Source: OMF International, February 2018
The conversation was fine to begin with. They were okay that I am a Christian, that I tell Bible stories, and help people to follow Jesus. But when it came to allegiance to the local shrine—whether I would visit it to pray at New Year and help to carry it around the neighborhood—things got tense.
I told them that praying for blessing and protection is good and that I do it every day by praying to the God who made everything and wants to bless us. I shared that I’m happy to go with them to be part of the group but that I will only pray to the Creator God. I explained, “I won’t be able to join in carrying the shrine and worshipping the local god. I believe the Creator God is the source of all blessings and the place to search for safety.”
Nobody blinked an eye, but an awkward, dead silence seemed to continue forever and everybody stared at the floor. We waited for “Daddy” to speak. In a soft voice, he explained, “This is a problem. These Christians always disturb the harmony… their God is not as good as Japanese gods, who aren’t so envious and so stubborn.” He continued, “You live here now. You need to be willing to give your best to be part of the community. If you do that, it might work somehow.”
» Read full story with prayer points, and consider: What would you say? What would you do?
- VIDEO: International Students in the US
- VIDEO: One Life
- VIDEO: All Praise to God Alone
- ARTICLE: Reframing our View of Poverty for Local and Global Impact
- EVENT: Billy Graham’s Funeral on Friday, March 2
- EVENTS: Upcoming Courses and Conferences
You told us you wanted to hear more about opportunities to reach “the nations in our midst” such as refugees, immigrants, and international students. This edition includes a short video you may be able to use to help mobilize people in your church for that kind of work.
We also came across several other new videos you might be able to use in something you’re doing, and a couple of articles on reshaping your local outreach efforts. Plus, there are upcoming conferences and events. Have a look. And may the Lord guide you and provide for you as you pursue his purposes
Source: International Mission Board
You may find this simple, one-minute video helpful for casting a vision for ministering to international students in the US. It’s “branded” to the IMB but looks like the sort of thing that could be used in many contexts.
» International student ministry might also be a link between your local and international ministry efforts. See Four Ways to Unite Your Local and Global Missions Strategy (TEAM International).
Here’s another new video some of you might be able to use in your own context. It challenges us to live purposeful lives, using the days and resources that God has given us for his glory. “In a world where so much time is spent watching TV and scrolling through social media, how can we use our time to make Jesus known to those around us and to the ends of the earth?”
This one is a bit guilt-driven and includes a lot of statistics (sadly without attribution), both of which might limit its use and usefulness. Maybe not, though: Tears of the Saints, a similar video from almost a decade ago, has been quite popular.
Source: SIM International
SIM has now been serving in mission around the world for 125 years, and they are celebrating with a hymn specially written for their 125th anniversary. The hymn has been translated into multiple languages to express gratitude to God for His mighty work through SIM around the globe. But again, it’s the sort of thing any of us can use to celebrate what God is doing through his church among the nations.
Below is the sing-along version in English. Nice job, SIM.
Source: Catalyst Services Postings, February 2018
Fairhaven Church in suburban Dayton, OH was a model missions church in many ways. The economically comfortable congregation supported local ministries, global missionaries, and a host of short-term teams. But people didn’t often cross the river…the Little Miami River, that is. They were the “haves” on one side of the river. The economic “have nots” lived on the other side. The mission field was overseas, and the church’s role was to pray, send missionaries, and give.
Kirk Lithander, outreach pastor at Fairhaven, knew that the congregation needed to change the way they saw others, especially the poor, but how?
» Full article explains the process and resources which helped transform Fairhaven and reshape their outreach efforts. Take a look.
» Subscribe to Postings, a free, monthly newsletter with practical articles for church mobilization and consider attending the Interchange Conference May 16-17 in Philadelphia, which will explore this topic and others.
Source: Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College
Many are mourning the loss of Rev. Billy Graham and celebrating all that God did through him. You may want to tune in to the live radio coverage of Rev. Billy Graham’s funeral, beginning at 12PM EST this Friday, March 2nd, available on Moody Radio and other networks as well as by livestream at billygraham.org.
» Read more.
» Many articles about Billy Graham were published in the last week. Missions Catalyst readers may especially appreciate these three:
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
March 1, So What? Answering a Donor’s Toughest Question (online). Webinar from MissioNexus.
March 4-10, Perspectives Intensive (Orlando, FL, USA). Provided by Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
March 7-10, Field Security Seminar (Lake George, CO, USA). Prepare to live, work, and travel in high-risk environments.
March 8, The Crucible of the First Term (online). Webinar from MissioNexus.
March 9-13, GO Equipped Tentmaking Course (Bergen, Norway). Hosted by Tent Norway.
March 15, Partnering with Oral Learners (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.
March 15-17, GO Equipped Tentmaking Course (Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic). Hosted by Tent Dominica.
March 16-17, Crescent ConneXion (Portland, OR, USA). Loving your neighbor from the 10/40 Window; a Mission ConneXion event.
March 18 to April 13, Equipping for Cross-Cultural Life and Ministry (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training.
March 23-25, Jesus to the Nations (Halifax, NS, Canada). Free, annual, community-based mission festival for all ages.
March 23-24, Check-IT-Out Spring 2018 Conference (Charlotte, NC, USA). For IT and software professionals and students on using technology in missions, particularly Bible translation.
March 26-27, Support Raising Bootcamp (Clyde, NC, USA). From Support Raising Solutions.
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.
April 10, OnMission 2018 (online). Free, virtual conference from Missio Nexus. Theme: partnership.
April 23-26, Thrive Retreat (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico). For North American women serving cross-culturally.
April 23 to May 6, ORIENT (Joplin, MO, USA). Missionary training.
April 26-27, Support Raising Bootcamp (Rogers, AR, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
April 30 to May 1, Standards Introductory Workshop (Phoenix, AZ, USA). Presented by Standards of Excellence in Short-term Missions (followed by International Wholistic Missions Conference in the same location).
» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more about a specific event, though, contact the event organizers.
- PAKISTAN: Historic Fatwa Condemns Blasphemy Attacks
- GHANA: The Christian Ministry of Healing Where Medicine Is Magic
- CAMEROON: Family’s Murder Attempts Embolden Leader’s Faith
- AFGHANISTAN: 25 Young Men Receive Christ Together
- IRAQ: Christians Return to Ninevah
A three-week-old baby recovers after surgery to correct a complication caused by a traditional cure that almost took her life. See related story below. Source: William Haun, International Mission Board.
Source: Global Christian News via Barnabas Fund, February 8, 2018
The Pakistan government has unveiled a historic fatwa (religious ruling) condemning Islamic extremism and vigilante “blasphemy” attacks, in a potentially positive development for the country’s minority Christian community.
By issuing the fatwa with the support of 1,829 religious leaders—who are signatories to the document officially released on January 16—the Pakistani government is addressing extremism from a religious perspective.
The fatwa declares that terrorist activity against the state, and in particular suicide bombings, are haram (forbidden under Islamic law). It also states: “We believe that spreading sectarian hatred, armed sectarian conflict and imposition of one’s religious ideologies by force are contrary to the Shariah/teachings of Islam,” adding that there is a “religious obligation” to confront “evil” extremist ideology.
It should be noted however that “extremism” in the context of the ruling is defined as views deemed to be outside the body of mainstream Islam—this differs from typical Western definitions, which define “extremism” in relation to issues such as democracy, human rights, and freedom of religion.
The document also says it is “unacceptable in Islam” that any group “takes [the] law into its own hands, [and] declares people infidels” —a statement which is understood to refer to the country’s controversial “blasphemy” laws. Instead, the fatwa asserts that “only the State has the right to implement punishments on citizens.”
» See also Ahmed’s Lawyer Beaten During Blasphemy Trial (Mission Network News). Wondering about China’s changing religious policies? Get some clues and links in Religious Regulations and the Cross (China Source).
Source: International Mission Board, February 19, 2018
In the Mampruli language, the word for medicine also means “magic.” In this culture, anything with healing or supernatural powers is considered to be or have tiim. When westerners first showed up and offered suffering patients small white pills that relieved pain, they were called “magic.” The only word for pharmacist in the local language—tiimdaana—means the “magic guy” when translated literally. Every time I prescribe medication to patients in the local language, I have to tell them to go buy some “magic” (tiim) from the “magic guy” (tiimdaana).
West African healers often tout the fact that their cures are “all-natural.” It’s true that they know of many roots, barks, and leaves with legitimate curative properties. But in practice, mixing those ingredients into medicine is usually accompanied by a sacrifice to ancestral spirits. If the cure fails to work, it’s not seen as the fault of the local healer or the medicine but a failure of the patient or family caretaker to appease the spirits.
» Full story provides some great illustrations of what happens when cultures clash and tips for Christian doctors serving in contexts with similar traditional healing practices.
» See also Witch Doctor Pastors Selling “Miracles” Contrary to Teaching of Jesus (Global Christian News). This month the Global Prayer Digest is all about West Africa. Subscribe here.
Source: Open Doors, February 13, 2018
When Abdul left his tribal religion of Islam and committed his life to Christ in 2000, his Muslim family felt and acted like he had just pointed a challenging dagger straight at them. Abdul’s family (part of the ethnic Kotoko group spread over Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria) always took pride in the fact that they were one of the few tribes in their region of Cameroon with no known Christians.
“When all their spells and curses with the help of the local medicine man failed, they tried to kill me themselves.”
More than once, Abdul’s family tried to poison his food. One night, strangers kidnapped him and took him to an unknown destination. “On the way there, I prayed for God to confuse them so they could release me. And he did! They just let me go without saying anything. I knew it was God who had changed their minds.”
Ten years down the road and Abdul’s family has still not given up trying to get him back to Islam. He faces constant insults and exclusion from the family. His wife has also left him and often slanders him in front of their seven children.
“My family abandoned me, rejected me, did everything to have me go back to Islam, but the hand of God is with me. I count on the Lord, and he protects me. I trust him. I continue in the faith. My wish is that one day we will have a church here for the Kotoko people that gathers openly, just like everyone else.”
» In more encouraging news from Cameroon, read Developing Deep Roots in Scripture. It describes the alliance of translators that has completed eight translation projects in the last two years, with several more nearing the finish line (Wycliffe Global Alliance).
Source: God Reports, February 13, 2018
Christian satellite programming in Iran and Afghanistan has resulted in numerous professions of faith in Christ. Many receiving the broadcasts know little about Jesus, but often follow up with questions by phone.
“One call came from a young man in Afghanistan,” said Panayiotis [Keenan], the director of SAT-7 PARS, broadcasting via Yahsat, a private satellite company based in one of the Gulf States.
The young man had many questions about Jesus. “Like millions around him, up until watching SAT-7 PARS, he didn’t have a clue who Jesus is. But he was deeply unsatisfied with his life and beliefs and instinctively knew there must be something better.”
“He said he was stunned by the love and truth he was witnessing on SAT-7 PARS,” Panayiotis recounted. “He was so impressed by Jesus that he wanted to know where he lived so he might meet him.”
A few days later, the young Afghani called again, this time with a friend. The friend had also been moved by the broadcast.
“A week later, the first man called again. This time there were 25 young men crammed into a tiny apartment, asking questions, listening to the counselor’s answers.”
“All 25 prayed to receive Christ in unison!” Panayiotis exulted. “Incredible, a miracle…a true God thing.”
Panayiotis believes there are many more small groups gathering in secret as they listen to the truth beamed to their televisions from SAT-7. “They are anxious to meet other Christians, start their own church and want to find a pastor,” he noted. “Because finding a local, trained pastor is often impossible, we assure them that we will not leave them alone and urge them to watch the many teaching programs on SAT-7 PARS.”
» See also Taliban Wants to End War (Reuters via INcontext).
Source: Open Doors, February 8, 2018
After three years of Islamic State occupation and devastation in the wake of the ISIS war, local partners are sharing stories of continued hope for the Nineveh Plains and the believers who were forced to flee when militants issued their ultimatum: “Convert, leave or die.” For more than two years, occupying Islamic jihadists tried to erase any evidence of Christianity from the city—burning churches, destroying crosses, toppling bell towers.
Father George walks toward a colorful paper, where a map of the city is divided into several sectors. He leads what is called the Church Supreme Board for Reconstruction of Baghdeda, which is coordinating the efforts to restore homes [in Iraq’s largest Christian city].
“With your support, we were able to restore 286 houses in Qaraqosh. That means 286 families have returned to their homes. By the end of 2017, we finished 1,054 of the 2,658 of houses that are on our list to be repaired.”
In other places in the Nineveh Plain, local partners have helped support the restoration of another 392 houses for a current total of almost 700 rebuilt homes—and new hope for almost 700 families.
» See full story with pictures. It’s quite encouraging.
» See also another Christian leader who has invited Muslim nations to rebuild Christian villages destroyed by ISIS (World Watch Monitor).
By Shane Bennett
Pastors, I honestly don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Back in college, I pastored a church of a dozen people. Elderly saints they were but with a remarkable propensity not to die. So I preached, and I dodged the rest of the pastoral duties. I never faced the stresses you do with budgets and staff and people who come to you with intractable problems, hoping you’ve got a silver bullet to spare.
Nor have I been in your place with goofballs saying, “Hey, your church should do more with Muslims!” Maybe that feels like a burden you’d rather let go. Maybe you have some personal anxiety about Islam or you can already feel the pushback that will come if you lead your flock toward engagement with Muslims.
Here’s why it might be worthwhile anyway:
- Islam is a big deal. Over 1.5 billion people are Muslims, with a huge number being added every day. And Islam is talked about like crazy in America and all over the place.
- Your people, at least some of them, are wondering how Christians should respond to this.
- God, mostly on the down low, is inviting Muslims into his kingdom these days like we have never seen before. This might be the sort of harvest you don’t want to miss out on.
If the Holy Spirit nudges you in this direction, I’d like to make it as easy as possible to obey, with ideas both for “knowing” and “doing” and with varying costs in time and money.
Not a pastor but know one? If you think it might bless them, please send this along. Tell them you’d like them to read it, and understand if they can’t get to it right away.Ten Ways to Get Started
1. Add to a sense of Muslims’ lostness an understanding that God wants to find them in great numbers.
You probably don’t have to convince your people that Muslims are lost. Most evangelical Christians agree. They might not be thinking as much, though, that God has in mind to gather great numbers of them into his kingdom, that every blessing we enjoy is meant for them, and that the blood of Jesus shed on the cross works redemption for them with the same wonderful efficacy with which it does for us.
2. Share winsome stories of Muslim-Christian interactions.
While evil has certainly been done in the name of Islam and good Muslims have done very bad things, there’s more to the story than that. Negative news makes it hard to imagine that Christians can connect with them. Read this short, surprising story as a counterexample.
3. Highlight similarities between Muslims and Christians.
Sometimes, whether intentionally or subconsciously, we try to keep Muslims at arm’s length as being “other.” In doing so, we might fall prey to thinking, as a woman at my church once told me, “We are completely different in every way!” That’s just not true. Your people need to know this.
I probably go overboard in the other direction, happy that a typical Muslim and I both believe in just one God and both think Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin, is alive today, and could take Chuck Norris in a one-on-one match. Generally, we also believe that abortion is a bad thing, kids are a good thing, Jesus is coming back, and devotion to God should be above all else. Not bad starting points from which to invite Muslims back to the faith of their forbearers.
4. Read and encourage others to read material that prioritizes engagement over fear and defense.
I know, I know. Everyone wants to give the pastor a book. Or ten. Here are two that will help you think in good ways about engaging Muslims and give you tools to pass along to your crew: Muslims, Christians, and Jesus by Carl Medearis and Connecting with Muslims by Fouad Masri. Both are practical and accessible. If you’ve already blown your book budget for the year and can only give this a few minutes a week, I’d be honored to have you read my 300-word weekly email, Muslim Connect. It’s designed to help normal Christians think about Muslims the way God does and love them like Jesus does.
5. Host a seminar on Islam.
Crescent Project offers a quick look at Islam and how to befriend Muslims in a weekend seminar or DVD-based curriculum. Encountering the World of Islam is a twelve-week course based on understanding Muslims. I’ve seen them lead to lives better ready to serve God among Muslims near and far.
6. Encourage your people to connect with international students and refugees.
In any town with a sizable university, someone organizes care and connection for international students (Muslims and others). Find this person. Give them three minutes on the platform in early August to tell your people how they can befriend future leaders from other countries arriving next week. Decide together that they won’t return home without enjoying a dinner in an American home. Be the first to sign up.
Someone in your town also knows what’s up with refugees. Same story. If you don’t know how to find these people, shoot me an email and I’ll give you a hand.
7. Endorse a church-wide commitment to pray for Muslims during Ramadan.
Each year around a million Christians worldwide will use the same beautiful little book to pray for Muslims during Ramadan, their month of fasting. Order copies for your people. Ramadan next occurs May 15 to June 14.
8. Audit the “Muslim impact” of your missions budget.
Are you putting dollars toward work that cares for Muslims and invites them into the kingdom, either locally or far away? It’s none of my business how your budget is set up or what you support, but a budget suggesting that the church, corporately, doesn’t value reaching out to Muslims might limit what individuals will care about and do.
9. Partner with Muslims to address a social ill in your city.
A friend in San Jose, CA unites “Jews, Christians, and Muslims to serve the poor, suffering, and marginalized.” I think he’s onto something. Serving soup or cleaning up trash shoulder to shoulder with someone from another faith teaches things you’ll never get from a book or video.
10. Offer to take some of your people to visit a mosque.
There’s something about stepping into a mosque for the first time that is powerful, though difficult for many (Am I cheating on Jesus?). Your people will walk away with a sense that mosques are more the places where Muslims go to seek God in the best way they know and less the hothouses of religious sedition we’re sometimes told they are. A little bit of reality goes miles toward reshaping imagination. Two key points for this: Go as learners, not evangelists. A first visit is not the time for a showdown. And make sure you have pre-planned a good 45 minutes to debrief the experience.Conclusion
Because these ideas are designed to be put into action, I’m happy to help you consider and implement any of them. I’d be honored to come alongside as you guide your people into obedience relative to one of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our generation.
- NETHERLANDS: The Secret That Can’t be Kept
- SOUTH KOREA: Consider Inviting the Neighbors
- THAILAND: Sacred Ink?
- CENTRAL ASIA: Nomad Truck Venture
- WORLD: Over 4 Billion Online
Today’s news briefs highlight some creative ideas and tools for ministry. I’ll add one more. I often find cool stuff at Flowing Data. This interactive map is awesome. You can zoom way in to get very detailed results. My area of Northern New York, a 6,000-square kilometer area, has a population of about 64,000. This time next year I hope to visit a part of the world with 12.5 million people in an area the same size!
You’ve heard of OM Ships, but you may not know about OM Riverboats. Their first vessel includes a floating “escape room” to help European visitors consider the gospel, “the secret that can’t be kept.”
Source: Operation Mobilization, January 24, 2018
The Agency is a first-of-its-kind interactive mission experience that’s set on top of OM’s newly-launched riverboat. Inspired by ideas from a popular real-life game known as an “escape room,” The Agency is a simulation where participants race against time as they try to break out of locked rooms by gathering clues and solving puzzles. Through the experience, participants discover a secret that can’t be kept.
“This experience is the focus of the riverboat,” explained David Svenson, who oversees the artistic direction of The Agency. “We are taking the parable and giving it a modern twist. It’s telling a story about the gospel which then motivates and mobilizes people to share it with the least-reached.”
Escape rooms have only been introduced in Europe in recent years, but have quickly gained popularity, especially among youths. The first escape room opened in the Netherlands in 2013, with others following due to market demand.
The concept of The Agency can be summed up in three words: recruited, trained, and sent. It’s the same process that Christians go through to eventually be sent by God and carry out the Great Commission.
Source: International Mission Board, February 5, 2018
This Olympics… As you watch people compete in events like curling or skiing or shooting, let it be an opportunity to remember who we are, why we’re here, and the eternity to which we are all heading. Let it be an opportunity to remember that our big wide world is full of billions of living, breathing souls, all striving for similar things—to achieve purpose in life, to make their life count somehow.
And let it be a bridge to reach out. Many of us have neighbors or colleagues from different countries. Invite them over for a meal and to watch the Olympics together. Maybe even ask them to bring a dish from their country and share your cuisines. Talk about what sports are like in their country and what brings their countrymen together.
The Olympics are an easy topic around which to unite, talk about what we have in common, and build relationships. In some way, the Games speak to the hearts of everyone. People in every culture know what it’s like to spend their lives trying to achieve something. Every person knows what it’s like to try to find meaning and purpose.
Use these Olympic Games to ask people about their passion in life and what they’re striving for. Ask them what they want their big life achievements to be. Ask them where they find their purpose. Ask them if they’ve ever been disappointed in that quest. Ask if their accomplishments have fulfilled them like they thought they would.
The Olympics are a great bridge to enter a conversation about the race we’re running and the hope that we have—a hope that will gather the nations together one day in a way that is a million times more peaceful, a million times better.
» See also Experiencing the Olympics with God in Mind (Weave). For daily devotions and activities to do with your children, join the author’s Missional Olympics Facebook group. Sound familiar? We highlighted both those things in last week’s Resource Reviews. Take a look if you missed it!
Source: International Mission Board, January 29, 2018
When I moved with my family to Thailand a few years ago, I began noticing an abundance of tattoo parlors, many advertising “bamboo tattoos.” I soon learned that bamboo tattoos are known in the local language as sak yant, which translates literally, “tattoo of sacred image.”
Sak Yant has gained worldwide fame. The tattoos are considered fashionable and are sought after by many who travel to Thailand. But it is important to understand the spiritual implications of the tattoos.
Khun Pat, a Christian who once practiced sak yant extensively, cautions, “For people who want to be involved with sak yant, they need to know this—it is not an art form. You open the door for something really dark to come into you.”
Khun Pat testifies to the deliverance from sak yant he found in Christ. “What Jesus gave me is not the power to hurt people, not to harm people; but what he gave me was the power to love people. Sak yant is darkness—it will destroy you long term. But Jesus will give you life.”
» See full story with photos and a short videos to see why he says these tats are trouble.
» It may be helpful to acknowledge that tattoos send different messages in different contexts. See Tattoos Present Him With Witnessing Opportunities (Baptist Press) and other points explored in a conversation on the topic at AskaMissionary.com. Also check out Why So Many Americans Think Buddhism Is Just a Philosophy (The Conversation).
Source: Christian Newswire, January 23, 2018
Christians with a heart for sharing Jesus and a taste for adventure are being invited to take part in an overland trek aiming to help take the gospel to some of the world’s unreached nomadic people groups. The five-week Nomad Truck Venture co-sponsored by Frontier Ventures, will see participants travel more than 3,000 miles across rugged Central Asia in the summer, to introduce them to the special needs and challenges of sharing Jesus among communities constantly on the move.
Joint-trek organizer, the Nomadic Peoples Network (NPN), has identified 181 nomadic groups—totaling 123 million people—of which only one is known to be reached. Also, comprising 69 of the world’s 193 unengaged peoples with populations over 100,000, and more than a third of the world’s unengaged, unreached people groups, nomads represent a major priority for frontier missions
» Learn more.
» For another creative venture in Central Asia, read Team Ventures into Fruit-Drying Business (Partners International).