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In this issue we highlight a new edition of the Bible study God’s Heart for the Nations. I should let you know: I worked on that one! So I hope you’ll let me know if you have any comments or questions about it.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us about resources you’d like to see featured in future editions. We don’t have space to write about all the new books that come out or describe upcoming events in detail, but we can always use your tips about new videos, websites, online tools, and other resources that are accessible and would be interesting to other readers. We’d also welcome your comments on our website or Facebook.
God’s Heart for the Nations, by Jeff Lewis. BottomLine Media, 2015. 63 pages.
Looking for an affordable, effective tool to open eyes to God’s global purposes as revealed in scripture from Genesis to Revelation?
God’s Heart for the Nations is an eight-lesson inductive Bible study that explores how God’s blessings and global purposes are woven together. Originally published in 2002, it has recently been revised and updated by the author in collaboration with Pioneers, which now distributes the booklet.
The eight lessons include more than 100 Bible passages to explore along with memory verses, mission quotes, people group profiles for prayer, and suggestions for reflection or further study. There’s also a video introduction for each lesson.
You might work through it on your own, include it the curriculum for a class or small group, or use it to prepare a short-term mission team.
Jeff Lewis is a professor at California Baptist University and also has a ministry teaching and consulting with churches and other groups about seamlessly integrating God’s heart for the nations into their lives and ministries.
» See also these resources of similar scope and purpose: Witnesses to All the World: God’s Heart for the Nations, by Jim and Carol Plueddemann and Missions: God’s Heart for the World, by Paul Borthwick. You could also download Embark, a free four-week study from Frontiers.
Parents and teachers might be interested in a new attractive fabric map to use in learning about and praying for the world. This large, hemmed 29” x 40” cloth map is brightly colored and each country clearly identified. The map also comes with suggestions for fun family activities.
» Preview or purchase fabric map from CMM Press for US$12.00.
A series of 24 downloadable lessons for teaching kids about the world has recently been “freshened up.” Most are designed for a 30-minute time slot. They introduce children to kids around the world and different issues affecting their lives.
» Learn more or purchase lessons from CMM Press for US$5.00 each.
» Visit the CMM Press store for additional resources for children, parents, and teachers written or collected by Weave Family ministries. See also the extensive resource lists on the Weave Family website.
Missiographics 1.0, by Justin Long. GMI Books, 2015. 80 pages.
In an age of data and information overload, images may be the best way to tell the story of global missions. That’s why our friends at GMI started publishing Missiographics, a series of free, compelling, mission-related infographics to help mission leaders, mobilizers, teachers, and students see the world through new eyes.
Missiographics 1.0 collects 16 of the most helpful graphics in this series and supplements them with thoughtful essays from researcher Justin Long addressing the “so what?” questions they evoke.
» Learn more or purchase one of several ebook editions from GMI for US$9.99. This is the kind of book you might want to have on paper, though, and the print edition is US$14.99.
Child of Ishmael, by James Wright. CreateSpace, 2015. 418 pages.
Mission books don’t tend to make the best-seller lists, and mission fiction is almost non-existent. So when an author whose previous book we’d reviewed and enjoyed told me he’d written a novel to help mobilize people for missions, I thought you’d want to hear about it. An unusual resource!
The novel deals with the awakening of a somewhat naive Iowa college-town pastor and his community when a mosque goes up across the street from their church and brings them face-to-face with Islam, apparently for the first time. They start questioning their assumptions about faith, world religions, and how the church should respond. You probably know people who hold the same views or struggle with the same questions. Several characters even end up traveling to Central Asia to solve a few mysteries and visit a man they met through the mosque.
» Learn more or purchase the Kindle edition for US$8.99 from Amazon ($14.99 for the paperback). See also Fields of Gold: Planting a Church among Central Asian Muslims, or read our review of it.
May 1-3, TENTmaking Impact Seminar (Seattle, WA, USA). Provided by Global Opportunities.
May 5, To Send or Not to Send? (online). Webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen. Part of the series The Mission Table; free.
May 6, Is There Any Good News in the Muslim World? (online). Webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen with Keith Swartley; free.
May 7, Megacities and the Urban Future (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus with Douglas Batson.
May 8-9, MissionNext Forum (Arlington, VA, USA). Find your fit in missions.
May 11-17, Single Vision (Hong Kong). Renewal for single missionaries.
May 13, Maintaining the Vision for the Long Haul and Staying Encouraged (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus, with George Verwer.
May 14, Organizing to Reach the Diaspora: A Case Study in Changing Overseas Structure from Geographic Components of Global Affinity Groups (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus, with Jerry Rankin.
May 15-16, The Journey Deepens (Portland, OR, USA). A weekend retreat for prospective missionaries.
May 18-19, Support Raising Bootcamp (Nashville, TN, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
May 18-30, Theology of Honor and Shame (Simi Valley, CA, USA). A 3-unit intensive course at Eternity Bible College developing a biblical missiology for Majority World cultures.
May 19, How to Keep Social Media from Wrecking Your Short-term Mission Trip (webinar). Provided by DELTA Ministries.
May 21, Beyond Welcome Back, 10 Things You Need to Know About Reentry (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus, with Lisa Chinn.
May 23-31, Darshan (Chicago, IL, USA). Hindu evangelism training provided by Christar.
May 24, Global Day of Prayer (international). An annual event.
May 27-29, 2015 COSIM Conference (Nashville, TN, USA). Annual conference of the Coalition on the Support of Indigenous Ministries.
May 28, Identifying Doors God Opens for Shorter Term Mission Endeavors and the Cost of Effective Integral Engagement (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus, with Gil Odendaal.
May 28-30, Serving Internationals (Wheaton, IL, USA). Annual conference by the Association of Christians Ministering among Internationals (ACMI).
May 28-30, Global Children’s Ministry Equip Conference (Chiang Mai, Thailand).
May 30-June 6, Sahara Challenge (St. Paul, MN, USA). Intensive training for ministry to Muslims, from Crescent Project.
As I was working on this edition of Missions Catalyst I came across a Steve Saint talk which includes thought-provoking observations, statistics, and inspiration. See Let God Write Your Story (But What If We Don’t Like the Next Chapter?).
After watching that, I searched for more of his talks and found Sovereignty, Suffering and the Work of Missions, given long before his accident that paralyzed much of his body. Each of the talks is just under an hour long.
Source: Missiologically Thinking, April 6, 2015
[On April 2], the Pew Research Center released an extensive report on the future populations of different world religions. Though there is troubling information here, this is a fascinating work providing a sobering reality of our world. Here are a few of the projections [for] 2010-2050:
Such predictions are difficult to make with accuracy. However, this report should lead us to prayer, more intentional disciple-making, healthy questioning of our present structures and institutions, and the avoidance of burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the possible future.
Source: World Watch Monitor, April 13, 2015
The chairman of Garissa University College’s Christian Union, who survived the April 2 Al Shabab attack in which 148 students were killed, has pleaded for prayer for the physical and psychological healing of survivors.
“Please pray for us… Many saw sights too horrible to describe,” said 21-year-old Frederick Gitonga.
“Pray for me too. I need peace of mind, strength, and wisdom. I am struggling with dreams that cause me to snap awake, then [I] cannot get back to sleep. I find myself remembering the horror of that day. The sounds and smells come back clearly.”
Gitonga explained how he had been up late the night before the attack, praying for one of the students under his care, that they would be able to truly forgive someone a wrong. The next morning, that student was dead, along with the other 21 Christian Union (CU) members who had attended early morning prayers.
Gitonga said the only reason he is still alive is because he had felt too tired after his late night to join in with prayers that morning. Instead, he decided to go back to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunshots.
“My roommates ran out, leaving the door wide open,” he explained. “I felt a strong urge not to run, but to stay put. As I hid under the bed, I could hear the gunshots and screams of fellow students. I could [hear] them lying to women that they should come out since their religion does not allow them to kill women. When they did, they were all killed. I know of no single Muslim who lost their life.
“After some time things went quiet, but I did not move.”
The next thing Gitonga remembers is hearing two attackers enter the room.
Source: International Mission Board, April 8, 2015
Eighteen-year-old Joseph Sambo laughed as he held his father’s hand. The two had spent the evening sharing secrets and talking about plans for the future. It was already after dark, so Joseph decided it was time to head inside.
Moments later, he heard yelling and turned back to see his father being held down and beaten by three men. Before he processed what was happening, he saw a gun pointed in his direction and was commanded to run. He found a nearby hiding place and listened as three gunshots were fired, followed by a deafening silence.
Joseph ran over to check on his father, but it was too late. He was already dead and the murderers had fled. With the death of his father went the death of Joseph’s hopes and dreams he had shared just minutes before.
“I asked, ‘Why God, why did you let this happen?’” Sambo, now 22, said.
» Read full story and watch related video (three minutes long).
Source Mission Network News, April 8, 2015
In Burma, God is drawing soldiers closer to himself in the midst of war.
Free Burma Rangers released a report saying attacks in the Southeast Asian nation are the [greatest] they’ve been since fighting renewed in 2011 after the 17-year ceasefire was broken. Karen News cited Human Rights Watch saying the conflict had led to more than 100,000 displaced civilians.
Despite the danger, a Vision Beyond Borders contact is putting her life on the line to minister to Kachin soldiers on the front lines.
The courage and compassion of this dedicated believer puts life in perspective, says VBB’s Dyann Romeijn. “Things in this life might be fatal, but they aren’t final. And it’s an example of a modern-day person living out that type of faith, that belief that what God calls us to is much more important than our personal safety.”
Source: Godreports, April 8, 2015
Mounira came from a deeply conservative Muslim family in Niger. After she received Christ, her family abandoned her and her son Maoulé, leaving them homeless and friendless. Even her husband rejected her due to her faith in Christ, according to a report by International Christian Concern (ICC).
When he caught her reading the Bible, he seized the Scriptures from her hands and tore it to shreds. On Sunday mornings, he locked Mounira in her room to keep her from attending church.
One night, after he returned late from work, Mounira’s husband beat her to the point of unconsciousness because she dared to pray in a corner of their house. Her son, Maoulé, quickly called Mounira’s pastor, who rushed her to the hospital.
Even in the face of such abuse, Mounira’s faith never wavered. She holds verses such as Romans 8:38-39 close to her heart: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Source: Charisma News, March 23, 2015
Muslims in Indonesia report losing one follower of Islam to Christianity every 15 seconds. That’s 2 million a year. At that rate, by 2035 Indonesia will no longer be majority Muslim nation. Muslims there are concerned about this trend and launched this campaign to help stem the tide of Muslim converts to Christianity.
» View full story and video and make what it discusses a matter of prayer.
» Editor’s note: The #SaveMaryam campaign began in 2012 and its websites don’t suggest recent activity. Have any of you seen an update?
By Shane Bennett
The clock ticked relentlessly as I toyed around with the content of the call I’d soon have to make to her dad. “I’m sorry, sir, but we’ve lost your daughter. I’ve lost your daughter. Yes, you’re right, it was my responsibility not to lose her, but I have.” My stomach hurt pretty bad just thinking about it.
Our group had spent the day scattered around the Turkish city we’d come to know and love. We were all due to return to the apartments at 10pm. Sharon didn’t show. I flipped back and forth between fear for her safety and anger that she was probably fine, but just lacked the good sense to get home on time.
Just before official throw-up time, I heard her happy, chatty voice precede her up the stairs. I smiled as she recounted her amazing day then, borrowing language from twenty years into my future life as a parent, I asked her to get ahold of me and let me know next time. After a heavy sigh and about 30 exclamations of “thank you, Jesus!” I fell into bed.
Although the day may come, I am very grateful I haven’t lost a short termer yet. In the few hundreds of short termers I’ve interacted with in some way—led, trained, or cheered on—there have been no deaths or kidnappings and wonderfully few lost wallets, passports, or dreams.
So maybe a key way to stay safe on a short term is to go with me! Say, to care for refugees in Sicily, perhaps? (I was hoping you’d come to that conclusion on your own, but didn’t have the patience to wait!)
But maybe you have other plans for other places. All the same, you still don’t want your companions, especially if they are kids, to die in the process. My friends at Crisis Consulting International share these time-tested starter tips to help you keep a lower profile and stay out of trouble; essentially, how to become a smaller target.1. “Be wise as serpents…”
Learn all you can about the peculiar risks and dangers of your destination before you go. Seek the wisdom of your local hosts, but also expand on it. Their street smarts lower their risk and may cause them to minimize your danger. Seek additional information from sources such as the U.S. State Department and from the company supplying your travel medical insurance.2. Make sure you’re insured.
Include reliable international medical and evacuation insurance in the budget. Your church’s insurer probably offers this product or you can find a number of options online (e.g., search at Brigada.org). The cost of a medical evacuation in the case of an accident or illness can easily be tens of thousands of dollars. Without insurance, you may have to come up with that money before an evacuation will be initiated.3. Be a smaller target by being a bigger one.
There is safety in numbers. Crime studies consistently indicate you are 80-85 percent less likely to be the victim of a crime when you are with at least one other person. Pairs are good; small groups even better.4. Look local.
As much as possible, blend in. Granted this is harder to do if you’re following point number three, traveling as a group. You can find the balance. Learn from your local hosts what dress is appropriate. Pay special attention to cultural norms. Don’t advertise your citizenship, your religion, or your wealth by wearing clothing that draws attention to you. Consider staying at mission guest houses (or airbnb.com places, a recent favorite of mine) rather than western hotels. If it is safe, use local transport rather than tour buses.
Can I say something specifically to American readers about looking (and sounding) local? If you’re not American, don’t feel excluded, just happy that this may not apply to you.
Plan for more than one way to communicate with each other and back home. In an emergency, communications are a critical part of staying safe, getting the help and resources you need, and reassuring families and others that you are OK. Cell phones are great (ever wonder what William Carey would have done with an iPhone?) but are not enough on their own! Too many things can disrupt the cellular networks. Consider a satellite phone or a satellite tracker that can send text messages.6. Minimize material loss.
First, think seriously about leaving your stuff at home! Carry only the cash you need. If you will be using a credit card, take only one. Consider carrying a “throw-away” wallet with outdated identification like expired airline mileage program cards and a small amount of local currency. Secure your “real” money in a wallet around your neck, looped on your belt, or carried inside your pants. And can we all decide ahead of time not to risk our lives to protect or save replaceable assets like cell phones, money, and youth pastors? (Just kidding about youth pastors!)7. Get training.
Since following these directions could possibly result in you feeling overly safe and secure, can I heartily encourage you to seek the further services of my buds Bob Klamser and John Lites at Crisis Consulting International? They have 30 years of experience helping people prepare for service in shifting security situations.
Three final thoughts:
Image: SpirosK photography (Flikr / Creative Commons)
Editor’s note: Find this article helpful? You might also appreciate these previous columns from Missions Catalyst:
We have a variety of reports for you this Holy Week, but first want to pass along a few stories that are specific to this season:
Source: ASSIST News, March 26, 2015
The largest and most accessible mission field in the United States has grown another 14 percent in the last year according to the Department of Homeland Security. The new statistics confirm what missiologists have been saying for decades; the easiest way to reach some of the most unreached people groups in the world is to stay right here at home.
For example, Saudi Arabia, which forbids Christian evangelism and missions of any kind on penalty of death, has sent 80,941 students here this year. Saudi Islamists are the prime funders of the world’s most famous terror movements including al Qaeda and ISIS. This means one of the only places to reach out to young Saudi leadership from the world’s most closed country is in the USA.
In fact over 855,807 of this year’s international students are from Asia—331,371 from China alone, another country which forbids American missionaries. Most of the Asians are in the 10/40 Window, a region mostly behind the veil of Islam, communism, or extreme nationalism. Over 146,000 are from India where Hindu nationalists are increasing terror attacks on Christians and American missionaries are illegal.
» Read full story, which describes some of the ways Christians are responding to this opportunity. Many of these ministries participate in the Association of Christians Ministering among Internationals, which will hold its annual gathering in Wheaton, IL at the end of May.
» Also note that the Institute for International Education’s Open Doors reports offer numbers that differ somewhat from those above, but affirm that the number of international students in the USA is at an all-time high (almost double that of any other country).
Source: Christian Broadcasting Network, March 31, 2015
Yemen is the Arab world’s poorest country. With the majority of the Yemini people following Islam, the tiny Christian community there is under constant threat.
“Life for Christians in Yemen is very hard,” a Yemini Christian named Sam told CBN News. “For that matter, across the Middle East, there’s not a country where Christians are not suffering for their faith. This is our reality.”
Sam was a Muslim, but he converted to Christianity. CBN News met him at an undisclosed location off the coast of North Africa. In an exclusive interview, he said if authorities discovered his real identity, he could be arrested or killed.
“All Christians in Yemen are from a Muslim background,” he continued. “According to Islamic Sharia law, it is forbidden for Muslims to convert to Christianity.”
“The government says there is religious freedom, but that is not true,” he continued. “Christians are routinely harassed. They face daily struggle and persecution; first from their family members, then from the government.”
Some 25 million people live in Yemen. The majority follow the Sunni branch of Islam. No one knows for sure how many, but it’s estimated there are a few thousand secret Christians.
Source: World Watch Monitor, April 1, 2015
On a Saturday in late March, a group of 20 volunteers went to an abandoned church in Turkey’s southeastern city of Mardin. They cleaned out broken chairs, a cracked pulpit, and books that haven’t been opened in decades. In the corner sat a 100-year-old organ.
The church, in the heartland of Assyrian Orthodoxy, has recently been transferred to a Protestant congregation. Although only big enough to hold 50 people, the building’s transfer represents the first steps of reconciliation between Protestantism and Orthodoxy in a city where the denominations have been bitter rivals for nearly two centuries.
When American Protestants first came to the Ottoman Empire in the 1800s, they drew tens of thousands of the empire’s ethnic Christians away from their original churches and baptized them as Protestants. Within decades, the Western missionaries had set up hundreds of churches along with hospitals and schools where foreign languages were taught. Orthodox patriarchs threatened excommunication for anyone who fraternized with them or went to their churches.
» Readers might also be interested in an article on The New Faces of Christianity in Europe, as demonstrated by a visit to St. Denis Cathedral in Paris on Palm Sunday (The Schuman Centre for European Studies).
Source: Christian Aid Mission, March 26, 2015
A Syrian Muslim who has no use of his hands or feet managed to flee to a Greek island off the coast of Turkey, where he faces new challenges to survive.
A doctor on the Greek island of Lesbos recently called the director of a ministry to Syrian refugees in Athens, called Bridge, to say that the disabled Syrian, Sami, was going to be released from an immigration detention center the following day—and that he had no accompanying relatives, friends, or money.
“We asked him how he came to Greece, and the answer was, ‘My co-travelers were carrying me on their backs on the mountains of Turkey till we reached the beach, and then I came by boat,” Voula Antouan said. “Easily you could see the despair and the questioning in his eyes, thinking that coming to Greece he would find everything waiting for him.”
The manager of an inexpensive hotel that previously had taken Syrian refugees told Antouan that he could not stay there, even with Bridge paying his bill; the manager said the elevator was too small for wheelchairs. When Antouan said they would handle the wheelchair and would provide all his meals, the hotel manager balked.
“No, you do not understand,” the manager said. “There is not even a handle in the bathroom. How can he manage it himself?”
The ministry’s search for more permanent housing was equally challenging. Lack of vacancy in an economically depressed country overrun with refugees, no facilities for people with special needs, and Sami’s unresolved legal status all blocked Bridge’s efforts.
» Read about another amazing escape, this one involving Egyptian Christians in Libya.
Source: Godreports, March 25, 2015
After working for a couple years in West Africa, Zack Woolwine and his wife, Anna, began to seek the Lord about their next mission assignment with Youth for Christ. They returned home to Ohio, but after a year they were ready to go back overseas.
Zack grew up in Florida and attended college in Hawaii, where he was able to nurture a passion for surfing. As he and Anna researched countries, the island of Tonga continued to grab his heart [but] he wondered if it was just “his flesh talking” or God’s leading. Over the next few weeks it became an internal struggle as he fasted and prayed unto the Lord.
One morning Zack sat in the front row at church and poured his heart out to God.
That morning the church had a guest speaker—someone who had never met Zack. In the middle of the man’s sermon he stopped abruptly, looked at Zack and said: “God has already shown you what you need to do. You need to start preparing for it.”
The following week, a woman approached him at church and said, “I had a dream about you last night. You were on an island and it was really green and you were riding these waves. It was the Holy Spirit and it wasn’t a big effort. You were enjoying yourself and you had a big smile on your face.”
With one confirmation after another, Zack and Anna landed in Tonga.
At the suggestion of his former boss in West Africa, Zack began to read T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, by Steve Smith with Ying Kai.
Zack got more and more excited as he read the book. “If this stuff is only half true, this is what I want to do!” he exclaimed.
» Read full story, which includes a video about Zack and Anna’s experience with disciple multiplication.