FINLAND: Hundreds of Muslims Coming to Christ

Source: Interserve, January 2018

A report in the Finnish media says that within the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, Muslims are changing allegiance to Christ in numbers estimated to be in the hundreds over recent years. What’s going on?

These people are from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and other Muslim countries. The numbers are sufficient to prompt Lutheran parishes to establish special confirmation classes for Muslim immigrants seeking to follow Jesus.

The report says that about 20 Afghan men are currently attending “pre-confirmation” classes at a parish center in Imatra in Eastern Finland. The teachers use a New Testament in the Dari language (a Persian dialect), which is spoken in Afghanistan.

While some who are seeking to change allegiance said that disillusionment with Islam was the key reason, others said they felt life as a “Christian” would help them fit into Finnish society, according to Sputnik News, which also speculates that there could be an underlying reason to guard themselves against possible deportation.

In Finland 4.1 million of the 5.5 million people are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and a June 2016 Guardian article cited anecdotal data of rising Christian church attendance by Muslims right across the Eurozone.

Take for instance, Trinity church in the Berlin suburb of Steglitz, which saw its congregation grow from 150 to 700 due to people from Muslim families changing faith allegiance to Jesus. The Austrian Catholic Church also saw its applications for adult baptism swell by nearly 70% in the first three months of 2016.

» Full story based on an article published in the Christian Post in July.

» See also these other stories related to global migration: Christian Convert from Iran Converting Muslims in Sweden (Fox News), Four Ways to Meet a Refugee (Faith and Forced Migration), and What Christians in the US Can Learn from Immigrant Pastors (Christianity Today).

BURKINA FASO: Thousands Call for Release of Doctor

Source: World Watch Monitor, January 17, 2018

Thousands took to the streets of Djibo, a northern town in Burkina Faso, on [January 15] to call for the government to secure the release of an Australian doctor, Ken Elliott, kidnapped two years ago. The abduction was claimed by a branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Djibo, in the province of Soum, is the town where Dr. Elliott, with his wife, had run a 120-bed clinic for 40 years until their abduction. Jocelyn Elliott was released in February 2016; the Islamist group said in an audio recording that it released Mrs. Elliott so as “not to make women involved in the war.”

The demonstrators claim that the government has not kept its promise to re-open the only medical clinic in the town. An open letter addressed to President Roch Marc Kaboré, read aloud, stated a request that the surgeon’s clinic, the result of a 40-year commitment, be continued.

Dr. Elliott, who is believed to be held outside Burkina Faso, was declared a citizen of the West African nation by an official decree in November 2016.

The couple’s abduction coincided with a jihadist assault on an upmarket hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016, which left at least 30 people dead, including seven missionaries.

» Full story describes the desparate medical situation in this region. See also the latest WWM report about Andrew Brunson, imprisoned in Turkey.

LAOS: A Church for the So

Source: OMF International, December 2017

Ten years ago, very few, if any, So people called on Jesus as Lord [and] very few of them had ever heard the name of Jesus or the gospel message.

Through a combination of miracles, intentional discipleship, and testing through persecution, the first So church was established in 2013. Initially, many of the new believers knew Jesus more as healer than savior.

The Christians who first began working among the So continued to disciple the new church’s leaders wherever they could—in the jungle, in boats, guesthouses, or in town.

They answered every question the new believers had, such as how to say prayers before sleep or in the morning, how to not take part in temple ceremonies but still be a part of their community, how to do a Christian wedding, how to bless a new house, and how to officiate funerals. Everything was modeled and practiced before the new church. Then, the older Christians helped the So Christians do it. Finally, discipleship and encouragement was given over the phone and the So believers began doing it on their own.

Today there are about seven So churches serving more than 260 So believers. The churches are elder-led and share the responsibility for shepherding, discipling, teaching and starting new groups. Some of the churches have seen started spreading the gospel to other people groups in the region.

» Full story further illustrates the “Model, Assist, Watch, Leave” (MAWL) method for cross-cultural church planting. Learn more about people groups of the Mekong region.

Five Hopes for 2018 | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largehopesfor2018By Shane Bennett

One of the funnest parts of January for me is the opportunity, sometimes, to help launch a Perspectives course by teaching lesson one. On the first night of class, it’s all hope and possibility. And since the odds of being the best speaker are slim, I’m happy to be the first!

The hope that infuses the Perspectives material and flows through the missiology that undergirds is what I find so encouraging, even invigorating: God is doing something huge for his name! And that work for his name not only involves cleaning, reclaiming, and restoring us, but even inviting us into the amazing honor of joining in his purposes. It’s staggering, really.

I want to blow on those embers of possibility in both you and me today by sharing five big hopes that I have for 2018 and asking to hear some of yours.

1. Substantive shifts in the global refugee situation

I hope that 2018 sees life turn toward good for many of the most gut-wrenching refugee situations. How great would it be for Syrians to begin to return home, accompanied by a massive reconstruction effort?

For the Rohingya I hope and pray for resolution that I honestly can’t even imagine. In my wildest dreams I don’t see how this situation can get better soon. But trusting God’s power to be superior to my imagination, I pray he’ll make a difference.

I also pray for the hundreds of thousands of would-be migrants to Sicily now marooned in Libya. In mid-2017 Italy partnered with a Libyan militia to hinder northward migration. While successful and good for Sicily, this has cheapened the lives of many who now suffer unimaginably in Libya.

Finally, I hope my country, the US (you hope for yours!) will act toward refugees in ways that honor God. It’s hard to see how we go from here to there, but again God can make a way.

2. A growing wave of young, smart, global entrepreneurs

Last weekend I watched a sharp documentary called Poverty, Inc. Depending on what you’re up to your ears in, it might make you sad. Or it might anger you. Or, if you’re like me and watch it with a radical young couple bent on honoring God and changing their part of the world, it might fill you with hope. Jesse and Jessica live in Liberia with For the Lamb. They’re starting a compressed-earth block company. They’re dreaming about their business helping Liberians and, even better, helping Liberians help themselves.

I’m dreaming about hundreds of Jesses and Jessicas from the US. From Europe. And even better, from Senegal, Syria, and Singapore… wisely and bravely stepping into situations where the enemy has stolen, killed, and destroyed, with their arms and minds full of the abundant life of Jesus.

I’m hoping they will be joined by hundreds of women and men skilled at PTSD counseling and training others. Few of the 65 million currently displaced people in the world will escape without some deep wounds.

3. A shift in sentiments toward Muslims

In 2018 I hope we see a measurable shift among Americans toward Muslims, both American Muslims and others. I’d like to see Christians on a grand scale trade apathy, anxiousness, and anger for connection and love toward Muslims near and far.

When God told Abraham that he and Sarah would be a conduit through which blessings would extend to all the peoples of the earth, that pretty much included everyone. And when Jesus hung out and laughed with Samaritans, he was showing us, among other things, how to interact with Muslims and others who like them. I would love to hear what you might be doing to make this hope real or what you think might need done.

I’d also like to invite you into my small, but growing effort called Muslim Connect, a super-short weekly email designed to help us think like God about Muslims and love them like Jesus does.

4. A fundamental increase in generosity

After way too long being way underfunded, I’ve hired what’s known in our tribal parlance as a Partnership Development Coach. Turns out this guy, who works as part of Stewardship Ambassadors, is not primarily going to help me talk people into giving to my ministry… he’s going help me help people grow in obedient generosity, and apparently that starts with me. You can imagine my surprise, as well as my hope for a broad-based increase in generosity throughout the global church and beyond.

What I hope to see grow in my own heart, an openness to gladly share of the good stuff God has given me, I hope to see grow in all of our hearts. Most of you, I’m guessing, are starting on a higher floor than me. But many of us have some room to grow.

5. Movements

Finally, I’m hoping that in 2018 we see God’s hand extended to continue gathering a great harvest. Recent research shows a growing number of multiplying movements to Christ particularly among unreached peoples. One observer has charted well over 600 movements in which multiple streams of disciples have reached four generations deep. This means someone following Jesus who leads her friends to him who then lead their friends to him who then lead their friends to follow him. Additionally, he sees thousands of movements that are emerging but have yet to hit the four-generation mark. What might we see as they mature?!? This is huge!

To give legs to both number four and five above, I’d like to give you at my expense a free copy of Stubborn Perseverance, a novelized story of a movement to Christ in Southeast Asia. It is both gripping and instructive. It will fill you with hope and wisdom for what God is up to in our day. To claim your free copy enter my name and email where it asks for the name of “your generous friend” (Ha!) Free print books are limited to the first 100 and only to the US. Kindle or pdf versions are not limited either in number or by geography.

I would love to hear your hopes for 2018 or your thoughts on mine. Respond to this email or post them on our website or Facebook page.

Ornitheology? | World News Briefs



In This Issue:

  1. USA: Faith Takes Flight
  2. INDIA: Man “Converted by Carol Singers” Now Claims Membership in Militant Hindu Group
  3. NORTH KOREA: Five Gut-Wrenching Facts
  4. FINLAND: Reaching Russians
  5. USA: Transforming Virtual Conversations

geese smallerPhoto by Gary Bendig on Unsplash.


Sometimes the news is confusing. I’m not referring to opposing views. Nor am I referring to unreliable sources. Sometimes it is just confusing because we live in a crazy, broken, mixed-up world.

In some of the stories I found this week, information is simply missing or mystifying. I submit them to you knowing that Missions Catalyst readers are intercessors. We can always pray for captives to be set free, take flight, and escape “the snare of the fowler” (Psalm 124:7).

We know so little of what is really going on, but God knows.


USA: Faith Takes Flight

Source: ASSIST News Service, January 7, 2018
Editor’s note: Did you know January 5 was “National Bird Day”?

“Consider the birds” [Jesus] reminded the disciples as he discussed how God cares for them. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” he asks his followers, stating, “Not one will be forgotten before God,” inferring the Lord will not forget his children. Jesus also compared birds to the kingdom of God: “The birds come and make nests.” Jesus references birds when discussing the fact that he has no home: “The birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The Holy Spirit—in the form of a dove—descended upon Jesus at his baptism. Roughly 300 passages found in the Bible reference birds.

Reformer Martin Luther, called birds “our schoolmasters.” The Christian poet and clergyman George Herbert used birds in some of his poems. C.S Lewis used birds throughout his Chronicles of Narnia, showing their variety and beauty, naming over a dozen in Aslan’s kingdom.

Probably the best-known bird-watching clergyman was John Stott. As a great enthusiast of birds, Stott called his admiration of birds, “orni-theology.” One of his best-loved books is Birds Our Teachers. In this work he relates birds to subjects ranging from repentance, self-esteem, gratitude, work, freedom, joy, and love. Birds are more than just feathery fowl, but teachers tethering us to God’s grace and creativity, helping our faith take flight.

» Read full story to consider what we can learn from the birds.

» This article reminded me of what my friend, blogger Bev Ewart wrote about the Goose Poop and Glory as well as The Goldfinch.

INDIA: Man “Converted by Carol Singers” Now Claims Membership in Militant Hindu Group

Source: World Watch Monitor, December 19, 2017

An Indian man who claimed a group of carol singers illegally converted him has now said he is a member of the militant Hindu group Bajrang Dal and is unwilling to confirm his allegation. The complaint made [December 14] to the police by Dharmendra Dohar led to the arrest of 30 Christians, who insisted they were only singing songs.

When Dohar was asked by New Delhi TV if he had changed his religion, he said: “I can’t speak on this… If I do, I will get embroiled in the issue… It will be said that I’m changing my statement.” The “group,” [assumedly Bajrang Dal] he said, doesn’t want “such people (Christians) to come in here,” reported the broadcaster.

NDTV asked Dohar if it was Bajrang Dal or the police he was afraid of. He said: “I’m concerned about my family. It is because of me they got into trouble… We were told not to allow these people (Christians) to come into our homes and mingle with us.” Dohar also alleged that the carol singers paid him 5,000 rupees (US$80) and told him to “worship Jesus Christ.”

The incident took place in a village near Satna in Madhya Pradesh. The central Indian state has some of the strictest anti-conversion laws in the country.

» Full story offers some explanation but leaves questions unanswered.

» Also related to regional religious conflict: A highly anticipated Bollywood blockbuster has been delayed after a politician from India’s governing party offered a bounty on the heads of the movie’s star and director, claiming the film distorts Hindu legends (The Independent). The plight of Hindus in Bangladesh reportedly continues to deteriorate (Foreign Policy).

NORTH KOREA: Five Gut-Wrenching Facts

Source: Open Doors, December 13, 2017

In a new report on North Korean prison camps, one of the judges, a former child survivor from Auschwitz, said the conditions were as bad—or even worse—than what he witnessed in the Nazi concentration camps.

The report shared by the IBA (International Bar Association) War Committee offers chilling details from personal testimonies, video, transcripts, and scholarly works about the state of North Korea’s prison camps. We share these facts to help you understand the severe mistreatment, injustice, and abuse many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are subjected to daily within North Korea’s infamous prison camp system.

  1. There are an estimated 80,000-130,000 political prisoners held in North Korea’s prison camps.
  2. Inside the camps, prisoners are often “tortured and killed on account of their religious affiliation, with officials instructed ‘to wipe out the seed of [Christian] reactionaries.’”
  3. In one account, guards killed a prisoner’s newborn baby by feeding it to the guard dogs.
  4. The report also explains the fact that routine public executions are carried out in front of both children and adults, “designed to subdue the prison population.” In another case, the prison guards executed starving prisoners “found digging for edible plants on a mountainside.”
  5. There were many more cases reported of inhumane treatment, deliberate starvation, cruelty, abuse, rape, forced abortions, and murder. Some of the details in the report are too graphic to share.

As hard as it is to read—or even imagine—this is a reality. We can’t afford to look away from this—or to let our Christian family in North Korea feel isolated and alone.

» full story inluddes links to download the report or an executive summary.

» To learn about one ministry serving North Korean defectors, see English Opens Doors for North Koreans (One Mission Society).

FINLAND: Reaching Russians

Source: Resonate Global Mission, November 16, 2017

For many years, Alexander has sensed God calling him to plant a new church for Russians. Now in the last months, that vision is taking shape in new and exciting ways.

A Russian himself, Alexander joined a group of other leaders from his church and around the region for a leadership training event led by a missionary. Many in the group were interested in planting churches for Russian speakers outside of Russia.

“We met almost every month, and Alexander’s strategies for church planting grew over the course of the year,” says the missionary.

Through the process, Alexander felt he now had the new skills that he needed to take the next step. He answered a call from his sending church to plant a new church in Helsinki, Finland, a part of Europe with a quickly growing Russian population.

Alexander secured a job in Helsinki and started getting to know the city, connecting with other Christians as well as Russian speakers. One of the most important connections he made was with Saalem Church, a church that has a unique ministry of reaching out to the needs of the ethnic groups represented in the city.

“Saalem Church seems to do a great job embracing the immigrant population of Helsinki,” adds the missionary. “We attended the service there on a Sunday, and there were groups of people from all backgrounds.”

As Alexander’s relationship with this Finnish church grew, he shared his vision with members there, and they too supported his desire to share the gospel with Russian speakers. Saalem offered Alexander a space to worship and spiritual oversight, as well as visa support.

Today about 20 people are involved in the church for Russian speakers.

» Read full story.

» See also a thoughtful and gracious testimony, this one from a Mexican-American, about how the immigrant experience lends itself to encountering God (Christianity Today).

USA: Transforming Virtual Conversations

Source: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, December 12, 2017

Angelo Blancaflor became a missional gamer during his third year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) when he realized something about his fellow gamers. He had been meeting with them online for years but knew little about their offline lives.

In high school Angelo and three online friends shifted their sleep schedules for almost a year in order to be awake from 1:00am to 4:00am Pacific Time so they could watch a game being streamed. “We bonded deeply because we were all a little bit crazy at those hours of the night, watching games and talking about whatever else, waiting for the games to start,” he said.

Five years later, they were still gaming friends, but not much more than that. So Angelo began to ask them about their families and what they did when they weren’t gaming. Eventually he asked if they could meet in person. As they established a new level of trust with each other, and developed curiosity about each other’s lives, sharing about his Christian faith began to naturally become part of the conversation.

» Full story explores Angelo’s thoughts about the opportunity and challenge of transforming virtual conversations into face-to-face evangelism and Bible study (something international missionaries are experiencing as well).

» See also Latest Trends in International Student Enrollment, which includes ideas for reaching international students on your local college campus (Collegiate Collective).