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Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

IRAN: Digital Church Unites Christians

Source: Mission Network News, April 13, 2020

A digital church in Iran provides fellowship, teaching, training, and counseling for Christians isolated from each other during Iran’s ongoing health crisis.

[Last Sunday] churches around the world met digitally to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A worldwide coronavirus outbreak has closed many church buildings, forcing Christians to move their services online.

But Heart4Iran launched a virtual church back in October 2019, Heart4Iran’s Mike Ansari says. “The conditions in Iran do not afford us the healthy and thriving church model that that we are used to in the West. [Most] of the Iranian believers are coming from [an] Islamic background. These are converts. They are isolated believers.” Heart4Iran calls their digital fellowship Mohabat Virtual Church.

Mohabat’s virtual church connects Iranian believers around the country into one family, Ansari says. “So, the very first virtual church that we launched for Iran in the region, we had roughly 1,000 people participate. And one individual… from Afghanistan gave his heart to Christ. This is telling us that there’s a huge demand, especially with a younger audience.”

» Full story. Heart4Iran is a network of 100+ministries working together to reach the Christians of Iran through media and broadcasting.

» From the US, read Ten Pieces of Good News We Are Hearing from Churches During the Pandemic (Thom Rainer). See also Using this Window of Opportunity and check out the tools there to get you started (Mobile Ministry Forum).

Staying Sane, Kid Corona-Mob & Canceled Mission Trips

Eight Things You and the Kids Can Do to Stay Sane and Love the World

By Shane Bennett

Maybe you’ve got some kids of your own. Maybe you just see kids skulking around the neighborhood or gazing forlornly from their living room windows. Maybe your kids know kids whose parents are nice enough to let them watch TV because we’re in a pandemic after all; kids who live in houses to which the UPS guy just delivered a PlayStation 4 Pro, again, because we’re in a pandemic after all.

You know there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the midst of the TV option, mandatory four-hour naps, 12 hours a day of online school, and “Just go outside before you burn the house down!”

Let’s say you also have a passion for the nations. You want God’s kingdom to come in the midst of and in spite of the coronavirus. You also want those heart-melting kiddos to grow up to be powerful ambassadors of the kingdom. Good on you!

Here are eight things you and the munchkins can do to redeem some “lockdown” time for the Lord’s purposes.

1. Fix a foodie fest.

As I type, it’s just after 10am and one of the kids drifted through asking, “What’s for lunch?!” Have you heard that lately? Happily, we have food for lunch.

You can combine this seemingly insatiable desire for food with a little nudge to the nations. How about treating your kids to some ethnic yumminess? For the truly intrepid, invite them into the cooking process!

Scout around KidWorldCitizen.org for recipes you can make for or with your kids. Here’s a drool-inducing page featuring Moroccan snacks. As you say grace, pray for the country and peoples your food represents.

To spark generosity and encourage empathy (but hopefully not shame), check out What Kids Around the World Eat.

2. Hide the Word in your heart.

Scripture memorization? I see that eye roll! In fact, I’m having trouble not rolling my own eyes as I write this. I have some little kids and it’s a bit unsettling to think about trying this with them. But Christians used to do this. Muslims still do. (I know! Christians do, too!) Here’s a list of ten nations-oriented verses. How about one per day, week, or month until we’re through this?

3. Power through with prayer.

You have a globe, right? Spin it and pin your finger on a country. Have someone Google how that country’s doing with COVID-19. Take a minute to pray for them. Don’t have a globe? Ask Siri or Alexa what countries start with the first letter of your kid’s name. Pick one from the list.

Here’s an idea to inspire prayer if you find yourself socially distanced from the people you long to reach out to. Phil Moore, a pastor in London writes about an experiment undertaken by hall-of-fame missionary James Fraser:

”Fraser worked out that it would take him three to five days to conduct church services in the highland villages of Lisuland—one or two days of travel up into the mountains, a day of gathering together, and then one or two days of travel back down again. He therefore decided to find out: What would happen if I decided to spend the time that I would have spent gathering with these Lisu people praying for them instead?”

Read the interesting article to confirm your guess as to the results!

Now is also the time to grab this year’s “30 Days Muslim World Prayer Guide.” This guide corresponds to the month of Ramadan which starts on or around April 24th. I’d love to see most of us grab the kid’s PDF version and use it with our kids or gift it to some kiddos we love.

4. Watch a great movie together.

My new favorite film is “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.” I expect I’ll be long haunted by the scene of the family of five standing scared around a paltry pile of corn; their entire food supply for the coming months. I actually paused the video to give the kids time to contemplate that. It’s really hard to imagine.

Another pick is “The Pianist.” It’s definitely not for kids, but it’s worth your time even if, like me, you get no deeper than the surface lessons, “Things could be worse than they are,” and “If other people can act that way, could I?”

5. Go around the world and across the street, but from home.

Check out the news series of videos my friend Jeannie is doing on how to personally grow and impact the nations from home. They’re called the Global Stay-at-Home Guide. Watch the first and subscribe for the rest.

You might also like Off-Road Encounters, a seven-part series chronicling one family’s travels to four Muslim countries. Jeannie has written some great questions for you to discuss with kids and things for them to do after each video.

6. Discover the pen is mightier than the virus.

My friend Aaron recently shared how he helped his kids connect with pen pals in Muslims countries. Read about the simple process. I tried with my ten-year-old and now she’s corresponding with a fellow Harry Potter lover in Istanbul!

7. Read a missionary biography to your kids.

I just downloaded one about Mary Slessor and am contemplating diving in with the kiddos. I’ve always loved the Christian Heroes Then & Now books. GoServeLove.net also gives a look at some missionary biographies you can currently stream on Amazon Prime.

8. Learn to talk like a missionary.

Now is a perfect time to encourage your kids to learn some phrases in a foreign language. Go to omniglot.com to find go-to phrases in a gazillion languages. You can also get audio clips so you have some hope of saying them accurately!

This might also be fun: Put sticky notes on five household items per day. Here’s a list of Chinese words and one for Spanish. In a week, you and the kids could learn 35 words. By the end of lockdown, they’ll be running businesses in Guangzhou and Guadalajara!

I’d love to hear your take on these and other ideas you have for staying sane and connecting to the world in these days. You’ve got a minute, right? Please comment on Facebook, Twitter, our website, or respond to the email.

Subversive Mobilization: After the Trip Is Canceled

Most summer mission trips have been canceled. Which has, as you’d guess, sent shock waves through the T-shirt printing industry. One spokesman said, “We survived the shift away from fanny packs, but I don’t know if we’ll make it this time.”

Seriously though, I’m guessing churches budgeted a ton of funds for trips that can’t be taken. What becomes of that money?

It may be used to keep staff employed or pay the mortgage. If giving holds through the pandemic though, and there are leftover funds, what might we do with them?

I’ve some ideas. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?!?)

  1. Come September, or whenever the funds would have been spent, divide them among the long-term workers you support.
  2. When travel opens up, send your pastor and two intrepid stakeholders to the most unengaged situation you can come up with. Ask them to sit in a cafe or on a rock and ask God what he might be giving your church among the nations.
  3. Use them to fund a Perspectives class for your city. Scholarship pastors, elders, and missions committee leaders with this string attached: If the course proves significant for them, they’ll reinvest their scholarship into future short-term trips.

You most likely have other, better, ideas. Please share them with us!

How are YOU doing? | World News Briefs

You’re probably feeling a range of emotions these days. Can you express them? This emotional word wheel by Geoffrey Roberts might help. (Thanks to Flowing Data.)

  1. WORLD: Five Ways Isolation Can Radically Deepen Your Faith
  2. INDIA: Gospel Opportunities Amid COVID-19
  3. SRI LANKA: Hints of New Anti-Conversion Bill
  4. HAITI: From Sorcerer to Church Planter
  5. RESOURCES: Updates and Additions

Like what you read? Please share it. Got this from a friend? Subscribe.

Greetings!

While we were waiting in the checkout line last week, the customer ahead of me asked, “How are you doing?” It wasn’t the “How ya doin’?” I’m accustomed to. It was more like “How are YOU doing? Are you okay in all of this?” Maybe the question was prompted by the magenta ink smear on my nose. (I was there to buy printer ink.) But I could tell the stranger was really concerned.

Times like these bring out the best and worst in people. My dear sister Andrea mentioned in our last in-person home group meeting that she is not always “the best version” of herself. For days after that sweet time of fellowship I pondered her words.

Sometimes we don’t have the right words to answer the question, “How are you?” Hence the word wheel above. For more thoughts on this all-important question, read The Greatest Gospel Question of This Moment: “How Are You Doing?” (Christianity Today).

In case you’re wondering, I’m feeling thankful and hopeful.

Pat

WORLD: Five Ways Isolation Can Radically Deepen Your Faith

Source: Open Doors, March 27, 2020

Could God use this time of isolation to spark a new personal revival in our faith?

If we take to heart some of the popular stories from persecuted Christians who’ve experienced separation—some in prisons, some on house arrest, and others as secret believers cut off from any contact with Christian community because of their faith—the answer is an emphatic yes.

Here are five ways God can radically deepen our faith in times of isolation and solitude—if we’re brave enough to let him.

  1. Isolation and solitude strip down our lives.
  2. Isolation and solitude reveal the current that carries us.
  3. Isolation and solitude form the geography for an authentic encounter with God.
  4. Isolation and solitude can expand our prayer lives.
  5. Isolation and solitude can increase our passion for his presence.

» Read more about these five ways to deepen your faith.

» Also from Open Doors, Stuck at Home? Worship with God’s People in These Five Songs.

INDIA: Gospel Opportunities Surface Amid COVID-19

Source: Mission Network News, March 30, 2020

Keeping the virus contained with 1.3+ billion people and a failed healthcare system is challenging, to say the least, but efforts are underway. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi started a three-week national lockdown.

“Travel from one state to the next is prohibited; all transportation has been shut down. People are filled with all kinds of anxiety,” says Todd Van Ek of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India.

Typically, India is one of the world’s most difficult places to be a Christian. However, “persecution has radically decreased because people are so consumed with the coronavirus,” Van Ek says.

In fact, “Parliament was going to meet and consider a national anti-conversion law, but then they shut Parliament down so it didn’t even come up for discussion,” he adds. “So we see a lot of positive even in the midst of all the problems that come with COVID-19.”

As described here, the nationwide “shelter-in-place” order ended Mission India’s typical ministry activities. However, “we’re still doing ministry; just the way we’re doing it has changed,” Van Ek explains.

Daily life in the villages is changing, too. “India is 70 percent rural, so the impact in the villages is completely different than the impact in the major cities,” Van Ek says. “In the villages, people are conducting worship services outside their home. People have more time because there’s this lockdown going on, so they’re engaged in more conversations.”

» Read full story and other reports about ministry in these times from Mission Network News.

» Also read India’s Coronavirus Lockdown Leaves Vast Numbers Stranded and Hungry (New York Times).

SRI LANKA: Hints of New Anti-Conversion Bill

Source: Barnabas Fund, March 24, 2020

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa hinted that he is prepared to introduce an anti-conversion bill to “save this country” from falling into deep difficulties.

On March 2, Rajapaksa, a leading member of the majority Sinhala Buddhist community and brother of the country’s president, spoke shortly before the announcement of a general election, due to take place on April 25 but now postponed because of the coronavirus.

Addressing the annual convention of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, Rajapaksa outlined the “threats facing the Sinhala Buddhist nation.” He identified the conversion of “traditional Buddhist families to other religions” as a major “threat.”

» Full story includes responses from local Christians.

» Also read Legal Confusion in Sri Lanka Fans Flame of Buddhist Nationalist Hostilities, Sources Say (Christian Headlines).

HAITI: From Sorcerer to Church Planter

Source: Bible League, March 23, 2020

Thony, a 45-year-old father of three, comes from a community in Haiti where it is common to practice Voodoo. Thony not only practiced Voodoo, he called himself a sorcerer. He often worked with a woman who was a Voodoo priest, and they both served the spirits. During that time, Thony experienced attacks by these spirits, and the house of his priest partner was set on fire.

He recalls, “I became so afraid of that spiritual darkness that I decided to flee the area. That’s when I moved to a different community in Port-au-Prince.”

His life began to change for the better after his move. A pastor saw him struggling and offered to pay rent for Thony’s new home. Not long after, he was invited to attend a local church. He found new life in Christ when he went to church that day. That was 15 years ago. As he grew in his faith, he became more active in the church. Soon, the pastor suggested he attend church planter training. He says, “I was thrilled to be part of it!”

Thony loved the sense of community he felt in the training as well as the materials he received. He notes, “They have helped me fulfill my ministry significantly. I have used the books to study the Word of God with other people and to facilitate the growth of the churches where I’m a leader now.”

Today, he pastors two churches. “I used to be a sorcerer, but I am a servant of God now. I know and understand the Word of the Lord better.”

» Read full story.

RESOURCES: Updates and Additions

Source: Marti Wade

In last week’s Resource Reviews we mentioned the film Free Burma Rangers would soon be available for download. Find it here.

We apologize for a broken link to the article Motus Dei: Disciple-Making Movements and the Mission of God. Find it on Academia.com.

The Upstream Collective is in the midst of a series of three webinars for churches and kindly posted recordings online. In the first one, a church mission leader shares helpful and creative ways churches can care for their missionaries during this crisis.

Crisis Consulting International is taking training online with an April 21-23 Virtual Field Security Seminar. Learn live via Zoom from CCI instructors the key principles of security stewardship while working in high-risk environments. Then, April 24, they will offer a Virtual Interrogation Management Workshop. Learn live via Zoom how to more effectively prepare for and manage hostile government interrogations.

Finally, two short videos you might find helpful:

VIDEO: Pray During COVID-19

Source: Prayercast

There is something you can do about the COVID-19 coronavirus. Many of us are in various degrees of quarantine and lockdown, but nothing will ever stop the power and reach of prayer.

» Join us in lifting our eyes from the headlines and fixing them on Jesus with this new prayercast video. This might be a good one to share with your church, group, or organization.

» Get regular updates on what God is doing during this season through various ministries from Mission Network News.

BOOK: Ephesiology

Source: William Carey Publishing

Ephesiology: A Study of the Ephesian Movement, by Michael T. Cooper. William Carey Publishing, 2020. 347 pages.

Acts 19:10 reports all who lived in the Roman province of Asia heard the word of the Lord during the two years Paul was in Ephesus. What does that mean? How in the world did it happen? And what can we learn from it that might help us today?

Ephesiology is a thorough exploration of this movement as described primarily in Acts 19, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Revelation 2-3. The author steers clear of contemporary models and debates; this may make this book more appealing to those who object to aspects of what they see elsewhere. What he seeks to offer is an accessible biblical missiology—or, as he puts it, a missiological theology of the Bible—for readers who want to see their world transformed as Ephesus was. This is not an easy read but a worth the effort.

» Learn more or purchase for US$9.99 (Kindle) or $15.99 (paperback) from Amazon or elsewhere. See also the Ephesiology website which includes a course, blog, and podcast.

» William Carey Publishing has also released a new, special edition of the late Steve Smith’s book Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People. Take a look.

ARTICLE: Motus Dei, Disciple-Making Movements and the Mission of God

Source: Global Missiology

How does what we’re seeing in disciple-making movements today fit into our understanding of Missio Dei, the overarching mission of God? How much common ground might there be between those focused on catalyzing disciple-making movements and those with a broader, maybe more holistic understanding of mission?

Check out what author and missiologist Warrick Farah has to say as he explores how the topic connects with various (sometimes competing) conversations in the field of mission studies and introduces the term motus Dei, movement of God.

» Read the article. You might be interested in another from the author, A Missiology of Social Distancing: Ministry Innovation in the Midst of Biosecurity Events (Circumpolar).

FILMS: Streaming Sooner Than Expected

Sources: Various

Some of you may have seen Free Burma Rangers, a documentary we reviewed in January. The producers are working on digital delivery to replace theater screenings. Keep an eye on their website or social media channels if interested.

I Am Patrick, CBN’s new docudrama about Ireland’s patron saint, was to debut the very day major theater chains were shutting down. So now, for US$15, you can get it on DVD with simultaneous streaming. It’s a thoughtful, interesting, and well executed film. I recommend it.

» See also St. Patrick and the Great Commission, a piece I wrote for Pioneers USA.

EVENTS: All Online for April

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

Not surprisingly, event organizers cancelled or postponed the face-to-face event on our April events calendar. But check out these webinars and courses you can still participate in. I’m including a few for late March which may be of interest.

March 25 to April 1, Guilt, Shame, Fear… and Faith (online). Training course from the Center for Intercultural Training.

March 30 to April 6, Spiritual Warfare—the Super and the Natural (online). Training course from the Center for Intercultural Training.

March 30 to April 6, Onramp (online). Training course from the Center for Intercultural Training to help launch you into cross-cultural ministry.

April 1, God, Germs and Global Missions (online). Webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen. Free.

April 2, Mobilization: Helping Others Uncover Their Dreams and Callings (online). Global update provided by Beyond.

April 6 to August 9, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online). Offered regularly; another course begins May 4.

April 9, TECHnically Connected: Navigating Distance on Virtual Teams (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

April 14, Engaging the Church as Senders (online). Webinar from the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions.

April 16, Character vs. Skill: Biblical Paradigms for Leadership (online). Nugget training from Beyond.

April 23, Overcoming through Prayer (online). Proactive prayer training from Beyond.

April 24 to May 24, 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (global). Annual. Consider purchasing the (paper or electronic) 2020 prayer guides for kids and adults. Watch and share the promo video.

» View complete calendar. Submissions welcome. We are starting to see May events cancelled and will continue to make updates.

» Cancelled your mission trip? Still in wait-and-see mode? Standards of Excellence in Short-term Mission has posted the recording  of a March 17 webinar on COVID-19 and Mission Trips with specialists in several areas. No cost. Check it out.

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