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Chinese New Year

Mission Network News - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board)

China (IMB) -- [Editor's Note: This is an International Mission Board story sharing how you can make a difference in a Chinese family's life this New Year.] The Chinese Lunar New Year is the perfect holiday to build friendships with Chinese neighbors in your community. The holiday is as important to Chinese as Christmas is to Americans. Chinese people living away from their homeland often find it to be a lonely time, but you can help them feel right at home and loved. Don’t let worrying about “making cultural mistakes” keep you from reaching out to your Chinese community. The holiday normally falls in January or February; the date differs each year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Celebrations officially last from the 1st day until the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. However, if you include the special activities prior to the New Year, such as special family gatherings on New Year’s Eve, the holiday count increases even more! This is a time for family and eating. Many of the food items eaten at the New Year time have a special meaning. For example, oranges are considered a symbol of wealth, while fish are symbolic of abundance. Plants and food items are the most popular hostess gifts during the holidays. Two big family meals take place at Chinese New Year, each one consisting of dozens of dishes. The first one is on Chinese New Year’s Eve, and the other is on the evening of Chinese New Year’s Day. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, family members (especially in northern China) participate in making jiaozi. The jiaozi is cooked the following day and will be eaten for breakfast, and sometimes for lunch. To many Chinese, eating dumplings on the New Year is as important as eating turkey on Thanksgiving is to many Americans. Millions jam Chinese public transportation to get to their parents’ or grandparents’ homes prior to the start of the holidays, which is why Chinese New Year is often dubbed as “the world’s largest annual mass migration.” Due to work responsibilities or finances, not everyone can return home. Chinese New Year, therefore, becomes a special time for Christians to reach out in friendship to those who feel lonely and isolated. Lots of doorbells ring on the first day of the New Year as people visit friends and relatives to pass along New Year greetings. Some visitors don’t even go inside the homes, but merely stop at the door to share a word of cheer. People also exchange greeting cards at Chinese New Year. Cards are seldom sent at any other time of the year, not even at birthdays. Visiting neighbors, long lost friends, and family is important during the holiday. If an adult visits a home that has a "child" -- anyone from a baby to a young, unmarried adult,  the adult gives a red envelope to the child. Inside the decorative envelope is money. On New Year's Day, people usually stay home to relax and eat traditional foods. Some go to temples, burning incense to idols on the first day of the festival. Temples visited during the New Year may be Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, or any one of many temples built to Chinese traditional gods. Christians worship God and pray for His blessings in the coming year at special church services. For many believers, this will be the first time they tell their families about their newfound faith. The last day of Chinese New Year is known both as the "Lantern Festival" and "Yuan Xiao Festival." It marks the end of the holiday. People light lanterns that float into the night sky or stroll through local parks that have large colorful decorative lanterns on display. At midnight, at the start of the fifth day of the New Year, many Chinese set off a barrage of fireworks to welcome the “money god” and his arrival on earth for the coming year. Legend says that whoever sets off the loudest and largest amount of fireworks first will become rich during the coming year. The deafening fireworks on this night even surpass the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve! The customs associated with Chinese New Year are numerous and can vary slightly from region to region. Pray that God will bless Chinese people around the world during the coming festival and the coming year. Pray that many will hear of God's goodness and His plan of salvation. If you'd like to find out more, click here.
Categories: Mission Network News

More terror, more horror: more Truth

Mission Network News - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 5:00am

(Image courtesy Forgotten Missionaries International)

Pakistan (MNN) -- ISIS burned 45 people to death in Iraq.   The murders came days after the grisly slayings of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. Emboldened, the Taliban answered in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both attacks were on provincial police headquarters. Both were deadly. But that's not all. *Nehemiah, Forgotten Missionaries International's director in Pakistan, explains, "Prior to this news, a government hospital in Lahore, the children's ward, they evacuated because there was a rumor that there was bomb there." The group behind the attacks called them revenge for the execution of its members. "The Taliban Pakistan: they're claiming responsibility for this. But [...] this Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan group has more than 70 splinter groups in Taliban, so it's very difficult to determine which group this is." Additionally, there are confirmed reports of Taliban Pakistan leadership taking on the Islamic State terror group's name and methods. ISIS brutality affects the whole country, not just Christians. While it causes fear, it's also causing backlash. "What we are getting from these people (is really a dislike for Islamic) teachings (because of violence) from the last two months. And now, 21 Christians were beheaded in Libya by ISIS. They're killing people and quoting verses from the Quran." Prior to that, the school attack in Peshawar was justified by the Quran. "They quoted a few verses from the Quran on why they were killing children."

(Photo courtesy Forgotten Missionaries International)

Bruce Allen with FMI says rather than gathering people to the cause, the vicious brutality on display has had a different effect. "The common citizens [are] beginning to question, 'Is Islam really this violent? Is this what I personally am believing?' They're beginning to question the validity of their own faith, so this gives great opportunity to share the light of the Gospel with them." It's a stir that is growing, Allen adds. "It's not just that they're questioning personally or privately, in their own heart or perhaps in their own family; this is the discussion out on the street." Nehemiah says, "After these verses from the Quran, people want to know more about Christianity or they want to more about what is the reality [of Christ]. They want to follow the Light." Allen agrees. That's why it's so important to have the tools at the ready. They have a shipment of the Gospels in both Urdu and Pashto, languages both spoken in Pakistan. "Even though there are more than a thousand of these books, Nehemiah says that they'll be distributed easily within 50-60 days, so we need to keep the supply going for our evangelists and church planters."

(Photo courtesy Forgotten Missionaries International)

Remembering that ISIS used the Egyptian beheadings to openly declare war on Christians, evangelism and church planting can be dangerous in areas with shared ideology, like Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Nehemiah says that's why they need your help. "Pray for more courage and wisdom, especially for the Pakistani Christian community, so when Muslims or other seekers ask questions from the Christian community, they may answer correctly." In his closing thought, Allen reminds us that in spite of the horrifying headlines, there is hope. "The wicked things that men intend? God even uses those things. His power is stronger; His love is greater than those things. He's using these tragic events to draw people to Himself." *Not his real name
Categories: Mission Network News

ISIS getting closer to Christian refugees in Iraq

Mission Network News - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 5:00am
Iraq (Aleteia network) -- Fighters of the Islamic State group launched a major assault Tuesday night southwest of Irbil in the Kurdish region of Iraq, CNN reported, quoting Kurdish officials. An assistant to Gen. Sirwan Barzani, commander of the sector, spoke of a "big attack" near the towns of Gwer and Makhmour. The towns are some 28 miles from Irbil, the Kurdish capital. The report bodes ill for tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities taking refuge in Irbil. The internally displaced persons (IDPs) already fled the Islamic group this summer when the Islamist militants overran their ancestral homelands in the Nineveh Plains of northern Iraq. While IDPs hear reports of the fighting, Irbil is calm for now, an aid worker told Aleteia by phone Wednesday. She said that there is an atmosphere of unease because last summer, many residents of towns on the Nineveh Plain were assured they were safe, only to find later that ISIS was attacking their villages. Many who are now taking refuge in Irbil had to leave their homes with little more than the clothes they were wearing. The aid worker, who wished to remain anonymous, added that many IDPs are still living in caravans and unfinished buildings in the Kurdish capital, leading to feelings of desperation. Tuesday's ISIS assault lasted for hours, with fighting at close quarters, said Kurdish officials in the area. ISIS launched its offensive on Kurdish positions from several directions, one Kurdish official said. Coalition aircraft were in the area, according to the officials, but they had so far been unable to fire on ISIS units because of the close proximity of the two sides on the ground. A CNN team was in the area 10 days ago and was told by fighters at the front that ISIS was making almost daily attempts to infiltrate through Kurdish lines, which are strung out along a stretch of the River Zab. Fortifications are few and far between. Volunteer fighters have very little in the way of weaponry. In January, nearly 30 Peshmerga fighters were killed in the area by a surprise ISIS attack across the river. CNN quoted Kurdish officials as saying they were concerned ISIS fighters would break through their lines. If that happens, it would spell disaster for Christian refugees, who have already weathered a cold winter in the Kurdish capital. CNN speculated, though, that the aim of Tuesday's attacks are not so much to take Irbil but to draw an already stretched Kurdish army  in many different directions, in order to relieve the pressure on Mosul, which ISIS seized in June. “Kurdish forces recently have been trying to surround Mosul to cut off ISIS' lines of supply from Syria, setting up what could be an eventual assault to try to expel the terror group from the city,” CNN said. The new development comes just a week after the Chaldean archbishop of Irbil, Bashar Warda, visited Great Britain to seek support in the fight against the Islamic State. He pleaded with Parliamentarians to do all in their power to persuade the British government to authorize the deployment of troops to help to drive out ISIS fighters from the Nineveh Plain. "It is hard for a Catholic bishop to say that we have to advocate a military action but we have to go for that," the archbishop told a meeting in the House of Lords where he was a guest of Lord Alton of Liverpool. "There is no other option." Archbishop Warda’s diocese covers the Kurdish-controlled territory which since last summer has become the home to more than 120,000 Iraqi Christian refugees who fled ISIS. He said that U.S.-led airstrikes have made some impact on the activities of ISIS but that they were “not enough” to liberate the Christian settlements on the Nineveh Plain. “Military action is needed, a powerful one where they could really get those people out of these villages so that our people and others can return,” Archbishop Warda said. In response to a question from a member of Parliament, the archbishop confirmed that he was suggesting that Britain sends in troops. The Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga are insufficiently well-trained or equipped to defeat ISIS, he said, adding, “Someone has to do the fighting.”  
Categories: Mission Network News