- The Great Commission: what is it?
- 50×25: How to reach worldâ€™s Deaf for Christ
- Using Technology for Missions
International (MNN) — Generation Z is growing up fast, and a new generation of believers is already making decisions about how to follow the Great Commissions. But where will they go? What does the future of missions look like?
To find out, we’re looking at some of the new and creative ways the Church is doing missions and talking to leaders from the forefront of these new fields. We’re starting with James Kelly, founder and director of Faithtech and guest speaker at Intervarsity’s Urbana ‘18 conference.
“[FaithTech] is a network of technologists that love Jesus and love pursuing Jesus in some capacity, and we’re essentially saying that they feel lost and alone and underutilized in the Church globally,” Kelly says.
Kelly says Christians are somewhat rare in the growing field of technology, which is unfortunate both for technologists and for the Church.
“Technology is the fastest growing industry in the world. Every year, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people are graduating from tech fields, going into tech, and almost no one’s [moved out] from it. And yet there are very, very few Christians.”
Kelly sees the field of technology as one of the largest unreached people groups. That’s a problem, especially since this particular group has enormous impact of the world. People spend their time predominantly around screens, and Kelly says the top 5 most influential companies in the world are tech companies.
If the Church can recognize that, we can make a plan of action.
Faithtech brings technologists and Christian thinkers together. They teach technologists to be missionaries where they are and show the Church why technology is so important.
“The global Church is struggling really deeply right now with how to understand technology, use technology, think about technology, and leverage technology, and what’s so unique is that you have two camps that are struggling to uniquely but the way to solve them both is to bring them together,” Kelly says.
“There is an enormous, enormous opportunity right now to leverage technology in the context of missions, and we’re not even close to tapping into it.”
Kelly thinks the first step is understanding technology, not from a practical and technological standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint.
“Understand it not from a standpoint of ‘here’s how to use Powerpoint better.’ Instead, understand that it is drastically changing culture,” he says.
Kelly has a background in pastoral ministry, but he has always seen technology as the future of missions.
“One of my fundamental mandates as a pastor is to contextualize culture, figure out what its idols are, figure out where it’s going, and then help my people figure out to understand that culture and use their gifts and abilities to advance the kingdom within that culture,” he says.
The problems are tangible. Tens of thousands of North Americans regularly search the internet for ways to kill themselves – and they find them.
To combat this epidemic, FaithTech brought together web developers, psychotherapists, communications specialists who bought the domain howtokillyourself.org. Open up the website, and the first words you’ll see are “You’re Not Alone.”
Now, stories are starting to come back to Kelly from people who had their lives changed by the website.
And that’s only part of how the Church can use technology. Some organizations are using drones to find landing strips and determine where materials are needed, and Christians in creative access countries can use social media and websites to meet people where they’re at
Our primary communities, even in poor communities, are online
“The poorest of the poor in my city in Canada are spending the majority of their time online, and that’s where they see their community,” Kelly says. “If that doesn’t drastically shift the way we do missions and the ways we need to be communicating the gospel, that’s crazy!”
The Church needs to learn how to share the Gospel effectively on digital platforms. Somewhere around 80% of the world will have a phone within the next five years, and cell phone owners spend an average of five hours a day on their phones.
When the Church understands technology, they make a difference. Kelly points out that even the printing press was at first protested by the Church, but the first thing printed by Gutenburg was a Bible.
“Technology has no boundaries. It has no walls. What that means is that it can reach people that you never thought you could reach.”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.
USA (MNN) – The Barna Group released research last year that shocked the Christian community in North America. According to the study conducted with the Seed Company, 51-percent of American churchgoers are not familiar with the term “Great Commission”. From there, a quarter of respondents said they heard of it but did not recall its “exact meaning,” 17 percent knew for sure, and 6 percent said they were not sure.
The study further revealed that even when presented with a list of passages, 37-percent didn’t recognize which well-known passage typically goes by this name. (Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus says:“Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”)
Since then, church leaders have been parsing through the data, wondering what it might also reveal about the nature of sermon teaching, biblical literacy and engagement or Christian missions today. Barna is now releasing a study It also begged a question: Where do we go from here?
Greg Yoder, Executive Director at Keys For Kids, says there are two ways to look at the new information. Firstly, realize that this result could be reflective of the changing nature of communication with a different generation.
“I think that there’s been more of an updating of their language about what things are. So while they probably can’t say the Great Commission is ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel’, they probably still know that concept. The Bible does teach it, of course.”
When you look at how the description of ‘missions’ has changed into ‘ministry’, ‘outreach’ or ‘Gospel work’ to keep a church/donor audience engaged, Barna’s results look slightly different.
“I’m not as convinced with the Barna research that the Church doesn’t know what it is; I just don’t think that they call it that anymore. I think they call it something different.”
But secondly, what is undeniable is the issue of biblical illiteracy.
In 2015, a LifeWay Research study found that while Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word, 45-percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. (Click here to read results from a 2017 LifeWay study) Over 40-percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.
Given that, Yoder says Barna’s results are no surprise. “There are a lot of people, Christians included, that can’t tell you specific areas of the Bible where some of these most popular Bible stories are. You hear story after story after story where you talk about Noah and the flood, Jonah and the whale, and they don’t know where those things are. So I think there’s a case to state that there is a lack of biblical literacy within our churches today.”
That trend will continue unless something changes, and it starts with changes at home. Yoder says Keys For Kids is trying encourage parents to lead by example through daily time spent in God’s Word. For the many times parents have tried and failed to keep the interest vibrant in daily devotionals, he offers the Keys For Kids devotional as a resource.
“Because we know that there’s a biblical literacy issue, we’re putting a challenge out there for 2019: Take the 40-Day Challenge. Say ‘I’m going to commit to doing this for 40 days.’ I think as you begin reading stories, as you begin reading the Bible with your families, your kids start loving it because they’re spending quality time with you. You start doing it for 40-days, you start developing a habit.”
Each day’s offering is a story about an issue, with a biblical application point and some Scripture that applies to that day’s subject. What’s more, “Kids come to Christ because even as a part of the Keys For Kids devotional, even though we know that we’re probably talking to a lot of believers, we know that there are lot of kids who don’t know Christ. So, they begin reading the stories and seeing that, ‘Hey! Some these stories that we are reading are about me!’”
So, the first step is to commit. “Say ‘I’m going to do this for 40 days’, and see what happens to your family life; see what happens to your kids.”
The second is to clear the space for it. “We have a responsibility to one, turn off the television; (two), turn off our smart devices; and (three) spend some time with our kids in the Word.”
The final step is to figure out which of the Keys For Kids resources you can use. Most of the resources are free, plus, says Yoder, ”You can use your smart device to do that, in fact, that’s why Keys For Kids has developed an app, and developed our printed devotional (for a Kindle device), so that you can use the technology, but kind of redeeming the technology so you can teach your kids about the Word.”
Header image of globe courtesy Wikipedia.
International (MNN) — There are 70 million Deaf people worldwide, and 98-percent of them have no way to access God. No Scripture, no churches, no Deaf Christians.
DOOR President Rob Myers says when Deaf encounter the hope of Christ, lives tend to change.
“We have amazing stories of transformation and the things that God has done in the lives of Deaf communities and Deaf leaders who suddenly have realized that God sees them…and wants them to be on a mission for Him.”
Those Deaf Christian leaders direct and carry out DOOR’s ministry, while hearing believers like Myers help with administration.
The goal of DOOR’s 50×25 mission is described as such:
By 2025, 50% of the world’s 70 million Deaf will have access to God’s Word in their heart language and a church planting movement among their own people group.
It reflects DOOR’s efforts in sign language Bible translation and Deaf-to-Deaf church planting. Learn more about that work here. Both aspects are critical to reaching a Deaf community because the methods work hand-in-hand.
Deaf teams trained by DOOR use Chronological Bible Translation to translate biblical narratives into a sign language. At the same time, Deaf church planting teams – also trained by DOOR – use the translated Scripture to introduce the community to Christ, disciple new believers, and train more leaders.
Whether Deaf or hearing, every DOOR team member is striving to make the 50-by-25 vision reality. There’s a lot of work to do.
“There are about 350 or more sign languages around the world, so that would mean 350 Deaf groups – every one of those Deaf groups is unreached, in the sense that less than 2%…are believers,” Myers explains.
As described here, partnership plays a critical role in accomplishing this 50×25 mission. You can team up with DOOR in three easy ways: pray, share, and give.
“As people pray, they’re doing incredible things to make a way for the Gospel to go out into these communities,” states Myers. Download a monthly prayer calendar from DOOR’s website.
“Spiritual warfare is a huge issue in the work that we do… The enemy doesn’t want to see the Gospel begin to set people free.”
Use the buttons at the bottom of this page to help DOOR raise awareness of Deaf needs.
“Many times, these Deaf groups have not been targeted [for outreach] because…nobody knew that these groups actually didn’t have access to the Gospel,” Myers says.
When you donate to DOOR International, you help Deaf leaders receive the tools and training they need to fulfill the Great Commission.
Header image courtesy of DOOR International.
Egypt (MNN) – In early January, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi created a committee to confront “sectarian incidents”. The announcement came just days after the December 28, 2018 bus bombing which claimed the lives of three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian tour guide. Members of the committee include individuals from Egypt’s armed forces, national and security intelligence, and Sisi’s security and terrorism affairs advisor. The goal? To create a strategy for addressing the sectarian incidents and attacks.
“Terror attacks are a big problem for the Christian community in Egypt, especially in upper Egypt. The cause tends to be…rumors: [rumors] of Christians opening a church in a village or rumors [about] a relationship between a Muslim female and a Christian male. And so, this does tend to create a significant tension, especially in underdeveloped and rural parts of Egypt,” Middle East Concern’s Miles Windsor says, breaking down the details of the new committee.
One of the main underlying issues Middle East Concern suggests is under development in areas like education. Education is vital to help individuals process information and make decisions for themselves. Many people in rural areas who have not experienced proper education are often vulnerable to the indoctrination of intolerant religious ideologies.
The declaration of the committee came just days before the dedication of the largest Coptic Christian Church in the Middle East. The church building, sponsored by Sisi, was dedicated on the Orthodox Christmas—January 7. However, this committee and church building dedication do not exactly numb the stresses and strains of life as a living target. These challenges, though, are helping deepen the faith of many Egyptian Christians.
“People do find in these times that God is the best protector. He is the solid rock in times of trials and hardships, and a sufficient comforter,” Windsor says.
This new committee is stocked with security-related personnel. This signals that the cause of the problem is not being addressed. Instead, the attacks are seemingly viewed primarily as security issues. Windsor believes the committee should include Christian and Muslim leaders. These leaders can influence their communities for the better. And until the underlying issues, like underdevelopment and education, are addressed, the symptoms will continue to manifest as violence.
“We’ve cautiously welcomed this development around the government establishment of this committee. It shows that the government recognizes the problem and is trying to do something to address it,” Windsor says.
Take time today to pray for brothers and sisters in Egypt. Ask God to have His hand of protection over them and to foil plots to cause harm against the Christian community in Egypt. Pray that the very people who would aim to harm Christians would come to know Christ.
“We know that God is powerful to save and He’s done great work in the Middle East and North Africa bringing those who would be the enemies of God’s people to Jesus,” Windsor says.
Finally, pray a sense of comfort for Christians in Egypt. Pray God would continue to deepen and strengthen their faith in Him.
Header photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash.
USA (MNN) — Abortion isn’t the only sanctity of life issue, but it typically drives the conversation each year on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Thousands of people are taking part in today’s March for Life in Washington, DC.
Abortion has increasingly become a political issue, too. President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh last fall created the potential for a conservative majority on the Supreme Court and made the overturn of Roe v Wade a possibility. Earlier this month, pro-choice magistrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health status once again brought the issue of abortion into conversation.
According to the Associated Press, legislators are currently pushing for either more access to abortion services or more restrictions at the state level. Eric Verstraete of Life Matters Worldwide says believers should pay attention.
“We need to have a good gauge of what’s going on in the political world so number one we know how to pray for those who represent us on the governmental level. Also, there are lots of ways we can get involved,” Verstraete says.
Believers tend to avoid political conversations, he adds. Often, it’s an effort to separate politics and religion. However, avoidance offers no resolution.
“It’s really important that we in the Church and the evangelical world not fall asleep at the wheel.”
While abortion is an important sanctity of life issue, Verstraete says it’s not the only one.
“The issue is so much bigger,” he explains, observing that pro-life views and anti-abortion views are not one and the same.
“Being pro-life is not just being against abortion. It’s [answering the question], how do we raise that level of human life to a place where abortion becomes unthinkable and caring for those most vulnerable in our communities becomes the norm?”
To Verstraete, calling yourself “pro-life” means you’re an advocate of God’s design and favor for life at all stages, whether unborn or end-of-life. This is the mission of Life Matters Worldwide.
“I think being anti-abortion only focuses on one part of the equation.”
Each year, Life Matters develops free resources for churches and individual believers to use on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. You can access them here.
Header image courtesy Anna Levinzon via Flickr.
Sudan (MNN) — Frontiers wants to see a Bible translation in progress for every language group in the world, but that’s proving especially difficult when it comes to Sudan. Why? Ken Smith from Frontiers says there are several reasons.
First of all, Sudan is split geographically and politically.
“Sudan you kind of have to think of as a North and a South,” Smith says. “The North is run by, think of it as Arabic. They fit more into an Egypt to the north kind of mindset. The South? Black African. The government are Arabic in the North, and they’re very oppressive.”
Rising conflict means distrust and division throughout the region. Furthermore, Sudan’s tribal nature means it has more people groups than any other country according to some charts.
“The government now of Sudan has declared that Sudanese Arabic is the national language, and so if you speak a tribal language, and there are dozens and dozens of them there, you’re not supposed to do that. People are surviving by not communicating.”
But when it comes to the Church, the heart of the issue is the distrust caused by rising persecution, especially in the northern part of Sudan.
“Because the government has put spies in many of the churches to find out what’s going on, there’s a lot of mistrust amongst churches, and because of the political situation, a lot of the underground churches don’t share with anybody what’s going on.”
There’s little to no communication within the Sudanese Church, let alone with outsiders. Smith says there are few believers in Sudan, and the few that do live there don’t associate or communicate with one another.
Smith even knows three believers who live in the same small village and have intentionally never met one another.
“They’re unreached for a reason,” he says. “It’s just hard to do work there. Even the people you go into a room with, if you don’t already know each other, people are not going to share.”
As if it wasn’t bad enough within Sudan, Smith says it’s incredibly difficult for Christians to access the country. Believers can’t get into the country as Christian workers, and even if they could, they can’t go tribe to tribe. Local believers say you can’t trust anyone unless you already know them, and a misstep could mean losing your life.
“They assume if I go there today, either ‘Oh, he’s a missionary’ or ‘He’s CIA.’ That’s the way the government will see it until proven differently,” Smith says.
The upside of the Sudanese struggle is how much easier it is to reach refugees where they are with the Gospel.
There are two major times in someone’s life when they’re most open to the Gospel,” Smith says. “One’s in trouble, and one’s in transition. If you’re a refugee from Sudan, you’ve got both going on.”
That means believers can reach people in the places they’ve been forced to go to rather than the hostility of the Sudanese situation.
Want to help? You don’t have to go to Sudan because Sudanese refugees are likely coming to your area. Your work could multiply to touch countless people with the Gospel message.
“This is a dangerous prayer, to say ‘God, who will you connect me with? I’m ready. I don’t know what that means, but please open that door to find a felt need of somebody who I haven’t connected with yet.’”
That kind of prayer might put you in places that make you uncomfortable, but Smith thinks that’s what makes it so potent.
“How do we not only help them through the crisis of landing in a new place, but now beyond the relief is the development part of it. How do we help them live here?”
Header photo courtesy of Frontiers USA
How long should a sermon be? As long as it needs to be.
People don’t hate long sermons.
They hate boring sermons. Irrelevant sermons. Impractical sermons. Uninspiring sermons. Unprepared sermons. Over-prepared sermons… You get the idea.
A bad sermon can’t be short enough, but an engaging sermon can go longer than you think.
However, before you let your next sermon drone on and on, make sure it’s everything it needs to be.
Recently, I heard two sermons that went well over 45 minutes each. Both were good. They had great content and I was moved by them.
One of them, while good, would have been even better with some editing. The speaker could have dropped up to 50 percent of it and a very good sermon could have been a great one. The other sermon, though long, felt rushed. It could have gone 10-15 minutes longer and no one in the room would have complained.
The issue wasn’t the length, or even the quality of the sermons, but the fit. One sermon was the right fit for the content and left us wanting more, while the other was too long for the content and left us wanting less.
A better question than “what’s the right length for a sermon?” is “what’s the right length for this sermon?” or “what length of time will help it do everything it needs to do in the best possible way?”
Too often, we limit what we can do with a sermon by the format of the church service.
Why not give the sermon the time it needs by putting a little wiggle room in our Sunday service format?
Got a short sermon? Let the worship go longer. Got a long sermon? Maybe get to it earlier in the service than you usually would so the worship and announcements don’t crowd it out.
People have longer …
Souvenirs. Cool selfies for social media. Passport stamps. Is there more to short-term mission trips than this?
Having led approximately 40 mission trips over the past 20 years, I can tell you, thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes! But you don’t have to take my word for it. I conducted a brief survey asking people who went on mission trips more than 10 years ago (for most, 20 years ago) to look back on their mission trip experiences and share the life lessons they learned which have continued to guide and shape their lives all these years later.
Here’s what they said:
God uses short-term mission trips to make a long-term impact on the lives of those who serve.
Kevin Mahaffy Jr. has served in youth ministry for over 20 years as a teaching pastor and a popular camp and retreat speaker. Kevin has written two books and co-authored several others. He is a big Yankees fan, bookaholic, Starbucks junkie, Krispy Kreme addict, and blogger. He exercises a lot, but he also eats a lot, so you can’t tell he exercises a lot.
Here at Group Mission Trips, our ministry is not only about creating service opportunities that change lives, but we also believe in continually pouring into the individuals, youth leaders, and families who serve with us. We’re with you. We’re for you. And we invite you to settle here and take a deep breath in, in the midst of your biggest challenges and celebrations and exhale knowing more than anything you are loved, you are enough, and most of all, you are not alone.
Group Mission Trips creates the perfect environment for youth, teens, and adults to build relationships and make a long-term impact while serving on short-term mission trips across the world. Residents are helped, communities are strengthened, and lives are changed. From devotions, programs that spark deep conversations, and organized service projects, our mission trips for youth, teens, and adults are designed to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus. Learn more about serving, volunteering or supporting their work here.
On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising for your team members. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.
The post Looking Back: 10 Life Lessons Learned on Mission Trips appeared first on Mission Finder.
Football in the United States, which reaches its high point each year during the Super Bowl, is the game the rest of the world calls American football. But for most of the world, football is soccer. In honor of both American football and the beautiful game — soccer — we celebrate young athletes around the world who play football.
Friends are vital for May Phoo Ko, who lives in Myanmar. Football helps create a team spirit and helps her understand the power of teamwork. “My friends call me Thay Thay (meaning small) because I am so small. They love me very much,” says May Phoo Ko. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Khaing Min Htoo)
Syrian refugee children cheer their friends on at one of two football pitches built by World Vision at Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. The small patch of green is a bright spot in the drab desert camp. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Christopher Lee)
On a day when her community in Ethiopia celebrates a new water system built by World Vision, this girl receives another gift, too — a brand new soccer ball. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Grace Mukoma, 10, loves to play soccer at the World Vision Child-Friendly Space near his home in Central Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Girls at Santa Teresita Preschool in Guatemala play with a World Vision Gift Catalog soccer ball during their physical education class. Gift the gift of a soccer ball today! (©2015 World Vision/photo by Lindsey Minerva)
Even with a homemade ball incorporating plastic bags and string, the game goes on in Rwanda. Find out how to make your own homemade soccer ball. (©2014 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Four-year-old Richard plays with a homemade soccer ball in front of his family’s home in Zambia. His mother, Beatrice Moondo, carries Richard’s little sister, Innete. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Alassane, 9, loves playing football with his friend. “On days when I don’t have lessons after lunch, I go to play football with my friends for the whole afternoon,” he says. Alassane (in striped shirt) is a World Vision sponsored child in Senegal. (©2016 World Vision)
Boys play soccer as the day’s light fades and the moon rises over Zambia. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Laotian primary school boys kick the soccer ball during a break from afternoon classes. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Khamphot Somphanthabansouk)
Boys play a friendly football game on artificial turf in Soracachi, Bolivia. Soccer is a national obsession there. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)
Syrian refugee girls play soccer inside Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. It was 10-year-old Zaynab’s first day to play the game. “I was goalkeeper, and I loved it! I saved one goal. I made new friends today. I will come and play every day,” Zaynab says. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Suzy Sainovski)
Steadied by his mother, Ani Chitemyan Razmik, 9, tosses a ball with his father at the family’s home in Armenia. Ani was born with infantile cerebral paralysis and was able to attend a World Vision-run summer camp, where he enjoyed “a holiday at least for a few days in his life,” says Ani’s mother, Marine. (©2009 World Vision)
Three tips from my own experience as a church planting leader.
Many frequently joke about the turnover rate in church planting leadership. It seems that whenever I’m at a conference or church event, someone new will come up and say, “Hey, Ed. I’m the new leader of church planting at [insert denomination name].”
To be fair, this issue happens across denominations—it’s not just certain ones in certain parts of the country. It happens at the district, network, and denominational levels.
Church planting requires a certain set of skills—organization, initiative, patience, and passion, just to name a few. These skills are especially required for a church planting leader. To last long term in this capacity without burnout requires some forethought and consideration. Here are some thoughts on how to lead well in this position
First, dedicate yourself to being an advocate.
As a leader of church planting, it’s important to remember that you are not actually a church planter; the roles are different. You aren’t the official doer of all things church planting—you are, by definition, the one who helps organize and oversee the work being done by church planters out on the field.
Church planting leaders who enter into the territory of their church planters in a micromanaging sort of way ultimately undermine their own authority at one time or another. Simply put, if you find yourself frequently saying to the church planters you oversee, “this is what you should do” or “this is how I did it” and “this is how I’m going to do it,” know that this approach is unhelpful in the long term.
For many who work under the leadership of a denomination, your advocacy has to be directed upwards. It’s your job to work …
Kenya (MNN) — A fuller “picture” of al-Shabaab’s 19-hour siege in Nairobi is emerging as details continue to pour in.
An American businessman and British charity worker are among the dozens of people who fell victim to explosions and gunfire. Citing a statement issued by al-Shabaab, Reuters reports the militants “carried out the attack in revenge for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs USA says it’ll be interesting to see whether terrorists were specifically targeting Christians in this attack. The Somalian militants favor this type of pursuit.
“There were several instances where they (terrorists) [said], ‘ok, you say you’re a Muslim – quote some Koranic verses for me. Let me see for sure you’re a Muslim before I let you go’.”
This is the third major attack instigated by al-Shabaab on Nairobi soil in six years. As questions continue to mount, security systems are under review. According to BBC News, the al-Shabaab gunmen captured on security camera footage were reportedly sighted on the hotel compound in recent days.
“There really isn’t any way to say ‘we’re going to eliminate this threat, we’re not going to have this’,” Nettleton observes. “You can ramp up security, you can be very cautious, but a determined foe can get into a place like that and wreak havoc.”
As outlined here by Associated Press, a suicide bomber began the 19-hour siege in a luxury hotel on Tuesday afternoon. Armed gunmen took over from there, forcing scores of people into hiding.
“This is the same area where the mall was attacked several years ago,” he notes.
“It’s al-Shabaab again making their presence felt in Kenya, reminding the Kenyan government [and] reminding the Kenyan people that they are there and nobody is safe.”
The Somalian terror group took credit soon after the attack began.
“It will be interesting to see if they were specifically targeting Christians during the course of this attack,” Nettleton observes. “I have not heard that [about] this attack…but obviously the story is still being told.”
Why would they target Christians? Nettleton says believers don’t fit the terrorists’ vision for East Africa.
“Ultimately what they want is Sharia law and an area of Islamic control in Somalia, and then expanding out into some of the surrounding countries.”
With connections to al Qaeda, al-Shabaab has a long legacy of terror in Somalia. As described here, al-Shabaab translates to “The Youth” in Arabic:
Al-Shabaab is recognised as a terrorist organisation by many Western countries and rules according to a strict interpretation of Islamic laws known as Wahhabism (the same form of Islamic rule imposed in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan). This form of Islam is so extreme that even Sufi Muslims have been driven underground.
“As you think about Gospel workers in Kenya – both international and Kenyan – pray for their safety, because this is a situation that hits close to home. Some of them live in that area; many of them are in that area often,” says Nettleton.
“Pray for safety and pray against fear.”
The attack could also trigger feelings of animosity between the Kenyan Christian and Muslim populations. “Muslims who have absolutely nothing to do with al-Shabaab could feel the wrath of Christians,” Nettleton explains.
“Let’s pray against a spirit of division and that Christians will be able to show the love of Christ and show forgiveness, even after an attack like this.”
Header image is a graphic obtained from Wikimedia Commons depicting the al-Shabaab war flag.
International (MNN) – Translation work, at a glance, might seem like a pretty simple job. Don’t you just translate, word for word, from one language to another? But in reality, it’s not that easy. Throw in words that have no equal in another language, cultural connotations, and different grammatical structure, and things get complicated pretty quickly.
This is why the workers at Wycliffe Bible Translators are so diverse in their skillsets. And one job you may have never thought of within this body of work is translation consulting.
Rick Floyd is a translation consultant with Wycliffe USA. He also is a professor and instructor teaching linguistics at Biola University. Part of his job includes coordinating translation projects for Spanish-speaking South America. He also consults with a language group he previously worked with in Peru.
So, just what is his job?
He says, “In my view, a translation consultant serves as an extra pair of eyes to maybe spot things that the translation team hasn’t thought of, they’ve overlooked. Suggestions on how something might be rendered that’s a little awkward. To help them think through exegetical issues. So it’s a multiplicity of roles and potential functions.”
He clarifies that it’s not his job to decide whether or not something is a good translation. Rather, his main goal is to help the translation team think through things from different perspectives. He does his best to help them avoid common pitfalls in translation work.
What makes this job such an important part of Bible translation at Wycliffe USA?
“Because one person doesn’t know everything. One group of people doesn’t know everything. So, in a sense the more eyes you have looking at something—within reason—and variety of experience, you can catch things that may be blind spots to one person and might not be to another person. Consideration of cultural issues, for example.”
Floyd explains that translation work is not a linear process. You don’t just start in Genesis and end in Revelation, going word by word, until it’s finished. Rather, he explains that it’s more cyclical as they comb the work done again, and again. Consulting is just part of the process—another net to try and keep errors from slipping by.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t mistakes.
“I’ve heard it said the seeds of revision are sown in the translation itself. So, all you have to do is start translating something and there’s going to be problems with something that you do. So, again, we’re very, very imperfect. We do our best… and commit the results to God.”
Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about the complicated work that goes into Bible translation, will you pray?
Floyd asks, “Pray that the Lord of the harvest sends workers to the field, to be able to begin work in the languages that remain. The Scriptures say that at the end, people from every tribe and tongue and nation will be around the throne, and we’re working to make that vision a reality.”
To learn more about how you can partner with Wycliffe USA, click here.
Praise God that the Tembo people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo now have the New Testament in their own language! PRAY for transformed lives. (Header photo, caption courtesy of Wycliffe USA)
Int’l (MNN) – Sharing the Good News of Jesus is not just for full-time Christian workers. The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) encourages university students to live out their faith wherever they are around the world, every day.
Andy Moore, Head of Global Communications, explains a little more about who IFES is and what they do. “Well it’s a movement of students who are living out and sharing the good news of Jesus in different campuses around the world. We talk about doing that locally sort of at the campus level, any group of students who are gathering together who are part of or an expression of IFES, then nationally. National organizations like InterVarsity coordinate that work nationally and then globally as well. So part of what IFES does is connect movements together in over 160 countries around the world.”
These national movements operate autonomously, but share a common doctrinal basis with other regional and global IFES movements. Regional discussions and consultations help the global leadership of the organization support these national movements.
Like the well-known American organization InterVarsity, IFES encourages students to live a vibrant faith on their campuses. Through their encouragement and training, IFES now includes movements of students in 160 different countries around the globe. And currently their members are reaching more of their peers than ever with the Gospel.
Moore explains that with people moving more than ever, students with IFES are connecting with those from other nations.
“Many people don’t have to go anywhere these days to be involved in global mission. If you’re on a campus, you can be involved in global mission. I think one of the strengths of that as well is that we’re seeing people coming from countries that are closed to the Gospel. Who come to contexts where they hear the Gospel, and then are encouraged and equipped to take that back to their home contexts as well and live faithfully in that context.”
As people return to their own countries with God’s Word, new chapters of IFES spring up. At the World Meeting held every four years, Moore expects to see as many as twelve new movements officially joining IFES from new countries.
As these new movements join IFES, the organization seeks to understand and care for students and their surroundings better through intentional listening.
“Like a pond often we see the university as somewhere to go fish,” Moore explains. “So we go and fish for Jesus and bring the fish out of the ecosystem rather than actually caring for the ecosystem itself. So the principle of listening is really to demonstrate care for the whole environment, so it’s not just seeing students as objects to bring to Jesus. But actually saying, ‘What does God’s justice look like on the campus?’ ‘How do we start those conversations?’ ‘How do we care for the whole university context (so the people who work there, from the administrative staff to the lecturers and faculty staff as well)?’ Listening really comes from a sense wanting to demonstrate God’s care for all at the university.”
Sometimes local laws prohibit or limit sharing God’s Word openly. Yet, Moore notes that challenge often serves to help promote better conversations and ideas about offering hope and caring for others.
“I think it fosters creativity among students to think through how do we live the good news in a way, that doesn’t assume we have the right to speak of Jesus, but we need to live for Jesus and work that out. So sometimes that means where access to campus is restricted, continuing to have the meetings off campus and being creative about how you draw people to hear about Jesus in other ways.”
IFES is seeing God work in students and campuses across the world. Join in their work through prayer and partnership. Recently some of their students attended InterVarsity’s event, Urbana. Please pray for those students as they return to their contexts. Pray that God will help them to live out the cross-cultural callings they experienced firsthand at the conference. Pray that they see the goal of the costly call of missions.
If you want to learn more about IFES, click here.
Header photo courtesy of IFES.
Kenya (MNN) – Yesterday the Dusit D2 hotel in the Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya was attacked. The attack happened around 3pm local time in the city’s ex-pat district. The culprits—the infamous terrorist organization from Somalia, Al Shabab. Sharing more on what happened is DOOR International’s Director of Consulting Services Shadrack Kakui.
“My colleagues told me that there was a huge blast and that there have been heard gunshots from the same area. And that they, generally people are scared and there’s a lot of fear that is engulfing the whole Nairobi region right now.”
At least seven people are dead, and the death toll is expected to rise. Nairobi isn’t new to attacks from Al-Shabab. In 2013, the extremist group sieged Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. The event left 67 dead and scars that have been reopened with this latest attack.
DOOR International in Kenya is roughly 30 kilometers from where this attack took place. The organization’s site was not directly impacted, but people are still fearful. Many DOOR employees go in and out of Nairobi regularly. Now, there’s a cloud of anxiety hanging over the city.
“One of the biggest worries that when Al-Shabab comes, they are not in uniform. And so, nobody knows when they are attacking and when they are not attacking. And so, that creates a sense of anxiety and fear and that sort of thing,” Kakui says.
Kakui was made aware of a man stuck in the hotel and posting live information on Twitter. The man, who is a Christian, was tweeting how the attackers were moving room to room. He prayed to survive, but he also tweeted goodbye to his family. There is no news regarding where he is now.
UPDATE: Ron Ng’eno has been rescued and is home with his family now.
In the past, Al-Shabab has been known to separate people based on religion, often between Muslims and Christians, and murder Christians where they stood. Whether Christians are the target now is unclear. What is clear is that this attack will not be the last.
“Kenya is a Christian country and it is thought that the [extremist] Muslim agenda is needed to be advanced in the country. One of the ways in which some think the Islam agenda wants to be advanced in Kenya is through such attacks and fear…it sort of provides a soft landing for people who have converted into Islam should anything like an attack [happen],” Kakui says.
Pray for people in Nairobi. Ask God to give them courage in the face of fear, hope amid disaster, and peace in the chaos. Pray for comfort for those who are grieving, in pain, and scared. Ask God to comfort the families and friends of those who have been killed and wounded. And finally, pray for God to be present during this disaster and for peace in Kenya.
Header photo courtesy of ILRI via Flickr.
Worldwide (ODM) — Editor’s Note: Open Doors USA embargoed this story until the official release of the 2019 World Watch List at 11 am ET. MNN is running the following press release, with the permission of Open Doors USA.
The 2019 Open Doors World Watch List reveals disturbing revelations for the world’s two most populous countries—India and China—which have seen a dramatic increase in the persecution against Christians. As they are each home to more than a billion people, even an incremental rise in persecution has an outsized, exponential impact in these countries.
China jumps a shocking 16 spots on the Open Doors World Watch List from No. 43 to No. 27, while India enters the top 10 list for the first time. Russia, which last appeared on the list in 2011, enters at No. 41.
In India, Hindu nationalists fueled a crackdown on Christians and churches, promoting the widespread oppression of religious minorities. The situation has deteriorated rapidly in the last several years, as non- Hindus are increasingly regarded as outsiders in their own country. In some areas, this has translated to brutal violence against Hindus who have converted to Christianity. The situation in India is volatile, and religious minorities in particular face extremely dangerous situations with mobs of violence breaking out and demanding death sentences.
China’s dramatic rise in 16 spots from last year’s ranking is one of the highest jumps on the list. The heightened power of the Chinese government is being wielded to remove any challenges to the absolute authority of President Xi Jinping, even if those challenges are related to personal faith in a god other than the State. New regulations and government crackdowns have made open worship for unregistered churches increasingly risky, particularly in certain regions of the country. Pastor Wang Yi’s recent arrest along with some 150 Christians is a recent indicator of the expanding level of control and religious persecution.
In its 27th year, the list—which is the world’s definitive assessment of religious persecution based upon in-depth, rigorous analysis of on-the-ground, first-person research—remains a global indicator of where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization.
Across the 50 countries on the Open Doors World Watch List, it is estimated that more than 245 million Christians now experience high, very high or extreme persecution, an increase from 215 million in 2018.
During the reporting period for this study, in the top 50 countries on the World Watch List, 4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons; 2,625 Christians were detained without trail, arrested, sentence and/or imprisoned; and 1,266 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked—an increase in all three areas from last year.
Overall religious persecution against Christians has increased as the threshold was higher for a country to make the list. Using a proprietary, 100-point assessment scale and newly improved research methods, investigators uncovered an alarming rise in countries scoring 41 points or higher that still did not rank among the top 50 worst nations. (Points are given for each incident of persecution, and the total points provide the ranking for each country.) Twenty-three countries—compared to just eight last year—had this dubious distinction, with the majority (13) of these countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a reflection of the deteriorating situation for Christians in that region, where radical Islamic militant groups operate with near-impunity.
This year’s Open Doors World Watch List does, however, contain some good news, including in Iraq and Malaysia, which showed the most significant improvements compared to last year’s report. Iraq, which saw a decrease in persecution around private, family, community, national and community life mostly due to the territorial defeat of ISIS, moved from No. 8 to No. 13. Recently Iraq also declared Christmas a national holiday. Malaysia—which saw an unprecedented 2018 election victory by the Pakatan Harapan, the country’s federal opposition prior to the election, that raised hope among minorities—moved from No. 23 to No. 42.
“Open Doors continues to see ominous persecution trends against Christians,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “Islamic radicalism continues to dominate and influence all spheres of life for Christians, and we are watching China and India very closely. The distressing impact of billions of people living in an environment in which the government oppresses freedom of religion is unraveling day by day as millions of Christians are being attacked, imprisoned or killed. Open Doors will continue to walk alongside these Christians and advocate on their behalf for human rights we take for granted in America.”
◼ One in every nine Christians in the world experiences high levels of persecution for their faith.
One in every six African Christians experiences high levels of persecution for their faith.
◼ One in every three Asian Christians experiences high levels of persecution for their faith.
◼ North Korea tops the list for the 18th year in a row.
◼ Algeria had the highest year-over-year increase in persecution against Christians.
◼ Russian Federation and Morocco are newcomers to this year’s list.
◼ Islamic oppression fuels persecution in eight of the top ten countries on the 2019 Open Doors
World Watch List.
◼ Bahrain and Djibouti fell out of the top 50.
◼ Pakistan and Nigeria had the most violence recorded against Christians, with Central Africa
Republic close behind.
◼ Iraq and Malaysia showed the most significant improvement since last year.
(Click here for a link to the Open Doors USA Prayer App)
Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution of Christians takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape, and even death as a result of their faith.
The Open Doors World Watch List is the only comprehensive, annual survey of the state of religious liberty for Christians around the world. From Nov. 1, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2018, researchers measured the degree of freedom a Christian has to live out his or her faith in five spheres of life—private, family, community, national and church, plus a sixth category measuring the degree of violence. Points are given for each incident of persecution, and the total points provide the ranking for each country.
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries.
(Headline image capture courtesy: Prayercast.com)
Haiti (MNN) — Christmas might only be a memory for you now, but it’s still on the minds of hundreds of kids in northern Haiti.
Eva DeHart of For Haiti With Love says their staff and supporters celebrate Christ’s birth with a different group of kids each year. This year, “they did the food preparation at the headquarters and then loaded everything into the back of a pickup truck and everything was taken out a school in the countryside, where we had 500 kids,” she explains.
“These were all children who had never experienced anything like this before. Everybody got a full meal, full Gospel, toys and new clothes. Everything they get is brand new to celebrate Messiah’s birth.”
Don DeHart – the founder of For Haiti With Love – began the ministry’s annual tradition in 1988. His vision was of lasting spiritual impact, not just meeting immediate needs.
“That was Don’s dream: to present the Gospel in [a memorable way] so these kids would really take something of value home with them,” explains DeHart of her late husband.
“It wasn’t [about] giving the same kids gifts every year, but a new group of children who could be introduced to Jesus and understand what the day was all about.”
This year’s celebration looked like a typical Christmas party in the sense that everyone got food and gifts. However, says DeHart, that wasn’t the point.
“This is a big birthday party for Jesus and they (the children) are all made very much aware of His gift to us. That’s the main thing that you want them to go away with; the tangible gifts are simply their memories of that day.”
For Haiti With Love’s ministry involves much more than Christmas parties. They also operate a food program and medical clinic. In addition, For Haiti With Love constructs homes for the homeless of northern Haiti.
Header image courtesy Sergé via Flickr.