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Christians in Iraq have no place to call home

Mission Network News - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 5:00am

(Photo credit Open Doors)

Iraq (MNN) -- As ISIS digs in their heels and grows their radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, hope grows evermore dim for religious minorities in the region. Al-Monitor reports 90% of Orthodox Christians in Iraq are displaced. Only 30 families out of 600 remain in Baghdad, and there are less than 10 families left in Mosul. "The return of those who have been displaced back to their homes is linked to the political and security situation. We cannot urge anyone to go back now, in light of this ongoing war in different regions in Iraq," Greek Orthodox Bishop Ghattas Hazim told Al-Monitor. "We are a main element in this region's culture; Christians and Muslims from all confessions are threatened." Christians in Iraq: a brief history Being forced to flee their homes is nothing new for Christians in Iraq. Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA says over 75% of Christians have left the country since 2003.

(Photo credit Open Doors)

"That's the ones who've actually had to leave the country, not just the ones who've been displaced," she clarifies. "It's increasing more and more as ISIS continues to target Christians. "We've actually been working in Iraq for more than 20 years, as persecution has been increasing, and it's increased the most in the past 10 years." It's not just Christians in Iraq facing trouble from ISIS; all religious minorities, including moderate Muslims, are at-risk. As Fuentes points out, Islamic State militants are "putting down roots" in Iraq. "That affects everyone," she explains. "It turns countries that once [had] religions living side-by-side peacefully… [and takes] that away, and it changes the face of Iraq." How to help Christians in Iraq While statistics can be overwhelming, there are ways you can help Christians in Iraq, whether they're taking refuge in Iraq's Kurdistan region or in a neighboring nation. Open Doors works with indigenous Christian leaders to provide for every need of persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria, and surrounding countries affected by ISIS. By providing refugee care, Bibles, Christian training, trauma counseling and other resources, we aim to meet all of the refugees' needs "There's one pastor in particular who's made it his mission to create a church [that's] not labeled as a 'refugee center,' but more of a 'safe area,'" Fuentes shares. The pastor had pools and games for refugee kids during the summer season to help take their mind off of the ISIS crisis. He made it a point to share the love of Christ with kids and their families, no matter what background they came from. As believers respond to the ISIS crisis with the love of Jesus, other religious minorities take note. Suddenly, a new interest in the Gospel develops. "Not only were there doors opened [for the Gospel], but they were caring for all [the children's] needs: physical, emotional, and spiritual needs," says Fuentes. "It's been a great way to reach people with God's love in this region, in spite of all the atrocities going on."

Info graphic created in July 2014 (Courtesy Open Doors)

Stories like these aren't being shared just to keep you informed -- there are ways you can help Christians in Iraq. Fuentes says the first thing those of us in the West should do is pray. "Many of them are just absolutely surprised to know that…they're not alone, that the Body of Christ is surrounding them in prayer," Fuentes shares. "From a practical standpoint, you can give to help not only Christians in Iraq, but in surrounding countries, too." See how you can help Christians in Iraq through Open Doors.
Categories: Mission Network News

The Holy Spirit Empowers

Christian Post - Living - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 10:58am
Our heavenly Father has called us to live a supernatural life—one that is contrary to the world's thinking. In our own strength, it is very difficult to say no to ungodliness, because our flesh yearns to say yes. To live the Lord's way takes His divine power. In order to draw on His strength, believers need to develop attitudes of humility, trust, and perseverance.
Categories: Christian Post

Mars Hill Pastor Dave Bruskas Defines 'New Values' for 'Broken, Repentant' Church; Acknowledges 'Unhealthy Culture'

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 10:43am
Mars Hill interim preaching pastor Dave Bruskas, who may take over as lead pastor, has promised localized governance, financial clarity and cultural change in the Seattle-based megachurch, whose founder and former head pastor, Mark Driscoll, resigned last week due to his admitted "divisive" leadership style.
Categories: Christian Post

Southern Baptist Convention to 'Disfellowshipped' Church Pastor: Denomination's Failings Regarding Divorce Are Not an Opportunity for Gay Marriage

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 11:02am
The Southern Baptist Convention's official news service turned to the writings of the denomination's lead ethicist Thursday to criticize an op-ed asking that the blind eye the church has long given divorced and remarried Christians be given LGBT couples as an apple to oranges argument.
Categories: Christian Post

When God Overrules

Christian Post - Living - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 9:38am
I'm so glad that God will overrule my prayers at times, because I have prayed for things fervently, believing they were the will of God, and they were flat-out wrong. I am so thankful that God said no to those prayers.
Categories: Christian Post

Pastor Bobbie Houston Explains Why Hillsong Church Does Not 'Sideline the Girls'

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 9:08am
Hillsong Church co-founder Bobbie Houston recently explained why she believes "the church needs to come of age sometimes and just grow up" when it comes to fully embracing women in various roles in Christian ministry.
Categories: Christian Post

Tim Keller to Christian Leaders at Movement Day: Call Out City's Sin Without Boasting, Help Bring Peace

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 2:33pm
Pastors and Christian leaders should be unashamed to call out a city for its sin while at the same time working towards peace, said Tim Keller, the lead pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, at the Christian leadership conference called Movement Day.
Categories: Christian Post

Couple gets jail time for animal abuse

WGRC News - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 1:42pm

90 days in jail is the punishment for a Northumberland County couple found guilty of animal abuse.
John Loar and Chasity Shutt were charged with animal cruelty in March after one horse was found dead and others were malnourished in Jordan Township. The couple waere each fined $750 and were ordered
to pay $3,400 restitution to the SPCA.

Categories: Local News

NYC Doctor diagnosed with Ebola

WGRC News - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 1:41pm

A 33 year old doctor who recently returned to New York City from West Africa has tested positive for the Ebola virus. Doctor Craig Allen Spencer, a Harlem resident who worked with Doctors Without Borders, tested positive at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where he is being treated. The doctor had a 103 degree fever and gastrointestinal symptoms when he was taken to Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital yesterday.

Categories: Local News

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Christian Post - Living - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 9:18am
The week before He would die by crucifixion, Jesus talked to His disciples about what was to come: After His resurrection, they would receive a Counselor—the Holy Spirit—who'd be with them forever (John 14:16). He would indwell each believer, providing His power to make it possible to live a victorious Christian life. The Lord will also empower us with His divine strength if we cultivate certain Christlike qualities.
Categories: Christian Post

ISIS imposes new education rules on Iraq, Syria

Mission Network News - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Quapan)

Middle East (MNN) -- There's a cultural revolution going on. Words like that bring to mind Iran, Russia, and China…but it's underway right now in territories controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains, "They want to be a state. They want to be a nation. They established a court system there, government structure. They established a way to hand out food to the needy, and now they're establishing an education system." Last month, ISIS declared the start of the academic school year under new rules and a new curriculum. They abolished classes about history, literature, music, and Christianity. The new rules also declared patriotic songs blasphemous and ordered certain pictures torn out of textbooks. Nettleton says that the indoctrination "is really the next step in the Islamic State setting up the structure and the culture--a permanent society that they want to exist in the areas that they control." What this means is a permanent shift. The Islamic State is trying to change the face of Iraq and Syria for good. However, the "Islamic State Education Diwan" stipulates that pictures that violate its ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam must be ripped out of books. Anthems and lyrics that encourage love of country are now viewed as a show of "polytheism and blasphemy" and are strictly banned. Scientific research has stopped because of funding disruption due to the war, too.

(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Quapan)

Sounds a lot like what happened during the uprisings that changed the face of France, Russia, China, and Iran--and not for the better. Nettleton agrees. "These movements typically don't move a country forward. We've already seen Christians being kicked out of the areas that Islamic State controls. We've seen backwards movement on religious freedom, on freedom of expression. I think we'll see that in this educational reform, as well." Although ISIS is called a terrorist group, the path they've carved out for themselves looks like one that's meant to be generational. It also means Christians who've been displaced are probably not going to be able to return home. That's not to say the light of Christ has gone dark. It's more that it's in a dark lantern--very much alive, but concealed so it can be revealed later. "There are Christians in the area, there are Muslim converts who are there. They're lying very low, at this point in time, trying to stay out of sight and keep their faith very secretive." For them, says Nettleton, it's a matter of life or death. "If they are exposed as a Muslim convert, they would be executed." Gospel work has been disrupted with the exodus of believers from the region. VOM comes alongside the refugees. "We are in contact with people who have been displaced from the areas of the Islamic State. We are providing aid and help to them. The challenge is trying to provide help and encouragement back to Christians in the areas that the Islamic State controls." What's happening is changing the face of the nations. It's spiritual warfare that requires as many soldiers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and resist. "The other thing that I would encourage people to pray for is for the Lord to move supernaturally in these areas where all the Christians have been kicked out, where any Christians who are there are keeping a very low, underground profile. God is moving in the Muslim world through supernatural means, through dreams, through visions."
Categories: Mission Network News

Disaster recovery updates

Mission Network News - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 5:00am

Severe Tropical Cyclone Phailin lurking just off the northeast coast of India at peak intensity.
(Image courtesy NOAA, caption courtesy TheSurvivialPlaceBlog.com)

India (GFA/MNN) -- Last October, India's eastern coast experienced the worst cyclone it had seen in 14 years: Cyclone Phailin. The storm damaged or destroyed 800,000 homes, and many people lost every earthly possession they owned. Recovery efforts, initiated and carried out by believers in the affected areas, are putting Christ's love into action. Phailin Recovery Right after Phailin struck, Gospel for Asia (GFA) teams responded with the compassion of Christ and cared for survivors' basic needs. Ministry leaders also initiated a reconstruction program. As they monitor progress in each affected area, local pastors and other ministry leaders pray over the houses as they're being built.

“Now I understand the deep love of Jesus for me and my family,” said one house recipient.
(Photo, caption courtesy GFA)

So far, GFA teams have rebuilt 141 homes for Phailin survivors, with plans to rebuild at least 1,000 homes over the next three years. In addition, GFA-supported nationals are providing education for affected children through the Bridge of Hope program. "Jibu" and his family lost their house and all their belongings when Cyclone Phailin swept through Odisha. After receiving a home as part of GFA’s Phailin Housing Project, he said in tears, “We are a very poor family. No one was there to help us when we lost everything during Phailin. Even our own relatives did not help us. But I am so happy that GFA helped me. I am so grateful to the church.” Click here to help GFA reach their goal of 300 rebuilt homes by December 31. At the same time, GFA Compassion Services teams are bringing help to families who were affected by the most recent storm, Cyclone Hudhud. Hudhud Recovery

All the food packets were prayed over before being given to those in need.
(Photo, caption courtesy GFA)

On Sunday, believers and GFA pastors packed up a truck with food packets for 400 families living in three areas hit hardest by Cyclone Hudhud. Each food packet contained 22 pounds of rice, 2 pounds of dal, 2 pounds of sugar, 1 quart of oil, and various cooking spices. Hudhud left hundreds of people homeless, seeking shelter in relief camps or under plastic tarps issued by local authorities. About 95 houses belonging to believers have been damaged. Forty families of children attending a Bridge of Hope center in Andhra Pradesh and at least 28 pastors have been affected. These efforts and actions have led to a lot of curiosity and questions about the Gospel message. Pray for the immediate and eternal impact of GFA's disaster recovery projects. More India stories here.
Categories: Mission Network News

Paradise Bound seeks to purchase airplane and multiply ministry

Mission Network News - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 5:00am
Guatemala (MNN) -- The average person doesn't replace their car every two years. But the average vehicle used by Paradise Bound Ministries in Guatemala only lasts two to three years because of bad road conditions. Because of the immense growth Paradise Bound has seen in Guatemala, they have an extensive network of lay pastors to serve. No longer is traveling by road sufficient or efficient.

(Image by Paradise Bound Ministries)

Since April, the staff of Paradise Bound has been asking for your prayers regarding an aviation program. Dan Smith of Paradise Bound shares some exciting updates with us. "God has led us to a specific aircraft," he says. A man from Minnesota is selling this aircraft to Paradise Bound. The ministry knows that it's a little more complicated than buying a plane. It's a transition to a whole new way of operating. Smith says, "The first step for us was stepping out in faith. God called us to it, and so we step out in faith, and we know that. It's been confirmed through prayer, it's been confirmed through many, many doors that have been opening for us." Not only is the cost of replacing and repairing vehicles becoming a bigger problem, the accessibility to villages leaves something to be desired. Smith explains that during certain times of the year, they cannot reach some villages at all. Right now, if all goes well, Paradise Bound can visit three villages in three days and share the Gospel with them. That's the best-case scenario. A plane would change that. Smith says, "If we were to fly to those same three villages, we could do all three villages in the same day going from one village to another village, to another village, and still be back home in time for supper. "And we will have presented the Gospel to hundreds more people than what we would have over the course of three days." Smith says that this will end up costing half the amount of money with all factors considered. "So you begin to see real quickly that there is an efficiency factor that far outweighs the cost factors of the aircraft in the time savings alone." The initial cost to get the plane into operation for Paradise Bound is $250,000. This includes the cost of the plane, the first years of flying, and more. This is a large number for such a small ministry. Smith says they have a current matching grant for $50,000. That will bring their raised funds to $100,000 if donors match that amount. The gifting will determine how soon Paradise Bound can raise the rest of the funds. Smith says, "I know even now that there are listeners today that could write a check for $250,000, and it would not hurt them financially. If anything, it would actually bring gifts into their lives as you cannot out-give God. But there are also those who are listening today that couldn't even do $2.50 without hurting them right now." Smith says that traditionally, their ministry has been sustained financially through small gifts. He wants potential supporters to know that this is an incredible opportunity for anyone to partner with a ministry that will share the love of Christ with people who have never heard about Him before. He also assures us that they are more than ready if a generous donor would cover all the costs. They are leaving it up to God and how He moves your hearts. If you'd like to contribute to this cause financially, click here. Pray that Paradise Bound would be successful in getting this program off the ground and that they would be able to minister to many more souls. Also, if you're in the Holland, Michigan area, check out information here about an Open House on November 6, 2014 where you can learn more about this aviation project.
Categories: Mission Network News