Source: God Reports, February 26, 2019
Educational authorities in the Chinese district of Lishan have initiated a push to eliminate religious belief in kindergarten, requiring students to sign a statement saying they will “advocate science, promote atheism, and oppose theism.”
The commitment also requires the pupils to pledge they will not view religious websites or engage in religious forums online, according to a report by The Colson Center.
The plan bars schools from hiring teachers that hold religious beliefs. “With regard to existing teachers, it calls for increased supervision, including ‘comprehensive inspections of teachers’ preparation for lessons in order to root out any and all religious content,’” according to the report.
[President Xi Jinping] has made the compulsory separation of children from religious life a linchpin in enforcing China’s official atheism.
» See also China Official Says West Using Christianity to Subvert Power (Reuters, h/t Justin Long).
Source: Morning Star News, March 11, 2019
The Somali pastor of an underground church in Kenya near the Somali border suffered a broken thigh bone and other injuries after Muslim extremists beat him with wooden clubs last Friday night [March 8], sources said.
Pastor Abdul, a 30-year-old father of three, had finished leading a prayer gathering at 9 pm on the outskirts of Garissa and was on his way back to his house when several ethnic Somali Muslims attacked, he told Morning Star News from his hospital bed, still visibly in pain.
Pastor Abdul said he did not know the assailants. As they approached him, he said, one of them told him: “We have been following your movements and your evil plans of changing Muslims to Christianity.”
Leader of an underground church of 30 former Muslims, he clandestinely met with them in smaller groups on varying days for worship, prayer, and Bible study, he said.
“My family is in great fear, and Christians have located us to another place. Our prayer, for now, is to get a safe place for my family. My life and that of my family is at stake.”
His children are eight, five and three years old.
» Read full story and pray for this man and his family.
» From another part of Africa, see Egyptian Edict Is an Encouraging Sign for Christians (Open Doors and Mission Network News).
Source: Beyond, March 15, 2019
We invite you to join us in praying these colorful Bible passages over the Hindu world as Holi approaches.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Father, we pray for you to prepare them and their own sin to fall on them so that they would be ready to accept the Good News. May their sins turn from scarlet to white as snow through acceptance of the Lordship of Christ Jesus.
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. Acts 16:14
Lord, we ask you to open the hearts of Hindus to pay attention to the good news of the gospel when your followers speak to them. May many thousands of Hindus come to be called worshipers of the one true God.
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. Revelation 7:9
Thank you, Almighty God! Thank you for your promise that members from every Hindu believing people group would be counted among those standing before your throne at the end of days.
Source: INContext Ministries, March 15, 2019
On Friday March 15, 2019, [more than] 49 people were killed and more than 20 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. Christians can learn three valuable lessons from this tragedy.
For most viewers, watching the act of terror unfolding on their televisions, the perpetrator is the one carrying the weapon and the one who finally pulls the trigger. However, the one who pulls the trigger is only the final link in a long chain of negativity, suspicion, fear, and hatred. Every post on social media that polarizes people becomes another link in a deadly chain that has the potential to influence someone who is willing to pull a trigger.
We need to be constantly reminded that our words either give life or drain life. There is no neutral exchange. Our comments influence people. We should take extra care of the possible “hidden” messages we communicate in the name of Christ. Truth should never become a motive for guiding people into a place of suspicion or hatred.
» Read the rest of this opinion piece about the New Zealand massacre. Food for thought.
» Also read about the social component of terrorism and the myth of the lone wolf attacker (Deutsche Welle) and Today, We Weep with Those Who Weep (Muslim Connect). Thanks for praying for New Zealand.
Source: Operation Mobilization, March 7, 2019
Eliza, one of the local believing women who moved back to the mountains, started practicing her professional trade in her new home. Then a church in the city gave her a grant to purchase more equipment and take on apprentices.
She hired two local girls, taught them her craft, and slowly started telling them about Jesus. “Sometimes they would watch movies in the national language about Jesus, and she would share her testimony. They were just really amazed that she was from their ethnic group, but she was a believer in Jesus,” Ellen recounted.
As Eliza shared, she read the Bible with the girls and showed them from the Word who Jesus is.
“Why didn’t anyone tell us this before?” one of them wondered. “We’ve grown up our whole lives and not known about Jesus.” Eliza also gave both apprentices New Testaments in the national language, and one of the girls took it home to her father, read it with him and watched a couple of the DVDs about Jesus with him, too. From their conversations, Eliza said she believed both young women decided to follow Jesus.
“They’re some of the first people we know of that have become believers in our town, that haven’t gone somewhere else, but have actually heard from a local person and have come to faith,” Ellen stressed.
“She shared so much sooner and so much deeper. She said to them: ‘God brought you because he knew you were ready to believe.’ We never saw that [openness] ourselves, but watching a local sister share the gospel, that was really exciting.”
» Read full story and another from OM about a Russian man engaging the least reached in the Caucasus. (Father, raise up more laborers like these.)
» See also: Tajik Christians Fear Talking about Their Faith (Institute for War and Peace Reporting).
By Shane Bennett
As I sit and write this morning, southern Colorado fog limits the view from my window to a few dozen yards. Overhead, though, military jets are buzzing around in some sort of frenetic training exercise. The intermittent sound bugs me more than it should. Maybe because I can’t see them. Maybe because I’m trying to concentrate and just when I get in a groove, they light up again.
But then it occurs to me there are people for whom that sound is much more than annoyance. The ascending and descending drone of the jets predicts death and destruction, the continued upsetting of life at fundamental levels.
Somewhere in the world an airstrike means the kids can’t go to school. There’s no way to get to work, or no place to work if you can get out. The food in the cabinet will have to last, because there is no more left to buy now.
It may mean broken, twisted, still bodies. Friends, neighbors, and children who must be left where they lie for now. And for how long? Can you even imagine the agony of that calculation? How long until it’s safe to scramble out and retrieve your dead friend? When is it okay to run down the street to see what’s become of the preschool where your wife had gone to collect the kids?
Do you ever want to just turn away from such dark thoughts? I sure do. To focus on a happy, little life right here. The lure is strong and sometimes I succumb. But if you’re reading Missions Catalyst, it probably means God has done a work in you that renders you dissatisfied with that response. This is grace and a gift of inestimable value.
If you ever find yourself needing motivation to empathize with the world’s pain, some reason to re-engage, here are four things that reminds me to keep caring, and to act.1. The present goodness of Jesus
Somehow Jesus is in the midst of the airstrike. I don’t understand it, but I can’t shake the reality that he’s there, he knows, he cares. All my sympathy and compassion look like vapor next to the real presence of the creator of the cosmos.
Jesus holds the hand of the dying, feels her final breath on his face, and mourns her slowing, fading heartbeat.
He stands with the refugee dad, despairing as the way forward is blocked and the way back simply gone.
He cries with the girl abused by the one she trusted the most.
He stands again in the furnace with faithful followers who trust him for their very lives, some living to see the next sunrise, others waking up in glory.
He is with us in the mess, bringing the very life of God to bear on his creation. Pointing us forward in hope.2. God’s plan to make all things new
That hope toward which we move is summed up for me in two places in Revelation: John’s vision of the crowd before the throne, made up of a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” and Jesus’s personal pledge, “I am making everything new!”
Don Richardson recently traded earth for heaven. If anyone I personally know heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” it was him. I remember seeing a clip from his movie, Peace Child in which intrepid Don (sporting some wicked sideburns) and long-suffering Carol are being paddled up to a Sawi village. Say what you will, but that sort of gutsiness makes me want to pay attention, to engage, to—heaven forbid—not let Don down!
This is to say nothing of the biblical heroes of faith, the great missionaries of former centuries, and the Filipinos, Kenyans, Chinese, and South Asians whose noble sacrifice and early, painful transition to glory never made it to Western screens.
May we not sit down on the shoulders of such giants.4. We were built for impact
We are not powerless. You and I were made to matter. Paul says we are God’s masterpiece, that “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” I don’t know what those “good things” are for you. I often wonder about it for me! But I don’t doubt Paul’s insight nor God’s good purposes.
It’s as normal as air to doubt this, but it’s in your DNA. It’s who we are.
Granted, it may feel like there’s nothing you can do about an airstrike in Yemen or Pakistan. And by most measures, you are right. You can’t be everywhere there’s pain. Nor could you handle it.
Heck, we couldn’t handle the unseen pain present just in our row at church on an average Sunday. Most suffering will transpire apart from our attention. But we know the one who knows it all.This great God has invited us partner with him in the reconciliation of all things.Conclusion
Let’s not turn ourselves away from the world’s pain. We have good reasons to care and to take action. You can probably think of more than these four. Please share them (and these) with your friends.
And, since perhaps the best way to join in God’s redemptive work is through prayer, I’d like to invite you to jump into this year’s Seek God for the City prayer initiative, already in process. Perspectives hall-of-famer Steve Hawthorne has put together this guided prayer effort for our neighborhoods and the nations.
» Learn more and grab the app today or search “Seek God 2019” wherever you get apps.
I’m putting together a language tool for a sister newsletter I write called Muslim Connect. The tool will be a cheat sheet to help people say “hi,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” (or the cultural equivalents) in many of the major languages Muslims speak. I hope it will help normal people like us initiate conversations.
I’d love for you check it out and add words to the language(s) you know. I appreciate your insight and experience.
» You’ll find the list and pertinent instructions here. Thank you a ton.
Nowruz is coming up! The Persian New Year is celebrated by Muslims from Turkey to India and in diaspora communities across the planet. Learn more in Shane Bennett’s Muslim Connect. Below, learn what God is doing among Persians in Iran and the UK.
- IRAN: Bringing Worship to Underground House Churches
- USA: Barna’s “Reviving Evangelism” Study Is Disturbing
- TAJIKISTAN: Children Barred from Church, Christian Calendars Burned
- MYANMAR: Buddhist Militants Kidnap Second Pastor
- SWEDEN: Muslim Mom Brought Home Bible from Library by Mistake, Daughter Found Joy
Photo: Tajik girls celebrate Navruz in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. By Franrasyan, Wikimedia Commons.
Source: SAT-7, February 22, 2019
Persian house churches worry that worshiping loudly could attract the attention of suspicious neighbors and authorities. One Iranian Christian recalls,
“When we gathered [at] a house [we would play] worship songs on CD or a satellite program…and if we had a worship leader they would lead us in worship. But very quietly and with no clapping. We had to be especially careful in apartments. Sometimes, we would use blankets to soundproof doors for extra security.”
Another challenge for Persian believers is that the repertoire of Persian worship material is limited, and musicians are relatively scarce.
In response to an environment of risk, and limited Persian worship resources, SAT-7 produced and is airing the weekly live program Heavenly Worship.
Behind closed doors, they watch to learn about the miracle of salvation they’ve experienced, to fellowship with the hosts and pastors, and to join in songs of praise. They receive vital information and support [amid] opposition.
“We get feedback from our viewers who meet at home and are unable to sing aloud,” shares Producer Mostafa Keshavarz. “Some don’t know how to sing. We make sure the song words are on the screen and invite the viewers to join in with the singing and worship—whether silently or aloud. Viewers get in touch and tell us how happy they are that they had the opportunity to join us in praise and worship, and this is really encouraging for us.”
» Also read about how the Church of England held a service in Farsi after a huge rise in Iranian converts (Telegraph) and learn about Christianity in Iran 40 years after the Iranian revolution (Christianity Today).
Source: Brigada Today, March 3, 2019
This past week, I (Doug) read through every word of Barna’s report, Reviving Evangelism. It’s a disturbing commentary. According to their data, nearly half of Millennial practicing Christians say it is wrong to evangelize (47%). Almost two in five practicing Christians (of all ages) say they have no non-Christian friends or family members (30%). More than half of all practicing Christians report having two or fewer conversations about faith in past year (56%).
To us, these are some of the most disturbing trends of our day. We could probably survive if political figures stop treating one another with adequate civility. But if, as the years tick by, we “forget” (or stop caring) about evangelizing (as it appears we are) and if, in the process, we forget how to tell the Good News (as it appears we are), we would be placing the Kingdom of God in a precarious position.
What do YOU think we should do about the study? How would YOU guess we respond?
» Read an excerpt from the Barna report: Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millenials Say Evangelism Is Wrong. See also Some Pastors Optimistic about Millennials, Church Growth. Stats Don’t Bear Them Out (Baptist News Global).
Source: World Watch Monitor, February 25, 2019
Tajik authorities implementing a new religion law are barring children from attending religious services and have burned thousands of calendars with Bible verses.
Amendments to Tajikistan’s Religion Law came into force in January last year, giving the state greater control over religious education and increasing the amount of information religious organizations must pass on to the state.
The State Committee for Religious Affairs and Regulation of Traditions, Ceremonies and Rituals (SCRA) now demands “all kinds of information on the number of members, finances and activities,” a member of a religious community told Oslo-based news agency Forum 18 anonymously, fearing reprisals (see Forum 18 article).
They also gather information about the number of children under the age of 10 attending religious meetings, using the Religion Law and the Parental Responsibility Law to put pressure on parents and religious communities.
» Read full story. It looks like Jehovah’s Witnesses are being targeted in particular, but other faith communities like the Baptists who imported the Christian calendars are suffering as well.
» Also read the article Five Reality Checks for Mission, a recent article which deftly summarizes today’s key challenges for Christian witness in Asia and globally (Church Mission Society).
Source: Barnabas Fund, March 2019
Barnabas Fund contacts report that Pastor Thar Tun was kidnapped from his home in Rakhine state, Myanmar (Burma) on February 13 by Buddhist militants thought to be members of the Arakan Army (AA).
Pastor Tun, 56, who has five children, is the second pastor to be kidnapped in Myanmar in less than a month. It is thought that the pastor’s work helping refugees in his home town of Buthidaung made him a target.
On January 19, Pastor Tun Nu, 41, was kidnapped at gunpoint in Rakhine state by militants also thought to be members of AA. He was reported killed on February 1 alongside several others held captive, but his body has not been found.
At the time of Pastor Tun Nu’s abduction, witnesses described the AA as “truly brutal” and had warned that more abductions of Christians were likely because their missionary work made them a target.
» Read full story and please pray for these men’s families and ministries.
» Readers might also be interested in learning about a ministry in another part of East Asia. Christian Freedom International reports that religious refugees are counting on the tides to bring rice, medicine, and Bibles to the suffering people of North Korea.
Source: God Reports, February 19, 2019
Chaima wanted to join ISIS and kill Christians. “I loved to see people dying, I loved to see them bleeding,” Chaima says on a video on YouTube. “I was seeing videos of decapitation on the Internet and I loved it. I was just blind.”
Her mother was an immigrant from Africa to Sweden and both parents were devout Muslims. Chaima saw life as cruel and wondered, “What am I doing in this world?”
“I tried to kill myself three times. I was doing drugs. I just wanted to destroy myself.”
Chaima, from childhood, grew up unhappy. “I hated people who were not Muslim. I wanted to kill them. I was bound to dangerous things,” she says. “I didn’t feel loved by anyone.”
She had a passion for reading, so her mom, concerned for her bouts with depression, brought her library books. One of the books, by accident, was the Bible. Chaima decided to read it and try to prove to Christians that they were wrong.
» Read full story or watch Chaima tell her story on YouTube. This video was made about 18 months ago when she was 18 years old and explores not only her change of heart and baptism but deliverance from demonic activity. Some might find it a bit disturbing.
Malak is the father of one of the 21 martyrs killed by Islamic State militants on the Libyan coast four years ago. See related story below. Image: World Watch Monitor.
Source: Open Doors, February 15, 2019
“We only knew martyrdom from films, but martyrdom was reintroduced and it strengthened our faith because these people, these 21 martyrs, lived among us,” [says Malak, whose son was killed four years ago].
Few will forget the graphic images of the mass beheadings in a video released and paraded online around the world. February 15, mark[ed] the fourth anniversary of the deaths of 20 Coptic Christian men from Egypt and one Christian man from Ghana—all 21 martyrs for their faith.
In the days and weeks leading up to their deaths, ISIS captors reportedly tortured the men who had traveled the 1,200 miles to Libya to find work and support their families. Militants attempted to persuade them to deny Jesus in return for their lives. They all refused.
A new book, The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs, by Martin Mosebach, includes interviews with families of the men who were killed.
Reportedly, what he found was “a completely different point of view of martyrdom… No lamentation, no mourning, no pity, but, instead, pride and happiness.”
» Read full story and watch a short video about a church built to honor the martyrs (World Watch Monitor).
» See also Why the Church in the Middle East Won’t Stay Hidden (Frontiers USA).
Source: Barnabas Fund, February 5, 2019
An event held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 5 was attended by [more than] 130,000 Christians; a startling occurrence in a region where Christian worship is tightly restricted and Christian converts from Islam risk imprisonment for apostasy.
The UAE has one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world, mainly due to the inward migration of Christian workers. The country has recently gained a new cathedral, 16 new churches and has around 700 Christian congregations.
The 48-hour papal visit to the UAE this month is unprecedented for the Arabian Peninsula and may signal a softening of the government towards the Christian community, estimated to number over one million.
» Full story (and links) also describe the current state of religious freedom in this country.
» See also what the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance, Efraim Tendero, shared at the Global Conference on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi or watch his two-minute video greeting (World Evangelical Alliance) or read some comments from missiologist Todd Johnson, who points out that good Christian-Muslim relations are critical for the future of our planet.
Source: World Vision, February 2019
Venezuela is in crisis. The economy has collapsed and an uprising of political opposition to President Nicolas Maduro has put the country’s leadership in question. More than 3 million Venezuelans—5,500 per day in 2018—have left the country seeking food, work, and a better life.
Latin America’s largest migration in recent years is driven by hyperinflation, violence, and food and medicine shortages stemming from recent years of political turmoil. Once-eradicated diseases like cholera and malaria have returned, and children increasingly are dying of causes related to hunger and malnutrition.
An estimated more than 1.5 million people have settled in Colombia; nearly 700,000 in Peru; nearly 280,000 in Ecuador; and Brazil, Chile, and Argentina are each hosting 100,000 Venezuelans or more. About 290,000 Venezuelans have settled in the United States and more than 200,000 in Spain, according to the UN International Organization on Migration.
While the influx from Venezuela has caused tensions in host countries, it also has brought out their hospitable spirit. Still, needs among families in transition are great. And forecasts for 2019 show the number of displaced people may increase to more than 5 million. World Vision staff in neighboring countries are helping.
Source: World Watch Monitor, February 14, 2019
A Colombian pastor was killed as he left his church in the northwest of the country, in a region that has been plagued by violence from armed groups, local sources told World Watch Monitor.
Pastor Leider Molina, 24, had just finished preaching in his church in Caucasia, Antioquia state in northwest Colombia, on Friday, February 9. As he stepped outside he was hit by five bullets. Molina was known as a passionate preacher and an active youth leader working for his church and city, 670km north of the capital Bogotá, the source said.
The Caucasia region has suffered an escalation in violence for the last four months, according to the source. Armed groups fight for control of drug trafficking routes and the ownership of illicit crops.
“Communist guerrillas, paramilitary groups, criminal gangs, and drug cartels all see the Church as an enemy to be eradicated because, thanks to the preaching and courageous action of leaders and pastors, many young people have renounced armed conflict and illegal activities,” the source said.
The church in the area is terrified, according to the source. “Some Christians have fled with their families, while others have decided to stay awaiting the government intervention. Church leaders, however, continue their work despite the death threats,” said the source.
» Full story also reports on two other pastors in the region killed last September.
Source: Pioneers USA, February 13, 2019
Immigrant ministry is never boring, especially when God uses interesting means.
Recently, a few of our interns were out in the city to look for spiritually receptive people in the Muslim neighborhood near us. Our goal is to see Muslims come to faith in Jesus by investing our time getting to know the Muslims in our city. The day seemed to be a bust, and they were tired. However, they decided to press on and go to dinner at an immigrant restaurant there in the area.
Just after stepping into the restaurant, they met Ali, their waiter. He was full of joy. After a bit of conversation and talk of spiritual matters, Ali leaned in with a surprise.
“I had no peace in Islam, but I found peace in Jesus.”
“I am no longer a Muslim,” he said in a low volume. “I’m a Christian. I had no peace in Islam, but I found peace in Jesus.”
Within a few days, we gathered together for breakfast with Ali and his two sons. We wanted to hear his story of coming to faith. And as we talked, his 16-year-old son noticed the movie Nacho Libre on my teammate’s shelf. It’s a slapstick comedy about a monastery cook who moonlights as a luchador, or Mexican wrestler, to supplement the funds used to feed the orphans in their care.
Ali and his sons were spiritually inspired by the movie, despite its silliness. They say that the movie was their first exposure to Jesus. In it, they saw a Christian caring for orphans, and that raised questions in their hearts about a God who cares for the marginalized and downtrodden. And God had prepared their hearts to hear a message of his love before seeing Nacho Libre.
» For another story about God working in mysterious ways, read about a ministry outreach in Ireland in Plowing with the Big Red Bus (Operation Mobilization).