Seeking revival, new Norse temple & the biggest election year in history

  1. Middle East: A Former Aide to Arafat Believes Revival Will Break Out After the War
  2. USA: What Happened at Asbury University?
  3. Iceland: After 1,000 Years, a New Temple Built to the Norse Gods
  4. Infographic: 2024 Will Be a “Super Election” Year
  5. USA: A Buddhist Monk Asks How to Share the Gospel

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Middle East: A Former Aide to Arafat Believes Revival Will Break Out After the War

Source: God Reports, February 8, 2024

A former sharpshooter Muslim and aide to Yasser Arafat, Taysir “Tass” Abu Saada strongly believes a revival will break out after the Israel-Hamas war.

“We are looking at a good revival going on already in the Gaza Strip due to what has happened,” [Saada] told CBN. “Despite the destruction that is taking place, I believe God has a purpose to get the Palestinians in Gaza to wake up and look at different alternatives to what they believe.”

[Saada] is himself a Palestinian, though born in Qatar. He passed through the Palestinian militant ranks from sharpshooter to aid to former PLO Chairman Yassar Arafat. Today, however, he is a Christian overseeing teams who evangelize in the West Bank and Gaza.

In the CBN report, [Saada] confirmed an earlier story that 200 Gazans received Jesus en masse when they all received the same dream about Jesus on the same night.

The full story includes a link to an interview with Saada. More of his personal story is told in a 2010 Tyndale House book, Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life.

A Missions Catalyst reader asked if we’d heard the reports that 200 Gazans dreamed of Jesus on the same night in November. We had our doubts and couldn’t confirm the story. This one seems a step closer to the source. Pretty wild, though. Let’s pray for God to bring revival by any means he chooses.

USA: What Happened at Asbury University?

Sources: Asbury University

On February 8, 2023, what began as a routine Wednesday morning chapel service with the student body turned into a multi-week outpouring that some have described as a revival. Led by students, the services attracted college students from hundreds of other colleges and universities, beginning as soon as Wednesday evening.

Then, news of the continuous services spread around the world, and attracted people from as far away as Russia and Japan. Media outlets arrived en masse to cover the spiritual awakening among young people. Countless reports of life change, salvation, and re-dedications to Christ were some of the amazing results of the outpouring events. Asbury staff, faculty, students and volunteers worked tirelessly to welcome the visitors to campus, with orderly lines to get into Hughes extending a half mile long around campus.

Since then, the community has worked to share what God did, and spread the gospel and testimonies of life change. Also, Asbury’s pastoral care staff is working to disciple and mentor students impacted through the outpouring through different initiatives on campus.

The events lasted for 16 days, culminating in a service specifically for Gen Z students on February 23, 2023. Yet, the Lord continues to move across the Wilmore community, Kentucky, the United States, and the world.

A page on the Asbury University website includes at least a dozen links to articles reflecting on this event and its impact a year later.

Of course, we saw some more skeptical responses to the anniversary, too. This author claims none of the churches in the area saw significant growth or transformation (Samuel Sey).

Iceland: After 1,000 Years, a New Temple Built to the Norse Gods

Source: Religion News Service, February 6, 2024

With the 2011 movie “Thor,” the Avengers film franchise made Thor, Loki, and Odin the equals of Iron Man and Black Panther, transforming these ancient Norse gods into mythic Marvel superheroes.

But followers of Ásatrú, or Norse paganism, still honor their gods, and in Iceland, where Ásatrú is the second-most-practiced religion after Christianity, a new temple to the Norse deities is rising now on Öskjuhlíð, a hill overlooking the center of the capital city of Reykjavik. Dedicated to the whole pantheon of Norse gods and nature spirits, it is the first pagan temple to be built in more than 1,000 years.

The opening of the temple was initially planned for 2016, but the 2008 financial crash, which hit Iceland hard, delayed construction, and progress was further inhibited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Magnús Jensson, the architect of the Hof Ásatrúarfélagsins (“the Temple of the Ásatrú Fellowship”) and a member of the pagan community, said that the plan now is to open the temple in stages over the next few years.

Read the full story. Religion News Service recently ran another interesting story about sacred items smuggled out of Nepal being returned to that mostly Hindu nation.

Infographic: 2024 Will Be a “Super Election” Year

Source: INcontext, February 16, 2024

Did you know 2024 may be the biggest election year in history? The year is notable for a large number of elections, with seven of the world’s ten most populous nations voting. According to Anchor Change, these countries are home to nearly half of the world’s people. Only 38% of elections listed for 2024 are expected to be [fully] free and fair. 

Check out the infographic below for fuel for prayer. See also the interactive election cycle tracker map at Anchor Change.

USA: A Buddhist Monk Asked How to Share the Gospel

Source: OMF, February 14, 2024

Every two years, a new cohort of Buddhist monks shows up in Atlanta to participate in a university program. I was able to meet them through the international coffeehouse ministry I have been a part of, which focuses on learning about other cultures in an open and welcoming environment.

I had the opportunity to have several gospel conversations with them. We talked about God and his plan of salvation through Jesus. We talked about Buddhism and their beliefs in reincarnation and the process of eliminating suffering from your life. We asked questions. We listened. We learned.

As their time in Atlanta was coming to a close, I could feel the burden to share the gospel becoming heavier and heavier. They were leaving to return home, and I didn’t know whether I would ever see them again. Would they ever think about Jesus again after they left Atlanta? Would they ever get to hear the gospel again once they were back at the monastery? My burden felt heavy and urgent.

During our last meeting together, a group of us discussed a Bible story with [one of the monks]. He [asked] us to share with him a summary of the central message of Christianity so when he goes back home, he can share with the other monks what Christianity is all about.

Hear how the writer summed up the gospel for her Buddhist friend. Pray the message sticks with him and that he shares it with others.

A Husband Converts, Lunar New Year, and Sikhs in America

In this edition of News Briefs:

  1. Egypt: Mahdi Wasn’t the Man She Married
  2. World: What Is the Lunar New Year?
  3. USA: Sikhs in America Vote for an Independent Homeland
  4. Indonesia: A Rise in Religious Freedom in the Most Populous Muslim Country
  5. Middle East: God Uses Poor Handwriting for His Glory

Read or share the email edition or scroll down for more.

Egypt: Mahdi Wasn’t the Man She Married

Source: Pioneers-USA, January 27, 2024

It was 2018 when Hanedi’s husband, Mahdi, told her he wouldn’t be fasting during Ramadan with her that year. And that was only the beginning. She found things on his phone she didn’t like. And, as she realized what had happened, she felt as if the sky had come crashing down on her. Mahdi had become a different person. He wasn’t the man she knew. Her response was to become more devout, going to the mosque with her son to pray. After all, somebody had to. Otherwise, what would happen to their family?

In a new video, Hanedi, a refugee from Sudan, shares the story in her own words. Hear about the new things she saw in her husband and how she eventually responded. Mahdi and Hanedi now live in France.

Read the full story and watch the short video. Note that the war in Sudan has displaced more than 10.7 million people (Mission Network News).

Have you heard about the International Migration Bible? Launched at the United Bible Societies World Assembly in October, it includes articles from many migrants highlighting migration and related themes in Scripture. It could be a good resource for you if you minister to people on the move.

World: What Is the Lunar New Year?

Source: East-West blog, February 5, 2024

The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival, is a prominent holiday in East and Southeast Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Korea, and Singapore.

Lunar New Year begins with the new moon closest to the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. While the Lunar New Year is largely a secular holiday, many traditions originated from Buddhism and Taoism. Believers should understand the significance of the Lunar New Year and know how to share the love of Christ with friends who celebrate this holiday.

The holiday also celebrates new beginnings and ushering in good luck for the new year. Before the new year, people will clean their homes to symbolize ridding the house of the previous year’s bad luck and making room for good luck to enter. Families will also gather for a large dinner and serve dishes representing abundance and fortune.

Read the full story and consider ways you might pray for or connect with friends observing this holiday on Saturday, February 10 (and over a period of several weeks).

Millions travel home in “the world’s largest migration,” but read about the Chinese millennials who shun Lunar New Year travel (BBC).

USA: Sikhs in America Vote for an Independent Homeland

Source: Religion News Service, February 1, 2024

[On Sunday, January 28], more than 120,000 Sikhs of all ages and occupations took part in a historic referendum in San Francisco on the creation of an autonomous homeland in northwestern India. They braved hours-long lines after already long commutes, in many cases from neighboring states, to reach the polling place in the City by the Bay.

These Sikhs, almost all of them U.S. citizens and residents, were voting aspirationally for the creation of Khalistan—a hoped-for but nonexistent “land of the pure” that would stand separate from the nation of India.

Organized by Sikhs for Justice, an activist group banned in India, the vote was aimed at raising the profile of Sikh efforts to convince the government of India to allow Punjab, the state where the Sikh faith was born, to secede.

Read the full story.

Learn more about the Khalistan Movement and how it is connected with tensions between India and Canada (Al Jazeera).