A look at Christianity in post-evangelized Germany

Germany (MNN) — Werner Nachtigal grew up in the Lutheran Church. But as a boy, attending church was the most boring place on the planet. He dreamed of growing up and becoming a rock star. In fact, he even met KISS and OZZY; yet, these people he looked up to instead looked back with empty eyes.

“When I was young, I was 18, I thought, ‘What is the meaning of life? To make money? To have girls? Success?’ But then I met all these famous people and I saw the empty eyes. So, the next question — ‘What will come if I have to die tonight?’” Nachtigal recalls.

Fast forward to today and Nachtigal is a Christian leader in Germany. He is the President of Global Outreach Day, a catalyst movement where on a single day each year, Christ followers reach out to non-Christians in unison. However, his story of growing up in a church without the Gospel is not uncommon. In fact, one could argue it is the plight of post-evangelized Germany.

The Facts

Germany is a European country with nine neighbors surrounding it. To the north is Denmark along with the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. On its Western borders are the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. To the south are Switzerland and Austria. Finally, on its eastern borders lay Czechia and Poland. However, Germany is also the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

Germany

Bronnbach Monastery, Germany. (Photo courtesy of barnyz via Flickr)

“Germany is a beautiful country. Beautiful, I mean, we have a great social system [and] health care. I would say Germany is one of the best countries in the world, for sure. I mean, in the winter it is quite cold, but I would say to live in Germany is really a privilege…. It’s a peaceful country,” Nachtigal explains in an awe-inspiring tone.

However, challenges arise when the Bible’s teachings go against society’s grain. Some people are open to the Gospel, but not all. Political correctness is valued and having views opposing this category can be detrimental. Germany, while it is a free country, Nachtigal says it does not necessarily support free speech.

“I love my country…. I thought about moving to the U.S. because I like Santa Monica. No, because you have many Christians. [The United States has] so many ministries. You have more ministries in Colorado Springs probably than we have in Europe…. You are living in Disneyland if it comes to so many good churches and ministries. But, we have only one megachurch with over 4,000 people. That’s it,” Nachtigal says.

Bridging Gaps in Germany

For Nachtigal, there is no easy answer in bridging the disconnect between the Gospel and the Church’s seeming lack of fire for loving people, despite who they are or what society teaches. Not all congregations lack this fire, but it is prevalent.

“I’ve read in a book that a revival is when every believer is active, not only in a church shouting and dancing. But how to engage churches? I mean, we are really working on it for the last ten years. I know…how to spur [a] revival, besides the Holy Spirit. (Of course, we believe in the power [of the Holy Spirit.]) W-O-R-K. It’s work. It’s a process,” Nachtigal says.

For the typical Christian in Germany, it is not persecution they face, but lethargy and a lack of training. Nachtigal and many others are working on this through Global Outreach Day and by living evangelism as a way of life.

“It’s work and sometimes you’re frustrated and all these; yes, it is. But still, we’re not giving up. We are slowly [seeing] a development where we could influence quite a lot of churches and inspire a lot of Christians. But still, it’s a lot of work,” Nachtigal explains.

When it comes to prayer needs, Nachtigal asks for one thing — ask God to use you.

As he’s already said, it takes work in Germany to share Christ, live a life of evangelism, and persevere in a post-evangelized society. However, Nachtigal quotes Matthew 9:37.

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’.”

Ask God how He can use you. Pray for ways to serve and share of Christ’s love in your town. If you are not sure where to start, begin with a training program through organizations like Global Outreach Day or even e3 Partners. Use them to springboard into a life of sharing the Gospel and seeing lives changed because of it.

 

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Chinese officials force third prominent house church to close

China (MNN) — Over the weekend, Chinese officials raided and forcibly closed a third prominent house church in Southern China this winter.

Around 60 police officers raided a children’s Bible study the Rongguili Church in Guangzhou Saturday morning and forced the kids and adults out. They blocked all roads to and from the church and confiscated church property, including 4,000 books.

Zion Church in Beijing and Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu were also recently forced to close. Over 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested including Pastor Wang Yi, senior pastor of Early Rain, and his wife, Jiang Rong.

Pastor Wang Yi wrote a letter to be published if he was ever detained for more than 48 hours. You can read his poignant letter here titled “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office via Flickr under Creative Commons: https://goo.gl/MdxJXC)

Although the Chinese government is stepping up efforts to shut down unregistered churches leading to Christmas, this has been going on since February. President Xi Jinping passed a new law seeking to restrict religious activities that don’t submit to the Communist government’s control. Hundreds of unregistered churches have been closed or demolished, and just as many Christians and pastors arrested.

Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs explains, “Just this week, The Voice of the Martyrs issued a special report about the crackdown that we’re seeing in China this year. A new law went into effect in February. In March, President Xi Jinping was given basically a lifetime contract. Term limits were removed from him. He is the one driving this crackdown against the Church, against religious expression that doesn’t conform to what the Communist Party wants it to be.

“Ultimately, the issue is control. The Communist Party wants to control the people. They want to control the hearts and minds of the people. They see religion — and it could be Christianity; it could also be Islam — but they see religion as something they are fighting against for the control of the hearts and minds of the people.”

A group of Christians prays outside of
the public security bureau. (Photo, caption courtesy of ChinaAid)

Educating yourself about the state of religious freedom in China is the first step to raising awareness. VOM can help out with that.

“We have this special report available. We’re also doing a series on the VOM Radio podcast…looking specifically at China. What is different this year? What does this new law mean for Christians there? Educate yourself through some of these tools that are available so that you can pray more effectively.”

Finally, Nettleton says your prayers are encouraging our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in China.

Nettleton spoke with a Chinese believer recently on the VOM Radio podcast who asked that we pray specifically for young Chinese Christians experiencing persecution for the first time.

“He said, ‘…Their parents and their grandparents have been through it before. They have seen it before. They’re not surprised by it. They’re not really afraid of it because they have seen how God sustains them through times of persecution and times of hardship.’

“But he said, ‘The young believers — they have never been through this before and so, understandably, they are intimidated. They are afraid.’ So he said, ‘Pray especially for those young believers who are going through this for the first time, that God will sustain them and encourage their faith through this time of persecution.’”

 

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Open Doors USA.

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Two million kids cared for by Compassion International

International (MNN) — A 66-year-old child development ministry just passed a major milestone. Spokesman Tim Glenn says two million kids have now been registered with Compassion International.

“It took us 56 years to get to the point of one million children in our program, and then only 11 years to hit two million,” he explains.

“God’s heart for children in poverty, His movement for children in poverty is accelerating and we’re getting to be part of it.”

Listen to the full interview here.

In a press release issued Friday, Compassion announced a celebration of the occasion in its 12 global funding offices and 25 program country offices. “This is really a celebration of our supporters and the work our church partners are doing,” Compassion President and CEO Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado said in the release.

(Header and story image courtesy of Compassion International)

“The staff and thousands of volunteers at the local church level are the ones who are providing life-changing care for these children. And our supporters around the world enable them to do so. This is a celebration of their commitment.”

As part of Compassion’s program, a child living in poverty gets support in four areas critical to development: spiritual, physical, social, and economic.

Specific benefits can include food, educational assistance (i.e. tutors, school uniforms, textbooks, and supplies), medical checkups, health and hygiene education, and more depending on the need. When a child is linked to a sponsor, their lives are further enriched through prayers and letters. Occasionally, a sponsor will even visit their child.

Glenn says Compassion’s program operates through local churches, which puts the Good News of Jesus front-and-center. “We have over 7,000 church partners now in 25 countries,” he states.

“Every one of those churches is a Gospel-teaching church, and our program is centered on teaching the Gospel of Jesus.”

So, what’s on the horizon for Compassion?

“We are looking to be an innovative and progressive organization that’s looking forward, moving forward, and expanding our reach and our movement,” says Glenn.

“There are one billion children in the world living in poverty. Yes, we’re excited about reaching two million of them, but – in the grand scheme of things – it’s a drop in the bucket. God has called us to do more and we want to answer that call.”

Visit Compassion’s website to learn more about their work.

 

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Japanese pastor adopts three UUPGs in Okinawa

Japan (MNN) — Hope is peeking over the horizon in the land of the rising sun. Three Japanese UUPGs (Unreached and Unengaged People Groups) were identified at the Finishing the Task conference earlier this month. Joshua Hari adopted all three UUPGs in one fell swoop.

Hari is a Japanese pastor and Asian Access’s National Director for Japan. When he made arrangements to attend the Finishing The Task conference, he thought he was going to celebrate what God did in India through several ministries, Asian Access included.

God had other plans in mind.

Joshua Hari is a Japanese pastor and Japan National Director for Asian Access.
(Photo courtesy Asian Access)

“I thought Japan was one linguistic people group (Japanese), but I noticed on the [FTT] list there were 3 linguistic people groups located in Japan,” Hari notes.

“I sensed God’s calling [and] I decided to adopt those UUPG groups.”

Totaling an estimated 80,700 people, the Toku-no-shima, Yaeyama, and Yoron people groups live in Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture comprising more than 150 islands in the East China Sea. Evangelical Christians make up less than two-percent of the population in each group, and – until now – there were no efforts to make Christ known in these communities.

Reaching the unreached in Okinawa

What does Hari’s “adoption” mean for the three Japanese UUPGs? On a basic level, it means Hari, Asian Access, and their partners in Japan are going to do whatever it takes to start engaging these groups with the Gospel. And, they’re going to do it in two years or less.

It’s a pretty big undertaking.

“One of the second-largest unreached people groups [is] the Japanese. One-third of the municipalities are unreached [and] unchurched, there is no church at all.”

Japan’s resistance to Christianity is widely-known throughout the missions community. The East Asian nation was even called “the missionary’s graveyard.” As noted here by Operation World,

Japan is the largest unevangelized nation that is completely open to missionaries. Yet, due to spiritual, socio-cultural, linguistic and financial difficulties, becoming an effective minister of the gospel is a long, hard process of adaptation.

This resistance hasn’t stopped Asian Access, though. The triple disaster of 2011 softened Japanese hearts and opened minds, and in 2016, Asian Access announced a seemingly-impossible goal: plant 50,000 churches by 2035.

The unreached and unengaged Toku-no-shima, Yaeyama, and Yoron reside in southern Japan, but Hari and his team also have their eyes on the north.

Hope for Hokkaido

Home to 5.4 million people, Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost main island. There were 400 churches present in 2014; each one averaged between 10 and 12 people in attendance.

Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island.
(Wikimedia Commons)

“Hokkaido is the largest unchurched prefecture [and] we are really praying to start [a] mission network in Hokkaido,” Hari shares.

This month, Hari is meeting with local pastors throughout Japan and they’re starting to form plans for Hokkaido and Okinawa. Please surround them in prayer.

“Please pray for us to open our eyes to see the spiritual poverty. Pray for us to raise up [with] the compassionate heart of Jesus Christ.”

 

Header image obtained via Pexels.

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A look at being a Christian in Tunisia

Tunisia (MNN) – Ever wonder what life is like for Christians in the global Church? This week we’re running a series looking through the window at the Christian life across the world. We’ll have a chance to talk with people from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. But first, we’re starting with a believer from Tunisia, who we’re calling Sarah for security.

The Facts

Tunisia is a geographically small North African country which borders the Mediterranean Sea. The country sits between Algeria and Libya. Tunisia is ranked #30 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. The World Watch List ranks the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe.

Tunisia is the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring.
(Photo courtesy of Wassim Ben Rhouma.)

Per the World Watch List, Tunisia has a population of 11,495,00 people, but only 23,800 know Christ. The main religion in the country is Islam. Much of the pressures Christians face come from local society and within their own families. It is also illegal to evangelize in Tunisia, and Christians are not recognized as a minority by the government.

“Some people are persecuted by their families, especially young people who accept Jesus. And some spouses from their spouse because everyone in Tunisia is from a Muslim background, except the few new people who are a second generation [Christian],” Sarah says.

“Usually when someone accepts Jesus, they get persecuted by their families…sometimes not. Sometimes it’s a real blessing and they can bring other people from their families to faith, too.”

The Church in Tunisia

The Tunisian Church is facing leadership challenges and is struggling to spread beyond the capital city of Tunis. The Church is also in need of childcare along with programs to teach children, youth, and women, too.pixabay

“A lot of good things are happening and it’s good to look at that, too. I think a lot of young people are coming to faith and yeah, as in Tunis we have a lot of open churches, like buildings, so people can come more,” Sarah explains.

Rather than seeking out people to specifically share Christ, an open door let’s those interested in Jesus know they’re welcome to come and learn. Plus, people are becoming more interested in learning about the Christian history that is a part of Tunisia dating back to the Roman Empire. This history has some people viewing Christianity less as an outside religion. People are intrigued to know more about their country and the Christianity which helped shape it.

Be Prayerful, Be Active

“We pray for families to come to Christ because family is important in our culture. When someone accepts Jesus, and when they bring other family members, then the whole family becomes Christian. That’s a good impact for their big family because they are all connected. So they can show and be a real witness to their big families.”

Pray for the foundation and growth of children’s, youth, and women’s groups for the Tunisian Church. Also, pray that God will continue making himself known in Tunisia through the love of His people. Pray that more and more people would be interested in the Christian history that’s unique to Tunisian, and for the government to be less rigid with Christians. Finally, pray for the protection, wisdom, and the encouragement of believers in Tunisia.

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Coptic Christian convicted of blasphemy, jailed for Facebook post

Egypt (MNN) — A Coptic Christian in Egypt was recently sentenced to three years in prison for a Facebook post. The courts ruled the post on social media by Abdo Adel, 43, was blasphemous and convicted him of “insulting Islam in the first degree.”

Adel was first accused of blasphemy in July when his Facebook post compared Jesus with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He was arrested and soon afterward, a mob attacked the homes of Coptic Christians. Police arrested 90 Muslims in the mob, then released most of them after a “community reconciliation session.”

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

While the Egyptian government has spoken against violence targeting Christians, Floyd Brobbel with The Voice of the Martyrs Canada says that doesn’t stop Muslim extremists from persecuting believers in other ways.

“I think what we’re seeing is that you have a number of groups that will use a number of tactics at their disposal to silence a Christian minority in the country. Some will go through a legal route, some will take more hostile forms — whether it’s attacking Christians [or] whether it’s martyring Christians. Some places even restrict church activities. Certainly, they can meet in a church, but any proclamation of the Gospel outside of the church is forbidden.”

Blasphemy accusations and laws, in particular, are becoming more popular among Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. Egypt is no exception.

“Egypt is an Islamic nation and so they will be ruled by Islamic law,” says Brobbel. “They would allow the legal system to prosecute anybody that would speak out against Islam. We see that in Egypt taking place now. We certainly see that in other places like Pakistan, for example, where blasphemy laws are used frequently to imprison Christians while they are waiting for their trial. So it seems to be a pretty popular tactic used to silence the Christian voice within an Islamic nation.

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

“Now we’re seeing more and more changing of the Constitution within a nation over religious restrictions and governments taking an active role in that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that more happen in Egypt as well, where you may see [the government] start rolling out policies and new laws that would restrict religion or religious activities.”

VOM Canada works with the persecuted Church around the world, including Egypt, to provide encouragement and offer tools for believers to be Christ’s salt and light in hostile environments.

“Often, that may look like, how do we get Bibles in countries? How do we encourage new believers in the faith and disciple them? So we look for ways we can do that working with the Church in Egypt to be able to facilitate some of those measures.”

VOM Canada also offers practical assistance. The Families of Martyrs Fund aids those who are left destitute after one or both parents have been jailed, killed, or exiled.

Give to The Families of Martyrs Fund with VOM Canada here!

(Photo courtesy of Beth Stolicker)

Please also pray for Coptic Christians in Egypt, that they would persist in sharing the Gospel with their Muslim neighbors. Pray for Adel to be spiritually encouraged in prison.

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InterVarsity responding to traumatized students amidst mass shooting, wildfires

USA (MNN) — A recent mass shooting at a country music bar and grill shook Thousand Oaks, California and claimed the lives of 12 people. Some students with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship were there when it happened.

We talked with Greg Jao, InterVarsity’s Director of External Relations. He says, “They were students from [California State University Channel Islands], so we know of seven or eight students who were there.”

This latest attack was the deadliest mass shooting since Parkland, Florida. The gunman was a former US Marine and his victims included a veteran sheriff’s deputy who responded to the crisis. 21 people were injured.

As InterVarsity gathered information and responded to traumatized students, the situation got even more complicated. “What happened a day or two after the shooting doubled down on the sense of trauma because the campus was closed due to the wildfires that were approaching campus. Because of that multiplicity of issues, InterVarsity’s response to campus crisis and to trauma takes on a number of different aspects.”

Processing Trauma on Campuses

California State University Channel Islands (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Jacknorris63 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0: https://goo.gl/oY4bCE)

Jao explains, “First, you begin with meeting people’s immediate physical needs. So there was an attempt to assess, were our students safe? Were they physically injured or not? And then, as the campus closed, do students have a place to live? So our local staff was calling friends, neighbors, people in communities further off [and asking], ‘I have a group of students. Could you house them until the campus reopens because they have nowhere to live right now?’”

InterVarsity is working with campus mental health professionals as well. For the ministry, responding to students’ spiritual needs is just as important as meeting emotional, mental, and physical ones.

Staff with InterVarsity have been available at Cal State Channel Islands if students need somebody to pray with.

“We also planned at Cal State Channel Islands a prayer walk around the campus the next day,” says Jao. “So that moves us from responsive prayer [and] praying our trauma to declaring — as you walk with one another and as you invite people to join you — that in the space of that trauma we still believe Jesus Christ is present.

“As we do that, we’re doing two things. One, we’re grounding students in the theological reality: this has been traumatic and Jesus is still here.

“And as they are praying, students are being attentive to how the Holy Spirit may be at work. As they pray for a dorm, often the Holy Spirit will say, ‘This is a student you should be going to talk to.’ ‘This is a way to minister here.’ So you are attentive and you begin to respond to that.”

Prayer: A Bare Minimum Response?

(Photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)

It’s easy for people roll their eyes at prayer in response to a crisis. Even in a Facebook post that authorities believe was written by the shooter around the time of the attack, he said, “…the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’.. or ‘keep you in my thoughts’… every time… and wonder why these keep happening…”

Jao asserts that prayer is far from the passive and lame reaction that some make it out to be.

“You can see on social media people mock ‘thoughts and prayers’ and I think they are wrong to do so. I think the most primal human thing to do in a period of national mourning or local trauma is to cry out to God.”

He also adds, “Prayer on the ground is absolutely crucial, particularly when you use it to give students an opportunity to give a voice before God — their fears and their hurts.

“It’s actually, as they pray, having a sense of ‘God leading me to do this’ and it moves them from being people who merely experience trauma to having some agency to engage.”

Long-Term Healing

As we pray and the Holy Spirit moves, we are moved to do more too as  Jesus Christ’s ambassadors to a hurting world.

“I do think…engaging the larger systems is helpful. A number of our staff noted around the hurricanes in Houston and Florida and later in South Carolina this year, inevitably it was the poorer communities without resources [and] without long-term infrastructure that were the most damaged and the students from those communities that were the most greatly impacted. So I do think structural engagement there is important.”

Jao says he sees churches and ministries respond to these long-term needs in profound ways. InterVarsity still sends student teams to New Orleans every year since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area 13 years ago.

“Local citizens in the area have said, ‘What has struck us is that the Christians are still here. Long after the government has pulled out, long after other non-government organizations have left, you keep coming back year-after-year over spring break projects to help rebuild our communities.’”

Where You Come In

For now, between the mass shooting and the wildfires consuming northern California, communities are still in immediate crisis.

(Photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)

InterVarsity needs your help to continue responding in the name of Jesus.

“Because we believe the Great Commandment and the Great Commission go hand-in-hand…the ability to respond quickly to crises because the Church cares and is poised to act I think is an incredible testimony.”

If you would like to support InterVarsity’s ministry, click here.

Finally, Jao encourages, “Literally every news article is a crucial opportunity to learn to pray for people who would not normally come to mind.”

Please join InterVarsity in praying for the people hurt by the shooting and wildfires in California — including the deadly Camp Fire. Pray that they might sense God’s peace and find encouragement in the local Body of Christ.

 

 

 

Header photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

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Photos: Christmas around the world

Every year, as child sponsors, you bring the spirit of Christmas to children all around the world who might not otherwise experience the joys of the holiday. Through Christmas cards, sponsorship Christmas parties, and special gifts, children are blessed by your presence in their lives.

From us here at World Vision to you, we wish you a happy holiday season with your loved ones. And we thank you for partnering with us to bring joy to children like these around the world.

Afghanistan

Street children bundle up in warm scarves and hats from World Vision donors.

Christmas is around the corner, but for street children and child laborers, merriment is often chased away by frigid cold. That’s why World Vision donors in Japan put their skills to good work making hats, scarves, and sweaters for children in need in Afghanistan. On Dec. 17, 2017, Christmas came early for these kids when World Vision staff delivered the cozy handmade gifts from afar. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Narges Ghafary)

Armenia

An Armenian boy gets a soccer ball for Christmas

World Vision’s community social workers and sponsorship staff deliver Christmas presents to the most vulnerable children near Chambarak in northeastern Armenia. Davit, 9, dreams of becoming a soccer player, and he couldn’t be happier to receive a “professional ball from Santa.” 2017 World Vision)

Malawi

Merry Christmas from a little girl in Malawi

Ndilimbira, 11, wishes World Vision donors a very merry Christmas this year. Through sponsorship, World Vision was able to construct a new building for her school. They used to conduct classes under a tree. Sponsorship also provided new school supplies to her and her classmates. “Top students will receive exercise books, pencils, and pens from World Vision,” explains Ndilimbira. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Charles Kabena)

Bangladesh

Children hold up Christmas cards.

Sponsored children living in Dhaka, Bangladesh, raise their Christmas cards high. Each child received a special card from their sponsor. World Vision has been working in this community since 2013, focusing on improving health, education, and child protection. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Md. Golam Ehsanul Habib)

Colombia

Children color during a Christmas party in Columbia.

In a small dining hall in Caracolí, Colombia, World Vision supports the feeding of more than 300 sponsored children daily, helping them to maintain optimal nutrition and health. But on this day, the children received more than just a meal. World Vision threw a Christmas party for the children. They drew pictures for their sponsors, sang carols, and each child received gifts — clothing, toys, and candy. “Thank you, World Vision and our sponsors, for inviting us to share in this celebration. I love you!” says 10-year-old Lorena. (©2014 World Vision/photo by Juan Sebastián Gutiérrez)

Cambodia

A victim of exploitation gives a Christmas present to her social worker.

Each year at World Vision’s trauma recovery center in Cambodia, World Vision staff put together a Christmas celebration for the young women and girls who stay there. The center is a safe haven for victims of human trafficking and exploitation. They exchange gifts and enjoy cake, plays and dance performances. Here, a World Vision social worker receives a Christmas gift from one of the girls. (©2014 World Vision/photo by Sopheak Kong)

Myanmar

A mother and two children read a Christmas card.

Seven-year-old Aye, a sponsored child from Amarpaura, Myanmar, is grateful for her sponsor, who sent her a Christmas card. She was so excited and happy to see it arrive. Receiving Christmas cards each year from her sponsor makes her feel very special. She says, “I am so happy to receive this Christmas card, and thank you very much!” (©2018 World Vision/photo by Khaing Min Htoo)

Philippines

A row of boy students open red and green wrapped presents.

Each child eagerly anticipated what was to come — Christmas presents from World Vision and its partners during a very special celebration at school. Once given their packages, they tore into them with smiles and giggles, quickly comparing gifts among friends. After presents came games, treats, and other festivities. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Lanelyn Carillo)

The post Photos: Christmas around the world appeared first on World Vision.

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Christmas 2018: how to shop for the person who has everything

India (MNN) — Christmas Eve is ten days away. Looking for any last-minute gifts? Or, have you already outspent your gift budget? According to an October Gallup poll, the average U.S. adult will spend $885 on presents this year.

Hearty and easy to raise, goats are a great way to help a family increase their income. (Image, caption courtesy India Partners)

Have you thought about gifting a goat? You don’t have to wrap it and stick it under your tree. It would be given to a needy family in India on behalf of someone you love.

India Partners Donna Glass says their 2018 Gift Catalog is ideal for the difficult person on your Christmas list. Staff members highlighted some projects with the “budget shopper” in mind, she explains.

Those individuals might look at the catalog and say, “I can provide a gift in honor of somebody who has everything they already need, and I can do it for $10. Or, I can contribute towards a well because I know this person is very passionate about clean, safe water.”

More than 61 million Indians live in extreme poverty. India Partners wants to eradicate that by working towards an India rich in hope, justice, and compassion. They work alongside a broad group of indigenous Christian grassroots agencies focused on alleviating poverty and injustice.

Visit India Partners’ website to learn more about their work.

Remember, it only takes one person to start a trend.

“It’s like, if you see a smile,” Glass describes. “Somebody smiled at you and you start smiling, and the next person who sees you starts smiling in return.

“It becomes shared and it just becomes this ‘epidemic’ of smiles. I think it’s the same thing with compassion.”

Click here to peruse India Partners’ Gift Catalog, and consider sharing this story with a friend or family member.

“Some families, especially at this time of year… they sit down together and they look at the catalog… and they make a choice that they want to give to help somebody halfway around the world.”

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Sergé via Flickr under Creative Commons.

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Pakistan: of concerns, Christmas, and Christians

Pakistan (MNN) – This week, with an ugly anniversary looming, Baluchistan’s provincial government decided to beef up security for the Christian community during Christmas celebrations.

(Image courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs)

They’re casting an eye toward the December 17, 2017 suicide bombing attack on a packed church in Quetta, the capital city of Baluchistan, in southwestern Pakistan. Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says attacks like this one and what happened to Asia Bibi that has religious watchdog groups on alert. “The last couple of months, you’ve had radicals marching all over the streets in Pakistan, raising the temperature, raising the level of animosity. Christians look at that and say ‘Wow. We were already attacked during the Christmas season last year. What could happen this year?’ It’s a key time to be in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.”

The unrest

Members of the Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have stirred up antipathy toward Christians over the suggestion of blasphemy law reform and Asia Bibi’s acquittal. When the Supreme Court decided the prosecution didn’t prove their case against her, TLP leaders called for protests on the decision. That led to riots in most of Pakistan’s major cities. The government then arrested key TLP leaders and charged them with sedition and terrorism, provoking more outrage.

Although protests seem to be settling down, Nettleton reminds us that extremists know this is a time of year to make the biggest statements. “Pray for protection for Christians because there is that level of animosity and anger right now”, especially during this Christmas season.

“This is a time where Christians gather together for worship, they gather together for fellowship and to celebrate Christ’s birth. It is also a time when they’re targeted.”

The hostility against non-Muslim minorities, especially Christians, has not gone unnoticed by the international community. This week, Pakistan denounced the United States for placing it on the US list of “countries of particular concern”, a designation reserved for those countries which have violated religious freedoms or tolerated abuses against religious groups, although no sanctions will be incurred. Once again, the blasphemy law figured into the discussion, although Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry pointed out that theirs is a “multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together.”

(Photo courtesy of Nicolas Raymond via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/cf14sm)

Yet, despite assurances of religious freedom, it’s clear that the extremists are a force to be reckoned with. Pakistan is 5th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is hardest to live as a Christian.

The hope

Nettleton urges all of us to pray for protection for the Christians in Pakistan. Just by association, there’s a risk. “There have been reports that even some neighbors of Asia Bibi’s family, who may have helped them while she was in prison, have been hunted down. Some of them aren’t Christians; they’re Muslim, but they helped Asia Bibi.”

In the middle of the Advent season, it is the time of waiting and anticipating the hope of Christ. Given the atmosphere in Pakistan, the security concerns are expected. What it means is that the Christians of Pakistan are still gathering to celebrate the story of a Savior and the promise of His Coming in the light of His love.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of FMI.

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Mission Aviation Fellowship looking to fill positions in the mission field

International (MNN) — At the close of a year, many Christians find themselves asking God what He would have them do for the Kingdom next year. It could mean a short-term missions opportunity or a long-term career in the mission field.

For believers ready to take a leap of faith and commit their talents to the mission field full-time, Mission Aviation Fellowship could be the right fit. MAF is currently hiring more aircraft mechanics, pilots, field IT support specialists, and teachers to join their team!

As an aviation ministry, MAF partners with ministries and organizations to reach isolated people with aid, resources, and the hope of the Gospel. In the day-to-day, this looks like medical evacuations, transporting food and supplies, flying indigenous pastors, and more.

Pilots

Pilot Daniel Moser taking off from an airstrip in Timor-Leste. (Caption, photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)

Pilots are, obviously, a major driving force of MAF’s outreach. Crissie Rask, MAF’s manager of mobilization, says many of their pilots specialize in another skill as well, such as a pilot mechanic or pilot finance.

“Sort of the backbone of our pilot staff is pilots that have a mechanics rating because of the kinds of places we fly…. We have a variety of people that bring the pilot component and another component to it. But for pilots who are going to be piloting and that is more their focus, we would ask for 1,000 hours of flight experience.”

Additionally, she says, “We’re looking for pilots that have a commercial license with an instrument rating and 50 hours in high-performance aircraft. [We require] an airframe and powerplant A&P mechanics license for our pilot mechanics [and] a minimum of 400 flight hours in a fixed-wing aircraft.”

Aircraft Mechanics

MAF also needs mechanics who specifically have avionics experience.

(Photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)

“Avionics and electronics are much more complex than they used to be and we have a lot of work to be done in those areas, so that is a really high needs area,” Rask explains.

“On our mechanic side for…aviation, we want somebody that has an airframe and powerplant mechanics license and experience in general aviation maintenance. There is a rating called an inspection authorization that is very helpful and that is something else we look at. We have requests for those kinds of people really in almost every field we serve in.”

MAF operates with a mostly turbine fleet. Because of this, mechanics with turbine experience would be especially appreciated.

Tech Resources

MAF’s tech resources department is also looking for individuals with information technology-oriented talents to join them in the field.

“We need what we call field IT support specialists — somebody who can come alongside and assist in all kinds of levels of expertise in the IT world,” Rask says.

“As anyone here knows, it’s hugely necessary in any organization or business — and so much more even in a global context — where we rely on technology to have the communication and the infrastructure we need.”

Teachers

Finally, teachers are a critical need in the places MAF serves. But the teacher role is a bit different in that MAF’s teachers work with the children of other MAF families.

“Our families live, I like to say, ‘on the edge of isolation.’ But often there are not good opportunities for schooling in the local context.”

Homeschooling isn’t always an option either. “Not every family is interested in or has the right mix of personality and focus to do homeschooling. It is very common here in the States for people to homeschool, but often they have the support of a local library, local sports teams, a local kids club or church club. Overseas, it is so valuable for our children…to have somebody besides their parents [who] is nurturing and guiding them and investing [so] they have a solid education.”

The MAF team in Indonesia dedicating a new Kodiak. (Photo courtesy of David Holsten with Mission Aviation Fellowship)

MAF hires teachers to fill this need for families serving in various capacities on the mission field.

“So we are looking for certified teachers that are willing to go and invest. They are investing in the lives of the students they teach and that is their primary focus, but through that, the ripple effect is just wonderful in the communities they live in and get to participate in.

Also, Rask says teachers with MAF can enable families to stay where they are and continue serving longer-term.

“I just have a quote here from one teacher. It said, ‘Last year, many families considered leaving the field when their kids were suddenly unable to attend school mid-year. Having teachers allows our team to focus on their MAF ministry as pilots, mechanics, and IT personnel. Some MAF spouses help out in the parts room at the hangar, teach English to national children, or host recovering patients from the local hospital. The teacher role allows them to have the margin to do that.’”

Get Connected with MAF!

View of Nabire, Papua, Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)

You can learn more about these opportunities with MAF at their website! Just go to www.MAF.org/serve.

There, you can send an inquiry to MAF and share how you are interested in getting involved. If you don’t already have all the qualifications, they can connect you with resources to equip you. MAF has Mobilizers located around the US who will provide you with more information.

Meanwhile, please pray for MAF’s ministry going into 2019. As Jesus says in Matthew 9:38, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship.

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No Longer Just News Stories

Geopolitical crises and wars have become typical news items. Following the coverage of the war in Syria, the images of casualties rattled me, but they were just news. In 2017, I joined GAiN on its first LIFE team mission to Lebanon to serve alongside a local partner working with refugees in Beirut. While there, I visited the Bekaa Valley, an area of farmland near the Syrian border that is now filled with a multitude of makeshift tents. The valley has become “home” to Syrians who fled their war-torn country.

We hear a lot about the war and refugees from Syria, but not so much about the Syrians displaced within their own country – and there are many. Some had to flee their bomb-stricken homes, along with any surviving family members, with only the clothes on their back. While in Lebanon, I met Syrian aid workers from GAiN’s local partner who provide both physical (food distribution) and emotional support to these Internally Displaced People (IDP). They shared accounts of the experiences of IDPs, and also some of their own. One aid worker shared her own chilling account of escaping armed groups. These experiences are unlike those reported in the media. They are painfully detailed and personal.

After returning home, news from Syria was no longer just news to me. Now I had friends living there – and that changed everything. With the war into its seventh year, local Syrians were surviving with limited resources and diminishing hope, and they are feeling forgotten.

I needed to do something….

I felt it was important that I share their stories so the world could relate to them on a personal level. I also launched a GAiN campaign and fundraised for 100 Bags of Blessing. Each bag provides food for a family of five for a month. These bags are vital to IDPs in Syria who struggle on a daily basis for even the most basic of necessities. The campaign enables sponsors to support the IDPs in Syria in a direct way, but it also helps to restore their hope and reminds them that they have not been forgotten and are loved.

Returning to Lebanon in 2018, there was a sense of familiarity. Reconnecting with the staff of GAiN’s local partner and the refugee children was like visiting relatives; no introduction was necessary. For me, the highlight was spending time with the aid workers from Syria. I feel my GAiN campaign brought me closer to them. There were a few familiar faces from my first visit, but I felt a sense of closeness with all of them. They were like family. I am humbled by the tenacity of these aid workers, the silent heroes that the world will never know.

Hearing stories about those who received the Bags of Blessing was like a sequel to my fundraising campaign, following the journey of these bags into the hands of specific recipients. Without this food distribution, these people wouldn’t have had enough to eat.

Returning home this time, I am not just telling stories. I am sharing about the lives of people who now have a special place in my life. Continued support of IDPs in Syria through programs such as the Bags of Blessing program is still very much needed. Most importantly, I hope to cultivate a connection between them and the rest of the world by sharing their personal testimonies gathered during my LIFE team experiences.

Like the song says: “We are the world…We’re all part of God’s great big family…we’ll make a brighter day…Just you and me.”

Whether it is getting to know the refugees in our neighbourhood or joining GAiN’s LIFE team in Lebanon and meeting them locally, the encounter is life-changing. They will no longer be just news stories but personal acquaintances, and for me, like family!

© Pam W., Two-Time Lebanon LIFE Team Participant

With the help of partners like you, GAiN cares for the physical needs of people throughout the world.. At the same time, our in-country partners in these difficult locations around the world demonstrate the love of Jesus to those who never have experienced His kind of love. Kindness leads people to receive the hope of Christ. How can you show kindness today? Learn how you can volunteer or support their work here.

As the humanitarian partner of Power to Change Canada, Global Aid Network helps to reveal hope and restore life through relief and development initiatives for people living in crisis and injustice. Our mission is to demonstrate the love of God, in word and deed. We are a registered non-profit organization and worldwide humanitarian relief and development organization, which has grown to become part of a diverse, global network with offices all over the world, our compassionate reach is truly global in scale.

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 No Longer Just News Stories appeared first on Mission Finder.

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Meeting needs through Community Transformation trips

International (MNN) – Community Transformation. This term can mean a lot of things, but at e3 Partners, it means helping communities solve problems with the love of Christ. By meeting both the physical and spiritual needs, these trips are making double the impact.

e3’s Jeff Johnston says, “If we could get into these communities and over the course of several trips just develop relationships with them, and really help them grow as a community and strengthen their community, that right there’s the perfect avenue to infuse the Gospel or infuse Jesus into their lives.”

Community Transformation Trips

Helping communities can look like introducing accessible clean water sources or providing resources for tackling local issues. e3 Partners does this through regular Community Transformation trips.

(Photo courtesy of e3 Partners via Facebook)

“You’re not just going to go on one trip and then all of a sudden their community is forever changed and is all of a sudden this perfect community. It takes several trips, it takes years, and it takes just a lot of persistence and the building of relationships,” Johnston explains.

However, these relationships begin with trust. Trust is not built by showing up and treating people like they are a project or by pushing an agenda. Instead, it is built by showing these people true compassion and by asking them what they need and how you can help. Sometimes this help looks like physical labor, or it could just be a conversation. Whatever it may be, this heart of serving helps build trust during the short-term trips.

“We’re always pointing it back to Jesus. And so, throughout the course of these trips, there’s always people that come to know Jesus, come to have a relationship with Jesus,” Johnston says.

Building Impactful Relationships

Many times, trip leaders will return in the fall to an area they previously served in the spring. When they do, they often find the people who accepted Christ before have now led even more people to His love.

But it’s more than just growing numbers; something in their new faith makes them stand out. The people themselves are different. There is a change that has taken place as they have become a new creation in Christ.

(Photo courtesy of e3 Partners via Facebook)

Johnston says the people have a different hope, a different attitude, and even a different joy about them. These changes represent the fruits of the spirit. Furthermore, as e3 Community Transformation trips continue to invest in these communities, they also get to see them flourish spiritually.

“On this most recent trip they had, they had already raised up quite a few Christians leaders in that community. And they came back and kept pouring into those people and equipping those people with ways to disciple others within the community. They came back and said that over the course of a week and a half, 150 people from that community accepted Christ,” Johnston says.

“I think that that ultimately shows the power of these trips, of these relationships, and just the consistent message that we give them that you know we love you. We are here because we love you. We [want to] help you. We are here because Jesus loves us and we want you to feel that same love that we feel.”

Get Involved

Johnston has never seen a Community Transformation team return without being impactful. Will you be a part of the next Community Transformation team?

Find a trip to join or support here!

Also, pray for community transformation in your backyard and abroad. Pray these communities will be open to the Gospel. Ask God to bring the right people to e3’s upcoming Community Transformation trips.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of e3 Partners.

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Nepali Church grows despite anti-conversion law

Nepal (MNN) — In a new report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom says anti-conversion laws are on the rise in South Asia. The USCIRF is calling on the U.S. government to work with South Asian allies and “[apply] pressure on governments to rescind laws that deny individuals the right to share and choose their religion freely.”

The USCIRF report highlights anti-conversion legislation in five South Asian nations: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. As outlined here, concerns for Nepal center on stricter regulations for International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and a recently-implemented anti-conversion law:

“The true impact of the law will emerge as the law begins to be implemented. Many Christian groups, though, are concerned about the potential impact on non-Hindu religious groups.”

According to John Puidate of Bibles For The World, some believers are already facing intense pressure. In certain districts, “Christians are being persecuted more than ever before,” he reports.

“There’s people who are taking this anti-conversion law and using it as a means to really put pressure on Christians and churches.”

At the same time, God’s Spirit is on the move and hearts are changing.

“Nepal has just now reached a population of 3 million followers of Christ,” Puidate says.

The challenge: Nepal’s anti-conversion law

Nepal’s anti-conversion law went into effect in August after a lot of pressure from India. This southern neighbor holds tremendous economic power over landlocked Nepal.

“Everything from gasoline and diesel to food; you name it, it comes from India, and so they really have to pay attention when India’s leaders say, you know, ‘we want you to pass this law’,” Puidate explains.

As explained here, Nepal’s currency is tied to that of India, mainly because the latter has a stronger economic presence on the global stage. This factor – along with a weak national infrastructure and heavy reliance on India for tangible goods – leaves Nepal in no position to refuse India’s instructions.

Regardless, the Church is growing.

The triumph: “tremendous” Church growth

nepal

(Photo credit Terry Boynton via Unsplash)

During a recent visit to Nepal, Puidate spoke with several partners of Bibles For The World. “We’ve just seen a tremendous explosion of growth,” he shares.

“We’ve seen Nepal go from totally unreached levels (2-3%) all the way up to 3 million followers of Christ. That’s 10% of the population.”

Bibles For The World strives to be a catalyst for individual and cultural transformation through God’s Word. With a strong focus on South Asia, the ministry equips and empowers local believers to reach their neighbors for Christ.

Click here to learn more about the work of Bibles For The World. Or, connect with us on Facebook to write a prayer of encouragement for persecuted believers.

“Forces of darkness and evil [are] at work there, so we just need to keep lifting [believers] up in prayer.”

 

 

Header image courtesy of SarahTz via Flickr.

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ASM distributed audio Bibles in 56 countries, hope to do more next year

International (MNN) — Pastor Costa in Mozambique noticed the young boy attending his church for the past month. But today was different.

The boy approached Pastor Costa, his eyes wet with tears. Pastor Costa asked the boy what was wrong.

(Photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)

Joshua Harrison with Audio Scripture Ministries tells the rest of the story: “The young boy replied, ‘I stole someone’s audio Bible two months ago because I thought it was a cell phone. I started to listen to the words from it every day before going to bed at night. Some days, I felt like the words were talking just to me and I was afraid. That’s why I decided to come to the church. Please pray for me, Pastor.’”

ASM and their ministry partners like Pastor Costa hear stories like this all the time — stories that show how God’s Word in audio is having a profound impact.

“It was beautiful to see how God’s Word is at work even when people don’t necessarily know it!”

For ASM’s Christmas theme this year, they chose Isaiah 61:1-2a:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….”

(Image courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)

This passage of Scripture illustrates exactly why ASM is passionate about making sure everyone gets a chance to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Harrison explains, “We’re reaching out to so many people who are poor, who are brokenhearted, and they recognize their need for the Gospel — whether that’s a young family in Mozambique with someone who is terminally ill and we’re praying with them and connecting them to God’s Word in their own language for the first time, or someone who is in Mexico or India or Malaysia!”

Through financial partners, prayer supporters, and distribution partners this past year, ASM distributed audio Bibles in 170 languages to over 56 countries.

Recording and distributing audio Bibles is far from easy. ASM’s ministry partners face technical difficulties, theft, social opposition, and more. “But the Gospel work is worth it.”

One man was so encouraged by his audio Bible, he rode his bike over 50 kilometers just to meet the men distributing audio Bibles!

Currently, ASM is in desperate need for more audio Bible funding.

“In Mozambique, we are completely out right now. We are praying that in 2019, we could reach so many more who are still waiting, still in darkness, still unable to hear God’s Word in their own heart language.”

(Photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)

Harrison asks, “Would you pray that God would move in many hearts, that together we could respond to this need and help connect more people? I would also ask, would you pray for Pastor Costa and the many local leaders who are sharing God’s Word in audio with those around them so that more people can grow in the Lord by meditating on His Word?”

One audio Bible costs just $35 to get into the hands of an individual or family waiting for God’s Word in their heart language.

Click here to give to ASM!

“We are just so grateful to be a part of it and we’re grateful that you can be part of it through these trusted local partners that we can place audio Bibles where they are most needed.”

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries.

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All Faith Groups, Evangelicals Included, Need to Reflect on #MeToo

We are going to hear the voice of survivors, trauma counselors, and Christian leaders who will call evangelicals to a better way.

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

The reality of that agony is more real than ever as this powerful imagery speaks volumes to an important issue we face as a nation, and inside our church walls, today. The issue of sexual abuse and scandal has rocked and ravaged our front pages, our computer screens, and our congregations within the past year.

Women across the country—and around the world—have put up with too much for too long. The tidal wave of reports bringing their stories to the surface in a tidal wave of reports called us all to reckon with the #metoo movement.

Last year, Time Magazine’s person of the year was actually more than one person. That annual high-profile cover showed us “The Silence Breakers,” those behind the movement that gave voices to so many women.

But well over a year after this all began, we still have so far to go—especially in the church.

What followed #metoo was #churchtoo—the telling of stories of abuse specifically within the context of church life. The posts, tweets, and hashtags once again flooded our social media pages and dominated conversations everywhere. And still, the stories haven’t stopped.

Most are aware of the fire being felt by the Catholic Church for the behaviors of priests and bishops towards children. Some of the headlines this past year alone have read, “American Priest is Accused of Molesting Boys in the Philippines” and “U.S. Catholic Church Hit with Two National Lawsuits by sex-abuse victims” and “Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says.” The pope, in response to what happened in Pennsylvania, wrote …

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