Open Doors in the Amazon | Bhutan Moves to Australia

In this edition:

  1. Central America: Now More Evangelicals Than Catholics
  2. Brazil: Open Doors in the Heart of the Amazon
  3. Egypt: A Coptic Pope for the Modern Age
  4. World: Honoring Data in Missions
  5. Australia and Bhutan: Mass Exodus Brings Hope Amid Uncertainty

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Central America: Now More Evangelicals Than Catholics

Source: Evangelical Focus, August 28, 2023

In Central America, the evangelical faith has become the majority faith, a survey conducted in 2023 showed.

There, 42% now identify as Protestants (a large majority being evangelical Christians) while 39.9% identify as Roman Catholics, according to the results of a survey conducted by M&R Consultores.

The research has been conducted in the countries of Nicaragua, Guatemeala, Costa Rica, Panamá, El Salvador, and Honduras. According to Raúl Obregón, of the consultancy firm, the intention of this project is to evaluate and measure periodically and systematically how religion is evolving in Central America.

A representative case of the change in the trend is that of Nicaragua. Since 1950, the Catholic Church has lost 60% of its adherents in the country and currently only one in three people profess this religion. In 1950, 96% of the Nicaraguan population participated in Catholic activities; today it is only 34%. Non-Catholics were 4.2% over 40 years ago, but the figure has risen to 65% percent by 2023.

In Central America, more than half who no longer consider themselves Catholics say they are now Protestants.

The full story adds that evangelicals in the region are also more faithful in church attendance and giving.

More religious trends:

Read Prosperity Gospel Beliefs on the Rise Among Churchgoers (Lifeway Research). It suggests that three out of four American Christians now hold beliefs we can trace to this teaching.

See a recent report on Measuring Religion in China (Pew Research Center). Bottom line: It’s hard to get a good read on what’s happening. But take a look.

Brazil: Open Doors in the Heart of the Amazon

Source: World Team (no date)

An informal settlement of over 4,000 people sits in the northwest corner of Manaus, Brazil. The residents hail from [more than] 30 different Amazonian tribes, some [with] little to no gospel witness. This is Parque das Tribos, one of many indigenous settlements that have sprung up in and around the jungle city over the past few decades. Its existence opens a world of possibility in a region nearly impenetrable for generations.

The story of missions in the Amazon has historically been further downriver, deeper into the jungle, one life at a time. Courageous missionaries like Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and countless others gave their lives to reach individual remote tribes scattered throughout the dense, 2.6 million square mile rainforest encompassing land from eight different countries [and home to] an estimated 1 million indigenous people.

Now, with guaranteed claims to land, voting, education, and financial assistance, indigenous people have begun moving to cities to access these newly granted rights. The wave of migration created a new kind of indigenous identity: the urban indigenous. Composed of a variety of distinct languages, tribes, and customs, these migrants were still distinctly indigenous yet plunged into a modern, globalized world completely unlike the communities they had left.

What if there was a movement to mobilize the urban indigenous in Manaus to become missionaries to these closed-off regions? By focusing on the urban indigenous, we are investing in the future of Amazonian missions: raising up urban indigenous missionaries who could return to their homelands and beyond, reaching the last of the last.

Read the full story. According to a related page, approximately 50% of Brazil’s indigenous peoples have migrated to the major cities of the Amazon region.

See also Brazilian Young People Love Jesus and Are Hungry for a Deeper Faith (Christianity Today).

Egypt: A Coptic Pope for the Modern Age

Source: Haggai International, August 23, 2023

With roots dating back to the first century, the Coptic Church is a denomination of Christians following Jesus across the Middle East and North Africa—arguably one of the most difficult regions for believers to worship and live safely in during the modern age.

Born Wagih Sobhi Baki Soliman, Haggai leader Pope Tawadros II left a career in pharmaceutical manufacturing for the priesthood in the 1980s and today serves as the 118th Coptic Pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the Holy See of St. Mark.

In the face of radical change and persecution, Pope Tawadros II stands out as a picture of peace and perseverance. Most recently, Pope Tawadros II has made inroads in Saudi Arabia, playing a key role in efforts to protect the religious freedom of Coptic Christians in that nation. In January—when Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas—the first-ever public Christmas celebration was allowed in Saudi Arabia. This was a momentous occasion for the 3,000 Coptic Christians in Saudi Arabia, as well as for a watching world.

Pope Tawadros II’s role in guiding the future of Christianity in Egypt—the most populous country in the Arab world—is critical. His leadership is currently guiding the future of Christianity in this region of the world and beyond.

Read the full story and pray for this man and others like him when you intercede for leaders.

World: Honoring Data in Missions

Source: WEA Mission Commission, August 26, 2023

More than 30 years have passed since the term “managerial missiology” was introduced to the vocabulary of global missions. At the turn of the century, the concept was embraced and explored by the Mission Commission as we countered what we considered to be an unbalanced emphasis on human controls to achieve the Matthew 24:14 vision in obedience to Jesus’ Matthew 28:18-20 commission within a certain time constraint.

But, as a wise person once said, “God cannot lead you where to go with information you do not know.” It is well beyond time to address the denigration of missions research, statistics, data, and other information that has evolved in some missions circles. We desperately need robust and well-presented data to guide us as we “reimagine” missions for the new era ahead.

The full article. Maybe we and our churches and ministries should ask ourselves: Do we tend to elevate data too highly or dismiss it too quickly? Is there a middle way?

Australia and Bhutan: Mass Exodus Brings Hope Amid Uncertainty

Source: INcontext International, August 16, 2023

Since May 2022, 12,000 Bhutanese have emigrated to Australia, approximately 1.5% of the population [of Bhutan]. In 2022, there were 30,000 Bhutanese living in Australia, and the rate at which people are leaving is increasing exponentially.

Bhutan has a mostly closed economy, largely dependent on tourism and hydroelectric power. When the borders were reopened post COVID-19 in September 2022, new tourism taxes on top of a nightly fee caused a slower-than-expected recovery in the country’s tourism sector [and contributed to] a 24% unemployment rate, especially among students, who now find themselves fleeing to Australia.

There are several perspectives to consider concerning this mass migration.

Firstly, more Bhutanese will have the opportunity to be exposed to Christianity in Australia. The global Body of Christ can pray that the Australian Church will take up this opportunity to minister to those coming from a nation with such a large “unreached” population, and that the Bhutanese who encounter Christ in Australia will have a desire to return to their country and share the gospel with those within their sphere of influence.

Secondly, Bhutan might be pressured to be more open in order to encourage more people to stay in the country.

In all instances of migration, we can see the fingerprints of God.

Read the full story. Also from INcontext, read Unlocking the Heart of the Unreached World. It describes the challenges and opportunities for ministry in the eight countries of South Asia.

Speaking of what God’s doing through migration, read an article making a case that immigrant churches may be key to church growth in America (Ministry Watch) and a related article about a network of diaspora churches We Must Praise Him in the African Way (The Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others). Inspiring.