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Rubbing Shoulders with Visionaries

You’ve heard the saying, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” In other words, if you’re going to get smarter, get around people who are smarter than you. Of course, for some of us, pretty much anyone will suffice!

Similarly, I’ve been sensing lately a need to be around people who have more vision than me. Surely, I’m not the only one whose vision for the nations is prone to flag from time to time. Am I?

Last night I was on the phone with a ministry partner who shared about a trip to North Africa. It had profoundly changed him, he said: “What I saw convinced me a whole Muslim people group, not just ones and twos, could be won to Christ.” That was straight dopamine for me. After a few minutes buddy-breathing on his vision, I hung up the phone happy!

I’m wondering how to get around big-vision people more consistently. As mission mobilizers, we’re often scattered about and maybe even prone to isolation. Without regular reinforcement, given the blows our faith will doubtless take, we may falter or plateau.

So how can I—I mean we—get in proximity to people of great vision? Here are some ideas. But I’m hoping you have some that are even better. Let me know!

1. Go to mission conferences.

We list many of these on the Missions Catalyst events calendar and will soon be adding a host of 2020 events.

  • Upside: You can hang out and ask great people great questions while they eat breakfast.
  • Downside: Pretty pricey.
2. Text visionary people.

I guess you could call, too, but that just scares me! Ask them how you can pray for them. Ask them to tell you about their vision or tell you about something they’ve found encouraging lately.

3. Crash a Perspectives class.

Offer to host the instructor or drive them to the airport.

4. Read visionary books.

Start with the Bible. Read fiction and non-fiction as well as magazines and blogs. Missions Catalyst Resource Reviews can give you some leads. Reading James Bryan Smith’s The Magnificent Story recently did wonders for my vision. It increased my hope and desire for God’s kingdom.

5. Borrow vision from related disciplines.

Get coffee with local pastors who are killing it. Take entrepreneurs and successful farmers to lunch.

What do you do when your vision dips low? Let us know.

Making Thanksgiving Count for the Kingdom

Here in the US, our most American holiday is right around the corner. Thanksgiving presents a chance not only to re-calibrate our own gratitude meter, but also reach out to people we’ve considered connecting with but haven’t been able to trip the trigger.

Thanksgiving is innocuous, non-partisan, and safe. Even the most mild-mannered can break the social ice with, “What are we thankful for?” The more intrepid can follow up, “Who are we thankful to?” It’s a ready-made opportunity to get more comfortable talking about God. And should a sermon threaten to break out, there’s football, board games, and more pie.

If this idea is intriguing but intimidating, check out my super-short Five-Step Plan for a Killer International Thanksgiving Dinner. This will get you going in the right direction. Fill in the details by ransacking this beautiful and ridiculously helpful site with ideas for cross-cultural hospitality, The Serviette. These guys give the body of Christ a wonderful gift. Enjoy it.

Focusing on Goals for 2020

What does the coming year look like for you? Will you be expecting great things from God and attempting great things for God? (Hat tip to William Carey!) Recently when people have asked how they can pray for me, I’ve been sharing a desire to know God’s plans, purposes, and dreams for me and through me in 2020. I’m feeling ready for fresh direction and big challenges.

Being prone to both delusion and sloth, I know I’d best get in league with like-minded buds or that vision could all be for naught. I need people to dream and scheme with, to push and be pushed by. Maybe many of us need people who’ll ask, “Are you doing what it takes to get done what you’ve determined to do?”

Toward that end, a good friend and I are beginning this morning to read through Goals! How to Get Everything You Want—Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible. I hope reading this book together will culminate in some pretty serious goal setting next month.

If you want to set great goals but struggle with motivation to actually do so, check out this brief article on the brain science behind goals. Apparently setting your mind on challenging goals that also capture your heart actually rewires your brain to accomplish them!

And as mission mobilizers we need big, biblically sound, do-it-or-die-trying goals. The harvest is indeed plentiful, the laborers yet few. God is inviting the likes of you and me to rally, equip, and release laborers into his harvest.

If you’d benefit from sharing your goal journey but don’t have a pre-formed fellowship with which to do it, shoot me an email. I’d be happy to hear what you’re hearing from God, dream with you, and cheer you on to completion. And I wouldn’t hate having your input on my goals!

Subversive Mobilization: What’s on Your Christmas List?

In past years the December edition of Practical Mobilization has consisted of Christmas lists “from” and “for” mobilizers. Basically: What might you get a person for Christmas to increase their passion for God’s purposes? What do you get someone whose life is devoted to mobilizing others?

Please weigh in on this year’s lists and thereby make them the best ever. Take a jolly minute to go to this Google doc and drop some good ideas in each column. Bonus points if you include links.

To encourage participation, your good buds at Missions Catalyst will buy one gift from each list for a lucky contributor. (Please include your email so we can tell you the good news!) To be clear: I’m hoping the list will have gifts with a wide range of value, but honestly, you’re more likely to get chosen if your gift tends toward this, rather than this!

Ghana’s Christian chiefs | World News Briefs

In Ghana, where chiefs make blood sacrifices and employ soothsayers, some traditions are giving way as Christians become chiefs and elders (International Mission Board). This edition of Missions Catalyst includes several articles about how God is equipping and using local Christian leaders in Africa and beyond.

  1. GHANA: The Christian Chiefs
  2. MOZAMBIQUE: Graduates Ready to Serve
  3. WEST AFRICA: Celebrating the Scriptures
  4. EAST AFRICA: From Islamic Scholar to Follower of Jesus
  5. CHINA: A Testimony

GHANA: The Christian Chiefs

Source: International Mission Board, November 4, 2019

The tension can be felt across the crowd of hundreds outside the palace in Nalerigu, Ghana. They wait in silent anticipation for the Taraana, one of the Mamprusi king’s seven elders, to come out of the hall to present the man the king has selected as chief. When he does, the new chief’s supporters erupt into cheers and applause. The Taraana ceremoniously places a white smock on the chief followed by a bright red cap. Thus begins several days of celebration and ritual as the new chief is “enskinned.”

The Taraana—which translates literally to “peer” or “equal”—is in many senses the king’s right-hand man. However, over the next few days, this Taraana will not be involved in the ritual sacrifices to the ancestral spirits or in the formal Islamic prayers for the new chief. This Taraana is the first in the traditional kingdom of Mamprugu’s seven-hundred-year history to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Like many West African nations, even though a democratic government runs the nation, there are traditional, tribal chieftaincy structures that are still the authority at the local and, occasionally, even regional level. These local leadership positions are almost always intricately connected to African traditional religious belief systems.

In northern Ghana, chiefs sit on skins (hence the term enskinned instead of enthroned) and those skins are often taken from the animals that were sacrificed to ancestral spirits in a prayerful plea to win the chieftaincy contest. Once in power, a chief will wear magical amulets to empower his rule and protect him from his enemies. He will regularly employ soothsayers and make blood sacrifices to ancestral shrines for guidance.

So the question arises, can a Christian become a chief? Fifty years ago, this was unheard of in northern Ghana.

» Full story (with pictures) reports there are now so many Christian chiefs in Northern Ghana that they formed their own Christian Chiefs Association, working to integrate Christian principles and discourage harmful practices. Read Annual Northern Ghana Christian Chiefs Conference Ends with a Call to Promote Peace (Ghana Broadcasting Corporation).

» Read about the evangelical Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner again struggling to reconcile opposing forces (Christianity Today).

MOZAMBIQUE: Graduates Ready to Serve

Source: Global Partners, October 23, 2019

Five couples and two women graduated from the Xai-Xai Bible College in Mozambique at the end of September. (A few students received a one-year Christian ministry certificate.)

These graduates were sent out and are very needed in their communities as new churches are planted every year by the JESUS Film team and by house-to-house evangelism. Other churches were waiting for a trained pastor. The graduates returned to four different districts.

Manuel Boca and his wife will be Mozambique’s first missionaries to a foreign country, Malawi, in the next few months—once their work visas are finished. Please pray for these graduates as they transition into a new season of ministry!

» In the full story, several first-year students briefly share their ministry hopes. Let’s ask God to continue raising up and equipping the Christians of this African country.

WEST AFRICA: Celebrating the Scriptures

Source: Ethnos360, October 20, 2019

Not every people group has the privilege of having a Bible in their language. So, when a Bible translation is completed in a new language, it is understandably a time for celebration.

In the case of a certain people group in West Africa, a Bible translation has been in the works for many years. This summer, their New Testament translation was completed, printed, and shipped to Africa just in time for the scheduled celebration. This New Testament is only the second Bible translation completed by Ethnos360 in West Africa.

The day of the event, more than 300 people came to celebrate, both believers and unbelievers. There were people from the village where the event took place, leaders from other villages and leaders of other religions. Several missionaries also came to celebrate. All of the visiting leaders as well as those among this people group who had completed the literacy course received Bibles. Pray with us that they will read their Bibles!

» Read full story and another from Ethnos360, What Do You Mean—Heart Language?

EAST AFRICA: From Islamic Scholar to Follower of Jesus

Source: Open Doors, November 4, 2019

“Abdul Razak” is an Open Doors trainer who lives in East Africa—but he has not always followed Jesus. And he did not accept Jesus easily. His journey was long and tumultuous, and worsened by Christians’ inability to answer his questions about the faith.

But the Holy Spirit made the words of John 3:5 (“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’”) stick in his heart, and prevented him from giving up his search for truth.

Today the frustrations that made his road to Jesus so difficult drive his passion to equip Christians to defend their faith—and to offer the best possible help to Muslims seeking the way, the truth and the light.

» Read this man’s story.

CHINA: A Testimony

Source: Asia Harvest, October 2019

[During the Cultural Revolution] in the 1950s a total of 49 Chinese pastors from the Wenzhou area were arrested and sent to prison labor camps in northeast China’s frozen Heilongjiang Province. Of these men, Miao Zizhong was the only one to survive the ordeal and return home alive.

Miao grew up without knowing the gospel, and he regularly hurled foul-mouthed insults at the servants of the Lord. He became an angry man, bitterly lashing out at other people without provocation.

Everything began to change in Miao’s life in 1948, one year before China became a Communist country. When he was 32 he contracted a serious disease, and when he went to the largest hospital in Wenzhou they declared his case incurable and advised him to return home and prepare for death. News got around that Miao was perishing, and a relative visited and pleaded with him to believe in Jesus Christ. He accepted the gospel and repented of his sins.

From the moment Miao received God’s offer of salvation, his physical condition improved, and after a while he was completely healed. Overcome with gratitude to the Lord for sparing his life, Miao surrendered his future to God’s service, and he immediately traveled to another district to preach the gospel.

For the next six years Miao continued to proclaim good news to the spiritually hungry people of Zhejiang, until the authorities caught up with him in the winter of 1954. He was hauled in front of a “struggle session” by the local people’s militia, and was lectured about the evils of Christianity and commanded to sign a statement renouncing his faith. With a calm demeanor, Miao looked his persecutors in the eyes and declared:

“Jesus is the Savior of my life. I would be ungrateful to deny Him and as such I would go to hell. I cannot do this.” Upon hearing that, the cadres began to gnash their teeth and with their fists they started beating Miao viciously. He prayed fervently, asking the Lord for help. The evil men used every method, but in the end were unable to coerce him into submission.

» Full story includes a picture of Miao Zizhong, who went on to serve the Church in China for decades. It’s an excerpt from the recent book Zhejiang: The Jerusalem of China. We pray that the testimony of this house church leader will stir up the faith of believers in China who are again experiencing heavy persecution.

» From another Asian context, read Pastor Spends Months in Canoe to Bring Gospel to Filipino Islands (Mission Network News).

ONLINE COURSE: How to Be a Mission Mobilizer

Source: Bethany Global University

Do you believe every Christian is called to be part of fulfilling the Great Commission? Do you long to grow in your ability to mobilize others to get involved in global mission? Check out this series of 12 videos (100 minutes total) from BGU’s Kenneth Ortiz on how to be a mission mobilizer.

Topics include communication, advocacy, mission trips, fundraising, local outreach, and more. It’s not clear from the topics how BGU sees the local church in all this, but I haven’t watched all the videos yet.

» Watch the videos (YouTube playlist) or see the course page on the BGU website. Notice other free, unaccredited enrichment courses they offer. Several are directly related to missions.

PODCAST: The Missionary Mobilization Podcast

Source: The Center for Mission Mobilization and Retention at Trinity Bible College and Graduate School

The Missionary Mobilization Podcast is a brand-new resource for Christian leaders who want to increase the number of missionaries around the world. Our goal is to equip and encourage missions mobilizers and missions pastors for greater Kingdom impact.

Subscribe to The Missionary Mobilization Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. The first episode features an interview about best practices in mission mobilization with veteran mobilizer Mark Stebbins of Navigators. It’s solid.

» Learn more or listen, then check out The Center for Mission Mobilization and Retention.

VIDEO SERIES: The Early Church in North Africa

Source: The Heritage Project, International Media Ministries

Lost Legacy Reclaimed is a docudrama series about the early Christian Church in North Africa, its great leaders, teachers, and martyrs. In this series, filmed on location in Spain and North Africa, you will meet these faithful Christians from the first five centuries of church history who set a high standard for future generations by sacrificing for Jesus Christ during intense persecution.

English-language versions of the series are now available in the US. Plans are in place to translate and distribute these for Christians in the Middle East and beyond. We pray that this heritage will encourage those who seek to follow Christ in places now hostile to Christianity.

Episode 1: The story of the Scillitan Martyrs, twelve Christian men and women from Carthage (modern Tunisia) who refused to deny their faith and were brutally executed by order of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Episode 2: The story of Victor, who served as Bishop of Rome in the late second century. Victor was the first pope from North Africa and he presided over the church at a time of controversy between the western and eastern branches of the church.

3. The story of Perpetua, a Christian woman from North Africa martyred in a Roman arena along with several companions in the early third century. Her story is drawn from the personal diary she kept during her imprisonment.

4. The story of Tertullian, a prolific Christian apologist who lived in Carthage from 155 to 240 AD. He is known as “The father of Latin Christianity.”

Subsequent episodes will focus on Augustine, Anthony, Quodvultdeus, and Cyprian.

» Watch the two-minute trailer (Vimeo). Purchase half-hour episodes from Amazon for $.99 apiece (or watch via Amazon Prime). Looks like several sources offer the videos on DVD.

BOOKS: Four Great New Books

Sources: Various

My bookshelf overfloweth! So many new books. Here are two titles deal with persecution and perseverance, and two speak to the mission of the Church and our part in it. We don’t have space for long reviews but can give you short ones. I’ll post reviews on Amazon with further comments.

God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance, by Andrew Brunson, with Craig Borlase. Baker Books, 2019. 228 pages.

In this book Brunson describes the events of his arrest, two-year imprisonment, charges, and trials, along with the escalation of his case as a political tug-of-war and an amazing outpouring of prayer and support from surprising quarters.

Primarily, though, it’s the story of the author’s spiritual and psychological struggle while in prison. He felt abandoned by God and fought a tremendous battle against anxiety and despair, exacerbated by the expectation that he should be strong in his faith rather than broken, as was the case.

While in prison Brunson read the writings of other Christians describing their prison experiences. Some of that was helpful, but it strengthened his resolve that he decided if he ever told his own story, he’d be sure to make it a story about his weakness. Then anyone who read it and struggled like he did would know they were not alone. Very moving.

Zhejiang: The Jerusalem of China, by Paul Hattaway. SPCK/Asia Harvest, 2019. 288 pages.

This is the third volume in The China Chronicles, a province-by-province, decade-by-decade account of God’s astonishing work in China, which the author calls the “the greatest Christian revival in history.” Zhejiang is a wealthy province in eastern China and has the country’s highest percentage of Christians. Learn how it got that way while reading the stories of foreign and Chinese Christians. I find each book in this series more intriguing than the last. Well researched and well written. Paul Hattaway founded Asia Harvest Ministries.

On Mission Together: Integrating Missions into the Local Church, by Richard Noble. Fall City Press, 2019. 190 pages.

What is the mission of God, and what does it look like to partner with him, understanding missions as not just a particular program but a priority for every part of the church and each member? How do you, especially if you’re a pastor or mission leader, integrate missions into the life of your church?

Although parts of the book tend to be very directive (“every church should…”), it is thorough enough that every church can find in these pages a picture of itself, its struggles, and ways to improve. It feels like an updated version of some of ACMC’s best publications. I appreciated the helpful case studies from a diversity of churches across the US and the resource suggestions throughout the book and in its appendices. The author, who is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, has started a ministry called The Center for Missional Engagement.

As Missio Nexus President Ted Esler says, “This is an excellent primer for mission team members, mission pastors, or any church leader who seeks to understand the issues in local church missions.”

Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need, by David Platt. Multnomah, 2019. 222 pages.

The author of Radical takes readers on a soul-searching journey through impoverished villages in the Himalayan mountains, daring them to make a difference in a world of urgent need, starting right where they live.

I just bought this book and haven’t had time to read it yet. Sounds quite compelling, doesn’t it?

Finally, two more new books others recommend but I haven’t read:

Paradigm Shift: Why International Students Are So Strategic to Global Missions, by Jack D. Burke. Leiton Chinnn says, “It is the newest publication on international student ministry (March 2019) and the most comprehensive coverage on the topic, with contributions by many ISM veteran workers.”

Getting Started, Making the Most of Your First Year in Cross-Cultural Service, by Amy Young. Young is the author of Looming Transitions and other books and co-founder of the online community Velvet Ashes (for women serving overseas). She has launched a new missionary training platform called Global Trellis.

» Read any of these books? Love to hear your thoughts.

EVENTS: Conferences, Courses, and More

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

November 3, International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (global).

November 3-29, Mobilizer Equipping School (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Provided by Global Mission Mobilization Initiative (formerly SVM2)

November 4 to March 5, 2020, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online).

November 5-6, Support Raising Bootcamp (Pasadena, CA, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

November 7-9, Global Missions Health Conference (Louisville, KY, USA). Annual event focused on medical missions.

November 12-13, Standards Introductory Workshop (Kansas City, MO, USA). Training in the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

November 13-17, The International Conference on Missions (Kansas City, MO, USA). An annual event.

November 21, Chinese Christianity in an Increasingly Hostile Environment (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

November 21-24, Mental Health and Missions Conference (Angola, Indiana, USA). For mental health and member care professionals who work with missionaries.

December 1-6, Debriefing Retreat (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training.

December 3-5, Finishing the Task Conference (Lake Forest, CA, USA).

December 10-11, Support Raising Bootcamp (Jacksonville, FL, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

December 12, Designing Mission Opportunities for Every Life Stage (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

December 27-31, Chinese Christian Mission Convention (Baltimore, MD, USA).

December 28-31, Chicago Chinese Christian Conference (Chicago, IL, USA).

» View the complete calendar. It’s also time to get started with our calendar of 2020 events. Submissions welcome.

SYRIA: A Horrifying Scene

Source: Open Doors, October 14, 2019

Last Tuesday [October 8], the heart of Qamishli, a city in northern Syria, was beating with life. Kids were in school, men and women were at work, shops were open, taxis were driving.

Explosions ended the peace in the town on Wednesday afternoon, October 9. Turkey had begun an offensive military action against Kurds in northern Syria. People rushed back to their houses, kids were dismissed from their classrooms, and the streets emptied. Life stopped.

George Moushi, the pastor of the [Evangelical Christian] Alliance Church in Qamishli, saw the need of the people in this situation. He went out to estimate the damage, to see what he could do for his people. Unfortunately, missiles don’t differentiate between a child or a grown up, between a terrorist or a mother.

Pastor George described the damage he saw on the ground. “Thankfully the bombs didn’t hit the center of the city where the majority of people are,” he says, “but, despite that, there were deaths and people injured.”

“Today I visited a Christian family whose house was hit by two missiles. Fadi Habsouna, the father of two children, was injured and lost his house and his shop. His wife was also severely injured in her spine and she is in a critical state. Doctors said she needs surgery and she might be paralyzed forever.”

» Read full story as well as Urgent: Christians in Syria Need Your Help which includes ways to pray and an opportunity to give.

» See also Turkey’s Syria Offensive Explained in Four Maps and read how neighboring Lebanon is calling for help as they experience their worst forest fires in decades, which have now spread into Syria (BBC). Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin just published a special edition on Syria. Look beyond the headlines and pray for this region.

NIGERIA: Violence Targets Pastors

Source: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, September 25, 2019

[It has been] reported that Baptist pastor Elisha Noma (abducted by Fulani herdsmen on August 14 had been “released unharmed” on August 31 upon payment of ransom. However, in a subsequent interview with Morning Star News (MSN) Pastor Noma revealed that he certainly was not released unharmed as reported in Nigerian media. To extract ransom, Pastor Noma’s Fulani captors phoned his family and then beat, cut, and burned their hostage in the hearing of his loved ones.

Since being released Pastor Noma has received medical treatment for cuts, burns, and a broken hand. MSN reports: “In August alone, more than 40 pastors in Nigeria were either kidnapped or suffered some form of violence from herdsmen or Boko Haram terrorists, according to figures obtained from [Christian Association of Nigeria].” Pastors are particularly vulnerable because of their profession and their distinctive clothing. Please pray.

» This episode of the Bulletin includes summaries and updates on situations in Papua, Ethiopia, Algeria, Burkina Faso, India, Iraq, and Nepal. A section on the website for critical prayer requests highlights the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, observed by most

SOUTH ASIA: Miraculous Escape

Source: International Mission Board, October 14, 2019

He was an Islamic leader of leaders in his city. Early in his career, he was sent to study Islam in Pakistan. After his studies, he returned to his home country and began to lead the Islamic gatherings. He was also tasked with teaching and preparing hundreds of other young men to become leaders in the mosque. He was a leader and trainer of Islam.

One day at home, he had an encounter with Jesus. He said, “It was the first time in my life that I ever felt peace in my heart. I knew Jesus was real.” He kept this decision to himself for a period, but he finally shared it with his wife. She panicked and reported him to his father and brothers. They immediately came to his location and demanded that he return to Islam. He kindly refused and explained that he had peace for the first time. They beat him severely. They also forced him to leave his home, his city, his wife, and his children. He was never to return unless he would deny Jesus and return to Islam.

[Later] a group of radical Muslims came to him at night, wearing masks, and beat him. They threw him into the trunk of the car and then drove him to a militant training camp outside of the city. After some initial beatings, they then informed him that he would be executed at sunrise…

» Read full story.

AFGHANISTAN: Forgiving the Taliban

Source: SAT-7, October 3, 2019

“When the Taliban found out my brother was a Christian, they hung him upside down, broke his hands and fingers, and burned his face with cigarettes. They put that child of God through the most dreadful torment and killed him.”

Alborz [in Afghanistan] was devastated and felt unable to forgive his brother’s killers.

“Feelings of hate became my constant companion,” he admits. “The anguish and bitterness that filled my being took its toll and soon I found myself with no friends. Even at home I did not speak with kindness to those around me.”

Fathers in this part of the world are likely to encourage or even demand that a murdered child is avenged by his siblings, but Alborz’s father had been a believer in Jesus for more than thirty years.

“When my father told me that I must forgive my brother’s killers or it would destroy my life, I could not accept it.”

For three years Alborz struggled and had further conversations with his father. During this time he also read the New Testament, which deeply affected him.

“The words of Jesus about anger, revenge, and forgiveness had a huge impact on me,” he says. “Reading the Sermon on the Mount truly shook me. My tears flowed, my heart softened, and I finally forgave the Taliban. That moment the burden I had been carrying was lifted from me.

“For the last eight years I have been a genuine believer and I am now able to forgive. I have a great joy in my heart that God has placed there. …I’ve chosen to see beyond despair.”

» Read full story.