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Zimbabwe recovery on shakey ground

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

(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Adam Curry)

Zimbabwe (MNN) -- Zimbabwe's economic growth is expected to be nearly the same next year as it was this year. Coupled with inflation being held at below 1% and remaining subdued throughout 2015, that's an optimistic forecast. Jonathon Shibley with Global Advance says that's good news, but "it's still tough ground. 80%, roughly, are unemployed. I mean, if you compare that to the Great Depression in the United States at the worst levels, we were in the 20th percentile of unemployed." It's a far cry from the hyperinflation of the early 2000s when forcible seizures of white-owned farmland sent the economy into a tailspin. At that time, it took a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread. Prices soared, professionals fled, and the central bank was forced to replace the local currency with the U.S. dollar to stabilize the economy. However, political fallout creates ripple effects in the economy, and differing approaches to stimulating it are evident in the power sharing government. Recent sweeping changes this week in President Robert Mugabe's cabinet could send shock waves through again, upsetting precarious gains, but that remains to be seen in the months ahead.

(Photo courtesy Global Advance()

Shibley says regardless, "There is promise, and there is hope. What's amazing is that they're a resilient people--especially the believers. They hold on to their faith, and they help one another. We were privileged to be able to convene about 100 business leaders, many of them business owners in the second-largest city in Zimbabwe." He's referring to the recent Marketplace Missions conference held last month in Bulawayo. Attendees are taught Biblical principles and practical business skills by successful businesspersons. In Zimbabwe, people who survived the 2000s in business have stories to tell, adds Shibley. "We got to visit a lot of those businesses and see how they were doing, hear their stories of when the F5 economic tornado came through, how they were able to survive by the grace of God." The conference was a valuable venue for believers in the marketplace to receive encouragement and connect with others who desire to transform their nations. As a result, "We prayed for the leaders of the country; we prayed for righteousness. They committed their lives, their work, the work of their hands and their businesses to the gospel and advancing the Kingdom in their nation." Plus, friendships were made that will be nurtured in the days ahead. "They also committed to begin to develop networks of Christian businesspeople and entrepreneurs that would meet together on an ongoing basis to encourage one another, share ideas, collaborate, and hopefully create incubators for creative new solutions for products and strategies moving forward."

(Photo courtesy Global Advance)

There's a long way to go toward seeing Zimbabwe's economic reputation return to that of the "breadbasket of Africa," but growth comes from planting one seed at a time. Shibley asks that you join him in praying toward that end. "There are glimmers of hope, and the Gospel is the anchor point for our brothers and sisters. They stand on that. They believe that, and they're resilient in faith."
Categories: Mission Network News

Gena Wilson: cancer survivor, marathoner, missionary

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

Gena Wilson completed the NYC marathon
after more than nine hours of walking.
She crossed the finish line with U.S. Army veteran
Cedric King. A photo of King and Wilson at
the finish was featured in the November 6, 2014,
issue of Time magazine.
(Photo, caption credit IMB)

Scotland (MNN) -- Overcoming life's challenges is a feat everyone must face at one point or another. How a person overcomes said challenges shapes character and reveals faith. Gena Wilson, a Southern Baptist missionary serving in Glasgow, Scotland with the International Mission Board (IMB), is no stranger to challenging circumstances. But she knows Who has gotten her through each trial and openly gives Him the credit. "God has been so, SO gracious in my journey, long before cancer but especially during it, along with leading up to the NYC marathon yesterday," Wilson stated after walking the entire New York City marathon in early November. Today, the two-time cancer survivor is back in one of Scotland's poorest communities, using her experiences to point young people to Christ. As part of IMB's ImpactGlasgow Team, Wilson builds relationships with impoverished young people through sports, Christian clubs, tutoring, and community outreach. The Lord has used many trials in Wilson's life to show His mercy and strength to the people she encounters. For example, in 2011, Wilson was forced by her first bout of cancer to return to the U.S. for treatment. While battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, she sent messages of encouragement back to Scotland via social media. "It's so good that this happened, even if all that [God] wanted to accomplish was to teach me how to trust Him even in the midst of suffering," Wilson said in a special Christmas message to the students she mentored at Springburn Academy. When cancer revisited Wilson last year in the form of a brain tumor, she was quick to reiterate the source of her hope.

Gena and Graeme, one of the young people she mentored.
(Photo credit IMB)

"God's goodness is not defined by my health. Cancer can't touch heaven. The best is yet to come," she stated. Overcoming cancer twice and walking a marathon in nine hours has renewed Wilson's passion for proclaiming Christ in the greater Glasgow area. In 2015, she and her team will be bringing the love and hope of Jesus to the darkest areas of Glasgow: places where drug and alcohol addiction, teenage pregnancy, chronic unemployment, and violence run rampant. Will you help Gena Wilson and her team overcome Glasgow's darkness with the light and hope of Christ? Click here to send financial support through IMB's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Categories: Mission Network News

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