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Libya & Iran | Outstanding Filipino Witnesses

  1. Libya: Church Growing Again After 1,200 Years
  2. Australia: Tears of Joy as Gumatj People Receive New Bibles
  3. Iran: Ten Years in Prison for Running a House Church
  4. Overseas Filipino Workers Become Outstanding Filipino Witnesses
  5. Overwhelmed and Desensitized by the News Lately?

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

Libya: Church Growing Again After 1,200 Years

Source: Mission Network News, May 9, 2022

Libyan authorities have arrested several young men this year. Their crime? defying Muslim values. Authorities released videos of the young men being forced to confess conspiring with “feminists” and “agnostics.” Others have gone into hiding after facing death threats.

Once a heartland for Christianity, Libya has also become a country known for the persecution of Christians. Sammy, a Libyan Christian, says, “It was a very rich and important part of the first centuries of the Church. But when Islam conquered North Africa, the Church was eradicated from Libya. That was 1,200 years ago now.

“All of that time, there has basically been no indigenous Christian testimony in Libya, with very few known believers.”

He says these believers need support because the persecution is fierce. “It comes from the top of the government, from the ministers from the security apparatus, down to the extreme Muslims that operate in Libya: al-Qaeda and the Salafist movements.”

But a lot of persecution also comes from families, who seek to preserve their honor. Sammy says, “Recently, we had a young kid who was stabbed by his uncle, and only saved by a friend. He was then forced to be a practicing Muslim afterward.”

But now, Christianity has begun to spread again.

Read the full story.

You might also appreciate a recent story about women in a North African refugee camp who discovered God’s care for them (Frontiers USA).

From another part of Africa, read about a disciple-making movement in a Zambian prison (Movements blog).

Australia: Tears of Joy as Gumatj People Receive New Bibles

Source: Eternity News, April 29, 2022

“The church filled up with standing room only and there were many more sitting outside under the shade of the trees on blankets as children ran around,” says Louise Sherman, Bible Society Australia’s Production Coordinator [for] Remote & Indigenous Ministry Support who had brought in boxes of freshly printed Bibles for the event.

Just before 4:30pm, a large contingent of local elders carried in the boxes of Bibles to traditional chanting and clapsticks. Women and children danced and did Bible readings as a fire was lighted near the entrance as a symbol of the importance of fire to the Gumatj clan as well as representing the Holy Spirit.

“When it came time for me to open the box and hand out the Bibles, all the translators and their families came down to the front,” Louise says. “As I gave each person the Bible, their faces lit up, and tears of joy could be seen from many—and there was a wonderful sense of unity.”

After the service everyone moved outside for dinner, followed by a rally with preaching and worship music continuing late into the night.

Read the full story, which comes to us from Yirrkala, a community in Australia’s Northern Territory. A beautiful picture of how we might receive the Word of God.

Also from Eternity News, read the testimony of Hadija, a Muslim woman from the Caucasus in Southern Russia who experienced the grace of Jesus, in part through the witness of a Ukrainian Christian.

Iran: Ten Years in Prison for Running a House Church

Source: The Christian Post, May 9, 2022

The Revolutionary Court of Tehran has sentenced an Iranian-Armenian Christian man to ten years in prison for establishing a house church, which the judge called “propaganda contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam,” according to reports.

[The] Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced Anooshavan Avedian, 60, to 10 years of imprisonment, alongside two others who are members of his house church—Abbas Soori, 45, and Maryam Mohammadi, 46—both of whom are converts to Christianity, Human Rights Activists News Agency reported.

Article 18 reported that Soori and Mohammadi received a range of non-custodial punishments, including a fine of about US$2,000 and a ten-year ban from membership in social and political groups as well as a two-year exile outside Tehran. In addition, they must regularly report to the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence. Avedian was also given ten years of “deprivation of social rights.”

They were first arrested in August 2020 when about 30 intelligence agents raided a private gathering at Avedian’s home in Narmak are in northeastern Tehran, but their case came to light only recently. In Tehran’s Evin Prison, the three were subjected to psychological torture during several intense interrogation sessions.

Read the full story.

See also No Place For Converts: Iran’s Persecuted Christians Struggle to Keep The Faith (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) and, from neighboring Afghanistan, read about a Christian schoolteacher who fled the country after a ban on educating girls. She brought her students with her (Open Doors).

Philippines: Overseas Filipino Workers Become Outstanding Filipino Witnesses

[More than] 11 million Filipinos are dispersed across 214 nations [with] 2.2 million in the Middle East and North Africa. They’re known as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), working abroad as nurses, laborers, or in domestic role to support their families back home.

OFWs is a term coined in the 1990s, but Filipino [business and ministry] leaders Andrew and Josephine Ching, together with Philippine Missions Association national director Lalano Badoy, Jr., are redefining the term as “Outstanding Filipino Witnesses.” Haggai has equipped 7,894 Filipino leaders to date, and Andrew, Josephine, and Pastor Badoy have their sights set on expanding this number by strategically equipping OFWs.

“I believe there’s a higher purpose for Filipinos to end gospel poverty. Can you imagine the impact of 2.2 million Filipinos equipped by Haggai leaders?” Andrew asks.

Read the full story. We praise God for how he’s using Filipinos!

World: Overwhelmed and Desensitized by the News Lately?

Source: Lausanne Movement, May 11, 2022

Every day our phones and televisions are exploding with crises in our communities, countries, and world. As believers, how can we process all this information? As our window on the world grows, how do we make sure our hearts can keep up?

Usha Reifsnider, co-regional director of Lausanne Europe, speaks with Michael du Toit, director of content strategy, about information overload, the war in Ukraine, and how Usha has seen the body of Christ working “in a way I’ve never seen before.”

Watch the 27-minute video or read a much shorter edited transcript. She makes some great points.

Note: Lausanne recently announced they are calling a fourth Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. It will be held in Seoul, South Korea in September 2024. These are major events; thousands of ministry leaders from every corner of the world will be invited to attend.

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Four Opportunities Young People Deserve

By Seth Barnes

We Christians wonder why so many young people are leaving the faith and struggling. We point our finger at media and other villains. But perhaps we should look at ourselves first. What does the Bible say that believers need? After spending much of my life seeking to impart faith to young people, here are four things that I’ve found work.

1. Experience

All young people should have the opportunity to walk as Jesus and his disciples walked.

“Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:6)

Where does faith come from? It may be grounded in good theology, but it comes from the heart. It comes from experiences that impact the heart. The faith Jesus and his disciples walked out was radical. Young people deserve the opportunity to see if that model Jesus gave us still works.

2. Initiation

Young people deserve a particular kind of experience—an initiation. We see Jesus initiating his disciples in Matthew 10. The church should send out its young people on mission as a part of their training, free of charge, to see if he shows up as promised.

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Matthew 10)

All over the world we see in other cultures that as young people move to adulthood, an initiation is normal. The transition is hard and thoughtful parents will help their kids prepare for it. But not in America. No wonder 54% of young people are deeply anxious and even wonder if they are mentally ill. Where are the adults helping them make the transition to adulthood? Young people deserve better from their elders.

3. True Religion

All young people should be given the opportunity to practice true religion caring for widows and orphans—serving God’s vulnerable children.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27 and Luke 4:18-19)

We need to align ourselves with God’s priorities. When I connect with those who are in distress, I stop thinking about myself. Their pain elicits my compassion. And when I help them, something in me feels better. Why is that? I believe it’s the Spirit of God that blesses those who care for his kids who have no one else—widows and orphans.

4. Healthy Church

All young people should be given the opportunity to experience the body of Christ functioning as intended.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

God made us with a need to deeply connect with one another and with him. Churches where that doesn’t happen feel stale and unhealthy. But there are plenty of churches where it does happen. And if our leaders will lead with more authenticity and vulnerability, their congregations will follow. I’ve seen this process works even in our cynical culture.

We need to give young people the opportunities to see that, as bad as the world may seem, God is still present and active. Getting outside the walls of our church buildings and into places where he has promised to meet us makes all the difference.

Reprinted with permission from Seth’s blog, Radical Living. Thanks, Seth!

About Seth Barnes

Seth Barnes is the founder and president of Adventures in Missions, a discipleship and missions ministry that has taken more than 125,000 people on mission projects. One of their initiatives, The World Race, provides trained teams of young adults the opportunity to engage in 11 international mission contexts in 11 months using an experiential, missional discipleship model. Adventures emphasizes listening prayer, relationships, and servanthood in their work among the poor. In addition to overseeing Adventures in Missions, Seth is a speaker, author, and prolific blogger. His blog, Radical Living, can be found at www.sethbarnes.com.

The Church in Sri Lanka | Buddhists find enlightenment

  1. World: Buddhists Find True Enlightenment
  2. Media Ministry: The Mighty MicroSD Card
  3. USA: Stay-at-Home Mom Mobilizes for Mission
  4. Eritrea: Authorities Arrest 29 Christians
  5. Sri Lanka: Mob of 600 Attacks, Results in Stronger Church
  6. North Africa: Why Did It Take So Long?

Read or share the email edition or scroll down for individual stories.

World: Buddhists Finding True Enlightenment

Source: Back to Jerusalem, May 2022

Buddhism [is] an important religion in many of the countries in Asia, but has also crept into the hearts and homes of people all around the world. In the UK, you don’t have to go far to see a Buddhist statue peering out of a neighbor’s window or nestled in their front garden. Mindfulness meditation has become extremely popular, with shops even aiming related books at children.

Practicing Buddhist monks fill their lives with serious debating in order to find truth. They do this in the hope of attaining enlightenment, [but] only the monks who turn to Jesus find true enlightenment—for Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

One enlightened former monk is Tenzin Lahkpa. He bravely tried to bring the truth he’d learned about Jesus to his own people through the Buddhist debate system. The response from his fellow monks was imprisonment and torture. Brave Tenzin kept his faith in God, and God miraculously set him free. In time, God led Tenzin to return to his village to love and bless the people who tortured and disowned him. The love, power, and peace that Jesus Christ imparts to his devoted followers like Tenzin are incredible proofs that Jesus is who he said he is—the Son of God, Lord of lords, and King of kings.

Read the rest of the article. For more of Tenzin’s story, see the book Leaving Buddha: A Tibetan Monk’s Encounter with the Living God and (for kids) Tales from Fu Fu’s Forest: The Power of Love. The latter is part of a whole series of true stories about Chinese missionaries, told for children by fictional characters. Looks fun.

Asia Harvest recently shared an encouraging word from another Tibetan, Elijah Gergan, evidently a fifth-generation Tibetan follower of Jesus. Can’t be many of those. To go deeper, read Paul Hattaway’s complete chronicle of Christianity in Tibet.

Media Ministry: The Mighty MicroSD Card

Source: Mobile Ministry Forum, April 2022

Ounce for ounce, nothing can beat the ubiquitous microSD card as a ministry tool. Here are a few examples of ministry via microSD card:

  • Donna, a worker in India, gave a microSD card filled with audio and video files about Jesus to her friend, Amira. She was very poor, but she had a media-capable phone with a microSD card slot. The media was fluent in Urdu and powerfully communicated who Jesus is. Amira and her family came to faith and began sharing media with their Muslim neighbors, introducing Jesus.
  • A movement in Asia, where mobile service is not always available, is progressing thanks to microSD cards. Loaded with appropriate media to introduce Jesus and the Bible, the cards are great tools for evangelism and discipleship. Emerging leaders receive cards pre-filled with leadership material, including videos that demonstrate how to guide groups of seekers or young believers.
  • Julie travels often and prays for God to give her opportunities to share the gospel. For less than $50, she buys a dozen or more microSD cards, loading them with media in the local language. When people show an interest in what she is sharing (sometimes she just shows a video when she doesn’t know their local language), she hands them a microSD card that continues speaking to them when she leaves. Sometimes she “accidentally” loses microSD cards in crowded areas, knowing whoever finds them will be curious to view its contents.

The full story includes tips on using these cards.

See also The Largest Stage in All of History: How to Choose the Most Effective Social Media Channel for Your Ministry (Lausanne Movement).

USA: Stay-at-Home Mom Mobilizes for Mission

Source: Operation Mobilization, April 16, 2022

Though Natalie completes her tasks over scattered hours, squeezing in work when her kids are napping or after they go to bed, she’s excited for the little part of missions God’s given her. “I’m thankful I get to have a small role in people going and people sharing the gospel with other people,” she said.

“God really can use you, the gifts and abilities he’s given you, right where you are. I thought I had to go, had to have this super spiritual gift, that missionaries were a pastor or a church planter, but I can be part of God’s call for missions on my couch in Garden City, Michigan, making a poster calling people to go.”

The full story shares how Natalie serves OM’s ministry in the Caribbean part-time by working remotely as a communication coordinator. Opportunities like this seem to be on the rise.

Eritrea: Authorities Arrest 29 Christians

Source: Mission Network News, April 28, 2022

In March, Eritrean security forces raided a Christian prayer meeting and arrested 29 believers. They took 17 women and 12 men to a prison camp near the capital city, Asmara.

Worship in Eritrea is illegal outside of government-recognized churches. Eritrean Christians have often been held for years without charges.

Dr. Berhane Esmelash recently spoke with The Voice of the Martyrs Canada. He says the arrest is part of a trend. “We have experienced several new arrests for the past six months. Some senior pastors were arrested a few months ago, and they are in their seventies.”

“About six months ago, 15 Christians were arrested. Now, these 15 were previously imprisoned for many years.”

Eritrean Christians hoped these believers would be free for the rest of their lives, but now they have been put right back in prison. Eritrean police often use illegal gatherings as an excuse to arrest people. But sometimes they simply take people from work.

Read the full story.

Sri Lanka: Mob of 600 Attacks, Results in Stronger Church

Source: Open Doors, April 18, 2022

It was March 6 and the congregation had already gone home; that’s when the assailants saw their opportunity. Led by Buddhist monks, a mob of 600 marched towards the newly established church, ready to threaten Pastor Indunil, his family, and their message.

Days prior to the incident, Pastor Indunil (among other local pastors) was warned his church was under threat of imminent attack, yet he told his congregants—no matter what—they must never repay evil for evil.

A Christian leader in Sri Lanka said, “Right now, Christians in the area are so afraid … However, they are still gathering to worship. They say, ‘It is difficult, but we know we will have to face these things, and we need to be ready for this. This is God’s work and we will not deny him.’”

When the frenzied mob reached Pastor Indunil’s church, they beat on gates and smashed windows. After throwing death threats at the pastor, the angry mob turned on the congregants and beat several quite severely, sending some to the hospital; but the congregants did not retaliate.

The local government has since forced Pastor Indunil and his church to suspend services, but it has only strengthened their resolve.

The pastor and his family continue to meet with their congregants in homes. Not only that, but they’ve also seen God at work through the attack: A recent convert of Pastor Indunil’s church, who had been struggling with alcoholism, has not returned to drinking since the attack. “This one incident was able to accomplish what ten sermons could not,” Pastor Indunil said.

Since the attack, the Bible has come alive in new ways for the congregation, too, with both the pastor and other believers sharing verses they had never fully understood until they experienced their persecution; it has moved them to spend more time on their knees, despite opposition from locals, other religious leaders, and the government.

Read the full story.

You may remember the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks on three Sri Lankan churches and three hotels, killing at least 350 people and injuring thousands more. Open Doors has several updates from survivors.

North Africa: Why Did It Take So Long?

Source: International Mission Board, April 19, 2022

IMB missionaries Andy and Marie Hoffman served more than 11 years without seeing any fruit among their unreached people group in North Africa. During those years, the family and their partners built relationships and shared the gospel with these nomadic farmers and desert horsemen.

It wasn’t until the culmination of their hard work was almost complete that they saw nationals come to saving faith. Andy, with the help of national believers, finished a translation of the Scripture into the heart language of this predominately Muslim people group.

As they were completing the project, Tom, one of the new believers and a fellow translator, asked a question that was “like an arrow that hit me in the heart,” Andy described.

Tom asked, “Andy, the Bible is a very important book, right?”

“Yes,” Andy replied.

Tom continued, “Why did it take you so long to get here and bring it to us?”

Stunned, Andy explained that he came to live among Tom’s people group when he was 29 years old. “I couldn’t have come much sooner.”

“No, I mean, how long has America had the Bible?” Tom pressed. “Our parents and grandparents—they never, ever got to hear.”

Andy replied, “You’re right. We held on to it too long. Praise God, it’s here, working among your people now. Let’s not be guilty of holding on to the Bible in your country. Let’s reach the other languages who still don’t have it.”

Read the full story.

For some of the many groups working to bring the Word of God to the nations, see a list of the 50 largest US missions and Bible translation organizations, by revenue (Ministry Watch).

Breaking out of silos | re-imagining short-term missions

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

  1. Article: Break Out of Your Missions Silos
  2. Book: Re-imagining Short-Term Missions
  3. Video: The Power of Multiplication
  4. Book: Culture Learning, The Art of Understanding What No One Can Teach You
  5. Events: Informative Conferences, Classes, and Webinars

Article: Break Out of Your Mission Silos

Source: Postings, Catalyst Services

Does the Great Commission belong to your whole church or just a select few members?

Congregations large and small often create silos when they divide up the task of making disciples in the body of Christ. Responsibilities are assigned to various departments, then each stewards their own workers, programing, budget, and facilities.

There is a place for specialization in the Kingdom of God. However, in a departmentalized culture, many spiritual disciplines, including the Great Commission, can be outsourced willingly or unwittingly to one department. Instead, Missions Pastor Doug Gamble explains that churches need a new infusion of vision that uses departmental efforts to develop everyone in all the core disciplines.

Doug explains the journey his church took to “un-silo” and how it is creating a climate in which the Great Commission really is becoming every person’s job. (Note that this goes both ways. The author found himself teaching third-graders for the children’s department.)

Read the article.

Catalyst Services also shared a list of some of their Postings most popular with church leaders. Maybe you would find these useful, too.

Book: Reimagining Short-Term Missions

Source: Wipf and Stock

Re-Imagining Short-Term Missions, edited Angel Burns and Forrest Inslee, Wipf and Stock, 2022. 301 pages.

Given the diversity of endeavors under the term short-term missions umbrella, it’s hard to find an easier target in the mission world to critique. But many of us have some horror stories to tell from our own experience or that of those we know.

What about you? Ready to think deeply as you relaunch efforts halted by the pandemic? This hard-hitting but ultimately constructive book may be for you. It includes almost two dozen essays written by 40 global contributors. Chapters are grouped around core values they promote: mutuality and unity, humility and repentance, curiosity and teachability, and creativity and contextualization. It includes lots of stories of mission done well.

Here’s how the publisher describes the book:

“This book is for those who suspect that current practices of short-term missions are in need of serious reform. It is a book for those who recognize that, in this decade of global upheaval—and in light of the cultural, political, and demographic shifts affecting churches everywhere—now is the time for change. The essays here are intended to equip and inspire any who want to advocate for change but may not yet know what change looks like.”

Visit the publisher’s website. The book’s a bit pricey but you can get the Kindle edition for US$9.99 from Amazon.

Need help making your mission trips better? Friends at Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission offer a ten-hour seminar and many other resources you may find useful.

Joining with Jesus in the Way He’s Made You to Bring Heaven Here

By Shane Bennett

I’m an amazing kayaker. In my mind, that is. In the physical realm, not so much! I once picked up a beautiful, hand-made wooden kayak at a garage sale. The first time I tried it out, I managed to balance and very gently paddle it… on a pond. For my second effort, I took it to a way-back cove in our local reservoir. I had managed to gain a semblance of control amid the slight lake ripples when a nearby DWAB (dad with a boat), decided to pack up the family beach picnic and roar out of the cove full throttle.
 
As I hopelessly watched the tsunami roll my way, I remembered with distress a snake I’d seen swim by—and realized I hadn’t seen it get to the edge. After dumping into the water, I slowly headed to the shore, one arm swimming, the other holding onto the upturned boat. Only then did I muse, “Maybe kayaking is not for me.” 

What about you? What do you wish you were better at? On the other hand, what is one thing you do better than the average person? These are fun and universal questions to kick around. I ask them today because I want to share how Jesus met Peter in the midst of what he could do and what he was going to get really good at doing. 

Who’s The Better Fisherman?

Luke records for us in chapter five that Jesus was teaching the crowd God’s Word. Oh, how I wish that phrase was in blue, underlined, and linked to a full transcript of the talk! 

Whatever he was saying must have been pretty good, because the crowd kept closing in until Jesus asked Peter if he could hop up on his boat. Peter agreed, but it turned out Jesus was starting an epic version of “if you give a mouse a cookie!” 

Jesus finished his teaching and asked Peter to row out a bit and let down the nets. Torn between knowing how (and when) to fish and thinking Jesus was pretty cool and maybe not wanting to wash the nets again, Peter obliges. 

The resulting catch began to break the nets, even threatened to sink the boats. Ponder this for a minute: Did Jesus cause the fish to gather in Peter’s nets? Or did he create fish that hadn’t been there just moments before? And if so, when they landed on dining tables the next evening, were they not the best-tasting fish anyone in Capernaum had ever had?

Peter, for his part, read the room, dropped to Jesus’s knees, and begged him to depart, explaining, “I am a sinful man.” Peter realized this wasn’t a matter of trying a little harder, maybe losing a few pounds and he’d measure up. No, Jesus had just double-trumped him at the very thing he was good at! Jesus was on a whole other level. Best to face the music honestly. 

Seeing Jesus in action should naturally make us wonder how far we fall. It’s scary to feel afresh how amazing Jesus is and then realize what a train wreck we may be. I believe we need this occasionally, but the weight can be devastating. May we move quickly from “amazing Jesus” to “I’m a train wreck” to the realization that Jesus lifts our face, our eyes, to his and says, “You are forgiven. I choose you.” 
 
And he does choose us, like he chose Peter, “Don’t be afraid. You’re going to be a fisher of men.” 

(Parenthetically, good thing Peter’s job was fishing and not selling cars or working as a short-order cook!)

Five Styles of Contagious Faith

As a reader of Missions Catalyst, I would guess you’re a fan of the idea that disciples of Jesus are still called by him to gather people into the kingdom of God. Although I’ve not been the best example, I couldn’t agree with you more. I love it when Paul says we’re ambassadors of Christ. I believe when Jesus tells us to pray “Father… let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” we’re agreeing to do our part in that. 

But sharing our faith can be hard, confusing, frustrating, and fraught with guilt and shame. Here’s something that has encouraged and energized me lately:

Mark Mittelberg, author, academic, and partner-in-crime with Lee Stroebel, writes about five styles of contagious faith. He says when we think about sharing our faith, we feel most natural in one of these five approaches

  • Truth Telling: Someone with this style is more direct and hard-hitting. They might like knocking on doors of strangers or walking up to people and doing surveys in the shopping mall or meeting new people that just moved in. This type of person is bold about getting to the point, talking about spiritual matters, and so forth.
  • Reason Giving: Someone with this style tends to share evidence and answer questions. They may help with more of the cognitive side, the intellectual side, of Christianity and help people realize Christianity is true and it makes sense. Some people can open the doors and build friendships; others answer questions.
  • Story Sharing: This person likes to tell their testimony and share their story. They talk about their experience with Christ in a way that can influence and affect the experience of the other person.
  • Selfless Serving: This person helps others and makes a difference in people’s lives in tangible ways. That helps open doors to also share about the love and truth of Christ.
  • Friendship Building: This approach is seen in someone who’s more relational and connects with people in natural ways, but through those relationships then begins to share their faith. 

Which of these styles most resonates with you? Definitely friendship-building and story-sharing for me. Hearing that Jesus wants me to share him in ways that emanate from who I am is freeing for me and makes me want to give it a fresh go. I don’t anticipate bringing in nets full of people like Peter did (3,000 in one day!), but I want to do my part. There’s a lot of pain and fear swirling around these days. Jesus would like to replace that with abundant life.

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