Meet the conservative Baptists who don’t like Billy Graham.
On Sunday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a four-part series on more than 400 allegations of sexual misconduct affiliated with the independent fundamental Baptist movement. The scope of their reporting spanned nearly 1,000 churches and organizations across 40 states and Canada. The report noted:
One hundred and sixty-eight church leaders were accused or convicted of committing sexual crimes against children, the investigation found. At least 45 of the alleged abusers continued in ministry after accusations came to the attention of church authorities or law enforcement.
But what is the independent fundamental Baptist movement?
Historically it has meant a firm belief in the “fundamental doctrines, that is to say, the essential doctrines of the Christian faith” and “an insistence that you should only extend Christian fellowship to people who profess to believe the gospel.” said Kevin Bauder, a research professor of systematic theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of a two-part volume on Baptist fundamentalism.
But that’s not necessarily what people hear, Bauder acknowledges.
“The term ‘fundamentalist’ has sort of been co-opted by Martin Marty’s Fundamentalism project, where he made it a sociological designation for any extreme group,” said Bauder. “None of us are really happy with that label these days, because of the connotations it carries now.”
(Perhaps one way to see it could be as the inverse of historian George Marsden’s remark: “An evangelical is someone who likes Billy Graham.”)
Bauder joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the history of fundamentalism, why …
International (MNN) – Bibles For The World has a mission to see God’s Word accessible globally. Part of fulfilling this mission means reaching unreached people groups with the Gospel. That’s why Bibles For The World is part of The Alliance for the Unreached. This alliance is a group of various mission organizations raising awareness and activating the Church to fulfill the Great Commission. The movement focuses around one Sunday each year, Pentecost Sunday, or as they call it, the International Day for the Unreached (June 9, 2019).
Unreached and the Great Commission
“It was Jesus’ great commission, His great commandment to make disciples of all nations. The fact that so little of the Church really even recognizes that as a challenge today is of great concern to us,” Bibles For The World’s Jeff McLinden says.
International Day for the Unreached is a prayer movement, but it is also an opportunity to educate the Church on who the unreached are, where they can be found, why they are unreached, and what we can do to reach them.
McLinden says part of the challenge of International Day for the Unreached is raising awareness. Earlier this year, the Barna research group released a study showing that only 37 percent of church-goers know what the Great Commission is, or at least recognize the term. Raising awareness starts with pointing the Church back to Jesus and His command to share the Gospel.
“We want to draw people’s attention to the fact that there are still 2 billion plus people in the world who have never had exposure to the Gospel. [They] don’t have exposure to the Gospel through any local churches, or any presence of Bibles in their language, or Bibles in their communities. They don’t have access in other words,” McLinden explains.
“A lot of people think ‘unreached people’ might be the person down the street that lives a terrible lifestyle. So, they must be unreached with the Gospel. We’re really trying to draw attention to those people internationally who have no access”
What is Unreached?
To be unreached means to have zero access to God’s Word. The person down the street who does have access to the Bible may just be unengaged. However, there are still people groups who do not have God’s Word in their language. The Alliance for the Unreached, is helping people recognize who is unreached while also providing tools to change it.
Through the Alliance for the Unreached, resources for Bible study groups, Sunday school groups, pastors, missions boards, and more to give people a starting point to reach the unreached. These resources are primarily for the North American Church, but McLinden says it’s a movement that’s resonating overseas too. Because of this, requests have been made for these materials to be translated and made available for people across the globe, too. You can find the tools here.
Be Prayerful, Be Active
So, how do we get involved?
“Well I think Mission Network News is a wonderful partner in this effort and of course, they’re one of the members of The Alliance for the Unreached. We believe that [MNN’s] audience is probably more informed than a lot of believers, just generally, in the United States. But one of the things they can certainly do is pray,” McLinden states.
McLinden says at The Alliance for the Unreached, they believe that prayer is at the core of the movement for reaching the unreached. Pray not just for the unreached people groups, but for the efforts to reach them. Pray for more resources from the Church to go to reaching the unreached. Currently, statistics show that only about one percent of Church resources go to reaching the unreached. Ask God to put the need of reaching people without access to the Gospel on the heart of His Church.
Another way to get involved is to intentionally pray by using the summaries of unreached people groups published by Joshua Project (another member of the alliance). These summaries include information and religious influence, if any, on the group and more. Pick a group and specifically pray for that group. Then share the information with your friends and family!
Iran (MNN) — Iranian society is bearing the brunt of US sanctions put in place last month. According to Heart4Iran’s Peter Smith, truck drivers, teachers, and shopkeepers are refusing to work until something changes.
The latest round of sanctions target Iran’s oil exports, Smith explains. As oil sales drop off and national revenue decreases, so do teachers’ salaries. “With less oil, there’s less money to pay the teachers,” Smith says.
Teachers aren’t the only ones refusing to work until they receive a paycheck. Truck drivers are on strike and goods brought into Iran have no way to get from ports to shops. Shopkeepers were the next domino to fall.
“If there’s no exports being brought into their stores, there’s nothing for them to sell,” explains Smith.
“There [are] a lot of people frustrated with the government for not having truck drivers deliver their goods. Medical supplies [are] another thing being impacted by the sanctions.”
Instead of listening to its citizens, Iran is putting them under lock and key.
“The government thinks that by arresting its people, that will make this all go away…but it’s not,” says Smith.
“Since May, when the first set of sanctions started, these riots have consistently been going on…not just in one city but hundreds of cities. In our U.S. news they don’t cover that, but internationally it’s being covered.”
Nonetheless, God is still at work.
Of sanctions and salvation
In recent days, a man contacted Heart4Iran’s Call Center from a Tehran prison cell. He was arrested for protesting, but somehow managed to keep his cellphone and could access the Internet.
“He said, ‘I’ve been watching your satellite TV programs on the Internet and I’m calling today because I want to become a follower of Jesus. How do I do that?’”
(Image capture courtesy of Heart4Iran)
Heart4Iran’s Call Counselors led him to salvation, Smith says, but they didn’t realize he was taking that information and sharing it with other prisoners. Please pray these men will accept Christ as Savior when they learn the truth of the Gospel.
Pray also for Iranian Christians who secretly but steadfastly live out their faith under the Iranian regime. Pray they will be encouraged by Gospel-centered programming broadcast by Heart4Iran on Mohabat TV. Help reach Iran with the hope of Christ.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, “the average Iranian person realizes that [it] hasn’t delivered on all the promises it gave. What they’ve also discovered is Islam is not the answer,” Smith says.
“We’re encouraged by the more than 400 people each month who pray with our phone counselors saying, ‘I want to become a follower of Jesus.’”
South America (TWR/MNN) — For global fans of contemporary Christian music, it’s a perfect match: bilingual recording artist Evan Craft teaming up with Trans World Radio’s (TWR) multilingual media portal TWR360 to produce a video series.
Premiering exclusively this week on twr360.org and radio, TWR360 Presents The Soul of Song With Evan Craft pairs the Dove Award nominee with collaborating composer and keyboardist Abraham Osorio to discuss and perform their songs while offering viewers words of heartfelt encouragement. Recorded in an intimate, easygoing TWR studio setting in English and Spanish, the 12-episode video series features popular tunes like “Yo Soy Segundo,” “Arde en Mi” and “Mira Sus Manos.”
The YouTube video of the song that Craft and Osorio review and perform in the first TWR360 episode, titled “Beauty of Grace” (“Gracia Incomparable”), has already received 32 million views. Craft’s video channel recently won recognition from YouTube for surpassing the 1 million-subscriber mark.
A native of Southern California, Craft is a fast-rising sensation on the Latin American music scene, his album Yo Soy Segundo reaching No. 1 on Billboard among Latin Christian albums in the U.S. The title song from the album was written for the international I Am Second multimedia movement. Craft began playing the guitar at age 12 and studied Spanish in college, Spain and Costa Rica.
David Creech, TWR360 marketing and operations manager, is also executive producer of the project. He said the collaboration with Craft is an excellent vehicle for accomplishing important goals of the ministry and its parent organization, TWR.
“We’ve been challenged as an organization to reach the next generation,” Creech said. “And this is a next-generation Spanish program for teens, 20-somethings and even 30-somethings to have a devotional podcast that’s relatable, that they can get excited about and where they can hear the Word of God and be encouraged.”
TWR is excited to see what is in store for this new ministry venture. They are trusting God to use it for His glory.
(Photo courtesy of TWR)
“Because Evan Craft and the duo partner that’s in the series, Abraham Osorio, are so popular among Spanish Christians in particular, our hope is that it just opens up a whole new audience for our platform for this next generation…. We’re hoping this will start a trend in getting even more people around the world exposed to the biblical media that we offer!”
Offering popular original and unique content also helps tboost a website’s rankings, Creech added. Higher rankings mean that more internet users will be introduced to the abundant audio, video and text content available on TWR360, where visits are already exceeding 1 million each month.
“It’s all about getting the Gospel out around the world through biblical media,” Creech said, “so this is good for everybody involved.”
Launched Dec. 3, 2018, the 12 episodes — two videos in English and 10 in Spanish — are being released on a synchronized, one-per-week basis with audio versions on radio. These are being broadcast across Latin America and the Caribbean from TWR’s Shine 800 AM station on Bonaire and in cooperation with TWR national partners.
TWR360 turned to visual-media ministry TWR MOTION to produce the videos. They were shot during July 2018 in the studios at the TWR Americas office in Cary.
As the project moves forward, Creech asked, “Join us in prayer that many more people, especially younger people — teens, 20-somethings, even 30-somethings — will be exposed to this program and see it as a gateway to other very deep and rich biblical content that TWR and TWR360.org offer. We are a multilingual platform, we are very international, and we have 68 languages translated on the side with content in all of those languages. So there is really something for just about everyone around the world and we are adding more languages every day.”
This may be the biggest reason great ideas die too soon. We’re creating buzz, but we’re not building substance.
If you have a message, idea or product you want the world to know about, there’s never been a better time than right now to build the platform for it.
Technology has enabled anyone, anywhere to take an idea (it doesn’t even have to be a good one) and make it available to everyone, everywhere.
At the press of a button.
While sitting in your living room.
In your PJs.
Teams Build Substance
Because of this, it’s easy to have an unbalanced approach to creating and promoting a new program or idea.
The biggest mistake we make? Sinking all our energy into using technology to build a platform, while shortchanging the necessity of building a team to sustain that platform.
But building that team is as important as it’s always been. Maybe more so.
Since everyone else has access to the same technology (more or less) team-building is what usually makes the difference.
This happens in the church, too. Someone comes up with a great idea for an outreach, a sermon series or an event, and the first step we take is to start thinking of ways to promote it.
We create graphics, shoot videos, and bombard social media with the images. But in too many cases we’re promoting something that doesn’t have the team to sustain it.
Ideas Are Easy, Teams Are Hard
This may be the biggest reason great ideas die too soon. We’re creating buzz, but we’re not building substance.
Why do we do this?
Because buzz is fun. It’s fast. And technology has made it easy.
Team-building is hard. It’s slow. And even with the best technology and creativity in the world at our disposal, it takes the long-term, old-school application of high-commitment people-skills to build and sustain a strong team.
USA (MNN) — The holidays aren’t happy for everyone. Maybe you dread family gatherings because it feels like you’re Daniel in the lion’s den. Or, perhaps you have an “Uncle Fred” — the relative who’s rude to you throughout the year and then when Christmas rolls around, you have to “play nice” at the family gathering.
“Most people…have an ‘Uncle Fred’ that they probably haven’t dealt with in the past,” notes Glenn Dunn, the Director of Domestic Ministry for Set Free Ministries. “We hold back on the forgiveness because we believe that by forgiving an Uncle Fred, we’re overlooking what he’s done to hurt us, and that’s not really what God wants us to do.
“He asks us to forgive for our sake, not for Uncle Fred’s sake.”
Unforgiveness plays a major role in ongoing conflict, adds Jodi Deroo, Set Free’s Ministry Coordinator. It leads to a buildup of resentment and bitterness, and that’s not what God intends.
“He wants us to have peace and joy, especially over the holidays as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus and what that represents.”
It’s easy to justify unforgiveness when you are on the receiving end of injury or insult. However, immediately after issuing instructions for the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus gives this seemingly-strict ultimatum regarding forgiveness:
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
“Unforgiveness is an area that, if we do not work through, will create problems in our lives,” Dunn explains.
“I think the first thing is to recognize what forgiveness is, and what it isn’t. If we begin by that premise, then we can work through that and have a much happier holiday.”
Forgiveness is often easier in theory than in action, says Deroo. Nonetheless, it’s the standard God calls us to.
“In a scenario in which you have a lot of hurt or you’re going to be around people that have hurt you, the first step is to see them through the eyes of Jesus.”
How to get through the holidays
Just as we’ve been given grace, we have to give grace to others, Deroo says.
“It doesn’t mean that you have to set yourself up for more hurt. It doesn’t mean that we’re saying that what they did is okay,” she clarifies.
“What we are saying is that grace means we are giving them something…that says, ‘I am okay and I am going to put Christ as my center. I am going to release you to Jesus and I am going to be free to have a relationship with my family and have peace while I am in that relationship.’”
Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and sometimes it can take a lifetime. Deroo says Set Free offers free biblical counseling and staff who will walk alongside you through the journey.
“In addition to all the stuff that is really necessary in forgiveness, one of the biggest things is to pray for those who have offended you — just keeping them before the throne of the Lord and really wanting their healing.”
It’s easy for the elderly to feel forgotten and overlooked in today’s fast-paced society. Eric Verstraete, President of Life Matters Worldwide, says he was struck recently by a conversation he had with an elderly gentleman.
“I was stood up for a breakfast meeting and I saw this gentleman sitting across the way, an older guy, and I decided to go and join him. He was a Vietnam veteran [and] also a World War II veteran. As I talked with him, we spent almost two hours.
“He said a very profound thing to me at the end. He said, ‘Eric, thanks for seeing me today.’
“That really touched my heart. I realized that because we get so busy in our lives, we don’t truly see the people around us the way Jesus really wants us to.”
Verstraete says the Church has a critical role to play in reaching elderly folks who feel left behind in our communities. However, sometimes it’s easy for churches to focus more on growth among the younger generations and undervalue the older population.
“The elderly in many churches or even in families at times are being a bit marginalized in our society today. They are not seen as an asset anymore. They are seen somewhat as a liability. This population just has so much to give. I think loneliness is a really big issue with this population and that stems into all kinds of other problems that can result from that.”
The holidays can especially be lonely for the elderly. They may have lost family, live very far away from loved ones, or even be limited in other ways from engaging with community for Christmas.
“I think as we move forward through this holiday season, the importance of family certainly is always a highlight for most folks. So [we want] to encourage those family members who may not be at the forefront all the time. How do we care for them? If we do that in our families, I think that’s going to transfer into how we love our Church family even better.”
Life Matters is encouraging churches to better care for the elderly with the ministry’s LIFT program. LIFT stands for ‘Living In Faith Together’ and is essentially a ministry model that people in the Church can use to reach older folks.
Verstraete this outreach can present itself in “very practical ways like companionship or even helping with personal care, transportation, home care, or even money management!
“From a church perspective, we’re not asking leadership to start new programs. We’re just simply asking them to get lay people involved — those in their church congregations — to really catch the vision for ‘what does it really look like to care for this group of people better than we ever have before?’”
Verstraete says the heart behind LIFT is rooted in John 13:34-35 when Jesus said to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
“They have a lot of gifts to give. We want an organization like a church to be in such a place where no one in the church should age alone and that this population will finish well, will leave a legacy, and will impact the next generation.”
Verstraete asks, “Pray that God moves in the heart of people to see, and I mean really see this population.”
Central Asia (MNN) – Trans World Radio (TWR) is working on an exciting end of year project — the Silk Road Transmitter. At the beginning of 2017, TWR was forced to reduce its program airings in Central Asia when its 150,000-watt AM transmitter was taken out of services.
“It’s really left a gap in the programming for the people there to have access to biblical programming in their heart language,” TWR’s Brandon Neal says.
Broadcasts were taken from three hours a day down to only two. However, TWR says God has given the organization the vision to install an even larger transmitter in the region. Enter: the 200,000-watt AM signal called the Silk Road Transmitter.
The installation of this transmitter would increase overall coverage area and provide the opportunity to air more programs to reach around 60 million people throughout Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and even Northwest China.
Transmitter: an Urgent Need
TWR feels an urgency to install the Silk Road Transmitter because it would impact an area known for the persecution of Christians.
(Header photo and photo courtesy of Trans World Radio)
“There are so many people [whom] maybe missionaries on the ground are reaching…now. But with political climates,…there may come a time in the near future where those missionaries have to pull out of those countries. At that point, if the indigenous Church, if the local Church is not strong enough to grow on its own, it would be extremely beneficial to them to have God’s Word available over the radio,” Neal explains.
While some of these countries may have tight legislation regarding anti-conversion and religious restrictions, radio is strategic since it can be listened to during a car ride with friends or at home with family. It can be a private or group experience.
Neal has heard stories through TWR of Christians in Central Asia purposefully getting together to listen to biblical broadcasts on the radio during a car ride. It is a “workaround” which almost resembles a mobile house church.
“It’s basically an opportunity for people to hear God’s Word in their heart language and then discuss, ‘How do I obey this? How do I apply this to my life today? What does this mean?’ It gives that opportunity for people to grow in their faith — not in isolation, but even in concert with other believers who are like-minded,” Neal says.
Partnership to Reach Millions
TWR works with hundreds of ministries around the world to provide content in the local heart languages of the people hearing their broadcasts. Together, TWR and other ministries “create and implement a media strategy to use their content in that language or work together with someone in the country to create content to reach the people.” Sometimes it’s as easy as using material already indigenously produced.
Some of the programs are specific to men, women, children, teens, pastoral training, and even provide basic Bible teaching. TWR strives to meet the needs of their listeners, regardless of age or spiritual maturity.
Will you be a part of TWR’s work in Central Asia?
TWR is working to raise $593,000 by the end of 2018. These funds will cover the cost to install and commission this new transmitter. It will also provide for the cost of airtime during the first year. Will you support TWR’s vision by giving to the Silk Road Transmitter?
Also, pray. Pray for the Holy Spirit to open the hearts and minds of people listening to TWR’s broadcasts. Ask God to open the eyes and ears of all those who hear His word through TWR. Finally, pray for God’s hand in raising funds to inaugurate and run the Silk Road Transmitter.
From monster storms and tsunamis to civil wars and droughts, natural disasters and man-made crises impact children, their families, and economies on a huge scale around the world each year.
“In 2018, the sheer scale of humanitarian need around the world was immense and growing,” says Lawren Sinnema, a program manager for World Vision. “The news cycle is so overwhelming that many people don’t learn about the worst crises happening around the world.”
But we believe there is hope. Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, NIV), and we at World Vision believe miracles happen in people’s lives despite these seemingly impossible circumstances.
As these seven of the worst disasters of 2018 show us, children and families around the world experienced tremendous pain and suffering this past year. But there remains a glimmer of light in each of them. Hope has not been snuffed out.
“It’s overwhelming,” Lawren says. “One reaction would be to throw our hands up. But as Christians, we can’t abandon children.”
Here you can learn about seven of the worst disasters of 2018 and how World Vision is helping people affected.
More than 730,000 people from Myanmar have fled to Bangladesh as refugees since Aug. 25, 2017, because of extreme violence in northern Rakhine state. More than half of the refugees are children, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. They joined nearly 200,000 others who fled similar violence in the past. As the refugee population swelled in 2018, monsoon rains inundated many of the camps situated among the hills of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, making for difficult, precarious, and unsanitary living conditions.
Children and their families are living in unhealthy, dangerous conditions with limited access to basic services.
It’s dire for many but not hopeless.
Aid agencies are working together to provide life-saving aid to about 1.3 million people wrapped up in the crisis, including many Bangladeshis living in host communities. Since September 2017, generous donors and World Vision staff in Bangladesh have been able to help more than 264,000 refugees with supplies like shelter kits, food packages, hygiene kits, household supplies, and nutrition services for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Between August 2017 and August 2018, we also were able to construct 1,544 latrines and 83 deep tube wells, providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities for 154,000 people.
A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on Sept. 28, 2018, triggering a tsunami and landslides that caused widespread destruction and loss of life. More than 2,100 people are known to have died and more than 4,400 were seriously injured, according to the Indonesia disaster management agency. About 1.4 million people in Central Sulawesi were affected. With about 68,000 houses damaged or destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people became homeless or without adequate shelter.
The Central Sulawesi quake occurred less than two months after a series of earthquakes struck Indonesia’s Lombok island. The strongest of those quakes was a magnitude 6.9 temblor on Aug. 5. More than 500 people were killed, and nearly 1,500 were injured. About 220,000 people are still displaced.
As difficult as the situation is, humanitarian groups are bringing hope to survivors.
Soon after the 2018 earthquakes in both Lombok and Sulawesi, local World Vision staff, many of whom were affected by the quakes themselves, spurred into action. They distributed pre-positioned emergency supplies, including family household items, shelter kits, and hygiene supplies. A feeding center was quickly set up in World Vision’s office compound in Palu city, Central Sulawesi, to help mothers care for and feed their children. Our response is focused on child protection, educational programs for children, and providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Thousands of people have been helped with water and hygiene, food and infant feeding, household items including blankets and solar lanterns, and Child-Friendly Spaces where children can play and recover. In addition, World Vision is working to restore education opportunities by repairing and equipping schools and providing training in disaster risk reduction to prepare for the future.
The Syrian refugee crisis is internationally recognized as the largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. Half of the people affected are children. Despite a relative decrease in hostilities nationwide in 2018, the Syrian civil war caused another nearly 160,000 people to flee the country as refugees. This was largely due to the conflict in the Idlib region. As of Nov. 12, the total number of refugees now sits at more than 5.6 million, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). About 6.2 million Syrians are displaced within the country. Those two figures amount to about 55 percent of Syria’s population.
“For humanitarian groups like World Vision, it is becoming increasing complex and dangerous to respond to conflicts around the world,” Lawren says. “In Syria, hospitals are bombed and humanitarian workers on the ground put their lives at risk every day.”
It’s a bleak picture, but aid groups and compassionate governments and donors continue to give the Syrian people reasons to hope.
At least 28 million people in East Africa — more than half of them children —needed humanitarian assistance in 2018. Millions of them are experiencing chronic hunger and the threat of famine. Conflict, recurring severe drought, and high food prices are to blame.
Another factor making the regional situation more difficult:
But not all hope is lost. Between October 2017 and September 2018, World Vision staff in the region were able to reach more than 2.7 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan. Interventions include life-saving food, clean water and sanitation services, medical assistance, livelihood skills training, educational programs, essential relief supplies, and child-protection activities and programs.
In protracted crises like the East Africa hunger crisis, which is in its second year, it can be easy for people to lose hope about the situation, Lawren says. “However, as often is the case, children are the worst affected in these disasters. Yet they have nothing to do with the causes of disaster. When we respond, lives are saved, communities rebuilt, children go back to school. If we don’t support children, they are at risk of propagating future cycles of conflict and poverty.”
Since World Vision’s Kasai response began in August 2017, our staff have reached more than 535,000 people with life-saving humanitarian assistance. That includes nearly 460,000 people who received food and cash, more than 46,000 young children and vulnerable adults in 126 health centers who received treatment or prevention consults for malnutrition, more than 22,000 children who benefited from Child-Friendly Spaces, and almost 27,000 students who benefitted from classroom repairs, back-to-school kits, teacher training, and school-fee scholarships. Our response to the complex situation in the DRC will continue into 2019.
The number of people leaving Venezuela amid a national economic crisis reached 3 million in 2018. As many as 3,000 people per day are crossing the border into Colombia. The exodus is driven by hyperinflation, violence, and food and medicine shortages stemming from recent years of political turmoil. More than 1 million people have settled in Colombia; more than 500,000 in Peru; and Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina are each hosting 100,000 Venezuelans or more. Brazil is also hosting about 85,000 Venezuelan refugees.
While the influx from Venezuela has caused tensions in host countries, it also has brought out their hospitable spirit. Peru, for example, has offered temporary residency permits, and its immigration service extended its Lima processing center hours to around-the-clock to accommodate the thousands of daily residency and work permit requests. They converted the lobby into a childcare space complete with books and toys donated by the officers themselves. And teachers volunteer to watch children while their parents stand in line and receive their documentation.
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 provided hygiene kits and workshops in child protection and economic empowerment. Our staff in Peru is working to help about 56,000 Venezuelans with health, hygiene, and food services and prepaid cash cards to help them cover basic needs upon arrival in Peru. And in Brazil, our staff is working to provide Child-Friendly Spaces and help facilitate Venezuelans who are registering for documentation.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced nearly 3 million. One million people contracted cholera or watery diarrhea in the past year because half of the population lacks regular access to safe water and basic hygiene. People in the worst-affected areas have been starving to death because of near-famine conditions. As a result, 1.8 million children are suffering from malnutrition, including 400,000 who could die from lack of nutritious food.
The volatile security situation has made it extremely difficult for humanitarian agencies to get aid into the country. While we do not currently operate in Yemen, World Vision advocacy staff continue to work with U.N. and other agencies already in Yemen to support efforts to protect and care for children wrapped up in this crisis.
World Vision’s photographers traveled around the world this year to tell stories of children and their families. They captured moments of struggle and moments of joy. Here are our favorite photos of 2018 and the stories behind them.
Nepal (MNN) — Nepali police say they’ve rescued more than 7,000 people from human trafficking over the past five years. According to officials, 3,896 were under the age of 18.
It’s only a drop in the bucket, though. In the same period of time, the number of people trafficked across Nepal’s borders has gone up by 500-percent. In its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, the U.S. State Department describes Nepal as a “source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”
A porous border allows traffickers to supply brothels in Indian megacities like Delhi and Mumbai with a steady stream of modern-day slaves. UNICEF reports 12,000 children are trafficked to India from Nepal each year.
“There were many 14- and 15-year-olds. All had been trafficked from Nepal, Bangladesh and parts of India […] we were forced to entertain between four and 15 clients a day,” one rescued woman told the South China Morning Post.
John Puidate of Bibles For The World says they’re joining the fight against trafficking with a new Women’s Ministry initiative. “It’s kind of a different project than what we have done in the past but we are really feeling the leading of God in this,” he shares.
“Every life that can be rescued is a life that can be brought into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Bringing hope to human trafficking victims
(Photo courtesy of Bibles For The World)
Operated by a ministry partner in Nepal, the new program helps women process the traumas they’ve endured and find gainful employment. So far, more than 80 women are enrolled.
“They are providing them employment in this enterprise that is a really solid job for them with a real type of career or future,” notes Puidate.
After being rescued, he explains, women begin a rehabilitation process. While they are going through that process or, once they are finished, women can begin learning new job skills through the Woman’s Ministry program.
“As part of this program…they have their own Bible study,” Puidate adds. “We were so blessed to be able to provide 50 copies of the whole Bible for them to use.”
Pray for salvation as these women and girls learn about Christ. Pray boldly for an end to human trafficking in Nepal. “It touches some pretty high levels,” Puidate notes.
“We just need to pray that God’s light would come into these situations and overcome these forces of evil.”
As described here, misunderstanding or direct involvement in trafficking by Nepali officials continues to present a major challenge. Police arrested one government official last year for allegedly exploiting two Nepali girls in sex trafficking in India. While he was awaiting trial, another trafficking conviction was uncovered and the man was sentenced to a six-year prison term.
Header image credit Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department.
International (MNN) — We’ve got a breaking update for you today from the mission field. As of last week, there were 343 people groups still unreached and unengaged with the Gospel. Finishing the Task hosted the Within Sight conference December 4-6 with several ministries to discuss how to make Jesus known to these last people groups.
Now, every single unreached, unengaged people group (UUPG) has been adopted by a missions organization committed to seeing that group engaged in two years.
Finishing the Task’s Dusty Hoffman says, “When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He wanted the message of his life, death, and resurrection to go to every nation on earth. He wasn’t talking about political nations. He was talking about tribes or what we call people groups.”
According to Finishing the Task’s definition, a people group is considered engaged when a Christian or ministry has firsthand contact and is actively working on evangelization and church planting.
Hoffman says there is a strong sense of urgency among ministries today to see every people group engaged with the Gospel.
Fueling this sense of urgency, he says, “[It is] the Holy Spirit and that’s it. From the beginning of time, God has been committed to bringing as many of His lost kids home as possible. There is no person that is smart enough to create this. There is no organization that is well-equipped enough to lead it. This is God’s work and it is God Himself stirring His people to get after what has always been on His heartbeat.
“Behind what the Holy Spirit seems to be doing, there are several markers that have indicated to the global missions community that we’re in a new era. God’s people are praying like never before…. God’s people are going like never before. We’re getting to new places and the hardest-to-reach spots. Then…God’s people are partnering like never before.”
However, just because these last people groups are adopted still doesn’t mean ministry will be easy. There is a reason why these people groups are the last ones to be reached. They often live in extremely remote places or they have a very socially, politically, or religiously closed community.
“Just last week, we were in the office and I got this email from a partner in a closed country overseas. In order to reach the people group he is going after, he has to hop on his horse every morning as the sun comes up and horse ride through this treacherous mountain pass where boulders are falling literally as he’s driving by on his horse. Two hours to get to his people group, do his ministry for six [to] ten hours, and then take his horse back home. He does this seven days a week and in his email, his headline said, ‘Remoteness is stopping no one.’”
As for the other obstacles, Hoffman says, “Political pushback, remoteness, religious pushback — we can often think in America or in the West that those are new inventions. Many of those were already experienced in biblical times. The classic example was Peter [when he] was forbidden from preaching at one point early in Acts and he basically said, ‘Well, you have got to decide whether I ought to obey men or I ought to obey the Lord.’ There seems to be a spirit of that where people are wanting to do what they can even when there are other types of pushback.”
With all the last UUPGs adopted by ministries, what will be the goal for next year’s Finishing the Task conference?
“Stay tuned,” Hoffman chuckles. “We are having all sorts of prayerful discussions both within our office and the global missions community saying, ‘Let’s get our noses in the Scriptures and let’s ask Jesus again, ‘What’s next on your heartbeat?’’ We’re not quitting until the Lord comes back. That’s the true finish line.”
Even when every people group is considered reached and engaged with the Gospel, there will still be much to do in terms of church growth, discipleship, training leaders, maintaining a faithful witness within those communities, and more.
And, Hoffman says, you have a role to play. “You are God’s ‘plan A.’ There is a neighbor that God has put in your life that God intends for you to share Christ with. I’m not going to reach them. [We] at Finishing the Task are not going to reach them. They are in your backyard. There is a person at your office complex, at your school, at your college, and that’s how you join this story.
“Beyond that, how might you pray? Continue to pray for the 1.5 billion who have yet to have their first shot to hear about Christ. So pray for them and let’s see what the Lord does together.”
Middle East (MNN) — Education is vital for refugee children who have been affected by war and conflict, yet Brookings.edu reports that more than 40 percent of school-aged Syrian refugee children in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey are not in school.
Over the last several years, the three countries have instigated secondary shifts at public schools to welcome more refugee students in, and they’ve modified curriculums to better suite refugee children.
This has given children more access to education, but problems are still arising and keeping children from attending schools.
“Enrollment requirement, language difficulties, and a lack of affordable transportation are keeping children out of the classroom,” Tent Schools International’sRawan Haddad says.
For children living in refugee camps, traveling to public schools takes a long time. Students must either walk several miles or pay for transportation.
Further, children without documentation are unable to enroll in schools, and “children with disabilities and secondary school-aged children are at particular risk.”
Brookings.edu reports that only about 23 percent of refugee students move onto secondary education, and only one percent continue with higher education.
Education: The First Building Block for Syria
Every year, more children are dropping out of schools due to conflicts. Yet, Haddad spoke with a Syrian mother who told her, “if we become an uneducated generation, Syria will [be] destroy[ed]. Education is the first block in building a strong society, and without it, there will be no doctors, teachers, or engineers to help rebuild Syria.”
However, Tent Schools has a vision for refugees living in the Middle East and in the United States.
“The mission of Tent Schools is to bridge the gap in children’s education to close the digital divide with technical devices and to help teachers understand and find ways to address student[s] with trauma such as PTSD,” Haddad says.
To accomplish that mission, Tent Schools has created a laptop program in the U.S. and is establishing schools in the Middle East that are free, located where it’s needed the most, and spiritually and emotionally healing.
They want to help children to learn to trust again and to give a voice to them so the world can see that that they have hopes and dreams.
These hopes and dreams can start being nurtured through education in the healthy, spiritual environment that Tent Schools offers.
“We want to be sure that this generation gets healed,” Haddad says.
(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International via Facebook)
“If they go back one day to their country, we want to be confident they are returning with seeds of hope to plant a better future for their countries, a hope that comes from the education they received in the camps and through coming to know Jesus who cares so deeply for them.”
USA (MNN) — Charity goes hand-in-hand with the holiday season. According to Charity Navigator, contributions given during the month of December represent 21.8% of all online giving. This year’s #GivingTuesday donations exceeded $380 million, according to preliminary estimates reported by NonProfit Times.
Maybe you donate a turkey so a family in need can have Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe you drop change into a red bucket outside the grocery store. You never meet the people you help, but you trust God to use what you give.
What if you applied the same principle to people who need God’s Word?Wycliffe USA’s Pixie Christensen says their 2018 Gift Catalog highlights several “first Scripture” projects.
“Whether it’s printed or video or audio, it’s the very first Scripture that people group would have,” she explains.
“I think there’s no greater gift to offer a person because it offers them the opportunity to access the Gospel and have the hope of the Gospel.”
(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA)
Each year, Wycliffe USA staff work with project coordinators in the field to determine which projects they’ll highlight in the gift catalog. Christensen explains they usually look for projects that are tangible, affordable, and global.
No matter the focus of a project or where it’s located, each effort comes back to one central focus: making God’s Word available in every heart language.
“It’s so foundational to discipleship, to growing closer to Christ, to getting to know Christ to begin with,” says Christensen, referring to the Bible.
“We hear so many stories of people who may have had access to the Word of God in the national language of their country, but they didn’t fully understand it. They couldn’t access it in a way that really spoke to them and could change their life.
“Giving them that access to the hope of the Gospel – it’s as good as it can get!”
Indonesia (MNN) — On Sunday, November 25th, the Indonesian government released the free app, “Smart Grip” (locally called “Smart Pakem”) in the Google Play store.
Created by Jakarta’s High Prosecution Office, the “Smart Grip” app fast-tracks citizens’ ability to file blasphemy complaints. FMI’s Bruce Allen says because of its function; Smart Grip has been nicknamed the “Heresy App”. Currently, the app is only available within the Jakarta area, which is home to 30 million people.
Implications of “Heresy App”
(Photo courtesy of FMI)
“The app is also going to list the current religious edicts or fatwas that have been announced against certain people or groups. That would just empower people to more easily hunt down and attack individuals who are just suspected of unorthodox belief or activity. It’s a really scary phenomenon to consider its implications,” Allen says.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has been known for its religious tolerance*. However, that tolerance is slipping away. Allen says radical Islam has been gaining traction across the country. It is impacting the government, education, banking, trade, and politics.
Some radical Muslims are even trying to impose Sharia law in place of the constitution. Sentosa, FMI’s Director of Partnerships on Java, says that while Christianity is growing in the country, local Christians are anticipating an increase in persecution over the next couple of years.
Impact on Believers
Furthermore, this app legitimizes people’s accusations and will likely lead to an abuse of the system. It could also create an atmosphere similar to what is seen in Pakistan, where society enforces blasphemy laws through mob rule, attacks, and vigilante street justice.
“We would hate to see that happen in Indonesia. They have [already] seen things such as this coordinated attack on three different churches…Previous to that the governor of Jakarta, Ahok, (a Christian man who was doing a tremendous job) people accused him of blasphemy. He’s now serving a jail term for a couple [of] years,” Allen recounts.
This app has the potential to undo life for believers in Indonesia. If utilized, this app could see minorities not only face fines and imprisonment but even attacks or murder.
Fortunately, the app has not gained traction yet. It has currently been given a 1.6 rating out of 5 by its users. Still, please act in solidarity with the Indonesian Church.
(Photo courtesy of FMI)
“Pray. We want our brothers and sisters in the Lord to know that we are standing with them and that they are not alone. So, we want to pray that the government would quickly recognize this app’s destructive capabilities and withdraw the product from public consumption,” Allen says.
“We especially want to pray for the protection of congregations during the upcoming Christmas season in Indonesia. That’s when militant attacks against churches increase. Attendance swells in churches as people who have gone to bigger cities to get jobs or have gone for education, they come back to their home villages.”
Pray also for the Christian leaders in Indonesia to wisely instruct their congregations in how to continue sharing the Gospel with respect and gentleness even in the face of persecution.
*Indonesia is currently ranked #38 on the Open Doors USA’s World Watch List (WWL). The WWL is a ranking of the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe.
USA (MNN) — While hearing Christians have a multitude of text Bible studies and devotionals at their fingertips, Deaf believers don’t have as many sign language resources for Scripture engagement. Many Deaf pastors, if they have formal theological training, are taught to exegete, present, and walk through written text rather than a sign language Bible in a visual format. Biblical sign language resources that are available aren’t always used to their full potential.
JR Bucklew, President of Deaf Bible Society, says that’s why they host Scripture engagement training in Deaf churches and communities to equip Deaf Christians for outreach.
“It’s the local Church’s responsibility to engage their communities with Scripture. But we found that the local Church, whether it be a Deaf church or church with a Deaf ministry, just often lacked the Bible itself — the American Sign Language Bible — or the experience or history of actually using that for Scripture engagement in order to do that well.”
(Photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)
Deaf Bible Society has a goal over the next 12 months to reach between 20 and 30 US cities with Scripture engagement training.
Bucklew explains, “In the US, it’s a one-day workshop-type event, but we work through several topics. We talk through strategic planning. How do we come together and really look at our community at a high-level view? Where are the Deaf churches in our area?… What are they doing? What do their outreach programs look like? What parts of the city are there Deaf people that we’re totally missing? Where are Deaf people gathering?”
From there, local Deaf Christian leaders answer those questions and come up with strategic plans to promote sign language Bible distribution, Deaf Bible studies, and other Scripture engagement ideas in their community.
(Photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society via Facebook)
You don’t need to have a formal leadership title to attend Scripture engagement training with Deaf Bible Society.
“The idea is you leave being a leader. So you may be a Deaf pastor that goes back and says, ‘You know, I can better integrate sign language Bibles into my sermons because that is what my community will use when they go home.’
“Or it could be Sally who goes home and she has Deaf ladies who come to her house every Thursday morning for coffee. She says, ‘You know, I think I’m going to have them watch together with me through the book of John over the next few months.’ You leave a leader, meaning you are leading your community through the engagement of sign language Bibles.”
These workshops with Deaf Bible Society are available internationally as well. They are hoping to host Scripture engagement training in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. These workshops go over the same subjects over the course of three to five days rather than just one day.
The ministry also distributes Deaf Bible content internationally via microSD cards. Bucklew says, “We have a goal of every country or every language group we do a training in to then see throughout the year 1,000 microSD cards distributed with Bibles on them, which means we have the potential this next year to distribute 29,000 Bibles internationally, and then in the US with digital downloads, the number is limitless.”
(Photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)
After everyone goes home, Deaf Bible Society follows-up with the attendees to assess whether or not certain goals were met.
Ultimately, the Scripture engagement trainings encourage local Deaf leaders to keep the momentum of Scripture engagement going in their own communities.
“We go just a couple of times and then the local community can host their own trainings and workshops. Then it becomes something that the local Church really takes ownership of…. Really, we’re just here to continue to develop good resources that the Church can use to engage their people well.”