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UZBEKISTAN: Silk Road Secrets

Source: Create International, November 15, 2017

The ancient silk road, famed for the transportation of exotic spices, silks, and other valuables in the ages past, winds its way through Central Asia including Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara, all cities in the beautiful nation of Uzbekistan.

In this past year the Uzbek Bible has been published. The next step in the process is to develop strategies for scripture engagement. Our contacts were eager to create tools that would both assist with this and also share the love of Christ with the 30 million Uzbeks.

It turns out that both [the prophets] Daniel and Job are well known to Uzbeks. The official tomb of the Prophet Daniel is in Samarkand. Also there is a spring that has a legend connected to Job, known to Uzbeks as the “Patient Prophet.” Both monuments set up for these men are visited by many Uzbeks every day.

So we set out to make “documentaries with a difference”—sharing the beauty and history of Uzbekistan with their own people and giving insight into these two characters. The films tie together scripture and Uzbek culture in unique ways to express how the gospel is not foreign (i.e., not Russian) and Jesus is their way to salvation.

» Read full story. I don’t see a way to get the documentaries described here, but found a link to a IndigiTube, a related website where you can download more than 450 gospel films in over 120 different languages and search for audio Bibles in more than 1,300 different languages.

» See also Believers in Tajikistan Risk Their Lives to Share the Gospel (Open Doors) about the growth of the church in a neighboring country.

USA: Dinner Churches Spring Up Nationwide

Source: Joel News International, December 4, 2017

In 2009, Saint Lydia’s, a Lutheran church in Brooklyn, New York garnered national attention when it began holding a weekly service over dinner. Longing to dispel feelings of isolation often reported among young New Yorkers, founder Emily Scott decided to model her service around the early church practice of having a meal together as Eucharist.

Meanwhile, the Assemblies of God Community Dinners in Seattle, Washington; the Disciples of Christ Potluck Church in Madisonville, Kentucky; and the Episcopal Southside Abbey in Chattanooga, Tennessee began experimenting with their own ideas of meal-centered worship. One by one, communities began to emerge, though many remained unaware of others participating in the movement.

In the years since, the model has grown from four to over forty congregations across North America and Europe, with new communities emerging on a weekly basis.

» Learn more (Christian Food Movement). Story includes links to dinner church locations. Maybe you want to start one or incorporate some of the ideas. Thanks to Joel News for this story. Subscribe here.

What would you change? | Resource Reviews

From Forest Hills Church in Charlotte, North Carolina: Watch this reminder that we have much to be thankful for.

  1. SURVEY: Missions Catalyst in 2018
  2. ONLINE TRAINING: Building Bridges with English
  3. BOOK: The Advent of Relationship
  4. CLASSES: Perspectives Intensives
  5. PODCAST: What’s Happening in Missions Today?
  6. DECEMBER EVENTS: A Conference, a Convention, and More

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SURVEY: Missions Catalyst in 2018

Greetings, readers! We’re thankful for the chance to serve you and grateful to our families and colleagues who continue to give us the freedom to keep this thing rolling. Much thanks!

Quick question for you as we head into the last month of 2017. What’s one thing you would have us change about Missions Catalyst to make it more helpful to you in 2018?

ONLINE TRAINING: Building Bridges with English

Source: ECFA ReachGlobal

Need ESL training? Building Bridges with English might be just what you need. This 25-hour course is geared toward missionaries, volunteers in church-based ESL programs in the US, and Christians who have a heart for reaching out by tutoring English. The four-week course (with orientation the week preceding) is facilitated by ESL professionals. Most find the course requires 4-6 hours per week.

The course includes audio, video, interactive lessons, quizzes, PowerPoint presentations, readings, online discussions, and practical application assignments. Participants also have access to a library of ESL resources with hundreds of free tips, ideas, lesson plans, worksheets, templates, and even a number of free, downloadable books and teaching manuals.

The next course offering will be January 15 to February 18, 2018.

» Learn more or register for the course. The cost is US$75.

BOOK: The Advent of Relationship

Source: Peregrini Press

The Advent of Relationship, by T.J. MacLeslie. Peregrini Press, 2017. 66 pages.

“Have you ever been alienated from a loved one? Have you ever been estranged from a friend? Have you experienced separation where you desire connection, distance where you want closeness?

“I have. I have experienced geographic distance, as I have lived across the sea from my family and friends. But I have also known what it is to be physically close but a million miles away in the heart.

“Relationship is the root and trunk of the universe. God designed and created us for life with him. We are hard-wired for relationship. But we messed up. Both corporately and individually we have made mistakes (some of them willful) that have broken our relationship with the Community that is our Trinitarian God.”

  • In what areas of your life are you aware of God’s nearness?
  • How might you cultivate broader and deeper awareness of him?
  • As you approach Advent, is there anyone with whom you need to seek reconciliation?

T.J. MacLeslie is the author of several books we’ve highlighted here before. This one is a devotional which includes only glancing references to cross-cultural ministry. I think, however, you’ll appreciate its portrayal of many of the dynamics of walking with the God who took on flesh… and living out our faith in relationships.

» Purchase The Advent of Relationship from Amazon for US$5.99 (paperback) or US$2.99 (Kindle) to read and meditate on alone or with others during the Advent season.

» For something a little lighter to do with your kids, download Kate & Mack’s 12 Days of Christmas and learn how 12 different countries celebrate (Wycliffe Bible Translators). It’s free but requires registration.

PODCAST: What’s Happening in Missions Today?

Source: Global Missions Podcast

Got 25 minutes for a podcast? The November 7 edition of the Global Missions Pocast features Ted Esler of Missio Nexus providing an overview of how the North American church is participating in missions. He highlights three major trends and gives advice about how to respond.

» Listen to the podcast or skim the show notes. See also the North American Mission Handbook (reviewed in our October edition).

CLASSES: Perspectives Intensives

Source: UnMissions.net Events Calendar

“So you have always wanted to take the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class but could never make it work out with your schedule. It always happened to be on a night of the week which wouldn’t work,” write mission advocates Joe Steinitz and Dave Shive of unmissions.net. “How about cramming a semester’s worth of Perspectives into one week?”

“You can still do the reading before and after the class itself, but you’ll have one week exposure to multiple teachers. Definitely worth the investment. Great for pastors, missionaries, and others who can’t make it to a weekly class spread over four months.”

Upcoming intensives will be offered in Pennsylvania (January 7-13), Florida (March 4-10), and Texas (July 22-28).

» Check out these classes. About 160 regular 15-week classes launch across the US in January. Online classes start throughout the year.

» Kairos, too, is offering one-week intensives, this winter in North Carolina (January 3-10) and Kentucky (January 15-19), as well as classes in Spanish and Korean. And don’t forget PathWays to Global Understanding, though their website doesn’t list 2018 courses yet.

EVENTS: A Conference, a Convention, and More

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

December 5-7, Finishing the Task Conference (Lake Forest, CA, USA).

December 7, The Porn Phenomenon and Its Potential Impace on Mission Recruitment and Retention (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

December 12-13, Support Raising Bootcamp (Orlando, FL, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

December 17, Mobilizing the Church for the World (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

December 26-29, Chinese Mission Convention (Ontario, CA, USA). An annual gathering.

» View the complete calendar. We’re posting more and more 2018 listings now. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more about a specific event, though, you should contact the event organizers.

World News Briefs

Filmed in six languages across five continents, this short film captures the faith-filled thoughts of children as they contemplate the attributes of God.

In this issue:

  1. IRAN/IRAQ: Deadly Earthquake Strikes
  2. LEBANON: Prime Minister Resigns, Future Uncertain
  3. EAST ASIA: Artist Escapes from the Buddhist Wheel of Life
  4. WORLD: Latest Figures on Bible Translation
  5. SUDAN: Through the Eyes of a Persecuted Pastor

Comments or questions? Let us know. Follow us on social media for more great content. Got this from a friend? We’d love to have you subscribe!


Did you watch Like a Child, the new short film from Moving Works? Amazing what profound thoughts can be communicated by children, and here in only two and a half minutes. You might like to use this (possibly with the related discussion guide) for Universal Children’s Day, observed each year on November 20. See Universal Children’s Day: A Reason to Listen (World Vision).

Our friends at SAT-7 just finished a week of prayer for children in the Middle East. They produced short video clips on equipping children in seven important ways. Take a look.


IRAN/IRAQ: Deadly Earthquake Strikes

Source: Open Doors, November 13, 2017

More than 400 people have been killed and 7,000 injured in an earthquake that struck along the border between Iran and Iraq on Sunday, November 12. Officials are calling it the deadliest earthquake in the world in 2017. The BBC reported that teams are looking for survivors trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings. The death toll is expected to rise.

The earthquake struck late Sunday night, sending terrified residents fleeing their homes into the streets. The US Geological Survey said the epicenter was 19 miles outside the Iraqi city of Halabja.

Authorities in Iran and Iraq have initiated rescue operations. According to Iran’s semi state-run Tasnim news agency, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were reportedly traveling to the affected areas to help with rescue efforts. On Monday, Iran declared three days of mourning.

Fatalities of the quake have already exceeded September’s Mexico City earthquake, in which 369 people were killed.

Please pray:

  1. For the western Iranian town of Sarpol-e-Zahab where more than 100 people have been killed.
  2. For grieving families and friends who have lost parents, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters in the quake. Pray that those who don’t know God would feel his comfort and presence and come to know him as their Savior.
  3. For healing and medical care for the more than 7,000 people injured in the earthquake. Pray for strength and knowledge for medical workers and other first responders who are assisting with rescue efforts. Pray that more people would be rescued in the days ahead.
  4. For believers in these areas as they look for ways to show Christ to the families of victims and pray for the wounded.
  5. For organizations mobilizing to provide shelter, food, and clean water to families who have lost their homes.
  6. For the quick restoration of running water and electricity in the cities across the Iran/Iraq mountainous border that were hit hardest.
  7. For the Iraqi and Iranian people in these border areas. Pray for them in the months ahead as they begin recovery and the difficult process of rebuilding homes and lives from the rubble.

» Read full story and 15 Specific Prayers for God’s Work in Iraq.

» Also read Talk about Jesus to Me: Revival in Iran (PE News).

LEBANON: Prime Minister Resigns, Future Uncertain

Source: INcontext International, November 2017

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly resigned on Saturday, November 4, during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was under threat. His sudden departure creates a leadership vacuum in an already politically divided country. He accused Iran of meddling in the region, causing “devastation and chaos.” He went on to say: “Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq. I want to tell Iran and its followers that it will lose in its interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”

Iran has refuted these allegations. Mr. Hariri’s resignation is seen by others in the region as orchestrated by his patrons, the Saudis, to isolate Hezbollah by collapsing Lebanon’s national unity government, which included both Hezbollah and Mr. Hariri’s Sunni faction.

There are growing fears that Lebanon could become another battleground for the escalating rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as war-torn Syria has been in recent years. This small, yet strategic Mediterranean country could face economic collapse or even conflict if a quick resolution to the current crisis is not found.

Lebanon currently hosts approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees who now, together with the 5 million Lebanese, face an uncertain future.

Please join us in praying for Lebanon.

“God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope” (from Hosea 2:15).

» Read full story.

» Also read A Call to Prayer for Lebanon, which includes links to a variety of news stories (Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development).

EAST ASIA: Artist Escapes from the Buddhist Wheel of Life

Source: International Mission Board, November 13, 2017

Harshil Tamang once fashioned artwork depicting the traditional Buddhist understanding of existence. His work represented the recurring cycle of life while expressing a longing for an elusive escape from reincarnation to nirvana, the ultimate spiritual goal.

Like his father before him, he learned to paint thangkas, Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cotton or silk. The Wheel of Life painting is the most well-known thangka. It’s a visual representation of life, death, and rebirth for Tibetan Buddhists. For eighteen years, Harshil painted traditional thangkas and taught others to do the same.

When Harshil’s grandmother passed away, a priest commissioned him to make a thangka to make merit on her behalf. Harshil asked his father about the symbolism of art created for the dead. The thangka is like a god, his father said, and making one was a way to serve his grandmother.

The idea that his artwork held god-like status stunned Harshil. He remembers wondering who his art made him if it was a god. If his art could work for salvation, who was he? He knew he was not more powerful than a god.

So his Buddhist faith waned. “There is no god in this universe. Man is god,” Harshil recalls thinking. “I am also god,” he declared.

Not long after making this bold claim, a storm struck and flooded his home and destroyed 300 thangkas representing months of work and rendering a devastating financial loss.

He wondered if the Lord was challenging his claim to divinity.

» Full story includes a video and images Harshil’s art today.

» See also The Spirit of Tibetan Buddhism (OMF International). I had no idea that the Tibetan Buddhism has so much in common with the church of Luther’s day! (Hint: merit.)

WORLD: Latest Figures on Bible Translation

Source: Wycliffe Alliance, October 2017

As we celebrate the milestone of translated Scripture in more than 3300 languages, we celebrate that God is accomplishing his mission through his power and through partnership.

At least 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible available in their first language. Over 652 million of these have the New Testament; others have portions or at least some level of translation or preparatory work begun.

There is known active translation and/or linguistic development happening in 2584 languages across more than 170 countries.

As of October 1, 2017, over 114 million people, speaking 1636 languages, need some form of Bible translation to begin.

Also in 2017:

  • YouVersion celebrated making Scripture available in more than 1100 languages.
  • Faith Comes by Hearing also has recordings of Scripture in more than 1100 languages.
  • The JESUS film is available in more than 1500 languages.

» Read full story.

» Also read Wycliffe USA Celebrates 75 Years of Bible Translation.

SUDAN: Through the Eyes of a Persecuted Pastor

Source: Mission Network News, November 10, 2017

With extreme levels of persecution against Christians in the Muslim-dominated country, many Sudanese pastors have been killed, fled the country, or suffered imprisonment.

“James” is a pastor in Sudan and has witnessed the depleting pool of fellow clergy. “Some foreigners were deported from Khartoum. And pastors from South Sudan, they went to South Sudan. Those who remain in Sudan are few. The pastors who shared the Bible and teach the Bible, they are few.”

Because of this, James has to wear many spiritual hats. He pastors a Baptist church, serves as chairman of a council of Baptist churches, preaches the Bible at conferences, and has even taught the New Testament in some Christian schools.

As he puts it, being a pastor in a country like Sudan can be lonely, and he has even suffered persecution himself. “In these situations, the person looks at himself [thinking] maybe he is alone. Of course, we get discouraged. But I believe that God is involved.”

» Read full story with prayer points.

Mobilization & the Noble Sport of Curling

Sweeping Someone’s Path to the Nations

By Shane Bennett

Check me if I’m wrong on this, but I believe only one sport involves something being thrown, shot, hit, or swatted, after which the players extensively manipulate the course of the object. None but noble curling.

You’ve seen it, right? One person slides a giant rock down the ice while two more people crazily sweep a path before it? Of course it’s far more subtle, sophisticated, and, if you’re into curling, more beautiful than that. In fact, curling is known as “chess on ice.”

So how about curling as also a great metaphor for mission mobilization?

For the sake of brevity, I’ll overlook some of the most obvious possible parallels… that missionaries’ heads can be as hard as rocks! That many popular missions destinations are so crowded we have to knock others out to stay there?! That Canada has won more curling championships than any other country. (O Canada!)

No, here’s what I’m thinking: A curling team or “rink” consists of four members. The one calling the shots and coordinating the effort is called the “skip.” Let’s say we’re actually praying the way Jesus told us to pray in Luke 10:2, asking “the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest,” and our Skip, the Lord, actually says yes and does so.

The stretch of ice between the launch and the bull’s eye is long, slippery, and fraught with obstacles. Mobilizers are like sweepers, receiving instruction from the Skip and sweeping faster and slower, lightly and vigorously, all to end of helping the stone arrive at its most strategic point.

Last month’s Practical Mobilization column talked about how to find potential missionaries in your midst. This month, let’s think about the influence God may have us use to help them as they go. How do we sweep?

I assume you know people who overdo it. We—I mean they—assume they “know God’s will” for someone else or speak and act as if the thing they are doing is pretty much the only thing God is into these days.

It’s important to note: The Skip calls the shots! It’s the Skip’s job to see the whole ice. The sweepers implement the strategy of the Skip, not the other way around.

Here are four ways in which we “sweep” laborers into strategic points in the harvest.

1. We encourage prospective long-term workers to persevere.

Most valuable things are hard to do. Preparing for career-level, cross-cultural service carries many normal challenges, plus the oddness of pursuing your career in a hugely different place with a new language and without tons of models. These days there is growing stigma on people who assume others should also believe things they believe. And if you raise support to do this? Yikes.

Sweep. “Keep at it.” “I’m with you.” “You’re going to kill this.” Sweepity, sweep, sweep.

2. On the other hand, sometimes they need to slow down.

A wise mission mobilizer knows when to go all yellow light on a candidate. This is hard for me, but you see a few people or a cute couple spin out and hit the wall and you may think, “Let’s don’t be cavalier about this.”

It may be time to offer more prayer, advice, and help in spiritual development. Perhaps basic discipling. This early investment pays out in long-term effectiveness.

3. A good mobilizer helps prospective workers wrestle with strategic decisions.

A good sweeper helps the rock follow the right path to the right destination. Again, under the guidance of the Skip, we help people consider where they might go and with whom.

If, like me, you’ve grown up in a western culture that specializes in individualism (“I think, therefore I am” and “What’s God’s will for my life?”), it might be particularly important to consider the “go with” parts of the equation. Whom do you go with in terms of spouse, church, team, and agency?

I don’t know every missions agency. There are a gazillion of them. And I’m a little biased toward my org, Frontiers, and Missions Catalyst’s publisher, Pioneers. But I like to imagine that I can objectively help people think about where they might fit. With a list of options longer than you find at the Cheesecake Factory, it’s nice to have a friend who’s familiar with the menu.

We can also help find training and mission experience for people as they respond to God’s launching. Take someone to their first Perspectives class if they haven’t been before. Help them think about a training internship like Launch Global or TOAG. Advocate for appropriate scouting and vision trips to potential locations.

4. And finally, smooth the ice of support raising.

Feeling adventurous? If the Skip instructs you to do so, you could buy their house or take care of their student loans! Maybe buying them a copy of The God Ask (or lending them your copy) is more your speed. Introduce them to people who might share their vision and significantly fund them. And always, pray and encourage perseverance.


Jesus said to ask the Father to send out laborers. I assume he did so knowing God would say yes. So, fellow sweepers, let’s grab our brooms afresh, listening carefully to the Skip’s commands and get some rocks on the button.

» Share your thoughts on this article on our website or Facebook page. Got this from a friend? Browse the archives and subscribe!

Curling image: Medyr/Fotolibre. Creative Commons License.

Subversive Mobilization: Invite a Muslim Family Over for Thanksgiving

Live in or come from America? We’ve got a big holiday coming in a couple of weeks. As I told readers of my weekly Muslim Connect email, Thanksgiving might be the easiest time to take a risk and invite a Muslim family to dinner. Gratitude is universal and pumpkin pie should be! If you’ve been feeling a nudge that direction, now is the time to make the invitation.

» Questions about how that might work? Post them here. If you do invite someone over, I’d love to hear how it goes.

5 Ways to Take Action for the Persecuted | World News Briefs

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church will be observed in churches around the world on November 5 or November 12. See also this video and the story below for five ways to take action on Sunday (or anytime). 

Missions Catalyst News Briefs 11.01.17

  1. WORLD: Five Ways to Take Action for the Persecuted
  2. AZERBAIJAN: No Fair Trial for House Church Leader
  3. PHILIPPINES: From Fear to Faith
  4. KENYA: Former Sponsored Child Now Archbishop
  5. SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Magic Charms, Black Cats, and the Power of Jesus

Comments or questions? Let us know. Follow us on social media for more great content. Got this from a friend? We’d love to have you subscribe!


I hope you have availed yourself of the many resources concerning the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I’ve learned a lot!

I especially liked this talk from Eric Metaxas (National Religious Broadcasters), about writing a biography of Martin Luther, and the article Three Surprising Ways the Protestant Reformation Shaped our World (CNN). My husband and I enjoyed RC Sproul’s 10-part series, Luther and the Reformation. I’d love to know if you have any recommendations!

The stories of persecution below sound much like what Luther endured 500 years ago. The powers that be are still trying to control the Church. We can rejoice in Jesus’ words, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).


WORLD: Five Ways to Take Action for the Persecuted

Source: Open Doors, October 2017

Pastor Edward is truly on the front lines of persecution in Syria. His community was destroyed by ISIS and yet, alongside a small group of other believers, he is committed to remaining in the area as a light.

We have a golden opportunity coming up this Sunday [November 5]: the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church. Believers like Pastor Edward have endured extreme trials this year and they need our mighty prayers.

You can be a part of this battle in prayer against the powers of darkness. There’s never been a time your faithful intercession is needed more.

Here are five key ways that you can take action on IDOP Sunday and stand united with our persecuted brothers and sisters:

  1. Write a digital letter to a persecuted Christian and remind them they’re not alone.
  2. Pray for the top 10 countries on the World Watch List.
  3. Listen to the Daily Prayer Story about real people living in persecution.
  4. Pray for these five believers imprisoned for their faith.
  5. Share this meme on your social accounts and ask friends to join you in prayer.

» Full story summarizes each step as well as providing links to learn more. See also The Ripple Effect for additional resources, including a free, interactive study about the persecuted church, sermon outlines, and more.

AZERBAIJAN: No Fair Trial for House Church Leader

Source: World Watch Monitor, October 19, 2017

An Azerbaijani man fined for leading a “house church” without state permission has not been treated fairly during his appeal against the fine, a local source has told World Watch Monitor.

Shabanov was found guilty at a hearing in January and several appeals were rejected.

During his appeal process, the source said hearings had been held in the Azeri language, which Shabanov does not speak because he was educated in the Georgian language common to the area where he was born and where he still lives. The court also failed to provide a translator although this is required by law.

The source said the pastor was “asked repeatedly to sign documents he could neither read nor understand, both in the appeals process and police investigations, including a document that waived his rights. This is both illegal and negligent of the legal process in Azerbaijan.”

» Read full story. Another story from WWM describes several court battles over faith in Sudan, where a former Prime Minister is speaking up for the rights of the persecuted.