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Wenxi Li heads home

Mission Network News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 5:00am

Imprisoned for his faith, Wenxi Li has brought more prisoners to Christ.
(Image, caption courtesy icommittopray.com)

China (VCM) -- [EDITOR'S NOTE: The following report was originally shared by The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.] Former bookstore employee, Wenxi Li, is currently scheduled for release from a Shanxi province prison on December 18th. Wenxi, who is from Beijing, had travelled to Shanxi province to help local Christians open a new bookstore. Police raided the new business and confiscated hundreds of books. On December 19, 2012, Wenxi was asked to come to the police station in order to retrieve the $6,000 worth of books that had been seized by authorities. Upon his arrival, he was immediately arrested and sent to prison. The bookstore worker was later denied bail and then sentenced to two years in prison on June 17, 2013. VOMC's initial report, which provides more details of his arrest, can be found here. Wenxi's family is cautiously optimistic that he will be released on schedule. Since being transferred a few months ago to the prison where he's currently being detained, he has received better overall treatment and was even permitted to make sporadic five-minute calls to members of the family. His wife, Cai Hong Li, reports that he sounds encouraged and is in good health. She is also thankful that while in prison, Wenxi was able to share the Gospel with other inmates and, as a result, several have become Christians. Though Cai Hong hopes her husband will take some time to rest after his return home, she told VOM staff that he is passionate about the bookstore ministry and will likely want to return to this work as soon as he is released. She then asked for prayer for his forthcoming release and, additionally, for the improvement of her health as Wenxi's imprisonment has been very difficult on their family. How encouraging to receive this news of Wenxi's soon-approaching release from prison! May there be no delay of schedule concerning his release so he can be reunited with his family in time for Christmas--a gift they will most certainly treasure this season. May the transition go smoothly, bringing needed healing and restoration to each member of his family after the ordeal they've all experienced. Let us also pray for Wenxi's friend and bookstore co-worker, Lacheng Ren, and others who are imprisoned in China for their faith. Ask the Lord to mediate on their behalf as well, while caring for them and their families throughout the legal processes. In the meantime, as in the case of Wenxi, may they have opportunities to lead many to Christ.
Categories: Mission Network News

Religious freedom affirmed in Michigan

Mission Network News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 5:00am

The Michigan House approves a
religious freedom bill by party vote.

USA (MNN) -- Religious freedom is being affirmed in the United States. The Michigan House has approved the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act on a 59-50 party-line vote and now moves on to the State Senate for consideration. The legislation is being supported by Christian leaders throughout the state, including Bill Blacquiere, President of Bethany Christian Services. "This has awakened what I would call the whole cultural and political debate between religious freedom and some groups of people who would say this will discriminate against us." According to Blacquiere, this bill will provide "protection of our religious freedom and our strongly-held religious beliefs. What it would do is allow a faith-based organization like Bethany to continue hiring staff of our same faith."

Bill Blacquiere, President Bethany Christian Services

It's more than that. They want to make sure they're protecting and enhancing the lives of children. So, placing children with Christian families is important, too. "We don't do that because we think that makes them Christian. We do that because we know that Christian families care about orphans and vulnerable children and they want to place them. It may be...that the child would choose to become a Christian; we pray that every child would." Opponents say these rights would allow for legal discrimination. Blacquiere disagrees. "As a Christian, we would not want to see anyone not receive medical treatment, or any type of service. I just don't think that will happen. In this bill, the intent is not to allow for discrimination. It's really the reverse: to protect religious freedom." 19 other states have similar legislation on the books. The Republican-led Senate is expected to approve the measure, but it's uncertain if Governor Rick Snyder will sign the bill. When you support Bethany Christian Services, you're helping ensure even more children are placed in Christian homes. Click here to support their work.  
Categories: Mission Network News

Cessna 206 landing in Brazil

Mission Network News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:00am

Cessna 206 for Brazil (Photo by New Tribes Mission)

Brazil (MNN) -- For the majority of the last decade, New Tribes Mission has been working to get a mission plane for Brazil. You may not think about it, but there are many remote tribal villages in the western side of the country. Wonita Werley, spokesperson for NTM Aviation, says, "It's interesting to note that Brazil is the size of the United States with Texas put in twice. So it's vast, and there are hidden groups of people--some that may not actually have ever been contacted yet." In previous years there was a missionary plane that serviced western Brazil, but there came a point where they could no longer do it. Since then, NTM has been working hard to get a plane running again. Werley explains that many of these villages already have missionaries working in them. "But the work is languishing, in a sense, because there isn't a good supply route to sustain the missionaries once they get into these remote areas." If a missionary ever has to get supplies for themselves or seek medical help, they have to travel for 3-10 days through jungles complete with poisonous snakes, biting insects, and the like. Otherwise, they could wait for months until the next supply drop. Werley says this realization is daunting to many missionaries. God answered a prayer

NTM will now have a plane operating in Brazil.
(Photo by NTM)

After many years, NTM finally has a Cessna 206 to be stationed in a remote city, as well as a mechanic ready to work. And until NTM has their own pilot in Brazil, they are working with pilots from other mission groups. For an outsider to get permission to fly in the country is a tedious, long process. These legal hoops are only an echo of the legal challenges NTM has run into with getting their plane into the country. "There have been challenges and more challenges all along the way. [It's difficult] to work up a business plan, so to speak, that would be viable for this area of Brazil," Werley says. These legal challenges have slowed down the process to get personnel for the aviation program and to get the plane outfitted with necessary equipment for missionary duties. For nearly every practical step of the way, NTM has to get permission from the government. How will it help? For starters, teaching the Bible to remote villages includes a lot of work in language. "Our people really need the airplane to be able to get technical help--linguistic help, translation help, even church-planting help and advice and encouragement into their tribe from time to time," Werley says. On top of these specialty needs, the missionaries need regular supplies for basic survival. Despite the needs, Werley says about 80% of their missionaries in Brazil are Brazilian and don't have the means to support the aviation program. "We are really looking for people who have an interest and a heart for this kind of work to help us provide viable, affordable air transportation so our missionaries can get in and out. We have set up a group called Flight Crew." The flight crew is a way for people who are passionate about international missions (maybe aviation, specifically) to be able to participate even though they can't necessarily travel. This program makes flying to remote villages in Brazil and other countries possible. More challenges NTM asks you to pray for them. Right now their plane is sitting where it originally landed in Brazil. It needs to have its import documentation completed and then permission granted to fly anywhere else. Werley says, "The hurdles are there again. And this is not something that money, necessarily, can even help. This is something that we can only go to the Lord and seek Him and petition Him to make the paperwork happen and make the permissions available. So we really need people to pray that this plane can get where it's going." She asks you to pray for pilots for NTM Aviation in Brazil as well. "We just are looking for people that we can connect with who are interested in this sort of thing, who really want to be part of the great commission--be part of reaching these people who really if we don't get to them, they will live and die and never know that there is hope in Christ. "So if that is your heart, if that is the kind of work you want to be involved in, we would love hear from you and see how you can be a part," Werley says. To get involved with Flight Crew of NTM Aviation, click here.
Categories: Mission Network News

The bright side to the anarchy of Islamic terror groups

Mission Network News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:00am

Flag used by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

MENA (WAS/MNN) -- What do Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Islamic State, Al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram have in common? Right now, it's terrorism in the Middle East and Africa. You've seen the headlines about advances, bombings, death, refugees and fear…but there's actually good news emerging, too. Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates says, "God is moving in a way, in this arena of the world that, to my knowledge, in my lifetime, is unprecedented." Yesterday, MNN reported on people turning to Christ despite ISIS in their region. These groups have committed atrocities in the name of Mohamed, and disillusionment has kept pace with the brutality. "What happens there is light stands out as a stark contrast in the darkness, and people are turning toward the light. In our arena, in terms of Bible translation, people are stepping up and saying, 'We want to make sure that the light of God's Word gets to the rest of our people and the rest of our communities.'" Those turning to the light include members of the terror groups whose objectives were to expose and eliminate Christians. Sound like Saul of Tarsus? It's very much like that, says Smith. "Many of them have had an equally dramatic conversion that we see described in Acts where we see Paul came to Christ."

(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

He notes that some of these people are now members of national Bible translation teams, and targeted, themselves.   "In many cases, they're undergoing the same kinds of persecution that Paul experienced. And yet, they're willing to make that sacrifice because they believe in the power of God's Word. They see the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and they want that for their family, for their friends, and for their neighbors." In fact, Smith adds, "They are as radically committed to pursuing God and to living for Christ in their communities as Paul was." Wycliffe Associates is trying to provide indigenous Christians in the areas affected by these groups with resources for Bible translation. For instance, Scriptures for New Frontiers is providing national Bible translation teams with training and technology in geographical areas where Christians and Westerners are viewed as enemies. In the Scriptures for New Frontiers area, there are nearly 1,000 languages without the Scriptures, representing 280 million people. Here's the really cool part: "There's a network of thousands of house churches in this arena of the world, where the leadership of the church has made the decision that they need God's Word in their language sooner instead of later." This underground network lays the groundwork for future translation projects. "They have identified people within their church communities, people that have spiritual maturity and insight, people that have commitment, that have language skills and abilities that are multilingual, so that they can work with other language sources for Scripture as well. These house church movements have made the decision to move forward with Bible translation."

(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

In addition, the organization has recently launched Open Bible Stories, 21 Old Testament and 29 New Testament Bible stories that can be typically translated in six weeks or less. Wycliffe Associates is seeking to raise more than $204,000 to provide the necessary resources to support Scriptures for New Frontiers translation efforts in the next year. Sense the urgency? Smith says its dangerous work. "They are risking their lives. They have other believers from their communities who have lost their lives in recent months for their faith because of their involvement in Bible translation." In effect, they're turning the tide of terrorism, one heart at a time. Does that sound possible to you? Prayer is the catalyst. "We need to cover them with a cloak of prayer and plead for God's intervention, in their circumstances, to protect them in order to be able to winsomely do this work in that arena." Then, consider helping fund this project toward its goal of $204,000. Nobody likes asking for money, but the reality, says Smith, is "these things don't happen for free; we need to be able to develop the resources that will help them be effective in their work. There are lots of challenges surrounding that, so this is a strategy that we're intent on for the coming months."
Categories: Mission Network News

Evangelical church destroyed by local police

Mission Network News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:00am

(Map credit Wikipedia)

Ethiopia (MNN) -- Heaven's Light Church, an evangelical church in Ethiopia, was recently destroyed by local officials. International Christian Concern says the attack came after a Muslim complained to authorities about the church's presence in the community. Police confiscated church property and tore off the church building's siding and roof. "Sadly, it's becoming more and more common to see attacks like this, specifically against the Church," says Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA. Ethiopia sits at #17 on the Open Doors' World Watch List, a compilation of 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. Fuentes says Ethiopian believers face the most pressure from loved ones. "When it comes from your family or your local community, it's almost that 'extra sting,' rather [than] from the government as a whole," she adds. Along with providing practical help for persecuted families, Open Doors cares for the widows of persecuted church leaders.

(Photo credit Open Doors)

"These widows are left with, many times, big families to care for, and they don't have the resources," explains Fuentes. "So, Open Doors helps provide resources and job skills training; we do a lot of 'Letters of Encouragement' for these widows." While there are currently no letter-writing campaigns underway for Ethiopian widows, you can still help families by providing for physical needs here. Most importantly, surround persecuted Christians in Ethiopia with your prayers. "The #1 thing that persecuted Christians around the world, including Ethiopia, ask for are [our] prayers," Fuentes notes. "Pray for their encouragement and [for them] to stay strong in the face of this adversity."
Categories: Mission Network News