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Philippines: A Musical Instrument Connects Heaven and Earth

Source: God Reports, February 3, 2022

In 2013 Caleb Byerly woke up with a start and began to furiously write in his journal everything he saw in a rather unusual dream. For the previous five years, [Caleb] had been engaged in mission outreach to indigenous people and tribal areas in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

“In the dream, I was standing on top of this mountain. I was looking out across the mountain, and I saw a tribe of people,” he told God Reports. He had never seen the tribe before and felt drawn to them, so he asked, “What tribe are you? What people are you?”

“We’re the Tinananon tribe,” they replied. Caleb had never heard of this people group and he began to carefully observe their actions in his dream.

A tribal chief walked to the front carrying a musical instrument.

“He took two small sticks, and he began to play this instrument. As he played the whole tribe started to dance and they started to worship. This kind of sound of worship just filled the place. It was as if heaven and earth just collided. After that, I woke up from the dream.”

God has spoken to Caleb through dreams previously, so he meticulously recorded in his journal the name of the Tinananon tribe. He made detailed drawings of the bowl, its dimensions and materials, a wooden ring that goes around the bowl, the strings connected by wooden pegs, and the two sticks used to play the instrument.

The full story describes how Caleb, an instrument maker by trade, built the instrument he saw in his dream, found the Tinananon tribe, and helped bring them the Bible in their language. It’s pretty amazing!

Hear Caleb tell the story in a 2019 episode on The Unseen Story, a podcast with first-person stories that build faith in God’s power and presence. Actually, Google will help you find this story told in quite a few places.

Note that Caleb Byerly and his wife founded Evergreen Missions, which includes a focus on promoting indigenous music, poetry, and more.

Watch Caleb play the salimbaa in the video below.

Blessed to Be…

Using Our Gifts & Privilege for God’s Glory By Shane Bennett

Read or share the email edition or scroll down.

Have you had a chance recently to consider how good you’ve got it? I’m talking about a deep down, soul-lifting consideration of God’s gifts to you. The sort of thought process that reminds you you didn’t hit a triple, you were actually born on third base!

If you’re going through hard, hard times right now, it might be tough to think this way. But it also might be particularly important. I haven’t spent much time on the precipice of despair, but maybe an effort to focus on what isn’t terrible could be a good way to walk back from the edge.

A serious inventory of the good stuff in our lives might also pleasantly remind us that we serve a God of abundance and abundant goodness.

The God of Abraham

Imagine the beep, beep, beep of God’s “Dump Truck of Amazing Gifts” as he backs it up to Abram’s tent and begins to raise the bed! “Abram! Grab your wife and get out here. I’m fixin’ to bury you in blessing! (What? God’s not Texan?) You’re going to have a land that’s yours. You’re going to have more kids than you can count! I’m going to elevate your regard among all men. I’ll have your back and mess with the people who mess with you. And, get this, both of you, you have a purpose beyond your imagination. You are charter members of the Global Blessing team. We’re going to take these gifts to every clan on the planet.”

The presents you and I get may be different from what God gave Abraham and Sarah, but they are similarly huge, certain, and rich in purpose. When I lived in Holland, I remember walking down the charming streets of Amsterdam, shaking my head and thinking, “How did I get so lucky to live and work here?” Even now, in southern Colorado, it’s crazy good. As I write, intrepid workers are installing solar panels on our roof to capture power from the wonderful number of sunny days here.

It may be cloudy where you are, but I hope you share my sense that a good God has smiled on you lovingly and abundantly. If so, there are two things I’d like to say.

1. Let’s recognize our privilege.

I know “privilege” is a provocative word these days and I don’t choose it lightly. But I can’t get around the sense that I have some advantages. I can make a long list of things in my life I did little or nothing to bring about but that make everything easier than it might have been. Maybe you do, too?

I grew up with two parents who stuck it out through thick and thin and three siblings who didn’t kill me though few would have blamed them if they did. Through junior high and high school, I had a pastor who pumped value into my friends and me and valued Jesus even more than he valued us.

I don’t worry about food, either the amount or the safety of what’s available. Nor water. Nor whether or not I can keep the house warm enough this winter to keep the kids healthy. Nor if there are resources for medicine if they do get sick. 

And I know I’m part of a society that is still generally run by privileged people like me (see here, here, and here) and they still generally run it for their (and my) benefit.

To be honest, I’m not sure how to deal with that. If you felt like God was leading you to devote your life to leveling the playing field, I’d cheer you on. But if the lone African American woman in my Perspectives class two nights ago, or the Mexican woman sitting near her, looked at me and asked, “It’s not fair the way the system is organized right now. What will you, as an insider, do about it?” I’m not sure how I’d respond. I hope I would at least listen to them and at a deep, honest level believe what they said.

This irony is not lost on me: I have the privilege to sit in my comfy chair, in my comfy house, and ruminate thusly, fully expecting you’ll read what I type on my new MacBook Pro.

2. Let’s consider what to do with it.

Sometimes Jesus asks us to give up everything, right? That was his prescription for the rich young ruler in Mark 10. Zacchaeus only had to give up half (and four times whatever he had gained by cheating!) Sometimes we expect that to be the vibe: God or a mythical preacher extending his mythical bony finger toward us and saying, “Thou shouldst giveth away thy goods and pecuniary resources!” Fair enough. The Bible shows us there’s a time and place for that.

I prefer the biblical model of stewardship. Every good gift comes down from the Father and is intended to bless his kids and facilitate their involvement in his kingdom-building enterprise. As good stewards we:

  1. Assess what we have, e.g., money, stuff, gifts, abilities, privilege, or even spiritual maturity forged in suffering.
  2. Compare that to the overall goal. Short version: Genesis 12:3b. For the longer version, take Perspectives!
  3. Figure out how the first step gets you to the second.
  4. Critique your stewardship success, but maybe not that of Bob in the pew next to you!

I so want to be faithful and true in this, but often fall short.

Last week, I read a super fun book related to this. (There’s the privilege again: I have the time, eyesight, resources, and security with which to read super fun books.) In More or Less, author and cool guy Jeff Shinabarger asks us and himself, how much is enough, and what would it look like to live a life of extravagant generosity?

Jeff made me wonder what I have an excess of and what it might be like to give that away. Some of the things he did seem easy: Decide how many t-shirts you need and give away the rest. Others, not so much. He and his wife gave up a huge chunk of their backyard to be a community garden. Personally, I need to grow in understanding where I have excess. I’m learning, slowly, how to give away money.

But one thing I have more of than some people is access to the attention of sharp believers. Yep, I mean you, among others. Believing that access to be a gift of God, I want to steward it to the best ends. When appropriate, I want to open doors for people who weren’t born into the privilege I was, but—and this should come as no surprise—have important things to say about God’s global purposes. (If that’s you, I’d love to chat!)

Grace to you as you steward your time, health, privilege, and money. May God lead you in a few minutes of reveling in the good gifts of your savior and the delight of being chosen by him. It might help you to crank Matt Maher’s Alive and Breathing! It sure does me.

Subversive Mobilization: Help Needed

Psst, over here, I’ve got a quick question for you: If God has given you skills in the dark arts of admin and IT, I could use some help. I need someone to help me drop fewer balls and help me with the content delivery I think God may want me to be about. If that sounds interesting (or more importantly, like good stewardship) for you, shoot me a text (719.251.1403). Let’s do some cool stuff together.

Happy Chinese New Year!

World News Briefs 02.02.2022

  1. China: Happy Chinese New Year!
  2. Japan: How the Japanese Deaf Are Sharing the Gospel
  3. Myanmar: A Message of Salvation Shines in Darkest Hours
  4. World: The Ten Most Dangerous Places for Christians
  5. Sudan: “In That Day, The Lord Opened My Eyes”

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

China: Happy Chinese New Year!

Source: Mobilizer Mom, February 2022

Between the Olympic Games in Beijing kicking off at the end of the week and [Tuesday] being the first day of the Chinese New Year, I hope you are taking some time to introduce this holiday to your children!

Need some tips?
Some craft ideas?
Some recipes?
Or to learn about the spiritual needs in China?

Read Travel with Me to… China.

You might use Alicia’s Olympic Games Devotionals this month. She writes, “I want to help your family watch the athletes and countries come together in Beijing with the purpose to see what God is doing in each of those countries and how he loves each person from every nation.”

For more insight on religion in China, see The Church in China: It’s Complicated, a short article Joann Pittman of China Source wrote for the UK mission info service OSCAR.

Japan: How the Japanese Deaf Are Sharing the Gospel

Source: World Venture, January 21, 2022

On Friday, January 14, 2022, Peter Persson prayed for and interviewed Mark Penner (United Bible Societies), Mary Esther Penner (WorldVenture), and Pastor Matsumoto of Yamagata Christian Deaf Church in Japan on Facebook Live on how the Japanese Deaf are sharing the gospel. They also featured JSL translator from Canada, Justina.

See the full story with a 60-minute video and links.

For more about international collaboration, evangelism, and Bible translation efforts, read Global Evangelism, Bible Translation Seek Common Goals (Wyclifffe Global Alliance).

Myanmar: A Message of Salvation Shines in Darkest Hours

Source: Christian Aid Mission, January 2022

Since the February 1, 2021 military coup that plunged the country of Myanmar into chaos, hundreds of civilians have been killed in random violence even as COVID-19 raged. Among victims of the virus were many Christian workers. A native ministry leader said that from May to August alone, 413 Christian evangelists and other workers with various ministry organizations died from the pandemic.

One of the native missionaries nearly died from COVID-19 in July, and since then he and his wife have planted a church, the leader said.

“He and his wife brought non-Christians and conducted salvation Bible training at his house five times in October and November,” the leader said. “He baptized 23 people, and they all joined the church.”

Another local missionary who works among devout Buddhists invited non-Christians to his house every weekend for dinner, where he taught them about Christ.

“In the month of November, he reached 48 people with the Good News, and 14 of them accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. Halleluiah!” the leader said. “He said that if he’s not telling the Good News, he is not able to sleep or eat.”

Such gospel advance took place at a time when pandemic lockdowns and military conflict made going out of one’s house unthinkable in many areas.

Read the full story.

See also The Tearful Struggle to Heal Battered Burma (also from CAM, via Mission Network News).

World: The Ten Most Dangerous Places for Christians

Source: Open Doors USA, January 19, 2022

In 2021, even during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, persecution against Christians continued at an alarming rate around the globe. Research for the Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List—the most in-depth investigative research and report on Christian persecution available—shows that today, more than 360 million people face high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith. That’s an increase of 15 million believers in only one year.

That’s one in seven Christians, worldwide.

Below, we look at the top ten countries where persecution is highest. In many of these countries, life is already difficult, but making the decision to follow Jesus and live as a Christian is a choice that puts one’s life, family, and livelihood in jeopardy. In countries like Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia, faith in Jesus can be a death sentence. And in 2021, we saw a spike in violence, new technologies that threaten the faith of millions—and a new No. 1 for the first time in 20 years.

Read the full article or see the whole list of 50 countries and download a report. Watch a 3.5-minute video about the project, below.

Also see a free, 100-page prayer guide from Voice of the Martyrs.

Sudan: “In That Day, the Lord Opened My Eyes”

Source: Dispatches from the Global Village, January 6, 2022

At age 19, Yassir Eric, living in Sudan, was a radicalized Muslim. He had memorized much of the Quran and was militant in his hatred of Christians—indeed, of anything that was not in conformity to the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

But then Yassir met a Coptic missionary at a hospital where Yassir was visiting his sick uncle in Sudan. The Coptic missionary had come to pray for a sick child. Yassir asked him why he had bothered to come since the child had little chance of living. Yassir was puzzled. Misled by extremist propaganda, he didn’t think Christians prayed or even believed in God. He watched as the Coptic missionary prayed and then to his astonishment, observed the young boy open his eyes and move his hands as life reappeared.

“In that day, the Lord opened my eyes,” Yassir recalled.

When Yassir’s family learned of his conversion, he was not just ousted—they held a funeral service and a symbolic burial ceremony. To be excluded in this case meant separation from a very large family: his grandfather had six wives and his 69 uncles each had four or five wives each. The entire family turned their back on him.

Yassir was arrested due to his conversion and spent seven weeks in prison. When he could finally visit a church, the people there were unwilling to welcome him because of his reputation and that of his family. Eventually, a Swedish missionary, like first-century Barnabas, welcomed him and over many months, discipled him in the Christian faith.

“What held you together during this time?” I asked Yassir. “As devastating as it was to be forced out of my home,” he noted, “I found strength in the Lord’s Prayer. God was not sitting outside, but he’s the one who came into time [and] space, and I could call him father.”

Five years later, Yassir moved to Kenya, where he studied at Daystar University and met his future wife. The two eventually moved to her home country of Germany, where he completed further studies and pastored a Lutheran church. Today he is part of the leadership of Communio Messianica, a global network of Christians converted from Islam, often referred to as MBBs or Muslim Background Believers.

Though it is hard to verify numbers, reports of growing communities of Christians in Muslim-majority countries surface frequently. Since there is no official registration of membership, Yassir noted, only through friendships and baptisms can even Christians in these countries track the growth.

Read A First-Century Story for the 21st. In it, Yassir proposes five reasons for the movement of MBBs in our world today.

See also another testimony, this one from a woman from a Muslim background. It’s called A Fifty-Year Solo Journey (Frontiers USA).