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Exchanging the good for the greater | Missions Catalyst News Briefs 07.18.18

  1. EAST ASIA: Exchanging the Good for the Greater
  2. CUBA: Seeing Christ in Neighbors and Family Members
  3. KYRGYZSTAN: Church of Muslim Converts Told to Close
  4. SIERRA LEONE: Now Sending Missionaries to Europe
  5. MAURITANIA: Death Sentence Compulsory for Blasphemy
  6. WEST AFRICA: Key of the Kingdom

See a father’s love for his child displayed in this sweet short film, Delight (The Jesus Film). How does this remind you of God’s love for his children?

Today’s news briefs deal with challenges and breakthroughs for the Church around the world. As you read them, remember the Father’s loving presence with us in every situation.


EAST ASIA: Exchanging the Good for the Greater

Source: Beyond, July 1, 2018

Recently I returned from a training in a large East Asian country. The 16 trainees were leaders of various discovery Bible groups started over the past year.

Previously, they belonged to a growing church in the city. They had recently come to a startling revelation: the more their church grew numerically, the fewer disciples they had been making. Their focus on excellent preaching had failed to produce real lifestyle changes in their members. Additionally, they found as the church grew, they had fewer new believers attending. Their desire to grow numerically was actually making them less effective as a church.

In a bold move, the church leaders decided to once again meet in small groups. They trained their leaders in the discovery Bible group process and ensured that all their members attended a small group. Shortly after they made this decision, government officials demanded they shut down their large Sunday meeting. A few months previous, this decision could have been disastrous, but these leaders saw God’s hand in the timing of these events. They decided that it was God’s will. They would not seek another meeting place for their large meeting. Instead, they would continue with the new discovery study groups, as house churches.

Pray that God will continue to equip leaders like these as they regroup to examine the real purpose of the church. Is it to grow the church in numbers or to develop disciples who develop other disciples?

» Read full story.

» On July 27, Justin Long, Beyond’s Director of Global Research, will present a webinar about events and trends impacting mission to the unreached. The US$25 registration includes both an invitation to the webinar and a recording of it, so even if you can’t make the webinar you can still watch it and get the slides. He plans to do this once a quarter.

CUBA: Seeing Christ in Neighbors and Family Members

Source: Mission Network News, July 11, 2018

In Cuba, people are coming to Christ after witnessing the faith of their neighbors and family members.

Helen Williams of World Missionary Press says, “People are coming to recognize Jesus Christ as the only way, through his Word and the quiet testimony of the believers there.”

When Williams says “quiet testimony” she means that Christians in Cuba rely heavily on their individual testimonies, shared by word of mouth and by the way they live their lives, to witness to others.

“I just want to encourage our listeners to know that the Word is there, it is being shared, and that even in a country where there are restrictions or concerns or whatever, the Word is working. People are coming to the Lord and making it public. And we just want to praise God for that, it was just a wonderful report from Cuba of what the Lord is doing.”

» Full story mentions literature distribution and ways believers are working together, turning from idolatry, and more.

» Cuba has been experiencing revival for several decades. We continue to pray for Cuba’s Christians, especially those who are part of the 10 churches that lost their pastors in a plane crash in May.

KYRGYZSTAN: Church of Muslim Converts Told to Close

Source: World Watch Monitor, July 4, 2018

A church in Kyrgyzstan [that includes] many former Muslims has been ordered to cease its Sunday worship. A local source told World Watch Monitor that services at the church, which is led by a convert from Islam, have been interrupted twice in the last few months by a group of people consisting of local officials, representatives of the Prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, assistants to the local imam, and former colleagues from the school at which the pastor used to teach.

The church has for more than a decade been led by Pastor Miran. The leadership of the school where he worked threatened to fire him after they learned of his conversion and his role as a church leader. He was also accused of child abuse by the school and jailed for six months. The source said the church felt the allegation was only leveled against him because of his conversion.

Since his release, Pastor Miran, a father of five, has been unable to find paid work. According to the World Watch Monitor’s source, local Muslims say of him: “If Miran could betray his ‘native pure Islam,’ maybe he could do other bad things too.”

» Read full story.

» See also Hopes Dashed for Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson as Turkish Trial to Continue in October.

SIERRA LEONE: Now Sending Missionaries to Europe

Source: God Reports, June 29, 2018

To many observers, it appeared foolhardy to send such a fruitful worker to such a hopeless nation. But Pastor Harold Warner didn’t flinch when he launched firebrand African-American preacher Alvin Smith into Sierra Leone in 1989. He had heard from God. And nearly three decades later, the results are dumbfounding.

The original church in Freetown has exploded to 80 churches. The nation that once was classified as the second poorest in the world now has planted churches in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast. Pastor Desmond Bell, from Sierra Leone, is now a missionary in Marseille, France. They have even sent three missionaries to Europe.

“To take people, to take young men and women from one of the poorest countries in the world and (for God to) say, ‘I’m going to shape and I’m going to fashion them because they are going to accomplish my purpose not only in their own nation but also beyond the boundaries,’ is one of the greatest privileges of life,” says Warner in a 2018 conference video. “I just sit back and chuckle because this has to be God.”

» Read full story.

MAURITANIA: Death Sentence Compulsory for Blasphemy

Source: Global Christian News, June 15, 2018

The Mauritanian government has now passed into law amendments to the criminal code making the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” or “sacrilegious acts.” The changes also do away with the option for those found guilty to “repent” and avoid the death penalty.

The amendments to the criminal code put in place a sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 600,000 Ouguiyas (around £12,000) for “offending public indecency and Islamic values.” They were passed into law by country’s National Assembly on April 27, 2018.

The Mauritanian government last carried out an execution for blasphemy in 1987. A Muslim blogger, tried in 2014, was the most recent person to be convicted. However, his death sentence was downgraded to two years in prison. The announcement of plans to amend the criminal code came in November, days after it was made public that the blogger would be freed after serving his sentence.

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is almost entirely Muslim, although there are a small number of predominantly expatriate Christians.

» Read full story.

» Stories like this are discouraging, but see also How Malaysia and North Korea Inspire Us to Pray Impossible Prayers (Open Doors).

WEST AFRICA: Key of the Kingdom

Source: SIM Australia, June 25, 2018

A West African woman stood up at an annual church meeting in March. The woman testified that she had stood in the same meeting last year to ask for prayer for her husband’s salvation. He often beat her for following Christ. However, this time she stood to give an update.

A few months earlier, the woman testified, she had told him she wanted to attend a week-long church meeting. Her husband was livid. A whole week? Who would cook his food? Clean his house? She should focus on the majority religion of the region and forget church. He beat her severely—again. Nearly all Christian women converts in this region are illiterate. Many make these meetings a priority to ask Bible questions because they cannot read or obtain a Bible on their own.

This Christian woman was determined to go to the church meeting regardless of her husband’s violence. Still enraged, he locked up the house as soon as she left, declaring to the neighbors that his wife would never enter his home again. To make his point, he threw the key into the river as he headed to his girlfriend’s house for the week.

The woman enjoyed the Christian conference and returned home on Friday, stopping by the local market. She planned to have a hearty meal ready for her husband when he came home from Friday prayers. She had no idea that her husband had already locked her out of her home for good. Arriving home, she was puzzled that the house was locked up tight. She needed to start preparing the meal, so she borrowed a pot from her neighbor and began to clean the fish.

When she cut open the fish, a key fell out of its belly. Puzzled, she examined it and remarked to her neighbor that the key looked similar to her own house key. Her neighbor urged her to try it in the lock, and it worked! She opened up the house, cleaned it, and got her husband’s supper ready to wait for him…

» Read full story.

How to Ace a Global Report to Your Church (the Five-Minute Guide)

By Shane Bennett

Is the pain as real for you as it is for me? The worship leader begrudgingly surrenders the microphone (just kidding, worship leaders!) to an ill-prepared but enthusiastic “missions person.” A low collective groan rumbles across the room. By the time Missions Minute Man has adjusted the mic and begun to speak, no one is happy anymore. It’s not as bad as a root canal or a sermon on tithing, but close.

If you’re reading this article, odds are good you’re into missions to some degree, and as such have seen a ton of missions-related promos in your day, maybe given a few yourself. And if you’re honest, you might admit: we haven’t always knocked it out of the park!

Give me another four and a half minutes and I’ll give you five key principles that could help you become the mission-report equivalent of Charles Spurgeon, Tony Robbins, and Maya Angelou rolled into one. You’re going to kill at this!

1. Ask for Some Time

Here are two things I think you’ll agree with me on: that most churches could use more in the “sharing cool global-God kind of stuff from the pulpit” department, and that they’re probably not going to ask for it.

So, job number one for a killer missions promo is get the time. Maybe your church is so super giant that this just never happens. No worries. Your Sunday School classes and adult fellowships are probably as big as most of our churches! So focus on them.

Courage, my friends: Follow the prescribed path to get five minutes in person or on the phone with your pastor. Explain what you’d like to say and why saying it on Sunday morning will help (not just help you, but help the church). If you get a bit of resistance, it’s because your pastor wasn’t born yesterday! Remember, we may be digging out of a hole here because of past experiences.

If the resistance holds, try this: Offer to videotape the whole desired report, submit it to your pastor, and ask that it be shown. It may never happen, but being willing shows humble moxie.

2. Make It Great

If you get a chance to share, pledge before God and the memory of legendary mission mobilizer Lottie Moon that you will not mess it up! Rather, you’ll make it unforgettable. In decades to come, people who were present for your report will die with a smile on their face as they recount how well you did!

You’ll make it great by making sure it is:

  1. True.

Email and the Web will lie to you. Check and double check any facts, and resist the urge to exaggerate stories. Say things only with the degree of confidence you actually have.

  1. Important.

An average service is only about 90 minutes long, and some are shorter. Time and attention are precious. Let’s not waste them by talking about stuff that doesn’t really matter. Of course that’s subjective, but do your best. Maybe even risk running your thoughts by your spouse or that one surly deacon as a test.

  1. Compelling.

If you can do it in the time you have, tell a story. “Here’s a thing that happened” and “Here’s why it matters.” Stories, told well, are almost impossible to resist. Leverage that.

3. Make It Short

Plan to use only two-thirds of your allotted time. This will do two things for you: You could stand out as one of the few people who ever ended early! And if you do go long, you can still end within your allotted time.

As we all, know, it’s better to leave people wanting more than to end with people just leaving!

4. Make It Hopeful

At any given time, a higher percentage of your church than you’d like to admit is probably thinking God’s getting beaten. Let’s try not to reinforce that. I confess I’m not above using some heart-grabbing statistics or a gut-punch anecdote to get people’s attention, but don’t leave them there. Presumably you have given your situation, so help others see where God is at work in it. Take a long view on what can happen. Paint a picture of the godly redemption that you foresee.

If the situation you’re reporting on is apparently, from all angles and as far as you can see, God-forsaken, go ahead and say so. But honestly, if you do that more than once a decade, people may think you’re being hyperbolic.

If God is doing anything, he’s redeeming this whole broken mess. Let’s remind each other of that as often as we can.

5. Make It Actionable

When you step away from the mic, your audience should have something to think, something to feel, and something to do. Encourage them to:

  1. Think.

Present information that is so new and fresh it requires mental processing to integrate.

  1. Feel.

Pluck heartstrings. Most of us let our emotions have a pretty big role in our actions.

  1. Do.

Give people a way to play a part! Even better if the part is somewhat tuned to who they are instead of just a need for any non-flatlined body to join your team. Invite people to pray, give money, invest time, visit, advocate, help, adopt, fight, post, and share.

If you really want to swing for the fence, give them something to take home! As missions people, I think we underuse the tchotchke. A tiny trinket will help people remember your cause. I’m currently giving away small beads made from the lava of Mt. Etna to help people remember to pray for refugees in Catania, my beloved city that sits at the base of that volcano.

Run your next global report through these filters. You’re going to do great! Maybe together we can turn the tide on mission talks. Thanks for reading this and sharing with others you think will benefit from it.

» Comment and share your ideas on Facebook, Twitter, or our website.

Note: This article was originally published in Missions Catalyst on October 12, 2016. We thought it was worth an encore!

Image source: ChrisEngelsma, Flikr/Creative Commons License.

He soaks up the Scriptures | World News Briefs

  1. JORDAN: Refugee Memorized 87 Bible Chapters
  2. ARAB WORLD: Embracing the Truth
  3. NIGERIA: Muslim Imam Hid Christians From Attackers
  4. PHILIPPINES: The Juan Project
  5. NEPAL: How a Worship Song Brought a Buddhist Monk to Christ

JORDAN: Refugee Memorized 87 Bible Chapters

Source: Leading the Way, via God Reports, June 26, 2018

After Leading The Way’s follow-up team distributed one of their solar-powered audio Bibles to a blind Iraqi refugee, they were astonished to discover that he used it to memorize 87 chapters from the Bible.

Every day in his modest home in Amman, Jordan, Fadhil holds this device in his hand and soaks up the scriptures.

Several Leading The Way partners found it extremely humbling to visit Fadhil in his home while he quoted scripture after scripture:

“It was convicting, because for us we memorize a couple of verses. But he memorized chapters. He just meditates on scriptures day in and day out,” said partner David Bottoms.

Partner Ron Hughes added: “Fadhil is someone who would seem unremarkable by the ways of the world. But God doesn’t choose to reveal himself through the mighty and the powerful and the rich. He reveals himself through the poor and the humble. Being in this small, modest home and being in the presence of greatness as God’s Word filled the room… was an amazing experience.”

» Read full story. Also read Living with a Disability in Post-War Mosul (Preemptive Love Coalition).

ARAB WORLD: Embracing the Truth

Source: Arab World Media, June 1, 2018

“I was born a Muslim. I prayed and fasted during Ramadan, and I even went on pilgrimage. I am 54 years old and I always heard that Islam is a religion of truth. One day, I had a chance to watch a debate between a Muslim and a Christian. In spite of the fact that I am not educated, I watched the show until the end. My heart and my mind were telling me that everything the Christian said was true. So I decided to find out more about Christ. And I discovered that the Christian faith is the real true faith.

“One day I discovered a story of a lady from my country who was persecuted because she embraced the Christian faith. She was the reason for my full conviction about the truthfulness of the Christian faith. So I decided to give my life to Jesus. I believe in him as my Savior and the Savior of all humanity. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to declare my faith. And thanks to all the workers who provided me with all I need to know!”

After dialogue with the AWM response team, Hamza gave his life to Christ. But he wasn’t the only one in his family…

» Read the rest of the story. See also Where God Wants Me, about a Syrian refugee in Turkey whose life was also transformed.

NIGERIA: Muslim Imam Hid Christians from Attackers

Source: Barnabas Fund, July 3, 2018

A village in Plateau State was attacked by around 300 armed men, reportedly Fulani cattle herders, on Sunday, June 24. The gang opened fire killing scores of Christians and set fire to people’s homes and the local church.

Some Christian families escaped from the gunmen to a mainly Muslim village nearby. A local imam took in around 262 people, hiding women and children in his home, and taking the men to the mosque.

The armed attackers stormed into the village in pursuit of the Christians, confronting the imam and threatening to burn down his house and mosque. The imam refused to allow the gunmen in, insisting everyone inside was Muslim. Other villagers joined him in pleading with the Fulani until they left the area.

The imam told the BBC he had wanted to help because, 40 years ago, Christians in the area had allowed Muslims to build the mosque. He said it was the first time he had experienced such “an ugly incident” in all the years of Muslims living in a neighboring village to the Christian farmers.

Around 200 people died in attacks on 11 villages over the weekend of June 23-24. Semi-nomadic Fulani cattle herders, who raid Christian villages and set fire to properties before taking over their land, have been blamed for the bloodshed.

» Read full story. Also watch a brief video of Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam commenting on this recent attack (World Watch Monitor) and read Over 200 Dead in Plateau State after Fulani Militant Attacks (Jubilee Campaign).

» Religious broadcasters in Mozambique are also seeking prayer in the midst of violence in their region, too (FEBC).

PHILIPPINES: The Juan Project

Source: One Mission Society, July 3, 2018

In its research, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) revealed that 90,500,000 Filipinos have never experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That represents 90.5% of the population.

Our Every Community for Christ (ECC) leadership team there knew that without some change, we would never make a significant dent in this statistic. We went to prayer. After four days, the Juan Project emerged.

The aim of the Juan Project is to reach every “Juan” (individual Filipinos) in five different provinces and two groups (students in the five provinces and overseas Filipino workers in 10 countries). We desire to plant a healthy, reproducing church in every sitio or purok (the smallest governing unit in the Philippines) in the five provinces [and] plant a healthy student ministry at each of the public college and university campuses in the five provinces.

We have completed the first year of the Juan Project. The first six months started slowly. In those months, we focused on building capacity, raising prayer support, building partnerships, [and] offering training. The fruit has come in the past six months.

One hundred and fourteen new prayers groups have formed. Prayer walks and overnight prayer meetings are common. We work with at least 30 partners. And, in the last year, we have held 54 trainings, involving 895 people from over 100 churches.

The results: 216 groups started, 361 people equipped and mobilized, and 1,913 people who have entered into a relationship with Christ. A small but important turnaround.

Pastors now testify that their passion for church planting is rekindled, their perspective challenged, and their minds opened to church multiplication.

» Read full story.

» More good news for overseas Filipino workers: radio host in Kuwait creates lifeline for abused Filipino domestic workers (Ethical Journalism Network).

NEPAL: How a Worship Song Brought a Buddhist to Christ

Source: International Mission Board, July 2, 2018

Pavan, a Christian pastor I met on a recent trip to Nepal, shared with me about his past and the fear that once plagued him. He admitted that he had been afraid of dying. Persistent fear robbed him of peace. “There was no peace. There was no meaning in life,” Pavan confessed. “It compelled me to ask the question, ‘What am I here for? And how long? And what happens after I leave this earth?’”

He couldn’t answer these questions, so he turned to local religious leaders for guidance. When he voiced his concerns, Buddhist monks tried to assuage his fears by telling him that it was natural to go through storms. “You may have to go through lonely places,” they counseled. “You may have to go a very dangerous way. But do not be afraid. Just keep continuing. Carry on your journey.”

The turning point in Pavan’s story happened deep in the jungle when he went for a walk with a friend. As they walked, his friend starting singing and asked him to close his eyes and listen to the words…

» Read full story.

BOOK: Inside the World’s Greatest Revival

Source: Asia Harvest

Most of us have heard about the phenomenal growth of the Church in China over the last century, and we may know that this growth came in the furnace of intense persecution. But how did it all happen?

The China Chronicles series is an ambitious project to document the advance of Christianity in each province of China, decade by decade, from the time the gospel was introduced there to the present day.

Author and friend of the Chinese church Paul Hattaway has spent hundreds of hours interviewing Chinese believers so their stories can be shared and remembered.

Volume One takes us to Shandong Province, home to almost 100 million people. It includes narratives about foreign missionaries (e.g., Lottie Moon) and Chinese movements (the Evangelistic Bands, the Jesus Family), as well as never-before-published testimonies from Chinese church leaders. So inspiring; I loved reading this book.

» Read an excerpt from Shandong: The Revival Province. Purchase from Asia Harvest, Amazon, or elsewhere. The Kindle edition is US$7.19. Also see an interview with Paul Hattaway (Christian Today).

BOOK: Unpack Your Cross-cultural Experience

Source: InterVarsity Press

“Cross-cultural encounters leave us with vivid memories, writing seemingly unforgettable stories on our brain with permanant ink.

“But as time progresses, memories and good intentions fade when they aren’t an active part of our life…

“So how do we move the memories from our head to our heart and finally to our feet and hands?”

Cory Trenda’s short book—just 128 pages—packs a punch. As the author admits, research suggests that mission trips, on their own, have virtually no measurable long-term effects on the lives of participants (despite our hopes and promises). What you do after, though, can make a difference.

I particularly liked chapter 6. It explores concrete ways you can learn from the disappointments and discoveries of your trip in order to make your next trip the best one yet.

» Learn more or purchase After the Trip for US$14.00 from Amazon (or elsewhere). Looks like it will be available as an ebook as well. The foreword is by Tim Dearborn, whose classic Short-Term Missions Workbook is scheduled to be revised and republished later this year.

VIDEOS: Primer on Worldviews, Caught in a Terror Cell

Source: Global Frontiers Missions, Middle East Women’s Leadership Network

Worldview varies from one culture to the next and is one of the biggest obstacles in the presentation and understanding of the gospel. By increasing our understanding of each worldview, we will learn the most effective ways to share the gospel with people from different cultures.

» Watch the seven-minute video, 3D Gospel. It’s based on The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures by Jayson Georges. Could you use honor-shame resources or GFM 101 videos and teaching to mobilize or train others in your ministry context?

Here’s another video to help us see the world through different eyes. This one’s a drama. Caught in the middle of a terrorist plot in Los Angeles, a young Arab woman grapples with God’s will when she makes a surprising discovery.

» Watch the 10-minute film, Cellular, or its one-minute trailer. For more information or to screen it for a group, contact Middle East Women’s Leadership Network. See their website for more films or to learn about this interesting network.

BOOKS: Serving God in Today’s Cities … or in a Migrant Crisis

Source: InterVarsity Press

From Operation World creator Patrick Johnstone and collaborator Dean Merrill come two new books on topics that demand our attention: the shifting dynamics of today’s global cities and the rise of the migrant crisis.

First published in 2015 and 2016, and now republished by InterVarsity Press, Serving God in Today’s Cities and Serving God in a Migrant Crisis are short, punchy books offering biblical perspective and practical advice. If I had to pick just one, I’d recommend the cities book. Use the preview feature on Amazon to get a taste.

» Visit the publisher’s website to learn more about both books and related titles. Looks like a long-awaited revised edition of the kid-friendly Operation World resource Window on the World is also in the works.

EVENTS: What’s Coming up in July and August

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

July 2 to November 4, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online). Additional classes start August 6 and August 13.

July 8-27, Manarah (Detroit, MI, USA). Training for ministry to Muslims, from Christar.

July 9-13, Cubs to Lions (Boulder, CO, USA). Discipleship for Christians with a Muslim background.

July 10-15, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Debriefing and reentry help for returning missionaries.

July 20-27, New Wilmington Mission Conference (Western Pennsylvania, USA). Annual, week-long multi-generational mission conference; a tradition for more than 100 years.

July 23-25, Crisis Management Seminar (Auburn, AL, USA). Provided by Crisis Consulting International. Followed by one-day Security Orientation Workshop, July 26.

July 23 to August 3, Engaging Islam Institute (Boulder, CO, USA). Training program from Horizons International.

August 4-11, ReBoot Re-entry Program (Calgary, AB, Canada). For returning missionary kids, ages 17-20, transitioning to life in Canada.

August 5-10, Check-IT-Out Summer Conference (Charlotte, NC, USA). For IT and software professionals and students on using technology in missions, particularly Bible translation.

August 6-7, Support Raising Bootcamp (Plano, TX, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

August 13-17, Cubs to Lions (Edmonton, AB, Canada). Discipleship for Christians with a Muslim background.

August 23-24, Support Raising Bootcamp (Edinburg, TX, USA). In Spanish.

» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more details, contact the event organizers.