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Church growth in India, Iran | World News Briefs

Most evangelical Christian women in Eritrea have to pray together in secret. Photo: World Watch Monitor. Related story below.

  1. INDIA: Challenges and Advances in North India
  2. IRAN: Church Believed to Have Nearly 1 Million Members
  3. BANGLADESH: A Different View of Rohingya Refugees
  4. ERITREA: Evangelical Christians Freed on Bail
  5. ZAMBIA: Prepared in Season and out of Season

INDIA: Challenges and Advances in North India

Source: Beyond, September 23, 2020

About one year ago, some house church leaders in North India had their homes burned to the ground. They are facing difficulties again.

A few months after their homes were burned, all the families moved back and rebuilt their huts. Last week, a local Hindu extremist group joined forces with the police, damaged their rebuilt homes, and arrested 14 people. Two are still in jail. The police are demanding extortion to release them.

However, in the midst of very real persecution, the church continues to advance. Sanjay, a leader in the movement, recently read through old diary entries from the first movement meetings in 2012. He had written, “God, give us North India.”

We praise the Lord for the big vision of these committed disciples. Today, the work has spread to nine states and over 200 caste groups. Thousands and thousands of families have become strong disciples of Jesus, working to make more disciples of Jesus.

Pray for our brothers and sisters to remain attached to the Vine, and for their joy to increase even in the midst of their persecution. Pray our Father will bring forth much fruit that the devil cannot snatch away.

» Read full story.

» See also Christians in Northern India Forced to Stop Worship, Pastor Says (Morning Star News) and this photo essay: Ganges River Flows with History and Prophecy for India (Associated Press).

» Colleagues in mobilization at Pioneers are hosting a virtual prayer time for the Hindu world on September 23. You’re welcome to join in.

IRAN: Church Believed to Have Nearly 1 Million Members

Source: Christian Headlines, September 4, 2020

If you open up your doors to a house church in Iran, then your home could be frequently raided and monitored. And if you do happen to go to prison, the prison situation there is appalling.

Despite these issues, Christianity Today reports the Iranian church has grown to around 1 million members. This is according to a survey by GAMAAN, a research group based out of the Netherlands. The survey asked 50,000 Iranians what their belief was. 90% of those surveyed live in Iran.

According to the survey, 1.5% of Iranians are Christians. Extrapolating that out yields a minimum of 750,000 Iranian Christians, but there are also 117,500 Armenian and Assyrian Christians living in the country, putting the actual baseline closer to 867,500 Christians at minimum.

However, Christianity Today reports the survey itself states there are “without doubt in the order of magnitude of several hundreds of thousands and growing beyond a million” Christians in the country.

» Read full story or see the piece it’s based on in Christianity Today.

BANGLADESH: A Different View of Rohingya Refugees

Source: Mission Network News, September 14, 2020

In a newly released video, two ex-soldiers from Myanmar confess to the mass killing and rape of Rohingya Muslims. It’s the first time anyone from Myanmar’s military acknowledged a campaign of violence targeting this people group, CNN reports.

Since 2012, armed attacks have forced between 800,000 and one million Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh. Vincent Michael of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI) says they’re helping local pastors reach these refugees for Christ.

“A big part of working with Bangladeshis is to encourage them to be visionary, to go into places where we can’t go, and to take those opportunities instead of being scared of them,” Michael says.

Poverty presents a challenge to this mission. More people live below the global poverty line in Bangladesh than anywhere else in South Asia. Instead of seeing Rohingya refugees as people who need Christ and compassion, some Bangladeshis view them as competition for scarce resources. FMI offered Bangladeshi pastors a different outlook during a recent training session.

“We made a slideshow of pictures that painted the Rohingya in a more ‘accurate’ light. We showed pictures of Rohingya children crying because they were starving [and] of the bread lines. We showed some of the UN efforts to help in the area,” Michael describes.

“I started seeing a change [during] the conference. When we did that vision casting session, and we showed some of the needs that are in those camps, a large majority of the pastors would say, ‘we’d like to see if we could help; or, at the very least, bring these prayer concerns back to our people.’”

» Read full story.

ERITREA: Evangelical Christians Freed on Bail

Source: World Watch Monitor, September 10,  2020

The Eritrean government has released on bail more than 20 prisoners who’d been in detention for years because of their faith, the BBC reports.

A regional spokesperson for charity Open Doors International said that, for some time, it had heard discussion that prisoners might be freed on bail due to the coronavirus pandemic (as has happened in several other countries) but could not independently confirm the reports: “If true, this could be quite significant.”

In May 2019, a monitoring group for the UN said “thousands” of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea” and questioned why the UN was not monitoring the situation more closely.

In June 2019, Reuters reported that more than 500,000 refugees worldwide have left Eritrea, up from 486,200 a year earlier.

» Read full story includes details on additional incidents related to religious liberty and persecution.

» See also 27 Christians Released from Prison in Eritrea (Christian Today), which includes an estimate that the number of incarcerated Christians is a little over 300, including 39 children. The BBC report cites a US State Department estimate that there are 1,200 to 3,000 prisoners of faith in Eritrea. Not sure why the numbers vary so widely.

» The recent peace deal in neighboring Sudan included an agreement by the transitional government to remove Islam as the state religion and abolish the death penalty for leaving Islam (Open Doors).

ZAMBIA: Prepared in Season and out of Season

Source: Operation Mobilization, September 8, 2020

“When the virus spread to Africa, I had the choice to leave for Canada, but I am thankful that I chose to remain in Zambia,” explained Larissa [a Canadian serving with OM]. “God has used my team in a really special way to continue reaching out to ladies in Zambia and other locations across Africa.”

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, almost everything in Zambia, where Larissa works to empower and equip women, came to standstill as lockdowns restricted movement and wearing a face mask became mandatory while interacting with people. Instead of Larissa and her team being restricted, however, they found an opportunity to express love to others by sewing affordable face masks. “Our vision didn’t change—we still wanted to empower women—but our focus for this time had to change,” commented Larissa.

Sewing as many as 7,000 masks within a few weeks, the effort provided not only a reprieve for people who faced the stark choice of whether to spend their meager earnings on expensive masks or face a jail term for not wearing one but also an income stream for the women training as tailors who are often the breadwinners of their family.

“As often in developing countries, the life of a woman is not easy,” observed Larissa. “Women are often uneducated and illiterate and therefore struggle to generate any form of income.

“Our vision is to see women empowered, freed from physical and spiritual oppression and become vibrant followers of Jesus.”

» Read full story.

» Want more stories about showing effective compassion in challenging times? Read about the ministries in the US (mostly) that won the annual Hope Awards from World Magazine.

Beating Back the Quarantine 15

Beating Back the Quarantine 15:
Motives for Getting Fit By Shane Bennett

Hey, Missions Catalyst tribe, can you do something for me? If you’re sitting down as you read this, lean forward a little bit. Now, reach down and grab your belly. Are you happy with what’s in your hand? Are you thinking like me, “I wish I were holding onto a little less right now!”? (If you didn’t even do the assignment because you knew the shame and self-loathing that would result, I’m sorry. My purpose is not to drag up that pain.)

I was recently listening to an episode of a podcast called Dad Tired that asked the question, “Does God care if I exercise or not?” As host Jerrad Lopes laid out his response, I thought, “Wow, this matters for mission mobilizers!”

Of course, it matters to most Christians. All of us should steward well all the resources God has given us, including our bodies. The human body (even yours!) is a work of art capable of amazing work. And at least so far, it’s the only tool we have with which to interact with other humans and the rest of God’s good creation. Taking care of it is smart.

Fit for the Mission

But here are four reasons I think this is a particularly important deal for you and me:

  1. Almost every day at 10:02am I pray Luke 10:2, “Father, send laborers into your plentiful harvest.” God says we need more laborers. You can’t go if you’re dead! And as hard as cross-cultural work is, it’s harder if you’re out of shape and not healthy.
  2. I want us to set a good example. I want people to say no to my global invitation because it’s not for them (or they think it’s not for them), not because I apparently lack the discipline to leave even a single Twinkie in the box!
  3. It’s possible I’m writing this now because I’m in week seven of a nine-week Couch to 5K program and am in better shape than I’ve been in, maybe ever (that’s not saying much!). I’m also mostly eating veg, per the example and request of my smart-as-a-whip wife.
  4. I have a hunch that many of us wrestle with some level of depression and a greater number of us feel the weight of a great task, a cause that can feel infinite, and the pain of people living in tough situations and Jesus-less despair.

    Add to that cocktail the reality that we’re not an easy bunch to open up to. We think if we’re sharing this Jesus message with others, we should probably have already figured out life for ourselves.

    While I’d never be so trite as to say, “exercise your blues away,” solid data indicates exercise can fight depression in some cases.

Three Wise Cautions

I suspect you agree with those reasons, but the trick is to find the right balance and appropriate action. Lopes shares some wise caution regarding getting our bodies into shape. He urges us to watch out for:

  1. Idolatry. Remembering from Sunday School that idolatry is valuing anything in your life ahead of God, you may think, “I’m not likely to put this body above God!” The pain of running also makes me think I’m never going to make an idol of it. But people do, and you and I are people. It’s possible. Lopes tells us to be careful to keep priorities straight. He got it from Paul who told us a long time ago, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
  2. Proper motivation. What motivates you to stay in shape or might inspire you to get there? I remember telling a nutrition coach a few years ago that my main reason for wanting to buy and consume her crazy-expensive protein shakes was so I wouldn’t look fat when I was teaching Perspectives classes! Yep, subpar motivation and one which, as you’d guess, didn’t last!

    These days I want to be pushed forward by a desire to take care of God’s gift of my body. I want to be able to run with the kiddos and qualify for decent life-insurance rates. I don’t want to end up in the hospital or disqualified from an amazing opportunity because of stupid lifestyle choices.

  3. Misplaced security. Lopes reminds us that our hope and life are in God. We can’t diet or lift ourselves to immortality. No amount of mileage will shift our ultimate security from God’s hands to ours. Even though I want to work hard to extend its expiration date, the timing of my temporary shift out of this body is more up to God than me!
What Makes Me Run

Two visions compel me to run these days. Actually three.

Since my inner 14-year-old is still always showing off for girls, I run to impress my wife.

But I also run away from this scene in the movie WALL*E: On the life pod orbiting a used up and garbage-filled Earth, the fat and jowly residents spend their lives riding around in lounge chairs, screens in front of their faces, big sugary sodas in cup holders at their side.

I really don’t want to be like that!

The other vision is my hero George Verwer, the wiry, mouthy octogenarian who launched Operation Mobilization as well as the missionary careers of a gazillion people. He was already in full stride 35 years ago when he first impacted my life and he continues to generate helpful content today.

That’s what I want to be like!

How About You?

From the bewilderingly complex work of your cells to the cool color of your hair, God has giving you a great body. Are you taking care of it? Would you like to do better?

If you would, please join me and your Mission Catalyst compadres by setting a health goal for September. Here’s mine: By the time the next Practical Mobilization article hits your email box, I’m going to weigh less than 200 pounds. I don’t have a terribly long way to go, but I’ve hit a plateau and need to log more mileage and consume less food.

What would you like to see happen with you and your body? Jot it down on the Practical Mob “Your Body Is a Temple” Wall of Wonder. Of course, you’re welcome to just take a peek at what others are doing. You might get inspired!

May God give us grace, courage, and grit to properly but relentlessly care for the amazing bodies he’s given us. And as a result, may he give us more days to mobilize others and more months and years to invest in his great kingdom purposes.

LEBANON: The Church Steps up in Beirut

Source: Mission Network News, August 20, 2020

Lebanon is still recovering from the massive explosion in the port of Beirut that shattered windows around the city and killed hundreds [on August 4].

Pierre Houssney of Horizons International says many Lebanese are ashamed of the way their government has failed to respond in any way to the explosion. “But we could not be prouder of the Church, because churches almost instantly hit the ground.”

These churches, who have already been helping Syrian refugees in the country for years, immediately sent out teams to help clean up and distribute medical supplies and humanitarian aid. Houssney says, “The volunteers are touching the lives of these people, serving these people, and helping them clean up the broken glass. They pray with people and give out meals and sandwiches and medical aid. It’s incredibly impactful and glorifying to Jesus.”

» Read full story and another from MNN, Lebanon Turns 100 in the Midst of Crisis, Catastrophe.

» You might also want to watch a beautiful tribute to the city of Beirut recorded by Assyrian Christian singer Ilona Danho (h/t Joel News) or read about the country’s spike in COVID-19 cases since the explosion (International Rescue Committee).

WORLD: Bible Translated into 700th Language

Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators UK, August 28, 2020

A new milestone has been reached as the Bible has been translated into its 700th language. The milestone is indicative of the acceleration that is happening in the work of Bible translation—to the extent that it is impossible to state which translation was actually the 700th, as there were several launches of physical Bibles, as well as several being made available online and via apps, all at about the same time.

James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, says, “It’s good to take a step back and realize what this 700th Bible means: 5.7 billion people who speak 700 languages now have the Bible in the language that speaks to them best. That is a remarkable figure and continues to grow. However, there are still about 1.5 billion people—that’s roughly 1 in 5—who do not have the Bible in their language. That’s an injustice that Bible translation teams worldwide continue to work to put right.”

» Full story describes some of the most recently completed translations.

» Bible translation has often been the task of decades. See Yom Bible Published After Almost 70 Years (SIM International), and read the incredible story of the Tibetan Bible (Asia Harvest).

SLOVAKIA: Inside the Roma Revival

Source: Assemblies of God World Mission, August 26, 2020

Across Slovakia’s countryside, castles have dominated the landscape for a thousand years, boasting of power, wealth, and luxury. At their feet, sleepy villages rest in lush valleys. Small chapels marked by crosses and images of saints dot the roads, reminders of long-ago days when medieval travelers stopped to rest and pray.

Beyond the mountains, a complex tale has been playing out for decades. It is the story of the Roma people—the “gypsies.” Deeply marginalized by larger society, the Roma have suffered greatly. Yet for 20 years, an unprecedented revival has been growing among Slovakia’s Roma. Church leaders and members alike agree: Only God could bring this about.

Roma who are touched by the revival in Slovakia are now moving across Europe seeking better opportunities for their families. They carry Jesus with them, spreading revival fires wherever they go.

“To see revival is hard work,” [says a Roma church leader]. “But we are seeing its fruit—and the blessings of God—and in that there is great joy. We do not wait for the broken to come to us. We go find them. Revival must first be in us. Its fire must be in our hearts. Pray this for us: We need more servants to come help us. Many villages are crying out to us for help in terrible situations, and we do not have enough people to send. They call and we do not have enough people to answer.”

» Full story describes a pattern of life transformation among Roma who come to Christ.

» Want to learn more? A few years ago, Mission Frontiers magazine had a whole issue focused on the Roma.

NORTH KOREA: Christians Suffer Under COVID-19

Source: Open Doors, August 28, 2020

The “ghost disease.” That’s what North Koreans call COVID-19. “People can be sick without knowing it,” [said] Brother Simon, Open Doors’ coordinator for ministry among North Koreans. “They are usually malnourished already. Then suddenly, they die quickly. Some even just fall dead on the ground. It’s an invisible killer.”

“The central government and local authorities are very fearful of the spread of coronavirus. The only thing they can do is impose lockdowns. Many marketplaces are closed down, even though the population is completely dependent on the black markets. But even if [the markets were] open, there’s little food you can buy. And prices have quadrupled. It will cost you multiple months’ salary to buy a kilo of rice. The border with China is closed, which prevents most trade and smuggling activities.”

2020 has been a very difficult year for North Koreans, according to secret Christians who have shared with Brother Simon’s team and contacts. “It’s not just the coronavirus, the lockdowns, the little food, and the unaffordable prices that [affect] the people,” Brother Simon says. “They have also seen heavy rainfall, mudslides, and now a heat wave. North Koreans are really suffering this year.”

» Full story includes context and prayer requests.

SUDAN: An End to War?

Source: International Christian Concern, September 1, 2020

On Monday, August 31, the transitional government of Sudan and five of the country’s main rebel groups have agreed and initialed a peace agreement. The signing of this peace agreement means the end of a 17-year-long war that has raged in southern Sudan.

The signing of this agreement and the support of South Sudan [may signal] an end to one of the bloodiest and longest wars in recent African history. The next step forward is for increasing freedoms to reach all citizens in Sudan, including its minority Christian population.

» Read full story and pray for lasting peace. Other news sources suggest reaction to this agreement is mixed.

VIDEO: How Your Prayers Help

Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Maybe you—or people who support your work—struggle to pray and know prayer makes a difference. Some Pioneers colleagues introduced me to this short video from Wycliffe. We’re going to try to do something like it to honor our own prayer partners. Maybe it will inspire you, too.

» See also Wycliffe.org/prayer.

BOOKS: Good Stories

Source: William Carey Publishing

Every now and then we just need some inspiration from brothers and sisters who have gone before us to do something awesome with the Lord. This is a collection of some of those great stories (about a dozen books in all). The prices are good, too. We’ve reviewed many of these in Missions Catalyst.

» Learn more.

» Know George Verwer of OM? He says a dream of his has come true: all but one of his books are now available for free download from georgeverwer.com and royhessionbooktrust.org.

ARTICLE: Five Ways to Share Your Faith Online

World Venture, August 10, 2020

Paul followed God’s calling to Antioch, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. And he wrote letters from prison. If Paul had the same access to the internet we have, what would he have done with it? Here are some ways to share your faith online:

  1. Rethink how you can use social media tools.
  2. Consider your motivation in online ministry.
  3. Use watch parties and “rooms.”
  4. Watch for gift opportunities.
  5. Choose your photos more intentionally.

» Complete article includes tips in each of these areas.

» See also Maintain Your Momentum (“25 ways to move church missions forward during COVID…and eight types of people who might do it”). Great ideas from our friends at Catalyst Services.

BLOG/BOOK: Disability in Mission

Source: Joni and Friends, Hendrickson Publishers, The Lausanne Movement

“I’m sorry, sir, that the only person who responded to your invitation to give themselves to serve the Lord in mission was the little crippled girl who could never do it.”

The apology came after a service in my little rural church. It was about me. When I was five years old, polio had profoundly weakened me. Now 12 years old, using my crutches and braces, I had walked down the aisle to say, “Yes, I believe the Lord wants me to be a missionary someday.” Logically, it looked like an impossible dream, but the speaker looked the other gentleman in the eye and said, “Whom the Lord calls, He will use.” Those words could not be a truer description of my experience of disability in mission.”

» That’s the story of Elinor Young, and one of several recently shared in a new blog series on disability in mission from Joni and Friends. To learn more about Elinor, watch World Team’s 2015 video, Bad Legs: A Story of God Using One Woman’s Weakness for His Glory (YouTube).

» Check out the Disability Concerns network at Lausanne, and/or pick up the 2019 book Disability in Mission: The Church’s Hidden Treasure, edited by David C. Deuel and Nathan G. John. Looks like these blog posts are excerpts from the book.

EVENTS: Happening Online in September

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

First, a couple of August items you might still want to catch, both on Thursday, August 27:

September 3, Spiritual Formation Integration for Ministry Leaders. Webinar from Missio Nexus.

September 3, Mobilizing People of Color, Part 2. Webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen (watch Part 1).

September 7 to December 6, Encountering the World of Islam. Embracing Muslims with the love of Christ. Note: The first-ever Spanish-language EWI online course starts September 14.

September 8, It’s Bigger Than Short-Term Missions: Nurturing a Missions Ministry in a Disinterested Church. Webinar from the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

September 8-12, Engaging Islam Institute. Training from Horizons International. Usually offered in Dearborn, MI, but this year you can catch it online.

September 10, Hope Conference. Explore God’s work in the Muslim world through this Crescent International event. Timed and designed for an American audience. A similar event will happen September 17 for those from Africa, Asia, and Europe. Material in English, Arabic, Spanish, French, and German.

September 10, Multiplying Prayer: Fuel for Movements. Training session from Beyond. Part of a series offered regularly.

September 16-17, People Raising Conference. Be equipped for raising personal support. Usually held in Oak Brook, IL; this year on Zoom.

September 17 to October 15, Foundations of Media to Movements. Learn to leverage media to start disciple-making movements. Course from Mission Media U.

September 22-24, Support Raising Virtual Bootcamp. Provided by Support Raising Solutions multiple times a year, usually in different parts of the US.

September 24, Focus2020 Spotlight. Online event from Missio Nexus in place of the network’s annual conference.

» View complete calendar. Submissions and corrections welcome. We will continue to make updates about canceled and postponed events.

Global Glimpses from India and Iran

  1. INDIA: Seven Generations of Disciples
  2. IRAN: Christian Prisoners With COVID-19
  3. NIGERIA: Muslim Moved by Christian’s Radical Kindness
  4. INDIA: Christian Hospitalized After Assault
  5. IRAQ: Prime Minister Urges Christians to Return

God transformed the life of an Indian woman and gave her a vision for multiplication that has led to seven “generations” of disciples making disciples. See story below. Source: Beyond.

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