Church Growth in Ukraine | Bibles for Bhutan

  1. Ukraine: Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches Growing Tremendously
  2. Australia: Making God Stories Available to Aboriginal People
  3. Bhutan: Scripture for a Staunchly Buddhist Nation
  4. Libya: Christians Arrested and Could Face Death Penalty if Convicted
  5. India: Is Violence in Manipur Ethnic Cleansing? or Religious Cleansing?

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Ukraine: Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches Growing Tremendously

Source: Assemblies of God World Missions, May 8, 2023

A recent road trip across Ukraine revealed that Pentecostal and evangelical churches are experiencing significant growth, and may emerge from the war stronger than ever before.

“Churches are packed out because people are seeking God,” says Jane M. Dollar, 57, an Assemblies of God world missionary to Ukraine who has spent the past year operating a center for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

There is great spiritual hunger in the nation, according to Mykhailo Panochko, senior bishop of the 100-year-old Ukrainian Pentecostal Church.

“People heard the message of the good news,” Panochko says. “Many repented and have been discipled and baptized. The harvest is so big that we lack workers, ministers, people who can feed and grow the people, maturing them in Christ.”

For example, a small church in the once-occupied southern city of Kherson has more than 500 new people attending, but only one minister.

“Everyone has many questions about the present situation, but also the future destiny of their souls,” Panochko says. “People are looking for answers.”

Read the full story.

Australia: Making God Stories Accessible to Aboriginal People

Source: Eternity News, May 2, 2023

Susanna Baldwin, Kathy Dadd, and Dave Glasgow were thrilled to launch the Plain English Version Mini Bible at the Katherine Christian Convention in the Northern Territory at the weekend.

Susanna and Kathy have taken over the bulk of the translation work from Dave Glasgow, who launched the project to make the Word of God more accessible to speakers of Aboriginal languages who learn English as a third or fourth language. The Mini Bible contains most of the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament, including Genesis chapters 1-21.

Speaking to about 200 people at the Saturday night celebration event, Dave mentioned that the Plain English Version, or PEV, is being used by Aboriginal people not just in the Territory but all up the east coast as far as Cairns, as well as in the Pacific and Asia and even migrant communities in Australia.

It is also one of the most popular versions of the Bible downloaded on YouVersion—something that has come as a welcome surprise.

The full story explains more about the ideas behind the PEV and shows how its translation brings to life captivating stories that are good for sharing, especially with those who do not have the Bible in their own language yet.

From the other side of the world, see also this updated list of America’s 50 largest foreign missions and Bible translation organizations, in terms of revenue and excluding denominational groups (Ministry Watch).

Bhutan: Scripture for a Staunchly Buddhist Nation

Source: Back to Jerusalem, April 2023

For the first time, an audio version of the Bhutan Bible in the Dzongkha language is being secretly recorded inside the country. Indigenous believers are armed with an underground recording studio, supported by BTJ, and are recording the audio Bible in the local language.

Bhutan is one of the most unreached nations in the world. About 0.3% of the population in Bhutan are believers, but the majority of the believers who live in Bhutan are Nepalese. Thus, 99.7% of the indigenous Bhutanese have never heard the gospel, or have ever heard the name of Jesus. In fact, the government doesn’t want to claim the existence of any Christian missionaries within their border.

BTJ is working directly with the Bhutanese underground house church by sponsoring a recording of the Old Testament in an audio format. Please pray that they are able to finish the recording correctly and in a prompt and safe manner.

Read the full story and another from BTJ, How the Very First Chinese Bible Translation Came to Be.

See also What’s Behind the Boom of Christianity in China? (China Christian Daily). It describes an interesting project to build a public database of Christian activity in China during a 400-year period (from 1550 to 1950).

Libya: Christians Arrested and Could Face Death Penalty if Convicted

Source: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, May 10, 2023

Six Christian Libyan nationals arrested during March and early April for apostasy (leaving Islam) and Christian proselytism (missionary work) could face the death penalty if found guilty. Videos of the detained believers confessing to their “crimes” have been posted on-line. One believer is a 22-year-old woman who became a follower of Christ [at] aged 15. Another believer is reported to have renounced his faith under torture; may he be comforted by the amazing grace of his Savior, Jesus Christ.

Two U.S. citizens arrested around the same time for alleged Christian proselytism have been released and deported to Tunisia (Libya Update).

Meanwhile, Nigerian pastor Femi Abraham Akinboye—arrested by an Islamic militia in July 2021 while seeking a permit for the church he had established—remains detained, his fate unknown. Lord have mercy! Please pray.

The full story includes links, background, and more prayer points.

From another part of the world, we read that in Cuba, documented violations of religious freedom more than doubled from 2021 to 2022 (story from Baptist Standard, responding to a report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide).

Closer to home for some: In February, we included a news brief about after-school Satan clubs in the U.S. Those are back in the news after a court ruled in favor of The Satanic Temple (The Hill).

India: Is Violence in Manipur Ethnic Cleansing? or Religious Cleansing?

Source: Mission Network News, May 17, 2023

In Manipur, India, more than 2,500 homes of tribal Christians are now just frames and ashes. Meitei Hindus in northeast India began attacking tribal Christians two weeks ago in a horrific campaign of violence.

So far, at least 68 people have been killed and over 25,000 displaced—forced to flee while their houses and churches burned.

With different messages coming from various media outlets, people are asking, is this an ethnic cleansing? Or a religious cleansing?

A ministry worker with A3 (formerly Asian Access) says, “Personally, I feel it’s both. So it’s part of ethnic cleansing, but also it’s part of the Hindu fanatics propagating their religious views because Christians are considered to be one of the greatest enemies and they will try to destroy the strongholds of Christianity. If it’s ethnic cleansing only, why do they have to burn 121 churches? To me, I think it’s more like two sides of the same coin.”

Read the full story. Please pray.

For more background on this conflict check out Indian Troops Ordered to “Shoot on Sight” amid Violence in Manipur (The Guardian) as well as a roundup from the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin.

Changed by the Love of Jesus | Student Arrests in Eritrea

  1. Sudan: How to Pray
  2. Kenya: A Village Chief’s Life Changed by the Love of Jesus
  3. Eritrea: More than 100 Christian College Students Arrested
  4. Africa: Finishing the Task in the Sahel
  5. Iraq: One Click Away From Knowing Jesus

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Header photo: A group of boys at a rest stop between Khartoum and Karima, Sudan (2012). Photo by Mark Fischer/Flickr.

Sudan: How to Pray

Source: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, April 28, 2023

Sudan has been plagued by conflict for decades. Then, in 2011 Sudan split into two countries when the southern region, predominantly Christian and animist, voted to secede from the north, which is predominantly Muslim. In 2013, a civil war broke out between the government and rebel forces, and millions of people were displaced from their homes.

Then, a few weeks ago, fighting erupted across Khartoum and at other sites between two powerful rival military factions. This has engulfed the capital in warfare, for the first time, and raises the chances of a spiraling nationwide civil conflict.

Unfortunately, the Sudanese church often finds itself the target of government harassment or extremism violence. There has been an increase in murders of pastors and church leaders and the destruction of Christian villages, as well as churches, hospitals, schools, and mission bases.

Despite both nationwide chaos and religious persecution, the church continues to grow. Recent reports suggest the church has grown tenfold over the past few decades. As we look to the future, let’s keep Sudan in our prayers and ask God for peace and long-lasting change in this influential and important nation.How to Pray

  • Pray for an end to the violence. Pray that the fighting would stop and that peace would be restored to the country.
  • Pray for servant-hearted leaders for Sudan. Pray that God would raise up leaders who have the nation’s best interests (instead of their own) at the center of their motivation.
  • Pray for reconciliation. Pray that the people of Sudan would be able to forgive each other and come together to build a better future.
  • Pray for the persecuted church. Pray for Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. Pray that they would be strengthened and encouraged.
  • Pray for the needs of the people of Sudan. Pray for food, water, shelter, and medical care for those who are in need and affected by the current crisis.

See the full story with pictures.

Editor’s Note: Last week we learned of four believers who died in Darfur (Western Sudan) from the fighting that spread from the capital. When there are very very few to begin with, four in a day is an incalculably heavy blow. See also Khartoum Churches Damaged as Sudan Descends Closer to Civil War (Christianity Today) and A Prayer for Sudan (World Vision UK).

Kenya: A Village Chief’s Life Changed by the Love of Jesus

Source: Global Christian Relief, April 24, 2023

The African nation of Kenya is not known for religious persecution, unlike the border countries of Somalia and Ethiopia. Eighty-five percent of the population identifies as Christian—but there’s known persecution against believers in smaller villages among traditional tribes.

A village chief from Kenya’s Teso tribe, a people group half a million strong in the western part of the country, had a well-known history of persecuting Christians in Kenya, jailing local pastors and others for leading people away from traditional tribal customs.

The chief attended a local funeral where a Christian was officiating, [a man he] had often arrested. As the persecuted Kenyan gave the eulogy and addressed those in mourning, he spoke of hope in eternity with Christ and of salvation through Christ alone. The words the man gave spoke loudly to the chief’s heart. As the believer continued speaking, the chief rose, came forward, and declared he wanted to be born again.

Not only was the chief seeking salvation [but] he also wanted forgiveness from those he had persecuted. In addition, he openly declared that he would never arrest, jail, or harass Christians again. His life has been forever changed by the love of Jesus.

The chief was recently baptized and continues to testify daily of Christ’s love to his friends, family, and others in his tribe.

Read the full story.

We love to hear stories about people who use their influence for good, but that’s not always how it goes. Perhaps you read about a Kenyan pastor who urged his congregation to starve themselves to death. As the death toll mounts, local clergy wonders at the scale of indoctrination, Religion News Service reports. INcontext provides biblical insight on this tragedy in Deaths Linked to Kenyan “Pastor” Calls for Greater Discernment.

Eritrea: More Than 100 Christian College Students Arrested

Source: International Christian Concern, April 25, 2023

Earlier this month, Eritrean police raided a group of Christian college students who had gathered to worship and record video clips for social media.

Release International reported that 103 Christians, mainly students, were arrested in the crackdown. The raid took place in the capital, Asmara, and those arrested were taken to Mai Serwa prison.

There are now more than 500 Christian prisoners detained indefinitely without trial in Eritrea. The prison where the students were taken, Mai Serwa, is notorious for its harsh conditions, overcrowding, and poor treatment of inmates.

Read the full story. Note that our efforts to confirm this story or find an update have not been successful, though other news sources have picked up the original story from Release or this version from ICC.

Religious tolerance can be difficult to maintain even in places where it is a stated value. Another story from ICC involves university students, this time in West Aceh, Indonesia, where four Muslim students were expelled from a student organization for a social media post wishing Christians a “Happy Good Friday.” This was considered apostasy and required the students to apologize to university leaders and be re-Islamized.

Also, on Monday, May 1, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released an annual report describing worsening religious freedom conditions in a number of countries.