Mission Network News
(Cover photo by Bread For the World. Story photo by Kids Alive International)
Sudan (MNN) -- Sudan is quietly slipping toward becoming an Islamist state. Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he wants to adopt a "100 percent" Islamic constitution now that the South has split off.
Christians worry they won't be able to practice their faith--a concern that's been borne out in action by Sudan's recent crackdowns. Matt Parker, Vice President of Operations at Kids Alive International, says, "Although the government itself is saying there is religious freedom, really those are empty words."
Parker goes on to say that Kids Alive partners have shared stories this week about churches that have been destroyed, as well as a corresponding wave of arrests and deportations. "We do know of other Christian organizations in the area (in fact, I spoke to the director of another organization just this week) who have lost some of their key staff and are really concerned about what the future holds." What's more, "I've heard stories this week of offices of Christian organizations being broken into, raided. There are reports of orphanages and schools being closed."
Although officials strongly deny any discrimination against Christians, Parker says, "Christians in Sudan, churches, are very fearful about what the future holds, but there's very little reported in the media about this."
Bashir has been facing pressure from religious hardliners. The Sudan Tribune reports that a group of Islamists recently signed the "Islamic Dawn" charter that would establish Sharia law in Sudan. Further, the charter would ban any parties opposed to the move. The recent round of arrests might be an effort to appease these groups. Parker explains, "We've heard of people being arrested. We've heard of people being deported from the country for sharing about their faith. At the same time, there are Christians in Sudan that are committed to sharing the Good News."
Kids Alive International has a presence in Khartoum. "We have a program working with 30 former street children, providing them with quality care, residential care, based on the compound of a church." The staff, while not directly affected by the closures and arrests, are watching the situation closely, says Parker. "We're very aware that we may have a limited window of opportunity to be there, and we're committed to being there for as long as we can and making the most of this opportunity that we have to be witnesses for Christ."
The Kids Alive ministry is Christ-centered, focused on fulfilling the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of children. For now, they're still operating normally. "Be praying for churches. Be praying for Christian leaders in Khartoum, praying that God will strengthen them and give them wisdom in this situation."
Awareness is a big part of how you can help. Parker says because of the potential for disruption, "pray for our ministry and the 30 boys that we care for. Pray that these boys, each one of them, would grow up to be godly men."
USA (MNN/ANS) -- Thousands of Christian media professionals will be getting a preview of a revolutionary new mission program this weekend at the NRB Convention & Expo in Nashville, Tennessee.
According to Raul Hernandez, the Christian Aid Mission "Go Tribal" mission program is an "amazing way" to re-engage missions outreach from cash-strapped, struggling smaller churches in the USA. It provides a low-budget way to help churches continue to complete the task of world evangelization in our generation.
"For as little as $300 a month, a small or medium-sized church can now sponsor an indigenous missionary team reaching out to an unengaged or unreached tribe, tongue, or nation," says Hernandez, a former church planter and newly appointed as development director for Christian Aid.
Hernandez and donor relations staff from Christian Aid will be available to introduce the new program at both the International Reception on Saturday and at Kiosk K3 in front of the registration desk at the NRB Convention.
Mission's recruiters for Overseas Students Mission say that they personally envision thousands of new native missionaries being sponsored under Go Tribal. Many in the USA will be called to this from among international students or from ethnic churches, but most will be re-deployed by indigenous missions already on the mission fields.
"In fact," says Hernandez, "this is the only way that we can penetrate lands and places where American missionaries are no longer welcome or able to plant churches--lands like China, India, and all the Islamic countries of North Africa where American church planters are forbidden to go by law.
"At last there is no political barrier for American churches wanting to reach these groups, since they can now safely and economically sponsor indigenous missionaries who can do the critical ground work."
Hernandez adds, "This is what American pastors have been waiting for: a way to personally engage their congregations and sponsor effective native missionaries--gospel workers who are vetted by Christian Aid, men and women with real names and faces whom they can deputize and may someday be able to visit!
"Our prayer at NRB 2013 is that many media leaders will help us get the word out so that American churches, missions, and Bible schools can quickly adjust to the new realities of the mission field today."
Christian Aid was founded by a former missionary to China, Bob Finley, in 1953 as a way to send international students and foreign visitors back to their homelands as missionaries to reach all nations with the Gospel. It now represents over 800 indigenous mission groups which deploy over 80,000 native missionary workers among 3000 ethno linguistic groups.
E-mail email@example.com to find out how churches can "Go Tribal in Missions."
Mexico (MNN) -- In Latin America's third largest country, God's Word is going forth in growing numbers.
According to Operation World, evangelical Christianity is growing in Mexico. Many are seeking a true faith beyond the spiritism and empty religious practices that surround them.
Audio Scripture Ministries translation, recording, and distribution projects have withstood the tests of persecution, natural disasters and civil unrest. Now ASM missionaries are making headway on several projects that need your prayer to reach completion.
In southern Mexico, the Nahuatl multi-voice New Testament recording needs ten different voices, but few readers are willing and able to do the work. A different project in the region also needs readers to record and edit 3 New Testaments.
Pray that God prompts able people to get involved to help finish all of these projects. Pray that political problems would be resolved so the Nahuatl New Testament can be recorded locally.
In Oaxaca, Proclaimer audio Bibles are being distributed in 15 different language groups. Most of these groups are hearing God's Word for the first time.
Pray that people would come to Christ as they hear the message of salvation in their heart language. Pray for the availability of more Megavoice players.
Mark Russell talks about FreeRide836.
USA (MNN) -- A family in the United States is using an extreme sport to help raise funds for orphaned children in Tanzania.
Ron Gunter with Orphan's Heart says they're starting a new work in Arusha, Tanzania. "The project there is to construct an orphanage where we can take children who are orphaned and provide for them a safe environment: a home, medical care, spiritual care, and [help with] all the physical needs that they have."
Orphan's Heart with working through Small Steps of Compassion to raise the money needed to construct this children's home. One family is stepping up to help in a unique way. Mark Russell and his three sons will be kite boarding from Miami, Florida to the Florida Keys: 60+ miles to raise $50,000 to help construct this home.
Russell, who started FreeRide836.com, says, "This is an opportunity to do something that we love, which is riding from Miami to the Florida Keys, kite boarding. This is one of our passions, and I use what we love to really impact other's lives."
An Orphan's Heart missions trip to Guatemala was a life-changing event for the Russell family. They saw the needs of orphaned children there, and because of that trip, "We formed a company this past year that's 100% about giving to kids. And that's really our passion. We wanted--as a family--to join together with something that we love, and make an impact."
You can help by making an individual or corporate tax deductible donation. Every $15 you donate will build 1 square foot of the 3,300 square foot orphanage which will be a home for 12 children. As you help, you're ensuring that each child hears the life-saving message of the Gospel.
FreeRide 836 will take place this month featuring Russell and his sons: Chase (17), Holt (13), and Trey (11).
Visit FreeRide836.com or facebook.com/FreeRide836 for more details.
BFTW Bible Distribution Center (Photo courtesy of BFTW)
Nepal (MNN) -- Hearts are being transformed in a nation hesitant to grant freedoms to Christ-followers.
Bibles for the World has printed and distributed 500,000 copies of the Gospel of John so far and will be doubling that in the coming days.
While March marks significant development in Gospel growth throughout Nepal, it also marks another Seed Sowers Seminar. BFTW is helping conduct the conference in Kathmandu with national pastors, evangelists, and mission workers. It'll encourage national believers and teach them how to use God's Word as an evangelistic tool.
Church leaders attending the seminar will be covered in prayer and sent out with new skills and boxes of The Gospel of John to distribute in their areas of influence.
"God gives us His Word to light our way, to light our hearts so we do not stumble," says BFTW's Mawii Pudaite. "My heart aches for those who have never read the Word of God or who do not know the true and living God."
Pudaite says lives are changing in Nepal as people discover the hope of salvation in the Gospel of John.
"When a person receives Christ as Lord and Savior, he is transplanted from Satan's dominion into the Lord's own garden and is under His personal care. What a difference!" she says. "Life on this earth becomes meaningful."
Pray for changed hearts as church leaders bring God's Word to their people.
The ministry wasn't sure if they'd be able to send a second round of John's Gospel, but as prayers went up, God's blessings came down.
"Praise God! The Lord has provided enough money to print the next 500,000 copies," Pudaite says. "However, we don't quite have enough money for the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs."
Given freely, the entire New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs is used as follow-up ministry to souls who receive the Gospel of John. Pudaite says there's a huge request for this resource.
"The Psalms teach us how to worship and how to have communion with our living God," she explains. "And the Proverbs help us to know how to deal with people around us."
BFTW has printed 50,000 copies so far and needs at least 100,000 more to fulfill requests. It costs approximately $2.25 USD to print and distribute each New Testament; can you help? Click here.
(Story image credit: Omar Robert Hamilton. Cover image courtesy of Al Huissany Mohamed)
Egypt (MNN) -- It's been two years since President Hosni Mubarak fell from power, and it seems Egyptians aren't happy with the results.
"Two years later, we see there's less religious freedom, there's less democracy, and the Muslim Brotherhood just seems to be moving toward consolidating power and taking control of the whole country," says Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs USA.
As "tahrir" means liberty, Tahrir Square seemed to be a fitting place for Egyptian protestors to gather on January 25, 2011 and demand freedom from Mubarak's iron-fisted rule. Later termed a "Day of Wrath," thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in anti-government protests.
On the Day of Wrath's two-year anniversary, "freedom fighters" arrived in Tahrir Square to once again demand liberty for the Egyptian people. Reportedly, protestors torched a Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo, and mass demonstrations broke out throughout the country.
Even more violence broke out when a court gave several Egyptians the death sentence for their involvement in deadly soccer violence last year. Five straight days of violence led the Morsi regime to declare a state of emergency.
So far, the unrest has claimed more than 50 victims.
"This affects everybody in Egypt, and that includes our Christian brothers and sisters," says Nettleton. "They face this uncertainty; they face this upheaval as well."
Ask God to protect His people in Egypt, and pray for believers to be encouraged. Since Morsi came to power this summer, violence against Christians has increased and Egyptian leaders forced a new constitution into being without any input from believers.
Nettleton says, "It would be easy to get discouraged, and so I think we can pray that they will remain encouraged, see opportunities to serve the Lord, and [have] opportunities to witness and minister, in spite of the direction that things are moving politically."
Mubarak relinquished his power on February 11, 2011. As the two-year anniversary of this date approaches, keep the Egyptian Church covered in prayer.
Check out our Featured Links section to see how you can become a voice for the voiceless in your church and community.
Iran (MNN) -- An Iranian American pastor from Boise, Idaho has been convicted of planting churches in Iran. Abedini's sentence, delivered after a trial he was partially forbidden to attend, was denounced by the U.S. State Department and by American religious-freedom advocates.
Pastor Saeed Abedini's lawyer said his client was sentenced to eight years in prison. According to Mohabat News, in his interview with ISNA's legal reporter, Mr. Naser Sarbazi, Pastor Abedini's attorney said, "I was called to branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on Sunday and received the court's verdict. Of course, my client, Saeed Abedini, was also brought to the courtroom and was informed of the verdict at the same time.
The lawyer added, "My client was sentenced to 8 years in prison for planting house churches that are intended to undermine national security."
Naghmeh Abedini, Pastor Abedini's wife who resides in the U.S., confirmed the report and told Mohabat News, "Saeed's lawyer will appeal the court ruling within the given twenty days. We hope that the high court will overturn the verdict."
Regarding his release, the lawyer for the 32-year-old pastor, Mr. Sarbazi, said, "The submitted bail for my client's release has not been approved yet, and I am still in the process of pursuing it."
After Pastor Abedini's trial, his lawyer had indicated that according to some comments the pastor would be released in a matter of days and would have no problem leaving the country.
Regarding this statement, Naghmeh Abedini had told Mohabat News that the lawyer's remarks concerning Mr. Abedini's release are just a game to keep the international media quiet. She had also said that it seems the lawyer was asked to make these statements concerning Pastor Abedini's release.
The Iranian judicial authorities promised the pastor's family numerous times to release him on bail. However, they have refused to release him each time.
They had earlier demanded 400 million Tomans (roughly 330,000 USD) bail for Mr. Abedini's release.
According to received reports, Pastor Abedini had been transferred to public ward 3, hall 1, the day before and will be permitted to visit his family beginning tomorrow.
Pastor Abedini's trial was held on the morning of Monday, January 21, without public access to the courtroom, in branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran and judged by Mr. Pir-Abbasi. As a Fox News report says, Mr. Pir-Abbasi has been sanctioned many times by the European Union for his court actions and sentences.
During the hearing, Pastor Abedini's charges were announced as "creating house-churches aimed to undermine national security and conspiring to commit crime".
Pastor Abedini was arrested during this trip to Iran to "visit his family and continue efforts to establish an orphanage in Iran." He has been in Evin prison since September 26, 2012. After his arrest, his wife had said, "When he became a Christian, the Islamic regime considered him a criminal in his own country."
At least eight members of congress have sent a letter to the State Department saying, in part, "The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.... We respectfully request that you leave no stone unturned in your efforts to bring Mr. Abedini home to his family."
Pray that Pastor Abedini's imprisonment will allow him to share his faith with those behind bars. Pray that he'll be released and will be a witness for Christ.
(Photo courtesy of Chad Vandenbosch)
Mozambique (MNN) -- At least 40 people were killed since flooding in Mozambique started last Wednesday, January 23.
150,000 people have been displaced. Many survivors are trapped on rooftops.
One trapped woman gave birth on the roof of a clinic, and another baby was born on a house rooftop.
The floods came from the Limpopo River in the lower southern regions of Mozambique, a coastal African country.
Aid groups have set up relief camps for flood survivors. Patricia Nakell, spokeswoman for the United Nations, says the flood waters are still rising especially in the coastal town of Xia Xia.
Tom Dudenhofer with Audio Scripture Ministries (ASM) says, “We have people in Xia Xia right now that have actually gone down to the lower parts of the city of Xia Xia to look around. Sunday they went down to tour…. In the morning, the water hadn’t really started to pool, but by later that day it was rising very quickly.”
Transportation has been affected, says Dudenhofer. “The bridges and the causeways that normally are used to go out of Xai Xai have been already placed under water. One of the big concerns is not just the flooding, but the fact that the roads there are so susceptible to damage. So even if the flood waters were to go down really quickly, they’re still pretty sure that there’s been some serious damage to the roads.”
ASM has ministry in Xai Xai. “Our ministry facilities fortunately are placed high and dry,” Dudenhofer states. “So as far as our immediate equipment and our ministry center goes, they appear to be safe…. The issue related to our ministry is the shipment of digital players that are arriving in Maputo to the south of Xia Xia. And it looks like now that the guys are going to be cut off.”
Chad Vandenbosch with ASM is currently in Xia Xia. He shares, "We walked out onto the bridge over the Limpopo, and it was quite an amazing sight. The river that is normally just a couple hundred feet across, stretched as far as the eye could see. We could see just roofs of houses above water and small row boats still attempting to rescue people from the low lying villages."
“The serious flooding is not real common,” Dudenhofer says, “but it has happened enough and it was recent enough that the people were frightened and began to evacuate quickly when the first rumors of flooding began to come.”
Dudenhofer thinks they’re most likely going to have to wait for the flooding to go down. “They don’t really have big shipping boats for flooding situations because it’s a great flood plain so the water may not be real deep, but it wouldn’t handle a big boat.”
ASM’s ministry in Xia Xia has been growing over the past six years. They dedicated their recording studio in Xia Xia last September for putting God’s Word into audio for various tribal languages.
Dudenhofer says they have found a hunger for God’s Word in Mozambique. “Many of the people don’t read. Many of the pastors who minister in the rural areas, if they do read, it may be difficult for them and people have just been lined up sort of for a copy of God’s Word in audio. So we’re working as hard and as quickly as we can to both record many of the translations that are available, and then to make them available in the digital scripture players.”
The community may be struggling, but the local church is reaching out. “They are often reminded that they need more and that’s when their hearts turn to the Lord. Many of the Christians will be ministering to these other folks during this time,” Dudenhofer states.
Pray for the waters to recede quickly and for the people whose lives have been affected by the tragedy. Pray for ASM’s ministry and for the Gospel to bring hope.
Fire sweeps poor community in Phnom Penh. (Photo courtesy Asian Access)Cambodia (MNN/A2) -- According to the Solidarity for Urban Poor Federation (SUPF) in Cambodia, more than 180,000 people live in informal settlements in Phnom Penh.
Many of these communities are made up of shanties built on rooftops, as well as along rivers and roadsides. Most of them don't have running water, a bathroom, or electricity. People living in these settlements are vulnerable to evictions, fires and flooding.
Fires spread quickly and can easily take out a community before it's brought under control. MengAun Hour serves as the National Director of Asian Access/Cambodia. He says last Saturday, January 20, "Behind our church, one house, a coffee shop, started burning, and the owner of the house was not in the house, so the fire started burning from that house to many houses."
By the time it was put out, "It destroyed 13 houses there. It's a poor community, and among the 13 houses are five houses of our church members." Because of the way the homes are built, there is not much time to grab anything, Pastor MengAun points out. "Most of them, they just ran away by themselves. They didn't take anything from the house."
One woman carried her elderly mother out but couldn't get back in to get anything else. Four widows and their families lost their homes in the blaze. The loss of the homes is significant to a family that cannot afford to rebuild.
Pastor MengAun says when the church saw who was affected, "Even though we are a small church, a poor church, we're encouraging them to help for the special offering. We got $185 (USD) to buy food and clothes for those who are really in need." They weren't alone, he adds. "About four or five churches came and took a special offering like our church did to help the people in the community whose houses burned."
A2's pastors have been trained "for such a time as this." The key to its effectiveness is the careful selection of twelve emerging leaders. These leaders are then invited to be a part of a class that meets four times a year for a week at a time over a two-year period.
In the course of the training, the leaders are able to become more aware of their distinct strengths individually, as well as the unique giftedness of their congregations. Eight years ago, Asian Access graduated its first class of participants in Cambodia. Last year, they graduated the 4th class. What has the training taught: that a unified Church brings hope in situations that are desperate
The land belongs to the homeowners, so it's really a question of getting funds for building materials. Cement will cost between $4,000 to $5,000, but wood costs between $500 and $800. The $185 collected by the churches is a good start.
What they're hoping for now is a little more help, says Pastor MengAun. "If we can come together, we will rebuild the houses. If we cannot build 13 houses in that community that burned by fire, at least we can build four houses for the widow families." For now, survivors are staying in the church and with Pastor MengAun. Their long-term response, he says, will create future outreach. "I think that's the best help, and it will also allow the community to see the love of Christ flowing through the Church in that area."
To help Asian Access grow a building fund for the Cambodian outreach, click here.
Staff members and uniformed corrections officers lead the re-entry walk for CBI Kenya. (Image courtesy of CBI)
Kenya (MNN) -- Kenyan prisoners reentering society face stereotypes and have a hard time finding employment and housing.
"The attitude of Kenyan society [toward reentry] is very negative," says Jefferson Gathu, director of Crossroad Bible Institute (CBI) Kenya. "When someone is released from prison, he or she is subjected to stigmatization.
"'He is not an ordinary person,' society says. 'That person deserves to die.'"
CBI Kenya is changing all of that. The group wants Kenyans to know change is possible and that a person with sufficient reentry assistance is unlikely to commit another crime.
Crossroad Bible Institute disciples incarcerated people worldwide through satellite campuses. CBI's reentry program is designed to help inmates connect with reentry agencies during the difficult transition from prison to society. The goal is to help those preparing for reentry secure housing, locate a church and find a job.
But in Kenya, there are no reentry programs in the prisons and very few resources to help returning citizens avoid recidivism. Without the support of a reentry program, released citizens have a 75% chance of committing another crime and a 50% chance of returning to prison.
"Here in Kenya, when a person is released from prison, he is left on his own," explains Gathu. "Thus it is almost impossible for that person to survive, let alone find a place to work."
Fighting the tides of social stigma and limited resources, Gathu grappled with the difficulty of meeting a rising demand for reentry assistance. In order to succeed, a reentry program needed support from both government officials and private citizens.
Instead of asking for funding, CBI Kenya and Cistern Prison Ministry decided to develop a platform to raise awareness of the issue. They organized a six-mile walk to educate Kenyans about the difficulties returning citizens face.
"The core objective was to create awareness in our churches, institutions and government agencies about the importance of reentry programs," Gathu says. On December 8, 2012, some 3,500 people took to the streets of Nairobi in support of CBI's reentry program.
"We were unable to keep actual track [of participants] because there were so many," says Gathu. "They came in thousands."
Even the Kenyan government offered to support CBI's program. Officials have promised the ministries a plot of land on which to construct facilities for reentry support.
Currently, the reentry program pioneered by CBI Kenya and Cistern Prison Ministry sponsors twenty people each year. The program begins with religious education and discipleship during the final stage of the prison sentence, as CBI Kenya works with the prison chaplaincy department to organize a reconciliation process between the individual, family and community. Participants keep following up with the program for six months following their release.
Gathu dreams of expanding the reentry program to include a counseling center, career training programs and halfway house. Without such resources, he says, some returning citizens "turn to the streets or confine themselves in lonely places." His desire is for participants to have a safe haven while CBI Kenya helps them reconnect with society, employers and family.
"Through past experience, we have proven that if people released from prison can get enough assistance, there is minimal chance of them returning to crime," he says.
Pray that people would see the transforming power of Christ. Pray that they would come alongside the ministry of CBI Kenya.
(Cover image and story image courtesy of Open Doors USA)
North Korea (MNN) -- North Korea's nuclear ambitions are topping nearly every headline.
Earlier this week, the UN Security Council condemned North Korea for test-firing a missile in December. A surprising supporter of the UN resistance was China, one of the regime's main allies.
"That was a slap in the face of Kim Jung-un and so he needed to retaliate: in a sense, to save face," says Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA.
It tightened its sanctions on the country, and in a belligerent response, North Korea vowed to keep developing its nuclear program. It also pinpointed the U.S. as the "sworn enemy of the Korean people."
But what about the persecuted Church?
Dykstra says, "That's one of the reasons why we need to alert the media: we need to campaign for those Christians and look beneath the headlines of these nuclear tests."
Just four days ago, Open Doors alerted the world to two deaths of North Korean believers at the hands of the government.
"I believe that's just the tip of the iceberg [because] we really don't know how many people are killed for their belief in Jesus Christ," states Dykstra.
Topping the Open Doors World Watch List for 11 years in a row, North Korea is the worst oppressor of Christians in the world. Leader Kim Jong-un isn't changing anything.
"We've seen no lessening of that in his one year of power. In fact, we've seen even more persecution," says Dykstra. "Kim Jung-un has shown a different style than his father, in a way, trying to resemble his grandfather and being more…benevolent. But this is a show thing."
According to Dykstra, the young leader is trying to prove himself.
"I imagine you'll hear the rhetoric coming out of North Korea in the months to come, as he's flexing his muscles, that he is the boss and he's a person to be reckoned with," Dykstra explains. "That means tremendous persecution for Christians."
Of the 200,000 political prisoners in North Korea's death camps (commonly known as gulags), 40,000 to 70,000 are followers of Christ. Pray for their faith to be strengthened, and pray for the Kim regime.
"All things are possible with the Lord," says Dykstra. "So we have to come with that right attitude, that He can change things, and ONLY He can change things."
(Photos of Jakarta flooding by Jcbransiecq)
Indonesia (MNN) -- Cleanup continues today after heavy flooding this week in Jakarta inundated the city's central business district, closed schools and offices, and entered the presidential palace.
The unusually strong monsoon rains killed over two dozen people and left over 100,000 homeless. Roughly 19,000 were evacuated to higher ground. However, it's not over yet. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more water is on its way, but flood waters are expected to start receding Sunday.
Indonesian authorities declared a state of emergency to release national funds and other resources.
The Associated Press reported on January 17 that torrential rains caused a dike to collapse in the capital's center. A third of the city's 14 million people were overcome by the water. The disaster also revealed the gap between the affluent and the poor.
Compassion International is no stranger there. Coming alongside existing churches, the group provides the help needed to release children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty. In turn, that enables the children (and often, their families) to become a vibrant faith community.
With such a large presence in the flood zone, their staff is scrambling to get news on how many sponsored children and families were affected by the waters.
The latest report: Families from Saat Pulomas Student Center (IO-420), Anak Bangsa Student Center (IO-421), Kasih Imanuel Student Center (IO-423), Fajar Baru Student Center (IO-425), PPA Batu Karang Student Center (IO-428), PPA Bijak Student Center (IO-429), PPA Merpati Student Center (IO-432), Anak Panah Student Center (IO-433) and Solideo Student Center (IO-880) have been affected.
However, with the situation so fresh, there are no child lists or specific information about how the kids have been affected. Compassion Indonesia has created a disaster response task force to provide assistance to any affected Compassion-assisted families and centers.
Please pray for the children and their families, the child development centers, and center staff members who may have been affected by this flooding situation. As well, please pray for the health and safety of the Compassion Indonesia staff members who are assessing the situation and helping the affected families.
Resident of Shanthi Gramam holding a digital audio Bible. (Image courtesy World Cassette Outreach of India, Audio Scripture Ministries)
India (MNN) -- Leprosy: it's an ancient disease that still strikes fear, even though it's easily treatable.
It's a disease that bears nearly as much stigma around the world as HIV/AIDS, but without the education available. Associated with horrible disfigurement and contagious nature, the victims become social pariahs once a diagnosis is made.
That's partly why World Leprosy Day came into existence. For 60 years, on the last Sunday of January, thousands of people across the globe have stopped to remember those who suffer the horrendous effects of leprosy. This observance is now marked in more than 100 countries. Even in countries where the cure is well known, there is stigma. Those in First World nations believe leprosy has been eradicated. The plight of those who contract it fights for time against other diseases for which no cure has been found.
This year on January 27, World Leprosy Day will focus on the needs of some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the world: those affected by leprosy. Audio Scripture Ministries partners with a leprosy colony called Shanthi Gramam.
The literal meaning of the name is "village of peace," but for years, it was anything but. A haven for aged, destitute persons who once had leprosy, it became a place of despair where people waited to die. ASM spokesman JP Sudararajan explains, "The easiest way for you to have life go on as ‘normal' is to cut that person off. So these people who've contracted leprosy, even though they're fully treated and they're fully cured, end up coming to these places like Shanthi Gramam and spending their lives in isolation." He adds, "It's mostly the lack of education. People are afraid of what the disease is. Then because of it, they're afraid of contracting the disease from that person, and then even associating with them."
The pain in the village was palpable. Sundararajan clarifies, "I met a lot of parents who have leprosy in Shanthi Gramam and their kids don't come to visit them, because as soon as one of the parents has leprosy, it affects the weddings for the kids."
Then, four years ago, the first digital audio Bible made its way into the village. More and more requests came, and with the Scriptures, change. It's such a simple thing, but vastly underestimated. Sundararajan shared the poignant story of a man in Shanthi Gramam who was trying to follow Christ but got sidelined by leprosy. "People got scared of him, [scared] that they would catch the disease. And so he slowly was isolated and pushed away. All he wanted was to listen to God's Word, and nobody would read it to him until we were able to bring these audio Bibles."
Just last week, Sundararajan took a team of seminary students from West Michigan for a visit. It was important for these up-and-coming church leaders to witness the transformation of the village. "The kind of hope that it's injected into this community was quite unreal. I can say all I want, but I'm just scratching the surface. I really wish I could communicate better what God's Word in these communities is able to do."
Those first audio Bibles met the craving for hope. Over time, more and more deliveries were made. Residents would come out to the distribution team and recite whole chapters of the Scripture to which they listened every day.
It became clear that not only was Scripture nurturing faith, but also community. A small church body is developing. "The only hope they have right now is the hope that Jesus brings them through His Word," notes Sundararajan. He says calling the reaction "gratitude" doesn't quite cover the reaction of the village residents. "They cannot carry their Bibles with them, so they have them tied to their clothing. So they start untying it, and they take these Bibles out. You could see their tears flowing, and they were telling us how much they appreciate having God's Word available."
With Shanthi Gramam transformed into a literal "village of peace," it's getting noticed. Outreach opportunities are growing faster than anticipated, says Sundararajan. "Other colonies are kind of getting wind of what's happened. So we're getting all these requests for audio Bibles." How can you help? "An average listener could help provide a Bible for $35."
Check our Featured Links Section for ways to get connected.
(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators)
International (MNN) -- What if you showed up to your first day of school and couldn’t understand what you were supposed to learn because your teacher was speaking a foreign language?
Maybe that was your experience. Maybe it wasn’t.
But for thousands of children in marginalized communities, education can be a struggle when they have to learn school material through a new language.
That’s why Greg and Diane Dekker with Wycliffe Bible Translators conduct Multilingual Education (MLE). Diane explains, “Multilingual education begins with the learner’s first language--the language they first learn to speak at home--and helps them learn the curriculum content in school in that language. Then it adds other languages that they need to learn, like perhaps the national language or English in addition.”
And just so children don’t get overwhelmed, Diane says, “[It] plans for introducing the other languages in a progressive manner. They’re learning one thing at a time, step-by-step, rather than immersing children in languages that they do not know.”
Why is it so important? “There is this big gap between English language learners and their achievement in school, and mother-tongue speakers of English and their achievement in school,” Diane says. “Sometimes that is blamed on other issues, but really if we create a scenario where these kids who don’t speak English as a mother tongue can actually learn through their mother tongue, then it helps them learn English better.”
The Dekkers with Wycliffe apply this technique for education across Asia and Africa in marginalized language groups. They conduct as many as 3-4 languages in one classroom. Greg and Diane have specifically worked in the Philippines for 25 years.
Greg says they started in a localized community, but it didn’t stay there “because other educators saw the advantage that students were having by starting their education in their first language. So increasingly, the national government was an observer to this, saw statistically the benefits to learners in their first language, and then requested, ‘Can you help us at the national level develop a program that is expanded for more and more classrooms?’”
Greg became involved in strategic planning for an MLE program for schools in the Philippines. He continues to work on training for linguistics while Diane focuses on literacy issues.
In giving better quality education through MLE, the Dekkers have seen poverty go down for marginalized families. “Education in the first language enables them to change that cycle of poverty so that they’re learning well, they’re learning the other languages that they need to communicate with people around them, [and] they’re gaining the skills to get them into other job opportunities that they normally don’t have,” Diane states.
Their work with Wycliffe on MLE has provided incredible opportunities to share the Gospel. “This opportunity for MLE opens broad doors for us as Christians to interact and to minister to people who normally do not accept Christians to come into their community,” says Diane. “They allow us in because we’re interacting with them on something that’s a very basic need.”
Diane shares how she and Greg first got involved with Wycliffe. “We went away to Urbana [a student missions conference], and we decided, ‘You know what, we need to follow God’s leading. And if that means God’s not leading us together, we need to be willing for that. So let’s not share each other’s ideas lest we play off each other’s ideas.’"
Diane continues, “I remember sitting in a presentation by a Wycliffe speaker, and I was sitting on my hands because on the inside I was jumping up and down saying, ‘This is for me! I could easily do this!’ After the whole presentation was over, Greg said, ‘I really think that is what I could do. That is how I could contribute.’ I nearly broke down because I was so excited because that was what God was saying to me.”
As they continue in their ministry, the Dekkers say they need more workers who love people and have a heart for education. Greg asks for prayer. “Pray that the Lord would raise up people to be involved in this area. Pray that God would raise up others to have a heart and a vision for education and literacy for marginalized people around the world.”
Click here to learn more about teaching positions with Wycliffe.
If you're a student and want to learn more about involvement with Wycliffe, click here.
Bangladesh (MNN) -- You'll soon be able to get an on-the-ground perspective of life in Bangladesh. Right now, five Christian bloggers are seeing first-hand the transformation triggered by Food for the Hungry (FH) child sponsorship programs.
FH uses monthly sponsorship contributions to not only improve the life of each child, but also the community around them. They're creating clean water wells and healthy sewer systems, providing educational support, improving nutrition, and creating income-generating projects.
From January 24 to January 31, bloggers are meeting Bangladeshis and sponsored kids who are helped by FH in Jesus' name. Included in the group are Max and Lauren Dubinsky, Joy Eggerichs, Logan Wolfram, Daniel C. White, and trip photographer Esther Havens.
They hope to raise awareness of FH's child sponsorships by engaging their readers in a ground-level perspective of how a Bangladeshi child lives day-to-day.
"I'm nervous because once I go…once I see…once I live this journey…I can't pretend it doesn't exist anymore," writes Wolfram. "But the truth is that once you really come face-to-face with the hard reality of life in most of the rest of the world, you HAVE to do something about it."
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 80% of the population living on less than $2 a day. Over the last 40 years, FH has partnered with Bangladeshi leaders to create better living conditions in impoverished communities.
Click here to read the Bangladesh trip blogs.
On Monday, you can interact with the bloggers in a live Twitter chat beginning at 7 p.m. (CST). It's an opportunity to ask the bloggers what they've seen and experienced up to that point, as well as win prizes from the areas in which bloggers are traveling.
Nigerian church attacks in 2012. (Photos by Compass Direct)
International (MNN) -- In years past, a hanging Christmas Day threat against Christians emerged in countries like Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, and India.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman with Voice of the Martyrs USA, says it's the one time of year Christ is openly part of community celebrations. "In a lot of those countries, a Christmas morning worship service is a very common thing. It's a part of the Christmas festivities; it's a part of the Christmas morning." It's also a time of increased threats, harassment, and fear, he explains. "You have the church gathered together; http://www.biblegateway.com/they have a worship service. The challenge is: that can become a target."
For example, the Nigerian church bombings carried out by the Boko Haram (an Islamist group linked to al Qaeda), the church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, and the attacks on church gatherings in India were all meant to disrupt services and create enough fear to keep people away. It makes perfect sense to Islamic militants, says Nettleton. "If you don't like Christians, and if you want to make a statement about that, Christmas Day--a holy day, a day when the world is talking about Christmas, is talking about Christians, what could be better than to target Christians on that day and to generate a lot of attention to that?"
However, rather than engender people to the cause, it has sometimes created the opposite effect. "I think the folks who are attacking are very much in the minority, even within their own countries, within their own cultures. These are radical Muslims who want to strike out at Christians. In many cases, they would like to see Christians eradicated from their country. "
In fact, the paradox of persecution has driven many people into the church to understand the God Christians are following. "For outsiders looking in, they say, ‘Wow! Those Christians are able to love the people and forgive the people that attacked them. How do they do that?' That obviously is an open door to say, ‘That is the holy spirit. That's Jesus working through me.'"
Nettleton notes that in the last two years, warnings and threats were on the rise in the days approaching Christmas. And yet, in a year of uprising and frequent attacks on Christians, there has been silence.
It's an eerie stillness, like the calm before the storm. Nettleton offers a theory on that: "It may be that these countries are already on high alert, they're already watching out. That's one possible answer to that, but I don't know if that's the correct answer, and I don't know how to interpret that exactly." It also doesn't mean that there won't be attacks coming. Regardless, "There are faithful believers who are meeting every Sunday. They will meet on Christmas." Nettleton says believers are undeterred. A VOM team recently bet with Christians in Northern Nigeria who had survived their church being burnt down. Asked if they would leave, the Christians made this statement: "They will have to kill all of us if they want this church to stop being here."
Increased security is already in place at some Christian churches around the world, given past threats and current hostilities. What can you do? Nettleton says, "What I hope American Christians will remember during this Christmas season, is to pray for the protection of our brothers and sisters who are celebrating Christ's birth in countries where they don't have the same freedoms and they don't have the same protection that we have here."
For the majority of the persecuted church, rather than be silenced, they will use this time to proclaim the peace of Christ, as do the Nigerian believers. Nettleton was touched by their dauntlessness. He shares their sentiment. "As long as we're alive, we will meet. We will continue to be the church. We will continue to meet together for worship. So the threats obviously make people concerned. They make people nervous, but in the vast majority of cases, the Christians say, ‘This is our home. This is where God has placed us. We will gather together, and we will worship.'"
The Digital Bible Library will give more than six billion people around the world access to God's Word. (Image courtesy of ETEN)
International (MNN) -- There's a "new kid on the block" in the world of Bible translation, and it could be key to unleashing God's Word on a worldwide scale.
Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) is a ministry alliance compiling hundreds of Scripture translations into a mass repository called "The Digital Bible Library." Together with major donors, Bible ministries Biblica, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, and American Bible Society formed ETEN to catapult Bible ministry into a new digital age.
ETEN is the brainchild of visionary Mart Green, who sums up his concept in a single phrase: "Ease of use unleashes creativity, which leads to Scripture engagement."
Gathering all translations and versions of God's Word into a single location makes it easier for ministries and missionaries to access Scripture. They'll also be able to share the Bible in languages and formats that are easy for communities to engage with.
"This library is the key to unleashing ministry opportunities from South America to Asia," says Biblica President and CEO Doug Lockhart. "Because of the rapid expansion of the web, social networks, and mobile technology, more opportunities for spreading God's Word arise every month.
"We must work quickly to take advantage of these new 'roads' into places where people desperately need more than just food and water. They need to hear the Words of Life."
Access and engagement are two foundational aspects of Green's passion for the Great Commission.
"My passion really is to eradicate Bible poverty," says Green. "If we all work together and there's enough funding, I think we could at least get a New Testament done [in every language] over the next 15, 20 years."
The New Testament has been translated into 2,000 languages so far. When finished, the library will hold Bible translations in each of the world's 6,000 languages.
"There are 2,000 [languages] that they're working on right now, between these organizations," says Green, "and another 2,000 nobody's started. So there's plenty of work for everybody to do.
Green says 3 major items top ETEN's to-do list: funding, more translations, and more "cardholders." In order to use different translations of the Bible on platforms like mobile apps or Web sites, licensees must get permission from the copyright holder; the process is similar to checking books out of a physical library.
But when there are hundreds of different Scripture versions and translations, the process starts to get tedious.
"What used to take a significant amount of effort and time--often several months--now can be accomplished in a matter of minutes as a result of having access to The Digital Bible Library to pull text from," says Bobby Gruenewald, founder of YouVersion, a Bible app that's been downloaded onto nearly 70 million devices.
Another early benefactor of the library is BibleSearch (bibles.org), which draws most of its 235 translations from the library for free display on its dedicated website.
At the end of the day, with all the benefits this library will provide, its implementation will come down to funding.
"We could get this done in 10-15 years versus 25, but it will get down to funding, and that funding being in place so that we can train," states Green. And of that funding, each penny goes toward Bible translation.
He explains that of "every dollar that comes, $0.45 goes to Wycliffe, $0.45 goes to American Bible Society, and 10% goes to Biblica, because that's how many New Testaments they work on."
You can pray, give, or go to help Scripture reach every person on earth. Click here to play a part in the Great Commission work of Every Tribe Every Nation.
"One and a half to two billion dollars over the next 15-20 years is what it's going to take, and we could have a New Testament for everyone," says Green.
Or perhaps you've been called to translate God's Word, he says. "We need people of great skills that can translate these last 2,000 New Testaments."
Tomorrow, we'll show you how Wycliffe Bible Translators USA is contributing to this project.
The kids were excited to begin crafts when the mission team arrived each morning to begin work on the church. (Image courtesy of CWO)
Yesterday, Japan donated heavy equipment valued at $3.7 million to support the reconstruction of Haiti from the January 2010 earthquake which killed an estimated 300,000 people and left 2 million homeless. The equipment includes five excavators, four bulldozers, three backhoe loaders, and two graders.
According to The Japan Times, it's the first transfer of heavy machinery used by Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force since the government relaxed its export ban last year.
Meanwhile, Christian World Outreach is also helping with construction. The ministry sent a short-term team from Denver, Colorado earlier this month to help build a CWO church in Ouanaminthe.
"While the church was literally being built around us, I spent much of my time doing crafts with kids," says Mary Lou, one of the CWO team members.
"By the last day, there were 40 kids," she says. "We had benches for them to use and tried to stay out of the way of the workers."
Mary Lou worked with Haitian children between the ages of 5 and 18. Along with creating crafts, she says her team also shared the love of Jesus.
"We often used the words 'Jezi rinmin ou' (Jesus loves you), and we learned a few songs and dances from them," she shared. "Quite a wonderful experience!"
Pray that the church would soon be completed. Pray that Haitians would find spiritual restoration in Jesus Christ.
(Photo courtesy of AMG)Peru (MNN) -- An AMG International team of 14 returned to the USA after spending a week in Peru. They traveled from Lima to the Andes Mountains and back again.
The team visited four AMG Childcare Centers and handed out 450 Bundles of Love. A Bundle of Love is a package which tangibly expresses the love of Jesus to those who need it most. Each Bundle of Love may contain a pair of pants or a skirt, a sweater or shirt, a pair of shoes, a blanket, a toy if possible, or whatever else the child might need. If he or she doesn't already have a copy of the Scriptures, one is included as well.
Each day the team shared the Christmas message of hope and salvation, loved on the kids, and had fun.
The team also visited homes of a few sponsored children. Each of the homes they visited did not have a father present. Often the father abandons his family, leaving the mother to care for the children on her own. The mothers were extremely grateful for AMG and the support provided through Child Sponsorships.
Child sponsorships and the Bundles of Love program are providing the kids with so much. Children are coming to know Christ, going to school, learning God's Word, and sharing it with others.
Pray that more children will be sponsored. Pray that the children receiving the Bibles will come to know Christ.
China (MNN) -- “If you really want to be a rebel…read your Bible…because no one is doing that,” says Washington Pastor Mark Driscoll.
It may sound odd, but it’s true. Wendell Rovenstine, President of Bibles for China, explains, “We’re living in a community where we are not too prone to pick up God’s Word or let the Word be our standard. But we’re seeing just the opposite in China.”
And why China? In 1949 when the Chinese government began confiscating individuals’ Bibles, it followed that many Chinese Christians started to take their faith more seriously and radically under pressure.
“If someone knocks at my door and says, ‘Can we see your Bibles? We need to take those,’ I think they’d be a little hard-pressed,” says Rovenstine. “In this community, if every Bible were removed, all of a sudden there would be a spiritual awakening within our community. If you tell me that you’re taking God’s Word from me, then I’m going to be adamant that I’m going to serve the Lord.”
With China’s population of 1.3 billion people, thousands of Chinese Christians hunger for God’s Word. But they can’t always get their hands on a Bible, often due to limited access or not enough money; the average rural Chinese earns $100 per year.
That’s why Bible for China works within China’s legal guidelines to get as many Bibles as they can to rural Christians there. They have three Bible distributions in rural China planned for 2013, and at each distribution they typically hand out 10,000-15,000 Bibles.
Even so, Rovenstine estimates that around 50-80 million Chinese Christians are still waiting to get their hands on a Bible.
“To show up and be one of the persons who can give them a Bible and see the emotion that they’re overcome with is something beyond compare,” says Rovenstine. “When someone in China gets a Bible, they do not just lay it down. They carry it with joy, and they share it with those they come in contact with.”
Bibles for China’s next Bible distribution will take place in February 2013; they already have funds designated for those Bibles. Two more distributions for 2013 are scheduled to take place in May and November.
But they need help. Every Bible costs $5 to be printed, stored, and distributed to a Chinese Christian. For every $5 donated to Bibles for China, an anonymous donor matches dollar-for-dollar. So a donation of just $5 turns into two Bibles in the hands of Chinese believers. A contribution of $100 blesses 40 Christians in China with God’s Word.
Especially in the Christmas season, what better gift to give than God’s promise of hope through Scripture? Click here to donate.