Shifting women’s roles in India

India (MNN) – Gender inequality in India has historically been a problem. Women have had low statuses and been persecuted. Yet, in recent years, women are being more empowered and even put in places of leadership.

The Foundation of Persecution Against Women

World Mission’s Greg Kelley says at the foundation of the persecution women have faced is the dowry system where a bride’s family must give the bridegroom’s family different gifts. These gifts may be cash, property, or animals.

Because of this requirement, the dowry system has put a financial burden on middle and lower class families, which makes up a majority of the population.

As a result, having a daughter is seen as more of a burden than a blessing in India.

“When you associate having a daughter as a financial burden, that just totally infiltrates society and culture to the point of where young women are persecuted, and emotionally abused, and even, there’s many cases of girls being killed,” Kelley says.

Families know they must pay once their daughter comes to a marriageable age, and they know this will create difficulties for them.

Because of this, girls are the most likely to be aborted in India, they have low literacy levels, they’re married off at earlier ages, and there are many crimes committed against them.

Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are some of the worst places for women.

Kelley says this may correlate with the fact that the population is less than one half percent Christian in the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh areas.

However, as people hear the Gospel, Kelley says, their hearts will change.

The Impact of Christianity on Women’s Status

“When someone who’s been trapped in this mindset of viewing women in an inferior role, when their heart gets impacted with the Gospel, everything changes,” Kelley says.

“We just have to trust that as the Lord changes hearts, the whole tide of all of this will change.”

Kelley says as hearts are transformed and people see the impact of the Gospel, the lives of men, women, and children will improve because people will understand the equality of each person and gender and that they have something to offer.

Across India over the last several decades, women’s rights have grown and they’re starting to grow more in village areas as well.

“We’ve seen women in India hold positions of President, Prime Minister, Governor. So there’s really a turning of the tide in many ways in India, and as I said, you’ll see where the Gospel is present that women are really…stepping into positions of influence,” Kelley says.

(Photo courtesy of World Mission via Facebook)

Women are becoming involved in ministry efforts as villages welcome them more and see the value and work they put in.

Men in leadership positions in the Church are also speaking up for women and encouraging them to do ministry together.

“We’ll see a lot of male pastors who are encouraging their wives to really step into that role of ministry.”

Women are becoming more respected as they give support to children, the poor, the sick, and others, and churches are helping to empower women by standing up for them and working to elevate the position of women both in ministry and throughout India.

World Mission’s Work

World Mission is encouraging men to embrace this change and support women as they begin working in ministry.

Kelley says when Jesus called His followers to the Great Commission, “he didn’t quantify from a standpoint of saying only the men do it, or only the women. So for us, it’s kind of gender neutral.”

World Mission is distributing their solar-powered audio Bibles, the Treasure, to women who have low literacy levels and low education. With these tools, women are acting as ministry leaders by forming listening groups in their villages so others can listen to the Word of God.

This is one of the major steps in how World Mission hopes to see India’s attitude continue changing towards women.

“We all need to get behind the movements and the Great Commission to get the Gospel into places. Social projects and humanitarian efforts only go so far. We need, as the Body of Christ, to get behind initiatives that get the Gospel into these places.”

Pray for the resilience and empowerment of women in India. Pray specifically for women in ministry to have the Lord’s protection. There are high pressures on both women and Christians in India.

Help equip women with World Mission’s discipleship tools by donating Treasures here.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of World Mission via Facebook.

Why “one size fits all” Gospel ministry doesn’t work in Asia

Asia (MNN) — The World Economic Forum recently released an infographic map showing the layout of religions in each country. When you look to the West, there is already a heavy Christian influence. But the farther east you go, particularly in Asia, the more religious diversity you see – everything from Hinduism and Buddhism to Islam and Atheism.

“The vast majority of other faiths are headquartered or predominant in these nations,” Joe Handley, President of Asian Access says. “[Christians] are really hungry for a breakthrough of a Christ-centered focus in their nations.”

Asian Access serves in 15 countries across the continent and may expand into seven more countries by 2020.

(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)

With such religious diversity in Asia, there can’t be a “one size fits all” approach for presenting the Gospel.

“Each context we’re in, we have to take those rock-solid principles from the Bible, and yet apply them in a different way.”

Asian Access began ministry in Japan, and each time they move into another country, their staff use different contextualized practices for communicating God’s hope and love.

“This year, in fact, is our 20th anniversary of our first country outside of Japan. In that case, it was also a Buddhist country, but a Buddhist country that had a strong kind of atheist-agnostic core because it was a part of the former Soviet influence world that was Mongolia,” Handley explains.

“Moving from a ministry focused in Japan to one that was also adapting to Mongolia required significant cultural adjustment and adaptation and kind of experimentation. Every country that we’ve gone into now, we’ve had to do some form of adaptation. So when we move from Japan and Mongolia to, say, Sri Lanka or Myanmar or India, we had the shift.”

(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)

Explaining the godhood of Jesus looks different when you are talking to a polytheistic Hindu versus a monotheistic Muslim. And for an atheist in China, faith and biblical truths have different challenges than they would for a Buddhist in Japan.

Handley points out this idea of contextualized practices for ministry is nothing new.

“You think of the Apostle Paul becoming all things in order that he might reach some. Similarly, I think most ministries that are in the Asian sphere have to do this — adapt as you go.”

Asian Access also supports the local Body of Christ in all the countries they minister. Handley says they have a significant need right now for spiritual mentorship and encouragement.

“There are lots of opportunities particularly with Asian Access to come and serve as teachers, faculty members, and mentors. Because the Christian population is so small in most of the Asian continents, most of those who are Christ’s followers are hungry for veteran leaders — people who have had some significant experience behind them that can come in and provide mentoring and coaching.”

“One of our leaders once said, ‘Joe, please send me seasoned veteran leaders. We have no spiritual fathers.’ Let that sink in a little bit. If you’re out there in the West and maybe you’re a retired pastor, maybe you’ve been in business and you’re thinking, ‘What do I do next in life?’ You’re the kind of person that if you have a strong background in your faith in Christ, there are leaders all over Asia that are hungry for people like you to come and just build relationships with them.”

(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)

It can be anything from a weekend visit to a full week trip or longer. Handley says anything to connect believers across borders and continents will be an encouragement to our Christian brothers and sisters in Asia.

Even if you can’t go, something every believer can do is pray.

Handley asks, “Please pray for places like Japan, the second largest unreached people group in the world; or Bangladesh, the number one; or places like China and India and other countries where you have increasing persecution and pressure either from government or religious fanatics.

“In addition to praying for them, I would suggest that one of the things you can do is be a generous giver. The needs of this part of the world for the Gospel are immense. It’s not just Asian Access. It’s all of those of us that are serving in Asia or similar places. We need the resources in order to reach these unreached people groups. So please pray, please come and serve, and please be a generous giver.”

Learn more about Asian Access’s ministry here.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Pixabay

Highlights from the 2019 Global 6K for Water

On May 4, 2019, thousands of participants around the globe united to walk or run in World Vision’s Global 6K for Water. Six kilometers is the average distance people in the developing world walk for water, which is often contaminated with life-threatening diseases.  

Each step by every participant — young and old — is bringing life-changing clean water closer to communities in need through the event registration fee 

 

Here are some of the highlights from this remarkable weekend. 

A new kind of bib

In Seattle, whole families participated together in the Global 6K, each member receiving a bib with the name and photo of a child on it. The child is available for sponsorship, which also helps fund clean water projects. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

Finding your drive

“There’s children who do this every day for water, and it’s not even clean, says Gigi Stevens, who not only ran the Chicago 6K for Water but added on a 5K beforehand to run an 11K for her 11th birthday, which fell the next day. She surpassed her fundraising goal of $1,100 and raised $2,815 for clean water.   

“When I was running the 11 kilometers, I got tired, but it was worth it to bring clean water to more people,” says Gigi, who ran with their family friend, Ashley Peters (right). “There’s children who do this every day for water, and it’s not even clean.” (©2019 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer) 

Challenging yourself and others

Khayriyyah Aleem, 75, celebrates the 2019 Global 6K for Water with Antioch Baptist Church at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station, Virginia, on April 27, 2019.  

This is the church’s third year, as well as Khayriyyah’s 

“Growing up in D.C. in a poor family, I know what it’s like to be without things,” Khayriyyah says. “There were hungry days. There were sad days. 

“God has blessed me, even though I am in this chair and I am legally blind.” 

Continuing what she’s done over the past few years, she raised $770 this year by asking people she knew for donations.  

“Just because you don’t have money, don’t mean you can’t get money,” she says. I don’t have money, but I go and ask people. So just because you don’t have money, don’t mean you can’t help.” (©2019 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger) 

The jerrycan challenge

Brothers-in-law Solomon Kain (center) and Zach Trandom (right) are two fathers willing to go the extra mile for their children — and children around the world.  

Zach shares, “A big reason why we started doing [the Global 6K] is for our kids. To show them how hard families — and kids their own age — work for dirty water that only makes them sick and that we have the power to change their lives forever.” 

This is their second year carrying 20-liter, 44-pound jerrycans during the Global 6K in Seattle. 

Zach continues “We also want to show [our kids] that we’re willing to go to any length on their behalf.  If we had to take on this challenge every day just to make sure they had what they needed, we’d do it.” (©2019 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

A birthday celebration

Amara Mohn (second from left in front) chose to spend her 13th birthday participating in the Global 6K for Water in Chicago, and she persuaded the rest of her family to join her.  

Her brother Carston (right) opted to carry a jerrycan the whole way. “About halfway through, it got really tough,” he says. “I started wondering why I signed up for this when I heard someone yell, ‘You’re not doing this for you, you’re doing it for someone else.’ And that motivated me the rest of the way. Thinking about how children do this every day makes my heart hurt. It’s a lot of weight physically and emotionally.”2019 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer) 

Walking in her shoes

Like many mothers in developing countries, this father not only carried a jerrycan of water, but also his young baby strapped to his chest. He participated with Peninsula Community Center in Redwood City, California, where more than 400 people walked and ran, raising nearly $28,000. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger) 

Bridging generations

Truxton “Truck” Howick, 76, high-fives Jonathan Casanova, 1, as he and his mother, Tricia, walk the Global 6K for Water at Lake Sawyer Church in Black Diamond, Washington. The event drew more than 300 participants — about 100 more than last year and raised more than $21,000. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber) 

Finishing strong

A cacophony of cheers greets participants as they cross the finish line at the World Vision-hosted site in Seattle’s Gas Works Park. (©2019World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

The post Highlights from the 2019 Global 6K for Water appeared first on World Vision.

Why We Need To Be Careful About Adopting Business Models In Our Churches

When we think we need to go to a business model for church renewal, aren’t we implying that biblical principles can’t stand on their own?

It’s becoming very popular to teach church growth and leadership principles using ideas from successful businesses.

Some of the titles of books and articles I’ve seen lately include, What The Church Can Learn From…

  • Harley Davidson
  • Marvel Movies
  • Japanese Management
  • Marketing Experts

And more.

Despite the best intentions of these writers, I’m becoming more and more convinced that trying to bring renewal to our churches by adapting business ideas is at best ineffective, and at worst, potentially damaging to our souls, spirits and mission.

Business Ideas Won’t Fix The Church

I agree that we can learn from a variety of sources. For instance, I recently read an Inc.com article about how Chipotle revitalized their restaurants after having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year in 2017.

I had a momentary thought about writing an article about how churches can learn from Chipotle’s turnaround.

Then the moment passed.

Here’s why. The three ways Chipotle turned their company around, according to the article, were

  1. Modernization
  2. Talent
  3. Emotionally intelligent marketing

Smart ideas.

For a restaurant.

It’s tempting to want to find church parallels for them.

But if your church is in trouble, I beg you not to give into the temptation to think your church problems will be solved by doing church versions of what Chipotle did, such as

  1. A cool, new coffee station in the lobby (modernization)
  2. Hiring a new staff member (talent)
  3. Better use of social media (emotionally intelligent marketing)

None of those are bad things. The church I serve has done all three at various times. But none of them were the cause of our church getting or staying healthy.

Churches Aren’t Businesses – Or They Shouldn’t Be

The issue …

Continue reading

FMI church attacked in Lahore, Pakistan

Pakistan (MNN) – On Sunday an FMI church was attacked during its worship service in Lahore, Pakistan. At Pastor Asad’s church, 100 people were gathered when 12 men attempted to illegally seize the church property.

“They wanted to use sheer force to say we are now occupying this land and it is ours. It was intended to instill a lot of fear and traumatize the congregation,” Bruce Allen with FMI says.

Preparation Brought Prevention

However, this story is a double-edged sword. On one side is the heartache of persecution, but on the other is the incredible providence of a faithful God. In the last several months FMI has put security measures in place to prepare for attacks like this. Along with installing security equipment at FMI support churches, FMI also provided security training.

“We had met with the volunteers from congregations that were becoming trained to be the security detail for their churches. We met with the pastors and gave them training about evacuations and lines of communication, and prevention of attacks, and all sorts of things,” Allen says.

This training was put into action on Sunday when security detail identified attackers and prevented them from reaching the sanctuary. Allen says most of the “scuffle” happened outside of the actual church building. No damage or harm was done to either the building or the worshippers.

Corruption Against Christians

CCTV Camera Installation (Photo courtesy of FMI)

The police who responded to the church attack made commitments to investigate. They detained Pastor Asad and the church elders at the police station for six hours. Then on Monday, when the pastor returned to the police station with the FMI National Director for Pakistan, the police refused to fulfill their promise to investigate.

“It was evident that the assailants had actually paid the police a bribe to not investigate. And the police are just dragging their heels on the situation and said they refuse to investigate unless a court compels them to do so,” Allen says.

But if the case is taken to court, it is likely the judges and others on the case will be corrupt as well. Also, the church would need to hire a lawyer who is willing to represent an oppressed and marginalize minority—a difficult find in Pakistan. Furthermore, the lawyer fees could cost upwards of $5,000.

Allen says this attack does highlight a challenge Christians face in the country. Corruption is common in Pakistan and as a minority, Christians are often targeted for land-grabbing.

Defining Land-Grabbing

Allen describes land-grabbing as “theft of real estate and done by bribes, coercion, physical force, [and] forged documents.” People who land-grab sometimes gain their information from local authorities through bribes to discover what properties belong to Christians, other minorities, widows, or even a landlord who does not live in the area.

“Sometimes the land grabbers will make forged documents such as the title deed, and present them to the court as if they’re authentic, but they’re not. Then the court, especially if they see that, oh, this land, you know, Christians are using it, awards it to the Muslims. Judges are known to take bribes as well,” Allen says.

Pastor Asad was the victim of a land-grabbing attack four years ago. Land-grabbers came to his home and physically forced pastor Asad and his extended family out, rendering them homeless. Allen says when Pastor Asad went to the police, they refused to investigate or bring charges against the attackers.

Land-grabbing has been used as a way to force religious conversion. Allen says that he recently received a report that a group of mosque leaders forced about 40 Christian families to convert to Islam. The leaders had threatened to illegally confiscate their homes and even kill the families. Through conversion, the families were able to hold onto their property.

“It really is a difficult situation for Christians regarding property, whether it’s their own homes, or it’s their worship site, it’s their church. Many will say no, we don’t convert to Islam, we remain true to the gospel, and sometimes like in pastors Asad’s by sheer physical violence, he is evicted from his own premises,” Allen explains.

Faith in God, Not in Man

The Joshua Project reports 0.7 percent of the population are professing Christians. Despite having constitutional rights as citizens, Christians are often intimidated and discriminated against by the majority population

“Christians really feel like they have no recourse and no reason to rely on the government or the authorities. We’ve already seen from our own past experiences, judges being bribed, judges allow[ing] weapons in the courtroom to attack Christians,” Allen says.

(Photo courtesy of FMI)

But even with the discouragement of a country that has turned on its own people, there is a sense of something greater going on in Pakistan than what man could ever accomplish alone.

“The Christians really say, all we have left is the body of Christ, who will intercede for us before the throne of the one who is sovereign over all the nations. They really just rely on God to continue to protect them and allow them to engage in Christian activity, and worship and fellowship,” Allen says.

On the same day the attack against the church in Lahore was unfolding, Allen says he also received reports of baptisms in the country with other FMI partners. In a sense, ministry in Pakistan is a rollercoaster of intense joy and extreme heartache, and God is present and faithful through both.

Will You Pray?

Will you faithfully be the body of Christ to our brothers and sisters in Pakistan? If yes, start by praying. Pray for Pastor Asad’s wisdom, his elders, and a congregation that has been traumatized by this experience. Pray that these church leaders would remember their FMI security training and put it into practice.

“Pray for [Pastor Asad’s] personal growth and the protection of his Spirit. Remember, he’s someone himself who has experienced significant loss, he lost his home to land grabbers. Now he’s seeing it happening in one of the churches that he shepherds,” Allen asks.

Also, pray for the Lord’s sovereignty and justice in the aftermath of this church attack. Finally, pray for these Christians’ courage and perseverance following this attack.

Want to help financially support Pastor Asad’s church following Sunday’s attack? Then click here to give to FMI’s project advocacy account.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of FMI.

This June, help reach the unreached

United States (MNN) – Pentecost Sunday is one month away. The day marks ten days after Christ’s ascension, when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples. It is also considered the launch of the global movement to spread the Gospel. It is fitting that the Alliance for the Unreached chose this day to holds its annual International Day for the Unreached (IDU). In 2019, the day falls on June 9.

Alliance for the Unreached is a movement meant to unite the Church through the work of churches, organizations, and individuals for the purpose of reaching every unreached people group (UPGs) with the Gospel. Promptly put, it is a collaborative to fulfill the Great Commission.

An Urgency and Hunger

Matt Knisely with the Seed Company says the organization joined the Alliance to alleviate the painful reality that there are people who do not yet have the opportunity to know Jesus or His love and truth.

“I started thinking about what it says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, about the three-fold cord, and thinking this is what is going to change the trajectory of the world, and the Kingdom of a body, a group, an alliance coming together, working in unity, to see God’s kingdom grow, and see the unreachable with word and with God,” Knisely says.

International day for the unreached

(Photo courtesy of Alliance for the Unreached)

The Alliance echoes a call felt throughout the global body of Christ—unity. In 2018 the themes for Missio Nexus and the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) conferences revolved around the idea of partnership within the Church. It resembles the threads of a tapestry woven together for the purpose of God. But in this interwoven unity is a sense of urgency.

“When I have gone to countries, such as Kenya or Zambia this past year, there is just a hunger that is there. And in a strong urgency, I feel that not only within the organizations, but in the countries that I visited, that desperately, desperately want to be reached,” Knisely says.

How to Get Involved

Knisely says it is time for Christians to deeply invest through prayer and even financial support in efforts to make the Gospel known among all nations of the world. Curious about the how? Invest in a translation project with the Seed Company.

The Seed Company is in the work of accelerating Bible translation. Their goal—to have God’s word in every heart language that needs it by 2025. Learn how to get involved here.

(Photo courtesy of Alliance for the Unreached)

“We have the Bible, we take it for granted that I can just open my mobile phone, and read the Bible right there when halfway around the world that little girl doesn’t know that Jesus loves her. And when you see somebody, for the first time, get God’s word. And you see the tears streaming down their face, it totally changes your perception,” Knisely says.

In the days leading up to Pentecost Sunday and the International Day for the Unreached, spend time invested in prayer. Ask God to provide the resources and forge the paths of making the Gospel available in every language so that those who do not know Him would have the opportunity to build a relationship with Jesus.

Learn more about the International Day for the Unreached here!

To get involved with the Seed Company, click here.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Alliance for the Unreached.

News headlines become daily reminders for believers

International (MNN) — This month, headlines from Muslim-majority countries serve a dual purpose. Yes, they are current events but each headline is also a call to action.

Every time Muslims appear in the news between now and June 4, or a headline arises from a Muslim-majority nation, it’s a reminder to pray for the Muslim world. Why? Ramadan is underway – a sacred month on the Islamic calendar.  During Ramadan, Muslims devote themselves to fasting and seeking God. It’s a perfect season to pray Islamic followers will meet the one true Lord of Lords.

Download a prayer calendar here to pray through Ramadan.

Headlines like this one and this one – used in sync with Prayercast’s new “Love Muslims” video series – provide arsenal for committed prayer warriors. “The more we know, the more we notice,” observes Prayercast director Chris Ruge.

“Now, rather than just seeing a headline, my heart is stirred. Instead of just reading a story, God leads me in prayer for the people who are involved in that story.”

Join MNN’s email list to receive daily or weekly headlines. These updates can help you knowledgeably and specifically pray for Muslims as you learn about the people group.

“As I learn more about what it means to be a Muslim, about what they’re experiencing during Ramadan, about all these different facets of the Muslim world… as I learn more about that, I notice more things in the news that might have not caught my eye before.”

Prayer: it can change the Muslim world

Ruge and the Prayercast team began working on the “Love Muslims” series over four years ago. It all began with a question: “If we could snap our fingers and do anything in the Muslim world, what would we ask for?” Details here.

(Screenshot)

More questions followed the first: “What if we started praying for specific leaders in the Muslim world? Key political and religious leaders,” Ruge recalls.

“What would happen if one of them came out and boldly proclaimed to the entire world that they have met with Jesus Christ and found a better way?”

Those inquiries led to appointments, phone calls, interviews, filming sessions, and many, many hours of editing. Today, the “Love Muslims” library holds 130 videos, each designed to unleash strategic, focused prayer on the Muslim world.

“I am praying that He will use this to rally His body around the world in a way that we would look back and say, ‘That started something…historically significant in all of redemptive history’,” says Ruge.

Pray Muslims will encounter the one true God during Ramadan. Find specific prayer needs in each “Love Muslims” video. Today’s video focuses on marriage in the Muslim world.

 

 

Header image courtesy of Kaboompics.com via Pexels.

Suicide prevention requires prayer AND action

USA (MNN) — We’re continuing a conversation today about Mental Health Awareness Month and the U.S. suicide rate. Read yesterday’s article here. Suicide claimed over 47,000 lives in 2017, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Suicide is a crisis inside church walls as well as outside, Dean Vander Mey of Set Free Ministries observes. The self-inflicted deaths they encounter are often – but not always – connected to substance addiction.

On a daily basis, Set Free’s staff and volunteers utilize Scripture, counseling, and medical aid to help people work through suicide- and addiction-related issues. More about Set Free’s work here.

Vander Mey says local churches need to work in suicide prevention, too. Hurting hearts are everywhere, but few believers offer an introduction to “pele’ yo‘ets” – the wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ.

“If we’re going to be the body of Christ, and… God’s heart is to seek and save those who are lost, to search for the strays and to bring in [and] bind up the wounded, then – as the body of Christ – we should be doing that,” he says.

“That’s going to include prayer, but it’s also going to include action.”

Suicide prevention and you

God’s Word instructs believers to “be doers of the word and not hearers only,” as recorded in James 1. If you know someone’s hurting, first tell them – immediately – that you care and hope is readily available in Christ. Then, connect with Set Free through email, or call the ministry at (616) 726-5400 for direction regarding “next steps.”

“Love covers over a multitude of sin. Reach out,” Vander Mey recommends.

“The number one trick of Satan is isolation.”

He points to Genesis 3 as an example.

(Stock photo by Pexels)

“When Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing they did was run and hide. They thought they were bad and God was mad. God actually pursued them, came into their darkness while they were hiding, and says, ‘hey, let’s talk.’”

Vander Mey also describes a process Set Free uses to help someone who’s suicidal. “[Suicide is] a spiritual, emotional and physical issue,” he begins, outlining steps the ministry follows to help a person in need.

“If a person is a danger to themselves or others, I say, ‘let’s get help immediately,’” Vander Mey says. “Get that person to the hospital because… they might need some medication to settle things down so that they can start to get out the issue.”

Once the physical crisis is resolved, “now let’s find out what’s causing all of this,” he continues.

“Let’s get to the real issue, because – usually – there’s something underneath that (suicidal ideation).”

Visit Set Free’s website to learn more about their work.

 

 

Header image courtesy of Gabriel via Unsplash.

How you can pray for Muslims during Ramadan

International (MNN) — The Muslim world is three days into Ramadan, a holiday when Muslims fast during the daylight hours and seek to earn Allah’s favor.

Ramadan is also a pivotal time for Christians — a time to pray for God to show Muslims the truth of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Frontiers USA works among Islamic people groups to plant churches and introduce Muslims to Jesus in the Bible. Perry LaHaie with Frontiers says they hear stories all the time from the mission field of God miraculously revealing His truth to Muslim men and women.

“We hear them so often — God showing up in a dream or a vision [or] performing a miracle of healing. A lot of the times, it’s just something that prepares the heart of a Muslim person, and then many times, God will bring a follower of Jesus into that person’s life or they’ll get in touch with the Bible.”

(Photo courtesy of Frontiers USA)

LaHaie says he recently heard the story of Rachel, a Muslim woman whose father was an Islamic scholar. “Rachel’s father…felt like he really didn’t understand the Muslim holy book, the Quran, so he just dove into it really deep to understand it better. Rachel was inspired by her father’s desire to know the Quran better so she started her own quest for truth.

“She ended up reading about Isa al-Masih, Jesus the Messiah, online. As she read about that and reflected on what she was learning, one night she just cried out, ‘God, show me the truth.’

“Right after that, her room was filled with a brilliant light and she heard the words she had just read online from Jesus. She heard the words, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except by me.’

“When she had this vision of light and heard the words, she was convinced they were true.”

Rachel was so moved by Jesus’s words that she told her mother about the vision, and her mother believed as well. One by one, Rachel’s father, two brothers, sister, and sister’s fiance all came to trust in Jesus as their Savior.

“It just seems like this is one of the things God is doing in the Muslim world — using dramatic signs, wonders, dreams, visions, and then getting Muslims connected with the Word,” LaHaie says. “It’s like a touch point that moves them forward, maybe breaks through the misconceptions they have, and opens them up to then hearing the Word.”

Hungry for Hope, a 30-day Ramadan prayer guide by Frontiers USA. (Image courtesy of Frontiers)

You can pray for Muslims during the month of Ramadan by using Frontiers’ 30-day Ramadan prayer guide, Hungry for Hope.

Hungry for Hope immerses you in the stories of Muslim families and their journeys to discover God’s grace in Jesus. These precious stories paired with stunning photos will equip and move you to prayer.

Begin your 30-day prayer adventure here!

You can also join what God is doing in the Muslim world at frontiersusa.org.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Frontiers.

Of Cyclone Fani, Aftermath and Recovery in India

(Photo by NASA – Terra MODIS Satellite – https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78667390)

India (MNN) – India learned from the bitter lessons of 1999 when a super cyclone struck Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) and killed 10,000 people, mostly in Odisha state.

Upon learning that another massive storm was aiming straight for the east coast last week, government officials evacuated over a million people. David Dayalan, the India country director for Asian Access (A2), says although Cyclone Fani still claimed dozens of lives, the evacuation saved tens of thousands of lives.

Heatwave complicates recovery

Fani left a trail of devastation across Odisha, home to 46 million people, before swinging towards Bangladesh. In early damage assessments, Dayalan describes it this way: “There are low lying areas that have become completely submerged, and the houses have been destroyed. I was talking to some friends from that region and there is almost no electricity, the walls are damaged, there’s water inside their home.”

The cyclone uprooted 10,000 coconut trees and destroyed agriculture and horticulture crops in Andhra Pradesh, which means food security will be a problem in the near future. “The devastation is so bad. I mean, it’s just unimaginable. It’s going to be tough to recover from the loss of agriculture.”

In remote areas, the storm damaged homes and business, many without roofs. Power lines are down, and some roads remain inaccessible; yet to be restored, Dayalan says, are electricity and communications.

“It is going to take a long time in terms of rehabilitation, in terms of settling people back in those villages and towns and getting their houses rectified. That is going to be a huge challenge. Especially in the context–It’s now election season. The political parties have been pretty active in campaigning.”

Relief efforts underway

Government officials estimate the storm affected more than three million people. Much of the damage, explains Dayalan, was in poorer areas, where hundreds of thousands are homeless now. “The coastal belt traditionally doesn’t see too much development around that area, in Odisha. It’s only the main cities like Cuttack, otherwise, it’s mostly villages and towns.”

Non-Government Organizations, as well as businesses and the U.S. Navy, began their damage assessments and have already started relief efforts. The office of the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) said massive relief and restoration work was underway to provide basic facilities – electricity, water supply, and mobile connectivity – to the affected people.

The strength of the Church

Dayalan observes that the needs are at survival level: clean water, shelter, and food, in that order. Although A2 isn’t a humanitarian NGO, they do work with established church networks. That speeds up any relief process, exponentially.

“Any calamity in any part of India, we mobilize the pastors, in fact, quite a few of them get involved in aid–not from an ‘Asian Access’ perspective, but more from ‘pastors-from-their-own-church’ perspective. We do encourage churches to get involved in aid and relief–especially relief.

“The immediate need right now will be to help people through this process. The government can only do to some level. The Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) normally (and the churches) really get actively involved on the ground in rehabilitating people and their homes and getting them off the field.”

As storm-hit parts of India slowly come out of paralysis, multiple needs appear. Yes, survivors need relief, but that’s tricky navigation with funding restrictions for ministries. As the hands and feet of Christ on the ground, ask God to provide the supplies and funding needed.

But this is the primary request, says Dayalan. “Prayer is going to be number one: praying for the government especially, [that they] would really make all that they can, the effort to get people back on their feet, and also the aid and social NGOs, which are going to be working alongside the government agencies so they will really help the process.”

 

 

Headline photo courtesy  TwitterTrends2019/Flickr/CC

8 Simple (but not easy) Rules for Movement: Part 1 – Owning Our Commission

Over the next eight Mondays, we will examine each of these rules.

We’ve all purchased a product that promised easy installation. The box explicitly stated that anyone—even the most hapless novice—could follow these simple, straight-forward instructions with little more than a flat head screwdriver and the included Allen wrench. Four hours later, you’re sitting in the garage with random screws and half-assembled parts strewn about, wondering why you didn’t just pay the extra 40 dollars to get the preassembled unit.

The resources developed for church leaders aren’t all that different. Four easy steps transitioning your stagnant, inward church into a disciple-making, mission-sending force for the kingdom. Easy, right? It’s little wonder so many pastors spend each Monday with frustrations rivaling that of the fictitious man in his garage. They’ve got some pieces in place, but it’s seemingly impossible to envision how to move from their current reality to their aspirational vision.

Some just give up. They determine that God’s preferred future is out of reach. They might continue to fulfill their obligations to an ecclesio-centric ministry, but they’ve abandoned any hope of taking practical steps to lead God’s people in mission. Others move on. They find another church that seems to have more pieces already assembled or where it appears that the random assortment of parts is a bit easier to construct. Often, after the initial honeymoon phase, these leaders realize that the proverbial grass is certainly not greener in another field—they’ve simply chosen new problems.

A third group grapples for an easy fix. They identify the supposed problem in the church—poor leadership, lack of prayer, few personal evangelists, …

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Thousands of World Missionary Press distributors await new booklet

International (MNN) — World Missionary Press (WMP) recently finished their newest booklet, Alive in Christ: Living in the Light of Eternity.

This booklet has been in the works for years.

Alive in Christ

WMP’s Helen Williams says the ministry’s former president, Jay Benson, had a burden to create this booklet. The organization began working on it years ago, but Williams says other projects would come up and push the work of Alive in Christ to the side.

Finally, in 2018, WMP’s current president, Harold Mac, decided to push forward and finish the booklet.

Williams says the organization doesn’t release new booklets very often, but, she says, she thinks the Lord has put the Alive in Christ booklet on people’s minds and hearts for a long time.

Now completed, the booklet is 96 pages and will work as a discipleship tool.

“It is just a presentation of what it means to live in the light of eternity,” Williams says.

She explains some of the highlighted topics that are in the booklet.

“God is our fellowship with us. He restores our relationship through Christ. We can walk in newness of life. God’s Word brings changes and life, dying to self-living for righteousness, living in fellowship with the Father and His church. If we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit, living godly lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, victory over the enemy through Jesus Christ. If we share in His sufferings, we will share His glory.”

Williams explains the booklet addresses these subjects because they are practical, everyday matters with eternal values and show how God has asked believers to live according to His Word.

She says Jesus’s life on earth was a demonstration on how believers should live godly lives in the world.

“He was mortal, human, as well as God, and He came to live. And it says in the scriptures that He increased in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in favor with God and man, and that’s what we need in our lives.”

Production and Distribution

Alive in Christ will be printed soon. However, Williams says there is a production issue keeping it from being printed right now.

Pray that the issue will be resolved and that the booklet will be printed and distributed as soon as possible.

“As soon as we get it printed and we send it to people, I think they’re going to really want it and we’re going to have to really start getting it translated into other languages too because it is a discipleship tool and in some of these languages, discipleship tools are scarce.”

(Photo courtesy of World Missionary Press)

WMP has 36,000 distributors worldwide who are excited and waiting to receive this new booklet. Some are large ministries, others are individuals wanting to make an impact within their family or community.

With such a vast number of distributors, the booklet can be used in many ways and instances.

For example, “like the Alive in Christ, I can see that being used in prison ministry for those that may have come to Christ in prison who need to get an upward look and to realize what Christ can be to them no matter the circumstance.”

Others may share the booklets in Sunday school classes, small groups, or even out on the street.

Be a prayer warrior for WMP. Pray that the Lord will use Alive in Christ in many ways and that people will be receptive toward the Word.

Also, help supply distributors by donating to WMP.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of World Missionary Press.

Ramadan begins, church ministry continues

News Alert: 100 million people are in the path of Tropical Cyclone Fani, expected to be India’s strongest cyclone in 20 years. Storm surge and floods threaten large sections of coast India and Bangladesh. The storm made landfall Friday. Several MNN partners are standing by, ready to begin damage assessments and mobilize response. We will have more details tomorrow. Please be praying for wisdom for them and ask God to make a way for these ministries to be effective in this time of need.

 

Pakistan (MNN) – Ramadan, the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, began last night. This month-long holiday is a period where Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down and then feast at night in celebration to mark when Allah gave the Prophet Muhammad the first chapters of the Quran in 610 A.D. Learn more about Ramadan here.

Ramadan in Pakistan

Pakistan* is the second largest Muslim majority nation. During Ramadan, it is illegal in Pakistan to publicly eat or drink during the fasting hours. This puts minorities, like Christians, in the cross-hairs of the nation’s majority. After all, the season of Ramadan brings together a hangry society mixed with sectarian strife, throwing fuel on an already tense situation.

Pakistan (Photo courtesy of FMI)

“[Pakistani] society as a whole is very antagonistic toward Christians. That’s why they have a low social status,” FMI’s Bruce Allen says.

Pakistani society is no stranger to terror attacks, suicide bombings, and even arson against churches. There have even been scenarios when after a church bombing, people will enter the situation posed as first responders and then kidnap children under the guise of taking them to a safe house. These kids have been forced into human trafficking, forced to convert faiths, and more.

FMI Churches Survive Shutdowns

But, earlier this year, Christian churches were threatened with closure if they did not meet security requirements by March 31. FMI planned to fortify Pakistani churches prior to the government announcement. Fortunately, resources were supplied in time to turn the 12-month project into a 3-month process. All FMI-supported churches in Pakistan were fortified in time to prevent shutdowns.

security training, ramadan

FMI onsite security briefing in Pakistan (Photo courtesy of FMI)

“By God’s grace, and the help of mission network news partners, we were able to fortify about 15% more churches than our original plan,” FMI’s Bruce Allen says.

The security changes FMI made to churches include CCTV installation, training congregation members for security, crisis response training, metal detector installations, and supplying quality first aid kits. However, churches not supported by FMI have already begun to be shut down for failing to meet inspection standards.

“We need to pray that church members whose congregations, churches may get close to the Lord would provide them with exceptional insight for creative ways that they can still meet together maybe, in small groups, maybe in homes, things like that, fly under the radar so that they can fellowship and worship, pray and encourage one another,” Allen says.

Be Prayerful, Be Active

As the month of Ramadan continues and churches in Pakistan struggle to meet inspection requirements, will you pray? Pray for the safety and protection of Christians in Pakistan. Pray opportunities would present themselves for the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ to be shared. Ask God to use this season in Pakistani society to reveal Himself to the people and to use His church in the process.

“Ministry needs to be done creatively, carefully, with gentleness and respect as the Bible would tell us to do. And, the [FMI] partners are learning what that means, what that will look like in a place like Pakistan,” Allen says.

Pray also for the churches doing ministry to be led by the Holy Spirit so that through wisdom and gentleness they will make the Gospel known. Pray for these churches’ creativity in ministry as well.

To tangibly help FMI supported churches, click here.

 

*Pakistan is ranked #5 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. The World Watch List is a ranking of the top 50 countries where it is most severe to live as a Christian. Find the World Watch List here.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of FMI.

Why is the suicide rate so high? Ministry offers insight

USA (MNN) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a perfect time to talk with Set Free Ministries about mental health, suicide, and what you can do to help.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 129 people take their life every day. As we reported last year, the national suicide rate has been steadily rising since the late 1990s.

Set Free’s Dean Vander Mey says, “There [are] multiple reasons why the suicide rate keeps going up. But, I think it can all be attributed back to…we’re turning our back on God and now the stats are showing that.

“It’s just kind of proof that you can live life any way you want, but there’s going to be consequences.”

U.S. suicide: a spiritual perspective

(Photo by bruce mars from Pexels)

Youth suicide tends to get the most media attention, especially given the recent spike and an alleged connection to the Netflix show, ‘13 Reasons Why.’ However, the most recent suicide statistics reveal that middle-aged men have the highest suicide rate.

In Oregon, 90-percent of suicides involve people over 25 years old; many victims are men.

“A lot of it seems to correlate with economics and what happens in economics,” Vander Mey observes.

“When you have men who have worked their whole life, and they think they’re going to have a nest egg and then it all collapses and goes away – that causes a lot of despair.”

This Reuters article also cites a connection between economic stability and suicide rates. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) points to celebrity suicide as a possible trigger event. The NIMH study examined data surrounding Robin Williams’ self-inflicted death in 2014 and its influence on suicides during that time period.

The factors and circumstances leading people to commit suicide vary widely. However, Vander Mey says a spiritual cause is largely unacknowledged and unaddressed. “What I see going on today in the USA is we’re turning our back on God; we’re going secular,” he explains.

(Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash)

“We’re choosing our own path…[and] God will let you do that. The Bible kind of says, ‘Love God or love the world, make your choice.’”

Even when people choose a life path that brings them far away from God’s side, He doesn’t give up on them. That’s why Set Free Ministries exists – to rescue and remind people of the redemption available through Christ. Based in West Michigan, the ministry helps suicidal individuals on a near-daily basis.

Learn more about Set Free Ministries here.

“For those contemplating suicide, I would say there’s hope — just know there’s hope.”

The conversation continues tomorrow with a look at warning signs and practical ways to help people who are suicidal.

 

 

Header image courtesy of Nathan Cowley via Pexels.

The Life of “Be”: Remembering Warren Wiersbe

Today many are mourning the loss of another brilliant man of God, a faithful pastor and Bible teacher.

Billy Graham. David Hesselgrave. Lamin Sanneh. Nabeel Qureshi. Bob Buford. R. C. Sproul. Elisabeth Elliot. We’ve lost some incredible leaders in the past few years, great minds who contributed much to evangelicalism and who committed their lives in humble service to God.

Today I, along with many, are mourning the loss of another impactful leader: Warren Wiersbe. Much of his texts and sermons have helped form how I think and how I teach the Bible.

Indeed, he was one of evangelicalism’s giants, but to the people of The Moody Church, he was their beloved pastor.

You can read the tribute from his grandson here. Also, Erwin Lutzer is pastor emeritus of The Moody Church and he has already written a moving tribute. However, as someone who was influenced by his writing, and now serve an interim role at his former church, let me add a bit to their helpful reflections.

Weirsbe at Moody

In September 2016, I preached my first sermon as interim teaching pastor at Moody Church in Chicago. Extraordinary preachers like Moody, Torrey, Ironside, and Lutzer have stood in this pulpit. Yet the one I engaged with the most in my life, primarily through his writings, was Warren Wiersbe.

Even today as I enter the sanctuary, people regularly mention him, his preaching, and his influence in their lives. The warmth of their love for Wiersbe is evident to this day.

Wiersbe is perhaps best known for his “Be” series, a series of 50 books from Be Real to Be Joyful, but it was his faithful preaching of God’s word that helped The Moody Church be a church God called them to be.

Writing over 160 books, Wiersbe’s name fills church libraries and campus bookstores. His devotional preaching still remain central to thousands of churches’ …

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Central America migration: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Central America migration has greatly increased since 2012 and now includes not just adults seeking work, but also many families and unaccompanied children. Poverty, violence, lack of economic opportunities, and food insecurity are among the top reasons migrants cite for traveling to the U.S.

Increasingly, Central American migrants have chosen to travel in larger groups for safety. These migrant caravans include hundreds or thousands of people. The largest caravan so far originated in October 2018 in San Pedro Sula, a crime-troubled city in Honduras. By the time it reached Tijuana on the U.S.-Mexico border in November, the caravan had traveled nearly 3,000 miles, and 7,000 people had joined. Others from Guatemala and El Salvador joined along the way. Here’s a Google Maps perspective showing the likely path many of the migrants took: https://goo.gl/maps/QMsLXK9RB2S2

FAQs: What you need to know about Central America migration

Find answers to frequently asked questions about Central America migration, and learn how you can help.

Central America migration fast facts

  • Poverty, violence, and food insecurity are among the top reasons families migrate north.
  • Most people at the southern U.S. border migrate from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
  • Between 2007 and 2016, the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S. shrank by 13 percent.
  • By contrast, the lawful immigrant population grew 22 percent during the same period.
  • At the Mexico-U.S. border, World Vision provides basic household supplies, support shelters that serve nutritious meals, and operate Child-Friendly Spaces.
  • In Central America, we help people remain hopeful at home by partnering with churches, governments, local businesses, and schools to provide a safer, more nurturing environment for them.

Where are Central American migrants coming from?

Most Central American migrants are coming from three of the region’s seven countries—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—called the Northern Triangle. It’s called the Northern Triangle because the countries are clustered in a triangle at the northern tip of Central America. Guatemala, the northernmost of the three, borders Mexico.

All three of the Northern Triangle countries rank among the world’s top 10 countries for homicides.

Why are Central Americans migrating to North America?

Many factors cause people to uproot their families. The most common reasons among Central American migrants can be food insecurity, political insecurity, violence, lack of economic opportunity, or a combination of some or all.

How many people are migrating from Central America to the U.S.?

There is no clear count of how many people are migrating to the U.S. from Central America. But the Migration Policy Institute says of the 3.4 million Central Americans living in the U.S., about 85 percent of them are from  Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. At any given time, there could be thousands of people journeying north from their home countries. In November 2018, a “caravan” of about 7,000 people arrived at temporary shelters in Tijuana, Mexico, and Mexicali, Mexico, at the U.S.-Mexico border.

What is a migrant caravan?

A migrant caravan is a group of people migrating north from Central America with a goal of finding safety, political stability, or better economic opportunity in the United States. Most of the migrants come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador and many say they are fleeing violence, poverty, and persecution at home.

What are the recent migrants doing now?

Migrants are weighing their options. Some have accepted Mexico’s offer to provide a one-year humanitarian visa, allowing them to work legally. Others have accepted offers to be repatriated to their home countries. As many as 2,000 have registered to receive a hearing for asylum in the U.S. and will have to wait up to several months for their turn in immigration court.

Some others are choosing to cross the border and submit to border officials, potentially getting a chance to plead their case for asylum quicker. Those seeking asylum have a better chance of getting to stay if they are fleeing a legitimate threat back home, such as gang violence. They would be considered refugees. People are not granted asylum if they are simply seeking a better economic situation.

How many people cross the border?

In March 2019, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended about 92,600 people at the border with Mexico. Over the past decade, the number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased significantly, from more than 1 million in fiscal year 2006 to just over 300,000 in fiscal year 2017.

Overall, between 2007 and 2016, the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S. shrank by 13 percent. By contrast, the lawful immigrant population grew 22 percent during the same period, an increase of more than 6 million people. In 2016, the U.S. was home to a nearly 35 million lawful immigrants, both naturalized citizens and noncitizens on permanent and temporary visas.

What is World Vision doing to help at the Mexico-U.S. border?

Since late 2018, when the last large migrant caravan arrived in Tijuana, World Vision staff have been working with local faith-based organizations to help migrant families. We provide basic household supplies, support shelters that serve nutritious meals, and operate Child-Friendly Spaces. There, children have a safe place to, rest, play and learn.

What is World Vision doing in their home countries?

We have been working for decades throughout Latin America, including in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, to help families and their communities address the root causes of poverty.

Because of child sponsorship, we are able to work with children and youth in some of the most vulnerable communities to specifically address the root causes of migration: violence, social exclusion, poverty, food security, clean water, quality education, and separation from family. World Vision helps people remain hopeful at home by partnering with churches, governments, local businesses, schools, and other development partners to provide a safer, more nurturing environment for them.

One program raising promise among vulnerable youth in Central America is Youth Ready. Through this approach, we help young people discover their potential, develop specific career and life skills, establish support networks, build character and confidence, and plan for their future. This work is made possible, largely because of child sponsorship. But many other programs like this are at risk if the U.S. foreign assistance budget gets cut.

How could World Vision’s work be affected by U.S. foreign assistance budget cuts?

Right now, the United States foreign assistance budget is at risk of significant reduction. This small 1% of the U.S. budget saves lives and helps improve safety, health, and opportunities for children around the world. It helps fuel many of our programs in Central America that make communities healthier and give youth and their parents hope as they work for a better future. World Vision could lose multiple millions of dollars in funding for work we’re already doing in vulnerable Central American communities. This critical work mentioned above contributes to families often deciding not to migrate north — to stay in their homes and invest in their communities.

How can I help?

Here are three ways you can help Central American families living in precarious situations:

  • Pray: Ask God to bring peace to communities, strength and integrity to leaders, and economic stability to families.
  • Support U.S. foreign assistance by contacting your elected officials. It only takes a minute.
  • Sponsor a child in Central America: Sponsoring a child is a personal way to show God’s love to a child in need. It also gives a family more reasons to remain in their community.

The post Central America migration: Facts, FAQs, and how to help appeared first on World Vision.