Missions Catalyst

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NORTH AFRICA: Taxi Rides with Tarek

Source: Frontiers USA, April 4, 2016

I hustled our children into the back seat of the taxi as Kevin climbed in the front seat. “Where are you from?” the driver asked.

“America,” Kevin said. “How about you?”

“I’m from Syria,” the driver responded.

“Oh. I prayed for your country this morning!” Kevin blurted out.

I cringed a little in the back seat at Kevin’s response. What was that emotion in me? Embarrassment? Shame? What did it matter if this taxi driver knew Kevin prayed? Why did I feel like hiding?

It was true after all. Kevin had spent a couple hours that morning, as he often did, in our team’s prayer room. And he had prayed for Syria.

Although I felt sheepish and not very brave about sharing our spiritual lives with this taxi driver, I look back and see that all it took was Kevin’s casual comment, and Tarek, the taxi driver, was hooked. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the day Tarek’s pursuit of Jesus shifted into high gear…

» Full story is worth reading. Here’s my favorite line: “That first night with his new Bible, Tarek devoured a hundred pages of the Gospels.”

» See also another story about a taxi driver, Listener in Mongolia Becomes Volunteer Broadcaster (FEBC). And don’t forget to pray for the work of God in the Muslim world during Ramadan this year. It begins May 15. Check out resources from Frontiers, Prayercast, and of course 30 Days of Prayer.

MOZAMBIQUE: Tewe People Celebrate New Audio Bible Materials

Source: Mission Network News, April 26, 2018

The Tewe people in central Mozambique have had missionaries come to them for years. Today, about 40 percent of the Tewe people are Christian. However, the Tewe people have no Bible and less than one hour of scripture in audio [form]. Because of their limited access to God’s Word, it is easy for Tewe Christians to mix biblical teachings with the local ethnic religions.

Joshua Harrison with Audio Scripture Ministries says the Tewe people group “is still considered a least-reached people group because there are still some significant cultural strongholds with witchcraft and syncretism. So our team looks at that and says, well, clearly there are some missing tools and access to God’s Word in a form that people can use on a daily basis. That’s why we want to bring that connection to God’s Word in audio [form].”

“We are excited to report that we have over 10 hours of scripture recordings and songs and Bible-engagement materials that we’ve recorded [in the Tewe language] and the community response has been fantastic.”

The process has contained some challenges. The Tewe language is not a written language, which has made it difficult for the team working with local Tewe speakers to translate scripture before they can record.

But God has blessed ASM’s scripture recording efforts in Mozambique. Together with Tewe speakers and musicians, they have completed 18 songs and 50 Bible stories so far.

“The excitement for this is palpable as people hear God’s Word in their heart language. It is really wonderful to see. There is great hunger for the Lord.”

» Read full story. You might also appreciate another MNN story, this one about God’s Word going forth against impossible odds in colonial India.

CHINA: Ban on Online Bible Sales

Source: World Watch Monitor, April 16, 2018

China’s Christians may not be surprised by recent tighter government control of religious affairs, including a ban on online Bible sales. But they are unsure what comes next.

Following [last] month’s announcement that Bibles could no longer be made available online, large websites like Taobao, Jingdong, Weidian, Dangdang, and Amazon China have now stopped selling them. The Catholic news website UCAN reported that “books about Christianity have also been blocked and the business licenses of some shops have been canceled,” and that, according to social media users, websites had started to stop the sale of Bibles as early as March 30.

» Full story provides more context and links to other sources.

BOLIVIA: Sharing the Gospel in Isolated Villages

Source: Pioneers, April 4, 2018

In 2004, Greg and Alex, a father-son team working in Bolivia, came across a man on the road who was holding a little, broken radio. He pleaded with them, “Fix it, it’s my life!” They helped him get the radio repaired and realized it was tuned to a radio station broadcasting in his native language, Quechua.

Greg and Alex had been searching for a way to share the gospel with the people of isolated villages cut off from the rest of civilization during the rainy season. They were amazed to find the radios were made in their native Canada. Since then, they raised funds to purchase and distribute radios that include a Quechua audio translation of the Bible. In the last 10+ years Greg and Alex, along with many short-term workers, have distributed more than 50,000 little red radios.

» Full story includes a photo essay. The video above is actually part 2 in a series. Watch part 1.

CURRICULUM: Worldviews, a Children’s Introduction to Missions

Source: Pioneers

On the lookout for winsome ways to explain world religions to kids or introduce them to missions? Last year Pioneers and Sonlight joined forces to create an intro-to-missions resource for homeschool families. Now Pioneers has revised and relaunched it for broader use. Worldviews is designed to help the whole family enjoy learning and includes several elements:

  • Brief videos about five of the world’s religious communities and God’s heart for the people in those communities are free online for anyone to use. Includes videos about tribal animists, Hindus, the unreligious, Muslims, and Buddhists (often remembered by the acronym THUMB).
  • A free family devotional (downloadable PDF) goes with the videos and a 30-day email guide can help you pray for unreached peoples. A single signup will give you access to both.
  • A high-quality curriculum includes crafts, games, recipes, activities, etc. Purchase one workbook for kids aged 4-9 and/or another one for kids 10-14. Each is about 100 pages long and costs US$16.99.

» Learn more and view, download, or purchase what interests you.

» Not quite what you’re looking for? Check out the many missions resources for kids from Weave.


MUSIC: Songs of Kingdom Hope

Source: Caroline Cobb

Looking for music that tells the big story of redemption? In 2011, singer-songwriter Caroline Cobb gave herself a goal to write a song for every book of the Bible in a year. That year of writing set in motion a new passion to tell the stories of scripture through music.

Her latest work is a theologically rich, lyrical album called A Home and a Hunger: Songs of Kingdom Hope. It “traces the biblical themes of Eden and exile, restlessness and rest, and God’s upside-down kingdom.”

I found this artist through a music video of her song All the Stars, which is about God’s promise to bless the nations through Abraham (see Genesis 22:17-18). The video, below, marks the 25th anniversary of Frontline Mission and includes clips from their documentary series, Dispatches from the Front. You might check that out as well.

» Buy a physical CD for US$10 from the artist’s website or listen wherever you get your music.

FILM: The Breadwinner

Source: Universal Pictures

Enjoy watching and discussing films about people in other cultures? Check out The Breadwinner, an animated film adapted from a best-selling young-adult novel/series by Deborah Ellis. It tells the story of Parvana, a young girl in Afghanistan who disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family. We discovered it through a review of the film from the International Mission Board. This is an animated feature but not for young children.

» Purchase or rent the film in several formats through Amazon. Download a study guide from the film’s website.

BOOKS: A Good Missions Intro?

Source: Missions Catalyst

Brad in Michigan asks, “What book do you recommend to a church when they need a short general intro to missions? Who writes this stuff in a really good way?”

I’m not sure how to answer, though I have some ideas. What are your thoughts? Let’s make a list together.

  1. What timeless classics or gems of today would you commend to Brad?
  2. If you bought one book by the caseload to give out wide and far, what would it be?
  3. What would you give to your elders, pastors, or mission team?
  4. Is there one that would make a good gift for your church’s graduating high school or college seniors this spring?

It’s probably best if these books are not too long, academic, or narrow in focus. Books can’t accomplish their mission if people don’t read them.

» Suggest a book (or second someone else’s suggestion) and tell us why you appreciate it. I’ll compile a short list to share in a future issue.

EVENTS: What’s Coming up in May

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

May 1-3, International Wholistic Missions Conference (Phoenix, AZ, USA). An annual event.

May 3, How Do I Get My Pastor Engaged in Missions? (online). Webinar provided by Missio Nexus.

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). Also offered June 4 to August 12 and with regular start dates throughout the year.

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, Global Day of Prayer (global). An annual event.

May 20, International Day for the Unreached (global). An annual event.

May 21-22, Personal Support Raising Boot Camp (Brea, CA, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

May 24, Partnership and the Strategic Role of Networks (online). Webinar provided by Missio Nexus.

May 31 to June 2, ACMI Annual Conference (Philadelphia, PA, USA). An annual event from the Association of Christians Ministering to Internationals.

Slovenian Reformation leader still changing lives | World News Briefs

  1. SLOVENIA: Help from Historical Heroes
  2. KAZAKHSTAN: State Demands Young Worshipers’ Personal Data
  3. USA: Do You Know “the Great Commission”?
  4. INDIA: Several Killed in Protests over Dalit Protections
  5. ALGERIA: “Finally, My Father Is Home”

SLOVENIA: Help from Historical Heroes

Source: United World Mission, April 6, 2018

Over ten years ago UWM missionaries Benjamin Hlastan and Todd Hunnicutt began to learn more about Slovenia’s [Protestant] Reformer, Primož Trubar. Together with other scholars and church leaders they rediscovered the simple, clear gospel that Trubar shared in the 1500’s, and they saw the potential for impact.

In 2008, the 500th anniversary of Trubar’s birth, they co-founded a Slovene non-profit organization to translate Trubar’s works into modern Slovene. Three key books have come out gaining attention from national media, one during the 450th anniversary of its original publication (originally published in 1564, republished in 2014). Materials are being used in educational settings, including various videos and an animated biography of Trubar. Countless events, lectures, and concerts with Reformation themes have followed in the years since.

2017 was the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, and Todd and Benjamin worked with others to provide events and outreaches all year long [and] partner with the evangelical churches to distribute all 50,000 copies [of the Slovene New Testament].

One person who received a New Testament was literally going to commit suicide the day he got a copy on the town square, but said he knew this meant God is calling him. Another man who used to go to an evangelical church had fallen back into drugs; he was on his way to his dealer when we saw people from that church giving out Bibles. He stopped to talk and is now coming to church again! Churches have had people come to church who got a New Testament and then found out about a local church on the Bible website.

If 50,000 copies of the New Testament have been given out, that means, we can estimate that around 10% of Slovenia’s 500,000 households now have a copy.

Slovenia’s reformer is sowing seeds 500 years later that we trust will bring fruit in the years to come.

» Read full story to learn more about Trubar’s accomplishments and the face of ministry in modern Slovenia. What better use of history than to help people find help for today and hope for tomorrow?

» See also Deadly Chicken Soup, another story about an historical hero, this time in Colombia (Ethnos360).

KAZAKHSTAN: State Demands Young Worshipers’ Personal Data

Source: Forum 18, April 11, 2018

A research institute attached to the Religious Affairs Department of West Kazakhstan Region instructed some local registered religious communities to submit by April 10 [the] full names, ages, place of study, and personal state-assigned numbers of all people under the age of 18 who come to meetings for worship. The official who sent the letter claimed to Forum 18 the information is needed for “monitoring.” Kazakh human rights defenders have expressed concern about the move.

“It was not sent to Muslims, for example, just to Christians, and selectively,” an official stated.

After the deadline expired, the official who issued the instruction told Forum 18 that five religious leaders who replied had all refused to supply the personal data. “We accepted this,” he claimed. He added that he would apologize to them “verbally,” but defended his original instruction seeking the information.

A Deputy Head of the Religious Affairs Committee in the capital Astana, Balgabek Myrzayev, claimed to Forum 18 he knew nothing about the letter. He refused to say whether such a demand for personal data on people under 18 without their parents’ or guardians’ permission is legal or not.

Religious leaders risk prosecution if people under 18 attend meetings for worship against the wishes of at least one of their parents or guardians.

» Full story includes all the details and several links for those who want to understand the whole situation.

» For more positive news from Central Asia, see Three Women Share their Stories (FEBC).

USA: Do You Know “the Great Commission”?

Source: Mission Network News, April 4, 2018

The Barna Group recently conducted a survey and found that 51 percent of churchgoers do not know the term “the Great Commission,” which is found in Matthew 28:18-20.

The survey found that 17 percent knew the term and could identify what it meant as well as the scriptural passage it went with. Twenty-five percent of the people surveyed said they had heard of “the Great Commission,” but they didn’t know what it was, and finally, six percent said they couldn’t remember if they’d heard the term before.

Barna further shared five passages from the Bible with churchgoers and asked if they could guess or identify which passage was known as the Great Commission.

Thirty-seven percent answered correctly. Thirty-three percent weren’t sure if any of the passages referred to the Great Commission, and 31 percent answered incorrectly.

The study says this could mean the term is used less in churches or it could show a decrease in interest of working towards the Great Commission.

» Full story attributes the findings to biblical illiteracy and offers suggestions and resources for families.

» Editor’s note: It may be helpful to acknowledge that the term Great Commission is a man-made one. Many would say there are actually five Great Commission passages, not one.

INDIA: Several Killed in Protests over Dalit Protections

Source: Mission Network News, April 16, 2018

For centuries, a group of people in India went by the name “untouchables.” Today, these same people are referred to as Dalits and despite their new title, they continue to face discrimination and worse in Indian society. And it’s all in the name of religion.

In recent nationwide protests led by the Dalits, at least eight people were killed. Streets, buildings, public transportation, and educational institutes were temporarily shut down.

The angry response came after a Supreme Court ruling which Dalits believe leaves them more vulnerable to the abuses of society.

David Curry of Open Doors USA says, “It’s really brought to light, yet again, the challenge that we have in India for human rights, in particular recognizing that each and every individual is of value, and of equal value.

“We’ve seen it before … when we look at the rising persecution of Christians in India. It’s a significant portion of the population—about 65 million people are Christians in India. And yet they’ve seen this incredible rise of persecution.”

» Read full story.

» Also read Converting to Buddhism as a Form of Political Protest (The Atlantic) and Big Brother in India Requires Fingerprint Scans for Food, Phones and Finances (New York Times).

ALGERIA: “Finally, My Father Is Home”

Sources: World Watch Monitor, April 3, 2018

The daughter of Slimane Bouhafs, an Algerian Christian who has spent the last 18 months in prison for insulting Islam and its prophet, has announced her father’s release.

“Finally my father … has been allowed back to us,” his daughter, Tilelli, wrote on her Facebook page on Easter Saturday. “Thank you for your support.”

Algerian newspaper El Watan reported that Tilelli and her mother had been on their way to visit him in prison when he called, saying that he had been released and was about to take a taxi home. Tilelli reportedly told him to wait, after which they picked him up and travelled home together.

“I am filled with joy to be reunited with my family, who have suffered tremendously,” El Watan reported Slimane Bouhafs as saying. “It was too much… I suffered a terrible injustice. I did not hurt anyone, I did not kill anyone. I was deprived of my freedom unfairly.”

He added that he had “seen unbearable things in prison” and thanked people from all over the world for sending him letters of support.

» See full story with picture.

» Readers might also be interested in the story of a Czech missionary imprisoned in Sudan for 14 months, where he reportedly led 40 to Christ (Voice of the Martyrs, via God Reports).

Editor’s note: Many of you may be following the story of Andrew Brunson, a US pastor imprisoned in Turkey for more than a year now whose trial began this week. Let’s pray that he, like these two men, is released.

Grit in Global Purpose | Practical Mobilization

Seven practical ways grit gets us where we need to go.

By Shane Bennett

Who does this: Who says to a reasonably smart person, “Hey, wanna go live in a really hot, hard place, do really hard work which might not accomplish much in terms of visible results, annoy your kids and parents, and, get this, raise your own salary? Cool, eh?”

And what sort of person replies, “I’m in!”?

In both cases, these are the sorts of people I want to hang out with. I’m guessing they are the kind of people who read Missions Catalyst. And they are the kind of people who have a measure of grit but can always use more.

In a popular TED talk, psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth identifies grit—passion and perseverance for long-term goals—as a key indicator of success in any challenging endeavor. Emotional Intelligence expert Travis Bradberry springboards off her research in an article called 10 habits of mentally strong people and describes the practical facets of grit that help us get where we need to go in life.

“Mental strength… is that unique combination of passion, tenacity, and stamina that enables you to stick with your goals until they become a reality.” —Travis Bradberry

“To increase your mental strength, you simply need to change your outlook,” says Bradberry. “When hard times hit, people with mental strength suffer just as much as everyone else. The difference is that they understand that life’s challenging moments offer valuable lessons. In the end, it’s these tough lessons that build the strength you need to succeed.”

Seven of the habits he encourages are particularly helpful to us in missions, mission mobilization, and other global pursuits. Let’s take a look.

I may be just writing to myself here. You probably excel at many of them already. Run with whatever fits you from this list, because, believe me, I want you to succeed. You’re walking a tough road. We need you to succeed.

And, at the risk of sounding too much like Joel Osteen, I’ll add: God has made you to succeed.

1. You have to fight when you already feel defeated.

There are moments of honesty when, considering it’s been a little over 2000 years since Jesus gave us the Great Commission and that we still have a long way to go, I wonder what the heck is going on. I consider the years I have left, my limited capacity, and the task ahead, and I think, “Not gonna happen, my friend.”

In times of defeat like this, it’s good to have two things: first, a deep sense that it’s God’s gig before it’s yours, and, second, some friends who will remind you of that and push you back into the fight.

2. You have to delay gratification.

You know the marshmallow experiment, right? “Hey, little kid. You can eat this marshmallow now, or wait until I come back and you can have two.” The kids who waited grew up to win spelling bees and start Google.

Mission mobilizers can go for the quick response by describing needs. Or we can hold out for the deep value shift by sharing God’s global purposes. Missionaries may be tempted to forsake their call and go for the raised hand, the prayed prayer or the satisfaction (sometimes) of pastoring people who are already Christian.

Choose to pioneer discipleship movements among unengaged people? That will likely require delayed gratification. If that is your work, may you find enduring grace for the road you walk. Struggling? See item 1.

3. You have to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again.

Where I live, the only people who don’t pursue the American dream are the crazies. Maybe people look at you like you’re crazy. In following Jesus, we’ve got to decide we don’t care what most people think of us.

It’s a tricky balance that calls for wisdom and humility. You’ll make bad calls. You could be accused of stuff you didn’t do or assigned motives you don’t possess. Bring it all before God. Repent where appropriate. Then, in his grace, move on.

Of course, if you drop your sweet self into a foreign culture instead of just sticking with your own people, you’re going to look like an idiot. The only way to avoid it is to stay home. Trouble is, if you’re the kind of person who can do the work to get yourself to a different culture, you’re likely not accustomed to looking dumb.

You’re not dumb, generally: You’re just dumb here. In this situation. For a little bit. Avoid it and it lasts forever. Embrace the awkwardness and you can conquer it.

4. You have to keep your emotions in check.

Bradberry says, “While it’s impossible not to feel your emotions, it’s completely under your power to manage them effectively and to keep yourself in control of them.” Paul says, “We take every thought captive and make it a slave to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Fear, anger, and despair are all a part of following Jesus, maybe more so if you’re walking the tough road of advancing God’s kingdom in new places.

Again, a growing understanding of God and the support of others who journey with you are helpful here. I might also recommend a book I’m reading, John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping.

If you feel like you’re about to step off the edge, step back and take some time off. If you think you might be in trouble but aren’t sure, ask your wife, husband, supervisor, or a friend who will shoot straight with you.

You know this, but it bears repeating: God cares more about you than your work.

5. You have to make the calls you’re afraid to make.

Tell a donor, “No, now is not a good time for a visit.” Send a troubled short-termer home early. Launch out into new work when you’d feel more comfortable growing what’s already begun. Call for a fundraising appointment when everything in you wants to email or text, instead.

You know those tough things on your list: Get on them.

Bradberry says, “Every moment spent dreading the task subtracts time and energy from actually getting it done. People that learn to habitually make the tough calls stand out like flamingos in a flock of seagulls.”

6. You have to lead when no one else follows.

Countless heroes of modern missions initially set forth to uncharted territory largely on their own. They had a good role model: When Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), no one in the entourage thought it was a good idea. And up until Sunday morning, it looked like they were right.

Mission mobilizers often start building new work in new places amid the chorus of, “There’s so much need right here!” And without doubt, there is need right here. But God calls us forward. And like the priests of Israel, we may find those first few steps in the Jordan pretty scary and lonely.

7. You have to focus on the details even when it makes your mind numb.

I almost left this one off the list. But since I’m mostly writing this to myself anyway, I decided to push it out (see item 5).

I don’t know what’s on your list, but here are some possibilities: Mind the budget, book the Airbnb, write and send in the proposal, keep track of who’s in the pipeline or where people are on their journey to Jesus, send thank-you notes, go to language class and do the homework after, organize the paperwork for your residence permit, remember your anniversary and the kids’ birthdays… These things must be done.

You’ve chosen a challenging road. May God’s grace abound for you, building grit for the long haul. Really, what is our hope without it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Respond to this email or post them on our website or Facebook page.

Subversive Mobilization: A Christian Reads The Qur’an

Last Ramadan, my friend James Wright read through the Qur’an and wrote down his thoughts and questions for his Muslim friends. Marti mentioned his book about it in our March Resource Reviews.

I want to recommend this book to you. You might find it helpful for your own understanding, but also as a tool to interact with Muslims. Find a short interview with the author in my weekly email, Muslim Connect.

You can get the book in paperback and Kindle (cheap) from Amazon or visit Wright’s website.

GHANA: Feasting on Scripture

Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, April 2, 2018

Think about the best meal you’ve ever had and how you felt after.

Now think about how you “eat” God’s Word. It’s so easy to just snack on Scripture, consuming little bites on apps throughout the week.

Explore what it looks like to see the Bible as a feast for your soul and learn about two language communities in Ghana who are hungry for all of God’s Word.

» Read full story with pictures and video. So inspiring. For more nourishment from God’s Word, read The Verse Next Door.