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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.
The ancient silk road, famed for the transportation of exotic spices, silks, and other valuables in the ages past, winds its way through Central Asia including Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara, all cities in the beautiful nation of Uzbekistan.
In this past year the Uzbek Bible has been published. The next step in the process is to develop strategies for scripture engagement. Our contacts were eager to create tools that would both assist with this and also share the love of Christ with the 30 million Uzbeks.
It turns out that both [the prophets] Daniel and Job are well known to Uzbeks. The official tomb of the Prophet Daniel is in Samarkand. Also there is a spring that has a legend connected to Job, known to Uzbeks as the “Patient Prophet.” Both monuments set up for these men are visited by many Uzbeks every day.
So we set out to make “documentaries with a difference”—sharing the beauty and history of Uzbekistan with their own people and giving insight into these two characters. The films tie together scripture and Uzbek culture in unique ways to express how the gospel is not foreign (i.e., not Russian) and Jesus is their way to salvation.
» Read full story. I don’t see a way to get the documentaries described here, but found a link to a IndigiTube, a related website where you can download more than 450 gospel films in over 120 different languages and search for audio Bibles in more than 1,300 different languages.
In 2009, Saint Lydia’s, a Lutheran church in Brooklyn, New York garnered national attention when it began holding a weekly service over dinner. Longing to dispel feelings of isolation often reported among young New Yorkers, founder Emily Scott decided to model her service around the early church practice of having a meal together as Eucharist.
Meanwhile, the Assemblies of God Community Dinners in Seattle, Washington; the Disciples of Christ Potluck Church in Madisonville, Kentucky; and the Episcopal Southside Abbey in Chattanooga, Tennessee began experimenting with their own ideas of meal-centered worship. One by one, communities began to emerge, though many remained unaware of others participating in the movement.
In the years since, the model has grown from four to over forty congregations across North America and Europe, with new communities emerging on a weekly basis.
» Learn more (Christian Food Movement). Story includes links to dinner church locations. Maybe you want to start one or incorporate some of the ideas. Thanks to Joel News for this story. Subscribe here.
More than 400 people have been killed and 7,000 injured in an earthquake that struck along the border between Iran and Iraq on Sunday, November 12. Officials are calling it the deadliest earthquake in the world in 2017. The BBC reported that teams are looking for survivors trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings. The death toll is expected to rise.
The earthquake struck late Sunday night, sending terrified residents fleeing their homes into the streets. The US Geological Survey said the epicenter was 19 miles outside the Iraqi city of Halabja.
Authorities in Iran and Iraq have initiated rescue operations. According to Iran’s semi state-run Tasnim news agency, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were reportedly traveling to the affected areas to help with rescue efforts. On Monday, Iran declared three days of mourning.
Fatalities of the quake have already exceeded September’s Mexico City earthquake, in which 369 people were killed.
For the western Iranian town of Sarpol-e-Zahab where more than 100 people have been killed.
For grieving families and friends who have lost parents, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters in the quake. Pray that those who don’t know God would feel his comfort and presence and come to know him as their Savior.
For healing and medical care for the more than 7,000 people injured in the earthquake. Pray for strength and knowledge for medical workers and other first responders who are assisting with rescue efforts. Pray that more people would be rescued in the days ahead.
For believers in these areas as they look for ways to show Christ to the families of victims and pray for the wounded.
For organizations mobilizing to provide shelter, food, and clean water to families who have lost their homes.
For the quick restoration of running water and electricity in the cities across the Iran/Iraq mountainous border that were hit hardest.
For the Iraqi and Iranian people in these border areas. Pray for them in the months ahead as they begin recovery and the difficult process of rebuilding homes and lives from the rubble.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly resigned on Saturday, November 4, during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was under threat. His sudden departure creates a leadership vacuum in an already politically divided country. He accused Iran of meddling in the region, causing “devastation and chaos.” He went on to say: “Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq. I want to tell Iran and its followers that it will lose in its interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”
Iran has refuted these allegations. Mr. Hariri’s resignation is seen by others in the region as orchestrated by his patrons, the Saudis, to isolate Hezbollah by collapsing Lebanon’s national unity government, which included both Hezbollah and Mr. Hariri’s Sunni faction.
There are growing fears that Lebanon could become another battleground for the escalating rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as war-torn Syria has been in recent years. This small, yet strategic Mediterranean country could face economic collapse or even conflict if a quick resolution to the current crisis is not found.
Lebanon currently hosts approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees who now, together with the 5 million Lebanese, face an uncertain future.
Please join us in praying for Lebanon.
“God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope” (from Hosea 2:15).