Banjara women in India; see story below (Beyond).
In this issue:
- INDIA: Owning the Great Commission
- MALI: Remains of Kidnapped Missionary Recovered
- BANGLADESH: Hope for the Rohingya
- MALAYSIA: Woman Wins 13-Year Fight for Right to Call God “Allah”
- USA: Four Signs We’re on the Cusp of a Church Revitalization Movement
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On Easter morning, at my church’s pre-service prayer meeting, I read Luke 24:1-12. In verse 11 we see how the disciples responded to the women’s report: “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”
Another source put it this way Breaking News: “Executed Jesus Christ Alive, Tomb Empty,” Friends Say (BosNews Life). Incredible. How do you think you would have responded to the news at that time?
In this day of fake news, I must confess my skepticism is higher than ever. But praise God, we can know the Truth.
Source: Beyond, March 27, 2021
The Banjara people of North India live bleak lives. They are impoverished. Illiterate. Unwelcome within city limits. They live under tents of plastic sheeting, often next to open sewage. They eat the scraps that butchers can’t sell, and they are considered too low for any caste group to accept. Their lives are devoid of hope.
Then a disciple told one Banjara group about Jesus.
They now have hope and have been changed by the Holy Spirit in every way. They eat decent food. Many have built one-room homes of brick. They started a school and their children are learning to read. Many have started micro-businesses. And they are obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples of the lost.
Banjara house church leaders met recently to seek God for direction in reaching 3,000 more Banjara families with the gospel this year. Though they are poor and mostly still illiterate, they are owning the Great Commission for themselves. They are dividing up the work and funding it from their own resources.
When people are discipled to Jesus—not Christian culture or church traditions—true transformation results. This is the Book of Acts in action.
You might also want to read about how God used an indigenous gospel film to spark a movement to Christ among the Banjara (Create International).
Source: International Christian Concern, April 2, 2021
DNA tests confirmed that the body of Beatrice Stoeckli has been recovered, months after her reported death at the hands of Islamic extremists.
Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry announced the findings in a statement.
Beatrice Stoeckli primarily worked in Timbuktu, spreading the gospel and working with women and children in Mali since 2000. In 2016, she was taken captive by the terrorist group ama’at Nusrat Al-Islam wa’l-Muslimin (JNIM), a group affiliated [with] al-Qaeda that has been known to attack foreigners in the country.
Beatrice was confirmed dead in October 2020 by Sophie Petronin, a French charity worker that was also abducted in 2016 and later released. According to Petronin, who converted to Islam during her captivity, Beatrice protested the constant changes of location that her captors enforced, and as she continued to fight against them, they dragged her outside and shot her. It is believed that she had not converted at the time of her death.
The full story includes a few more details, also widely reported by syndicated news sources.
We also found a few updates on other stories about persecuted Christians which we shared previously: Slimane Bouhafs of Algeria continues to face persecution after moving to Tunisia and German Pastor Michael Feulner of Germany is hopeful he can remain in Turkey (Morning Star News).
Source: Pray for Rohingya, via Assist News, March 30, 2021
“Where can we find a home? Where can we find security? Where can we find hope?” As I sat across the table from seven Rohingya men, my mind flashed back to a week earlier when I prayed “God, I’m losing hope in humanity.” Immediately I felt Him reply, “Why is your hope in humanity?” I was reminded that our hope is in Him alone.
All eyes were on Devin and me as these men, leaders in their community, awaited our response. We sat under a tent in the heat of Bangladesh in the refugee camps with bellies full of rice. The pain in their eyes was tangible and the hopelessness they experienced was real. Anuwar, a loving father, shared that he found out his wife was pregnant that same day. He felt aborting the baby could be a more loving option than raising another child in the camps which had no future or hope.
I told them how less than a year earlier, Devin and I were praying together. Out of nowhere “Burma” came into my mind and I pictured a woman wearing a black burqa. I could not point to Burma on a map. I had no idea who the Rohingya were, let alone their situation. The men’s jaws dropped.
“It’s like magic! Most people hear about us from the media, but not you!” I told them that God put them on my heart, and now I was sitting in front of them, on the other side of the world, to tell them He has not forgotten them. He loves and cares for them. It is in Him that we can find hope. Mohammed announced they must share this story of hope with their community, to remember that God has not forgotten them.
You may have read that at least 15 Rohingya were killed and tens of thousands displaced by a March 22 fire in Cox’s Bazaar, the largest Rohingya refugee camp (New York Times). Another blaze killed three more people soon after (Al Jazeera).
Source: World Watch Monitor, March 17, 2021
A Malaysian woman’s campaign for Christians’ right to use the word “Allah” for “God” has succeeded after almost 13 years of court hearings and delays.
Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill has been campaigning for the right to use the word ever since immigration officials at a Kuala Lumpur airport seized eight Christian CDs from her in May 2008 because the CDs used the word “Allah” in a Christian context.
After a seven-year legal battle, Ireland was given back the CDs in 2015, but she maintained that the court had failed to address her constitutional right as a Christian to use the word.
In October 2017, her lawyer, Lim Heng Seng, noted that 60% of Malaysia’s Christians speak the Bahasa Malaysia (“language of Malaysia”), which uses “Allah” for “God.” The word, which predates Islam, has been used by local Christians for hundreds of years, since Europeans first spread the religion, long before Malaysia even came into existence.
He said Christians were never consulted when in 1986 the country banned Christians from using the word, and that the government’s blanket ban was unconstitutional and discriminatory.
After years of delays, including several this year due to COVID-19 lockdown, the Court of Appeals judge Nor Bee ruled in Ireland’s favor that the 1986 directive by the Home Ministry to prohibit Christians from using four prohibited words, including Allah, was not a blanket ban.
Read the full story. An article from the BBC includes additional background, and the case is more fully described in a piece from Malay Mail (which identifies Ireland as “a Sarawakian of the Melanau tribe.”) Note that this decision is being appealed (The Star).
Source: Sam Rainer, Church Answers, via The Christian Post, April 4, 2021
I believe we are on the cusp of a church revitalization movement. The signs are there. Will churches follow them? On the road, a sign is no good unless it helps you travel to your destination. The signs point in the right direction for a church revitalization movement, but for it to happen churches will need to move.
1. Almost every church is smaller, but the core is stronger than ever. The return rate of people in churches is highly localized right now. Additionally, larger churches have lower return rates, while smaller churches are recovering more quickly. By this fall, Church Answers expects most congregations to be at 80% pre-pandemic levels.
2. The number of church adoptions [mergers] has the potential to catch the number of church closures. When a church is adopted, a healthier and stronger congregation receives a more vulnerable congregation into the family. Two families are brought together.
3. Pastor tenure will be longer after the great reshuffling. Like people in other professions, pastors are exhausted and struggling with decision fatigue. A great reshuffling is occurring. Over the long term, we expect pastor tenure to lengthen and get better, especially as Millennials enter the prime of their careers. With longer pastor tenures, revitalization is more likely.
4. The neighborhood church movement is primed for a launch. The neighborhood church is associated with a particular neighborhood. It is common for them to carry the name of the community. They were originally started in the community and for the community. For years, we have dismissed the potential for these churches. I believe they are primed for a comeback.
The full article includes links to a new “master class” and conference about church revitalization.
Also worth noting: As various sources report, less than half of Americans now claim a formal congregational membership (Baptist News).
- Letter from the Editor: Resurrection Resources
- Prayer Guides: More on Praying for Muslims
- Event: Five Days of Prayer for Sikhs
- Article: Caring for National Partners
- Infographic: The Most Linguistically Diverse Countries
- Events: Conferences, Courses, and Webinars
See the email edition or scroll down for individual articles.
Easter is almost here, and I want to take this chance to let you know about a few Easter-related resources you may want to check out.
1. Wycliffe Bible Translators published a fun article describing unique ways this holiday is celebrated in different parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Maybe you want to try a few!
2. In Discovering Jesus’ Identity on Easter, Christianity Explored suggest that instead of hoping someone grasps the fullness of the gospel in a single church service, who not use your Easter service to invite spiritual seekers into something deeper: a place where they can explore Scriptures and understand for themselves who Jesus is? It may be too late to rewrite that Easter message now, but keep this in mind as a way to follow up with a friend who joins your celebration.
3. Who is Jesus? What did he do? And why do those things matter? George Murray’s booklet Remembering Jesus is simple, straightforward, and cuts to the heart of every person’s most desperate need—Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life-giving hope that we all need. Now until Sunday, William Carey Publishing is offering a buy-one, get-one-half-off deal on packages of these booklets.
Last month we featured materials from the 30 Days of Prayer campaign. Note that there are two different sets of material being distributed under that banner this year (with somewhat different topics) and designed for use April 13 to May 12.
You may also have seen that Global Gates is offering those who join their mailing list a free downloadable version of the booklet they created in partnership with World Christian. That’s the one about the Muslim diaspora in North American cities.
A few more ideas:
- Open Doors would love to email you a guide to praying for Muslims during this time. They have also created some memes you can share on social media.
- Frontiers USA is distributing an email series to help you pray for Muslims during this time: Open the City Gates.
- Prefer visual communication? You may like the email series from Prayercast best. Their emails will include a new prayer video for each day of Ramadan.
Readers may also be interested in a new book coming out this month, Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus, by Rachel Pieh Jones. We learned about it through an item from A Life Overseas.
Source: Lausanne Sikhism Working Group
Just 500 years ago, Sikhism began in the land of five rivers—Punjab—and its members carry five symbols and pursue five stages of spiritual development.
Can you take five days (April 11-15) to join others in praying for Sikhs, the followers of the world’s fifth largest religion?
Source: Catalyst Services
While many churches are expanding their care for missionaries, they may remain unaware of the care needs of their national partners and other national Christian leaders working alongside them. It’s easy to falsely assume that nationals either don’t need care or have caring support systems within their own community.
This issue of Postings highlights the very real care needs of our national brothers and sisters and presents seven ways your church can help them flourish.
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
All those listed below are online events. The shortest ones are often free or low cost. A few training organizations are offering small, face-to-face events, some of which are listed on our website.
April 1 to May 1, Strategic Storytelling for Movements. Mentored course by Mission Media U on applying elements of story to your outreach.
April 5 to August 8, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. New online classes begin regularly.
April 6, How to Tell Dangerous Stories. Virtual gathering for mission marketing/communication staff, provided by Missio Nexus.
April 6-8, Support Raising Bootcamp. Similar events held throughout the year in various locations by Support Raising Solutions, but provided virtually as needed.
April 7, Short-term Missions and the Local Church. Virtual gathering for church mission leaders from Missio Nexus and Sixteen:Fifteen.
April 11-15, Five Days of Prayer for Sikhs.
April 12-13, People Raising Conference. Be equipped for raising personal support.
April 13, Optimize the Effectiveness of Your Board. Webinar from Missio Nexus.
April 13 to May 12, 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. An annual prayer campaign. This is the 30th year.
April 22, Essentials for Fundraising and Development for Missions Agencies. Webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen.
April 22, The Blessed Alliance: Men and Women Serving God Together. Webinar from Missio Nexus.
April 22, Setting A Good Example: Training Other Disciples. Nugget training from Beyond.
April 22-23, Spiritual Care Symposium. Provide by the Christian Community Health Foundation.
April 28-30, BAM Global Congress. Rescheduled from 2020, now moved online for greater global access. A series of related webinars will precede the event. Prefer a face-to-face conference? One is planned for Chicago in late 2021.
View complete calendar. Corrections and submissions are welcome.
We’re taking the month of March to clean up our list of news sources and reprint permissions. Missions Catalyst Resource Reviews will still be published this month, but look for our next batch of News Briefs on Wednesday, April 7.
At one of the lowest points in my life, a colleague in the cause conspired with her tribe to invite me out to spend Christmas with them. It may have been the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me and I suspect I’ll never forget it. This act, added to Sarah’s track record of coordinating Perspectives classes and leading her church’s missions efforts, sealed my respect and admiration for her.
Since one of the stated goals of Monday’s International Women’s Day was to “celebrate women’s achievements,” I thought I’d use this month’s edition of Practical Mobilization to raise a toast to women who’ve sparked and shaped my global journey. Some I’ve known, some are from history, and one is fictional.
As I reminisce, I pray that God will bring to mind similar women in your life. Perhaps you could send them this brief article, buy them a coffee, or symbolically place some flowers on their grave.
The first woman who encouraged (nagged?) me to become a missionary was a fellow youth grouper, Beth Brosher Hasz. I don’t know where Beth got her fiery passion, but her frequent words to me made me determined to flee the call! I suspect her words to her Father, though, were instrumental in my eventual inability to avoid it. I saw her work similar magic on a pastor we had in common. Beth went to be with Jesus early, but her influence ripples on.A Praying Grandmother
My decidedly non-charismatic grandma used to pray and worry for me when I traveled. At least that’s how it was until Jesus showed up at the foot of her bed one night and told her to keep praying but let the worry go. To her credit, she obeyed on both counts.A Global-Minded Teacher
My hands-down best professor through four years at Ball State University was Dr. Alba Jean Rosenman. She wagged her cosmopolitan finger and challenged me and twenty other sophomores, “Before you marry, buy a house, and settle down in Muncie, Indiana, you need to get out of America for a while!”
Her nominally Jewish, Argentine hackles were raised when I took her up on that and spent a summer learning to sympathize with Palestinian refugees in Jordan.Two Hospitable Hostesses
I was first introduced to Islamic hospitality by one of those Palestinian refugees; an unnamed and unseen (she hid behind a curtain) wife who served cubed, seeded watermelon to me and my friends in the pre-dawn hours when her husband invited us over after early morning prayers.
Later I enjoyed more examples of Muslim hospitality in the tiny apartment of a Memon family in Bombay. I enjoyed the food offered whenever we visited, but looking back, I appreciate the resilience and innovation that Memon mom exhibited as she kept her household afloat with three kiddos. When we asked the daughters about their father, they simply replied, “he is deceased.”
I once led a team of bright North Americans for a summer of cultural research in Turkey. My assistant team leader was a Canadian woman named Ann Marie. Her responsibility was to coordinate the actual research and she did it brilliantly. In truth, she could have done my job as well as hers, while there’s no way under the sun I could have handled her role.A Mentor Who Opened Doors
When the small mobilization agency I worked for decided to move from the Netherlands to the UK, Linda Harding, a national-level mobilizer in her own right, kindly and boldly agreed to vouch for us, open doors, and help us find a place for our ministry.
During an early visit to Liverpool we stopped by a sandwich shop and I had no idea what the proprietor was saying, even though he was speaking English. Linda graciously confessed, “I can’t understand Liverpudlians either.”
By generously lending her credibility to our youthful, outsider efforts, Linda gave us life!A Model of Ministry Faithfulness
With Linda’s wisdom, we settled in lovely Bradford where my family began attending the parish church five minutes down the hill from our house. Our neighborhood was probably 90% Pakistani-British. St. Margaret’s Church was a lovely example of living out and giving out the gospel in a largely Muslim community.
There was no greater example than the woman who ran the weekly homework club. For a good portion of each evening, the classroom looked like it could have been the set for the tornado scene in a live production of The Wizard of Oz. But she stuck it out, giving her all to help neighborhood kids of all creeds and colors succeed.Two Weary Women Who Didn’t Give Up
Likewise, two winsome, but weary saints, nameless to me, but not to God, ran a Catholic help center for refugees in Catania, Sicily when I first visited. They graciously gave of their valuable time, helping us understand the migrant dynamics in the city. As they turned out the lights and locked the door at the end of one visit, I sensed both their fatigue and the realization if they could just stay awake a couple more hours, they could help more refugees.
An Intrepid Influencer
My respect and love for Melanie Mitchell, Louisville legend and Perspectives leader extraordinaire, is also immense. She and an intrepid corp of women across the US have argued winsomely and effectively with predominately male missions pastors and gatekeepers to bring the life-changing Perspectives course to new places all over.Several Smart Strategists
Melanie also blessed me with an introduction to Dr. Florence Muindi, one of the smartest people I know. Florence knows Jesus, she knows lots of stuff and she knows how to get things done. If she wasn’t living in Kenya and changing the face of cities throughout Africa, I’d be asking her questions every day!
Closer to home, but just as smart, Carol Davis has been over the past several decades an unassuming but brilliant, low-key but relentless strategist for the advance of the kingdom of God among unreached peoples. I am one of many who have falteringly put her ideas into action to good result.
Finally, my regard is so high for Marti Wade, my friend, colleague, teammate, editor, and encourager. When I grow up, I’d like to be able to think and execute like Marti.
I lack the time, space, and expertise for an adequate look back at women’s remarkable impact on the advance of God’s kingdom over the 200 years. Think Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael, Susanna Wesley, and so many others. Even Rachel Lane, the missionary heroine of John Grisham’s book The Testament. (If you haven’t read it, can I suggest giving it a go?)
I am so grateful for these moms and missionaries. I celebrate the God-empowered achievements of these pastors and pioneers.
And you, women readers of Missions Catalyst, I celebrate you—both who you are and the wonderful things God is giving you grace to accomplish. You are not overlooked today. You are a co-heir with Jesus, a force to be reckoned with, an agent of the Most High’s kingdom from the end of the block to the very ends of the earth.
In This Issue:
- 101 Ways to Impact the World
- Book Brings Media and Missions Together
- 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
- More Missions Podcasts
- Conferences, Courses, and Webinars
View the email edition or scroll down to read articles below.
Source: The Traveling Team
“What would you do to mobilize your church or students if there were no trips to take, no flights, no cross-cultural experiences, no crickets to eat, and no souvenirs to bring home?
“For many, their entire mobilization strategy falls on taking a series of trips somewhere. Is that the only arrow in our quiver to strike the heart of God’s people with His urgent global task? Surely not! Given that Jesus never traveled more than 120 miles from His hometown, I would argue we need to dig a little deeper into what mobilizes people to God’s mission in the first place.”
Mission trip canceled by COVID and closed borders? Or maybe health issues, money, or family concerns have you grounded for the foreseeable future. Yet you can be significantly involved in missions and pursue God’s global purposes right now. In this booklet, the Traveling Team compiles 101 ways to pray for the nations, send others, welcome internationals, and more. Many of the ideas include stories, usually about college students, and links to resources from a variety of sources.
Whether the focus on American college students is a feature or a drawback may depend on where you sit. But most of the ideas are just as applicable to people in other places and stages of life.
If you are a mobilizer who teaches, writes, speaks, disciples/mentors, or leads small groups, this booklet will offer you plenty of next steps and inspiration to share with others. Probably some you haven’t thought of. And you can download the PDF for free.
Usually, this sort of thing is used as a lead generator; you can have the resource if you let them put you on their mailing list. This time, no strings attached.
Learn more or download the PDF with clickable links. A paperback version is available from Amazon for US$10. Contact The Traveling Team for bulk purchases. And follow them on social media, especially Instagram.
Source: Create International
The Impossible Dream, by Calvin and Carol Conkey, with Allyson Baldwin. Create International, 2020. 193 pages.
Several decades have passed since the newlywed Conkeys had a vision to create culturally relevant gospel presentations for every group on a list of more than 200 of the world’s largest least-reached people groups.
Led by God at every step and partnering with local believers and others in each context, they have recently seen that “impossible” dream accomplished—as well as much more along the way. This book provides a look behind the scenes.
What a joy to read story after story not only about the Conkeys’ journey but also about actors coming to faith, churches empowered to worship in local styles, and movements launched through these evangelistic films and related projects. If you have a vision to bring the gospel to the unreached, especially using media, this book is for you. Even if that’s not your beat, you’ll find it a winsome and inspiring read.
Want to make gospel films? You could join one of multiple teams that are part of Create International, a ministry of YWAM, for a season or a lifetime, or just tap into the training they offer. Maybe you would like to go or send someone to the Frontier Filmmaking Seminar. A six-week online version starts April 5.
Looking for films to use in cross-cultural evangelism? Find a huge collection at Indigitube.tv or download their app to your mobile device.
Will you join millions of Christians who have regularly participated in this remarkable global prayer effort? The dates this year are April 13 to May 12. Now is a good time to order materials if you want to distribute them to people in your church or group.
This year’s Muslim World Prayer Guide distributed in North America is focused on learning about and praying for Muslims in the US and Canada. Lots of interesting content, all in full color. There are full-page ads from sponsors throughout the 56-page booklet. Of course, if you are looking for ministry opportunities or resources, they may be very useful.
Learn more or order copies of the printed booklet at US$3 per copy, with bulk discounts available, or download a PDF for US$2.50. A children’s version which covers the same topics each day also includes fun activities; the price is the same.
Not in North America? See 30 Days of Prayer International for different materials available in many countries and quite a few languages (including an alternate booklet being distributed in North America).
A month ago we published a roundup of missions-related podcasts. But wait, there’s more. Readers recommend:
A World of Good (Church of God Ministries of Anderson, Indiana). Nate and Andrew are two friends who love Jesus, care about the church, and travel the world to share stories of people who do the same. COVID put a crimp in the travel plans but they learned how to get interviews without leaving home; I listened to several.
Gateway to the Unreached (Alliance for the Unreached). Greg Kelley, CEO of World Mission, hosts this podcast featuring ministries that are part of the Alliance for the Unreached.
MEDINA Focus Podcast (MEDINA Focus). Features interviews with ministries serving Muslims in North America in the name of Jesus. I haven’t listened to these yet but am intrigued.
Voice of the Martyrs Radio (Voice of the Martyrs). Not exactly a podcast, but VOMRadio.net produces short radio spots featuring inspiring conversations with persecuted Christians, and several of our readers wrote to recommend it. Along the same lines, Joshua Project does short, daily spots about their unreached people of the day, and Mission Network News produces audio clips for Christian radio; look them up.
Several more bubbled up in my search:
Amazon to the Himalayas (Southern Seminary). Dr. Paul Akin interviews many Christians around the world for God’s kingdom to bring us news about what is happening where they are and how we can pray for them.
Between Iraq and a Hard Place (Servant Group International). Hannah and Colleen take you on a tour of what life looks like for Americans teaching in Northern Iraq.
The Mission Suitcase. Encourager and mission mobilizer Lisa Batchelor unpacks “all things missions” through devotionals, conversations with friends all over the world, stories, and tips.