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Let Him Lift That Load

Christian Post - Living - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 7:13am
The Ten Commandments were not given to make us holy; they were given to show us that we are not holy. The commandments were given to show us that we need Jesus. The Bible says they are like a schoolmaster (kind of an old King James word). The idea is that of a disciplinarian. The commandments were given to say, in essence, "You can't do this on your own."
Categories: Christian Post

ISIS water war in Iraq causing ripples

Mission Network News - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 5:00am
Iraq (MNN) -- After taking control of dams along the Euphrates River, ISIS is waging a water war in Iraq. The Water War The terrorist group has been cutting off water from provinces, making the river run dry. According to Furat al-Timimi of Iraq’s parliamentary Agriculture and Water Committee, the Euphrates has dropped below 50% of it’s normal rate. “The Islamic State’s done a few things like this. This, unfortunately, is not unique,” says Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA. “Whenever the Islamic State is cutting off water or cutting off food points for people to get access of food, water, other materials, it affects not only the region, but all the surrounding regions as well.”

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

Timimi reports the group has taken control of the Ramadi dam affecting water sources that reach Babel, Karbala, Qadisiyah, and Najaf. The province that will suffer the most from the lack of water will likely be Anbar. “Even before the current crisis, overuse pollution and population growth had stretched the resources of the Euphrates River, the main source of water for 27 million people not just in Iraq, but in Syria and Turkey, too,” a Business Insider post said. Since the riverbed started drying out, a sort of "tug of war" game has risen among the three countries. Iraq and Syria have complained that Turkey is reducing the water flow. “As we have learned from the Syrian government, the Turkish side is not adhering to the agreed-upon quantities released by them,” Timimi said. “The 3-party agreement between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq requires Turkey to release 500 cubic meters per second of the river’s water, but it has not done so.” Causing Ripples The lack of water is now creating a ripple effect on the land. Crops and animals aren’t getting enough water and are slowly dying out, creating another problem: food shortages for already-suffering and starving people. The United Nations announced there are around 3 million Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs, within Iraq. Many were forced to leave everything--even their life savings--behind as they fled the violence of ISIS. Now, many can’t afford to pay for food. About 300,000 of the IDPs are Christians. “These Christians can’t afford food. They don’t have jobs that they can work at now that they’re refugees, and can’t provide for their families. Many of them are in desperate need of food in order to survive and feed their families,” Fuentes says. Through local partners, Open Doors has been providing as much as they can. “We are setting up and working with our partners in the region-- a lot of times churches and church leaders--to set up refugee camps for these Christians who have fled,” Fuentes explains. “We’ve really aimed to make it a safe community.” Open Doors has been taking care of refugees’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Every month for the last two years, they’ve provided food and hygiene baskets for 10,000 refugee families. They’re also giving trauma counseling, Bibles, and other Christian materials. For nearly 25 years, their work has given hope and helped refugees in Iraq survive, but, just like the Euphrates River, funds are drying up. “Currently there’s a $20,000,000 gap in, for the most part, food supplies,” Fuentes says. “It will be for a while. So Open Doors is there for the long haul…. But we are in need of the body of Christ worldwide to stand with these believers.” They want to continue showing the love of Christ in tangible ways, but they can only do it with your help. Help feed an entire family for a month for just $50.
Categories: Mission Network News

Uzbekistan migrant workers start church plants

Mission Network News - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 5:00am
Uzbekistan (OM) -- Uzbekistan is not an open country to Christianity. It is illegal to have Christian meetings in the Uzbek language, the Bible is restricted, and known Christians are monitored. This makes sharing about Jesus difficult, and as a result, many Uzbek people have not heard the Good News. However, although the door for mission work is almost fully shut in Uzbekistan, millions of Uzbeks make their way to Russia to find work and send money back to their families. In Russia there is freedom to share the Gospel and distribute Bibles. Operation Mobilization's church-planting ministry in Russia reaches out to Uzbeks in the city of Novosibirsk, and over the last four years they’ve seen dozens of migrant workers come to faith in Jesus. One such man is *Alek. After coming to faith, Alek was discipled through OM Russia’s discipleship program. Instead of helping in the church plant as expected, Alek and his family returned to Uzbekistan to renew their passports, and they were not allowed to return to Russia. Alek lives in a small town, and through his and his wife’s witness, around 10 people have come to faith. Recently *Tamara, who lives in Novosibirsk and is part of the church plant, visited Alek and the other believers to see how they were doing and to encourage them.

(Photo courtesy Operation Mobilization)

Unfortunately, Tamara did not find the group in a strong spiritual state. Lack of fellowship and encouragement had caused their faith to grow cold, and they were no longer meeting together as believers. With the country’s bad economy and high unemployment, they didn’t have enough money to travel to meet with other believers in a nearby city. However, as soon as Tamara arrived, they were overjoyed, admitted their weakness, wept, and repented. They met every day and night until 3:00 in the morning for a week to receive encouragement and teaching from the Bible from Tamara. One of the women, *Motier, left her newborn baby for the morning to fetch her grandmother from a neighboring village. The grandmother had heard about Tamara and wanted to find out more. The grandmother, 83, was sick and couldn’t walk, but that morning she felt better and was able to make the journey. At the meeting, the grandmother told Tamara everything she knew about God, from a Muslim perspective. Tamara listened politely. Concluding, the grandmother said, “I have told you everything I know; now it’s your turn to talk to me about God.” Tamara replied, “You know much about God, but there is one thing that you do not know and that I would like to share with you.” With that Tamara, starting with the account of Adam and Eve, shared the Gospel story. As the day wore on, some of the other women in the room got distracted and talked about other things, but the grandmother commanded them to listen to Tamara. She told Tamara, “My head does not hurt when you talk about God and this man, Jesus. But when we talk on other topics, I feel discomfort.” When Tamara got to the end of the story, the grandmother exclaimed, “How can I not accept such a Savior? I will repent and receive Him!” She reached into her pocket for money to pay Tamara for her visit, as is the Muslim custom. The grandmother’s grandson, who had come to faith earlier, laughed and explained that Tamara was not here to receive, but to give. Praise God for changing hearts in Uzbekistan. Pray that more in this country would come to know Him. Pray for OM Russia and the church-planting team as they minister to Uzbeks in Russia.
Categories: Mission Network News

11th hour bailout request for Greece

Mission Network News - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 5:00am
Greece (MNN) -- It took guts to do it…or extreme desperation. Hours before Greece was set to default on its debts, Greece asked the International Monetary Fund for its third European bailout in five years. The alternative could be catastrophic. Greece is one of 19 countries that share the euro. It means that goods and services can go across borders without changing currency. If Greece can't renegotiate its debt, it could be forced out of the Eurozone. A default would mean at least couple of firsts: (1) it's the largest single overdue payment in IMF history, ( 2) as well as the first advanced economy to default in IMF's 70-year history. As far as defaults go, Greece would join Afghanistan, Haiti, and Zimbabwe in that distinction, although Afghanistan and Haiti were both dealing with major insurgencies at the time. In an effort to prevent impending default, Greece also requested a short-term extension of the current bailout program. However, any bailout would be attached to stiff reforms from creditors. At the same time, the country is set to vote Sunday on proposals from the country's creditors.

(Photo courtesy AMG International/Greece)

How this is fiscal showdown hitting the average citizen? Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International is in Greece this week. He says, "The immediate reaction to these developments was for the Greek people to be afraid of what's happening when it became apparent that the negotiations would fail." Hours before the banks closed, "there were long lines at ATMs around the country. A lot of them ran dry, and then everything closed down." That sparked other fears, he says. "There was also widespread fear of basic necessities running out. Gas stations around the country ran out of gas. There was a run, also, on supermarkets, and a lot of shelves were empty." Pensioners were caught off-guard. Many could not withdraw their pensions from the banks for living expenses. Since they have the thinnest margin of survival, Greece will re-open 1,000 bank branches until the end of the week to cater to pensioners who do not use cash cards for automated teller machines. For everyone else, capital controls apply. "Next week, the banks will open, but still there will be a 60-Euro-per-day limit on what they can withdraw." Plus, the state treasury is running out of money. "Depending on how the IMF proceeds, it will basically make Greece formally bankrupt, and that will create further problems." Since nobody knows what will actually happen, everything is in limbo. That's problematic for missionaries who get their support from overseas. With the banks closed and no funds moving anywhere, "All the businesses will be affected, all the ministries. St. Luke's [Hospital] will be affected because most transactions between businesses will have to go through special procedures [and] permissions from the Greek Central Bank." Ioannidis says some businesses put their employees on furlough. Others are closing their doors because "they cannot get supplies from abroad. Foreign suppliers are demanding payment up front. They will not give credit." It's adding to the snowball effect. Incredibly, he adds that "as people have gotten desperate, and as this crisis leaves them--they just don't know what to do--when they are presented with the Gospel, there is a lot better response these days." As the crisis has unfolded, AMG's ministry arms have felt the weight of need increase. Local churches have opened their doors as relief stations. "We pray that as we continue to help people at the point of their needs, with basic stuff like food, clothing (at St. Luke's hospital, by providing medical care, as the government's health system has continued to collapse), that we will continue to have the opportunity to share the Good News." The concerns in Greece affect the expatriates there, too. Ask God to give them strength and wisdom for the days ahead. Because there's support coming from AMG, it has helped keep the ministry moving. However, with such a murky future for Greece, "We want people to pray that many hearts will be touched, that God will take this disaster here and turn it into an opportunity to touch lives, to draw lives to Him, and that they will come to know Him as Savior."  
Categories: Mission Network News

Study: Islam to challenge freedom in the USA

Mission Network News - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 5:00am
USA (MNN/BP) -- While the amount of persecution against Christians continues to increase around the world, what are Christians in the United States saying about their future? Baptist Press reports Americans view Islam as a threat to their own nation's religious liberty almost as strongly as they consider it a danger to religious freedom internationally. Although most persecution occurs overseas, 39% of American adults say Islam threatens religious freedom in the U.S. -- almost as many as the 40% who see Islam as a global threat, a survey by Nashville-based LifeWay Research finds. "Most recent headlines regarding Islam don't paint a picture of religious freedom, so we should not be surprised by the strong minority that consider Islam a threat to religious freedom," Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said. "However, it is worth noting less Americans see Islam as a threat to religious freedom than do not. What's of particular interest to me is not people's concern about international religious liberty -- which I would expect -- but that 40% of Americans see Islam as a threat to religious liberty in the United States." A slim majority, 52%, believes U.S. religious liberties are not at risk because of Islam. Religious liberty has been widely discussed recently, but social policy, not Islam, has been the focus of recent religious freedom disputes in the United States. Courts have weighed religious freedom arguments in deciding whether to permit same-sex marriage, allow businesses to turn away gay customers, and require employers to pay for birth control. On a global scale, Americans are unsettled about the influence of Islam. While 47% think it doesn't endanger religious freedom internationally, almost as many -- 40% -- believe it does, and 13% are unsure. Researchers asked 1,000 Americans about their views in a phone survey Sept. 19-28, 2014. Earlier that month, the Islamic militant group ISIS released videos of beheadings of two Americans, prompting President Obama to tell the public the extremist group also known as ISIL is not Islamic. But LifeWay Research found at the time that 48% disagreed with the president's statement while 3 in 10 were unsure. Religious restrictions on the rise Global concern about religious freedom is widespread and data shows such concern to be warranted. For example, Pew Research shows more than three-fourths of the world's people live in countries with high religious restrictions, up from about two-thirds in 2007. In the United States, restrictions are moderate but increasing, according to Pew. Pew's measurement of hostile acts involving religion in America climbed 63% from 2007 to 2013, and its accounting of government restrictions on religion nearly doubled. Americans perceive the effects, according to previous LifeWay research. More than half of Americans and 70% of Protestant senior pastors say religious liberty is on the decline. Women are particularly concerned about the potential impact of Islam, with 44% viewing it as a risk to American religious freedom, compared to 34% of men. A similar gender divide emerged in previously released LifeWay research about Sharia law, with more women than men worrying America could come under the Islamic legal and moral code that limits women's rights. Young adults, Hispanics see less threat America's young adults are much less likely than their parents and grandparents to perceive Islam as a threat to religious freedom. Less than a third of 18- to 44-year-olds hold that view (31% internationally, 30% in the U.S.), compared to nearly half of those 45 and older (49% internationally, 48% in the U.S.). Previously released research found young Americans are less worried than their elders about Sharia law and more likely to say Islam can create a peaceful society. Hispanics also have less concern about Islam's threat to religious liberty in the United States (31%) or abroad (29%). In contrast, whites are more likely to believe Islam is a danger to religious freedom internationally (44%) and in the United States (41%). LifeWay Research found differences along geographic lines as well, with southerners more likely to view Islam as a risk to religious freedom than those in the West or Northeast. Evangelical Christians are the most likely to perceive Islam as a threat. The majority of evangelicals see Islam as a danger to religious freedom both domestically (55%) and globally (53%). In contrast, 31% of Catholics, 34% of people from non-Christian religions and 22% of the nonreligious see Islam as a threat to religious freedom in the United States. Internationally, Catholics perceive significantly greater risk at 38%, while the difference in opinion is slight for those from non-Christian religions (35%) and the nonreligious (23%). Protestants view U.S. and global risks equally at 48%. Overall among Christians, 45% say Islam is a threat to religious liberty internationally and 43% say it is a threat to religious freedom in America. "Most religious people desire that other people believe -- even convert to -- their religion, but how a religion's followers treat those who choose another belief differs greatly," Stetzer said. "A large minority of Americans are concerned with how the religion of Islam is treating people with different religious views." Methodology: the phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 19-28, 2014. The calling utilized random digit dialing. 60% of completes were among landlines and 40% among cell phones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.4%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Those labeled evangelicals consider themselves "a born again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian." Those labeled Christian include those whose religious preference is Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Nondenominational Christian. Nonreligious are those whose religious preference is Atheist, Agnostic, or No Preference.
Categories: Mission Network News

Persecution persists in India

Mission Network News - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 5:00am

Jaya was attacked by a Hindu mob because she isn't afraid to share the Good News.
(Image courtesy VOM)

India (MNN) -- Persecution remains a problem for India. According to a global human rights report released Thursday by the U.S. government, violence based on religion was one of India's top challenges in 2014. There have been over 600 cases of religious violence since Prime Minister Modi took office, and Christians were targeted in a third of them. Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says Modi was a long-term member of the RSS. "Every single Indian should be a Hindu: that's kind of their 'bedrock' philosophy," explains Nettleton. "So, Prime Minister Modi, when he came to power, brought that ideology with him. It basically set a tone that Christians are not welcome and that the government will not actively work to protect their religious freedom." Persecution unhindered Soon after Modi was chosen by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as Prime Minister, Nettleton asked a VOM India contact how long until a national anti-conversion law went into effect. The contact's response was a bit unexpected.

Narendra Modi addressing crowd.
(Image taken from Narendra Modi's personal feed on Flickr)

"They don't have to pass new laws. They've simply sent the message that, you know, 'You can persecute Christians, and you will not be held accountable,'" Nettleton relays from his contact. "In the last year, those words have really been prophetic. We haven't seen a national effort on the legal side to change the law. "What we have seen is increased persecution, and decreased prosecution of the persecutors." The latest U.S. human rights report did not update its "freedom of religion" section for India, but the nation jumped several spots on the Open Doors USA World Watch List between 2014 and 2015. The World Watch List is a ranking of 50 countries where persecution is most severe. What YOU can do about it Find ways to strengthen the Body of Christ in India through VOM here. "Our help for the Church in India is very comprehensive," says Nettleton, explaining that VOM comes alongside persecuted Christians through training conferences and by providing resources. They also help widows and orphans of the persecuted through their Families of Martyrs Fund.

(Photo courtesy of VOM USA)

Most importantly, keep India's persecuted Church in your prayers. "Pray for the Church there, but also pray for the persecutors," Nettleton asks. "Pray for Prime Minister Modi, pray for people in his government to come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way." And, keep an eye on the news. "People point to it [India] as an economic success story, but we need to be aware--as we see those news stories--that, behind the scenes, our brothers and sisters [in Christ] are being persecuted." Share the "real story" about India with your friends via social media.
Categories: Mission Network News

Jersey Shore tax increase

WGRC News - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 3:42pm

It’s a tax hike for property owners in the Jersey Shore School District. The School Board voted 7–0 last night to approve a budget of a little over $39 million dollars for the upcoming school year, and despite the fact that the district will save money by eliminating two teacher positions, as well as cutting into some benefits, the district’s technology equipment budget and basic education funding, a tax increase of a little over 2.6% will occur. Property owners in Lycoming County who are part of the district will see their tax rates go up about $1.64 for every $100 of assessed value of property.

Categories: Local News

Probation and Restitution for Northumerland man

WGRC News - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 3:41pm

Its four years of probation as well as paying back restitution for a former manager at a Sunbury Auto Dealership accused of stealing from his employer. An investigation got underway back in January against Steven Kremer of Northumberland who worked at Sunbury Motors Lincoln/Hyundai dealership and who is accused of keeping deposits for vehicles and vehicle sale funds over at least a three year period there. It’s believed that Kremer stole around $28,000 dollars over that time. While serving probation he has also been ordered to make $500 monthly payments to the company in order to pay back the money he stole.

Categories: Local News

Donald Trump faces the heat

WGRC News - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 3:41pm

NBC ended its relationship with GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump Monday, because of comments he made about Mexican immigrants when he announced his campaign. Mexican media giant Televisa also says it will no longer broadcast the Miss Universe Pageant or engage in any other projects with Trump. Nearly 700,000 people have signed a petition calling on Macy’s to fire Donald Trump.

Categories: Local News

School opens to Iraqi refugee children

Mission Network News - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs)

Iraq (MNN) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are around two million Iraqi refugees forced from their homes because of the terror hailing from ISIS. About half of them are children. While fleeing from their homes, families had to leave everything behind, including school. Schools in host countries don’t have the capacity for refugee children, and many schools in Iraq aren’t in operation. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi kids haven’t been to school for about a year. They have become known as the “lost generation.” But, Voice of the Martyrs refuses to let children be lost or forgotten. Recently, a local church leader and VOM partner started dreaming of opening a Christian school near a refugee camp because they “believe education is so important to the children.” After searching for a place to hold the school, leaders found a house with a big backyard. “Though it would need many renovations before it was safe, church leaders discovered that it would accommodate four classrooms with enough space for at least 20 students in each classroom,” a VOM post said. Church leaders shared the idea with Iraqi parents in the middle of June, stating that they wanted to hit educational goals, and since it would be a Christian school, they wanted to “bring the love of God to every house through the children.” There was a starting goal of 25 kids. But, a miracle happened. The parents were so thrilled and eager with the opportunity that the school got many more student applications than they expected. “We had around 100 kids register,” a VOM partner said. “This is a big challenge, but God is good.” The school has kicked off and children are enjoying their time playing, participating in classroom activities, and learning in a safe environment. VOM hopes that the school will spark encouragement and the love of Christ with the Iraqi refugees. Pray that Iraqi refugees will to look to Jesus while they start their new lives in foreign area. Pray also that VOM will be able to establish more schools for refugee children. Click here to help VOM come alongside more Iraq refugees in tangible ways.
Categories: Mission Network News

Deaf Bible making a change to help 75% of deaf community

Mission Network News - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Deaf Bible)

International (MNN) -- There are over 400 different Sign Languages worldwide, but less than 1% have a complete translation of the Bible. Millions are part of the deaf community, and yet, more than half remain illiterate. It’s fair to say the Deaf community is one of the largest unreached people groups in the world. But, Deaf Bible Society is making a change to address nearly 80% of the community by the year 2025. Why So Many Are Illiterate In certain cultures, deaf people are looked at negatively. They are seen as slow or even demon-possessed. Parents will often times cut them off from society, keep children from school, and hide them from sight. In some cases, they will abandon the child altogether. In other cultures where deaf people are seen as equal, they still remain at a disadvantage. “Like you and [me], we were in a home; we could hear our parents speaking around us, speaking to us, about us, and we entered school with about a 5,000-word vocabulary,” explains J.R. Bucklew of Deaf Bible.

(Photo courtesy Deaf Bible)

“This deaf child never hears a thing. They don’t hear you speaking to them, about them, for them, around them. And, they pick up very few gestures. You might create some home signs, but they enter into school with about a 50-word vocabulary.” Bucklew says in the US, 65% of deaf Americans are illiterate. Hearing people don’t understand that Sign Language is a separate language. “People misunderstand and assume that it’s just a hand motion or a gesture for every English word, and you do it in the same order: kind of like we’re doing...charades or something,” Bucklew says. “And it’s not that at all. American Sign Language is it’s own language. It has its own syntax, so grammar structures, language rules, everything, is completely different from English.” Deaf Bible Reborn Several years back, a Faith Comes By Hearing Regional Manager went to visit a listening group, ironically, at a deaf school. “All of the sudden, that night, about 20 deaf children showed up at this gathering and were insisting that they were told what that box was telling the people.” Bucklew says they were able to find an interpreter for the 20 children, but “this manager realized, ‘We were talking about getting God’s Word to every person and we’ve completely forgotten about the deaf.’”

(Photo Courtesy Deaf Bible)

Since Faith Comes By Hearing creates audio Bibles, it seemed there was no way to reach out to the deaf community. But, they found a solution by launching a Deaf Bible App in 2012. “The Deaf Bible App, today, has about 16 languages in it, over 500,000 users worldwide--just tremendous distribution,” Bucklew says. In 2013, Deaf Bible was born as a part of Faith Comes By Hearing. Since the deaf community was in such desperate need of help and interpretation, the division grew rapidly. “Through that process we began to realize that one of our biggest complications in engaging deaf communities with the Scripture was going to be the fact that there were very few amounts of translation projects going on. There wasn’t enough content to engage deaf communities around the world,” Bucklew explains. “Faith Comes By Hearing is not involved in Bible translations, but we’re seeing an increasing need for us to be involved in translation when it comes to Sign Language.” That’s why Deaf Bible is now separating from Faith Comes By Hearing and becoming it’s own ministry. They’re partnering with ministries like DOOR International, Deaf Mission, Asia Pacific, Sign Language Development Association, and Wycliffe Bible Translators for help with the translation. “We figure any support we can give them, the better--whether that’s fundraising, promoting, building awareness, and making the reality of the deaf community known among our hearing brothers and sisters,” Bucklew says.

(Photo courtesy Deaf Bible)

Deaf Bible is also working on educating the hearing church. “We’re taking the role for the Bible translation organizations to say, ‘We will do four things. We will work on deaf awareness, education, access, and funding – so D.E.A.F.’” They want to have translation projects for 75% of the Deaf population by 2025. “Right now we see about 34 sign language projects going on in the world. And we’ve identified 10 languages that if we could start projects in those 10 people groups, these 44 languages...could represent about 80% of the world’s deaf population.” As this dream is turning into a reality, Deaf Bible could use your help. Pray for the projects to reach millions and give them hope in Jesus. Also, you can become a financial partner to sponsor projects around the globe.
Categories: Mission Network News