easy to understand, but very difficult to do. I checked, and not every church in Indiana is interested! And beginning work among unengaged is not the only thing God is doing. But 1168?! You and me and God?! Why would we not think we can do this?

Well, there’s the fact that it’s hard. Many of the unengaged Muslims live in really hot places. Almost all of them speak foreign languages! In America, and maybe other countries as well, we have spent the past decade nurturing a fear and anger toward Muslims that plays right into the hands of the more antagonistic elements of Islam. And the list goes on. The “con” column is long and formidable.

On the other side, Latsko says, “We can do this if we will. His Word is sufficient. His Spirit convicts and empowers. His presence is sure. We have the money. We have the workers. We have the know-how. The unengaged have been the new hidden, but they are hidden no more. We can do this if we will. So let us do it in our day, in full dependence upon him, and in collaboration with one another. Let us do it in our day, and give honor to his name. Let us do it in our day, and hasten the day when many others will sing with us, ‘Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised.’”

So what do you think? What might you do? Before you answer, in a phone call just this morning a friend asserted, “Everything you do changes you.” So your smart response at this point would be to do nothing! Because anything might lead to something else and before you know it, oh my!

If, however, this idea of dropping that 1168 number to zero is getting under your skin, if the Holy Spirit is niggling you, implying that, in fact, it is people like you who do things like this, or if you relate to Saint Paul in that you’ve made it your ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not already been named, lest you build on someone else’s foundation (Romans 15:20-21), then what might you do?

Five Things You Can Do

Here’s a (laboriously) alliterated plan to get you going. And if you’re already going toward the unengaged, would you mind taking a minute to comment and encourage the rest of us?

1. Dream.

Let’s ask God to take away our “Jonah” eyes and help us see the peoples of the world as he does. Let’s dream big that God could use us to start a new work among a new people. Let’s pray that he keeps us humble along the way and that he brings a sharp cadre of teammates to work with us.

2. Dial in.

At some point, just pick a people! God loves them all and plans to do a great work among each of them. You can consult this list for starters. If it kills you to narrow down to one people (Myers Briggs P’s, you know who you are!), connect with a ministry like Frontiers to find a strategic city in which many unengaged Muslims peoples are present.

3. Develop a tribe.

Get Seth Godin’s book Tribes, read it in an hour, and put it into action. You can also read about how Jesus pulled together a bunch of people to launch his start up. Good people all over the place are waiting for you to lead them!

4. Deliver.

Actually start to engage. Discover who else cares about your people and contact them. Start writing a newsletter for your group. Make a Facebook page. Equip people far and wide to pray. Take a subset of your tribe to visit your people. Pray and then ask everyone you meet if they might be able to lead the first team.

5. Duplicate.

Equip five people to do for another unengaged group what you’re doing for “yours.”

What if we could live to see the number of unengaged people groups drop to zero? May God let it be! If I can help you in any of this, let’s talk.

» Comment on this article below or on our Facebook page and please forward or share it freely. See also an earlier article on this topic, Sowing among the Seedless: Learning to Love Jesus among the Unengaged.

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue: Music to connect heaven and earth

  1. KAZAKHSTAN: A House of Mercy
  2. MALI: Thousands Flee Violent Upsurge in North
  3. PAKISTAN: Giant Cross Erected
  4. EGYPT: “Garbage Kids” Dream Big
  5. ERITREA: Six Years in Prison

Dear Readers,

Northern New York has had the craziest weather this spring; one day I had a fire in my parlor stove and the next I had the air conditioner on. Yet one thing about June has been consistent for years. It is what I call the quiet season, simply because so little music is written to herald summer. I do have memories of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” but not much more. Send me your summer playlist if you have one!

When new music is born, I think heaven celebrates. Perhaps when composing we hear heaven’s strains. And heaven must grieve when music is quenched on earth (see the Mali story below; read about  the “savior of Afghan music,” a musicologist who lost his hearing to a Taliban bomb; and look up Psalm 137, the song about not singing).

Could music that glorifies God make the news in heaven? Think of angels saying, “Hey, they GOT it! A bit different than what I sent down, but it’s good!”  Check out Global Worship for lots of great music and images.

Musicians without Borders says, “War divides, music connects.” Its greatest purpose may be to connect us not only with one another but also with God. He is not limited to using music in a church or music written or sung by evangelicals. If we are willing to make connections with people different than us, God may open the door to allow us to help them connect with him, building bridges between heaven and earth, God and man.

One more thing: the Global Consultation on Music and Missions, in Thailand is less than a month away. Pray for the attendees to make strategic connections. May heaven rejoice that new music is rising from all nations. As one of the stories below reminds us, “the resources are in the harvest.” That’s especially true when it comes to music.