Read or share the email edition or scroll down for individual stories.
- USA: Pray for the 80,000 Muslims in Houston
- SOMALILAND: Trial Underway
- MYANMAR: A Global Call to Prayer
- PAKISTAN: Churches Develop Christian Studies Curriculum
- PAPUA NEW GUINEA: A Church Is Born; Another Group Asking for Missionaries
Source: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, April 20, 2021
There are over 3,000 churches in Houston, Texas alone, and an estimated 80,000 Muslims reside in that city.
A few Christians in Houston understand this incredible opportunity and are befriending Muslims in their communities. A piano teacher welcomes Muslims into his class with the hope of sharing his faith with his students and their parents. Young adults move into apartment buildings that are predominantly Muslim occupied to have more opportunities to get to know their Muslim neighbors.
A distinguished Muslim scholar walked into a Houston church to learn English. A church member befriended him, and they began to meet weekly. Today, that Muslim scholar is a seminary student. A young Pakistani man encountered Jesus in his dreams. Then he walked into a Houston church requesting baptism. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful…!” (Matthew 9:37) and in Houston, it is indeed ripe.
Read the full story with prayer points. You can browse the archives to learn about and pray for Muslims in cities all over the world. The campaign continues through mid-May.
Source: Middle East Concern, April 19, 2021
After a two-day postponement, several people detained since January had their first hearing in Hargeisa with various international observers present. They are charged with offenses against the state religion (Islam) and inciting others to disobey laws relating to public order. Three of them are also charged with apostasy, as well as spreading and teaching Christianity. Their hearing will continue on April 27.
The charges followed raids on January 21 and 22, 2021, when police arrested Mohamed and Hamdi [as well as] an Ethiopian woman, Aster, and Hamdi A, a Somali woman. Mohamed and Hamdi’s baby was detained with them. In February additional arrests took place.
On April 17, Aster, Hamdi A., and an Ethiopian man were released and deported.
Somali Christians request continued prayer:
- Thanking God for the release of the two Ethiopians and Hamdi A. and for their physical and emotional recovery.
- That the remaining detainees, including Mohamed and Hamdi, will experience God’s closeness and strength, especially during court hearings.
- For a fair trial to be held, that ongoing advocacy efforts will bear fruit and that those detained will be released soon.
- For strength, wisdom, and boldness for the lawyer who represents the people arrested in January.
Read the full story. Barnabas News adds, “Islam is the official religion of Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Its constitution states that individuals have the right to freedom of belief. However, the constitution also prohibits Muslims from converting to another religion, bars the propagation of any religion other than Islam and stipulates all laws must comply with the general principles of [Islamic law].”
Also from Middle East Concern, see Iran: Four Converts Arrested.
And from elsewhere in Africa, read Chad Faces Uncertainty as Reelected President Dies on Frontline (INcontext Ministries). The article says, “A time of fear and uncertainty provides a special opportunity for the Church in Chad to display extraordinary peace and hope, despite troubling circumstances.” Might that be true of believers in many places.
Source: International Mission Board, April 15, 2021
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has the longest-running civil war in history, spanning 70 years. The country is divided into seven regions, and within these regions, minority people groups have their own armies who have fought against the majority people group for decades.
In November 2020, the people of Myanmar participated in its second-ever election—a small glimmer of democracy in a history of military dictatorship and shifting governments.
On February 1, 2021, this democracy was ripped away from the people overnight as the military seized control. The country faces chaos and violence, and people are actively advocating and protesting to keep the military from stealing their freedom and the bright future democracy promised.
- Most believers in Myanmar are generational believers, claiming Christ in name only. Pray that recent tragedies will cause them to be desperate for Christ.
- Pray that believers will seek God in prayer and through His Word more than they ever have before.
- For centuries the church in Myanmar has been very slow to grow. Most believers have never shared their faith with their family or friends. Pray they would be bold to share the hope they have as everyone around them struggles in despair.
- Pray Christians wouldn’t allow worldly kingdoms to take precedence over God’s Kingdom.
- Pray believers will keenly know that this world is not their home.
The full article includes pictures and a full-color flier you can print and share.
You might also want to read more about recent events in Myanmar and their effect on Christians from Elizabeth Kendal’s Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, which also has some recent commentary on events in Turkey.
Myanmar is majority Buddhist. Note that a major Buddhist holiday, the Buddha’s birthday, is coming up May 26. Will you pray for Buddhists? See What Is Vesak? (East-West).
Source: International Christian Concern, April 7, 2021
In Pakistan, Islamic studies are and continue to be a compulsory subject in schools [though] non-Muslim students are offered the alternative of studying ethics.
According to Barnabas Aid, churches in Pakistan have developed a syllabus on Christian religious studies to be added to the government’s new national curriculum. The new program would be offered an alternative course of study for Christian students.
In addition to studying Christianity itself, the curriculum also includes a section on modern social studies and modern history to teach the history of Christians in the national history of Pakistan. This section would specifically highlight the major contributions Christians have made to the formation of the country.
According to Barnabas Aid, the Pakistani government has been “very receptive” to the Christian Education Board’s proposals. There is hope that the new curriculum will receive government approval and will be offered as an alternative course of study for Christian students.
Read the full story. See another article from ICC about a teenage Christian girl reunited with her family after being abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. One study suggests that happens to an estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community each year.
Source: Ethnos360, April 13, 2021
After eight years of living among the Amdu people, the church has been born. And this was the very first Resurrection Day we celebrated together. What Christ did was enough to satisfy the Father and free them from the penalty of sin. No matter their past, they are now forgiven children of God.
But there are still many who have never heard this message. One of the things that drew us to the field of Papua New Guinea was that there were many language groups here still unreached with the gospel and asking for missionaries! We had heard stories from other missionaries of people from neighboring language groups coming to ask for their own missionaries, but that had never happened to us. Until a few days ago.
As a reminder that missionaries may not be foreigners, read about Wycliffe Associates and their efforts to equip Indonesian Bible Translators to serve in remote regions.
By Shane Bennett
One of the rare, exquisite joys of life is crossing a stream by hopping stone to stone. I don’t get to do it often. A lack of practice, along with what may be a low innate ability, shows through pretty clearly. But a couple of weeks ago, a great guy at church invited us to come and see some land he’d recently purchased. It consisted of a canyon with a small river running along the floor. The hike he led us on required crossing the stream a couple of times. Ah, the joy!
Since that afternoon, I’ve been thinking about how cool a metaphor rock-hopping makes for the journey to the nations. If you’ve been reading Practical Mobilization for a while, you know I’m not afraid of being a little cheesy. If perusing these few paragraphs compels you to roll your eyes, I wouldn’t blame you. Or you may feel it’s a little remedial for you. If so, I apologize—but encourage you to use that sense to spur you on to get it in the hands of people who might not have thought of these things yet.
Two of our party didn’t cross the stream. In my mind, they represent people who are not going to the nations. In the past, I might have thought of them as dummies or immature, worldly believers who don’t care about the important stuff like I do. Now I think of them as real people, children of God who are probably really smart and with whom God is pleased.
That’s because, as passionate as I am about getting bodies in the last places and among the least-reached peoples, I’m also growing in the realization that Paul is right: There are different gifts, but the same Spirit; one body made up of many vital parts.
One of the two who stayed did so because she’s recovering from an injury. Next time we go, she may lead the way. Feel free to listen in as I say this to myself: “Give people a chance to heal, to deal with their stuff. God’s probably not feeling as rushed as you are!”
My friend Greg, who owns the land and had done the walk a few times before, wore some nice, tall rubber boots. This allowed him to stand in the stream and hold the hands of the hoppers. He even lifted some of my kids from one stone to the next. This may be the role many of us play. In a thousand tiny bits of encouragement, along with a few big ones, we help the goers get gone.
Sometimes this feels like an also-ran, second-rate, B-team role. I’ll tell you what though: If Greg had not helped our kiddos navigate the stream, the whole hike would have come to an early and tearful end.
Are you a rock-hopper helper? Hear me clearly: You matter. Probably way more than you think. Keep at it!
One more fundamental observation: As fun as the stone stepping is, the goal is actually getting across. In this analogy, the work is on the other side. You gotta cross to get there. Some of us from somewhere need to get where none of us have yet been. Get hopping!
Visualize a stone path across a stream and those who are crossing with you. You need each other. Let’s take a closer look at the key people and relationships.1. Your Spouse
While single women have done much of the heavy lifting in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, most of us will partner up. If God’s nudging you toward the least evangelized parts of the world, do your best to find someone who’s similarly compelled. Let’s be honest, it’s almost always easier to live where you grew up than to sink your roots into a new culture. And marriage isn’t easy anywhere. Choose wisely. (And remember, grace abounds and God thinks you rock!)2. Your Church, Agency, and Team
Start as early as possible to get known by a church that might someday lovingly launch you out. Build a track record of service there.
Many of us would be smart to link up with a sending agency. There are a gazillion, though. So how do you choose? Ask someone smarter and older than you for starters. My friend Jeannie Marie who is smarter (but not older) than me offers this great list.
Few of us will go alone. Consider carefully who’ll you’ll team up with. Do you have the same ministry goals? The same vision for team life? Similar ideas about how to have meetings when you all have noisy little kids?
Americans (like me) can so easily think it’s all up to us. But God has got so much going on. Increasingly, our role might be to come alongside and serve the efforts of intrepid local pioneers who have crossed smaller cultural and geographic distances to begin new ministries among previously unengaged peoples. How can you help?The Stones of Preparation
You may not be able to drop into an unengaged situation and find a viable, productive role being who you are right now. Ministry in most parts of the world requires training, preparation, and development. I’m guilty of a “we just need warm bodies” mobilization, but the reality is that it’s tough to live in another culture. And if you’re going to work a job or run a business in a “foreign to you” place, you probably need to be very good at what you do.
So imagine the stones across the creek being the aspects of preparation that will get you from here to there.
What does that early stone look like? Should you get a Bible degree? A welding certificate? An MBA? Given my inability to predict the future, sometimes I think, “Just jump to the rock you can reach!” Look at how God has made you, then ask smarter, older people what they think. Take a step, knowing you’ll probably skip to a different stone before too long!2. The Stone of Practice
Starting as soon as you can, become proficient at what you do. A track record takes time. The best time to begin building one was “before now.” The second best time is when you finish reading this!3. The Stone of Service
Hop over this rock and you’re going to take a bath! Even knowing that, I’m tempted to sneak around the service stone. But nothing replaces cleaning toilets, taking out the trash, and working in the nursery. Whatever the other side of the stream holds for each of us, the essential nature of the disciple is servanthood. It wasn’t on a whim that Jesus used some of the most precious last moments of his life on earth to wash feet!
Finally, for some of us, getting to the place across the river where God wants us will require following a well-trod path. We might even be blessed to watch others go from stone to stone ahead of us. Thank God for that.
But my heart longs for unengaged peoples to get what might be their first gospel attention. The path to places where those peoples live is yet uncharted. You might have to launch out on your own. You might do what I did on our hike: Toss some stones into the stream to fill in gaps too big to hop. Let’s not be cavalier, but let’s also not bemoan lack of precedence when God is calling us to set precedent.
If you’ve ever crossed a stream like this, you know a couple of other things as well, don’t you? Some of the rocks are slick with moss, others wobble and tip when your foot lands on them. In either case, you could end up bum-down in the creek. It’ll happen. Grab a hand and get up. Shake and shiver. Then keep going.
If anything in my life is certain, it’s this:
The other side of the stream is worth getting to.
Editor’s note: If you know someone who could use some encouragement on their “stream crossing,” please forward this to them. If your heart longs for unengaged peoples, give Shane a shout.
Banjara women in India; see story below (Beyond).
In this issue:
- INDIA: Owning the Great Commission
- MALI: Remains of Kidnapped Missionary Recovered
- BANGLADESH: Hope for the Rohingya
- MALAYSIA: Woman Wins 13-Year Fight for Right to Call God “Allah”
- USA: Four Signs We’re on the Cusp of a Church Revitalization Movement
Like what you read? Please share it. Got this from a friend? Subscribe.
On Easter morning, at my church’s pre-service prayer meeting, I read Luke 24:1-12. In verse 11 we see how the disciples responded to the women’s report: “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”
Another source put it this way Breaking News: “Executed Jesus Christ Alive, Tomb Empty,” Friends Say (BosNews Life). Incredible. How do you think you would have responded to the news at that time?
In this day of fake news, I must confess my skepticism is higher than ever. But praise God, we can know the Truth.
Source: Beyond, March 27, 2021
The Banjara people of North India live bleak lives. They are impoverished. Illiterate. Unwelcome within city limits. They live under tents of plastic sheeting, often next to open sewage. They eat the scraps that butchers can’t sell, and they are considered too low for any caste group to accept. Their lives are devoid of hope.
Then a disciple told one Banjara group about Jesus.
They now have hope and have been changed by the Holy Spirit in every way. They eat decent food. Many have built one-room homes of brick. They started a school and their children are learning to read. Many have started micro-businesses. And they are obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples of the lost.
Banjara house church leaders met recently to seek God for direction in reaching 3,000 more Banjara families with the gospel this year. Though they are poor and mostly still illiterate, they are owning the Great Commission for themselves. They are dividing up the work and funding it from their own resources.
When people are discipled to Jesus—not Christian culture or church traditions—true transformation results. This is the Book of Acts in action.
You might also want to read about how God used an indigenous gospel film to spark a movement to Christ among the Banjara (Create International).
Source: International Christian Concern, April 2, 2021
DNA tests confirmed that the body of Beatrice Stoeckli has been recovered, months after her reported death at the hands of Islamic extremists.
Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry announced the findings in a statement.
Beatrice Stoeckli primarily worked in Timbuktu, spreading the gospel and working with women and children in Mali since 2000. In 2016, she was taken captive by the terrorist group ama’at Nusrat Al-Islam wa’l-Muslimin (JNIM), a group affiliated [with] al-Qaeda that has been known to attack foreigners in the country.
Beatrice was confirmed dead in October 2020 by Sophie Petronin, a French charity worker that was also abducted in 2016 and later released. According to Petronin, who converted to Islam during her captivity, Beatrice protested the constant changes of location that her captors enforced, and as she continued to fight against them, they dragged her outside and shot her. It is believed that she had not converted at the time of her death.
The full story includes a few more details, also widely reported by syndicated news sources.
We also found a few updates on other stories about persecuted Christians which we shared previously: Slimane Bouhafs of Algeria continues to face persecution after moving to Tunisia and German Pastor Michael Feulner of Germany is hopeful he can remain in Turkey (Morning Star News).
Source: Pray for Rohingya, via Assist News, March 30, 2021
“Where can we find a home? Where can we find security? Where can we find hope?” As I sat across the table from seven Rohingya men, my mind flashed back to a week earlier when I prayed “God, I’m losing hope in humanity.” Immediately I felt Him reply, “Why is your hope in humanity?” I was reminded that our hope is in Him alone.
All eyes were on Devin and me as these men, leaders in their community, awaited our response. We sat under a tent in the heat of Bangladesh in the refugee camps with bellies full of rice. The pain in their eyes was tangible and the hopelessness they experienced was real. Anuwar, a loving father, shared that he found out his wife was pregnant that same day. He felt aborting the baby could be a more loving option than raising another child in the camps which had no future or hope.
I told them how less than a year earlier, Devin and I were praying together. Out of nowhere “Burma” came into my mind and I pictured a woman wearing a black burqa. I could not point to Burma on a map. I had no idea who the Rohingya were, let alone their situation. The men’s jaws dropped.
“It’s like magic! Most people hear about us from the media, but not you!” I told them that God put them on my heart, and now I was sitting in front of them, on the other side of the world, to tell them He has not forgotten them. He loves and cares for them. It is in Him that we can find hope. Mohammed announced they must share this story of hope with their community, to remember that God has not forgotten them.
You may have read that at least 15 Rohingya were killed and tens of thousands displaced by a March 22 fire in Cox’s Bazaar, the largest Rohingya refugee camp (New York Times). Another blaze killed three more people soon after (Al Jazeera).
Source: World Watch Monitor, March 17, 2021
A Malaysian woman’s campaign for Christians’ right to use the word “Allah” for “God” has succeeded after almost 13 years of court hearings and delays.
Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill has been campaigning for the right to use the word ever since immigration officials at a Kuala Lumpur airport seized eight Christian CDs from her in May 2008 because the CDs used the word “Allah” in a Christian context.
After a seven-year legal battle, Ireland was given back the CDs in 2015, but she maintained that the court had failed to address her constitutional right as a Christian to use the word.
In October 2017, her lawyer, Lim Heng Seng, noted that 60% of Malaysia’s Christians speak the Bahasa Malaysia (“language of Malaysia”), which uses “Allah” for “God.” The word, which predates Islam, has been used by local Christians for hundreds of years, since Europeans first spread the religion, long before Malaysia even came into existence.
He said Christians were never consulted when in 1986 the country banned Christians from using the word, and that the government’s blanket ban was unconstitutional and discriminatory.
After years of delays, including several this year due to COVID-19 lockdown, the Court of Appeals judge Nor Bee ruled in Ireland’s favor that the 1986 directive by the Home Ministry to prohibit Christians from using four prohibited words, including Allah, was not a blanket ban.
Read the full story. An article from the BBC includes additional background, and the case is more fully described in a piece from Malay Mail (which identifies Ireland as “a Sarawakian of the Melanau tribe.”) Note that this decision is being appealed (The Star).
Source: Sam Rainer, Church Answers, via The Christian Post, April 4, 2021
I believe we are on the cusp of a church revitalization movement. The signs are there. Will churches follow them? On the road, a sign is no good unless it helps you travel to your destination. The signs point in the right direction for a church revitalization movement, but for it to happen churches will need to move.
1. Almost every church is smaller, but the core is stronger than ever. The return rate of people in churches is highly localized right now. Additionally, larger churches have lower return rates, while smaller churches are recovering more quickly. By this fall, Church Answers expects most congregations to be at 80% pre-pandemic levels.
2. The number of church adoptions [mergers] has the potential to catch the number of church closures. When a church is adopted, a healthier and stronger congregation receives a more vulnerable congregation into the family. Two families are brought together.
3. Pastor tenure will be longer after the great reshuffling. Like people in other professions, pastors are exhausted and struggling with decision fatigue. A great reshuffling is occurring. Over the long term, we expect pastor tenure to lengthen and get better, especially as Millennials enter the prime of their careers. With longer pastor tenures, revitalization is more likely.
4. The neighborhood church movement is primed for a launch. The neighborhood church is associated with a particular neighborhood. It is common for them to carry the name of the community. They were originally started in the community and for the community. For years, we have dismissed the potential for these churches. I believe they are primed for a comeback.
The full article includes links to a new “master class” and conference about church revitalization.
Also worth noting: As various sources report, less than half of Americans now claim a formal congregational membership (Baptist News).
- Letter from the Editor: Resurrection Resources
- Prayer Guides: More on Praying for Muslims
- Event: Five Days of Prayer for Sikhs
- Article: Caring for National Partners
- Infographic: The Most Linguistically Diverse Countries
- Events: Conferences, Courses, and Webinars
See the email edition or scroll down for individual articles.
Easter is almost here, and I want to take this chance to let you know about a few Easter-related resources you may want to check out.
1. Wycliffe Bible Translators published a fun article describing unique ways this holiday is celebrated in different parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Maybe you want to try a few!
2. In Discovering Jesus’ Identity on Easter, Christianity Explored suggest that instead of hoping someone grasps the fullness of the gospel in a single church service, who not use your Easter service to invite spiritual seekers into something deeper: a place where they can explore Scriptures and understand for themselves who Jesus is? It may be too late to rewrite that Easter message now, but keep this in mind as a way to follow up with a friend who joins your celebration.
3. Who is Jesus? What did he do? And why do those things matter? George Murray’s booklet Remembering Jesus is simple, straightforward, and cuts to the heart of every person’s most desperate need—Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life-giving hope that we all need. Now until Sunday, William Carey Publishing is offering a buy-one, get-one-half-off deal on packages of these booklets.
Last month we featured materials from the 30 Days of Prayer campaign. Note that there are two different sets of material being distributed under that banner this year (with somewhat different topics) and designed for use April 13 to May 12.
You may also have seen that Global Gates is offering those who join their mailing list a free downloadable version of the booklet they created in partnership with World Christian. That’s the one about the Muslim diaspora in North American cities.
A few more ideas:
- Open Doors would love to email you a guide to praying for Muslims during this time. They have also created some memes you can share on social media.
- Frontiers USA is distributing an email series to help you pray for Muslims during this time: Open the City Gates.
- Prefer visual communication? You may like the email series from Prayercast best. Their emails will include a new prayer video for each day of Ramadan.
Readers may also be interested in a new book coming out this month, Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus, by Rachel Pieh Jones. We learned about it through an item from A Life Overseas.
Source: Lausanne Sikhism Working Group
Just 500 years ago, Sikhism began in the land of five rivers—Punjab—and its members carry five symbols and pursue five stages of spiritual development.
Can you take five days (April 11-15) to join others in praying for Sikhs, the followers of the world’s fifth largest religion?
Source: Catalyst Services
While many churches are expanding their care for missionaries, they may remain unaware of the care needs of their national partners and other national Christian leaders working alongside them. It’s easy to falsely assume that nationals either don’t need care or have caring support systems within their own community.
This issue of Postings highlights the very real care needs of our national brothers and sisters and presents seven ways your church can help them flourish.
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
All those listed below are online events. The shortest ones are often free or low cost. A few training organizations are offering small, face-to-face events, some of which are listed on our website.
April 1 to May 1, Strategic Storytelling for Movements. Mentored course by Mission Media U on applying elements of story to your outreach.
April 5 to August 8, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. New online classes begin regularly.
April 6, How to Tell Dangerous Stories. Virtual gathering for mission marketing/communication staff, provided by Missio Nexus.
April 6-8, Support Raising Bootcamp. Similar events held throughout the year in various locations by Support Raising Solutions, but provided virtually as needed.
April 7, Short-term Missions and the Local Church. Virtual gathering for church mission leaders from Missio Nexus and Sixteen:Fifteen.
April 11-15, Five Days of Prayer for Sikhs.
April 12-13, People Raising Conference. Be equipped for raising personal support.
April 13, Optimize the Effectiveness of Your Board. Webinar from Missio Nexus.
April 13 to May 12, 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. An annual prayer campaign. This is the 30th year.
April 22, Essentials for Fundraising and Development for Missions Agencies. Webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen.
April 22, The Blessed Alliance: Men and Women Serving God Together. Webinar from Missio Nexus.
April 22, Setting A Good Example: Training Other Disciples. Nugget training from Beyond.
April 22-23, Spiritual Care Symposium. Provide by the Christian Community Health Foundation.
April 28-30, BAM Global Congress. Rescheduled from 2020, now moved online for greater global access. A series of related webinars will precede the event. Prefer a face-to-face conference? One is planned for Chicago in late 2021.
View complete calendar. Corrections and submissions are welcome.