Source: Barnabas Fund, March 22, 2018
A Christian woman accused of “illegal missionary activity” for demonstrating how to download a Bible smartphone app was acquitted by a regional court in Shymkent, south Kazakhstan, on March 13, 2018.
Sultanova Dilobarkhon met a woman in church in December 2017 who later asked her to rendezvous near a local café so she could show her how to download a Bible app onto her phone. Minutes after Sultanova showed the woman how to download the Bible, she was arrested by police in what appeared to be a deliberate set up.
The court noted that the Bible “is not banned literature in the Republic of Kazakhstan” and found that Sultanova was not guilty of “illegal missionary activity,” as the church attendance of the woman who asked for her assistance to download the Bible had been documented.
» See also this story from the US: Imam Spends Hours at Museum of the Bible, Says “Every Muslim Should Visit” (The Christian Post).
- VIDEO CURRICULUM: Our Gospel Story
- DOCUMENTARY: Evidence for the Death of Christ
- SIMULATION: How It Feels to Be a Refugee
- BOOKS: New and Noteworthy
- EVENTS: Upcoming Courses and Conferences
It’s been a while since we’ve talked about books; see brief blurbs below for some new and noteworthy volumes on a variety of topics. We’ve also got some free stuff for you, including an evangelism training course and instructions for a simulation of the refugee experience. Plus there are upcoming conferences and events. Is there something for you in this edition? Have a look.
Source: Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College
How many people do you think you’ve shared the gospel message with this year? Twenty? Ten? Five? One? Zero? Research shows that 79% of unchurched people would engage in a faith conversation if their Christian friends asked; however, only 39% of Christians shared how to become a Christian with someone in the past six months.
Our Gospel Story is a free, online collection of related resources meant to move you to show and share the love of Jesus with those around you in winsome and creative ways. It includes an interactive video with evangelism scenarios, training videos, a downloadable curriculum, and other resources. The six-lesson curriculum can be used individually or with groups.
» Learn more or access the materials. Looks like these are very thoughtful and high-quality resources.
» You might also be interested in the Gospel Life Podcast.
Source: Ronald Clements, Malcolm Steer, Roger Malstead.
Jesus: Dead and Buried? is a half-hour documentary that looks at the evidence, historical and medical, for the death of Jesus as a real event in history. Join Luke Waldock as he gets expert opinion and travels to Jerusalem to see the places where Jesus himself would have walked during the last few hours of his life.
Though this video can stand alone, it’s third in a series that addresses some of the most common objections or misunderstanding about Christianity in a positive and respectful way. The Jesus Accounts: Fact or Fiction? is focused on the reliability of the Gospels, while Jesus: Son of God? clarifies what Christians mean when we say Jesus is divine. Both are also free online in English and the languages of many of those most likely to struggle with these issues.
» Watch the trailer or order Jesus: Dead and Buried? on DVD. Not posted online yet, but I expect it will be and will let you know.
Source: Women’s Missionary Union, via Loving the Stranger
“Refugee.” The very word evokes strong emotions. These emotions cross the spectrum from pity, doubt, and fear to love, compassion, and benevolence. How does your faith community respond?
Seeking Refuge: A Refugee Simulation is designed to help the American church empathize with refugees by understanding their experiences before they arrived in America. Use with students and/or adults, with suggested adaptations to help you customize the experience for your participants.
Spirituality and Missions
Sojourner’s Workbook: A Guide to Thriving Cross-Culturally, by Connie Befus. BottomLine Media, 2018. 142 pages; paperback. Does it have to be this hard, or are there ways to make cross-cultural adjustment easier? The author, a skilled counselor, blends psychologically based coping skills with scriptural truth and spiritual disciplines. This book, built around seven goals for a missionary’s first year, might be especially effective in the hands of team and ministry leaders as they equip and encourage new workers.
Spirituality in Missions: Embracing the Lifelong Journey, edited by John Amalraj, Geoffrey W. Hahn, and William D. Taylor. William Carey Library, 2018. 438 pages; ebook or paperback. Authors from 18 countries give us their perspectives on biblical principles and cultural expressions of spirituality particularly as the church engages in God’s mission.
History and Global Christianity
Jerusalem to Timbuktu: A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity, by Brian C. Stiller. IVP Books, 2018. 248 pages; ebook or paperback. What led to the church’s vibrant growth throughout the “Global South”? Brian Stiller of the World Evangelical Alliance draws on extensive research to identify and describe five key factors that have shaped the church, from a renewed openness to the move of the Holy Spirit to the empowerment of indigenous leadership.
Stiller’s book arrived while I was reading two others that cover some of the same ground, both published by academic publishers in 2015:
Scott Sunquist’s The Unexpected Christian Century: The Reversal and Transformation of Global Christianity, 1900-2000 explains how “Christianity moved from being centered in Christian nations to being centered in non-Christian nations” with surprising rapidity and in the process became stronger than ever. Great book.
Douglas Jacobsen’s Global Gospel: An Introduction to Christianity on Five Continents provides a brief history of four Christian traditions and their historical and contemporary expression in Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia and North America. (Prefer video? See the Global Christianity channel on YouTube for free videos designed to accompany Jacobsen’s book.)
Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters from China, by Amy Young. CreateSpace, 2017. 252 pages; ebook or paperback. This book sounds like a fun read, neatly providing three things: an epistolary memoir of one missionary’s experience, a window on life in China, and a tool to help cross-cultural workers write better newsletters to their supporters (with tips and tools at the end of each section).
Evangelism and Apologetics
A Christian Reads the Qur’an, by James Wright. CreateSpace, 2018. 290 pages; ebook or paperback. This unusual book, written primarily for those who revere the Qur’an but also for those who want to share the good news with them, is a conversation between a Muslim and a Christian walking through the pages of the Qur’an and bridging to an understanding of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels.
Finally, here’s one for the homeschooling families. Mission: World Wonders Reading Plan is a curated reading list and curriculum integrating a study of world history, world missions, and world cultures. Quite the package!
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
April 5, Honor, Shame, and the Gospel course (online). Six sessions from Mission ONE’s Werner Mischke.
April 6-7, The Journey Deepens (Portland, OR, USA). A weekend retreat for prospective missionaries.
April 8-13, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Debriefing and reentry help for returning missionaries from TRAIN International.
April 10, OnMission 2018 (online). Free, three-hour streaming conference from Missio Nexus. Theme: partnership.
April 14, Refugee and International Student Ministry Conference (Atlanta, GA, USA). Sponsored by the Foursquare Church.
April 20, Innovation in Mission: Developing a Culture of Innovation (online). Live web event from InChrist Communications.
April 23 to May 6, ORIENT (Joplin, MO, USA). Missionary training from TRAIN International.
April 26-27, Support Raising Bootcamp (Rogers, AR, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
April 26 to May 24, Foundations of Media Strategy (online). Mentored course on using social media for deeper conversations and disciple-making.
April 30 to May 1, Standards Introductory Workshop (Phoenix, AZ, USA). Presented by Standards of Excellence in Short-term Missions.
May 1-3, International Wholistic Missions Conference (Phoenix, AZ, USA). An annual event.
May 4-5, Without Borders Women’s Conference (Sioux Falls, SD, USA). Training for ministering among Muslim women. Provided by Crescent Project.
May 7 to September 9, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online).
May 8 to June 6, Mobiles in Mission: Using the Tool in Everyone’s Pocket (online). Mentored course for field workers on leveraging outreach opportunities.
May 12, GOfest Global (Ware, Hertfordshire, UK). An annual missions conference.
May 15 to June 14, 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (global). An annual prayer campaign.
May 16-17, Interchange Conference (Wayne, PA, USA). From Catalyst Services, bringing together church and agency mission leaders.
May 20, International Day for the Unreached (global). An annual event.
May 31 to June 2, ACMI Annual Conference (Philadelphia, PA, USA). An annual event from the Association of Christians Ministering to Internationals.
» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more details, contact the event organizers.
The Church is growing in Algeria, though facing opposition. Stories from Christian Aid via Mission Network News, below. (Image from Omar-DZ/Flikr)
- ALGERIA: Secularization, an Unexpected Friend to the Gospel
- CHINA: Plea for Prayer as Persecution Increases
- UGANDA: Refugee Stories You Won’t Hear on the News
- MYANMAR: An Open Door for the Gospel
- TURKEY: Andrew Brunson May Face a Life Sentence
Source: Mission Network News, March 15, 2018
The church in Algeria has been growing, but [as] Christian Aid Mission’s David Bogosian shares, “Many who become Christian don’t go directly from Islam to Christianity. They go from Islam to agnosticism to atheism and then to Christianity. So, a huge number of people that are coming into the church have first been secularized. The trend of secularization happening in the Muslim world is probably the fastest growing demographic, ideological, religious demographic change in history.”
This is going on all over the Arab world in places like Iran, Turkey, and Libya… any place that’s experienced or has been affected by radical Islam or Islamic extremists. And between the Arab Springs and the continued Islamic violence against other Muslims in the name of a common god, a lot of people have begun deconstructing their beliefs. They’re questioning their faiths and the ideas which have served as foundations for their lives.
“And that’s actually the first step into the arms of loving God,” Bogosian explains. “As odd as that might sound, you know, to go in that direction. It’s actually something that God is using to bring people to himself.”
» Read full story. Another from the same sources reports opposition: Churches Closed in Algeria, Symptom of Uptick in Persecution.
Source: Asia Harvest, March 2018
In the past 18 months, the situation for Christians in China has dramatically worsened. At the start, we hesitated to publicly share new information from China for a few reasons. Some of the news we have received from church leaders is so dire that most believers around the world simply wouldn’t believe it if we told them. We also wanted to make sure these things were not part of a short-term crackdown, as over the years we have seen numerous seasons of persecution come and go in China.
However, we believe it is now time to present the known facts, to help people understand what our fellow believers are experiencing right now.
Few Christians around the world imagined that China would ever return to its intense anti-Christian persecutions like during Mao’s rule, but things are lining up for a brutal and prolonged period of struggle for Christians in China. In many ways, because of new technology, believers face an even greater challenge than during the dark days of the Cultural Revolution.
» Full story includes analysis, prayer points, and links to other sources on the topic.
Source: International Mission Board, March 16, 2018
I work with refugees in Africa, and it’s not at all what I thought it would be. I expected it to be about meeting needs and helping people, sort of a one-way transfer of blessing and Christian encouragement. On some level, maybe I thought I would be overwhelmed by the plight of Christian refugees grappling with the goodness or existence of God in what is understandably difficult circumstances for faith.
I wasn’t prepared to be inspired by their faith every time I went into the camps. The believers living in these very humble settings are truly focused on the eternal things. They are planting churches, helping others, and sharing their faith. They are expanding God’s kingdom in the refugee camps. I feel privileged to work alongside them.
You can learn about the various refugee crises in Africa from nearly every world news organization. But there are many stories you won’t read in the news—stories of God’s faithfulness to Christian refugees and their faithfulness to him.
» Read the stories of three refugees, and be sure to watch the powerful video at the top about Sudanese refugees training leaders and planting churches in a massive Ugandan refugee settlement.
Source: God Reports, March 13, 2018
Since Burma achieved independence from the British in 1948, the country now called Myanmar has been embroiled in civil war, as various ethnic groups have waged bitter battles against the military-led government.
Yet behind the disturbing headlines, God is on the move, as confirmed by interviews with pastors at a recent conference organized by Global Disciples in Myanmar.
“In the last three years, God has opened the door wide to the gospel in Myanmar. But we don’t know how long it will be open,” says one of the organizers of the conference.
He has been involved in street ministry since he was in his teens and is currently overseeing an effort to plant churches among unreached people groups throughout South Asia. “We want to nurture what is growing and multiplying,” he says. “Not just addition, but multiplication.”
Pastor Imo is one of the pastors multiplying the church by going to tribal groups in southern Myanmar that have never heard the name of Jesus. “By the grace of God we went from village to village and many accepted Jesus as their Savior. We went to some places not reachable by boat or motorbike. So we went on foot,” he reports.
Source: Mission Network News, March 19, 2018
Last week, American Pastor Andrew Brunson was given a new indictment in Turkish court. This time he was charged with “leadership in a terrorist organization.” Prosecutors are seeking a possible life sentence. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the indictment and calls on the US government to deal with the issue.
According to USCIRF, Brunson’s charges have been brought based on so-called secret evidence and a secret witness. However, the charges seem baseless.
David Curry of Open Doors USA reminds us that BrunsoAn served as a pastor in Turkey for more than two decades before his arrest. He’s been in prison since October of 2016.
In this situation, Curry says that prayer is really the very best (and perhaps only) action we can take. And as you pray for Brunson—for his release, courage, and perseverance—Curry says to remember others who are also facing persecution for their faith:
“The thing to remember is when we hear about an American pastor who is held prisoner somewhere, whether it’s in North Korea or in Turkey, there are many, many, many other pastors who are in prison or Christians who are in prison for their faith around the world. This is just one, it’s public knowledge here in America because he is an American citizen. But we don’t pray for him because he is an American citizen, we pray for him because he’s a follower of Jesus, in my mind. He’s a citizen first of the Kingdom, and so we support our brother or sister in the Lord.”
According to his daughter Jacqueline, early this month Brunson wrote the following: “Let it be clear, I am in prison not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am—a Christian pastor. I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet, I believe this to be true, it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have before me. My deepest thanks to all those around the world who are standing with and praying for me.”
Five things mobilizers can learn from old, dead white guys. And women. And an African American.
By Shane Bennett
I’m really not much of a historian. I know that things, important things, happened, but I’m sadly not much more sophisticated than that. If you ask when some particular event took place, I can say with reasonable confidence, “Before now.”
So it’s a risky move for me to teach mission history, like lesson eight of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. It’s all history, with significant events happening in a particular order that matters, and important people saying and doing landmark things under the influence of God and their contemporary cultures. Whew! If my instructor evaluations are any indication, my students and I survived my recent go at this lesson, but barely.
What I did walk away with (in addition to a bruised ego and growing admiration for our editor/publisher who also kills at teaching history) was a set of five lessons from missionary heroes that mobilizers like us should keep in mind.1. Advocating new directions will raise old-guard hackles.
It is the nature of mobilization to say, “Hey, how about we do this thing we haven’t done yet?” For some, that type of thinking is all fun and unicorns. Others, however, particularly those who are in charge of “what we’re currently doing,” might not be so enthusiastic.
This is what Hudson Taylor, pioneer of the effort to continue from initial coastal missions outposts to reach yet untouched inland peoples, found when began to advocate for unreached Chinese provinces. I suppose it didn’t help his cause that he’d begun to dress like a person from an unreached Chinese province! (Read more.)
To their credit, though, the guardians of the “current” had something of a case: Things are going well here. Join in with where God is moving. Maybe even, “bloom where you’re planted,” though that might be a stretch.
But we have to move forward, don’t we? For example, the 1100 unengaged, unreached Muslim people groups are off the radar of all except themselves and a Father who loves them dearly. As we advocate for such as these, let’s honor the custodians of now, while gently, persuasively calling forth the new things God has in mind.2. Do what you can with what you have.
One of the old, dead white guys who figures prominently in this lesson, and in missions history, is Count Zinzendorf. He was a Christian who happened to have an estate. When some refugees from Bohemia came by, he allowed them to set up house there.
Hit pause for just second: Would you have done this? Are you having a hard time imagining having an estate? Me, too. But if I did, I’m afraid I’d say, “You’re good camping here for the weekend, but I’ve got company coming after that.” He did become their bishop; maybe that was part of the deal.
Turns out a revival broke out in the midst of these Moravian refugees and sparked what ended up being a 100-year-long, 24/7 prayer initiative and one of the most remarkable sending efforts in missions history. (Read more.)
Bishop Nick’s lesson for us? Well, there are a few, but since I’m all obsessed with the estate idea, here’s one: When you offer what you have, though it might not seem that great in your eyes, you never know what God might bring forth. An encouraging text. A bed to crash in. Thirty minutes of looking someone in the eye and saying in 18 different ways, “You were made for this.” You really never know what might happen.3. It’s possible you might have blind spots.
The first time I ever taught this lesson, I made the mistake of asking if there were any questions. I’d pretty much already said everything I knew about the topic and a few things I’d guessed at. Someone raised their hand and said, “What about William Carey as a family man?”
What indeed? As you may be aware, William’s first wife did not want to accompany him to India. I don’t know all the subtle and overt pressure that was brought to bear on dear Dorothy, but I can guess. She eventually went along, hated India (especially the part where one of her children died), and eventually pretty much broke with reality. (Read more.)
Did Carey have a blind spot where caring for his family was concerned? The accuracy of hindsight makes judging in this instance seem unsporting.
This much seems clear, though: If Carey, as brilliant and hard after God as he was, could miss something like this, perhaps I have blind spots as well. Maybe you, too. It’s hard to know your blind spots (hence the name), but what you can do, what I need to do better, is to get people close enough to you to see them and gutsy enough to say what they see when they do.4. Plodding is often the pace of God.
I want things to happen fast. I delight in the rapid movements to Jesus we increasingly hear about. But I know one of God’s basic units of work is the transformation of the human heart and that usually takes time. As do learning a language, shifting the missional direction of a church, or opening eyes that have by years of habit been closed to certain works of God. We need determination over time.
William Carey, when asked late in life how he accomplished so much, replied, “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” (Read more.)
It’s that grit, that determination, that helped Carey and so many others live lives that qualify them to be on the “of whom the world was not worthy” list in Hebrews 11. Don’t grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9), and don’t give up praying (Luke 18). God will bring about his results through you.5. Consider how much we owe pioneering women.
The Perspectives lesson I just taught emphasizes the men who pioneered modern mission efforts but also highlights the women who were behind, alongside, and not infrequently in front of them. We’re reminded they did the same work as the men, but against prevailing social norms. As they said of Ginger Rogers, she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels!
And, let’s be frank here, a lot of them also gave birth, no easy task in your home culture and rife with challenges when done in another. Sadly, they also buried many of the children they bore. I can’t even imagine that pain.
My hat is off to poor, broken Dorothy, to Hannah Marshman, Lottie Moon, to countless others, and to the contemporary missionary women Marti Wade illuminates in Through Her Eyes, a book you should probably get right now! To whatever degree it’s in my power, I want to cheer on such women and say thanks for leading us forward.
Maybe you already know this, but I just found out and am amazed. We often say that Adoniram Judson was the first foreign missionary from America. Turns out George Liele beat him by nearly twenty years.
George was a slave, then not a slave, one of the first African Americans ordained in America, convened the first black church in America, and went to Jamaica to preach to slaves there in 1783, becoming (arguably) the first missionary to go out from America. Amazing.
Read more of George’s story and look for a chance to tell one person about him this week.
“…Many were trying to prevent this mission. They were talking among themselves behind my back, and saying: Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among enemies who know not God?’ Not from malice, but having no liking for it…” — The Confession of St. Patrick, 46.
See also: St. Patrick’s Passion for Missions (International Mission Board).
In this issue:
Source: International Mission Board, February 26, 2018
A living goddess sat in a room just above me. I wasn’t allowed to go inside because I’m a foreigner and not Hindu or Buddhist. But I imagined what her childhood will look like now that she has been chosen by a council from her people to be the next in a long line of “living goddesses.”
She’s three, you guys. Three. Years. Old. Skipping, plucking wildflowers, and going down to the corner store for sweets are now all out of the question. Seeing her family—that’s now only on festival days.
She’s known as a kumari, and she is worshipped as what Nepali Hindus believe to be a manifestation of the goddess Durga and Nepali Buddhists believe to be a manifestation of the goddess Vajradevi.
Once installed as a kumari, the weight of her people’s spiritual needs is placed squarely on her small shoulders. She’ll live in isolation, except when people come to worship her, pay their respects, and ask for healing.
Source: Open Doors, February 9, 2018
Vang Atu, a 28-year-old father to two kids, was the first Christian convert in his village in Vietnam. He comes from the Hmong tribe and once worshipped different spirits asking for luck, wealth, good health, and food; but when he surrendered his life to Jesus, he completely abandoned his animistic beliefs.
As a part of the body of Christ, Vang Atu evangelized to other villagers and saw at least four families come to follow Jesus. His house became their place of worship and fellowship.
One day in 2016, his house was destroyed by local authorities and villagers. He and his family were then forced to move out from their village.
This is Vang Atu’s prayer: “Pray with me that one day I’ll be able to go back to my hometown and testify to the people about my faith in the Lord.”
» Read full story and watch a three-minute video.
» Religious persecution can be very complex, with many roots and manifestations. See, for example, a recent story about tensions between evangelicals and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that led to violence between the two groups (World Watch Monitor).
Source: Operation Mobilization, January 19, 2018
Suliman, a refugee from Iran, first came to Markus’ church for Finnish classes. “After a while, he comes to me with his broken English and with Google translator,” Markus remembered. The translation app wasn’t enough to communicate his request, though, so Suliman fetched his Iranian interpreter, also a member of the church. “Markus, I want to change my religion,” he finally announced.
Markus said, “I thought this is not possible. With my experience that does not happen.” Somewhat suspicious of Suliman’s motives, Markus asked him what he knew about Christianity.
“I know the Christmas,” Suliman replied. “With the Christmas comes the Santa Claus.”
Realizing then that Suliman knew little about Christianity, Markus asked him what his family would think about him changing religions. “I’m an adult. I can change my religion if I want to,” Suliman retorted.
“OK, I can teach you,” Markus agreed. For almost six months, the two men met together to study Christianity. Soon, a few others joined. Although Suliman listened carefully, he rarely asked questions, and Markus sometimes wondered if he understood what was being said.
Two months in, they took a break for Christmas. During that time, Suliman had a dream. “In my dream, I was crucified, then a voice said, ‘It’s not enough.’ That happened again. Again the voice said, ‘It’s not enough.’ That happened many times. What does that mean?” he asked Markus.
Having never interpreted a dream before, Markus needed some time to pray and process. Eventually he recognized that the dream dealt with the difference between legalism and faith. “In Islam you need to pray, you need to fast, but it’s never enough,” he explained. “If we bring our deeds to God, it’s never enough.”
After Suliman’s dream, “he was a different man…I think that was what fully turned his heart to Christ,” Markus said.
» Many from backgrounds like Suliman’s are afraid of how their familiies might respond to their interest in Jesus. Read more in this story from Arab World Media.
Source: Samaritan’s Purse, March 5, 2018
Moumouni had a major infection in his leg and also suffered from insomnia because he constantly heard inaudible voices. His mother, Maimouna, sought help from health centers in Niger, Muslim healers, and witch doctors, but nothing worked. Maimouna spent all her money trying to heal him. Family members expected him to die.
Maimouna shared her son’s situation with our staff and invited them to visit her son. Our staff prayed for Moumouni, shared the gospel, and he prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Not long after, Moumouni stopped hearing the inaudible voices and his sleep improved. His leg gradually healed.
Maimouna was touched by the love demonstrated by Samaritan’s Purse staff. “The entire family has learned that the name of Jesus Christ can save and heal,” she said.