Missions Catalyst

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World Missions News, Ideas, and Resources
Updated: 2 hours 44 min ago

Korea: The Future of the Korean Mission Movement

Source: Lausanne Global Analysis, July 2023

Korean churches have been committed to cross-cultural missions for decades. They have officially sent out more than 22,000 missionaries abroad in 2021. However, things are not what they used to be.

Changes in mission contexts have grown over the years with increasing nationalism, difficult visa situations, and an influx of migrants to Korea. Symptoms of change and confusion in mission were present long before the COVID era. The most palpable blow was a systemic eviction of Korean missionaries from a restrictive access country in 2017 and 2018. The number of Korean missionaries in this country was once more than 4,000 and has dropped to less than 40 percent of 4,000, according to the data in 2022.

Another critical change was the decline of Christianity in Korea. The number of Christians in Korea has plateaued for the past two decades since 2000 and has decreased drastically in recent years. The problem is not just with the number. Society’s trust [in] Christians is at its record low.

The full story has footnotes, charts and a bit of a case study for a new way forward. The author argues that Korean churches (and others) needs to adopt a more holistic understanding of mission that is not limited to international sending and church planting or focused only on the unreached.

See also Why Christianity Quit Growing in Korea (The Gospel Coalition).

Got time for a couple of podcasts?

India: Religious Violence in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur

Source: Christian Freedom International, August 10, 2023

Pastors and believers in Uttar Pradesh, India, are being jailed, including mothers with their babies, reports the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin.

Since an anti-conversion law was passed in December 2020 up to May 2023, “234 people have been arrested and jailed under the statute, none convicted,” reported Morning Star News.

Pastor Harendra Singh and his wife Priya were arrested during a worship service on July 30. Hindu political extremists accused the couple of trying to convince villagers to convert. Their three-year-old son was incarcerated with Priya.

The same day, Pastor Amarjeet Ram and five believers were arrested during a prayer meeting. Seven other Christians were jailed in other districts.

Days earlier, nine believers were jailed after Hindu nationalists invaded their prayer meeting, threatened, and smashed church property. Later, five women who gathered to pray for the jailed believers were also accused and jailed.

Pray for India’s pastors and believers to remain steadfast in their faith. Pray for God’s protection for Christians to worship and serve others.

Read the full story for more incidents.

Also read this collection by multiple contributors, Reporting on Hindu Nationalism (Religion Link). There’s a lot there.

Eritrea: 13 Christians Have Been Set Free from Prison

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On July 22, I sent an email asking you to pray for two Christian pastors spending their 7,000th day in prison and to demand that the Eritrean government release them and hundreds of other imprisoned Christians. In the days after that email went out, more than 10,000 people added their names to the list of those praying for Pastors Haile Nayzgi and Kiflu Gebremeskel as well as other imprisoned Christians in Eritrea.

On the website, we provided information about sending an email or fax to the Eritrean Embassy on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Eritrea. I don’t know how many emails and faxes were sent, but some readers told us their emails to the embassy were bouncing back. Perhaps embassy staff turned off their email server to stop the deluge of emails from concerned Christians.

Just six days after sending that email, we received word from Christian contacts in Eritrea that 13 Christian prisoners had been set free! These six men and seven women had been in prison for 10 years!

I’m saddened that Pastors Nayzgi and Gebremeskel were not among those released. We continue to pray that they will be freed from their prison cells soon, perhaps even as Peter was set free in Acts 12.

Read the full story.

See also other good news of Christians released in Algeria, Haiti, Egypt, Iran, and Pakistan.

Tendrils of the Gospel | 7,000 Days in Prison

  1. North Africa: The Tendrils of the Gospel
  2. Eritrea: 7,000 Days in Prison for Two Christian Pastors
  3. Cuba: Cuban Missionaries Ready to Go to the Nations
  4. East Asia: Three Interesting Stories About China
  5. Muslim World: I Have a Friend Who Lives in Darkness

Read or share the email version or scroll down.

Image: Eritrean Christians worshiping (Voice of the Martyrs). See related story in this edition and pray for our global brothers and sisters.

North Africa: The Tendrils of the Gospel

Source: Anglican Frontier Missions, June 22, 2023

On a short-term mission trip to North Africa, we were encouraged by the rector of our host church to explore further south where the population is primarily Berber. There was something there he wanted us to discover, and we saw the twinkle in his eye. The region we visited was on the edge of the arid Sahara and was totally Muslim.

We entered a small Berber museum [in the form of] an underground dwelling. Underground homes provide protection from the excessive heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, and, in ancient times, from raiders. The museum curator greeted us warmly, eager to share with us the history and customs of his people. Knowing we were Christians, he was also pleased to share with us the Christian history of his people.

We were shocked and thrilled to find tendrils of the gospel still present among the Berbers. The people in this particular Berber village record their religious history on their wedding textiles, woven by the bride’s family and embroidered by the groom’s family. They include symbols of animism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The most prominent symbols are Christian ones: three crosses, a fish, a palm frond for Palm Sunday, and three Vs for the persons of the Trinity.

As we now prepare to become long-term cross-cultural workers in the same region in which we saw these wedding textiles, we’re so encouraged to know that God has already gone before us.

Read the full story.

Note that tendrils of the gospel show up in other cultures, too. Many of the places that are unreached today once had a Christian presence.

Eritrea: 7,000 Days in Prison for Two Christian Pastors

Source: Mission Network News, July 21, 2023

Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs recalls, “Just months after my visit to Eritrea, several of the pastors I had met were arrested. Saturday, July 22 [marked] the 7,000th night in prison for two of those pastors, Kiflu Gebremeskel and Haile Nayzgi.

“Like every other imprisoned Christian in Eritrea (currently estimated at nearly 400 people), they have been denied legal counsel and a trial. In fact, they’ve never even been formally charged with a crime.

“Seven thousand days in prison. Please take a moment to think about that number. One thousand weeks away from their families. Children that were very young when their fathers were arrested are now college graduates and even parents themselves. How many family milestones have these two Christians missed over the past 7,000 days?

“If you are a Christian, please pray for them. God has sustained persecuted Christians through many trials and long imprisonments; I’ve heard amazing stories of how he has worked in prison cells in China, Iran, and Sudan. Please pray that God is writing similar stories—even today—in the lives of Pastor Kiflu and Pastor Haile. Ask God to sustain, protect, and provide for their wives, children, and grandchildren, and pray that He will graciously reunite these families soon.”

Read or listen to the full story, evidently based on this two-minute YouTube video (Voice of the Martyrs USA).

Reaching for a calculator? 7,000 days is more than 19 years.

From another part of Africa, read Military Coup Puts Christians in Niger on Edge (Global Christian Relief) and see Niger Coup: A Simple Guide to What’s Happening (BBC).

Cuba: Cuban Missionaries Ready to Go to the Nations

Source: Southern Baptist International Mission Board, July 27, 2023

Cuban Baptists are poised to go to the nations. International Mission Board teams are eager to receive these missionary candidates as global missionary partners. But it’s sometimes difficult for them to get visas, and at times, when they do, they’re finding it hard to renew them.

Currently, more than 50 potential missionaries in Cuba are preparing to go. These missionaries, backed by the mission boards of the Cuban Baptist conventions, are largely sent by funds provided through the Cubans to the Nations project.

Saul and Dora were working with the lost in Colombia. Both are musicians, and they’ve been able to use their musical giftings to compose songs, sharing the gospel in the musical style of each of the people groups. They’re now back in Cuba awaiting reassignment because of visa issues.

Another Cuban missionary family also worked with unreached groups in Colombia. The husband is a doctor, and he was able to provide medical and gospel access to several communities. The wife is a musician. She was able to work with the other musicians to share the gospel through music. Currently, they are also back in Cuba waiting to be reassigned because their visas were denied.

The full article includes pictures and more stories about Cuban missionaries as well as a way you can help them financially.

See also a story about Southern Baptists and their collaborative efforts in Puerto Rico (North American Mission Board) and, from another source, consider what Harvey Kwiyani says on reimagining global witness in his recent thought-provoking post, Nothing For Us Without Us.

East Asia: Three Interesting Stories About China

Sources: Various

Exporting Religion

Government efforts to control of the church in China may be old news, but now, apparently, the country has launched a plan to make Christianity around the world look more like it does in China.

Read China Announces Plans to “Change the Face of World Christianity” (Back to Jerusalem).

A Revival of Prayer

According to leading pastors in Taipei, Taiwanese Christians are responding to the threat of war with China with an unprecedented movement of prayer and fasting for revival, unity, repentance and protection.

Read 40,000 Revival Prayer Groups Spring Up as Taiwan’s Christians Face Beijing’s Belligerence (Christian Broadcasting Network).

Young Adults in China

On a more general note, you might appreciate an article about how young people in China are turning away from high-pressured careers to stay at home with their families—that is, their families of origin.

Read What are “full-time children”? Young adults in China are rejecting the rat race and getting paid by their parents to do chores while living at home and (possibly related?) Life as a Chinese Gen-Zer just got a lot harder thanks to the Chinese government hiking college tuition by up to 54% (Business Insider).

Muslim World: I Have a Friend Who Lives in Darkness

Source: A Life Overseas, July 18, 2023

I have a friend who lives in darkness. Her giant house has armored doors. There are snarly dogs in her courtyard and a muscular, protective husband in her home office. She never leaves home unless covered from head to toe, and even then, only to visit her brothers.

Yet, when she opens the door and pulls me inside her home, where dark, high windows let in only a hint of sunlight, she lights up the darkness. She is like a treasure hidden in a field.

Oh, how I want to share Jesus with my friend.

Once, my husband and I were presenting about our mission to one of our supporting churches. I told them about this very special woman and posed a rhetorical question: “Who is going to tell her about Jesus?” To my surprise, someone in the congregation answered.

“You,” he said.

I swallowed a big lump in my throat, because I knew he was right.

If she hears about Jesus, it will likely be from my mouth, between sips of bittersweet mint tea with afternoon Arabic cartoons playing in the background.

It’s exciting.

And, if I’m honest, it’s terrifying.

Read Dear Missionary: Are You Afraid of Success? The author’s conversation with herself about her fears and tendency to sabotage her own efforts is poignant; you may relate.

Digital Frontiers, Found on the Web & August Events

In this edition:

  1. Bible Study: God’s Heart for Muslims, Third Edition
  2. Journal Issue: EMQ on the Digital Frontier of Missions
  3. Articles: Found Around the Web
  4. Events: Conferences, Training, and More in August

Read or share the email edition, or scroll down to see the stories.

Bible Study: God’s Heart for Muslims, Third Edition

Source: Encountering Muslims (formerly Encountering the World of Islam)

Now in its third edition, God’s Heart for Muslims, by Keith Swartley, is an eight-lesson Bible study designed to help you delve into the scriptures, be introduced to the variety of Muslim peoples, and uncover what’s in your own heart as you seek to follow Jesus in his love for all peoples. Use individually or with your team or small group.

Learn more or download a copy.

This booklet is distributed by Via, another organization that just rebranded. You may remember it as the Center for Mission Mobilization. They have many helpful resources and services. Learn more.

Journal Issue: EMQ on the Digital Frontier of Missions

Source: Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Missio Nexus

From apps to AI, the increasing availability of digital technology is changing the world and the way we do missions. In the July 2023 edition of Evangelical Missions Quarterly, you can read articles from practitioners working at this crossroads of missions and technology. You’ll learn about digital missions, digital evangelism, digital discipleship, digital churches, digital prayer meetings, and even digital and metaverse mission fields.

If you’re a Missio Nexus member, you already have an EMQ subscription. Find the issue online or buy print copies from Amazon for US$14.

There are, though, several articles you can read and share for free.

See also Pioneering Church Planting in the Metaverse (and if intrigued, sign up for the GACX training of the same name listed on our calendar below).

Articles: Found Around the Web

Sources: Various

The Future of Missions

What topics will dominate global mission conversations in the next decade? Ted Esler of Missio Nexus identifies five issues and topics the global ministry world will be talking about.

Read The Next Ten Years.

Also listen to an interview with missiologist Gina Zurlo (the Gospel Mobilization Podcast). It may affect how you think about global missions and use mission statistics.

Missions Giving

Our missions giving may fund worthwhile activities but not directly contribute to gospel-spreading, disciple-making, and church-multiplying missions as much as we think, says Ben Wright.

Read Pastor, Where Do Your Missions Dollars Go? (The Gospel Coalition).

Also from TGC, see 5 Questions to Ask When Missionaries Seek Support.

And read Churches, We Need You! Why the Church Is a Critical Piece of Missionary Care) by Jessi Bullis (A Life Overseas).

Cross-Cultural Photography

Living in or visiting another culture? Photography is a powerful tool to share about life in your host country. But make sure you make and share images in a responsible way.

Read 7 Principles for Ethical Photography as a Global Citizen by Anna Danforth (A Life Overseas).

For more thoughts and tips, see a series of field shooting notes on Instagram. You’ll have to scroll down a bit to find it (Commnet).

And just for fun, see Photographer Captures Photos Of Signature Dishes Of Grandmas From Around The World (DeMilked), found in Mission Hits.

Events: Conferences, Training and More in August

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

August 2, High-Functioning Mission Teams (online). Peer-2-peer gathering for church mission leaders from Missio Nexus. This is about church mission teams (aka mission committees), not field teams.

August 2-30, Pioneering Church Planting in the Metaverse (online). Join a learning cohort once a week for five weeks from the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication (GACX). Bring a VR headset if you have one!

August 3, How Great Is the Need for Care in Developing Resilience Among Our Workers? (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

August 7-11, Abide Debriefing (Joplin, MO, USA). Help for moving forward with hope and momentum; retreats held regularly by TRAIN International.

August 7-11, Engage Retreat (Union Mills, NC, USA). Spiritual retreats are provided regularly by the Center for Intercultural Training.

August 10, Harnessing the Power of Technology: Communication Strategies for Missions Organizations (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

August 13 to September 8, Equipping for Cross-Cultural Life and Ministry (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training, and followed by a Language Learning Accelerator course (both offered regularly).

August 15, Contend: Monthly Day of Prayer For Mission Mobilization (global). Coordinated by GMMI and held on the third Tuesday of each month.

August 21, The Great Dechurching (online). Thought-leader briefing from Missio Nexus.

August 28-31, Field Security Seminar (Lake George, CO, USA). Provided regularly by Crisis Consulting International.

August 28 to September 23, COMPASS (Palmer Lake, CO, USA). Language and culture acquisition provided by Missionary Training International.

August 31, How Agencies Grow Church Engagement (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

View the complete calendar, updated regularly. Submissions welcome.

Unity in Papua New Guinea & Baptism in Pirates Cove

In this edition:

  1. USA: “The Largest Baptism in American History”
  2. Papua New Guinea: Unity Between Churches
  3. India: Manipur State a Guerilla War Zone
  4. East Asia: Is Downsizing Ever Better?
  5. Southeast Asia: A Crazy (Awesome) God Story

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

Papua New Guinea: Unity Between Churches

Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, July 7, 2023

“I have to do this,” Bishop Leidimo Edoni said.

He was referring to sailing in a small, marginally seaworthy boat through choppy, pirate-occupied waters in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. The trip would take five hours, and danger lurked everywhere.

So why was the bishop making such an arduous trip to begin with? The answer was simple: God moved Bishop Edoni of the United Church in Papua New Guinea to see transformation happen among all communities in Milne Bay. Bishop Edoni sought a partnership with another bishop at the opposite end of the island. Unity meant that two of the most prominent church groups in the province, representing thousands of people, would be brought together—all in the name of Bible translation.

The shared desire for and commitment to translation was a promise of eubone, which means “unity” in the Dobu language. Together, these two bishops promised to lead the work of bringing the Bible to their people.

Read the full story and also read God Is on the Move: Encountering Jesus Through His Word with reports from Fiji, Azerbaijan, and the Philippines.

See also these two interesting articles: Researchers Use AI to Help Translate Bible Into Very Rare Languages (Christian Today) and AI Begins Symbiotic Relationship With Bible Translation (Mission Network News).

USA: “The Largest Baptism in American History”

Source: Harvest, July 11, 2023

On July 8-9, Harvest Christian Fellowship facilitated over 4,500 baptisms at Pirate’s Cove in Newport Beach. The same body of water was used for baptisms during the Jesus Movement in the 1960s and 70s.

People gathered from across the country with lines wrapped around the seawall in what Harvest is calling the largest baptism in American history.

“On the day of Pentecost, after Peter preached, we read in the Bible that 3,000 people were baptized,” said Pastor Greg Laurie. “At Pirate’s Cove, we are looking at a baptism of biblical proportions.”

Laurie and his wife Cathe were baptized at Pirate’s Cove nearly 50 years ago. The cove was also used as a filming location for the Jesus Revolution movie.

According to Laurie, the movie demonstrated “the power of baptism and more significantly, what salvation looks like visually. By watching someone get baptized the way it was done in the film it really conveyed what conversion can look like. It really resonated with a lot of people.”

The baptism follows the Southern California Harvest Crusade where 230,000 people packed out the Honda Center in Anaheim [or] watched online, and 7,000 made proclamations of faith in a two-day worship experience.

“There is no question that pretty much everyone at this baptism saw the Jesus Revolution Film,” said Laurie, “So many said they were so inspired by it they wanted to be baptized at Pirate’s Cove.”

See the full press release with pictures. It mentions that the Jesus Revolution film will be available for streaming on Netflix at the end of the month; you can already stream it through some other services.

India: Manipur State a Guerilla War Zone

Source: Mission Network News, July 10, 2023

It’s been two months since the Meitei people began a campaign attacking tribal Christians and burning their homes and churches. Now, makeshift bunkers and fortifications crisscross Manipur as each side defends its territory.

Within the first month, more than 35,000 people fleeing Manipur were displaced in IDP camps. Now, the number has nearly doubled to 60,000 people.

Regan Miller with Mission India says, “Schools in the area have been trying to reopen to establish some normalcy again. Yet, teachers and students are really just not showing up because they’re afraid of everything that’s going on in their safety. So they’re still far from normalcy and it’s crazy to think that’s still going on when it’s been two months since the violence started.”

Mission India’s partners on the ground say they are encouraged by the faithful example of persecuted Christians in Manipur.

“They sent us this video of Christians that were just lining the street in Manipur praying for their state and praying over the violence that’s taking place.”

Read the full story. You can send an encouraging prayer for Manipur now (Mission India).

See also a well-written and thought-provoking article about living out and sharing the gospel in conflict zones, illustrated with stories from eastern Congo (Lausanne Global Analysis).

East Asia: Is Downsizing Ever Better?

Source: Beyond, June 30, 2023

[A church in East Asia] had come to a startling revelation: the more the church grew numerically, the fewer disciples they made. Their focus on excellent preaching had failed to produce any real lifestyle changes in their church members. Additionally, they found that as the church grew, they had fewer new believers attending. Their desire to grow numerically actually made them less effective as a church.

In a bold move, the church leaders decided to structure the church to once again meet in small groups. They trained leaders in the Discovery Bible Study group process and ensured all their members attended a small group.

Shortly after they made this decision, government officials demanded they shut down their large Sunday meeting place. If this decision had come a few months earlier, it could have been disastrous, but these leaders saw God’s hand in the timing of these events. They decided that it was confirmation of God’s will and leading. They would not seek another place for their large meeting. Instead, they would continue meeting as house churches and use the new Discovery Bible Study process.

Read the full story.

To explore the link between hospitality and discipleship, see Why Smaller Churches Must Be Better at Hospitality Than Larger Churches (The Christian Post).

Southeast Asia: A Crazy (Awesome) God Story

Source: Pioneers-USA and Commnet, July 11, 2023

A village pastor asked a Pioneers member to come with him to pray for Bee, who was very sick. She was also having brutal and disturbing nightmares. Turns out she and her husband had made a deal with a witch doctor 30 years before. That seemed to be behind what she was suffering now.

Several more brothers and sisters from the village church came to visit Bee. One was a new believer, Jeab. She didn’t know very much of the Bible and her faith still had a lot of Buddhist thinking. But she prayed to Jesus with boldness. Lek, Bee’s niece, was a young teenage girl. She came and played Christian songs from YouTube on her phone. Then there was Deng, a Buddhist woman who just watched things unfold around her.

“All of this challenged my theology,” said the Pioneers worker. “I thought we just needed to pray. I thought those prayers should come from mature Christians. And, at the same time, I was becoming aware of my own sin.”

Bee’s life wasn’t the only one that would be changed in the next few days.

Read the full story.