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ERITREA: “We Will Not Negotiate Our Faith”

Source: Open Doors, September 1, 2019

“We will not negotiate our faith and will continue following Jesus.”

The bold words of six Christian government employees in Eritrea came on August 16 when officials pressured them to recant.

The incident is part of an intensifying crackdown on Christians in the East African country. Since the end of June, 150 Christians have been arrested in Asmara and Keren, Eritrea’s second-largest city approximately 56 miles northwest of Asmara.

The first arrest took place on Sunday, June 23. Security officials rounded up 70 Christians (35 women, 25 men, and 10 children) from the Faith Mission Church of Christ in Keren. This is the only church that has remained open there. They also closed the church-run school.

We know that the group arrested in Keren is being kept in very harsh conditions in a prison complex called Ashufera near the town of Hagaz about 15 miles from Keren. The complex consists of underground tunnels and is far from the main road.

This means that anyone who wants to visit loved ones there must walk a minimum of 30 minutes to reach the entrance. Inmates are said to be forced to dig additional tunnels when officers need extra space for more prisoners.

The intensified government action has sent other Christians from Keren into hiding.

» Read full story and see Eritrea: The Korea of North Africa.

» See also At Least 150 Christians Arrested in Eritrea Clampdown (World Watch Monitor). Eritrea has also closed down all Christian-run health centers (Premier).

ESTONIA: Theology Degree to First Deaf Student

Source: One Mission Society, August 23, 2019

Riho [is] the first Deaf Estonian to earn a degree in theology! For three years we had sign language translators for our classes, working with Riho to complete his studies. In the 1990s Riho planted a Deaf church in Tallinn that has sent missionaries to work with Deaf people in China, Jordan, across Russia, and beyond.

His courage and commitment are incredible, but Riho recognized the need for in-depth teaching to help him take his congregation deeper in their understanding of God. Teaching Riho was a real honor. Pray that God will reward his hard work with much fruit among the Deaf community!

» Read full story. Let’s pray that God continues using him to raise up missionaries and pastors for the Deaf in many nations. A bit more sleuthing suggests Riho graduated from the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary, which serves the United Methodist Church in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and also in the neighboring countries of Russia, Finland, Ukraine, and Moldova.

MIDDLE EAST: Bringing Scripture to Unreached Deaf Communities

Source: Mission Network News, August 22, 2019

Of the world’s more than 300 sign languages, not one has a complete Bible. DOOR International is now working with local Deaf communities to begin sign language Scripture translations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Only one (sign language) has the New Testament right now. And, only about 30 have any published Scripture at all,” says DOOR President and CEO Rob Myers.

“When you get into a community where even Christians typically have much more difficulty accessing Scripture, when you add deafness on top of that it makes it very, very difficult for…people to have any sort of gospel access at all,” Myers says.

The number of unreached people is vast, Myers explains. Though individuals using sign language as their first language make up one percent of a typical population, among populations in the hundreds of millions that one percent represents more than a million people. That number can be even higher in communities in Eastern Africa and the Middle East due to higher levels of inter-family marriage. In some Muslim countries, that Deaf population is closer to five percent.

In the Middle East and North African region, DOOR has partnered with local believers to translate Scripture into sign languages.

» Read full story and several more MNN stories about Deaf ministry: Deaf Bible Society Empowers Sign Language Bible Translation and Deaf Christians in Africa Learning to Engage Scripture.

THAILAND: Deaf Start a Church Where You Can’t Fake It

Source: International Mission Board, August 23, 2019

Sombat Apichai understood only 50 percent of the Thai Sign Language interpretation of the sermon at his church in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The sermon was translated into what is known as word signing, making the translation choppy. To complicate things further, Thai religious vocabulary is hard to understand, even for hearing Thais.

Sombat and other Deaf Christians were unable to truly connect or intimately worship God because they didn’t fully understand and were never discipled. They didn’t really have a way to contribute or volunteer at church. They felt disconnected and isolated from the hearing members of their church.

Sombat and Alisara said Deaf Christians often feign understanding in mixed congregations of hearing and Deaf Christians because there isn’t usually time to ask questions, and if there is an opportunity to ask, there aren’t many hearing church members who are able to communicate the real meaning in Thai Sign Language.

» Read full story to learn about a new Deaf-led church that creates an environment where Deaf people are not left behind but empowered and transformed by scripture. Something we all need! The details are pretty interesting.

» Also read about a young girl in India who was healed of her deafness but disowned by her family after following Jesus (Open Doors/Christian Post).

HONG KONG: What Do the Protests Have to Do with Missions?

Source: The Missions Podcast, September 1, 2019

Between 1-2 million people have been taking to the streets in Hong Kong—even singing Christian hymns—in peaceful protest over a new extradition law representing China’s continued aim to tighten its fist and squelch political and religious liberties in the semi-autonomous region. What can believers learn from this complex situation?

In this special episode, [host] Alex Kocman and Scott Dunford—a former missionary in Asia—discuss the situation on the ground, the history, and implications for believers seeking to boldly engage the surrounding culture both on the mission field and at home.

» Listen to the podcast (46 minutes long). The Missions Podcast comes from a Baptist ministry, ABWE International.

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Missions Catalyst Resource Reviews 08.28.19

  1. VIDEO SERIES: Jesus the Game Changer
  2. BOOK: Fruit to Harvest
  3. DEVOTION: A 40-Day Journey to the Never Reached
  4. DOCUMENTARY: The Untold Story of the Church in Iran
  5. EVENTS: Conferences, Courses, and More

Like what you read? Use the links below to share it. Got this from a friend? We’d love to have you subscribe.

Jesus the Game Changer is a ten-part series exploring how the life and teaching of Jesus changed the world and why that matters. Could this bolster your faith or faith community, or is it something to share with others? See trailer and more info below (Olive Tree Media).

VIDEO SERIES: Jesus the Game Changer—To the Ends of the Earth

Source: Olive Tree Media

Jesus Christ has made an indelible mark on human history and continues to do so through his followers. Yet many people do not realize that the values western democracies are built on originate in the life and teaching of Jesus—the equality of all, servant leadership, care for the poor and marginalized, dignity of women and children, education, and more.

In this documentary series, Australian host Karl Faase travels to the UK, USA, Singapore, India, and Australia, interviewing more than 30 authors, academics and modern-day game changers about how the life and teaching of Jesus changed the world and why it matters.

Each of the ten episodes is 28 minutes long. You can rent or purchase access online for a few dollars or get the whole set on DVD for $49.95. Additional material is available to help you use the series with your church, school, or small group.

I haven’t had the chance to watch the videos, but everything I see suggests consistent high quality. See the trailer below.

» Learn more or purchase materials. You can watch a dozen extended interviews on their website. You’ll recognize some names and faces.

BOOK: Fruit to Harvest

Source: William Carey Library

Fruit to Harvest: Witness of God’s Great Work among Muslims, ed. Gene Daniels, Pam Arlund, and Jim Haney. William Carey Library, 2019. 310 pages.

In 2008, the Vision 5:9 network published From Seed to Fruit, a ground-breaking book exploring what practices God was blessing to raise up groups of Jesus-followers among Muslims and describing global trends and emerging issues for ministry among Muslims.

Fruit to Harvest is a sequel of sorts, as the name suggests. Like the first volume, it is based on the proceedings of a global conference on reaching Muslims. Some 47 authors from 21 nations and 30 different agencies working across the Muslim world contributed case studies, information about ministry among Muslims, current challenges, and new strategies.

While many of the topics are covered in greater depth elsewhere, this book covers a lot of ground and provides inspiring, up-to-date, and readable presentations, each with footnotes and suggestions for those who want to learn more. The authors are experienced and passionate practitioners. Some are from Muslim backgrounds themselves.

I appreciated material addressing urban enclaves, Muslim migrants, and nomadic Muslims, as well as strong material on honor and shame, suffering and persecution, partnership, and more. I recommend it highly.

» Learn more or purchase. You can get the Kindle edition for US$9.99 or pre-order a paperback copy for US$19.99.

» Other new releases from William Carey Library include For the Joy: 21 Missionary Mother Stories of Real Life and Faith, edited by Miriam Chan and Sophia Russell, and Sacred Siblings: Valuing One Another for the Great Commission, by Sue Eenigenburg and Suzy Grumelot (which seems to deal with singleness, marriage, and expectations on a team).

DEVOTION: GO—A 40-Day Journey to the Never Reached

Source: Assembly of God World Missions

“Jesus walked on this earth for exactly 40 days after his resurrection. During those 40 days, one word resounds: GO. Dive into the stories and perspectives of people who love the ‘never reached’ as they unpack why Jesus’s words mandate all Christ-followers to go.”

This new 40-day devotion from Assembly of God World Missions is designed to inspire you to join countless others who devote themselves to praying, giving, and going to the ends of the earth. It includes compelling stories written by missionaries who serve in some of the hardest-to-reach parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

» Learn more or buy the paperback for US$9.99; an ebook version is on the way. But what caught my eye is the (reduced?) edition available for free as a YouVersion reading plan. I plan to give it a try.

DOCUMENTARY: Sheep Among Wolves, Volume II—The Untold Story of the Church in Iran

Source: Frontier Alliance International and Maranatha

“The fastest growing church in the world today has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalized nations on earth,” say the producers of this unusual new documentary, built around interviews and music videos.

“Muslim-background Iranians are leading a quiet but mass exodus out of Islam and bowing their knees to the Jewish Messiah—with kindled affections toward the Jewish people. The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women. This is their story.”

Though this documentary stands alone, a Volume 1 came out in 2015. Volume II had its online debut just last week. I’m not sure what to make of it! Would be interested in hearing your response.

» Learn more and stream or download the film. Also available on YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook.

EVENTS: Conferences, Courses, and More

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

September 2-15, ORIENT pre-field training for global workers (Eminence, MO, USA). Provided by TRAIN International.

September 3, Missionary Story: Steve & Mary Jo (online). Part of a series of stories from Beyond.

September 8-21, Great Commission Leadership Institute (Chiang Mai, Thailand). From Global Mission Mobilization Initiative (formerly SVM2).

September 9 to October 5, COMPASS (Palmer Lake, CO, USA). Language and culture acquisition provided by Mission Training International.

September 9 to December 8, Encountering the World of Islam (online). Embracing Muslims with the love of Christ.

September 12, Whose Job Is It? The Necessity of Prayer in Missions (online). Nugget training from Beyond.

September 12 to October 10, Foundations of Media to Movements (online). Mentored course from Mission Media U on using social media for deeper conversations and disciple-making.

September 12-13, Support Raising Bootcamp (Pittsburgh, PA, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

September 16-18, Face 2 Face with Muslims (Orlando, FL, USA). Annual consultation from the Coalition of Ministries to Muslims in North America.

September 18-24, Traction (Wilderswil, Switzerland). Renewal conference for men serving cross-culturally; held annually.

September 18 to October 16, Introduction to Story in Ministry (online). Mission Media U mentored course to better communicate the message of Christ whether your story application is oral, written, or filmed.

September 18-19, Standards Introductory Workshop (Orlando, FL, USA). Training in the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

September 19-21, Mission Leaders Conference (Orlando, FL, USA). Annual event from Missio Nexus.

September 20-21, People Raising Conference (Oak Brook, IL, USA). Be equipped for raising personal support.

September 25-28, Field Security Seminar (Lake George, CO, USA). Prepare to live, work, and travel in high-risk environments.

September 26-29, New Wineskins Global Mission Conference (Ridgecrest, NC, USA). Triennial conference of the Anglican Church, with preconference meetings on more than 20 topics, including business as mission.

September 27-28, The Journey Deepens (Greenwood, IN, USA). Retreat for prospective missionaries.

September 30, The Mobilized Church: Keys to Unleashing Missionary Potential (Albuquerque, NM, USA). Provided by Sixteen:Fifteen. This workshop will be offered a second time October 4-5 in Mill Creek, WA.

» View the complete calendar. Additions welcome. Want to know more about a specific event? Contact the event organizers.

A Korean in Nepal, Yemenis in Korea | World News Briefs

  1. NEPAL: Foreign Christians Arrested
  2. SOUTH KOREA: Ministry to Yemeni Refugees
  3. ALGERIA: Christian Leaders Call for Freedom of Worship
  4. TURKEY: Disappearing Christian Leadership
  5. ZIMBABWE: To the Whole World

NEPAL: Foreign Christians Arrested on Charges of Attempting to Convert People

Source: Morning Star News, August 8, 2019

A Christian from South Korea arrested in Nepal on charges of “attempting to convert” was released on bail on [August 7], sources said.

Cho Yusang, a 73-year-old evangelical Christian, posted bail of 150,000 Nepalese rupees (US$1,330) after being arrested on July 23. His health deteriorated after he was incarcerated, and he had been hospitalized, said Tanka Subedi, chair of the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLFN).

The charge of “attempting to convert” under the Nepal Penal Code of 2017 calls for as much five years in jail and/or a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$445), according to Subedi.

B.P. Khanal, national coordinator of Nepal for the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, told Morning Star News that after arresting Cho from his lakeside lodging, police raided his room and confiscated some Bibles and Christian literature.

Khanal, who is responsible for inter-faith relations for the Nepal Christian Society, said possession of a Bible and Christian literature is not evidence of a crime.

“In this case the law is discriminatory, because it is not an offense to have Bibles in your room,” Khanal told Morning Star News. “The recovery of some Bibles and Christian literature from Yusang’s personal belongings is projeced as an offense and as a crime Yusang committed. Anybody can have a Bible—it is not a drug or an explosive. Carrying a Bible should not be a criminal offense.”

» Full story includes more details and context. Khanal asks foreigners visiting Nepal to refrain from actions that will land them in legal trouble, but commit themselves to equip the local Church to share the gospel.

» For less-sympathetic local coverage of this event, see Three Foreign Tourists Arrested for Proselytizing (myRepublica). The two other foreigners mentioned are Jehovah’s Witnesses from Japan.

SOUTH KOREA: Ministry to Yemeni Refugees

Source: Anglican Frontier Missions, August 12, 2019

Jesus never raised a sword against anyone!

If that statement sounds unremarkable to you, consider how it might strike a Muslim fleeing war in his native land. It’s the message that Rev. Dr. Duane Miller, took to Korea to train Koreans to witness to Yemenis.

About 3 million Yemenis have fled the war ravaging their country. Many of them have found their way to Indonesia, another Muslim-majority nation that admits Yemenis with no visa requirement. For some of those, Indonesia has proved a jumping-off point for South Korea and its bustling economy.

The refugees among them, Miller told his Korean hosts, are living in turmoil. Many of them have lost loved ones to the violence back home. In such troubled times, far more than in tranquil ones, people tend to re-examine big questions and foundational beliefs.

One of Islam’s abiding teachings, set out in the Quran, is that Muslims are the best people in the world.

The Yemenis who have fled know that Muslims have been killing Muslims in Syrian and Afghanistan. They know too well the same has happened in their own country. They can hardly avoid a searing question: If we are so bent on slaughtering each other, can we be the best people in the world?

» Read full story.

ALGERIA: Christian Leaders Call for Freedom of Worship

Source: Barnabas Fund, August 19, 2019

Christian leaders called on the authorities in Algeria to guarantee freedom of worship following the closure on August 6 of a second church in Boudjima city, Tizi Ouzou province.

Officials sealed the church on the instructions of the provincial governor, Mohamed Djemaâ. It was also on his orders that another church in the town was sealed on May 27.

The World Evangelical Alliance called for the churches to be reopened and said it “deeply regretted” the latest action, which brought the number of forced church closures in Algeria to at least five since the beginning of 2018. “Many more churches are threatened with closure, amid denial of formal registration and recognition by authorities,” it added.

Committees of officials started regularly visiting churches in late 2017, with the declared aim of checking safety, but they also asked about permits to operate as churches, obtained from the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship. However, despite numerous requests from some churches it has been reported that the commission has never issued a permit.

» Read full story or As Church Worships, Police in Algeria Arrive to Seal Building, describing the same events (Christian Headlines).

» See also an article about the early Church in North Africa. We can be encouraged by what God has done there (Pioneers USA).

TURKEY: Disappearing Christian Leadership

Source: International Christian Concern, August 15, 2019

A melody is slowly quieting in Turkey. For centuries, the soft chanting of psalms flowed across churches flooded with worshipers. They knelt in prayer, their petitions floating like the incense which enveloped them. Candles were lit as they exited, a reminder of Christ’s light to the world. This is the country where the New Testament church came to life.

But today, that light is slowly extinguishing. The gospel’s melody is softening. The Church in Turkey is suffering strangulation—the consequences of which are felt across the globe.

It is all because of one rule that Turkey has established, a rule which restricts Christians’ ability to choose their own leadership. Without leadership, the life of any church slowly fades.

“Because there are not enough local Protestant leaders, the spiritual leadership of some churches is provided by foreign pastors,” said Turkey Alliance of Protestant Churches (TEK).

But Turkey is slowly closing this door. TEK continued, “Some foreign church leaders were deported, were denied entry back into Turkey, and/or faced problems with getting their residence permits renewed. A foreign church leader in Izmir was incarcerated for a long period of time on the grounds of being a member of the FETÖ/PDY terror organization.”

This year, 18 foreign church leaders have had to leave the country. Local church leaders suffer their own challenges.

» Read full story. It includes links to a rather thorough summary of the recent religious liberty situation in Turkey (TEK).

» Check out a brief but interesting article from Mission Network News about a ministry encouraging persecuted Christians by sharing the stories of the early Church. History has a way of repeating itself, after all.

ZIMBABWE: To the Whole World

Source: Operation Mobilization, August 14, 2019

Tinashe is passionate about seeing the gospel spread not only in [his country of] Zimbabwe but to the utmost parts of the world.

“Many people in Zimbabwe are inward-focused about themselves and their church,” Tinashe explained. “There has been a lack of discipleship within churches too. Therefore, I am motivating the church to look beyond itself and pray for nations, give, and start discipleship groups.”

“People think that missionaries are white people who come from Europe or America to build mission stations complete with a school and hospital,” said Tinashe. “So, without resources to accomplish the same, [Zimbabweans] think themselves unworthy of the calling.”

“I also used to think missionaries came from Europe and the West,” Tinashe admitted. “However, one day, a missionary came to our church and explained the need for the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.”

From then on, Tinashe’s perspective about missions and missionaries changed, and he desired to correct this misconception by sharing the truth with others. Through their efforts and God’s grace, [Tinashe’s] team has seen God raise local people to go and share the gospel in North Africa and the Middle East and to serve about the OM ship Logos Hope.

» Read full story and another recent story from OM about a Costa Rican recognizing and responding to God’s call to the nations.

Stop Yer Complainin’ and Do Something! | Practical Mobilization

Stop Yer Complainin’ and Do Something!

By Shane Bennett

I had a challenging, even upsetting, conversation after church a couple weeks ago. I had promo’d the upcoming speaker and mentioned the guy would be talking, in part, about racism. I may have mentioned that if you didn’t want to hear that, you might choose to stay home.

Afterwards, a friend asked to chat and expressed concern. One point led to another until he’d given me his socio-political view of life. When he paused after lamenting how divided our country currently is, I jumped in. “What’s the solution, Tom? What can be done?” He replied, “I don’t know. But I do know the socialism that’s being pushed on us these days isn’t going to make things better!”

Maybe not. But deep inside my brain a circuit fizzed, smoked, and blew. I can still feel my frustration. How often do we complain, complain, complain, but don’t lift a finger in an effort for positive change?

This pattern is not wholly illogical. Some problems are so huge, intractable, and deep-rooted that we throw our hands up and believe there’s nothing we can do but object. Other problems are our own that we project on others. And addressing some problems come with such high social risk that we back off. It’s safer to vent to like-minded friends than risk their disapproval by beating our swords into plowshares.

On the other hand, the Bible warns us about grumbling and complaining. Paul recounts for his rascals in Corinth how God dramatically responded to Israel’s grousing (1 Corinthians 10:8-11). Jesus was pretty straightforward when he told the Jews (and us), “Stop grumbling among yourselves” (John 6:41-51).

So, here’s the principle I’m trying to live by. Don’t complain about something that you’re not going to take productive action to change.

Just don’t complain
unless you plan to do something.
(Tweet this.)

For instance, I don’t complain a lot about certain policy issues. I’ve learned they aren’t my battle, though my opinion about them play a role in how I vote. But the things God has called me to act on? I’m going to squawk about them! Intelligently. And graciously. And I’ll do my best to take the action God gives me to take, which I assume will often include equipping others to take godly action. Toward that end, two things people complain about and some positive action we can take.

Instead of Complaining about Church

Have you ever been a pastor? I haven’t been a real one, but I’ve played around with some part-time roles and know some of how people, including me, complain about church. You may have far deeper familiarity, present pain or more serious grounds for concern. I get that.

But how often many of us complain about what’s said and what goes unsaid. About the choice of songs and the volume at which they’re played. About what’s not getting done, and then when someone steps up, how it’s not done right. We grouse about who’s there and who’s not there, how little the church does for missions, or kids, or the poor… along with pretty much everything the leaders say and do. At least we don’t complain about someone sitting in our pew any more. (We don’t, do we?) What positive, change-oriented action might grow out of our complaints?

Here’s one I’m thinking about these days: Pray for our pastors. Deliberately, faithfully. You may already do this. Kudos to you. I’d like to see a groundswell of prayer for our church leaders during Pastor Appreciation Month this coming October. A dear friend of mine says, “Maybe a good starting point is to pray about something for the same amount of time you complain about it!” I say, “Who has that kind of time?” But I do want to pray for my pastor.

I plan to put together a one-page guide to praying for pastors. If you’re game, I’d love to hear what you pray for your pastor or what you think should be prayed for them. Click below to the list. If someone has already said what you were going to say, feel free to put an “amen” or “I agree” beside or below it. The guide will be available in next month’s Practical Mobilization article.

Share your thoughts

Instead of Complaining about Refugees, Immigrants, and Other “Others”

I live in a beautiful part of Colorado. That describes pretty much the whole state! I haven’t been here all my life. Yet I can get a little chippy about new people coming here. Also, about Texans speeding on the interstate (sorry, y’all!). And in my nation and maybe yours, I hear many complaints about outsiders moving in.

Without getting deep in the weeds about border security, who’s an economic migrant and who really needs asylum, and the degree to which someone must look and sound like me in order to qualify as “integrated,” can I suggest four positive actions we might take or kindly propose these to others who seem particularly stressed about these issues?

1. Have a conversation.

So much could happen if we simply asked some good questions and listened to the answers. Last week, an insightful and influential website, The Denison Forum, published an article I wrote on this topic of starting conversations. It would be great if you could give it a little boost simply by clicking through to it. If you comment, I’d be over the moon! The Denison Forum might be a good way to get some of what we all think out to a wider world. The article is about Muslims in particular, but the ideas would work with anyone somewhat different from you.

2. Have dinner with a refugee family.

Check out the Bridge Experience. I think you have to live near Lancaster, PA to experience this, but what a fascinating idea: They train refugee families to host local residents in their homes for dinner. Refugees make some money and the locals get to experience the refugee’s culture. I’d love to see this idea popping up all over. Want to try to make it happen where you live?

3. Watch films about the immigrant experience.

A high-quality movie about an immigrant or refugee experience can make a lasting mark on even a hardened heart. Going to the trouble of screening one at your church may have amazing results.

I love both The Good Lie and The Visitor.

If you have ideas for films that will open our hearts to immigrants, as well as ideas about how to get people to come out to see them, please share them below or on our Facebook page.

4. Take your kids to hang out with new neighbors.

I’m looking for three intrepid youth groups to visit (“invade”?) an American refugee community with me next summer. We’ll listen, play, and serve. Basically, we’ll stop our grousing about others and discover God’s up to amazing work in and through all sorts of people. Email me to learn more.

Thoughts?

Do you have another issue which is easy to complain about, but hard to take action on? Let the Missions Catalyst tribe take a crack at it! Comment below or on our Facebook page.

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