Pakistan: Mosque Broadcasts Scripture over Loudspeakers

Source: Mission Network News, October 4, 2023

A Muslim mosque, especially in volatile Pakistan, is the last place you’d expect to broadcast the Bible. Yet, nothing is impossible with God.

In an Afghan refugee village in northern Pakistan, the tribal chief’s son was known as a bit of a troublemaker. But eventually, this boy’s rebellious attitude softened. He began to show more respect and kindness and even stayed out of trouble.

When his father asked what changed, the boy told him about a Keys for Kids Storyteller he received and had been listening to. The Storyteller is a solar-powered mp3 player containing an audio Bible and Keys for Kids devotionals. The boy told his chieftain father that he believed in Jesus.

Greg Yoder, Executive Director of Keys for Kids Ministries shares, “The Muslim village chief said, ‘If this can change my son’s heart, we need to have more in this village.’ So I believe it was about 200 of them that were delivered into this Muslim village.”

Yoder says, “The village chief was just so amazed at what was happening within his village, he decided that… accompanying the Muslim call to prayer, they were going to play Keys for Kids in audio over these loudspeakers from the mosque itself.”

Read the full story.

See also Christian Persecuted in Pakistan Has Life Changed by Bible (Global Christian Relief).

Laos: Local Officials Shut Down Worship Service and Threaten Christians

Source: Morning Star News, October 3, 2023

In Savannakhet Province’s Khampou village, Assaphone District, the village deputy village chief and local security officials on Sunday [October 1] disrupted the service and ordered church leader Sard Onmeunsee and 17 other Christians to stop worship, according to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

“They were threatened with arrest and a huge fine if they did not follow the officials’ order to discontinue exercising their religious freedom or belief to worship,” HRWLRF said in a press statement.

On the supposition that the church members had angered spirits or gods by leaving them for Christianity, the officials also threatened to impose large fines on the Christians if other people in the village became ill or died. In addition, two Christians from a nearby village who had come to the service were threatened with automatic arrest if they rejoined the church for worship, according to HRWLRF.

After a family in the animist village became the first Christians there in 2019, about 180 Lao villagers accepted Christ over the next two years, HRWLRF stated.

“Thus began pressures and threats from the local government upon Christians, coercing them to give up their religious faith,” the group stated. “The local government subjected Christians to intimidation, threats, and coercion throughout 2022 and 2023, forcing them to abandon their Christian religion until today; only three families (15 Christian believers) from around 180 Christians remained in the Christian faith, led by Mrs. Sard Onmeunsee.”

The full story also reports on a family of seven whose house was destroyed and have been barred from returning to their village unless they give up their Christian faith.

It’s worth noting that times are tough for many in Laos. See “I Feel Hopeless,” Living in Laos on the Brink (BBC).

Practical Mobilization: Remembering Those Who Came Before Us

Youth With a Mission founder Loren Cunningham saw waves of young people sharing the gospel in every nation (Mark 15:16).

A Morbid Confession

It may be strange to admit it. But I do enjoy a good funeral. What about you? It’s not the music, flowers, or stained glass that gets me. And the death of a child or someone who died prematurely can be brutal.

But I love to see people gather to celebrate a long life well lived, especially when it’s the life of someone who stayed focused on honoring God and loving people their whole life long, not giving up or hindered long by the setbacks and struggles they faced or their own hang-ups and handicaps.

Maybe they made a big splash in the world. Maybe not. But they lived for what matters, and when they’re gone—and probably before that, too—people saw it and said, “Yes, that’s right.”

The death of such a saint, now at rest, calls me to question my habits and refocus on things that count more than killing time or meeting deadlines.

Losses and Legacies

The mission community and the Church have lost many senior leaders in the last few years. Some of those deaths have brought an outpouring of articles celebrating that person’s legacy in the lives of others. Think Billy Graham, George Verwer, and Tim Keller.

Last week, the mission community lost another, Youth with a Mission founder Loren Cunningham. He died October 6 at the age of 88.

Into All the World and Now Beyond

A YWAM press release reports, “Loren was the first person in history to travel to every sovereign nation on earth, all dependent countries, and more than 100 territories and islands for the sake of Christ and the Great Commission (Mark 16:15). Now he has added one more “stamp” to his well-worn passport: HEAVEN!”

That Mark 16 verse (“go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”) was part of the bedrock of Loren’s life and had been since 1948 when he was 13, and it rang in his ears at an altar call. Then, at age 20, Loren heard the call confirmed. In prayer, he saw a picture of a world map with waves crashing on every coast, waves of young people from all over who would go share the gospel all across the globe. In the early 1960s, Loren’s vision led to the launch of Youth With a Mission.

YWAM and the Short-Term Mission Movement

Loren had a gift to mobilize young people to respond to the gospel and offer themselves up in service. Yet, he saw the years of schooling they’d have to complete to become missionaries as an unnecessary barrier to unleashing them on the world. Loren was ready to disrupt traditions and remove obstacles. So he looked for new pathways. Created them, really.

His early experiments with sending short-term missionaries (like some of his later efforts) had mixed results. There were controversies and failures. But Loren and those who joined him learned as they went. By 1985, YWAM was discipling and sending out more than 15,000 young people every year. The impact of these trips on their lives and the lives of those who received them and served alongside them was significant.

YWAM went on to become one of the world’s largest mission organizations. Loren always brushed off that claim lest it take away from God’s glory, the urgency of the task remaining, or the great work done by others. Yet, through YWAM, millions have been discipled and shared the love of Jesus with people everywhere.

That’s no small thing. And it started with a man who listened to and was led by God and who wouldn’t give up.

“Remember your leaders,
who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life
and imitate their faith.”
– Hebrews 13:7

Practical Mobilization Takeaways

  1. Think about leaders who have impacted you, directly or indirectly. Is there a parent, grandparent, pastor, mentor, or ministry leader whose influence helped set the trajectory of your life? If you can, thank them for their faithfulness. Ask God to help you recognize opportunities to pour into someone else’s life like that.
  2. Life verses have fallen from fashion, but maybe you have a favorite passage (or a few) that you hang your hat on in the way Loren Cunningham held onto Mark 15:16. If not, ask God to show you a Bible verse, story, or principle that might help you set your course or make sense of how he’s led you so far.
  3. How would God have you encourage the next generation and walk with them through the challenges and obstacles they face in following God’s plans for them, close to home or across the world? What would help you persevere as a sender, mentor, or mobilizer?

Links for Learning More

A Complete Bible for the Next Generation | Confidence in the Gospel

  1. The Philippines: A Complete Bible for the Next Generation
  2. India: Baseless Charge Leaves a Pastor and His Family in Ruins
  3. USA: North Carolina Church Baptizes 282 People in a Day
  4. Iraq: Deadly Fire at Wedding Hall Devastates Christian Town
  5. World: Confidence in the Gospel as Good News

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

The Philippines: A Complete Bible for the Next Generation

Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, September 13, 2023

When people read, hear, or see God’s Word in their own language, their lives change.

In June 2023, after 66 years of waiting, the Isnag people in the Philippines celebrated the complete Bible in their language. At the ceremony, some people clutched the books tightly, while some immediately opened the Bible and began reading the Old Testament passages.

Seeing everyone celebrate, Kelly Chesnut, director of spiritual content and development for Wycliffe USA, was reminded of the transforming power of God’s Word when it’s in your language. Watch the video to celebrate along with the Isnag people (or click on the image below).

On another note…

Not everyone is thrilled about getting the Bible and its message to people who haven’t had access to it. The Mission, a new documentary film from National Geographic, debuted at a film festival in August and will be in theaters October 13. It tells the story of John Chau, a young man killed while trying to reach one of the world’s most isolated tribes. Evidently, the portrayal of Chau and his mission is anything but favorable.

In February, the Mission Matters podcast aired an interview with Mary Ho who leads the organization that sent Chau. She tells a different story.

India: Baseless Charge Leaves a Pastor and His Family in Ruins

Source: Morning Star News, September 21, 2023

Not even a judge’s reprimand of police spared an impoverished pastor in India from being jailed on baseless claims of fraudulent conversion, one of the latest examples of how Hindu extremists misuse “anti-conversion” laws.

Pastor Bajarang Rawat, a 47-year-old convert from Hinduism in Mohanlalganj, Lucknow District in Uttar Pradesh state, faces charges of converting people by “allurement” even though police could find no witnesses against him, and the only evidence they presented was his Bible, the pastor said.

“Reprimanding the policemen, the magistrate told them that it was not a crime to possess a Bible, and that he himself has a Bible at home,” Pastor Rawat told Morning Star News. “The policemen stood silent, but even after this conversation, I was sent to jail.”

The full story includes pictures of Pastor Rawat and his family. They have suffered greatly for some time due to fierce local opposition and were living in poverty, with nothing to offer others but prayer.

Also from Morning Star News, though, read this strange story: Pastor in Pakistan Admits Wound Was Self Inflicted, Leader Says.

USA: North Carolina Church Baptizes 282 People in a Day

Source: The Christian Post, September 19, 2023

A multisite megachurch based in North Carolina has baptized 282 people in a single day, with all but three of the baptisms taking place at an outdoor ceremony.

Biltmore Church, a congregation with seven campuses in the state, held a mass baptism event at a property in Fletcher on Sunday, baptizing 279 people there. The church baptized three others at their morning worship services.

Devin Goins, who serves as Pastor of Culture and Engagement at Biltmore, told The Christian Post that he believes “this can only be attributed to God moving in people’s lives.”

“Additionally, our team has worked through numerous personal conversations, and we devoted a large portion of the sermon a few weeks ago to the subject of baptism,” said Goins.

The full story includes pictures.

In our last edition of News Briefs, we shared about a campus worship event in Alabama that led to a spontaneous mass baptism (evidently without connection to the local church). See also this one: Over 1,000 Students Attend Texas A&M Corpus Christi Worship Event; 124 Baptized.

Iraq: Deadly Fire at Wedding Hall Devastates Christian Town

Source: International Christian Concern, October 3, 2023

A devastating fire broke out at a wedding hall in the northern Iraq town of Qaraqosh in the Nineveh Plains region on the night of September 23. More than 100 people were killed, with hundreds more burned and injured, according to reports. Malfunctioning celebratory fireworks are believed to have caused the fire, which then engulfed the wedding hall in flames. The community of around 20,000 people is in total grief as they mourn the loss of entire families.

The town of Qaraqosh is predominately Christian and was central to the ISIS genocide and persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria from 2014 to 2017. The community has struggled to rebuild and recover since those days of intense persecution, with high rates of Christian emigration from Iraq continuing every month. Tragedies such as this further discourage the community in their future in Iraq, as the Christian community seeks to come around to comfort the town of Qaraqosh in this time of grief and suffering.

International Christian Concern has supported many families in the town of Qaraqosh for several years. Currently, field staff and partners are providing relief and encouragement to those we serve who have suffered this great loss of life. Please pray for those with family members in hospitals getting emergency treatment and those who have lost loved ones.

Read the full story.

Another ICC story reports on the warm welcome Armenia and Armenians in diaspora have shown to thousands of Armenian Christian refugees who have fled Azerbaijan, where a renewed conflict sparked fears of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Read Armenian “Angels” Unite to Aid Refugees as Count Reaches 90,000. That’s a lot of refugees! See the latest Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin for more on that situation and others.

World: Confidence in the Gospel as Good News

Source: Evangelical Focus, September 13, 2023

Many in the West today consider Christianity outdated, stale, and irrelevant. The Good News has now become Bad News! This has contributed to the decline and loss of vitality in Western Christianity. This loss is also in part due to the inner spiritual and moral weaknesses of the church.

This loss of confidence in the gospel, however, is not shared by most Christians in the [majority world]. To begin with, in many societies and cultures in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and [the Middle East/North Africa], the encounter with Christ is recent and the experience of its efficacy and power is fresh and liberating.

  • In Asia itself, think about the tens of millions that have been set free from the age-old fear of and bondage to demonic powers and evil spirits.
  • Think of the millions of Dalits in India who have been lifted out of cultural and sociopolitical oppression after thousands of years of existence as a subhuman underclass.
  • Or, consider many intellectuals in China, both Christian and non-Christian, who see clear evidence in history that the gospel of Christ offers the only adequate basis for building a new society based on genuine freedom, democracy, justice, and equity.

Many Christians in the majority world are driven by a vision of a new world founded on the gospel of Christ, which holds promise for both now and eternity. With them, there is conviction in and excitement over the saving power of the gospel. They find it rationally coherent and intuitively true and satisfying. And most of all, empirically they have seen its power transforming lives and communities.

This is excerpted from a longer article by Hwa Yung, Bishop Emeritus of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. Read What Can Western Christians Learn from Churches in the Rest of the World? and a sequel published September 25.