Watching someone else build on the foundation you’ve helped establish may be the most fulfilling part of life and ministry.
One year ago this month, I stopped being the lead pastor of our church.
Not because I was done, but because it was the right time.
Truth be told, I still want to be the lead pastor. At the age of 59, (58 when we made the transition) I’m not too old. I still have the passion, the heart and more than a few important things to say.
But I stepped down anyway.
Earlier than I thought I would. By maybe a decade. But it happened just when it was supposed to happen.
This weekend our church will celebrate the one year anniversary of that transition. So, as I think about all that’s happened over the last 12 months, here are 7 reasons we knew it was the right time for a pastoral transition.
1. The Church Is Strong
The reason most pastoral transitions are so dangerous is that we don’t even consider doing it until there’s a problem – usually an avalanche of problems.
It’s hard for a church to change its leadership. It’s even harder when the church is already in crisis.
Over the 26 years I’ve been at Cornerstone, we’ve learned to look around when things are good and ask, “how can we use this time of strength and health to make the necessary changes?”
2. There’s Someone Else Capable Of Leading
Too many churches lose their best people because they’re unwilling to let them operate in their greatest area of strength.
Weak leaders are intimidated by strong leaders. Strong leaders make way for other strong leaders.
If you look around your church and you see someone else who’s capable of doing your job, don’t be afraid, be happy. You haven’t failed, you’ve succeeded.
That doesn’t mean they’ll take your position (or, as in our case, you’ll …
Next to air, water is our most essential necessity. Here in the United States, most of us are blessed to have abundant, clean water to drink and use for cooking, growing food, washing clothes, and flushing toilets. We seldom worry that the water we drink could make us sick — or even kill us.
Around the world, hundreds of millions of people do not share this blessing. Every year we recognize this reality with World Water Day on March 22. This is a day to champion the right of people everywhere to have access to affordable, safe, convenient drinking water.
… I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.—Matthew 25:35 (NIV)
In West Pokot County, Kenya, 5-year-old Kamama never liked going to the river to gather water.
“It was too far,” Kamama says. “I wanted to stop.”
Thankfully she has. Kamama, now a sponsored child, lives in a community served by World Vision’s Mtelo water project, which opened in 2015. Today, they have a gravity-fed water system that supplies clean water to about 800 households as well as schools, churches, and a health center.
She now walks about 252 yards round-trip to the closest water point, and it takes her less than seven minutes. Because there is clean water nearby, she is seldom sick, she bathes every day, and her mother has the time and water she needs to grow fruits and vegetables.
While Kamama’s village has been transformed, the struggle to find clean water continues for countless children and families elsewhere. Join us in prayer for people around the world who lack this most basic necessity for health and life.
Loving God, we ask for Your blessings on children, mothers, fathers, and communities who are thirsty. Purify, protect, and multiply their water sources. Strengthen their resolve so they may fully enjoy the benefits of clean water — essentials like education, gardens of fresh produce, and good health.
“Come, all you who are thirsty. …” —Isaiah 55:1 (NIV)
Pray for the global will to ensure everyone has safe drinking water.
People in wealthier countries often are unaware of life-threatening issues surrounding water in developing nations. Through the efforts of organizations such as World Vision, more people are realizing that hundreds of millions of people face serious illness because they lack access to clean drinking water. Ask God to create compassion in hearts and connect people in developed nations with organizations that can help them get this life-giving resource.
Heavenly Father, remind us of Your command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Don’t let us rest until we know we have done everything we can to meet others’ need for water.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” —Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
Pray for women and girls who daily carry water over long distances.
Women and girls have transported water from distant sources for millennia. In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant first saw Rebekah, Isaac’s future wife, at a well. Jesus also met the Samaritan woman at a well. In most of the developing world, women and girls disproportionately bear the burden of collecting water for their families.
Dear God, You promise in Psalm 23 to be close beside us and protect us even as we walk through the darkest valley. We claim this promise for women and girls who trek to get water for their families. As You walk alongside, strengthen them, and protect them.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4 (NIV)
Great Healer, You are good and merciful. Touch precious little ones endangered by poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. Give them Your strength to fight off the illnesses that wrack their bodies. Lead their communities to discover clean water sources close by so they can enjoy better health.
“… The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.” —Psalm 65:9 (NIV)
Pray for people to discover the Source of living water.
“I was once a person of little faith,” says Memory Handenda, a mother in the Twachiyanda community in southern Zambia. “But after my prayers, and this water came out, then I became a person of a lot of faith. We believed that, indeed, God exists.” World Vision rejoices with Memory, but many people still live without faith and hope.
We are grateful to You, Lord, for being our Source of living water — the One who satisfies our soul’s deepest desire with the joy of salvation. Thank You for strengthening Memory’s faith by answering her prayers. Show all of us that faith doesn’t come from answered prayers, but rather from the “confidence in what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1). Open people’s eyes to recognize You as the only Source of living water for their parched souls. Let them be refreshed in Your love when they enjoy clean water to drink.
“… My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” —Psalm 63:1 (NASB)
Pray for World Vision’s ongoing work that brings clean, accessible water to millions of people every year.
World Vision is the largest non-governmental provider of clean water in the developing world, reaching one new person every 10 seconds and three new schools every day with clean water.
We believe the global water and sanitation crisis can be solved within our lifetime. That’s why we’re focused on providing clean water and sanitation to every man, woman, and child in every community we work in, including the most vulnerable populations in some of the hardest-to-reach places.
Please pray for our ongoing efforts that are bringing clean, sustainable water — and renewed health — to children, families, and communities around the world.
Faithful God, give wisdom to Your followers at World Vision as they seek to bring clean water and other life-saving interventions to millions more families. Thank You for equipping people who love You as they bring new health and opportunities to the world’s most vulnerable. Like Isaiah’s vision of water in the desert, we hope to see no child die of diarrhea, no mother spend hours transporting water, no school without proper toilets and sanitation, and no one drinking unsafe water.
“… Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” —Isaiah 35:6 (NIV)
We are grateful to You, God Almighty, for passionate donors who understand and care about the needs of people in developing rural communities worldwide. These gifts enable life-giving water projects that demonstrate Your steadfast love. We ask You to ignite passion in people’s hearts to help bring clean water to people who desperately need it. Remind those of us who have safe water to always give generously and freely to help make this blessing available to others.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven .” —Matthew 6:10 (NIV)
Walk or run the Global 6K for Water on May 4, 2019, to provide life-changing clean water to one person in need. You’ll walk or run with the picture of the child receiving clean water through World Vision’s water projects.
Take the week-long Matthew 25 Challengethat will help you and your family step out of your comfort zones and engage in God’s love for “the least of these brothers and sisters” who Jesus calls us to care for in Matthew 25:35-40.
Give a monthly gift to provide clean water to communities lacking it. Your ongoing gift creates lasting change in a community.
Chris Huber, Denise C. Koenig, Kathryn Reid, and Laura Reinhardt of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.
USA (MNN) – Have you watched Marie Kondo? Chances are if you live in the United States, you have heard of the Tidying Up guru. But did you know that as you tidy up, you could make a Gospel impact?
Thrifting for the Gospel
At World Mission, thrifting and sharing the Gospel go hand-in-hand. Through World Mission’s multiple volunteer-run thrift stores located in the United States, the organization is able to provide great deals to both the seasoned thrifter and the one just starting off. Plus, the profits from these stores generate revenue to send solar-powered audio Bibles, called Treasures, into hard to reach places.
“Places like Somalia and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where it’d be very difficult for an individual to travel to. But if they serve in one of our stores, then they can allow that expression of the great commission to take place,” CEO of World Mission, Greg Kelley says.
Treasure-audio Bible (Photo courtesy of World Mission)
These Treasures are strategic since they do not require an electric hookup. Also, these Treasures allow oral learners to be introduced to and even study the Scriptures. Kelley says two-thirds of the earth’s population are oral learners. For some who are oral learners but do read, their preferred method of learning is through orality.
“We have audio Scriptures and stories available in 5,000 languages. That allows the oral learner to engage and really, Jesus calls us to make disciples, not just converts. To make a disciple requires the Word of God. We want to present it to people in a format that will penetrate their heart,” Kelley says.
Getting involved with a World Mission thrift store is ease. For starters, the next time there is a need for a tableside lamp or a pair of jeans, head to the World Mission thrift store. Or, as Marie Kondo plays in the background and unneeded items are bagged for a resale shop, drop them off at a World Mission thrift store or at a blue and white World Mission drop box.
“When someone buys something, because the items are largely donated, when we receive the profits from that sale, then we’re also able to send our treasures out to places like India and Nepal and Indonesia, where there’s really very little mission presence. We send them into our national networks, and that person who shopped or volunteered at a local thrift store allowed that entire thing to happen,” Kelley explains.
Volunteer in a Thrift Store
Another great way to get involved with these thrift stores is by volunteering. Kelley says each time a volunteer serves four hours in a store; those four hours translate into one Treasure sent to an unreached people group (UPG). In a way, volunteers get to have an international Gospel impact without ever leaving their communities.
(Photo courtesy World Mission)
Not a local World Mission thrift store in the area? Then get in touch with World Mission to set one up! Kelley says the World Mission thrift stores are a turn-key model. There is not a location the organization is not “prospecting and looking for people to connect with us”.
Finally, the easiest way to get involved is through prayer. Pray for the people serving to reach UPGs. Pray for the ability to generate resources, like what World Mission does, to effectively share the Gospel. Also, pray for ways you can get involved and perhaps start with World Mission.
Syria (MNN) – Even as ISIS prepares to make its last stand in Baghouz, eastern Syria, on the opposite side of the country, to the north, there’s a fierce fight going on between the Kurds and the Turks over Afrin, a city located in the Aleppo Governorate. The governorate has been occupied by Turkish-backed opposition factions since Islamic State forces were ousted in August 2016.
Up till January 2018, Syrian refugees in Lebanon who were from the region had harbored ideas of heading back home. Horizons International’s Pierre Houssney explains, “Afrin had kind of ‘weathered’ this storm of the war and had maintained stability, so a lot of people were about to head back, and then all of a sudden, the Turks came in and started bombing the area.”
(Screengrab courtesy Prayercast.com)
Throughout the last year, renewed fighting for control, along with a vow from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to keep the area ‘liberated’ means that, “There are new Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps of 200-thousand people popping up in different places. People that thought that they had made it through to the end of the war, supposedly, now been (made) homeless; the people that were going to go back, they found that those dreams of going back were shattered again.”
New Wave of Violence, More Refugees
The multiple arms of a conflict that began with the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, has turned into one of the most confusing wars to follow, with no real ‘good guys’. Keeping track of the dissidents and alliances reaches into the hundreds and those alliances that form new militias change frequently. What’s more, Houssney observes, “A lot of the mainstream media doesn’t even cover the Syria War. It’s almost as if we don’t even know that the war is still going, but people’s lives are being destroyed. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of distress calls from the Afrin area.”
Houssney says they heard of one village that pooled all their resources to try to get enough diesel fuel to power a generator long enough to send out distress calls. Here’s why: “There are armed militant groups that if you go out, even just to go to work, they will stop you, steal anything that you have. They’ll take your wallet, they’ll take your phone. If you’re driving a little motorbike, they’ll take your motorbike.” It’s not limited to the money, vehicles and electronics. Without money, people can’t buy food…but food is in limited supply, too. “People are saying now that after a week or so of this present situation, they’re going to have to start eating the leaves off the trees because their situation is getting so bad.”
The winter storm that devastated the refugee camps in Lebanon plays into this scenario, too. Fewer people can respond to the distress calls, anymore, he explains. “People in Lebanon that used to send a little bit of money, they just got hit by a big (winter) storm and had to rebuild their tent. People that were back in Syria, they’re getting hit hard. People that are in Lebanon, they’re in a really bad situation.”
(Screengrab courtesy Prayercast.com)
After eight years of horrible stories pouring out of Syria, Lebanon and surrounding areas, donor response has evaporated. Call it ‘compassion fatigue’ if you want to, but Houssney reminds us, “What makes a difference is when we don’t surrender to the thought that this can never end and that the needs are limitless. The needs are not limitless. Even though we say, here in Lebanon, that we have 1.6 million, each one of them is important to God. The developed countries around the world, their populations are much bigger than the 1.6 million here or the 2 million that are in Turkey.”
Another aspect to consider is the culture of the refugees. They share what they have with each other: food, lodging, resources. One dollar doesn’t just help one person alone, says Houssney. “When individuals respond by giving an amount of support to help out the work among these refugees, it really does make a difference in people’s lives. When you’re helping one of these refugees, that refugee is able to support other refugees.”
With ministries like Horizons International getting involved and doing what they can to answer the needs of an eight-year crisis, it leads to opportunity, he adds, to talk about the hope that they have. “These refugees are some of the most open, spiritually, to receiving the Gospel of Christ, so these are the people that the global body of Christ should be sharing the Gospel with and helping.”
How can we answer? Take action.Stay aware of what’s going on. Sign up for the newsletters and prayer needsof ministries who are the ‘boots on the ground’. Pray about the people involved; for staff, for wisdom, for strength, for creativity, for healing. Then, consider what you can do with your other resources: time and money, to walk alongside some of these followers of Christ.
This latest update also makes the Deaf Bible app easier to use.
“Say someone’s watching the Bible story within the app and they pause [it],” DeLoach describes as an example. “They can then transfer [the video] to the website but continue where they actually left off, instead of starting from the beginning.”
Deaf people around the world can see God’s Word in their heart sign language on the Deaf Bible app. Usually, Deaf use the app for personal Bible study or in group teaching sessions. They can still use the Deaf Bible app that way, DeLoach says, “but the content that we now have within the app is a lot different than the previous one.”
Along with Bible translations in 28 sign languages, the app now includes The JESUS Film in 12 sign languages. Click here to watch.
Pray Deaf Bible 3.0 will help more Deaf people know, have, and share God’s Word.
Header and story images courtesy of Deaf Bible Society.
As Hurricane Florence approached, Randi Jo Rooks, her husband, Brandon, and their three children had evacuated to her parents’ house in New Jersey to wait out the storm. Now all they could do was watch reports on The Weather Channel about their North Carolina neighborhood where 228,000 gallons of sewage mixed with floodwater spilled into the 44 houses in their community.
Hurricane Florence hit eastern North Carolina hard in September 2018. Much of the destruction covered the same area recovering from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. Many people found their lives under water again.
Randi Jo worried for her neighbors — some of whom didn’t have flood insurance. She kept up with happenings via a neighborhood Facebook page she’d set up years earlier. Using that, she began to coordinate relief efforts — continuing to do so over the next month.
Despite what they were seeing on the news and hearing from neighbors, Randi Jo and Brandon didn’t feel overwhelmed. Randi Jo says, “As soon as I saw the water hit the house on the news, my husband and I felt so prepared for that moment.”
Leaning on God
To find out what had prepared them for that moment, you have to go back to her children’s playroom on Aug. 18, 2013. She sat reading her girls a book about a Ugandan girl. She felt God telling her that he had plans for her to minister to others.
Within the week, Randi received a brochure in the mail asking her to become a World Vision Child Ambassador. She knew this is what God meant when he spoke to her in the playroom.
During that dark time of sickness, when all of her own talents, strengths, and skills deserted her, she came to understand that her strength came from depending on God. She felt God telling her: “‘Even if I took away everything, you are still my beautiful daughter.’ It was really just about resting. He sunk that truth so deep in me.”
A couple of years later, as a Child Ambassador, she got 40 children sponsored in a year for World Vision, which earned her a trip to Uganda to see World Vision’s work and to meet two of her sponsored children — Mercy and Gidion.
Changed by child sponsorship
In March 2018, she and other Child Ambassadors made the journey. “I would never have gone to Uganda before getting sick. That is too uncontrolled of an environment,” says Randi Jo. “Going was such a step of faith for me. I did have fear. Lyme disease people are so susceptible to any bacteria and viruses.”
She hated to leave her children at home, too. But once she arrived in Uganda she says, “I felt like I was home the entire time. I felt his presence the whole time. … It felt like a glimpse of heaven; a glimpse of eternity.”
She loved the strong sense of community she saw in the villages. People shared information and resources. It was something she’d always yearned to find in her own life. “They’re so rich in relationship with God and in relationship with each other,” Randi Jo says.
Even though her husband, Brandon, didn’t go on the trip with her, Randi Jo felt like Uganda changed him as much as it did her. They both began to wrestle with the tremendous abundance they had in their lives and wanted to live simply. “The Lord was helping us to let go,” she says.
Two weekends before Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina’s coast, they both felt God telling them to put their house on the market. They began the process of sorting their things — figuring out what they wanted to keep and what they could do without.
(Not) Overwhelmed by floodwaters
The sewage water destroyed everything on their home’s first floor, including videotapes of her beloved grandmother, a piano from her grandmother, and their World Vision binder, which included letters and pictures from their sponsored children over the years. They’d all sat too long in that filthy water to be salvaged. But Randi Jo says that the memories will always live in their hearts.
Because of the trip to Uganda, Randi Jo and Brandon didn’t feel that loss as keenly as they might once have. “As soon as we started to flood, all I thought about was Gidion and Mercy. This stuff is so insignificant to eternal things. None of this is going to come with me to heaven,” she says. “I was so ready to let it all go. Take it. Take it all.”
Because they were not overwhelmed by their loss, they knew God was gifting them with the special privilege of serving their neighbors through their shared crisis. While Brandon painstakingly took inventory photos in their home, Randi Jo threw herself into organizing and streamlining all the volunteers for their neighbors without flood insurance.
Randi explains that she heard God’s voice so strongly during this cleanup time. Sometimes she’d be walking down the street and hear God tell her to stop, so she did. Then someone would emerge from their house crying, and she’d be there to console them. In the midst of the crisis, she found the sense of community she had sought.
She believes Hurricane Florence also helped teach her children valuable new lessons by breaking them out of their routine. Since they stayed with their grandparents, they weren’t going to the same school with their friends. They didn’t have their own toys. They began to understand the value of experiences over things. Randi Jo feels like they were being taken down the same path that she and Brandon were already on.
But her children already had begun to see the world differently as they went with their mom to every World Vision Child Ambassador event. Randi Jo also shared her stories about meeting their sponsored children in Uganda. Every day, the family chooses someone for whom they can pray. One day her son Raymond, 12, prayed: “I know Father. They’re just children like us, born in a different place without as many resources. Please send helpers to just lift them up.”
Obeying in the small things
After Brandon and Randi Jo stopped working round-the-clock on the neighborhood cleanup, they took the few possessions that survived Hurricane Florence and moved into her parents’ home. Each felt increasingly uneasy about buying a new house and filling it up with new things. Instead, they made the decision to store their few remaining possessions and buy an RV, which their family will live in for the next nine months or however long they feel called.
Randi Jo sees this as a sabbatical for the family, but says they’re not putting their ministry aside. “World Vision is such a part of our family. We’re always talking about what God is doing in the world,” she says. Raymond turns 13 this year. She feels like this is a great time for him to have a rite of passage of exploring the country. “Seeds [have been] planted in his heart,” she says.
And she believes seeds have been planted in the lives of child sponsors too. She sees the difference that $39 a month can make in the life of a child and the community because families choose to do the smallest act of obedience to God’s call and sponsor a child.
“So many of us want to make an impact in the world. We want justice. We want to be compassionate,” Randi Jo says. “Maybe it’s not about radically doing something, but maybe it is really just obeying in the small things.”
She encourages people who think they might want to join World Vision’s Child Ambassadors: “If the Lord is calling you, obey, obey, obey until he calls you elsewhere. He totally equips who he calls,” she says. “Be prepared to have your life changed.”
Stay updated about the latest adventures of Randi Jo and her family by checking out her blog.
My grandfather, a Kansas rancher, used to tell us, his grandsons, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!”
We at TWR (Trans World Radio) aim at fulfilling a God-given calling: “to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world by mass media so that lasting fruit is produced.” This calling is what we pray for, invest our lives in and believe is becoming reality in 190 countries and 230-plus languages every day. Of the over 20 million interactions with audience members of our broadcast and digital platforms in the past year, one event that stands out indelibly was having believers in Venezuela respond to a special broadcast from Bonaire. In fact, 50 percent of those responding said they or a family member had met Jesus personally through listening to broadcasts from Bonaire. One listener said, “Even though things are tough here in Venezuela, TWR Bonaire is the thing that gives us hope to go on.”
In India, over 2,000 listeners gathered in late January to celebrate 40 years of TWR ministry. One man walked for two days, took a train for one day, and spent another day on a bus just to be in attendance. I asked him why he had made such an effort. His response: “TWR’s broadcast is my spiritual lifeline, and I use TWR360 to prepare for sermons I share in my house church!” We heard the same story over and over during this gathering.
Our faithful volunteers, supporters and TWR staff, accomplished great things for the Lord in the past year.
• The Bonaire station was upgraded from 100,000 to 450,000 watts.
• Special programming for Muslims was created and is being used to reach them.
• TWR360 saw its monthly sessions surpass the 1 million mark.
• A new opportunity arose to put a 200,000-watt outlet in the Silk Road area of Central Asia.
• TWR men’s ministry, comprising Champions Arise and Every Man A Warrior, expanded to 10 countries this year.
• TWR Women of Hope expanded in Africa, and RiverCross equipped people to minister to abused children in the developing world.
• The Japanese ministry doubled this year as TWR launched new FM stations and on-the-ground outreach.
The prophet Isaiah states, “I will give you as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
That is the Lord’s goal, and we at TWR align with his purposes. Jesus wants a big voice in the world. That is what TWR is all about, giving him that voice to the nations.
TWR is a global media organization that exists to reach the world for Jesus Christ. The ministry encompasses high-powered radio broadcasts, online streaming, portable media devices, satellite delivery, printed publications and various digital platforms. Our global media outreach engages millions in 190 countries with biblical truth in their heart language. For more than 60 years, God has equipped TWR to lead people from doubt to decision to discipleship. Together with international partners, local churches and other ministries, TWR provides relevant programming, discipleship resources and dedicated workers to spread hope to individuals and communities around the globe.
Come, join the over 900 staff and volunteers working with TWR and its national partners as we give Jesus that voice. Learn how here.
On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising pages. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.
Haiti (MNN) – Haiti is at a standstill as riots ( or ‘manifestations’) filled the streets this week. For Haiti With Love’s Eva Dehart explains, “It’s an accumulation, over the two years that this administration has been in, of no services. When you’re in a situation where the general feeling is ‘it’s just too expensive to live’, it has resulted in a depression that is country-wide, and manifesting itself in pure frustration in the streets.”
Often, when unrest breaks out, it stays roughly within the capital city, Port au Prince. This time, she says, “It’s countrywide. Our people are reporting that Haiti is on fire.”
Most of the demonstrations are planned and fairly peaceful. But this time, the stress level is boiling over. ”This has gone on far more than the normal ‘couple of days’. It is getting much more violent than normal. Unless they start getting a feeling that they’ve got someone’s attention to help them, I can only see it getting worse.“
(President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Rioters want President Jovenel Moise to resign, and accuse him of corruption. So far, there’s been no response from Haiti’s president to the demands.
Under the current administration, the buying power of Haitian currency plummeted. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and suffers from widespread hunger and discontent. Now, with devalued currency and rising food and fuel prices, living is too expensive for the average person, says DeHart.
“Food is all imported from the Dominican Republic now. The government isn’t providing any services. They’re taxing everything. They’re charging for things that they used to do for free.”
The streets are mainly empty as schools, shops and municipal offices remain closed for fear of more violence. DeHart ‘s daughter, Roseline, serves as Vice President in charge of Haiti operations, as well as ministry director, in Haiti. She says as the days drag on, “People are getting tired of everything being closed, of having their kids home all day – they want food, they want the kids back in school…” Eva notes that, “There are a couple of organizations that are European-based that are getting ready to set up a food distribution program to try to diffuse some of this.”
When asked how the blockades affected medical services, DeHart couldn’t say for sure in places like Port au Prince. However, to the north, in Cap Haitien, nothing gets past them. “They set up anything that they can get a hold of–tires, trash, whatever–on fire, so that they’ve got a fire wall that stops the traffic.” Since vehicle traffic can’t get through, the only way people can get to their burn clinic for medical attention is on foot.
Because the situation remains extremely fluid, it’s hard to predict how long Haiti will be in uproar, or how to direct visiting teams. For example, a team from
(Medical short-term team from Wagner College, NY, Photo courtesy of For Haiti With Love)
Wagner College’s Nursing program in New York planned a visit in March. DeHart says, “They called and asked Roseline what she thought they should do, and she said it was pretty much changing day by day, so she couldn’t say this far in advance, what they should do in March.”
Given the unrest and uncertainty, “They prayed about it and talked about it among themselves and let her know that they will hold off making a decision until the end of February to see if the country has quieted down. If so, they’ll definitely be down in March. If it’s still in an uproar, then they’ll cancel this year.”
Many ministries in Haiti are taking to social media to describe their concerns for their sponsored children, the impact on the school programs, the lack of resources, the longstanding impact on the communities and more. With protests and violence escalating over the last three days, DeHart urges us to joint prayer “…for safety, that all of them start praying. The people want the government’s attention. The ministries need to get God’s attention because God is the one who can get the government’s attention.”
Headline photo, Manifestations in Haiti, 2018, courtesy For Haiti With Love.
Lebanon (MNN) — Today is Valentine’s Day, the “day of love.” According to the National Retail Federation, US consumers will spend over $20 billion to mark the occasion.
A Christian worker we’ll call Jane tells us the holiday looks a little different in Lebanon: “It’s maybe not as big as it is in the West, but the concept of loving people and giving hearts, giving chocolates, is something that is done here as well, although to a lesser extent.”
Jane works with a prayer ministry called Cry Out. The ministry organizes intentional prayer efforts for countries in the Near East region: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
Cry Out workers also live out their faith in tangible ways. For example, “We decided to think outside the box and do something different, and we’re doing a Valentines’ Day Outreach,” shares Jane.
“It’s basically a ‘love campaign’ because we want to flood two cities in our country with the love of God and the truth of His love.”
Mexico (MNN) – Audio Scripture Ministries shares God’s Word through audio Bibles. These audio Bibles are vital in areas where a print Bible is inaccessible, or perhaps the literacy rate is low or the people are oral learners. Plus, Audio Scripture Ministries’ audio Bibles are solar-powered. This removes challenges regarding access to electricity.
Audio Scripture Ministries offers different styles of audio Bibles and recordings, depending on the ministry context. For example, in Mexico, the organization is teamed up with Faith Comes By Hearing to provide some dramatized readings of the Scriptures. Audio Scripture Ministries’ Joshua Harrison says these readings have been well received in the country.
“In Mexico, at a recent distribution, we were able to place many audio Bibles, including one for example, in the household of a young mother who weaves elaborate patterns on her loom for hours a day to help support her family while her husband is away working. And she listens to God’s Word,” Harrison says.
(Photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)
Another story Harrison shares is about a working mom. This woman bakes for 12 hours a day. While she’s baking, she listens to God’s Word through the Audio Bible she was given. Harrison says the woman has been greatly encouraged by this time she has spent in the Scriptures while baking.
One of the beauties of audio Bibles is how they can immediately be shared. Harrison says as the woman bakes, her children and neighbors can listen to the Scriptures, too.
“We are so grateful that God’s Word doesn’t come back void and we know that’s the case with God’s Word in whatever format it is shared,” Harrison says.
Audio Scripture Ministries has seen many people come into a relationship with Christ through the audio Bibles. These people have often joined local churches or even established their own.
“People love to share God’s Word, and there’s such hunger for it. And sometimes it can’t be shared with others fast enough. And there really is a need for more audio Bibles in that regard. But, we do see good results coming, and oftentimes listening groups turn into churches,” Harrison says.
Help Share God’s Word
Will you join the efforts to help make God’s word accessible? Start by praying for Audio Scripture Ministries’ work in Mexico and elsewhere.
“At Audio Scripture Ministries, we have the privilege of helping connect people to God’s Word in many places and let’s be in prayer for those who are now listening for the first time that God would work in their hearts and that they would indeed share it with others, and please also be in prayer for us as we do need more audio Bibles,” Harrison shares.
Another way to get involved is by helping provide an actual audio Bible. For about $35, you can put an audio Bible in the hands of an individual needing God’s Word. The $35 is bound to impact more than just the person who receives the audio Bible, also reaching those whom the individual shares it with, like family and friends.
To provide an audio Bible through Audio Scripture Ministries, click here.
Header photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries.
International (MNN) — Ever heard of something called a UPG? It stands for Unreached People Group, and a total of two billion individual people fall into this “unreached” category.
The Alliance for the Unreached intends to change this statistic. As stated here, “The Alliance for the Unreached is a consortium of several missions organizations that are focused in different ways on reaching unreached peoples.”
As part of the Alliance, DOOR International focuses on the unreached Deaf population. DOOR President and CEO Rob Myers says the task ahead is monumental.
“Many are familiar with the passage that says ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’ – that’s very, very true in Deaf communities. There are very few Deaf leaders who are trained to reach other Deaf communities.”
Equipping Deaf believers as they go to unreached Deaf
Led by a senior team of Deaf Christians, DOOR International provides training in evangelism, discipleship, and church planting to Deaf believers worldwide. DOOR prioritizes unreached Deaf communities with the largest areas of need, Myers explains.
(Header and story photo courtesy of DOOR International)
In an Asian nation that can’t be named for security purposes, “They’re aware of 4,000 believers total among those more than 10 million Deaf people.” DOOR’s starting to train Deaf leaders in that country this year.
There are multiple sign language Bible translations in the works, too. “These are [for] people groups that number over 500,000 Deaf people and to date they’ve had no Scripture,” he says.
Since there are so few global Deaf ministries, it can be easy for hostile governments to target Deaf Christian workers. As such, Myers omits the name of another nation where God is doing tremendous things among the Deaf.
DOOR began ministry in this location two years ago, Myers says, and the work of a Deaf church planting team is bearing fruit. Deaf people are coming to Christ and, as they mature in their faith, are looking for ways to serve.
“Now, for the first time, Deaf believers are going to be chosen and a team is going to be formed to begin to do [Chronological Bible Translation].”
Remember to pray for the Deaf on June 9th: the International Day for the Unreached. An estimated 98% of the world’s 70 million Deaf people don’t know who Christ is or why He came.
“Pray also that we would continue to find Deaf workers and Deaf leaders,” Myers requests.
It’s easy to pray for the Deaf throughout the year. Click here to download a monthly prayer calendar from DOOR’s website.
“Many people just don’t know that Deaf communities are unreached by the Gospel. They don’t realize that there are still millions of people who don’t have access.” Header graphic courtesy of DOOR International via Facebook.
International (TWR Press Release) — Today is World Radio Day, and Trans World Radio takes the opportunity to join with organizations around the world in celebrating the role of this powerful medium in shaping our lives and bringing communities together.
UNESCO established the observance for every Feb. 13 to draw attention to the importance of radio as a low-cost medium that reaches “the widest audience in the world.” These are the very factors that have helped make TWR the largest Christian media organization in the world, broadcasting gospel programming in more than 230 languages to a potential audience of 4 billion people.
Sharing Peace and Hope
This year’s theme for World Radio Day – “dialogue, tolerance, and peace” – fits well with the Bible-based vision that TWR strives to fulfill. The 65-year-old ministry’s program content guidelines are based on scriptural principles that reflect the theme. Scripture like Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.” And Jesus Christ’s own words: “Love your enemies – pray for those who persecute you” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
(Photo Courtesy TWR)
Even as TWR grows its ministry in emerging technologies, the ministry continues to invest in terrestrial radio. Three recent projects make the case: A $3.8 million campaign turned TWR Bonaire into the most powerful AM station in the Western Hemisphere last year; the new Silk Road Transmitter is being installed in Central Asia to reach out to people who have no other way to hear the gospel; and the $1.25 million Oasis project underway today to reach into the troubled African giant, Nigeria, and its neighbors.
TWR CEO Lauren Libby says, “Radio is an old technology that is still a very relevant platform. In fact, as we hear about the internet closing down in more countries, or being censored, then cross-border platforms become very important and particularly radio. From our standpoint, Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ And that’s our whole mission is through media to bring peace first of all between God and the individual and then to translate that peace between individuals.”
However, “Even more than the economy is the safety of the people. They see the attacks of Boko Haram, they see more attacks, they see bigger scale attacks that are affecting more people, and they say ‘what is our government doing to protect us?’”
Nigeria’s government is no longer able to ignore the resurgence of violence by Islamic extremists in the country’s troubled northeast region in the weeks prior to the election. Nettleton notes that the frequency of the attacks cost President Muhammadu Buhari voter confidence, as he seeks a second term.
”The current president, President Muhammadu Buhari, is saying ‘give me four more years. Look at what I’ve done since 2015 when I was elected the last time.’ The opposition candidates are saying ‘what have you done?’”
Although there is a field of candidates, the main opposition rival, Atiku Abubakar, hopes to finally secure the presidency after four previous attempts. His message is hard for Muhammadu to counter.
“Here we are, four years later. Boko Haram is still very active in Nigeria. You haven’t defeated them. Corruption is still a very real problem. You haven’t gotten control of that. We’ll see, this Saturday, who the voters choose to lead their nation.”
At least the risk of a hotly contested result seems somewhat mitigated. Neither ethnicity nor religion, are in play in this election, as both frontrunners Buhari and Abubakar are Hausa-speaking Fulani Muslims.
Buhari won his ticket four years ago by leaning heavily on his military record.
“‘I am a former military general. I know how to fight. I know how to get control of Boko Haram’”, notes Nettleton, adding that the recent attacks on the town of Rann in Borno State only serve to underscore Buhari’s failure. “That’s one of the things that will turn this election–whether people perceive progress or no progress against Boko Haram over the last four years.”
Extremism In The North
Abubakar Shekau, former leader of Boko Haram. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Who is Boko Haram? They are an extremist group with roots with Al Qaeda and connections with ISIS, going so far as to name themselves ‘The Islamic State West Africa Province’. They are also ISIS’ largest presence outside the Middle East, estimated at over 3,000 fighters.
As they rampage their way across Northern Nigeria, ”They have targeted Christians and they have targeted the government. They are trying to set up an Islamic control area in Northern Nigeria, but I think Nigerian Christians watch this election process and say ‘who is going to protect us?’”
The conflict there has left more than 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and driven almost two million people from their homes.
Christians in the north are asking a lot of hard questions and they’re hoping for accountability from this election’s winner, explains Nettleton.
“’Who is going to provide safety? Who is going to make sure that the churches don’t get bombed? Who is going to track down the culprits when there are attacks and bring them to justice?’ I think that’s a very significant issue for Christians, particularly in the North.”
Prayer Cover Needed
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
The other big question: is will the election be fair? “How fair will the election be in a country where many people are displaced by the violence? How are they able to vote? Are they able to vote, because they’re not where they’re registered to vote. They’re not in their home territory because they’ve had to leave. There’s a lot of those kinds of nuts and bolts issues of actually holding the election, counting the votes.”
Logistically, it’s a nightmare. Nettleton says there are a number of ways to be praying for the elections, Nigeria’s Christians and the days ahead.
First, ”Pray for fairness; pray for a true result in the election; pray for godly leaders.” And then, “Pray that whoever wins will consider Nigeria’s Christians as a vital part of the citizenship there, people who are worthy of protection, people who are worth of freedom of worship, freedom of religion, and will protect some of those rights that are promised in the Nigerian constitution.”
Alongside a pond in Rwanda once roamed the legendary “Big Five” — lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and Cape buffalo. But after the 1994 genocide, their home, Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, was sliced in half to make room for returning refugees. The animals were relocated east toward Tanzania to protect them from poaching. Creatures small but even more deadly — bloodsucking parasites, roundworms, and malaria-spreading mosquitoes — now have dominion.
Eight-year-old Esther Gisubizo hates the pond. And she’s reminded daily of her distaste for it — the dirty swamp is her family’s only source of water. Esther and her five sisters, ages 6 to 17, make the trek to the pond several times a day to collect water. They live with their parents, Augustin Hakizimana, 45, and Olive Nirere, 38, in Gatsibo district, a two-hour drive northeast from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. After the genocide, Augustin and Olive moved back to the district — Olive from refuge in Tanzania and Augustin from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where, as a soldier, he’d lost a finger and suffered a serious bullet wound to the leg.
The family lives in a small, two-room house near the pond, and operate a little shop on the side of the road where they sell passers-by tea and mandazi — small, round doughnuts. At night, they crowd into the house to sleep. The doughnut shop becomes a bedroom.
It’s stagnant water. It doesn’t flow. Feces are in it. When you drink, you know what’s in it.—Augustin, Esther’s father
A crowded evening becomes a crowded morning at the pond, which swells and shrinks according to the season but never dries up because of a dam that now feeds it. “People come from far away on their bicycles,” says Augustin. “There’s no fighting, just a lot of traffic.”
Thousands of people from seven nearby villages trek down the path carrying yellow jerrycans to fill, competing with herds of drinking and defecating cattle. “It’s stagnant water,” says Augustin. “It doesn’t flow. Feces are in it. When you drink, you know what’s in it.”
The cattle lift their shiny black heads at the sound of the water bowsers that come to the pond to pump water they’ll use to mix cement for road and new construction. The advent of electricity in some parts of the district has brought opportunity, creating even more competition for water already in scarce supply.
A wave of fear
“Sometimes we go in the dark in the morning,” says Esther’s 11-year-old sister, Sandrine. The sisters hold hands when they do that — summoning courage to make the trek, each way the length of a football field. Esther and her sisters dread the multiple trips to collect enough water — often six per day.
The pond is brown and swampy. “We are scared to drink the water,” says Irene, 9. “We know there are worms in it.” The snakes scare her, too. “You can see them swimming in the water,” she says.
Esther has suffered the most physical discomfort due to the pond. She was bitten by a bloodsucking parasite that attached itself to her ankle as she collected water one day. “It was very painful,” she says. “She’s usually the funniest and most vigorous of my daughters,” says her father.
But Esther is quiet. Lifeless.
She has malaria, and her skin itches. The pond is so dirty that the girls get scabies from washing in it, and they can never truly be clean. They won’t change clothes after collecting water either if there are no clean clothes to wear. “Sometimes I stay wet,” says Sandrine. “Sometimes I shiver.” Olive shakes her head at the wretchedness of the situation. She too has malaria, her face shiny and countenance weary. “Do we have any choice?” she asks. “What we do is out of desperation.”
The pond attracts those desperate for water, drawing in those who gather the vital element. Two boys wade out to fetch water, believing that the farther out one wades, the cleaner the water will be. “Please come back,” yells an older woman from the bank. “You may drown.”
Everyone knows she’s thinking of Julius.
A spark extinguished
Julius Tugume was a star. “He was handsome and energetic,” says his aunt, Francisca Mukandamutsa. Francisca, a seamstress, adopted Julius when he was 6. “I took him in to give him a chance,” she says. Julius’ father had died of HIV, and his mother, Francisca’s sister, was unable to care for him. Francisca brought him home after his father’s funeral, and the little boy thrived.
“His marks were above distinction,” says Edward Sakure Ndahiro, the headmaster of Bihinga School, where Julius attended. “He was a genius.” The 17-year-old had just taken the national exams, scoring 82 percent, a mark so high that when the headmaster reveals the score, one can hear the sharp, surprised intake of his listeners’ breath.
Julius never knew his score. The test results came back after he drowned in the pond. His best friend, Desire Zigirinshuti, 17, was there on that day in November 2017. The two had been inseparable. “If you ever wanted to know where I was — just find Julius,” says Desire. That day, the boys went to the pond to collect water, Julius went out too far. The pond has a muddy bottom with deep holes. “We didn’t swim, so we couldn’t save him,” he says.
The family lost a good boy, the school lost, the country lost.—Edward, Bihinga School headmaster
“We were very close,” says Julius’ friend, Justin, 15. “He always encouraged me to read. He had a lot of ideas. If he had lived, he would be a dignified person who loves people.” His friend Elise, also 15, adds,
“He used to study hard. He was brighter than all of us. He used to coach us.”
Francisca learned late on that terrible afternoon that Julius had drowned. She was devastated. His friends were devastated. “On his burial date,” she says, “those kids cried until their last breath.” His headmaster, Edward, still grieves. “The family lost a good boy, the school lost, the country lost,” he says.
A deluge of maladies
Families, schools, and countries suffer when people don’t have access to clean water. At the nearby Bihinga Health Center, Patient Munezero, 33, supervises a center with a packed waiting room — mostly women and children wrapped in scarves and clothes to keep warm on a rainy day. The center serves 42,000 people, and Patient says it is always busy. Dirty water is to blame. Seventy percent of the patients have water-related illnesses.
“First of all,” says Patient, “lack of water affects the physical condition of the body. When people don’t have enough water for drinking, they can become dehydrated. That can even cause death.” And when they do drink the water, it’s just as bad. “People get sick with diarrhea, digestive disorders, typhoid, [and] intestinal worms,” he says.
Patient says the snail that bit Esther’s ankle usually bites between the toes or the sole of the foot. “It’s painful,” he says. “If you don’t pull it off, it keeps burrowing to find blood.” Then surgery is required.
From June through September, the health center’s tanks run dry so staff must collect water from the pond — the very source Patient warns people about. “What else can we do?” he asks. “Where else can we go? You can’t have a maternity ward without water.”
A surge of hope
You can’t have a thriving nation without water either. Right now, nearly 6 million of Rwanda’s 11 million people lack access to safe water. That’s why World Vision is thinking big and working with the government to bring clean water to all of Rwanda’s people by 2022 — people like Esther.
It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s attainable for three reasons. First: size. Rwanda is densely populated, but small. One can drive around the country in just a day. Second: scale, as World Vision is the leading nongovernmental provider of clean water in the developing world. And third, there is sustainability.
World Vision organizes communities to advocate for water issues and handle operation and maintenance of the water system so the water keeps flowing after World Vision leaves.
We lost Julius, but if World Vision would do something so that another child like Julius would not die, I will praise God for that.—Francisca, Julius’ aunt
Progress has moved quickly since 2012 when World Vision started its water, sanitation, and hygiene program in Rwanda, installing pipelines to serve thousands of people at a time. Already, more than 300,000 Rwandans have clean water and access to improved sanitation. Another 130,000 have installed hand-washing facilities and improved latrines as a result of World Vision’s behavior change campaigns.
World Vision has the full support of the government to meet its big goals that will serve children like Esther. “Your goals are our goals,” says Prime Minister Edouard Ngirento. “We are working together in a good manner.”
“We lost Julius, but if World Vision would do something so that another child like Julius would not die, I will praise God for that,” says Francisca.
It’s not too late for Esther and her sisters. But their need for clean water is now even more of a priority. In August 2018, Augustin and Olive separated after 18 years of marriage, leaving Olive a single mother. She says their marriage disintegrated after years of strife caused by his drinking. An already challenging life just became even more difficult for the shopkeeper and her six daughters, who are fighting for survival in a small, two-room house alongside a pond in Rwanda.
Join us in praying that more and more communities would have clean water access, and thank God for the access to clean water gained by this community.
Walk or run the Global 6K for Water on May 4, 2019, to provide life-changing clean water to one person in need. You’ll walk or run with the picture of the child receiving clean water through World Vision’s water projects.
Give a monthly gift to provide clean water to communities lacking it. Your ongoing gift creates lasting change in a community.
Ange Gusenga of World Vision’s staff in Rwanda and Jane Sutton-Redner of World Vision’s staff in the United States contributed to this article.
Asia (MNN) – Over the last few months, multiple reports surfaced out of China revealing a crackdown on both unregistered and registered churches. “This is the worst it’s been in 30 years. The pressure from the government is immense right now; everything from putting church members in jails to kicking out vast numbers of missionaries to actually demolishing one entire church is happening,” says Joe Handley. He’s is in touch with both church leaders and mission leaders in China.
A campaign by the Chinese government to ‘Sinicize’religion is ongoing, he adds. “They call it ‘Sinicize’ or bringing religion under a Chinese spirit. They’re just trying to put it within a context that they feel fits their society and the efforts that they’re doing is moving the nation in that direction.”
(Photo courtesy of Bibles for China)
Under the guise of making Christianity and Islam more Chinese (Sinicism), the government wants to remove foreign influence.
“Those groups that are outside of the boundaries of the religious order of the Chinese government are the ones that are going to face that kind of pressure.”
In China’s west, that’s the detention and indoctrination of Muslims; in the east, it’s the closing of underground churches and expulsion of missionaries.
“I’m hearing stories of at least five mission groups who have had members of their teams kicked out of China. I’ve heard of them kicked out in numbers of up to 30 people.” At the same time, other mission groups are experiencing pressure so intense, “they’re worried about what might happen to their partners on the ground.”
This is one of the largest expulsion of foreign missionaries since 1954 when the Chinese Communist government expelled all foreign religious workers after taking power in 1949. However, Handley notes, “When the Revolution occurred years ago and the missionaries were kicked out, that led to the fastest Church growth in the history of modern China. So it could well be another one of those seasons.”
An Unexpected Bonus
What’s the future look like for partnering/mentoring faith-based groups? It’s too early to tell what new religious policies will look like or what effect they’ll have. To that end, there’s been an unintended effect: renewed mission.
One pastor of a large, well-known church in China responded this way to the concerned inquiries made at a recent conference. Handley paraphrased the church leader’s response this way: “’Remember, God is at work here. We’ve been through this before. We are re-mobilizing and re-tooling for the future of what He has for us to do to be salt and light in society and try to reach as many as we can to reach the nation for Christ.’”
This pastor went on to say,” ‘We’ve been through this before. We are used to it. Please pray for us, but don’t be discouraged. Be encouraged, because God is doing a new thing, and we will find ways to be the light of Christ in the midst of what’s happening.’”
(Photo courtesy of Bibles For China)
Keep Calm And Carry On
To that end, Handley says, “I would strongly urge us to listen to our brothers that are inside the country. They really have the best handle, for the most part, on what’s happening. As we listen to them in those contexts, we’ll hear about what the best ways that we can re-engage and re-connect.”
As for prayer, he suggests praying for wisdom for those who are under pressure… “Those mission groups that are having to re-think ‘do we keep our people there? Do we pull out?’ They need our prayers. Pray for the local churches, especially those that have been impacted by the pressure.”
Here’s one last encouraging note that comes from the pastor referenced earlier by Handley. ”’We believe that God is just orchestrating things in such a way that we can be salt and light, better salt and light, in the midst of what we’re doing. So please, pray for us. Yes, the pressure is intense. Please do advocate for us, but at the same time, don’t overreact.’”
Int’l (MNN) – Being a Christian in many places means persecution. As the world slips further into 2019, that trend is growing.
A Spike in Persecution
From state-sponsored backlash to familial pressures, faith in Christ is under attack. This is increasingly true in countries dominated by radical Islamic ideologies.
Samuel with Redemptive Stories explains that while the presence of Isis is slimming overall, their ideology continues to live. “An ideology that, is although a minority among most Islamic scholars, but it is an acceptably held understanding of Qur’anic and Scriptural interpretation.
“And so therefore, this is an ideology that can’t be fought with weapons, and knives, and war. It has to be fought with the Gospel. And with… so with that reality, I think we’re going to continue to see a spike in persecution across this part of the world, especially as the church continues to grow in this part of the world.”
Samuel further identifies that ideological persecution won’t just be from governments in 2019. While many Near East and Middle East countries have blasphemy or anti-conversion laws on the books, daily persecution comes from communities more than governments.
“Persecution here looks a lot different than in places, I think, like the far East and China, unless you are in Iran. It’s not usually state-sponsored persecution.”
Samuel continues, “But it’s usually familial, communal persecution that believers face in this area. It can be things like loss of job, it can be violence. It takes on various different forms. You know the person persecuting them is often the same person that sits across from them at the breakfast table in the morning.”
Persecution from family lines, friends, and coworkers is common. The government may step in, but often the Christian’s community is the group trying to shut down their faith.
Promised Trouble and Prayer
This makes it especially difficult for Christians in those communities. There are few people to trust. The fear of being cut off from their community, beaten or killed is a real struggle.
This is not surprising. Samuel reminds us that Christ promised such things. In John 15 Jesus tells His disciples that as the world hated Him, it will also hate His followers. Yet, knowing that doesn’t mean persecution will be an easy lot to accept.
“And so because of that, we beg the Church to pray, to intercede on our behalf, that we would stand strong in the midst of that persecution. That we would be faithful to the calling of Christ on our lives; that we would communicate boldly.
Refugee Child (Photo courtesy of MaximilianV on Flickr https://goo.gl/ZrkmhR)
“Not to pray necessarily that God would take away the persecution, because we know that persecution is also an essential part of the growth of His Church. But we primarily ask that God would use that persecution to make His name known and to grow us through that experience as well.”
In addition to prayer, Samuel asks the Church to support organizations that work with the persecuted Church. Whether those organizations provide counseling, travel assistance to Christian refugees or something else, they need the Church.
Use the 2019 World Watch List as a way to pray for and learn about how you can support persecuted Christians.
Header photo courtesy of Mohammad Moniruzzaman via Flickr.