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EUROPE: Nine Obstacles to Faith in the Former Communist Countries

Source: Pioneers in Europe, October 2016

Many [missionaries] serve in nations that are currently communist or have been communist within recent history. Current communist nations include China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea. Previous communist nations in Europe include Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union.

What happens to a people group that has endured communism? What barriers does communism create for gospel receptivity? The list below was compiled with input from Pioneers [members] located around the globe, serving in nations that are currently or formerly communist.

  1. Communism creates a culture of secrecy.
  2. Under communism Christians often become desensitized to compromise.
  3. Communism [celebrates] the material world, science, and intellect.
  4. People who live or have lived under communism find the concept of grace very hard to digest.
  5. On the opposite side of the same coin, communism produces people who work to earn favor.
  6. In communist cultures leaders are not kind or trustworthy.
  7. Under communism the collective good of the people is considered far more worthwhile than the independence of individuals.
  8. People under communism are very afraid of the repercussions they will face if they believe.
  9. Missionaries often find life in communist or post-communist cultures very difficult and oppressive.

Pray for people groups around the globe who currently suffer under communism or have been raised under communism and have not yet shed its oppression. Pray that the God of grace would move hearts to believe and follow him, that his grace would be found sufficient for them (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that he would be exalted among the nations and in all the earth (Psalm 46:10).

» Read full story and see How Did the Church Survive? (Pioneers USA).

WORLD: Refugee Hoax Exposed

Source: INcontext Ministries, October 4, 2016

In September 2015, reports were published on social media stating that a furniture shipment that was supposed to go to refugee camps in Europe was actually filled with 52 tons of guns and ammunition. This was supposedly discovered by the Greek Border Securities.

Social media users pointed to a global conspiracy, which was supposedly the reason why the media never reported the incident. A question was posed about how long they will “continue with this charade,” and the claim was made that it would be until “they are being killed by these Arab hooligans.”

This email [like a version which resurfaced in September 2016] is false and constitutes an intentional effort to create suspicion and fear about refugees in Europe. Please forward [a link to this story] to anyone who sent you this email.

The accompanying pictures published were actually of Greek authorities seizing a freighter carrying an undeclared shipment of weapons en route from Turkey to Libya.

» Full story includes links to more information and the text of the email being circulated.

» You might also be able to use A Biblical View of the Refugee Crisis, a short video featuring IMB president David Platt.

GERMANY: Refugees Foil Terror Plot

Source: Missions Network News, October 16, 2016

Last week, three Syrian refugees in Germany helped capture a fellow refugee who was allegedly planning to bomb a Berlin airport. Investigators say the would-be bomber, Jaber al-Bakr, was likely an ISIS allegiant. His captors are being hailed as heroes.

Al-Bakr had been on the run for two days. Security forces raided his apartment and circulated the suspect’s photo on social media. According to USA Today, al-Bakr approached three fellow Syrian refugees at a train station and asked if he could stay at their apartment. One of the refugees, identified by German media as Mohamed A, said they took in al-Bakr because they recognized him and knew they had to turn him in. Mohamed A told German press, “I was so angry at him. I won’t accept such a thing—especially here in Germany, the country that opened its door to us.”

The three friends trussed up al-Bakr on their couch, refused his monetary bribes, and turned him over to the police. German authorities have issued public gratitude to the three men for taking a stand against terrorism. The suspect committed suicide in jail later in the week. Although Syrian refugees in Germany have left the war in Syria behind, the trauma still follows them.

» Read full story.

» Also read Life for Some Christians in German Refugee Shelters “Still Unbearable” (World Watch Monitor) and watch a video report about how a church in Macedonia is responding to the refugees passing through their country (SEND International).

PAKISTAN: Christian Woman’s Death Sentence Appeal Postponed

Source: BosNews Life, October 13, 2016

After waiting seven years in jail, Pakistan’s first Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy had her final Supreme Court appeal adjourned as angry Muslims packed the court room to demand her execution.

Aasiya Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi, who has been prison since the summer of 2009, was detained for allegedly insulting Islam’s prophet when she offered water to a Muslim co-worker and defended her faith in Jesus Christ.

Trial observers told BosNewsLife that one judge of the Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan’s highest court, refused to be one of the three judges to decide on Bibi’s appeal because he had previously heard all details of a case against Mumtaz Qadri, who murdered the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, in January 2011.

Quadri said he killed the governor for demanding that Asia Bibi would be freed. The governor also called Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes “black laws” and called for reforms and a presidential pardon for Asia Bibi.

» Read full story and a related story from WorldWatch Monitor. On a more positive note, we are glad to hear that Iranian pastor Behnam Irani has been released. He has also been held in prison for seven years.

INDONESIA: Expanding Christ’s Kingdom on “The Island of Gods”

Source: Christian Aid Mission, October 6, 2016

On Indonesia’s island of Bali, Hindu villagers mix worship of myriad deities with service to Buddhist figures, ancestors and spirits; a potpourri of barriers to the gospel that the director of an indigenous ministry is well suited to overcome.

“I am an original Bali[an] who has a very rare opportunity to be able to serve and reach my brothers,” said the leader, whose name is withheld for security reasons. “This is an advantage for me to more easily reach them.”

Known as the “island of the gods” with its estimated 20,000 temples and shrines, Bali has a population that is more than 80 percent Hindu amid the predominantly Muslim archipelago of Indonesia. Though Islam is growing in Bali Province, Hindu/Buddhist belief mixed with animism, magic, and mythology permeates all aspects of most islanders’ lives.

Within this context, the kingdom of God has been growing in Bali through the indigenous organization’s service to the poor. While cultural knowledge is key to knowing how to relate to and nuance communications with villagers, the love of Christ is directly expressed through meeting felt needs.

» Read full story.

» See also The Power of Prayer: Good News for Hindus (IMB).

How to Ace a Global Report to Your Church (the Five-Minute Guide)

By Shane Bennett

Is the pain as real for you as it is for me? The worship leader begrudgingly surrenders the microphone (just kidding, worship leaders!) to an ill-prepared but enthusiastic “missions person.” A low collective groan rumbles across the room. By the time Missions Minute Man has adjusted the mic and begun to speak, no one is happy anymore. It’s not as bad as a root canal or a sermon on tithing, but close.

If you’re reading this article, odds are good you’re into missions to some degree, and as such have seen a ton of missions-related promos in your day, maybe given a few yourself. And if you’re honest, you might admit: we haven’t always knocked it out of the park!

Give me another four and a half minutes and I’ll give you five key principles that could help you become the mission-report equivalent of Charles Spurgeon, Tony Robbins, and Maya Angelou rolled into one. You’re going to kill at this!

1. Ask for some time.

Here are two things I think you’ll agree with me on: that most churches could use more in the “sharing cool global-God kind of stuff from the pulpit” department, and that they’re probably not going to ask for it.

So, job number one for a killer missions promo is get the time. Maybe your church is so super giant that this just never happens. No worries. Your Sunday School classes and adult fellowships are probably as big as most of our churches! So focus on them.

Courage, my friends: Follow the prescribed path to get five minutes in person or on the phone with your pastor. Explain what you’d like to say and why saying it on Sunday morning will help (not just help you, but help the church). If you get a bit of resistance, it’s because your pastor wasn’t born yesterday! Remember, we may be digging out of a hole here because of past experiences.

If the resistance holds, try this: Offer to videotape the whole desired report, submit it to your pastor, and ask that it be shown. It may never happen, but being willing shows humble moxie.

2. Make it great.

If you get a chance to share, pledge before God and the memory of legendary mission mobilizer Lottie Moon that you will not mess it up! Rather, you’ll make it unforgettable. In decades to come, people who were present for your report will die with a smile on their face as they recount how well you did!

You’ll make it great by making sure it is:

A. True.

Email and the Web will lie to you (except for Missions Catalyst!) Check and double check any facts, and resist the urge to exaggerate stories. Say things only with the degree of confidence you actually have.

B. Important.

An average service is only about 90 minutes long. Time and attention are precious. Let’s not waste them by talking about stuff that doesn’t really matter. Of course that’s subjective, but do your best. Maybe even risk running your thoughts by your wife or that one surly deacon as a test.

C. Compelling.

If you can do it in the time you have, tell a story. “Here’s a thing that happened” and “Here’s why it matters.” Stories, told well, are almost impossible to resist. Leverage that.

3. Make it short.

Plan to use only two-thirds of your allotted time. This will do two things for you: You could stand out as one of the few people who ever ended early! And if you do go long, you can still end within your allotted time.

As we all, know, it’s better to leave people wanting more than to end with people just leaving!

4. Make it hopeful.

At any given time, a higher percentage of your church than you’d like to admit is probably thinking God’s getting beaten. Let’s try not to reinforce that. I confess I’m not above using some heart-grabbing statistics or a gut-punch anecdote to get people’s attention, but don’t leave them there. Presumably you have given your situation, so help others see where God is at work in it. Take a long view on what can happen. Paint a picture of the godly redemption that you foresee.

If the situation you’re reporting on is apparently, from all angles and as far as you can see, God-forsaken, go ahead and say so. But honestly, if you do that more than once a decade, people may think you’re being hyperbolic.

If God is doing anything, he’s redeeming this whole broken mess. Let’s remind each other of that as often as we can.

5. Make it actionable.

When you step away from the mic, your audience should have something to think, something to feel, and something to do. Encourage them to:

A. Think.

Present information that is so new and fresh it requires mental processing to integrate.

B. Feel.

Pluck heartstrings. Most of us let our emotions have a pretty big role in our actions.

C. Do.

Give people a way to play a part! Even better if the part is somewhat tuned to who they are instead of just a need for any non-flatlined body to join your team. Invite people to pray, give money, invest time, visit, advocate, help, adopt, fight, post, and share.

If you really want to swing for the fence, give them something to take home! As missions people, I think we underuse the tchotchke. A tiny trinket will help people remember your cause. I’m currently giving away small beads made from the lava of Mt. Etna to help people remember to pray for refugees in Catania, my beloved city that sits at the base of that volcano.

Run your next global report through these filters. You’re going to do great! Maybe together we can turn the tide on mission talks. Thanks for reading this and sharing with others you think will benefit from it.

» Comment and share your ideas below or on Facebook and Twitter.

image: Chris Engelsma, Flikr/Creative Commons License.

World News Briefs

Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators. In this video, recorded on the fiftiethanniversary of the completion of the Cakchiquel New Testament, Dr. Billy Graham talks about the significance of Bible translation and challenges listeners to become part of the work.

Today’s edition of Missions Catalyst News Briefs features several stories about breakthroughs and barriers in Bible translation and distribution. Read on and pray.

WORLD: 75 Years of Bible Translation

Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, September 30, 2016

It all began in 1917 when William Cameron Townsend (known by friends as “Cam”) went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles.

When Cam stepped off the boat, his youthful enthusiasm for sharing the gospel was high, but he soon realized that most of the people he was meeting didn’t understand the Bible in Spanish! Many of them spoke Cakchiquel instead.

Cam faced a dilemma. If they didn’t understand, how was he reaching people for Jesus? Frustrated and disappointed, Cam began to wonder if he’d failed. But God had others plans in mind.

Deep down, Cam thought everyone—man, woman and child alike—should be able to read God’s Word in the language of their heart. So although it would end up taking almost 10 years of his life, he learned the complex Cakchiquel language, created an alphabet and translated the New Testament.

When he was done, the Cakchiquel Indians finally had God’s Word, but thousands of other languages still needed it.

» Full story describes Cam Townsend’s journey to founding Wycliffe Bible Translators USA in 1942. Learn more about Wycliffe USA’s 75-year anniversary through a timeline, stories, and more.

KIRIBATI: New Translation Begun in 1988 Is Finished

Source: United Bible Societies, September 30, 2016

Praise God for the launch of the “Te Baibara—Te Rairai Ae Boou” (Kiribati New Version Bible or the Kiribati Contemporary Bible) on September 17 in Tarawa, Kiribati [in the South Pacific]. The project started in November 1988 with the translation of the New Testament.

The new features which may be regarded as adding value to the Kiribati New Version Bible help to make it more user-friendly for better reading and in-depth Bible study (including section headings, book introductions, cross-references, footnotes, illustrations, and more).

“It will take a while for the older generation to adjust to anything new, even the New Version. In my position as a pastor, the Kiribati New Version will help people to better understand the message of the Gospel for a transformed life. As they grow towards maturity they will move to the Kiribati Old Version for deeper study of the living Word of God.”

In 2015, Bible Societies assisted in the completion of translations in 50 languages spoken by nearly 160 million people.

» Full story also describes progress on Bibles in braille and sign languages.

» Also read about the completion of a Lubwisi New Testament for Uganda, a project fifteen years in the making (Mission Network News).

AZERBAIJAN: Bible Society Registers after 20 Years, But Will It Be Able to Print Bibles?

Source: World Watch Monitor, October 3, 2016

The recent registration of a Bible Society in Azerbaijan, after a 20-year fight, has brought fresh optimism to the country’s minority Christians, but there remains some confusion about the types of books it will be allowed to print, with even Bibles potentially falling foul of the country’s strict regulations.

Terje Hartberg from United Bible Societies called it “a great development, which will start a new chapter in Bible ministry for all Christians in Azerbaijan.”

However, all literature either printed or imported by the Bible Society will remain subject to approval by the government—with every publication labelled with an official sticker—and its distribution permitted only at state-approved venues.

» Read full story.

» Also see a story about neighboring Iran which describes that country’s church growth spurt (Mission Network News).

UZBEKISTAN: Punished for Religious Books at Home

Source: Forum18, September 29, 2016

A Baptist from Urgench [Urganch] in the north-western Khorezm Region has been punished for a second time within a year for having Christian books at home, which state officials regard as illegal. As this was a second punishment, Stanislav Kim was convicted under the Criminal Code, receiving a two-year corrective labor sentence.

A Presbyterian Christian in the capital Tashkent was fined in May for having religious literature at home. The Christian literature was ordered to be handed to the state-backed Muslim Board.

A criminal trial against him began in September for illegal use of computers.

In Surkhandarya Region, four Baptists were punished for religious literature confiscated during an illegal house search. Two Bibles, as well as other books and discs, were ordered destroyed. Officials claimed one book was banned because it could be used to spread a faith. They also claimed Baptists are banned in the region because they do not have state registration.

In Zarafshan, a Baptist pastor and his wife were fined for Bibles and Baptist song books seized from their home.

[These] eight individuals are among many punished for having personal religious literature in their homes. The authorities regard such possession of religious literature as illegal.

» Read full story.

JAPAN: New Era Begins for Gospel Radio

Source: TWR, August 9, 2016

Probably because of its long history as a mission field combined with its highly successful assimilation of Western-dominated industry and contemporary culture, many are surprised to learn that Japan still has one of the largest populations of people unreached by the gospel. That means only a tiny portion of its nearly 130 million people—significantly less than 1 percent, in fact—are evangelical Christians.

After a 2011 earthquake and tsunami overwhelmed the northeastern region of Tohoku, killing nearly 16,000, sparking meltdowns at nuclear reactors and driving more than 200,000 from their homes, many Japanese felt the certainty of their worldview had been undermined. The people seemed more open to hearing the gospel presented; the previously stony ground had begun to soften.

Another development at the same time facilitated the door opening: Radio, which had played a key role in informing the public during the crisis, gained renewed respect.

Along with people to handle organizational and technical matters, 25 pastors were recruited to develop and present the programming.

“We told them to preach a Christ-centered gospel message boldly,” said [TWR regional ministry director] Samuel Tan. “Anything not Christ-centered, delete. This is what people in Japan need.”

» Read full story.

SYRIA: “If There Are No Men to Lead the Church, I Will!”

Source: Joel News, October 2016

Mathild Sabbagh, 26, returns to her hometown. She is the first female minister in Syria. Her town in northern Syria is surrounded by ISIS. Last year her cousin was killed by Muslim extremists. Her brother who is also a pastor was kidnapped.

“If there are no men who can lead the church at this time, I’ll do it!”

Before the war her church still had almost 200 members, but today only 30 or 40 people have remained. ISIS has decimated the number of believers. “Some were killed, others fled. From my primary school friends no one stayed. Everybody’s gone. The war left our city shot to pieces and our entire community beaten apart.”

But it doesn’t keep Mathild from going back. She is more determined than ever, and feels a great sense of urgency. “I believe in the mysterious growth of the Kingdom of God, even against the odds. I go back to my church because I know I’m needed there. The church is like my own family. I’ve learned all my life that I can bring my talents to the church. So now I’ll bring what I have.”

» Read more of this story or subscribe to Joel News.

VIDEOS: Loving Your Neighbors

Sources: Deidox, Moving Works, and Prayercast

While many of the resources we feature here are designed to inspire and equip you (and those you might mobilize) for global service, today I want to share some great videos about showing love closer to home.

Turns out the principles are much the same. We still have internal resistance, issues with our priorities, and other barriers to overcome if we want to be obedient and make a difference in the lives of others.

Jay has been challenged to love his neighbors, but he can’t do it if he doesn’t know them. Watch as this Austin, Texas man and his wife wrestle with finding the time and then take a small but simple step. Love Your Neighbors—A Simple Step is part one in a series of three short videos from Deidox. The others will be out within the next two weeks. This first video, at just over four minutes long, might easily be folded into a presentation.

Moving Works has also released a new short video (5.5 minutes) about someone who has a conversation with God that leads her to reach out to love and serve a neglected population close to home. Watch Bettie Goes to Jail. Download a simple discussion guide for small groups.

Finally, our friends at Prayercast are part of an interesting campaign to raise up prayer for a city. They’re mobilizing praying for every one of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. Each day between September 8 and November 23, a prayer video for another neighborhood will be released. Check out Chicago77.

What would it look like to pray systematically for every inch of your city?

MOBILE MEDIA APP: Gospel Content in Global Languages

Source: SAT-7

Working with people who speak other languages? SAT-7 has free apps available for Apple and Android devices with streaming gospel content from each of their broadcast channels. These could be a great resource for anyone who knows a refugee or immigrant speaker of Arabic, Farsi, Dari, or Turkish. Use them as a witnessing tool, conversation starter, or resource for discipleship.

» Also check out TWR360, the multi-lingual media resources from TWR, accessible via the web or a free mobile app.

ONLINE COURSE: Crossing Cultures with Ruth

Source: GMI and Grow2Serve

The book Crossing Cultures with Ruth: Lessons on Thriving in Mission offers Kingdom workers encouragement and inspiration as they discern and work out God’s call in their lives. The book also provides practical insights based on James Nelson’s years of Fruitful Practice research into the best means and methods of missionary outreach.

Now available is a six-week online course that will enhance your learning and growth through purposeful interaction in a community with the book, author, a course facilitation team, and other learners.

  • Approximate time commitment: 24 hours
  • Length: 6 weeks
  • Dates: October 1 to November 11, 2016
  • Cost: US$60 per person, with discounts for group registration

Included in your course fee is a download of Crossing Cultures with Ruth and Crossing Cultures with Ruth: Study Guide for Christian Workers.

(Ring a bell? We highlighted the book and study guide when they were published earlier, and I, Marti, co-authored the study guide).

» Learn more or register for the course.

» See also an affordable, 25-hour online course called Evangelism: Abundantly Sowing the Seed (with World Team) and an 8-10-hour course in Animism and Folk Religion (with SEND International).

DVDs: The Jesus Accounts and Jesus, Son of God?

Source: The Jesus Accounts

Several years back we published a review of The Jesus Accounts: Fact or Fiction?, a high-quality, half-hour documentary designed to explain the reliability of the Bible and answer the most common objections or misunderstandings in a positive and respectful way. You can watch or share it online in Arabic, Russian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek, Bengali, Turkish, Chinese (several versions), and Urdu, as well as English, or get it on DVD for a reasonable price.

Now, a second documentary of the same length addresses and attempts to clarify what it means when we say Jesus is the son of God. Jesus, Son of God? was filmed in Turkey and the UK and has been dubbed into Arabic, Russian, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Uzbek, and Bengali; there’s also an English version with simplified Chinese subtitles.

Though these videos are designed primarily with a Muslim audience in mind, Islam is not mentioned in either one. I think you will find them useful with secular or Christian friends as well. A third video dealing with the historicity of the crucifixion is currently in production.

» Preview both films and their trailers in English on YouTube or go to each film’s website to learn much more about these projects or buy DVDs.

EVENTS: Upcoming Conference, Courses, and More

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

October 3 to February 12, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Course (online). Provided on a regular basis by the Perspectives Study Program.

October 5 to November 30, Mobilizer Equipping School (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Provided by Student Volunteer Movement 2.

October 7-8, Missions Fest Seattle (Bellevue, WA, USA). Free, annual community-wide event.

October 8, Costly Call: Following Jesus in a Hostile World (Lynnfield, MA, USA). One-day event sponsored by New England Perspectives Study Program and the J. Christy Wilson, Jr. Center for World Missions.

October 10-11, Support Raising Bootcamp (Tulsa, OK, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

October 11-14, Support Raising Leaders Conference (Tulsa, OK, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions (and partners).

October 11 to November 8, Expand Your Mission Through Media (for Women) (online). Mission Media U course to develop a media project plan.

October 13, Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Identity and Gender Issues (online). Webinar provided by Missio Nexus.

October 13-15, Open B4T Expo (Chicago, IL, USA). Transforming nations through business.

October 14-15, People Raising Conference (Oak Brook, IL, USA). Be equipped for raising personal support.

October 14-16, Evangelical Missiological Society (Dallas, TX, USA). Annual meeting, this time focused on “Missions and the Local Church.”

October 16-19 and 20-23, Thrive Retreats (Cape Town, South Africa). For North American women serving cross-culturally.

October 16-21, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Re-entry and debriefing for singles, couples, and families provided by TRAIN International.

October 17-19, Excellerate Conference (Alpharetta, GA, USA). A mission conference for church leaders. Hosted by North Point Ministries.

October 19, Set Apart: Connecting the Local Church to God’s Work (online). Free webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen.

» View the calendar, with some big events coming up in November as well. Planning a mission event for December (or any other time down the road)? Please let me know!