Missions Catalyst

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World Missions News, Ideas, and Resources
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Praying for the Unreached, Not Home for the Holidays & More

  1. A Prayer Guide for Nearly a Billion People
  2. Article: When You Won’t Be Home for the Holidays
  3. Book: Stories of Courage from Women Serving Around the World
  4. Podcast: David Garrison on Movements in the Muslim World
  5. Events in December: Mission Conferences and More

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

A Prayer Guide for Nearly a Billion People

Source: Joshua Project, Telos Fellowship, and Go31.org

So we’ve made it to Advent. You may be using these weeks to imagine yourself back in the days of Mary and Joseph, Anna and Simeon, and the angels and shepherds longing for God to show himself in the world once again.

Why not take some time after Christmas to intercede for those who have yet to hear the good news of what Christ has done for them?

Several organizations and networks came together to produce a prayer guide for the 31 largest “frontier” people groups, those among which the gospel has seen the least progress. The third edition came out earlier this year.

Visit Go31.org for the electronic version (no cost), request a review copy, or order bulk copies of the 57-page booklet at 10 copies for US$20 or 100 for US$100. You might also want to download the Bless Frontier Peoples Prayer App. It shows you the frontier people group of the day. Today (November 30) it features Day 30 (Moroccan Arabs).

Check out the Frontier People Groups poster and a roundup of related resources from Joshua Project.

Here’s another prayer guide to consider. Let All the Peoples Praise You: 30 Days of Praying for Urgent Needs Among the Nations uses data from Stratus.earth (which ranks how needy nations are on several scales) alongside reflections from Scripture adapted from David Platt’s podcast Pray the Word. High-quality paper copies are US$2.99 from Radical but the digital edition can be downloaded for free.

Article: When You Won’t Be Home for the Holidays

Source: Go.Serve.Love

It was December 24th, but I was the only person out shopping that night thinking about stocking stuffers. I ran down to purchase a few last-minute items, missing my extended family and the unintended tradition of wrapping gifts in a crazy flurry on Christmas Eve.

It wasn’t Christmas Eve for most of the people in Egypt. I was one more person out shopping on a normal night. I was homesick and worried I wouldn’t be able to make the holiday special for my family.

Read the article. See also Loneliness Overseas: 12+ Ways to Deal.

Other practical articles you might find helpful include A Pocket Guide for Talking to Missionaries: Dozens of Missionaries Open Up About Questions They Love and Questions They Don’t (A Life Overseas) and one from a few years back about why missionaries need friends and how to be one (Catalyst Services).

Book: Stories of Courage from Women Serving Around the World

Source: Velvet Ashes

Yet We Still Hope: Stories of Courage from Women Serving Around the World, edited by Denise Beck and Sarah Hilkermann. Velvet Ashes Publishing, 2022. 374 pages.

Velvet Ashes is an online community of women serving cross-culturally. In this book, 45 of them, serving in many different countries, share both their everyday challenges and their darkest moments and how God has met them in both—resetting their expectations, sending them help, and giving them hope.

Delving into issues like depression and anxiety, failure and rejection, serious illness and betrayal, it’s not an easy read. Nor is it a how-to book. These deeply personal stories may, however, serve as they are intended: to let others experiencing such challenges (even in their home countries) know they are not alone and help them persevere. As one of the editors says, “The famous stories may have inspired you to go. But these are the stories that may inspire you to stay.”

Learn more or purchase the book for yourself or someone you know. The Kindle edition is currently US$8.49.

Podcast: David Garrison on Movements in the Muslim World

Source: Maverick Podcast

After hearing rumors of Muslims coming to Christ in great numbers, researcher and missiologist David Garrison travels the world to investigate. Is God drawing Muslims to himself like never before in history? And if so, what is he using to do it?

You may recognize some of the content of this podcast from Garrison’s 2014 book A Wind in the House of Islam. Garrison is currently the Executive Director of Global Gates, which sponsored this season of the podcast. Five episodes so far, each focused on a different region and blending history and context with testimonies. Drop in at any point.

Listen to Maverick, Season 2. I learned a lot in the episode about Persia.

Other active missions podcasts you might enjoy:

Some of these and others are included in the Missions Podcast Directory from Missio Nexus.

Events in December: Mission Conferences and More

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

December 1, How to Share Your Organization’s Message Through Self-Publishing Books (online). A webinar from Missio Nexus.

December 5-7, Support Raising Bootcamp (online). Provided by Support Raising Solutions. In-person training is also offered in various places throughout the year.

December 6-8, Standards Introductory Workshop (online). A 10-hour seminar designed to help short-term mission leaders and mobilizers make their mission trips better. Provided by MissionExcellence, a ministry of MissionWorks.

December 8, Which Is Greater—the Commandment or the Commission? (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

December 11, Call to Prayer Virtual Prayer Gathering (online). Engage the Muslim world through prayer on the second Sunday of each month.

December 12, Perspectives St. Louis Area Ministry Fair (St. Louis, MO, USA). Looking for practical hands-on ways to connect with God’s global mission in the St. Louis area and abroad. Visit 25+ local ministries and mission organizations to find your place to serve.

December 13, Using Specific Skills for God’s Great Commission (online). Webinar from MissionExcellence.

December 20, Contend: Monthly Day of Prayer For Mission Mobilization (global). Coordinated by GMMI for the third Tuesday of each month. 

December 28-31, Urbana Student Mission Conference (Indianapolis, IN, USA). Triennial mission conference for college students provided by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

View the complete calendar, updated regularly. We welcome your submissions.

Can you help me fill in the 2023 calendar? Thanks!

2,000 Translations | Delivered from Slavery & Sin

Stories in this edition deal with pressures and new opportunities that come with migration—shaping life for everyone from refugees in Texas and migrant workers in the Middle East to a U.S. church that travels to New York to meet Central Asians.

  1. World: The Most-Translated Film Ever Now in 2,000 Languages
  2. Qatar: As the World Cup Opens, Ministry Opportunities Abound
  3. South Asia: Thrown into Slavery, and Set Free by Jesus
  4. Myanmar: Kachin Bible School Shelled by Burmese Army
  5. USA: One Student Leads Arkansas Church to Reach Uzbek Diaspora

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

World: The Most-Translated Film Ever Now in 2,000 Languages

Source: Christian Newswire, November 1, 2022

The most translated film of all time is now available in its 2,000th translation: Zo, a language spoken by approximately 65,000 people globally, including refugee and immigrant communities in 28 US cities.

Myanmar, where Zo is mainly spoken, is a primarily Buddhist country, and people report experiencing discrimination for their religious beliefs. Access to economic opportunities can be drastically limited. As a result, many of the Zo people are now scattered around the world.

Though a Zo translation of the Bible was completed in 2019, it hasn’t been printed in Myanmar yet, and many of the Zo are unable to read. This translation of JESUS provides a way for Zo speakers to have access to the story of Jesus in their language in a format they can understand.

First released in 1979, JESUS gives an authentic portrayal of one of the most influential figures in human history. Since then, Jesus Film Project has partnered with thousands of translators, recording teams, voice actors, and partners to make JESUS and other Jesus-centric videos available to everyone and everywhere in every language. JESUS has been seen by more than 10 million people around the world and remains the only film to be dubbed into more than 2,000 languages.

Read the full story or watch the 3.5-minute video Jesus Speaks Zo, also below. Encouraging!

On the Jesus Film Project website, you can watch or download Jesus-centric videos in many languages, all for free.

See also a story about a mobile app helping ordinary believers spark disciple-making efforts in many languages and a story about planting gospel seeds through business cards (Mobile Ministry Forum).

Qatar: As the World Cup Opens, Ministry Opportunities Abound

Source: INcontext Ministries, November 2022

One and a half million fans from all over the world are expected to visit Qatar to watch the World Cup finals, which start November 20. It is the first Arab nation to host the tournament. Qatar has built seven stadiums specifically for the finals, as well as more than 100 new hotels, a new metro, and new roads.

[According to an article in The Guardian], “Evangelical Christianity is quietly flourishing among migrant groups in the Gulf as churches provide low-paid workers facing horrific abuse with aid in times of crisis, according to pastors and parishioners across the region.”

“In Qatar, home to 2.1 million migrant workers who make up about 75% of the population, Google Maps lists scores of Pentecostal churches. Yet, as with other Gulf nations, many churches choose to remain as underground ‘house’ churches for fear that conditions may change.”

One can safely assume that many of these believers have been faithfully interceding for this upcoming World Cup and the many opportunities it could present, both for them and those visiting Qatar. However, it is also important to remember these brothers and sisters in Christ—who face possible repercussions should their activities become known to Qatari authorities—remain in Qatar after the World Cup is over.

Read the full story with prayer points.

By the way, the world population has now reached 8 billion. An AP article includes analysis, stories, and striking photos illustrating the effects of population growth. See also 8 Billion Reflecting the Imago Dei (J.D. Payne).

South Asia: Thrown into Slavery, and Set Free by Jesus

Source: Beyond, November 2, 2022

Bahar and his paternal uncle, Navi, traveled to a faraway province in their South Asian country in search of work.

Not long after arriving, they had a dispute with some local people. Because Bahar and Navi were poor migrant workers who spoke a different language, they were handed over to corrupt officials. They were immediately thrown into slavery and forced to work long hours.

They were beaten daily and told they would be killed and chopped up into pieces if they didn’t obey.

For 45 days, Bahar and Navi prayed to their Hindu gods, pleading to be released from their slavery. But nothing happened.

Then Bahar said, “I have heard of someone named Jesus, and that if people pray in his name, he answers them.” So they started praying to Jesus, asking him to make a way for their escape. Jesus immediately spoke to them and told them he would rescue them. He told them which day to leave, how to escape, and where to go. Encouraged, they began to pray more earnestly. Six days later, on the exact day Jesus had said, they were able to escape and begin the journey home! Bahar and Navi knew Jesus had saved them.

Read the full story and its sequel about this family freed Once from Prison, Once from Hunger, Once from Sin.

See also 7 Facts about Hindus around the World. Some may surprise you (Pew Research Center).

Myanmar: Kachin Bible School Shelled by Burmese Army

Source: International Christian Concern, November 4, 2022

[On November 3] a Baptist seminary in northern Myanmar was attacked by the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army), injuring four men in the dormitory.

One local resident said that this kind of attack by the military threatens the Christian Bible School and the entire Kachin nation.“They (Military Council) hate our Kachin people so much,” he told 72 Media. “This is why we are being targeted and attacked. This looks like a planned shooting. My heart hurts so much. Since this happened, we Kachin people must be careful.”

More than 90 percent of the ethnic Kachin in Myanmar adhere to the Christian faith. They also have one of the most robust militaries among the ethnic armed organizations in Myanmar, making them a constant target of the Tatmadaw.

Ever since the junta mounted a coup d’état in February 2021, the brutal military regime has continued a reign of terror against civilians with indiscriminate shelling and burning of villages, schools, and religious buildings. More than 2,400 people have been killed, and over 16,000 people have been jailed and tortured by the Tatmadaw.

Read the full story.

See also Myanmar’s Christians Fight for Peace (Christianity Today).

In other news from this region, a pastor in Laos was tortured and killed for spreading the gospel amid rapid church growth in the country. He leaves behind a wife and eight children (Morning Star News). Pray for them!

USA: One Student Leads Arkansas Church to Reach Uzbeks Diaspora

Source: International Mission Board, November 10, 2022

[A] mission team from Immanuel Baptist Church [in] Magnolia, Arkansas, expected things in Brooklyn, New York, to be different from their small southern Arkansas town. Nothing, however, prepared them for culture shock once they surfaced from the subway into this Brighton Beach community known as “Little Odessa” — the U.S. hub for Central Asian immigrants. It was as if they had just entered another country.

Ben Coulter breathed in the unfamiliar spices from food stalls and broke out in a wide grin. The pastor watched the mission team made up of college students and families from his church mingle along the boardwalk and beach. Their goal was to meet people from Uzbekistan and provide gospel access that knows no geographic or social boundary. This is diaspora missions at its core.

“What started out as reaching an Uzbek student in our backyard, turned into a burden for an entire nation,” Coulter explained.

See the full story with pictures. It’s worth reading.

Speaking of diaspora, the percentage of people in Canada who are immigrants has reached a new record high (Reuters).

Making Thanksgiving Count for the Kingdom | Practical Mobilization

In this edition:

  1. Thankful Habits: 30 Thankful Prayers
  2. Get in on a Great Giving Tuesday Giveaway
  3. From the Archives: Making Thanksgiving Count for the Kingdom

Read or share the email edition, or scroll on for more.

Dear friends,

Ever feel like you don’t have enough? Enough time, enough money, enough energy for all you want to do or think others expect from you? It can be so overwhelming. If you’re like me, you might easily fall into a mindset of scarcity, focusing on losses, limitations, and all that you may lack.

A recent sermon reminded me of God’s abundance. He always has more than enough, more than we will ever need. And scripture suggests that when God throws the party there are going to be leftovers, too—an overflow of provision (see 2 Kings 4:42-44, Psalm 23:5 John 7:37-38, John 10:10, and John 15:5).

Let’s live in light of that abundance, full of gratitude and hope for the days to come, and ready to invite others to the table.

This edition includes several tools and ideas that may help.

Marti Wade

Thankful Habits: 30 Thankful Prayers

Source: Navigators

Could you use some help turning your heart toward gratitude?

“At the beginning of your day or at the end of your day, start the habit of thanking God for your blessings and praying these verses out loud. Invite a friend or your family to join you for 30 days of thankful prayers.”

Read 30 Thankful Prayers and download a PDF that includes both the prayers and the scriptures. It’s a simple tool. Who could you share it with?

You might also be interested in a 30-day Biblical Basis for Missions reading plan from the Center for Mission Mobilization. Too daunting? The same document includes a seven-day plan.

Get in on a Great Giving Tuesday Giveaway

Source: Pioneers-USA

Our October 26 edition of Missions Catalyst included a review of Steve Richardson’s new book, Is the Commission Still Great? It explores eight perceptions of missions and missionaries that discourage many Christians from embracing and engaging with God’s global purposes.

Leading up to November 29, also known as Giving Tuesday, Pioneers is giving it away for free. Get a copy for yourself or a friend.

See also 12 Great Gifts for Great Commission Lovers, all currently on sale from William Carey Publishing.

Making Thanksgiving Count for the Kingdom

From the Archives

By Shane Bennett

Here in the US, our most American holiday is right around the corner. Thanksgiving presents a chance not only to re-calibrate our own gratitude meter but also to reach out to people we’ve considered connecting with but haven’t been able to trip the trigger.

Thanksgiving is innocuous, non-partisan, and safe. Even the most mild-mannered can break the social ice with, “What are we thankful for?” The more intrepid can follow up, “Who are we thankful to?” It’s a ready-made opportunity to get more comfortable talking about God. And should a sermon threaten to break out, there’s football, board games, and more pie.

If this idea is intriguing but intimidating, check out my super-short Five-Step Plan for a Killer International Thanksgiving Dinner. This will get you going in the right direction. Fill in the details by ransacking this beautiful and ridiculously helpful site with ideas for cross-cultural hospitality, The Serviette. These guys give the body of Christ a wonderful gift. Enjoy it.

Also from our archives, see Five Reasons to Go Big on Gratefulness.

Man in White Calls Family to Follow Him | News Briefs

  1. Iran: Man in White Calls Family to Follow Him
  2. Mexico: The Cult of Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death
  3. North Korea: Rare Letters Smuggled Out
  4. Uganda: Prayer Transforms the Karamojong People
  5. Lebanon: Crises Open Hearts to Christ

Read or share the email edition.

Amin, a Persian pastor in Australia, shares how he began following Jesus after God answered his prayer and appeared to him and his mother and sister in a dream on the same night (Eternity News).

Iran: Man in White Calls Family to Follow Him

Source: Eternity News, October 14, 2022

Growing up in Iran, Amin prayed five times a day like other Muslims, repeating verses in Arabic in an attempt to talk to Allah.

“One day I started to think about, why, if Allah is God, he should know that I am not an Arab— I’m Persian, I’m Iranian, and I speak Farsi, so why would he expect me to talk to him in another language, which is Arabic?” he recalls.

“That moment was a revelation…I said, ‘God, if you are alive, show yourself to me. I want to talk to you from the bottom of my heart and it doesn’t make sense to me anymore to speak to you in another language.’”

For seven days, Amin stopped praying and put thoughts of God aside.

“And on the seventh night, I had a dream of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He came into my dream and he didn’t come to only my dream—he came to my sister and my mother and myself in the same night.”

[The next morning] a family friend knocked at the door and when he came into the house, he put a New Testament on the table and said, “I want to talk to you about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not only a prophet. He’s the son of God. He died on [a] cross and he rose on the third day.”

As he gave them the life-changing news, they felt filled with the Holy Spirit even though they didn’t know who that was at the time.

“We couldn’t deny it, you know? It was very hard to forget about what has happened. We all gave our heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we accepted him as our God and our Savior.”

See the full story with pictures. Amin and his wife later immigrated to Australia where he pastors Grace Persian Church in Brisbane.

Mexico: The Cult of Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death

Source: International Mission Board, October 31, 2022

Casting a long shadow across one of Mexico City’s poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods stands a seven-story image of Santa Muerte—the Saint of Death. She takes the form of a human skeleton clad in black plastic sheeting with arms outstretched, inviting residents in from the streets to make offerings of flowers, fruit, burned cigarettes, and alcoholic drinks.

The Catholic church denounces devotion to the folk saint as a cult, but for her many worshipers, the city’s poorest-of-the-poor, Santa Muerte promises prosperity, healing, protection, and vengeance in criminal gang battles. “The bony lady,” as her followers call her, is believed to be the one who will come to collect us when it’s our time to die.

The cult of Santa Muerte was popularized by Jonathan Legaría, the ambitious son of a middle-class family in Mexico City. Always fascinated by magic and the occult, Legaría convinced many that he had healing powers. After his violent death in a hail of bullets in 2008, at just 26, the cult grew rapidly under the organization of his now-deceased mother, Enriqueta Vargas.

There are now an estimated 10 million followers—not just in Mexico, but across the Americas.

The full story includes pictures and prayer points.

North Korea: Rare Letters Smuggled Out

Source: Open Doors, October 26, 2022

Between 300,000 and 500,000 North Koreans secretly follow Jesus inside the country but because of the danger involved, we often don’t have direct contact. These secret believers want to share with you how much your prayers mean to them. Read [an excerpt from one of] two letters below.

“I would like to give you an update on how we are doing. Right now trade is severely restricted because of the pandemic. As a result, there are far too few goods to obtain.

“All the tribulations we face, such as the pandemic and persecution, remind us of a time of war.

“Despite these difficulties, we remain faithful to the work of Jesus Christ. Our hearts cling to Him. The North Korean church has been saved by the blood of Christ. The future of our church depends on our faith, our families, and the next generation.

“We thank Father God for His protection and heavenly mercy He sends us every time. We pray desperately that we may hear His voice.

“We want to thank all brothers and sisters for their love and support from the underground network of the North Korean church. We pray for you that God will protect your body and soul with His infinite grace and blessing.”

Read the full story and pray.

Please also pray for South Koreans following a tragedy in Seoul (Reuters).

Interested in hearing more from the Church in neighboring China? Listen to Hannah Nation discuss Lessons from Chinese House Churches (Global Missions Podcast) or read Faith in the Wilderness: Words of Exhortation from the Chinese Church (Kirkdale Press).