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Reveling in the Cultural Kaleidoscope

Image: Rudolph Ammann / Flikr

Reveling in the Cultural Kaleidoscope: The Different, Beautiful, Broken Destiny of Every Culture

By Shane Bennett

The view out our kitchen window here in southern Colorado is so beautiful it could break your heart; a constantly changing variety of color, light, and brilliance. The residents of our fair valley, however, vary less. While handsome and strong like our mountain, we tend toward uniformity: white, agrarian, conservative, paunchy, and maybe a little suspicious of outsiders.

I love these people and I love living here, but sometimes I’m jealous of those whose lives blossom amid smells and sounds of people both foreign and familiar. I’m also a little concerned about what seems like growing xenophobia in my country, along with polarizing opinions that either our culture is the best and everyone should adopt it or our culture is the cause of all the world’s pain and we should abandon it.

Here’s a refreshing, hopeful way to think about you and whoever your people are, along with all the rest of the peoples of the world.

1. All Cultures Are Different

I bet you’ve heard a rookie short termer freshly back from ten days in a not-far-off land say with far more confidence than the time away would merit, “What I learned was that underneath our skin, we’re really all the same.”

Bless his heart. (And I mean that in the snarkiest way!) There are global commonalities. I get that. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t go a little soft headed over a baby. And everyone everywhere works hard to ensure that this breath is not their last breath. Beyond that, the reality is that we’re exceedingly, exceptionally, excruciatingly different. Not only are we not “all the same,” but underneath our skin we’re so different it’s surprising we haven’t all wiped each other out. It’s a testimony to the power of the way of Jesus that his gospel has spread, for the most part non-violently, from that little band of Galileans in Palestine, from culture to culture to culture until it intersected your family some branches up the tree.

I once bonded with a Muslim guy in India around our mockery of a particular Hindu celebration. It was the fellowship of the minority monotheists in the shadow of the mystifying but huge Hindu majority. We were brothers as we laughed at the odd and incomprehensible practices unfolding around us.

To be clear, I don’t advise this, nor do I think Jesus endorses it. I’m not proud about it. But it does nicely illustrate my point: Cultural differences are huge! Some so much so that they can make an Indian Muslim and an American white boy feel like we could double date to the prom.

Even nearby cultures and common language can conceal deeply different approaches to life. One time when our small organization was preparing to move from Holland to England, a kind Londoner agreed to answer our questions about how to thrive in the UK. One of us piped up, “If I want to greet someone I don’t know on the street. What is the appropriate thing to say?” To which our English tutor replied, perhaps before he could catch his tongue, “Greet someone on the street? Are you mad?!”

Underneath our skin, even if that skin looks pretty similar, we are all quite different.

2. All Cultures Are Beautiful

I was born into a rather American part of America, right in the heartland: rural Indiana. I love America. Some parts of American culture are flat-out impressive. For instance, Americans have a deep conviction that we can fix stuff or make it better. We’re reluctant to roll over and accept things as they are. And we do fix things. Sometimes the fixing causes messes we didn’t see coming, but on the whole this is good, and maybe even a cultural gift from the Creator.

Every culture has its gifts. Have you ever prayed with South Korean or West African believers? There is beauty there running deeper than style; a passionate fervency connecting disciple to master.

Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of the winsome hospitality that characterizes many Muslim cultures. Some years ago a friend and I were hanging outside a little mosque in Konya, Turkey, wondering how many had shown up for Friday prayers. As the service let out, a dear old man found us, exhausted our combined 18 words of Turkish, and invited us home for lunch. Before we knew it we were sitting on his living room floor under the kind and attentive gaze of his wife, polishing off a delicious lunch of fried eggs and bread. She cleared the dishes but left us with our forks (a good sign almost everywhere!) When she returned from the kitchen she brought a still warm-from-the oven pan of baklava! Beaming, she set it down and said, “Afiyet olsun,” which roughly translates, “Dig in. This is likely going to be the best thing you’ve ever eaten!” It was.

Like the author of Hebrews, I lack time and space to speak of curries in Bradford, kindnesses in Pune, and the staggeringly beautiful creations of Italian sculptors, Dutch Masters, and French Impressionists to which I’ve been introduced by traveling. Nor do these limits allow for suitable reflection on the peace and pleasant calm that pervades a Malay kampong lying just beyond ear shot of the fervent, smoggy bustle of Kuala Lumpur.

A wise and good God has built beauty into each and every culture. These beauties are gifts for them of course, but also for us and perhaps mostly for him. As cultures are redeemed, these presents are unwrapped and spill forth their unique honor to the Creator.

3. All Cultures Are Broken

Since it seems unkind to speak poorly of other cultures and because Jesus was pretty blunt about the whole “log in your eye” parable, let me mention a way in which my own culture is broken. You can extrapolate from there!

Americans have a crazy love affair with stuff. We want cool, shiny things. As we get older we fully expect to acquire more, better, and bigger stuff. According to NPR, the average American house size has more than doubled since the 1950s. But even that’s not big enough for our stuff: Josh Becker says, “Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self-storage space for every man, woman, and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self-storage roofing.”

I’m not immune to this. The computer I’m typing this on stays serviceable longer than almost any other. Even so, whenever the wizardly engineers in Cupertino come out with a new version… Well, lust is probably not too strong a word.

We’re not alone in our brokenness. Stare into the searching eyes of a Gambian girl sold away by her family. Hold the hand of a young mom dying of AIDS. Stroll through the slums of India, or hike the concrete canyons of Houston. Even if your discernment is as stunted as mine, the brokenness is palpable. I don’t often pause to let that weight of lost beauty settle on me. Brokenness brings immeasurable pain. But somewhere, maybe deep, deep down, a spark of hope remains.

4. All Cultures Are Destined

Early on in the story of the Bible, God has a most amazing conversation with Abraham and Sarah. He talks of wealth and real estate, honor and lots of kids. He invites them into a partnership with the audacious promise of divine blessing being pressed into every family on the planet. Do you get this? God’s promise means that every culture is destined to experience his goodness. This includes the nasty ones we don’t like every bit as much as it includes our own!

In Acts 17:26, Paul, reflecting on the sweeping promises of God says, “he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us.” God decides when and where peoples will live, where cultures will be found. And he does this for his purposes, to keep his promise to Abraham, to press his blessing into all families.

In Colossians 1:19-20 Paul promises this will happen. In Revelation 7:9 John sees that it has. Bizarre, beautiful, broken cultures are destined for it: redemption. Let us delight, with great hope, in the diversity around us. Let us advocate for the beauty and inherent value of all peoples. And let us sow broadly this good news for which we have been made ambassadors.

The day is coming when, destiny reached, only beauty and fascinating variety will remain. With the Creator of this kaleidoscope of culture, we’ll have a good long time to explore, learn, and delight in this great work of God. Can you even imagine curry in the kingdom?

Subversive Mobilization: Mobilizers Go to the Movies

What missional movies do you love? Can you tell us about a favorite movie you use to inspire people to follow God and his purposes for the planet? Maybe it rings with redemption. Maybe it wrestles with cultural intrigue. Maybe it tells the story of people we might overlook but whom God loves dearly.

» Post your suggestions below  or email them to me, and look forward to an upcoming Missions Catalyst column, “Practical Mobilization at the Movies”!

World News Briefs

In This Issue: “Family is beautiful. I didn’t know what a family was.”

  1. GERMANY: Former Pimp’s Message to Fathers
  2. TURKEY: Jailed House Church Couple Flee Iranian Authorities
  3. MALI: Swiss Missionary Kidnapped Twice
  4. MOROCCO: Declaration Calls Muslim Nations to Protect Christians
  5. INDIA: “You Showed Me That God Can Use Women”
  6. GREECE: Partnering with Albanians to Plant a Church

Greetings,

The short film The Sum of Life’s Parts suggests that an average person spends 15 months looking for things lost, 67 days experiencing heartbreak, and only 14 minutes in pure joy. It’s an interesting film; watch it to the end. But aren’t you glad that Jesus came that we might have joy… and have it abundantly?

Chinese New Year is upon us, but the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, comes at the same time. Will you pray for these mountain dwellers to experience new heights of joy in Jesus? Get a beautiful 15-day prayer guide and spread the word that Losar begins February 9. (Thanks, Act Beyond!)

After we sent our last edition of the Missions Catalyst events calendar, we learned that our friends at Missio Nexus had planned several webinars for February which might interest readers, especially readers who lead mission organizations. The February 18 presentation will deal with global mission in the context of opposition and hostility (including the sort of places we often report on here). Do take a look.

Blessings,
Pat

GERMANY: Former Pimp’s Message to Fathers

Source: IMB Commission Stories, January 20, 2016

Broken homes are often hereditary, but God’s grace can end the cycle. That is the message reverberating from the testimony of pimp-turned-preacher Thierry Kopp. Today at 54, with a wife, two small children, and an evangelistic ministry, Kopp wants to pass on a legacy of love and truth to his children.

“Family is beautiful. I didn’t know what a family was, but God restored me [and] healed my heart. He showed me that he is my Father. And I like to be a father for my children,” he said.

At 23, Kopp was his own god. Selling drugs, pimping women, and accumulating riches, he lived the life he thought he wanted. But his life was empty until the day he met Christ.

With tears in his eyes, he explained in broken English what happened 20 years ago that changed his vocation from pimp to preacher. “I know, I know he loves me, and this is what changed my life—his love. Because… I have a lot of rejection. And his love was so strong, it changed my life—the love of God. Only love can change us,” he said.

» Read full story and watch related video. Commission Stories offers extended coverage of human trafficking issues, along with resources and ways to connect.

TURKEY: Jailed House Church Couple Flee Iranian Authorities

Source: SAT-7 USA, January 28, 2016

Imprisoned and blacklisted by the authorities because of their Christian activities, Arshia and his wife, Mahanaz, felt they had no choice but to flee Iran.

The couple shared their story with SAT-7 for a special documentary filmed throughout Greece and Turkey about Iranian and Afghani Christians who have had to leave their homelands because of persecution.

Baptized in Armenia, they returned to Iran and led a house church from their home in the mountains. They were discovered by the authorities, imprisoned and blacklisted. Upon their release, they were told they would be arrested again if they continued practicing their faith and would face severe consequences.

Arshia and Mahanaz felt they could not meet with other believers for fear of endangering them. Feeling silenced and isolated, the couple decided to flee Iran. Leaving everything behind, they walked for four days from Iran to Ankara, Turkey.

The couple have been living in a refugee camp for over a year now. “It is challenging,” says Arshia. “Our curfew is 10pm. However, it does give us safety. God is good. We go to the Iranian church here and can worship freely.”

Arshia and his wife have managed to find employment in a restaurant. They are still waiting for their documents from the camp to receive permission to move on and make a home elsewhere.

Please pray for Arshia and Mahanaz as they continue to follow Christ—wherever he may lead.

» Read full story or watch documentary (made for Persian-speaking audiences, but here with English subtitles).

MALI: Swiss Missionary Kidnapped Twice

  1. Source: World Watch Monitor, January 11, 2016

A Swiss missionary abducted for 10 days in 2012 has been kidnapped again in Mali’s northern city of Timbuktu, sources tell World Watch Monitor.

Beatrice Stockly was taken from her residence before dawn on January 8 by armed men who arrived in four pickup trucks, according to the sources, whose names are being kept confidential for their safety.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Militant Islamist groups are active in the region, where two attacks within [the last few months], one of them at a Christian radio station just before Christmas, have left 25 people dead.

A local church leader who claimed to have previously worked with Stockly told World Watch Monitor the missionary settled in Timbuktu in 2000, working for a Swiss church, before starting work alone, unaffiliated with any church.

He said Stockly is in her forties and leads an austere life, selling flowers and handing out Christian material. She was described as sociable, particularly among women and children.

» Read full story. As multiple news sources report, Stockly appears in a video released last week (January 26) by Al Queda’s North Africa affiliate. The video demands release of other prisoners in exchange for her.

» Also read about Maud Kells, another woman who would not stay away from the people she loved (Christian Today).

MOROCCO: Declaration Calls Muslim Nations to Protect Christians

Source: Christian Broadcasting Network, January 29, 2015

[In January] over 250 Muslim leaders met in Morocco to release the Marrakesh Declaration, a groundbreaking document calling for Muslim nations to defend Christians against persecution.

To combat the increased violence towards Christians in Muslim countries, Texas mega-church pastor Bob Roberts has been forming strategic relationships with Muslim leaders.

His efforts led to nearly 200 imams and evangelical pastors attending the October “Spreading the Peace Convocation,” hosted by him and Imam Muhammad Magid.

Roberts recently took his peace efforts further by traveling to Morocco with more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, scholars, and heads of states to release the Marrakesh Declaration. The declaration is a 750-word document calling on Muslim countries to grant religious freedom to non-Muslims.

In an interview with Christianity Today, Roberts said he is “blown away” at the success of the Morocco summit.

The Marrakesh Declaration is based off of Muhammad’s Charter of Medina, a seventh century document instructing how to govern a religious pluralistic state.

» Read full story and watch related video. As you might expect, responses to this initiative are varied. Check out coverage from Christianity Today, for example, then read a dissenting opinion here.

» Read reports about Cameroonian Christians and Muslims who are working to protect each other from Boko Haram (Voice of America).

INDIA: “You Showed Me That God Can Use Women”

Source: Act Beyond, February 2016

The partners of our team in North India were visiting some churches out in the villages. Most of the churches are comprised of families who became followers of Jesus in the past year. These families are snake charmers. They sit near the Taj Mahal and other tourist sites, playing a flute, coaxing the cobra to rise out of the basket and “dance.” Many of them worship the cobra, particularly because it’s their main source of income. However, now there are several of these families following Jesus.

Seth and Jay hadn’t visited this area in several months [but on the second day of their recent visit] led a Bible study during which they shared several examples of “normal, everyday” people in Scripture who obeyed Jesus’ command to “make disciples.” Some stories included women.

After the training session was over, a young woman, named “Parul,” approached Seth and Jay. With tears pouring down her cheeks, she declared, “I am a girl. I can’t do anything… at least, that’s what I’ve always believed. But today my prayers are answered. You showed me that God can use women. If those women could do it, I can do it, too. Now I know there is a place for me in Jesus’ Kingdom.”

In the past eight months alone, 68 snake-charmer families from this one village have decided to follow Jesus, as well as another 19 families from other caste backgrounds. These families now meet as multiple churches in their village. Most came to faith through the efforts of an illiterate (uneducated), twenty-something-year-old young man.

» Read full story.

» Speaking of what women can or cannot do, observe the creative way these women in Colombia created their own city (Al Jazeera).

GREECE: Partnering with Albanians to Plant a Church

Source: Pioneers USA, January 14, 2016 After living in Albania for several years, Andrew and Alecia moved to Greece to make disciples among Albanians who have immigrated there. They recently partnered with local believers to plant an Albanian-speaking fellowship at the foot of Mars Hill in Athens, just steps from where Paul preached the gospel 2,000 years ago. » Watch video (or click image below).

VIDEOS: Urbana Materials Online

Source: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

This music video features a powerful new song about praying for the persecuted church and was performed at the recent Urbana student missions conference. It’s now also available through iTunes.

» Videos of Urbana plenary sessions and audio recordings of many of the 180 seminars are also available on the Urbana website.

SONG: Facing a Task Unfinished

Source: OMF International

Looking for a centerpiece for your church’s next mission focus? Modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty have re-worked Frank Houghton’s much-loved missions hymn, “Facing a Task Unfinished,” adding a new chorus in a way that suits a contemporary church music band.

OMF International is partnering with the Gettys to launch the song worldwide on February 21, 2016, in a global event they are calling The Task Unfinished, and praying that this will be a global movement towards completing the church’s mission.

Could you incorporating the song in your worship on (or after) February 21, 2016, and take the opportunity to feature mission in the service?

By signing up you can listen to the song online and encourage your worship leaders and pastors to sign up. When they do, they will get the music scores and event resources they will need to lead the song.

» Listen to the song and learn more. See also 14 ideas for a world missions service.

» See Molly Wall from Operation World presenting on The State of the World: The Task that Remains at last month’s Urbana conference.

BOOK: What Global Expressions of Faith Can Teach Us about Following Jesus

Source: Baker Books

Boundless: What Global Expressions of Faith Can Teach Us about Following Jesus, by Bryan Bishop. Baker Books, 2015. 240 pages.

This gracefully written book takes us along on the author’s journey through the world of contextualized religion to discover what might help post-Christian westerners who hunger for a faith more relevant and vibrant than what they have inherited in traditional Christianity.

Bishop, a long-time researcher and writer with Youth with a Mission, visits groups who learn from and worship Jesus using forms inspired by Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and native American cultures (and generally found in those religious settings). He sees his own faith grow and shares his questions and what he learns along the way from groups of believers who honor the centrality of the Bible, focus on Jesus, adopt local practices, and seek truth where they can find it.

Bishop’s honest and engaging travelogue through a landscape often marked with controversy nicely blends scholarship, journalism, and personal reflection. I would recommend this book to any who seek to understand contextualization and its faces, problems, and benefits, and I believe it would hold the interest of those new to these issues as well as those who have long considered them.

» Learn more or purchase the book from Amazon (or elsewhere).

ARTICLES: Lausanne Global Analysis

Source: Lausanne Movement, January 2016

The January issue of Lausanne’s Global Analysis focuses on the witness of the churches in war-torn Syria and how we can support and learn from them; the questions raised by the Chinese government cracking down on registered churches while at the same time initiating dialogue with house church leaders; the trend among some Christians towards turning Jerusalem into a Christian Mecca and how we should respond; and on how developing young leaders with disabilities strengthens the body of Christ.

» Learn more and download the full issue or the executive summary.

» Some might also be interested in a special edition of the Evangelical Missiological Society’s Occasional Bulletin in which various writers weigh in on the missiological implications of the much debated and problematic question, do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? (See also a summary from Christianity Today, which includes links to other articles).

BOOK: A Better Path to Global Engagement (for American Churches)

Source: 181 Publishing

Walk This Way: A Better Path to Global Engagement, by Paul McGuiness. 181 Publishing, 2015. 148 pages.

This book is written to an American audience and from the point of view of a church leader. The “better path” it proposes is for American churches that want to engage effectively with global ministry partners, especially where the church already exists (e.g., places like Haiti and Kenya where the author’s church has been working).

I appreciate McGuiness’ winsome, positive approach to this topic and his use of personal examples, analogies, and scripture to support his points. He builds on and directs the reader toward a variety of resources, ministries, and subject-area experts. These are well chosen. The result is a readable, balanced, and practical introduction to global partnership. It would be a good book for church mission teams to read and discuss together.

» Learn more or purchase the book from Amazon (or elsewhere) or see also the book’s website.

» Two other new books to check out for yourself: Paul Borthwick’s Great Commission, Great Compassion: Following Jesus and Loving the World and Steve Addison’s Pioneering Movements: Leadership that Multiplies Disciples and Churches. Both are from InterVarsity Press and look worth reading.

EVENTS: Upcoming Conferences, Training, and More

Source: Missions Catalyst Calendar

February 2, Disciple Making Movements Training (online). Start of a seven-week class provided by Act Beyond.

February 3-6, International Conference on Computing and Mission (Mosbach, Germany). An annual event.

February 5-7, Missionfest Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB, Canada). Free, annual, community-based mission festival for all ages.

February 8, Chinese Lunar New Year (global). Here’s all you need to know to reach out to Chinese neighbors, via the International Mission Board.

February 9 to March 1, Mobile Ministry Course (online). Provided by the Mobile Ministry Forum several times a year.

February 10 to March 20, Seek God for the City (global). Annual 40-day prayer campaign. Materials available from WayMakers.

February 11 to April 8, Mobilizer Equipping School (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Provided by Student Volunteer Movement 2.

February 14-19, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Re-entry and debriefing for singles, couples, and families provided by TRAIN International.

February 19-20, Short-term Mission ConneXion (Portland, OR, USA). Training event provided by Mission ConneXion.

February 19-21, Missions Fest Alberta (Edmonton, AB, Canada). Free, annual, community-based mission festival for all ages.

February 22-25, Thrive Retreat (Dubai, UAE). For North American women serving cross-culturally.

February 25-26, Support Raising Bootcamp (Dallas, TX, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

February 26-27, Midwest Conference on Missionary Care (Bloomington, MN, USA).

February 27, Bridges Seminar (Greenbelt, MD, USA). Building bridges to reach Muslims. Provided by Crescent Project.

March 3-5, Mind the Gaps Conference (Redlands, CA, USA). Engaging churches in missionary care.

March 4-8, TENTmaking Course (Bergen, Norway). Provided by Global Opportunities.

March 5, Sending New Missionaries (Johnson City, TN, USA). One-day workshop provided by Catalyst Services.

March 11-12, Muslim ConneXion (Portland, OR, USA). Training event provided by Mission ConneXion.

March 11-12, People Raising Conference (Oak Brook, IL, USA). Be equipped for raising personal support.

March 13-19, Recalibrate! (Aurora, IN, USA). Five days of group and personal missionary debriefing.

March 14-15, Support Raising Bootcamp (Rogers, AR, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

March 18-19, Kingdom Business Conference (Charleston, SC, USA). Provided by Charleston Southern University.

March 18-20, Jesus to the Nations (Halifax, NS, Canada). Free, annual, community-based mission festival for all ages.

March 21-24, Engaging Islam (Hong Kong). Evangelism training course provided by Horizons International.

» View the calendar or submit an addition or correction.

World News Briefs

In This Issue:

  1. BURKINA FASO: Seven Servants Go Home
  2. IRAN: Prostitute Hired to Hear the Gospel
  3. NEAR EAST: 2015, the Year of Displacement
  4. WORLD: World Watch List 2016
  5. CENTRAL ASIA: Doing Business, Expanding the Kingdom

Greetings,

By now you have probably heard that Saeed Abedini has been freed. After more than three years in Iran he will soon be home with his wife and children.

You may know that another Christian brother, Michael Riddering, has “gone home” this week as well, but his wife is mourning. Will you rejoice with me that the Ridderings gave up leasing yachts in South Florida to serve the poor and sick in West Africa? I have a new hero in Mike. His story is not likely to inspire more workers in hard places, but it inspires me to live more purposefully and trust God to lead me, anywhere. Read on.

Rejoice in the Lord… always!

Pat

Mike Riddering, 45, from Florida had been working as a missionary in Burkina Faso since 2011. (Mike Riddering/Facebook, via World Watch Monitor)

BURKINA FASO: Seven Servants Go Home

Source: Mission Network News, January 20, 2016

Burkina Faso ends three days of national mourning today.

The president said security would be stepped up in the capital and the country’s borders after Islamic militants killed at least 28 people last week.

Six of those who died were from Canada, on a mission trip, while a seventh was a U.S. missionary. According to Brietbart and World Watch Monitor, the seventh victim was 45-year-old Michael Riddering, a native of Florida. He was in Ouagadougou with Pastor Valentin, his Burkinabe associate, to pick up a team of missionaries visiting from a church in Florida. They were early, so they stopped by the Cappuccino Cafe to wait.

Not long after they arrived, [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] launched the attack, beginning with the café. Valentin called [Riddering’s wife] Amy to ask her to pray urgently, but the line went dead before he finished what he was saying. Valentin was eventually found and rescued by security forces. Mike was found in a morgue 24 hours later.

In the days following her husband’s death, the community the Ridderings served has come around Amy and are mourning with her. She posted on her Facebook page her struggle to come to grips with what happened, her love for Mike, and her hope in Christ. That came through yesterday, when amid her grief she posted this: “One of our ladies as the Women’s Center gave birth two days ago. She wanted me to name her child. Her name is Chantal Relwende. ‘Relwende’ … means ‘Lean on God.’”

» Read full story and see also Burkina Faso Dead Include Seven Mission Workers (World Watch Monitor) and note that on the same day as this attack, an Australian doctor and his wife were kidnapped in Ouagadougou. Please keep Ken and Jocelyn Elliot in your prayers.

» Readers might also be interested in an article from Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper honoring Michael Riddering and learning about the ministry with which he served, Sheltering Wings.

IRAN: Prostitute Hired to Hear the Gospel

Source: Iran Alive Ministries, January 1, 2016

Farhad, a volunteer evangelist for Iran Alive’s online ministry, did not know at first what to think when he sensed the Holy Spirit guiding him to pick up a prostitute. All he knew is that he needed to obey and that he had help waiting at home.

“I picked up one of the prostitutes waiting for clients and took her to my home. When we got there, she prepared to take off her clothes. I quickly stopped her and explained I wanted nothing to do with her physically. I said, “Please sit here behind the computer with me and listen to what they say in this chat room.”

“She became very upset and thought I would not pay her. I told her not to worry, and that I would pay her what I had promised. She agreed and sat down.

“The chat room was Iran Alive’s Church7 online service conducted every Friday night. As we were listening, the pastor said, ‘The Lord is saying that those of you who think there is no hope left, you who think addiction is the answer to your pain, you who think being a prostitute is the only way to make money, there is hope for you.’ This caught the woman’s attention. Then the pastor said, ‘God is able to open new doors in your life. God is waiting for you.’”

» Read what happened next.

NEAR EAST: 2015, The Year of Displacement

Source: Cry Out Now, January 2016

2015 could rightly be described as the “year of displacement.”

  • At least 40% of Syria’s population, or 7.6 million people, have been internally displaced, the highest number in the world… 4.4 million registered Syrian refugees have been externally displaced as [of] December 10, 2015.
  • 13.5 million Syrians will be displaced in 2016 according to the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, of whom 6 million are children.
  • 807,000 Syrian asylum applications were received in Europe between April 2011 and November 2015 compared to 137,947 during 2014.
  • Less than 20% of Syrian refugees seek safety in Europe.
  • 3.6 million Syrians registered by UNHCR are in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
  • Germany has officially seen one million people (from all nations) arrive in the country as asylum seekers in the course of 2015.
  • In November alone, more than 200,000 people were added to the list, smashing all forecasts.
  • 218,394 were registered in Greece by October 2015 with an average of 6,604 refugees arriving each day in Macedonia.
  • 3,485 refugees have drowned or have gone missing the past year.
  • The oldest refugee passing through Macedonia has been a 105-year-old woman from Afghanistan. The youngest refugee passing through Macedonia has been a 20-day-old infant. 51.2% of all refugees are children younger than 18 years of age.

“Lord, would you use the terrible situations refugees are facing all across the region and into Europe to bring many thousands to yourself, and would you revive the church through your work among them? Lord, we pray in 2016 for peace and a beginning of a return back for many.”

» Read full story and see the UN data source.

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