Maybe, like me, you wish you could attend some of the amazing collaborative, creative gatherings you see on the Missions Catalyst calendar. Or perhaps you’d like to make it to meetings of global significance like the APEC leaders’ meeting happening in San Francisco.
Which ones would make Heaven’s headlines? When people gathering to encourage one another and lift up the name of Jesus, that’s surely worth noting. See Brian Stiller’s recent dispatches from The Future of the Gospel Forum in Turkey and a Global Pentecostal Summit held in Singapore. I am blown away by reports of what God is doing.
At the ame time, we continue to hear about heartbreaking situations. So, I’d also like to share a little tool that I came across to help us pray for the suffering and sick this holiday season. Mission India suggests using the very flexible BLESS prayer. (See also a description of this prayer from Zúme.) I’m using it to pray for Palestinians in Gaza and for the 125 kids receiving Operation Christmas Child boxes my church sent this week. Who’s on your list?
On October 3, the government of Pakistan announced that all “illegal immigrants” must leave the country by November 1 or face forced deportation. The announcement has been criticized by foreign governments and international rights organizations for its alleged targeting of the approximately 1.7 million Afghans living in the country as refugees and displaced persons.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced that those who voluntarily turn themselves in will receive “incentives and help” with their relocation. However, those who do not leave voluntarily will face arrest, detention, and deportation with no assistance. Those leaving are allowed to take up to 50,000 Pakistani rupees (US$173) out of the country.
Bugti emphasized that there will be no deadline extensions, and any Afghan person found without proper documentation will be handed over to Afghan authorities. He also warned that businesses and property owned by Afghans are also at risk of seizure. However, the decision is said to not affect those who are officially registered as refugees in Pakistan or those with proper paperwork to be in the country.
Wondering how things are going now that the deadline has passed? See a photo essay about the returnees, “Just Sitting in the Dirt”: Afghans Forced From Pakistan Struggle to Find Shelter (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). Many are also returning to Afghanistan from Iran and facing similar conditions. The UN estimates that over 29 million Afghans—out of a population of around 40 million—need humanitarian assistance. Globally, the number of displaced people continues to break records.
In September 2012, Mango Magic was born with the idea to bring fresh mango smoothies to Tacloban, Philippines. In 2013, the successful business that had begun flourishing was wiped out by typhoon Yolanda. But, through hard work and dedication, the [owners] started their business from the ground up again. Today, it is a successful business with thriving franchises throughout the Philippines.
Like many Filipinos [president and CEO JJ Chan] was raised in the church. He knew about God at a very young age and was always active in the church [but] realized that, over the years, his focus and achievements in life had become about worldly success and the approval of others. He rededicated his life to Jesus and began living his life through God’s plans, and not his own.
“I am now re-committed to being God’s instrument to effect change and transformation in the lives of people in this nation through the gospel of Jesus,” he says.
He cares for his employees the way Jesus cares for his people and, just as Mango Magic wants to “spread happiness in every smoothie,” JJ wants to ensure all the employees experience true joy in Jesus.
Israeli forces are at the gates of Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza City’s main hospital above Hamas headquarters. The hospital is running out of fuel, and at least 32 patients have died. Yet, Hamas blocked Israeli efforts to deliver more fuel. The IDF says they plan to help evacuate babies at the hospital’s request.
An Israeli defense spokesperson emphasized Al Shifa Hospital is not under siege and reminded the world that Hamas still has 239 Israeli hostages.
Meanwhile, missile sirens continue to sound every day in Israel. Over 9,500 rockets have been fired on Israel from both Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north since the war began.
Victor Kalisher of the Bible Society in Israel says Israelis are grappling with collective, generational trauma. “When someone has been through a trauma, everything that reminds you of that brings you back to the situation that you remember.”
A well-known scholar and author who grew up Muslim before turning to atheism says she now considers herself a Christian and believes her new faith provides the best answers to the purpose and meaning of life.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a research fellow for the Stanford University Hoover Institution, previously was considered a member of the New Atheist movement alongside authors such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens.
Hirsi Ali attributes her conversion to global reasons—she believes atheism doesn’t have the answers for a clash of civilizations—but also to spiritual reasons.
“I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable—indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?”
Hirsi Ali’s 2006 book Infidel recounted her early years in Somalia and her eventual rejection of Islam.
Decades ago, missiologist Ralph Winter wrote about three eras of missionary history—how God sent his servants first to the coastlines of various continents, then to the inland areas of various continents, and then, finally, to the unreached peoples of those continents.
But the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia is an exception. Missionaries went first to the inland areas, reaching various Dayak groups but making little impact in coastal communities. The Banjar people, with a population of more than four million, are the largest such coastal people group. Twenty-five years ago they had no scripture in their language, and even now, no churches worship God in the Banjar language.
This has been an extremely difficult group to reach. Some of God’s workers have been killed. Others have been deported and blacklisted. Due to the challenges of reaching this group, gospel workers have set up a website with the goal of raising up 1,000 daily prayer warriors who would continue to pray until there is a breakthrough among the Banjar—the birth of fellowships that worship God in the Banjar language.
Would you prayerfully consider becoming one of these 1,000 prayer warriors?
In September, Pakiza [a church planter in Uttar Pradesh, India] and her brother Baheen were hosting a prayer gathering in the home of another believer, Pervaiz. A group of locals reported them to the police, alleging that they were in violation of their state’s anti-conversion law. Pakiza, Baheen, Pervaiz, and even Pakiza’s one-year-old daughter were arrested and placed in jail.
When I first learned of Pakiza’s situation, Acts 18:9 came to mind: “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.’” Pakiza, along with many church planters in India, have very good reason to be afraid of sharing the gospel, and yet they continue their work. They ‘keep on speaking’ knowing that believers just like you are praying for them. Prayer has kingdom impact, even in the midst of persecution!
As we recognize the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church this month, please pray for Pakiza, Baheen, and Pervaiz as they endure this trial. Pray that God provides for their needs and encourages their hearts, and that they are released from the charges.
Read the full story. See many stories like this (and more encouraging ones) on the Mission India website.
[Beginning] on October 7, a series of devastating earthquakes rocked Herat, Afghanistan. So far, the city of Herat, with its concrete structures, has seen little structural damage. However, villages in nearby areas have been devastated. Composed mostly of mud homes, many have seen significant damage, with whole areas being flattened to the ground and many lives lost.
The Body of Christ has always been called to respond and come together to meet needs. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-24, we read about the practice of taking up a “collection” in response to natural disasters. The Apostle Paul invited churches to rally together in support of their sisters and brothers of faith in another place, as a practical expression of unity. Let’s consider how we can do likewise today.
Pray where their friends and family continue to face significant challenges and hardship. Please join us in prayer and action as we continue to journey alongside and recognize the strength and resiliency of people who have been forcibly displaced.