It’s not us, it’s God

Ecuador (MNN) – Ever wonder what you need to do to turn people to Jesus? The answer is simple—only God can do that.

Only God

Jeff Johnston with e3 Partners reminds us how our role is to plant seeds and disciple, but we cannot change people’s hearts. e3 has seen this truth play out before, particularly with Paulette’s story, a woman in Ecuador.

“She lived in a city up in [northern] Ecuador, and one day got a knock on her door. She looked out the window, and she said that she could tell that these people were missionaries, or that these people wanted to talk to her about religion or God or something. And she said she didn’t really want to talk about that and wasn’t really in the mood.”

Paulette did not answer the door that day. Some months later she moved to a new city where she encountered Christians knocking at her door again. This time she answered and the Gospel was shared. However, Johnston says Paulette was not ready to accept Christ. A couple of months later, she moved again. In this third city, she and her husband had a daughter. However, Paulette felt like something was missing, but she did not know what that “something” was.

A Third Encounter

“Then one day, [she] and her husband heard some music from a nearby building, and she said that they just for some reason both felt compelled to go see what it was. And so, they walked over there and it was a church, and it was a church service. They walked into the church, and they said they were just immediately just overwhelmed with love from the community, that they just welcomed them in. And so, they sat there through the rest of that church service, and then they went back the next week, and again the next week, and again the next week,” Johnston says.

(Photo courtesy of e3 Partners)

After a few weeks, both Paulette and her husband accepted Jesus into their lives. At that point, Paulette revealed how the void and emptiness she had previous felt, the something missing, had been filled. That “something” was Jesus. She also realized how her encounters with Christians knocking at her door in the past was God pursuing her. Today, Paulette, her husband, and even her daughter are in leadership roles at their church, which also works with e3.

“I think it’s understanding and coming to grips with the fact that you may not always see the fruits of your work, that a lot of your work might end up just being planting seeds and then someone else down the line may end up reaping that harvest and seeing the fruit from that. But it’s coming to grips with that and understanding that and knowing that does not lessen the work that you do whatsoever, that it’s still important,” Johnston says.

Planting Seeds

Scripture describes how the body of Christ has many different parts, and all of them serve a purpose. Even though the Christians who knocked on Paulette’s doors never saw the fruit of their work, they were still instrumental in God’s pursuit of Paulette.

Will you trust God to use you in His pursuits of people like Paulette and her husband? If the answer is yes, or even just a maybe, consider taking a trip with e3 to help share the Gospel across the world.

“I’ve talked to just feels when they come back that you know, they feel even stronger in their faith and just kind of feel reinvigorated for evangelism and for Jesus. And so, I’d encourage people to find a trip that works with their schedule or somewhere that they’re interested in going to or have a passion for and just come and watch how God can work through you and through others with you. It’s amazing how he’s able to use all of us, all of these broken people and use it to bring honor and glory and just grow His kingdom,” Johnston says.

To find a trip, click here!

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After Major Investigation, Southern Baptists Confront the Abuse Crisis They Knew Was Coming

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News collect 380 allegations spanning 20 states in an unprecedented look at sexual misconduct across the denomination.

A landmark investigation into hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches opened with a collage of pictures of the offenders, row after row of headshots and mugshots of men who had been accused of abusing a total of 700 victims over the past 20 years.

In Sunday’s report, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News were able to do what victims say the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has failed to for years: provide a picture of the extent of the abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention and a database of those found guilty of their crimes.

With allegations against 380 church leaders in 20 states (a majority of whom were convicted or took plea deals), it’s believed to be the biggest report on sexual abuse among Southern Baptists in the movement’s history. The report confronts the longstanding defense that the organization can only do so much to monitor abuse since affiliated congregations operate autonomously.

Another set of pictures captures a sense of the impact of abusers in Southern Baptist congregations. In response to the investigation, Southern Baptist women and fellow Christians shared childhood photos on Twitter from the age when they first suffered abuse.

Dozens joined a thread started by Living Proof Ministries founder and popular Bible teacher Beth Moore, including advocate and abuse survivor Jules Woodson and other ministry leaders.

Over the past couple years, the #MeToo campaign has raised awareness about abuse within the SBC and galvanized official efforts to improve the denomination’s response. Last December, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram rounded up more than 400 allegations among independent Baptists, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission …

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8 Non-Numerical Ways To Assess The Health Of A Church

Numbers are not the only way to measure church health and effectiveness, especially in smaller churches.

There are healthy churches of all sizes.

In recent years there’s been a renewed emphasis on defining health numerically. But that’s not the only way to measure church health and effectiveness.

In my previous article, Effective Small Church Metrics: Why Average Results Aren’t Typical Results, we saw that statistics, surveys and comparative metrics are not as helpful in assessing small church health as they are in assessing big church health.

So, what’s a small church to do?

Today, we’ll take a look at 8 helpful ways to assess the health and effectiveness of a church without using numbers.

1. Ask “What Should We Be Doing And How Well Are We Doing It?”

Jesus gave us the Great Commandment and Great Commission. That is the mission of every church. But the way one church is called to do that is going to be different than the way another church is called to do that.

Every leader of every church needs to know how their church is fulfilling the Great Commandment and Great Commission within their context.

We must constantly assess the health and effectiveness of the congregation based on the following questions: Are we a worshipping church? A loving church? An evangelistic church? A compassionate church? A discipling church?

But, without a numerical component, how do we assess how well we’re doing those things? That’s what points 2-7 address.

2. Talk To The People In The Church

In the 1980s, Ed Koch, the mayor of New York City, was famous for walking through the streets of Manhattan, asking everyday citizens “how am I doing?”

As you can imagine, he didn’t always hear the answers he wanted, but the fact that he kept asking the question is an important lesson for all leaders. …

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The Imposter Syndrome and Pastoral Ministry

This phenomenon affects many, and pastors may be particularly susceptible.

“You’re a fraud.”

“Everyone’s going to find out…eventually.”

“Just stop, it’s not worth it.”

“What difference do you think you’re actually going to make?”

If you feel like I’ve just read your mind, welcome to the club! You’re officially a member of Imposter Syndrome Anonymous. In fact, since you’ve had these thoughts for a while, you might as well become a lifetime charter member. There’s just one catch—you can’t cancel your membership. It’s kind of like Hotel California: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”

In 1978, researchers Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the phrase—the Imposter Phenomenon—and captured the essence of this very thing that seems to be progressively troubling so many of us. And with our lives increasingly being lived online, along with our follower counts displayed in a showcase for the world to see, this topic is of particular importance. After all, what’s healthier than comparing ourselves to one another in all of our filtered glory?

Although Clance and Imes initially researched how Imposter Syndrome affected high achieving women in a pre-internet and pre-social media world, 40+ years later it’s become quite apparent that this syndrome now affects everyone.

After all, when was the last time you found yourself in a room and felt like you didn’t belong—even though you had the academic credentials, degrees, experience, or whatever else you needed to get in? Or, have you ever wondered when people were going to find out and discover the real you? The you underneath the surface that you’ve hidden away? …

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India: of persecution, politics and prayer

India (MNN) — Vandals in India’s Telangana State burned a church to the ground February 2nd.

This incident is but one of hundreds taking place daily. Although there are 64 million Christians, persecution in India is at its highest level in 70 years, a new report warns. A religious rights watchdog group focused on India, Persecution Relief, noted 477 incidents of violence recorded in 2018, up 37 from the previous year.

The 2019 Open Doors’ World Watch List confirms Persecution Relief’s findings.  The list ranks the top 50 countries in which Christians face the most pressure. India rose to 10th place on the list, having been 28th five years ago.

Bibles For The World’s John Pudaite explains, “India has been a place of persecution for Christians in pockets around the country for many, many years. But now, under the Hindu Nationalist government that has ruled the country since April/May 2014, persecution against Christians has just been more accepted.”

(Screen capture courtesy of Prayercast)

Pudaite blames ultra-nationalism for the increase in violent attacks by Hindu extremists on Christians and churches.

“People can hurt Christians, pastors, burn churches, destroy Christian schools, and they know that they’re not going to get prosecuted by the government, that they’re not going to get arrested—that the thing will just go away”, he explains.

This is due, in part, to the fact that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believes that being a Hindu is part of Indian identity.

A Shift In The Polls

However, their approach to governing the country has not lived up to the promises, and people are fed up. “Last year, there were some state elections and we saw the BJP get unseated from the majority in those states. We’re starting to see things where there are little movements back against the party and a lot of it is because their social and economic policies and programs have not panned out.”

What’s more, since the BJP spent a lot of time and resources shoring up their own power base, “a lot of their campaign platitudes are not playing out and we’re seeing people start to realize this—something that those of us who were always wary of this party had expected from the beginning.”

(Screen capture courtesy of Prayercast)

Here’s what’s at stake: 835 million voters. Since the stinging election defeat in December, the BJP lost  three key states to the opposition party. With the general election expected this spring (date will be announced 45 days in advance), they could lose their grip on power.  Recent polls suggest that, for the first time since 2014, the BJP  does not have a clear majority in the Parliament in the opinion polls.

This has continued to slip in the month of January. Pudaite says, “It actually has slipped to the point that if the other  national and regional parties got together in a coalition government, they would have a majority over the BJP.”

What it means for the upcoming elections? “This is very encouraging as we look at the situation and then we just look at how the persecution of Christians and the difficulties of operating as a Christian ministry have increased over these last four and a half years, that we would love to have a government that is more favorable to the Christians,  or at least neutral.”

Be Cautious, Be Bold

If the general elections are so important, why hasn’t the government announced a date?  It’s a security thing, explains Pudaite.

“The campaign actually gets rather violent as different political activists from the different parties do different things to try to persuade or even block opposing party voters from reaching the polling stations.  They try not to release this information too much in advance.”

Big elections in India involve the military to keep things secure.  It is days of coordination to keep the polling stations open and safeguard the ballots, and organizing 835 million voters across 29 states.

In the days ahead,  he’s asking the body of Christ to join them in praying for Christians in India. Targeted reprisal violence, similar to that seen in Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood fell from grace, is possible.

“I would think that in the next couple months, it’s a time to be very cautious for Christians, but to (also) be very strong. We try not to be very political in our ministry or in our churches in India, but we also try to let them know that ‘you still have the right to vote. There is freedom of religion in this country and we want to uphold things that are in the constitution.’ We want to vote in a party that will uphold those principles.”

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Open Doors.

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New creation series for Syrian refugee kids

Lebanon (MNN) – When life is challenging, often the last ones ministered to are kids. Yet, Pierre Houssney, of Horizons International, explains that many ministries are doubling down on children’s’ ministries.

To Houssney, kids are a vital part of the Church. “They are the future and they are the present of the Church now. And a lot of people have been discussing the four/fourteen window. Which is the age range of four years old to fourteen years old is the window when most people globally come to Christ. So realizing that opportunity so I think a lot of ministries are realizing that.”

A Group of Marginalized Kids

While more literature is being developed for kids, often writers focus on children in a particular economic, geographic, and ethnic group. A group that is very different than the one including refugee kids in Lebanon. In general, there is very little written to serve the needs of underprivileged Muslim children like the ones Horizons serves.

Houssney explains that new curriculum developers often forget these students. “And so when we’re talking serving refugee kids in Lebanon, which is what we do, we’re talking about serving the marginalized of the marginalized.

“Like the refugees themselves are already marginalized, and within that, there are the children that are marginalized. So these are not just semi to illiterate kids, also their parents are illiterate. So, they are the children of illiterate or semi-literate people.”

New Curriculum

With these challenges facing them, the staff at Horizons Kids decided to develop their own curriculum on creation. They wanted to reach the kids where they are at.

Housney says, “It roughly corresponds with the six days of creation and also they did a session for the day of rest, the Sabbath. On each day they are doing a different craft, they’re doing songs about that day. They’re doing teaching time and discussion, and games that relate to that phase of creation so that we’re really hitting the content from a lot of different angles, including the five senses.”

Bringing it Home

These creation lessons have also revolved around Bible memorization. And it is sinking in. Kids are building stores of memorized Scriptures and sharing verses with their families.

“So the refugee parents will hear all these songs and Bible verses that their kids [learn]. And a lot of the parents are just saying, ‘wow there’s a light in our kids that’s different than what we’ve been experiencing in this kind of dark depressing time in our lives since we lost our homes in Syria’ or whatever. And it’s just bringing that light of the Bible into the families by way of the kids experiencing it in many different ways.”

(All photos courtesy of Horizons International)

The fruit of these lessons has been amazing, but over the last month there have been many other challenges.

Storm Norma hit thousands of refugees in the Bequaa Valley, flooding their tents with freezing water. Even as the storm has subsided, many families are still feeling the effects of the storm as winter continues to settle in.

Join the Ministry

Join Horizons International and Horizons Kids. Visit their website to discover how you can join a short-term missions trip, pray for change, or financially support Horizons’ work with refugees.

Please keep Horizons’ workers and Syrian refugees in your prayers. Thank God that despite storm Norma, children with Horizons Kids found rest as they learned about the true Creator. Pray also that families would continue to witness the love of Christ through Horizons International and other groups serving them.

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Relationships: an avenue for changed lives in Lebanon

Lebanon (MNN) – Heart for Lebanon is in the work of leading people from despair to hope through Christ’s love. One of the ways Heart for Lebanon does this is in the Bekaa Valley with its educational program for refugee children. However, this program is impacting more than just the students.

“The impact is on their parents as well. Because at the school we are teaching [students] and we see that their mentality is changing. They came at the beginning with hatred in their hearts. They came with their anger. This is what they used to say before, ‘We want to kill the one who killed us…We want to take revenge’,” Heart for Lebanon’s Bekaa Ministry Coordinator Bashir says.

“Now we’re telling them that forgiveness is the best solution. We’re teaching them about forgiveness. We’re teaching them about reconciliation. We’re teaching them about loving each other.”

Heart for Lebanon’s Camp Programs

The educational program also teaches Bible lessons every week. It is evident how God’s Word is impacting hearts when Heart for Lebanon visits camps. Parents tell Heart for Lebanon workers how since attending the educational program, their children have changed. A daughter is praying before she eats or a son no longer curses and says insults comments. Some parents say their kids have become different people—for the better.

(Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon via Facebook)

Heart for Lebanon has a children’s program in the camps, too. This includes a traveling theater and inflatables—the stuff of kids’ dreams. The program moves through the camps in a truck and also shares Bible lessons, health lessons, and more. When the truck rolls in, parents come with their children to check out the commotion.

“They are interested to hear and to listen because they like what we are giving to the kids. This truck is bringing joy when the team is coming into the camp. This truck is bringing happiness. This is very important,” Bashir says.

Vitality of Relationships

However, work with these refugees did not begin with the programs, but instead with relationships. Bashir explains how neighborly visits, and spending time with people is valued in the Lebanese and Syrian cultures. Neighbors, even unfamiliar ones, typically visit to say hello and check-in with each other.

The Bible studies Heart for Lebanon now leads began when Heart for Lebanon started visiting families in the camps. Heart for Lebanon workers would sit and listen to the Syrians’ stories. For some Syrians in the Bekaa Valley, no one was visiting before Heart for Lebanon came. Heart for Lebanon’s desire to simply sit with and listen to these families spoke louder than words. It showed the Syrians how the Heart for Lebanon workers truly and deeply card for them. Heart for Lebanon’s Christ-like love for these people makes them want to know why and to draw closer to them, even if it means attending a Bible study.

Genuine Love

Make no mistake, though. Heart for Lebanon does not expect people to attend their Bible studies. There are no religious requirements for refugees to receive visits or aid from Heart for Lebanon.

People want someone to ask about them, to show them care, interest, to show them love.

“Here in Lebanon and in Syria, people consider that if someone is not visiting that means he does not like [him]…The best thing for the churches to do, and this is what we’re doing as Heart for Lebanon…is to visit,” Bashir says.

“Sometimes [when] we visit we don’t speak any words, just listen to them. When you are listening to someone, he’s opening his heart, he’s talking about his challenges. He’s talking about His kids who are not at school. He’s talking about his problem with the official papers. He’s talking about [how] he’s not working, his wife is sick. So, sometimes we plan to talk and to share, but God stops us from speaking, and He reminds us that we have to listen, care for them, for the needs of the families. When we listen to the needs, we pray at the end of the visit.”

Join in God’s Work

(Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon)

Heart for Lebanon workers visit with Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley nearly every day. God is working through Heart for Lebanon’s obedience and love to manifest himself and his heart to people who have lost so much because of war. It’s clear He’s as work in this place.

“[God] said without me, you cannot do anything. He said also, the harvest is plentiful. We see clearly that the harvest in Lebanon is plentiful, and this is why we are working. We want to harvest, and we want Him to be using us to harvest because the fields are ready for the harvest. We thank God for this opportunity,” Bashir says.

Will you join Heart for Lebanon in living out God’s commands to love your neighbor and to care for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner?

If the answer is yes, Bashir says prayer is the first priority. Pray for Heart for Lebanon’s ministry. Pray God would continue to lead them and bless their work. Also, pray for the families Heart for Lebanon serves. Ask God to heal these people and to bring them into a relationship with Him.

Another way to help is by providing financial resources however God guides you to do so.

To give, click here.

Learn more about Heart for Lebanon’s ministry here!

 

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon.

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Beautiful feet: A story of medical missions

As a surgeon, our friend Dr. Paul Osteen spends several months each year doing medical missions in Africa. Through this work, he and his family witness God’s miracles of healing performed by compassionate believers: the hands and feet of Christ on earth.

This is the story of one of those miracles.

*     *     *

Each year, I spend a few months serving at Christian hospitals located in remote parts of Africa. I go to relieve long-term missionary surgeons so they can have a break from the exhausting pace and go back to their home countries to see their families and friends.

Several years ago, I was working at a small mission hospital on the banks of the Zambezi River in far western Zambia. Late one cold winter night, we were in the theater [operating room] doing an emergency surgery when there was a knock on the door. Through the glass, we could see Gift — the nurse on duty — and the urgency in his eyes. He told us that a young lady had come to the hospital needing our immediate attention.

She lived in one of the many small villages on the other side of the Zambezi River. Several days earlier, she’d had a miscarriage and was suffering from continuous bleeding. She had lost so much blood that she was barely able to stand and was much too weak to walk. She was in desperate need of help.

Her concerned family and friends loaded her onto the back of an ox cart, and after journeying for several hours through deep sandy paths, they made it to the river long after dark. They then lifted her into a small dugout canoe and paddled across the crocodile-infested waters. After making it safely to the other side, they carried her on a makeshift stretcher up the steep bank and another kilometer to the hospital.

After news of her arrival, I finished my surgery and quickly went to assess her. She was wet — shivering — and in shock. She was so pale. Her hemoglobin, which should be 12 to 15 grams, was a mere 3 grams. Her blood pressure was unrecordable. Gift took a sample of her blood to find a cross-match for a blood transfusion.

I remember so vividly that she had no shoes on her feet, and her feet were calloused and scarred from her daily life of toil. Every crevice and ridge on the soles of her feet were darkly stained with soil. In the bright light, the contrast of her pale skin and the swirling dark patterns made her feet look beautiful — almost like a work of art.

By then, the operating theater was clean and ready, so we moved her to the table and covered her with as many blankets as we could find. Julie Rachel, one of the long-term nurses, skillfully started two IV lines. Allison, another nurse, helped Kyombo, who works in the theater, quickly get the instruments ready. Victor and the lab team brought us three units of blood. We squeezed two units of blood in as fast as it would run and then hung the third one to slowly drip in.

Then I performed an operation to stop her bleeding. Within an hour, her blood pressure had come up to 100 mmHg. She was now dry, warm, and no longer pale.

As we waited, I couldn’t help but reflect on what I had witnessed. A young lady who was desperately ill and so far from medical care. Her concerned family and friends who risked their lives to get her help. Gift quickly and accurately assessing her condition. Victor, who had left his home on this cold night to make sure she had blood. Kyombo and Allison, tired from working all day, never hesitating to help.

Now her blood pressure was normal, the bleeding had stopped, and the blankets were piled on top of her. She was surrounded by people who had compassionately and expertly cared for her. And it was all in the name of and for the sake of Jesus Christ — our Lord and Savior. There is no doubt in my mind that this greatly pleases his heart.

A few days later, she crossed the Zambezi again in the small dugout canoe. She trekked hours through the sandy paths back to her village. She smiled broadly as she was embraced by grateful family and friends. And she wore no shoes on her beautiful feet as she made her journey home.

This story would have had a different ending if it wasn’t for the committed and faithful men and women who said “yes” to God’s call and give their lives to help those who are sick, hurting, and in desperate need.

Like the people at this small mission hospital on the banks of the Zambezi River, I have witnessed — in every country I travel — the people of World Vision out in remote places working to improve the lives of children, mothers, and fathers. The caring, godly men and women of World Vision truly are the hands and feet of Jesus to people in need around the world.

These hands supported more than 18 million children with better health and nutrition in 2016 and 2017. They handed out almost 13 million bed nets to prevent malaria in 2017. And their voices in 2017 counseled almost 400,000 pregnant mothers and caregivers of young children about nutrition and infectious diseases.

This dedication to being Jesus’s hands and feet to the world is why I love World Vision. I wholeheartedly support their programs because I’ve seen these hands at work, and I’ve witnessed the impact they make for millions of children worldwide, including more than 30,000 children that have been sponsored through Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen Ministries’ Night of Hope events. I encourage you to support these programs too.

World Vision’s compassion for people in need and dedication to healthcare is why I am proud to partner with them at the Mobilizing Medical Missions (M3) Conference in Houston next month. Through my experiences in the mission field, God moved my family and I to start this conference, bringing together healthcare professionals to help meet pressing global healthcare needs. Learn more about the next M3 Conference on Feb. 22-23.

You can also meet with representatives from World Vision at Joel Osteen Ministries and Lakewood Church’s Night of Hope events. Learn more about Night of Hope.

Dr. Paul Osteen is a general and vascular surgeon, and he serves with his wife, Jennifer Osteen RN, and their family four to five months each year providing surgical care and education to remote and under-resourced countries in sub-Saharan Africa. When not abroad, he serves on the pastoral staff at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

The post Beautiful feet: A story of medical missions appeared first on World Vision.

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Love breaks through in Lebanon

Churches and ministries in the Middle East are embracing Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger, as more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees seek safety outside their war-torn home country. In Lebanon, despite a history of resentment and conflict between the neighboring nations, many Lebanese churches are providing critical social care and a powerful witness to the inclusive and transforming love of Jesus Christ.

When Fatima*, 41, and her children arrived in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in 2013, she felt defeated by the sight of small, shabby tents and detached latrines lined up alongside agricultural fields. “Who would live here?” she wondered aloud. Her taxi driver answered dispassionately, “You are going to live here.”

Back home in Syria, Fatima had run a successful tailoring business, which she’d started in her mid-20s after her husband’s death left her to provide for three young children. As a child, she dropped out of school to care for her siblings, but as an adult, she studied alongside her son for a ninth-grade entrance exam — and she passed. However, her most brutal trial has been surviving the horrors of war in Syria.

Two years into the conflict, militants attacked Fatima’s village of Idlib, killing eight of her relatives. They shot and killed her 14-year-old daughter — as she watched in helpless terror — then set her house ablaze. Fatima fled with her two surviving children and only the clothes on their backs.

For the past five years, Fatima has lived in a tent with her now 15-year-old daughter, 19-year-old son, and her son’s wife. She sleeps on cushions covering the cement floor and tries to keep rain from leaking in under the tarpaulin walls. It is a drastic downgrade from life in Idlib, where her family owned three houses.

And yet she radiates cheerfulness. “Even though I live in a tent in poor conditions, I am happy,” she says.

“Anytime people come, they say, ‘Why are you happy?’ and I say, ‘It’s the church.’” 

Churches easing the burden

The Bekaa Valley, just over the border from Syria, became a destination for fleeing families like Fatima’s soon after the Syrian civil war began in 2011. One pastor, Miled, rallied his congregation to reach out with food, diapers, and blankets. Today, with support from World Vision, his church provides ongoing care for families in nearby tent settlements and runs two learning centers for refugee children.

…As a church, you can’t build walls around you. You have to reach out to the community.—Pastor Miled

Fatima heard there was a church helping refugees, but she was reluctant to go visit. “I had heard all bad things about Christians,” she explains. Instead, Miled visited her with a food parcel and an invitation to come to church. Once there, the Christians she met were caring and compassionate. Their help came with no strings — only a welcome mat.

Miled and his congregation have come alongside Fatima in practical ways, such as providing food and helping her start a sewing class to share her expertise. But they’ve also extended hospitality, friendship, and acceptance. The church is now a vital part of her life.

“Here in Lebanon, Muslims come to us, and we don’t hesitate to help them,” says Miled. “As a church, you can’t build walls around you. You have to reach out to the community.”

He continues, “A lot of the people served by the church asked, ‘What do you get from caring for us?’ We said, ‘Our only goal is to ease your burden.’ We never told anyone, ‘You have to go to church.’”

As Fatima got to know church members, cultural barriers broke down. She and Miled became close friends. He now calls her “my sister.”

Love never fails

A few years ago, Fatima expressed a desire to start a sewing class to train other refugee women. With support from Miled’s church, along with World Vision and MERATH, the relief arm of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, she outfitted a one-room tent with sewing machines, tables, and chairs, and began teaching two groups of women: one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Some students started with no skills at all, but collectively the women became so proficient that they secured a contract to sew school uniforms for local children.

Through this business, Fatima is able to support her family, including her grandson named after Miled. She has a purpose. And thanks to the church, she also has peace.

“The pastor reinforced the idea that we must pray for our enemies,” says Fatima, who now prays for her daughter’s killers.

“I learned the meaning of love and mercy,” she says. “He taught me to forgive others. Now I have peace.”

Fatima also has the support of a church full of Christians who love her. “Love never fails you,” Miled says. “If you love honestly, an enemy will turn into a friend.”

Welcoming the stranger

Fatima’s story is only one example of how Lebanese churches and ministries are following Christ on the front lines of the Syrian refugee crisis. Since 2016, World Vision has partnered with churches and Christian groups in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq through an initiative called Equipping Churches to Serve Refugees.

These partners witness to God’s love through the simple acts Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25: feeding, clothing, comforting, and caring. But following Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger hasn’t always come easy.

In the beginning, the refugees’ presence was emotionally overwhelming for Christians like Maher el Hajj, Youth for Christ’s national director in Lebanon. Many Lebanese regarded Syrians with distrust and resentment. Following the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990, Syrian military dominated the peacekeeping force that remained in the divided country until 2005. Most Lebanese objected to what they regarded as a Syrian occupation.

Maher clearly remembers the years when Syrian soldiers roamed Lebanon’s streets, even beating and jailing his friends.

“I wasn’t ready to deal with the hate, the anger, the bitterness I had from when I was growing up,” he says. “But the reality of the gospel is very black and white.”

He couldn’t deny Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 — “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

As he struggled and prayed, the Holy Spirit began to work in his heart.

In 2013, he persuaded the ministry’s leadership to intentionally engage refugee youth, launching a groundbreaking program to serve Lebanese and Syrian youth together.

With funding from World Vision, Maher opened a new youth center in Bourj Hammoud, a densely packed, ethnically mixed neighborhood in Beirut. The center is called Manara, meaning lighthouse in Arabic, and it is that — a bright spot amid narrow streets and shabby buildings, some still marked with bullet holes from the war. The center provides recreation, informal education, psychosocial support, performing arts, vocational training, and special holiday events, all in a welcoming and inclusive environment.

Bible studies are also available for those who express interest.

Maher says the programs were designed in response to a United Nations report on Syrian refugees that found high percentages of youth out of school, feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and considering suicide.

“We know as Christians, our hope is in Christ. If I have hope in Christ, I have a goal, a purpose,” he explains. “The main purpose is reconciling the youth to God and reconciling to each other.”

Life in Christ

“There is something happening,” says Rev. Hikmat Kashouh, pastor of Resurrection Church Beirut. “Christ is revealing himself in this crisis.” Churches can be a driving force in what God is doing, he says, if only they embrace the opportunity.

Ever since Syrian refugees began flowing into Lebanon in 2011, Resurrection Church has provided food vouchers, counseling programs for adults, and education classes for children. The church helps newcomers feel like they fit in this community, despite their different backgrounds. Now, 70 percent of the people in the congregation are refugees.

Christ is revealing himself in this crisis.—Rev. Hikmat Kashouh, pastor of Resurrection Church Beirut

One Sunday, Hikmat preached on Psalm 23, describing a loving Shepherd who helps us through our trials.

“If you hear a voice that says you are useless, it’s not the voice of Jesus,” Hikmat said. “You are most precious. The Shepherd gave his life for you. You are the guest of honor at a feast that never ends.”

After the service, Adnan*, a young Syrian father, says, “I met God in this church.” He fled Aleppo with his wife and two daughters about five years ago, and now they live in a small apartment in Bourj Hammoud. His wife started attending church services first, and he followed, intrigued by the changes in her. “This is the life in Christ,” he says with wonder.

As churches learn to love all people, children do too

Adnan’s children attend Resurrection Church’s learning support program, which is partly funded and equipped by World Vision. The classrooms abound with cheerful color — seasonal decorations, children’s art tacked to the walls, and a padded floor mat with a multicolored jigsaw pattern. Four teachers and several church volunteers work with 60 students, ranging in age from 5 to 12, as they study math and learn to read and write in Arabic, English, and French.

In Lebanon, churches help fill a worrisome gap in refugee children’s education.

More than half of school-age Syrian children in Lebanon aren’t attending classes.

Some of this is due to capacity; refugees make up roughly one-quarter of the population, and the strain on infrastructure is intense. Some is due to hostility: many kids drop out because of bullying, and others don’t meet language requirements since Syrian schools don’t teach in the same languages as Lebanese schools. Some children already weren’t in school when the war broke out, and in the chaos of displacement, they’ve fallen further behind academically.

Adnan’s daughter Yana*, 10, attends education classes five days a week at the church. She had to drop out of a local school because the extra fees were too much for Adnan, who doesn’t have consistent work.

“My day would be harder without school,” Yana says. “At home, there’s nothing to do,” She enjoys playing at the center, learning from the kind teachers, and studying multiple languages. The Bible stories, values-based teaching, and Hikmat’s model are teaching her one of the most important lessons of all. “I [have] learned to love all people and help them,” says Yana.

Unconditional love is a breakthrough theme that reaches people of all backgrounds and faith and redirects their lives.

*Names changed to protect identity.

What you can do

  • Learn more about the Syrian refugee crisis. Because of the Syrian civil war, 5.6 million people have fled Syria as refugees, putting a strain on the region’s ability to cope, and another 6.2 million people are displaced within Syria.
  • Join us in praying for Syria, whose people are enduring their eighth year of civil war. Syrians desperately hope for peace, and children shouldn’t have to grow up in a war zone.
  • Give a gift to help bring hope to refugee children. Together, we can show God’s love to the most vulnerable in their hour of greatest need — and make a lasting difference.

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Literacy rates are improving in Nepal

Do you remember your favorite book when you were learning to read as a child? Visualize it. It probably had bright, colorful pictures to illustrate the story. Likely your parents read it to you before bed, or you curled up to engross yourself in it in a cozy reading corner of your elementary school classroom with beanbag chairs or plush carpet.

But what if you didn’t have a book like that? Or what if you did but your parents couldn’t read it to you? This is often the reality for children growing up in Nepal. Children have school books that are black and white text and don’t have pictures and colors to engage their senses, and they often don’t have access to storybooks. This has a long-term impact, as only 59.63 percent of adults in Nepal are literate — only 48.84 percent for women.

This was the reality for Jhalak, a third-grade student living in Sindhuli, eastern Nepal. He struggled to even read his own name, and many of his friends couldn’t either. Because of the importance of literacy and struggles with it around the world, World Vision began a program to boost literacy and increase reading rates.

There are three main ways World Vision helps to do this: training teachers with more engaging methods, establishing reading camps outside of schools, and helping parents create a nurturing environment at home that encourages reading. The result? In two years, children who participated in the program read 1.5 times better than children who didn’t participate. Nationally, the stats are all moving in the right direction:

  • Children who can read with comprehension by sixth grade has increased by 8.1 percent.
  • First grade promotion rates have increased from 78.4 percent in 2014 to 83.1 percent in 2016.
  • Enrollment rates for sixth through eighth grades increased from 74.6 percent to 80.2 percent in two years.
  • Children ages 5 to 12 who are out of school has dropped from 15 percent in 2014 to 11.3 percent.

Because of people like you who have given to World Vision’s programs, literacy rates are improving across Nepal. Here’s how the program works that’s making it happen.

Improving classrooms

The first part of the program focuses on providing training and materials for teachers to help them better engage children in learning and reading.

World Vision helped train 51 teachers from 20 schools in the Sindhuli district with more creative methods of teaching. Dipak Raj Pokhrel serves as the principal of Shree Mangala School and noted the change in his school after World Vision’s programming help.

“The entire concept of teaching and learning has changed here,” he says. “Now students are taught through interesting approaches such as singing, dancing, and playing.”

One student, Ganga, says, “I like it when I get to sing and dance in the class. I do not feel like I am studying.”

Yet Ganga is learning and showing great signs of improvement through the new teaching methods. Her teacher, Shanta Dahal, says, “Ganga used to be a slower learner in the beginning. She had difficulty learning and memorizing new words, but now she is learning fast after we began teaching her through songs, dance, and games.”

“We only get to see attractive, colorful books in expensive private schools . . . ,” Shanta says. “Because of this, the children also felt discouraged at times. Moreover, the children who come to this school are usually from poor families who cannot afford to pay fees of expensive private schools. But now, with all these new books and learning materials, we feel as if our school is no less than any private school. The quality of education has improved for sure.”

Dipak has noticed a measurable difference across all the classes as well.

“The learning ability and speed of students [learning] has really improved,” he says. “Their grades are gradually improving too.”

During an event at the school, Yadav Prasad Acharya, section officer from the ministry of education, visited and was impressed with the changes he saw.

“A building is only the body of the school, but the real soul is the learning process,” Yadav says. “I am happy World Vision has supported not only the body but also the soul of this school by enhancing the learning process through child-friendly teaching initiatives.”

Reading camps

On the other side of the country in Kailali district, 9-year-old Prem and his parents were visiting his cousins in a neighboring community. But upon arriving, Prem suddenly realized it was Saturday. He had to leave. He asked his cousin to borrow a bike, and he rode all the way back home — so he could attend reading camp.

Reading camps are the second component of the program and provide another space for children to practice reading and further learn outside the formal school environment. Volunteer teachers lead children in songs, drawing, and other activities all designed to help them learn to read. Kids can also make resources to take home that will help them practice learning their letters and words.

Prem doesn’t enjoy attending school, but he loves attending reading camp. So every Saturday, he spends 90 minutes at the program learning from Raj Kumari, the facilitator.

“Even when the 90-minute class finishes, they want to stay more and learn more,” Raj says. “We usually have to stay for a longer time.”

She says when the program started, she had about five students attending, and now she has about 30. Hers is one of more than 442 reading camps across the country. In Kailali alone, more than 2,300 children participate.

Now Prem regularly brings home drawings to decorate his family’s house, and he often teaches his father, Dipendra, the songs he learns at reading camp.

“He can read better; he can draw better,” Dipendra says. “ . . . I am very happy with the changes in him.”

Back in Sindhuli, since 2016, more than 780 children like Jhalak have participated in reading camps. There, he learned how to pronounce words and how to write them from a volunteer teacher named Dor Kumari.

“My reading camp teacher is very loving and patient,” Jhalek says. “I used to be embarrassed when someone would ask me to read, but I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Reading corners

Dor, Raj, and other reading camp teachers spend a lot of time not only with the kids but also educating the whole community to become involved in children’s learning. Each month, the camp teachers meet with parents and formal teachers to discuss how children are improving at school and suggest ways to continue fostering it. 

Teachers have conducted more than 150 reading awareness workshops to help parents better understand how to promote literacy at home.

One of those ways is the third component of the program: reading corners in children’s homes. These corners are designated spaces where children can study, practice reading, and where parents can spend time with them and encourage their learning. It gives the children spaces where they can hang the resources they receive and projects they make at reading camp to create a consistent study space. In Sindhuli, families created more than 140 reading corners to bolster learning at home. Jhalak’s mom, Chitra Kumari, saw a difference in her children after creating a reading corner.

“It has been very beneficial, as my children love to study surrounded by interesting reading materials that they can point to and read,” she says. “I try to sit with Jhalak and his sister every evening when they are studying in the reading corner.

“In a matter of months, their reading skills have improved. I am very proud of my son.”

And Jhalak isn’t a one-off example. On top of the national stats, in Jhalak’s district alone, the number of children who can read with comprehension by sixth grade has improved from 56.4 percent in 2014 to 71.4 percent in 2016. And numbers are similar in Prem’s community as well, going from 33.3 percent in 2014 to 49.4 percent in 2017.

As this literacy programming continues, more children will come to cherish the joy of reading and the opportunities it presents as they grow up.

 

Barun Bajracharya and Nissi Thapa of World Vision’s staff in Nepal contributed to this story.

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PTEE’s fundraiser yields surprising results

Jordan (MNN) – Program for Theological Education by Extension recently had a matching gift fundraiser called “Advancing the Kingdom”. Through the fundraiser, PTEE raised $25,800 combined with a matched $25,000 for a grand total of $50,800 raised. Ever wonder how your donations are used? PTEE is spilling the details.

“Those funds mostly will be used to support the students. PTEE, one of our commitments is to make theological education accessible and affordable. So, the average student pays maybe $10 to take a three-credit, twelve-week PTEE course. But obviously, PTEE has greater expenses; administration expenses and overhead. So, those funds really are used to make the classes affordable by covering the costs of registration, administration, all the bookkeeping, things that students don’t have to pay for,” PTEE’s Kris Kuhlman says.

As part of the conditions for the matching gift, PTEE needed to reach 50 new donors during the fundraiser. They reached 51. But, prior to the fundraiser, PTEE spent 50 days in prayer. Each day, they prayed the Lord’s work in their a new donor’s life.

“The giving base for PTEE is very small. We have maybe 20 individual donors that give throughout the year. So, to get fifty new donors was really a challenge, but we committed it to prayer, committed it to the Lord,” Kuhlman says.

Fundraiser: About More Than Numbers

Another exciting fact about the donations is not the amount raised, but that 33 percent of the donations came from the Arab community.

(Photo courtesy of PTEE)

“For the first time the Arab church was investing in a program [where] our vision is to strengthen and grow the Arab church. So, for us, that is exciting…that the Arabs now are seeing the value of this and willing to be partners in this work,” Kuhlman explains.

PTEE provides theological education by extension. This education model allows pastors and church leaders to gain a theological education without leaving their families, their communities, or their churches.

“We hear from so many students; they’re taking a course, perhaps in Christian education or counseling or stewardship, and they are applying what they’re learning immediately to their ministry, to their Sunday school teaching, even giving in their own church. So, we are really committed to this idea of learning in context and immediate application of what students are learning,” Kuhlman says.

Trusting God’s Timing

On a different note, what PTEE learned through the fundraising process has been invaluable. Through the waiting, the organization trusted in God and to wait for His timing. Kuhlman originally thought PTEE had not met its financial goal. But, a pleasant surprise awaited the PTEE team when they returned from Christmas break to find a generous gift from a final donor.

“I think He really wanted us to see that yes, we want to do our best effort and do things well, but that ultimately it needs to come back to trusting Him, having faith, and being willing to accept that if we don’t meet those goals, that is still His goodness and His love that He does not change,” Kuhlman shares.

Kuhlman says they also experienced how the value of the donations did not come from only the dollar amount given, but the individual who chose to support PTEE’s work. With each new donor came a person who was now aware of PTEE’s Kingdom work and investing in supporting the Arab Church.

As PTEE continues to serve God by serving the Church, pray for PTEE’s future projects. Pray for those who PTEE serves, their work, and for their safety. Pray PTEE would continue to be supported in a way that allows church leaders to gain an affordable theological education.

Partner with PTEE here!

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Program for Theological Education by Extension.

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Katalyst Training to Encourage Youth Leaders in Near East

Lebanon (MNN) – This weekend youth leaders from all over the Near East will gather together to be encouraged and challenged through Katalyst regional training. This training event will focus on providing resources and skills to people who work with high school to college-aged youth.

Healing and Training

Katalyst is organized by Near East Initiatives (NEI) in conjunction with a wider network of ministries involved in the area. Jane, a worker with Cry Out prayer ministry and NEI, explains that this training is not only to provide new resources, but to offer hope to leaders in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.

“Many of these are actually living in difficult cities, either cities that have faced war because of the violence in Syria or cities that just constantly experience oppression and struggle.

(All photos courtesy of Katalyst)

“So, we’re hoping this time would be multi-faceted. That it would be a time for some of those workers on the front lines to get away from the front lines and have a time of rest and restoration, a time of being refreshed by the Spirit of God. A time of receiving healing, as well, in their hearts and in their minds. As well as them being trained up in more different dimensions of youth outreach, youth work, [and] how to reach young people in this region, in this season.”

A Battle for the Youth

Jane explains that reaching young people in this area of the world can be especially difficult. Christian workers stand in opposition to terrorist and rebel organizations that prey on enthusiastic youth to promote their cause.

Instead, Christian youth leaders seek to harness the passion of these young people for the mission of the true God. Theirs is a message in stark contrast to groups that try in vain to earn God’s approval through works.

And God is using Christians who love this vulnerable age group to bring youth to faith. Jane explains that more than any other message, young people in the Near East need to hear of Christ’s love.

Pray for the Event

As the weekend approaches, Jane asks for prayer.

“I think what I would love people to take away, is there are people that are intentional about reaching out to young people, about bringing them into the kingdom, about discipling them to be passionate followers of Jesus and not passionate followers of other theories and other extremist opinions. But also to pray for these workers amongst the young people because it’s also hard work. They need our prayer, they need our encouragement.”

Thank God that He is working in the Near East through passionate youth workers. Pray that the Katalyst event would be both a time of refreshment and an event that motivates youth workers to go back to their cities and preach the Gospel to young people.

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Nigeria: Boko Haram violence on upswing

Nigeria (MNN) – Boko Haram attacks have significantly worsened in Northern Nigeria over the last three weeks.  The United Nations said that over 30,000 people fled to Cameroon amid fears of renewed attacks by militants, following last week’s assault.

Voice of the Martyrs Canada spokesman Greg Musselman describes Monday’s attack. “You had 60 people killed in that village of Rann up in Borno, which is in the northeast part of Nigeria, predominantly the Muslim north.  You’ve got situations where these guys are coming in and they’re causing all havoc.”

When it comes to inspiring panic, these jihadists have established a fearsome reputation. This attack came two weeks after Boko Haram had overrun the same town, starting with a military base.

“The military was actually there, and when Boko Haram came to attack, they abandoned. This is supposedly a group (the Boko Haram) that has supposedly been defeated, according to the Nigerian government. Of course, that is not true.”

The extremists then set fire to the refugee camps nearby.

Boko Haram Defeated?

That incident came a day after a similar attempt to take over a separate military base not far from Borno’s capital, Maiduguri. It also calls into question the government’s claims, says Musselman. “You’ve got an election year in Nigeria and they are going to cause more trouble. The fact that they are supposedly defeated, they are saying ‘no, we’re not and we’re going to continue to raise havoc.’”

What’s more, Boko Haram is not only digging in, but they’re also expanding.

“They have a stronghold up in the North, but they’ve also been coming into the Middle Belt—that’s some of the areas that I’ve been recently in, talking to the Christians and the other s there that are feeling the attacks by the Boko Haram, and also the Fulani herdsmen. But their desire is to continue to go south and eventually, take the whole country.”

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

Could this armed extremist group succeed in making Nigeria an Islamic State?  Musselman says they’ve already taken steps toward that possibility.

“In their mind, maybe they think it can. They’re also linking with groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, so they’re very dangerous. One of the things that I think people need to understand is that you cannot defeat an ideology. They may even change their name and become something else.”

There are also numerous splinter groups such as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a deadly group which broke away from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, vying for power. ISIS has also forged links with other militant groups across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Along the way, anyone who doesn’t agree with their purpose is at risk, he explains. “Just the fact that they are followers of Christ, they’re not Islamic.  They are targeted, as are their Muslim neighbors if they would stand up for the Christians.”

As the pressure intensifies, so too, does the search for hope.

“The Gospel continues to make advances in Northern Nigeria.  Many people are coming to know Jesus in a personal way, but this is a battle that is raging on. Sometimes, Christians are directly targeted, churches are burned down, (and) Christian businesses are destroyed.”

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

More Violence To Come

After a brief lull in attacks, Musselman expects a storm for Nigeria’s believers in the days ahead.

“This really is a spiritual battle. We have to remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in situations like Nigeria, that God would just break in, in a strong way, and that these people who are opposing the Gospel would turn their hearts toward Jesus.”

To that end, VOM-Canada offers this prayer and invites you to join them:

May God minister great comfort and healing to all who have been injured or bereaved as a result of the militants’ brutal attacks. In addition, pray for the remaining abducted Chibok schoolgirls, that they will be assured of the Lord’s abiding presence as they await release from captivity. Continue to uphold President Buhari and other members of the Nigerian government as they make further attempts to rescue the remaining girls and provide protection for vulnerable citizens. As they persevere in their endeavors to overcome terrorism, may they be granted wisdom, courage, strength and help from on high.

 

 

Stock photo for headline courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

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Effective Small Church Metrics: Why Average Results Aren’t Typical Results

Statistics, surveys and comparative metrics are not as helpful in assessing small church health as they are in assessing big church health.

One of the challenges of pastoring in a small church is that there’s nothing typical (or normal) about anything we do.

Our schedule, our skill-set, our facilities (or lack of), our staff (or lack of), our salary (or… you get the idea…). None of it is typical.

Our friends and colleagues in big churches are able to collect information, assess data and find numbers that help them understand what a healthy church looks like statistically, but those metrics fall apart as churches get smaller.

Here’s why.

The Big/Small Difference

Imagine that a collection of large churches sends in their data for assessment. It might be discovered that they have 35-45 percent of their offerings going to salaries, and 50-60 percent of their weekend worshippers involved in small groups on average. If so, almost all the healthy churches surveyed might fall within those parameters, and if they’re outside them, it will only be by a percentage or two. If they’re WAY outside them? That’s a sign of imbalance and ill-health.

In healthy big churches, average numbers will be typical numbers.

On the other hand, if you collected the data from a bunch of small churches, the averages might show 50-60 percent of their offerings going to salaries and 30-40 percent of their weekend worshippers involved in small groups. (These numbers are used as examples, not based on actual satistics). But that won’t tell you what a typical healthy small church looks like.

Instead of most of the small healthy churches landing within those narrow ranges, as we saw in bigger churches, healthy small church percentages will land all over a much wider range.

Healthy small churches can have a pastoral salary range from zero percent to 80 percent …

Continue reading

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Venezuela crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Venezuela is in crisis. The economy has collapsed, and an uprising of political opposition to President Nicolas Maduro has put the country’s leadership in question. More than 3 million Venezuelans — 5,500 per day in 2018 — have left the country seeking food, work, and a better life.

Latin America’s largest migration in recent years is driven by hyperinflation, violence, and food and medicine shortages stemming from recent years of political turmoil. Once-eradicated diseases like cholera and malaria have returned, and children increasingly are dying of causes related to hunger and malnutrition.

An estimated more than 1.5 million people have settled in Colombia; nearly 700,000 in Peru; nearly 280,000 in Ecuador; and Brazil, Chile, and Argentina are each hosting 100,000 Venezuelans or more. About 290,000 Venezuelans have settled in the United States and more than 200,000 in Spain, according to the U.N. International Organization on Migration.

While the influx from Venezuela has caused tensions in host countries, it also has brought out their hospitable spirit. Still, needs among families in transition are great. And forecasts for 2019 show the number of displaced people may increase to more than 5 million. World Vision staff in neighboring countries are helping.

History of the Venezuela crisis

1920s to 1970s – Oil is discovered in Venezuela, which is found to have the world’s largest reserves. The nation’s economic development is based on rising prices and profits in oil exports.

1980s to 1990s – Global oil prices fall; Venezuela’s economy contracts. The country faces massive debt.

1998 – Hugo Chavez, former leader of a 1992 coup attempt, is elected president. He promises to use the country’s oil wealth to improve the lives of the poor.

2000s – Chavez expands social services, but corruption is rampant, and a steady decline in oil production reduces oil reserves and increases government debt.

2010 to 2012 – Chavez’ attempts at economic reform – currency devaluation and price controls – are ineffective.

2013 – After 14 years of rule, Chavez dies of cancer at age 58. Chosen successor Vice President Nicolás Maduro assumes the presidency and narrowly wins an election. With inflation at more than 50 percent a year, the National Assembly gives Maduro emergency powers for a year, beginning in November.

2014 – Public spending is curtailed because of low oil prices. Anti-government protests are broken up with force.

2015 – The opposition Democratic Unity Party wins control of the National Assembly, ending 16 years of Socialist Party rule.

2016 –  The economy is in crisis, and the healthcare system lacks funding. Hunger and malnutrition, maternal and child mortality, infectious diseases, and unemployment are increase alarmingly.

2017 – Maduro’s government creates a new legislative body, which usurps constitutional legislative function. Crackdowns in response to anti-government protests leave more than 100 dead.

May 2018 – Maduro wins the presidency again in a low-turnout election that was seen by many countries as fraudulent because of low participation by opposition parties.

August 2018 — To tackle hyperinflation, the government slashes five zeroes from the face value of its old currency and ties the new “sovereign bolivar” to a cryptocurrency that can’t be traded.

November 2018 — The U.N. estimates 3 million Venezuelans have migrated because of the poor economy and shortages in food and medical care.

2019 – Maduro is sworn in for his second six-year term. As opposition leader and head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declares himself to be interim president according to the constitution. He is recognized as such by the U.S., Canada, and Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors.

FAQs: What you need to know about the Venezuela migration crisis

Explore frequently asked questions about what’s happening in Venezuela, why people are fleeing, and how you can help those affected.

Fast facts: Venezuela crisis

  • Years of economic and political instability in Venezuela have caused the largest population outflow in Latin America in recent years, the United Nations migration organization says.
  • More than 3 million Venezuelans have left the country seeking food, work, and a better life since 2014.
  • Child malnutrition has reached crisis levels in Venezuela, the U.N. children’s agency recently reported.
  • Because Venezuela’s health system has collapsed, diseases such as measles, diphtheria, and malaria, that were once eradicated, are now spreading, and even spilling over national boundaries as Venezuelans migrate.
  • Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, surpassing even those of Saudi Arabia.
  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 10 million percent in 2019.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Who and how many people are affected by this crisis?

Venezuelans from every walk of life are affected by the crisis. More than 3 million have left the country to find work, food, better healthcare, and stability. Estimates suggest between 4 and 8 million Venezuelans have left their homes since 2014.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Why are people leaving the country?

Most Venezuelans are leaving home because the effects of years of hyperinflation, violence, and food and medicine shortages have become unbearable. The country was once considered the richest in Latin America, thanks to having the largest oil reserves in the world. But more than a decade of declining oil revenue and poor governance for over a decade mean the national economy collapsed, and the government has not been able to provide adequate social services.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Where are Venezuelans going?

Most people are going to neighboring countries, including an estimated more than 1.5 million to Colombia, 698,000 to Peru, 103,000 to Brazil, and 278,000 to Ecuador. As many as 290,000 Venezuelans have settled in the U.S. and more than 200,000 in Spain.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How is the Venezuela crisis affecting children?

Children are among the most vulnerable in this crisis. As food stocks dwindle, they are at greater risk of hunger and death. And they face greater danger of exploitation and harm while in transit with their fleeing families. An estimated 460,000 children who have left Venezuela with their families need immediate humanitarian aid according to World Vision staff leading our response to the crisis. Girls often face gender-based violence and greater risk of trafficking in fluid, mass-migration situations like the Venezuela crisis.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

What’s the difference between a migrant, a refugee, and an asylum seeker?

A migrant is different than a refugee. But either can seek asylum outside their country. The United Nations Refugee Agency explains: “Refugees are forced to flee to save their lives or preserve their freedom. ‘Migrant’ describes any person who moves, usually across an international border, to join family members already abroad, to search for a livelihood, to escape a natural disaster, or for a range of other reasons. Refugees are protected by international law. But migrants are subject to the unique laws and processes of the country they move to.

Asylum-seekers can be refugees or migrants. But while asylum-seekers officially apply for long-term legal protections and status in the country they flee to, refugees enjoy more short-term protections and status. Unregistered migrants do not necessarily receive the same protections or legal benefits in their host country.

The Venezuela crisis consists mostly of migrants and some refugees fleeing threats of violence, but hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have received legal asylum in their new host countries.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How is World Vision responding to the Venezuela crisis?

World Vision staff in countries throughout the Andean region began working in 2018 to address the needs of Venezuelan refugees.

  • In Colombia, we are helping about 40,000 people with health, food, economic empowerment, and educational programming.
  • In Ecuador, we provide hygiene kits and workshops in child protection and economic empowerment.
  • Our staff in Peru is working with about 56,000 Venezuelans to provide health, hygiene, food services, and prepaid cash cards to help them cover basic needs upon arrival in Peru.
  • In Brazil, our staff is working to set up Child-Friendly Spaces for migrant children and help facilitate Venezuelans who are registering for documentation. Child-Friendly Spaces give children in difficult living conditions a place to play, learn, and receive psychosocial care.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

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How World Vision provides access to clean water around the world

For impoverished children, access to clean water not only restores health but also opens doors to educational opportunities and a promising future. For more than five decades, World Vision has worked in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), originally starting with small water projects. Today, World Vision brings clean water to one new person every 10 seconds and by doing so also equips communities with sanitation and hygiene programs. Here are five examples of our water work around the world.

Gravity-fed water pipeline in Kenya

In the northern Kenyan community of Kesot, clean water rushes from a gravity-fed water pipeline system. A hilltop dam protects and diverts spring water, and the pipeline — which community members helped build and now maintain — delivers it to homes and the three primary schools. Students can attend class because they spend less time gathering water; and because the schools are outfitted with large water tanks, spigots, latrines for boys and girls of differing abilities, and hand-washing stations. This system will last because the community owns it — the water committee collects user fees to perform maintenance and operations.

World Vision brings clean water to one new person every 10 seconds. Here are five examples of our water work around the world.
Children wash their hands with soap at a sink in Honduras. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

WASH UP! teaches good hygiene in Honduras

The WASH UP! program trains educators and community leaders to use play-based learning materials to teach children about good hygiene practices. This goes a long way to reduce water-related disease like diarrhea, cholera, and other sickness. On their way to become health superstars, students play games and activities featuring Sesame Street’s Elmo and 6-year-old Raya. It helps children identify healthy hygiene habits, such as washing hands with soap and how to use the restroom. World Vision and Sesame Workshop pioneered this program in rural Zambia. Together we plan to reach 880,000 children in 16 countries by 2020. That number of children is equivalent to nearly all the public school students in Colorado.

World Vision brings clean water to one new person every 10 seconds. Here are five examples of our water work around the world.
A Syrian girl uses a water tap in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Alexander Whittle)

Rehabilitating community water systems in Syria

The eight-year war in Syria has displaced millions of people — half of them children. Damaged or destroyed water pipelines and sanitation systems have left families vulnerable to sickness and disease. World Vision rehabilitates critical water infrastructure, like pipelines, pumps, storage tanks, and taps, in hard-hit areas. We provide clean water and sanitation facilities to Syrian refugees and hygiene education to refugee children in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. By 2020, our goal is to reach 6 million people affected by the crisis with clean water and provide 200,000 people with functioning sanitation and hand-washing facilities.

World Vision brings clean water to one new person every 10 seconds. Here are five examples of our water work around the world.
Am obstetric nurse washes a newborn baby for the first time in the maternity section of a clinic in Mali as the baby’s mother, center, and grandmother watch. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Boreholes provide water for cleaner medical clinics in Mali

In Mali, 1 woman in 27 has a chance of dying during childbirth over her lifetime — compared with 1 in 3,800 chance in the U.S. Clean water and improved sanitation at medical facilities are critical for patients and workers in efforts to prevent spread of diseases. Facilities in rural, developing areas often lack the necessities like running water, functioning toilets, and hand-washing stations. That’s why World Vision prioritizes efforts to drill borehole wells, provide necessities, and train health workers in Mali and in dozens of other countries. Even the smallest of improvements lead to cleaner facilities and better outcomes for mothers and babies.

World Vision brings clean water to one new person every 10 seconds. Here are five examples of our water work around the world.
A girl enjoys clean water from a recently installed solar-powered water pipeline system in Afghanistan. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Narges Ghafary)

Solar-powered, reverse-osmosis water filtration in Afghanistan

Bringing clean water to a community in northwestern Afghanistan is improving children’s health and education, strengthening the community, and helping protect the environment. Water is contaminated and dangerous to drink in Badghis province’s Ab Kamari district. World Vision and local leaders have devised an innovative solar-powered, reverse-osmosis filtration system to bring clean water to residents.  It removes most bad chemicals and bacteria by pushing pressurized water through a filter. The system produces up to 1,135 gallons of clean drinking water per hour and serves 700 households — about 4,900 people.

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Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter for Women and Children

“Who better to minister to someone who’s homeless than someone who’s been homeless? I’m a living, breathing testimonial to the grace of God.” – Kimberly Harris, Community Life Ambassador of NVH at San Diego Rescue Mission.

Meet Kimberly Harris, Community Life Ambassador at the Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter for Women and Children (NVH).Kim has been with the Mission for over 15 years and in her current role since 2011.

A native of Texas, she grew up “in a dysfunctional and abusive family.” Her home life became unbearable, she says, “really jacked up,” and convinced her that if she didn’t leave she wouldn’t live. So she boarded a train bound for Cabo San Lucas—or so she thought—to party. “But God had a different plan for me.”

The train stopped in San Diego and she found herself homeless. That was August 2002. Fortunately, she learned about the Mission and the help they provide to people experiencing homelessness in San Diego. “I didn’t know at the time but that’s exactly where God wanted me . . . when I didn’t have anyone or anywhere to turn to. It’s all God.”

Today, Kim supervises clients on the graveyard shift in NVH, where they can stay for up to 30 days. Clients arrive from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, complete the intake process, enjoy a hot dinner and then are brought to the dorm where they shower, get clothes, toiletries and other items they need. Before lights-out at 9:30pm they’ll get ready for bed and attend a devotional to hear the good news of salvation, sometimes joined by a local church group.

Kim’s critical role involves offering practical and emotional support during the night, monitoring the shelter, waking them at 5:00am and making sure they get breakfast, among other responsibilities.

But of all this, she says, “It’s really just a matter of loving them and giving them hope, letting them know we’re there for them, hear them and validate them. The Lord has a plan for them.” Like Kim, many NVH staff have been through the same Mission programs. “Who better to minister to someone who’s homeless than someone who’s been homeless?” she asks. “I’m a living, breathing testimonial to the grace of God.”

Kim and the NVH team take women straight from the streets if they have the beds. “It’s much needed, I’m sorry to say.” Once taken in, they are helped one step at a time. That first step is often the hardest. “It’s hard to put your life back together when you don’t know the resources or where to go or how to proceed,” Kim says. “If we can get them plugged into the Lord Jesus, then it’s ‘on’ from there!”

She’s witnessed a lot in her time with the Mission. Asked what memories stand out of people she’s helped, she recalls a mother with two small children who came to NVH as a client several times, struggling with the daily realities of living on the streets. “It’s hard enough to take care of yourself but my heart goes out to women with kids.” Later, Kim saw her at Rock Church and her life had changed dramatically. “I can’t go anywhere without running into former clients and it’s so rewarding to see those transformations.”

This, as with so much else, brings to mind her faith. “Jesus says He’ll put our feet upon a rock and He did that with her. She was so grateful someone took the time to care and validated her. It’s what God asks us to do—love others with our hearts, minds and bodies and in the process to share the gospel with them. We’re just loving them. They might not receive it the first time they’re here but eventually they will.” Kim observes that many people’s pain and defensiveness are so deep they don’t expect love and grace anymore. Reflecting on her own time as a client, she adds, “It took me a while to understand that God was calling me. It will for them too. But it’s so rewarding to see them receive God and all He has in store for them.”

It takes longer for some than others. Kim recalls seeing women in the shelter in 2002 whom she still sees there today, almost 17 years later. “I ask, ‘Aren’t you tired?’ And they say, ‘Yeah, I am.’ These streets will wear you out and tear you down. We’re just changing them one heart at a time.” Then she reconsiders, “Well, the Lord’s changing them.”

Others move more quickly. Some leave NVH and move into the year-long program, Haven of Hope (HOH) and then into transitional housing and “up and up and up.” Kim adds, “Just seeing them grow in God’s grace is wonderful.”

She loves serving people at the Mission, and especially serving with the team the Lord assembled there. Differences of age, background, testimony and more all contribute to her appreciation of the community. She feels especially grateful to see all the youth coming in, wanting to serve and help people.

Kim’s work background when she joined the Mission didn’t involve all the social and trauma-related aspects she’s so skilled in now. How did she learn? “It’s all been God teaching me, along with training at the Mission.” She thinks about her time here and adds, “It’s a privilege to get paid to live out your faith with people. That’s usually reserved for pastors and people who work in the church. For God to give me a job where I can live out my faith and he can guide me and teach me . . . it’s just phenomenal.”

You, too, can be a part of this great work. Opportunities are available to help so many in need. Remember, no one can do it all but everyone can do something. Be blessed to be a blessing with San Diego Rescue Mission.  Learn more about our programs here.

Throughout its history, the San Diego Rescue Mission’s programs have adapted to meet the changing needs of San Diego’s homeless and needy populations. The organization’s story began in 1954, when a group of San Diego church and business leaders met to address the growing plight of the community’s homeless and hungry.

In 1993 the purchase and renovation of buildings on South 16th Street allowed the San Diego Rescue Mission to open a new Women and Children’s Center. In 2000 the San Diego Rescue Mission created a new overnight emergency shelter for women and children, Nueva Vida Haven. In 2001 the organization’s commitment to excellence was acknowledged by the state of California when its Men’s Center became only the second licensed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for the homeless in San Diego County. 3 years later in 2004, San Diego Rescue Mission consolidated all of its rehabilitation programs into the former Harbor View Medical Center at 120 Elm Street, doubling its capacity to help more people than ever.

New programs continued to be developed over the next 10 years to meet clients’ needs like Therapeutic Services, Transitional Housing, and the Haven of Hope Preschool. But our work is far from done. Learn more about our programs here and find out how you can help!

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 pages. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.

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Biblica works to translate God’s word in every living language

United States (MNN) – Yesterday we talked about how you can join the illumiNations movement and help make God’s Word available in every living language by 2033. Now we are going behind the scenes to discover Biblica’s part in reaching the deadline through Every Tribe Every Nation alliance.

“The ten largest Bible translation organizations in the world are now gathered together and meet on a regular basis to connect and to communicate. [They] have a common plan, a common platform where all these scriptures now live and become available for ministry. A common approach for how you do Bible translations, so you can share the resources necessary so, collaboration can actually happen,” Biblica’s CEO Geof Morin explains.

Sharing Good News

As Bible translation organizations join forces, Morin says the translation work has been accelerating. Biblica, which has been a part of Every Tribe Every Nation since the beginning, has played a role in the acceleration process.

How?

By working with what Biblica calls gateway translations.

(Photo courtesy of Biblica)

“These are the majority language, the larger population language translations, and these exist for a couple of reasons. One is, of course, we want to have these languages available for people that represent five million, ten million and many sometimes even hundreds of millions of people on planet earth,” Morin says.

“But there is a second sense in which they exist. They exist as source materials for other translation projects–meaning for the smaller languages that exist–and that’s where a lot of the Bibleless people are now.”

Biblica ensures these contemporary translations are available for the ripple effect. This means minority language translators, in combination with the scriptures in their original languages, can use a finished contemporary translation as a translation resource.

“We do more than that. We want to make available the notes for these translation projects because no matter what the language there is just some tough passages,” Morin says.

God’s Word in a Digital Library

Through Every Tribe Every Nation, Biblica is also working through a common digital platform and approach. Morin says this means translation organizations can upload what is called peritext, which is a tool the alliance uses for translation.

“Now there’s one place in what’s called the digital Bible library that has over 1,200 versions of the Bible translated there. If you’re a ministry and you become a library card holder, you now have access at your fingertips [to] all of this; these scripture resources for all kinds of great ministries all over the world. So, the other important piece of the acceleration is, acceleration of…these eternal remarkable assets of God’s Word for the work of ministry,” Morin says.

(Photo courtesy of Biblica)

Will you come alongside Biblica and support their work?

A great way to start is through prayer. Pray for Biblica’s work in translation. Ask God to protect those involved in translating His Word and the projects, too. Pray the Scriptures would be translated into every living language by 2033 or sooner.

Another way to get involved is through the illumiNations movement. Learn more about the illumiNations movement here.

Finally, it takes financial resources to translate God’s Word. Will you support Biblica’s work by partnering with the ministry financially?

Become a financial partner with Biblica here.

“I think this has the potential to be in that great line up of things that God did to accomplish His purposes across all of history. That’s a big statement. But I think the things that I’m seeing are the makings of a kind of category breaking movement for the Church,” Morin says.

Learn more about the illumiNations movement here.

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