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TAJIKISTAN: Pastor Released, Writes Letter of Thanks

Source: Open Doors, February 22, 2020

Pastor Bahrom Kholmatov of Tajikistan, imprisoned in 2017 for “extremism,” was released in late 2019. He writes the following.

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. [These] have been years of testing of our faith and walking with God, not only for my family, but for many Christian churches in our country. These challenges have taught us to unite more and trust the Lord in difficulties. During my imprisonment, many Christians from all over the world stood in solidarity with us—evidenced by the letters I received with your words of comfort and prayerful support. Many Christians prayed for me and for my family. Your prayers helped us to stand strong, through all these difficulties to grow spiritually and to transform into the nature of our Heavenly Lord! Thank you from all my heart! Glory to God!”

“God has shown himself through many brothers and sisters and also through you. My family and I are very happy for the prayer support and physical care you have provided.

“Early last year, my church was attacked by wicked people and the church building was confiscated by the court. Our church is now gathering inside a 40-ton container. We pray now for a new building for our church. We also ask you to participate in prayer and support us in this.

“God bless you all!!!”

» Read full story.

» You may also want to listen to a recent BBC interview with Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi in which she speaks of her captivity and release.

AFRICA: Reading the Bible for the First Time

Source: Frontiers USA, February 24, 2020

“This is so good that I didn’t go to work today,” said my neighbor Amadou. He held up a copy of the book of Genesis in the language of his people. “I’ve been reading it since I woke up this morning. I can’t put it down!”

Then Amadou continued, “Did you know God created the world in six days? Did you know Adam lived to be 930 years old? Did you know Abraham lied to the king because his wife was so beautiful that he was afraid they would kill him?”

We’ve known Amadou and his wife since we moved to their town three and a half years ago. Up until last summer, he spent most of the year 600 miles in the heart of the Sahara where he drove trucks for a mining company.

Family separation is common among Amadou’s people. Many men like him spend long periods of time away from their families because of work.

But the stress of Amadou’s absence took its toll on his wife and two young daughters. So we prayed earnestly that he would come back and find work close to home. Eventually, the company he worked for shut down, and he’s been home for a year now.

Now they’re together again—a rare thing for poor families like theirs. Amadou and his wife spend every day working to survive and provide for their family. They live on less than US$3 a day and still manage to host many guests and relatives in their small home.

We are in their lives every day, and they are in ours.

Pray that God will richly bless this family on every level and that the Bible will come alive to them.

» Full story with prayer points.

SENEGAL: Scripture for the Wolof

Source: Mission Network News, February 11, 2020

In West Africa, a region plagued by military coups and Islamic terrorism, Senegal stands as a pillar of peace and stability.

Some analysts attribute these traits to the widespread influence of Sufi Islam; Muslims comprise 90 to 95 percent of the country’s population. Among the Wolof people, one of Senegal’s largest ethnic groups, that percentage is even higher.

While these factors support stability, they also challenge gospel growth.

“The literature really is the major way of sharing the gospel individually,” Helen Williams of World Missionary Press says about New Testaments and Scripture booklets in widely-used languages.

“[However], one of the things about Senegal—because it is so closely tied to Islam and the Muslim culture—you have to develop relationships with people before they will trust you to accept something,” she explains.

“Much of it has to do with people not wanting to be seen with a Christian.”

» Read full story and watch the Prayercast video on praying for Muslims of West Africa.

» See also a related story about a Senegalese man from a Muslim background who shares the gospel with his own people.

WORLD: Top Ten Posts about Media Ministry

Source: Mobile Ministry Forum, February 25, 2020

In the last Mobile Ministry Forum post we shared a number of websites you can follow to keep up with the latest in media and ministry. In this post, I want to share the best media and ministry articles and videos I came across in 2019.

Top Media Ministry Posts

  1. Mobiles, Media, and Ministry: Lessons for Trainers and Learners
  2. Mobile 10
  3. Executive Summary: Building Your Follow-up Coalition
  4. How a Mission Team Had Nearly 3/4ths of a City See Their Content
  5. All Courses (Kingdom.Training)
  6. The Digital Revolution Reformation
  7. The Modern Seeker’s Journey
  8. The Future of Media and Missions
  9. Proverbs 31 in Afar
  10. LUMO Gospel Films

» Complete article includes links to best-of-the-best recent material on several aspects of media evangelism and strategy.

» And speaking of media ministry, see How a Hong Kong Church Is Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak. Sounds like their online service for kids is proving quite popular with quarantined families (Outreach Magazine).

JAPAN: Shintoism’s Unlucky Years

Source: OMF International February 2020

In order to understand Shinto better, I [Peter] have been translating a pamphlet I picked up at a Shinto shrine. It is all about “unlucky years.” These years occur throughout a person’s life and need special attention from people of various ages. The worst unlucky years are said to occur for men when they reach 42 and women at 33. The pamphlet encourages readers of this age to have a special cleansing or exorcism-type ceremony at their local shrine.

It also says, “Unlucky years occur at the same time as bodily changes or at points of change in our social environment, and the body can be easily affected. So, it is perhaps important to put the good luck charm (given when cleansing took place at a shrine) on the family Shinto god shelf, to keep protection charms near you, and to pay increased attention to your health.”

I am struck by a number of things:

  1. The importance of ceremonies. Generally speaking, ceremonies make things official and real for Japanese people. If you have a ceremony done, then you have done the right thing at the right time and all will be okay.
  2. The belief in the protection given by charms. We had a Japanese friend who was going through an “unlucky year.” As the pamphlet suggests, she kept a charm in her purse. If we had asked her if she believed in its power to protect, she might well have given a common answer—“I half believe and I half doubt.” The logic often runs: if the charm does not cost much and just might help, why not have it?
  3. The difference between the God of the Bible and the gods of Shinto. The Christian can say to the Lord: “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15) and also fully trust God who “will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:8). Shinto unlucky years really are in stark contrast to the Lord’s mercies that are new every morning.

Will you pray for Japan?

  • That Japanese people will come to know the God who we can fully trust with our times.
  • For wisdom for missionaries in Japan in interacting with those for whom having a ceremony is important.
  • For Japanese Christians will know God’s peace during years that their countrymen believe are unlucky.

» Read full story.

» Get perspective from OMF’s Patrick Fung on the Coronavirus Outbreak Four Ways to Pray.

100 Christians | Dinner Party Devotions | Missionary Friends

  1. DATA: If There Were Only 100 Christians
  2. BOOK: World Christian Encyclopedia, Third Edition
  3. EVENT: On Mission Online Mission Conference
  4. CURRICULUM: Dinner Party Devotions
  5. ARTICLE: Every Missionary Needs Friends
  6. EVENTS: March Conferences and Training

DATA: If There Were Only 100 Christians

January 29, 2020, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary

  • If 100 Christians represented all of global Christianity, 67 would live in Asia, Africa, Latin America, or Oceania, while 33 would live in Europe or Northern America. Most would be found in urban areas (65) as opposed to rural (35).
  • Linguistically, 16 would speak Spanish as their mother tongue, 10 English, 8 Portuguese, 5 Russian and 3 Mandarin Chinese.
  • Most (64) would be between the ages of 15 and 64, while 26 would be under 15.
  • Eleven Christians would be illiterate, and 35 would have little to no access to secondary education. Roughly half of Christians would have access to the internet. Fourteen would have no access to safe water, and five would have malaria.
  • Most Christians (79) would live in countries with moderate to high corruption; 35 would live in countries with low development.

A typical Christian today is a non-white woman living in the global South, with lower-than-average levels of societal safety and proper health care. This represents a vastly different typical Christian than that of 100 years ago, who was likely a white, affluent European.

» Read The World as 100 Christians and study the graphic. It’s inspired by The World as 100 People but uses data from the recently updated World Christian Encyclopedia (see below).

» An article from another source shows that eight in ten evangelical Christians live in Asia, Africa, or Latin America (Evangelical Focus). See also a visualization of the world’s 100 most-spoken languages.

BOOK: World Christian Encyclopedia, Third Edition

Source: Edinburgh University Press

The World Christian Encyclopedia, now in its third edition, documents the changing status of World Christianity over the past 120 years from historical and social scientific perspectives. It records the continued shift of Christianity to the Global South and contains estimates for religious and nonreligious affiliation in every country of the world, including detail on Christianity to the denominational level. This reference work features comprehensive descriptions of all Christian traditions, including current information on the uniqueness of Christian experiences around the world.

At 1000 oversized pages and more than US$200 a copy, this encyclopedia is not for everyone. If you lead a global ministry, maintain a mission education library, or specialize in mission research, you will want a copy. The rest of us may just want to know someone who has one we can use for reference. The publisher also plans to sell the 32-page introductory overview as a separate resource, as well as allow  readers to purchase just the info about one country or region. That could be very helpful for those working in or researching a specific area.

» Learn more or buy a copy from the publisher. In the US, you can get a copy from Christianbook.com for US$213.49. No ebook edition (yet).

EVENT: On Mission Online Mission Conference

Source: Missio Nexus

The Church today has such great sending potential—yet current attrition statistics show an ongoing need for sending workers to unreached people groups. How can churches and agencies get people mobilized for the work of Christ?

On Mission, the annual online mission conference from Missio Nexus, will explore these questions and more. The three-hour live-streamed event will feature 15-20 short (ten-minute) video presentations from presenters from around the world.

Participate live on March 11 (12-3pm Eastern) or watch the videos on your own or with a group at your own pace. Videos from the last three years are also available online. You might want to browse through them for content to stimulate discussion with others.

» Learn more or register for the event.

CURRICULUM: Dinner Party Devotions

Source: Wycliffe Women

God chose unlikely people throughout the Bible and hand-picked them to declare his glory. Discover stories that highlight God’s astonishing way of working paired with fun international recipes in the free PDF dinner party devotional, “Lessons from Lesser Knowns.” It’s about 30 pages long and includes material for six sessions with Bible references, devotional articles, discussion questions, and recipes for each session.

You’ll also be invited to sign-up for emails and resources geared specifically toward women.

» Learn more or download this material and find other resources at Wycliffe.org/women. Wycliffe also offers a free kids cookbook as part of Wycliffe.org/kids.

» See also You Are Always Welcome, a family activity to help you and your kids cultivate a habit of welcoming those from other cultures into your home (Weave).

ARTICLE: Every Missionary Needs Friends

Source: Catalyst Services

Jesus delivered his Acts 1:8 commission as a priority for all of his followers. In the 21st century, his Church has more ways than ever before to strategically engage every believer in fulfilling this Jerusalem-to-the-ends-of-the-earth command. A list of Great Commission roles includes goer, sender, welcomer, intercessor, and mobilizer. But there is at least one other overlooked and undervalued role to include—we’re calling it missionary “Friend” with a capital “F.”

» Read the article (PDF download) and share it with others. Missionaries will thank you!

» You may also want to check out Why, When, and How to Visit Your Missionary (Global Missions Podcast).

EVENTS: March Conferences and Training

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

March 2 to July 5, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online).

March 4-5, Support Raising Bootcamp (Charlotte, NC, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions. Additional bootcamps this month will be held in Malaysia (March 16-18) and Guatemala (March 19-20).

March 5, Finding God-Prepared People (online). Nugget training from Beyond.

March 5, Networking Practitioners Ministering Among the Muslim Diaspora in North America (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

March 5-7, IMPACT Gathering (Atlanta, GA, USA). Annual event for those desiring CPM among UPGs of SE Asia; pre-conference training events also scheduled March 2-4.

March 6-7, Treasure Valley Missions Conference (Boise, ID, USA). Free, community-wide missions conference.

March 6-7, Standards Introductory Workshop (Boise, ID, USA). Training in the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission. Part of the Treasure Valley Missions Conference.

March 7, Short-Term Missions Trip Leaders Training (Columbia, SC, USA).

March 9-11, Crisis Management Seminar (Cleveland, OH). Provided by Crisis Consulting International.

March 10, Realistic Expectations: Equipping and Empowering Team Leaders (online). From the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

March 11, OnMission (online). Free virtual conference from Missio Nexus; focused on mobilization.

March 12, Praying the Promises of God (online). Proactive prayer training from Beyond.

March 12-15, Multiply DMM Summit (Chicago, IL, USA). Changing ministry-as-usual to disciple-making multiplication.

March 15-20, ABIDE re-entry debriefing for global workers (Joplin, MO, USA).

March 15 to April 10, Equipping for Cross-Cultural Life and Ministry (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training.

March 19, Challenges in the North American Church Defining Mission (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

March 20-22, Everywhere to Everywhere (Wichita, KS, USA). Missional training and outreach event.

March 26-28, B4T Expo (Detroit, MI, USA). Transforming nations through business; an annual event.

March 26-28, Christian Community Health Conference (Cincinnati, OH, USA). Provided by the Christian Community Health Fellowship.

March 27-29, Jesus to the Nations (Halifax, NS, Canada). Free, annual, community-based mission festival for all ages.

March 30 to April 1, The Future of Religion and Mission (Hamilton, MA, USA). Celebrating the launch of the World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd edition.

» View complete calendar. Suggestions and submissions welcome.

Desert Locusts | Coronavirus | Arab World

Desert locusts are once again causing catastrophic crop loss, this time in East Africa and Pakistan. See below. Image via Mission Network News.

In this issue:

  1. ARAB WORLD: Global Update Tomorrow
  2. LAOS: Pray for the Unengaged
  3. EAST AFRICA: Farmers Battle Desert Locusts
  4. CHINA: Wuhan’s Christians Risk Their Lives to Share the Gospel
  5. BURKINA FASO: Pastor Abducted, 20 Killed

ARAB WORLD: Global Update Tomorrow

Source: Beyond, February 2020

When: Thursday, February 20, 2020, 7:00 to 8:00 PM (CST)

God is on the move in the Arab world. We invite you to hear Beyond’s Vice President of Global Strategies, provide some key insights into how the gospel continues to spread in this highly persecuted and restricted part of the world.

Missionaries today have a great opportunity to be a part of God’s story in this area of the world, but they may be surprised to discover that instead of being called to serve in the role of an Apostle Paul, it may be time for a new wave of Barnabas-like missionaries to rise up and encourage the local Paul’s as we link arms across the global Church in order to reach this region.

» Sign up for this free, online-only event.

» See also Believer Reaches Nomadic Neighbors with the Gospel (IMB) or read about a Brazilian seeing the gospel spread in North Africa (OM).

LAOS: Pray for the Unengaged

Source: Brigada Today, February 16, 2020

Check out this four-minute video requesting prayer for ministry among the remaining (“Final 58”) unengaged people groups of Laos. Doug Lucas is the president of Team Expansion. This is his first effort at using a drone to raise prayer!

» Watch video and pray for this outreach effort.

» See also the 34-minute, 1932 silent film Siam: Land of the White Elephant (Presbyterian Historical Society). While we’re in the region, download Praying Down the Mekong River (OMF).

EAST AFRICA: Farmers Battle Desert Locusts

Source: Barnabas Fund, February 18, 2020

The UN [has] confirmed that the desert locust plague, which can migrate up to 150km a day, has now invaded southeast Sudan, entering from northern Uganda.

Many thousands are facing acute food shortages as vast swarms of desert locusts, considered the most destructive migratory pest on earth, have caused catastrophic loss to spring crops in East Africa and Pakistan.

The locust swarms were initially reported to have spread from Yemen across the Red Sea in November 2019, before spreading south to East Africa, resulting in the worst outbreak seen in 70 years. Millions of locusts also entered into Pakistan’s agricultural belt, via Iran, in late 2019.

East Africa is now on the verge of a food crisis due to the locusts devouring crops, according to the UN, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Somalia the worst-hit countries at this time.

» Full story includes more about locusts devastating Pakistan. Let’s pray for those in these regions.

» Also read Christians Respond as Desert Locusts Devour and Destroy (Mission Network News).

CHINA: Wuhan’s Christians Risk Their Lives to Share the Gospel

Source: Asia Harvest, February 2020

Thank you for praying for the Church in China at this time, especially for the believers at the epicenter of the virus in Hubei Province. God’s people have risen up during this crisis. Please pray for them, and ask God to glorify his name in this disaster by granting eternal life to millions of desperate people in Hubei.

Unfortunately, even at a time such as this, the Chinese Communist Party cannot put aside their anti-Christian ideology, and we have been informed that some of the teams of believers who were preaching on the streets have been arrested and their supplies confiscated.

We are now in a position to help Chinese believers living in the area through a trustworthy local contact. He wrote that their greatest need is for “medical equipment, masks, goggles, gloves, and protective coverings.”

» Read full story includes a video of Christian street preachers.

» See Justin Long’s list of articles about the impact of the coronavirus. And you may appreciate this from Israel: Hundreds Gather at Western Wall to Pray for China, End to Coronavirus (Christian Headlines).

BURKINA FASO: Pastor Abducted, 20 Killed

Source: Open Doors, February 17, 2020

On Sunday, attackers broke into a village in the northeast region of the country while Christians gathered for worship. According to the French radio outlet RFI, the attackers killed 20 people and injured 15 more. The extremists also abducted the pastor and set the church on fire. Several people are still missing.

Please pray for God’s grace on those who lost loved ones. Ask God for a safe release of the pastor. And pray for the Lord’s protection and comfort for those injured in the attack.

These attacks are horrendous, but the Christian community in Burkina Faso is persevering through Christ during extreme persecution. But they need the prayers of the global Church to be strengthened—and to know they’re not alone.

» Read full story.

Seven Sins of a Mobilizer | Practical Mobilization

By Shane Bennett

Quick, move on to your next email! A sermon on sin? What has come over me? This hasn’t happened once the entire 15 years I’ve been writing Practical Mobilization. Maybe it’s the approach of Lent, reminding us it’s healthy to lament and repent. Maybe deep winter has got to me. Another foot of snow will likely fall on my house tonight and football’s over until August. Ugh.

I could call this The Seven Sins of Shane. But if you’ve read Practical Mobilization for a while, you’re aware I abhor alliteration. And just maybe I’m not the only one guilty of these things. Though guilty I am. I’ve done (or am doing) them all to varying degrees. With Paul I say, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” His mercy is essential, kind, and good.

Let me be straight here: These are detours from holiness to which I think mobilizers are prone. That doesn’t mean you’re guilty of any of them. And, by way of reminder, your guilt is no match for the cleansing blood of Jesus.

1. Pandering to the Rich

Could James be any plainer? After specifically challenging our tendency to show preference for the rich, he declares, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9).

But the guy “wearing a gold ring and fine clothing” clearly has more disposable income to direct to your fine work than the “poor man in shabby clothing.”

If your work arrangement is like mine in that you depend on the financial gifts of others to pay your bills and feed your kids, you need relationships with people who have money to give. Ergo, you need to be nice to rich people. But somehow you can’t prefer them over poor people.

Easier said than done, in my experience.

2. Self-righteousness

How many overseas trips does it take to cancel out the sins of your youth? Will learning a foreign language or two finally earn God’s approval? Will disregard of your culture’s main narratives of accumulation and status through wealth make God like you more?

Clearly not. But I’d be dishonest not to admit that below the surface of my consciousness there lurks a bit of this notion that God likes us more when we do more stuff for him. And that brings us to…

3. Pride, the Ugly Brother of Self-righteousness

Can we agree it’s hard to preach a sermon on the heart of God or what God is trying to do in the world and not think, “Hmmm, I must know the heart of God!” Even when our words are couched in scripture, as well they should be, we may believe we’re the ones with a right understanding of the Word. Those we speak to need to have their thoughts tweaked, changed, or maybe even traded in for the new model.

Whenever we are sure we believe rightly about a given issue, lifestyle, political approach, or really anything, pride is waiting to jump us. Since God says clearly that he “opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble,” my frequent prayer is this: “Father, help me be humble! I don’t want you to have to oppose me.”

4. Idolatry

Is it possible we might value the work of God ahead of the God of the work? I’ve wrestled with accusations of this from people I’ve loved and trusted. “You’ve made an idol of your ministry.” I don’t think so, but I get that sometimes such things are easier to see from the outside. I do know that I don’t want to progress years down the road in my work only to look back and see God waving far behind me.

We’re called to be passionate, self-sacrificing, and diligent. Our work can be hard and require attention and focus. May God give us grace such that while working hard, our chief focus stays fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith.

5. Judgement

A couple of Sundays ago I attended the first service at a pretty big church in Salt Lake City. At the conclusion, with no place to be, I sat in the lobby watching the service-one people depart and service two begin to show up. After a few minutes it occurred me that I was clearly judging on outward appearance, not like the Lord who “looks on the heart.” I’m not proud of my thoughts: “Those guys are cool. Those guys are weird. Those guys are trying way too hard to be cool.”

It’s so easy for mission mobilizers to fall into judgement. God has called us to call the attention of his body to those for whom his blessing has yet to arrive. Most won’t respond as we wish. Some will not care at all. How do you deal with that? Have you ever shaken your head and seethed just a bit? I sure have.

Jesus soberly warns us that the way we judge is the way we’ll be judged. That gives me pause. So, in this case, do the words of Brené Brown: “I know my life is better when I work from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can.”

Someone not answering my call to live among the unreached? If that’s cool with them and cool with God, it should probably be cool with me, too.

6. Lack of Compassion

To think that mission-y people might not be compassionate seems a little crazy. Why else would we do what we do? Well, I for one, have a long list of sub-par motivations. But what I’m referring to here is this: In our passion to complete the Great Commission, we may give short shrift to the Great Commandment. I know, I know, the best way to love someone is to tell them how to spend eternity with God. I just want to be sure I’m willing to share my sandwich while I’m doing that.

I also recognize in myself a deeper, more driving concern for Muslims, Turks, Indians, refugees, and basically most brown people far and sometimes near than I have for the white people who live in my town.

I’m happy for God to give gifts and vision to each of us as he desires. None of us can care enough for everything and everyone who needs care. But I don’t want to not love anyone Jesus desires to love through me.

7. Finally, Despair

Haven’t faced days of despair in your life or work as a mobilizer? I’m happy for you. For me it’s sometimes hard to shake the sense that it’s been a long time since Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand.” Yet the kingdom’s not here the way I wish it was. Too much injustice. Too little compassion. Too many living and dying without hearing of a God who wants them desperately.

I know, deeply know, that the hope of God is the only way I can survive, but despair lurks in the shadows. As Stephen Foster says, “Long have you lingered outside my cabin door.” As God warned Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Since I’m feeling pretty despair-free these days, reach out if you like and I’ll juice you up! You can return the favor later.

May God give us all grace
to walk in holy freedom with him,
humbly obedient to carry out the good works
he has prepared in advance for us to do.

Subversive Mobilization: Remember Uyghur Kids

I’ve been praying lately for the million-plus Uyghurs in Chinese concentration camps. Some experts say if the coronavirus reaches the camps the results could be devastating. I’m also concerned for their kids who’ve had to make their way to relatives or been shipped to orphanages. I can’t imagine what things might be like for them.

Will you join me? Consider putting a note on your bathroom mirror or the dash of your car that simply says, “Remember Uyghur kiddos.” Take a shot of it and share it on Facebook or Instagram to invite others to join you in praying.

God loves those munchkins. Let’s join him in that.