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Preparing for Urbana 15: Part One

Mission Network News - Tue, 09/22/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Urbana via Facebook)

USA (MNN) -- For most students, college life is full of difficult questions. What do I major in? Should I transfer schools, or finish here? What will I do after graduation? Even in a flurry of unknowns, one constant rings true for a majority of college kids: they want their lives to make a difference. But, how could college kids possibly change the world? InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is directing students to the answers they need. “If we challenge them to enter into the historic mission of God, [we are] tapping into who they were made to be and what God’s story is all about,” says InterVarsity’s York Moore. Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing more about how Moore and InterVarsity are engaging the Next Generation in global missions. Today’s focus is where mission-minded students can take their next steps: Urbana 15. Urbana 15

(Graphic courtesy InterVarsity)

As stated here, Urbana 15 is InterVarsity’s 24th Student Missions Conference co-hosted by InterVarsity/USA, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, and Groupes Bibliques Universitaires et Collégiaux du Canada. The end goal of Urbana 15 is getting college students plugged into missions. But, Urbana 15 and global missions in general are about something even higher. “When we think about missions, [it’s] more than a conference, it’s more than an event. It’s more than, even, what we do with our lives,” says Moore. “Missions revolves around the story of God.” Find your role in God’s story at Urbana15. God's story is not always an easy one to hear. “The Church has always been persecuted,” Moore shares. “For the last 2,000 years, we [Christians] have largely been the minority, the marginalized, [and] the oppressed. “I think we’re coming into a time in Western civilization where that’s likely to be the case.” Each tri-annual Urbana conference has a theme, and Urbana 15’s focus is the Persecuted Church.

(Graphic courtesy Urbana via Facebook)

“Learning from the Persecuted Church is part of our way of challenging students--to say, ‘Look, this is the way forward. As the darkness grows in the United States and around the world, this is the way forward,’” says Moore. “We are entering an era in the United States where Christianity is no longer the dominant voice of culture…. That’s kind of where we [are] already, and I think it’s going to accelerate.”
Categories: Mission Network News

Using talents to serve in Indonesia

Mission Network News - Tue, 09/22/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Mission Aviation Fellowship)

Indonesia (MAF) -- [Editor’s Note: This article, written by Mission Aviation Fellowship, shares the background of Doug and Karin Allrich: two missionaries who are utilizing their skills to serve in Indonesia.] Doug and Karin Allrich are missionaries with Mission Aviation Fellowship, serving in Papua, Indonesia. Doug and Karin share, “The highlight of our ministry is in feeling we are able to make a difference in the lives of those we serve, whether they are MAF co-workers, national employees, students at school, or tribal peoples living in the remotest reaches of Papua.” As the Papua Program Manager, Doug carries the responsibility for maintaining a healthy, safe, and connected environment for the 35 staff families serving at 5 different locations, as they raise their families while serving in ministry according to their individual giftings from the Lord. He strives to offer purposeful development of management and leadership skills of the staff base managers, seeking to equip them for future strategic service. He keeps his own flying skills current by flying one day each week, often in an Instructor Pilot role. Karin's life is very full as a homemaker. She maintains a loving home for her family and provides hospitality for visitors traveling through Sentani. Additionally, she serves at the Hillcrest International School as a nurse, as well as providing support for young MAF mothers delivering babies in Sentani. She is the 24/7 on-call nurse for MAF staff in Papua and sometimes on other Indonesian programs. Zephaniah 3:17 is a special verse to Karin, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” She shares, “As I delight in the things around me, such as the beauty of the jungle and the joys of being a parent, it’s very special to me to think about the Lord delighting in me.” Doug and Karin are both from Minnesota. At age 12, Doug became a Christian through the influence of the film, “A Thief in the Night.” Doug attended Moody Bible Institute where he earned a B.S. in Missionary Aviation Technology from Moody Aviation in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Doug graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a MBA in Aviation. He holds a multi-engine Airline Transport Pilot certificate with commercial pilot privileges for Single-engine Sea, is a certified flight instruc­tor, and an airframe and power plant mechanic. Karin was raised in a Christian home and accepted Christ as her Savior at a young age. She attended Wheaton College, Crown College, and earned an Associate of Science degree as a Registered Nurse at East Tennessee State University. Karin and Doug were married on August 12, 1983. God calls the men and women of MAF to serve Him in unique ways. Find out more about the opportunities available around the world.
Categories: Mission Network News

No caller left behind for SAT-7 PARS

Mission Network News - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 5:00am

Parsa, the audience and public
relations manager for SAT-7 PARS.
(Photo courtesy of SAT-7)

Iran (SAT-7) -- [EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an article posted from the Web site of SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Click here to learn more about how SAT-7 is bringing Christ to the Middle East through television.] You’ve sponsored a new phone system, bringing unexpected benefits for SAT‑7’s Farsi-language channel. Through this new system, we are gaining a deeper insight into the needs of the Iranian people. The SAT-7 PARS team had previously relied on a conventional phone system, which depended on a staff member actually picking up the phone and answering every call. Unfortunately, during busy periods, it just was not possible to answer every call, and many were lost. Now, more Iranian Christians are sharing their prayer requests, testimonials, and their need for physical Bibles. Hundreds of Calls Missed Parsa, the channel’s Audience and Public Relations Manager, says hundreds of calls were sometimes missed. “Previously, during our live shows, especially those for children on Thursday and Friday, we might miss about 300-400 calls. That was the reason we introduced the new system: to avoid missing all these opportunities,” he said. “We designed it so that any time we have a live show during the week, the system automatically switches to a menu that instructs the caller how to join the program if they wish. Otherwise, they can choose to go through to record a request for prayer or for a Bible, or just to leave a message.” More People Ask for Bibles

(Photo courtesy of SAT-7 via Facebook)

Parsa says the number of Bible requests being recorded by the new VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system has been one of the surprises since its introduction. “One of our voicemail messages is specifically for anyone who just needs a Bible. From the moment this was introduced, the number of messages we received began increasing greatly. Now, we have a long list of requests for Bibles and prayer,” Parsa says. “We were surprised at the number of viewers asking for Bibles because, although we knew we missed lots of calls before the VoIP system was introduced, we didn’t know exactly what these callers wanted. Now, we don’t lose any chances to hear from our audience, and we can serve our viewers much more quickly.” Much More Flexible Another benefit of the VoIP system is that staff in one country can answer the calls from viewers of a show in a different country. This has made it easier for SAT‑7 staff in different studios to assist one another during busy times. The VoIP system is also less expensive to operate and more user-friendly for the viewers than the conventional phone system. Some callers can reach the studios using a toll free number. Clear Results Sometimes it can be difficult to quantify the benefits of an innovation, but in this case, Parsa says, the figures are clear. “Our numbers right now show that our follow-up list of people who have called us has dramatically increased. It’s now about five times longer,” he says. Thank you for empowering SAT-7 PARS to capture every contact from Farsi speakers who desperately want Bibles and prayer. Please continue to support this vital spiritual lifeline for them.
Categories: Mission Network News

Cuba: proceed with caution

Mission Network News - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo credit: Cubaminrex)

Cuba (MNN) -- A historic thaw in tensions between the U.S. and Cuba is resulting in less travel and business restrictions. A Reuters alert on Thursday broke the news, and the White House confirmed suspicions on Friday. “These are the most comprehensive expansion[s] in U.S. trade and investment regulations with Cuba in decades,” John Kavulich, head of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, told Reuters. Though many missionaries are eager to bring Christ’s hope to the Communist nation, Faith Comes by Hearing’s Phil Kenney advises proceeding with caution. “It’s important to realize that there IS a strong and vibrant Cuban Church,” says Kenney. “Get to know leadership; get to know their heartbeat, their needs, and [then] figure out how to appropriately collaborate.” Phil Kenney is FCBH’s Americas Regional Manager, overseeing ministry from Canada to Cape Horn. FCBH Cuba Faith Comes by Hearing has been following the advice shared above for the past 15 years. They began working in the Communist nation after seeing its tremendous needs, but also its potential.

(Photo courtesy FCBH)

“We saw the need for the Cuban Church to have materials, especially the Word of God,” Kenney clarifies. “Responding to that need was how we started in Cuba.” With help from partners in three nations, they’ve provided audio Bibles to believers in each of Cuba’s 15 provinces. “We, specifically, provide audio Scriptures on a device called a Proclaimer: a solar-powered playback device,” says Kenney. “At first, it seemed like it started out a little slow, but then some leadership changed, and about the last six years the impact has been phenomenal.” The ministry also provides audio Scripture on mp3 CDs, along with training and encouragement workshops for the local Church. In addition, Faith Comes by Hearing is “partnering with the Church to help them strategically plan how to reach Cuba with the Word of God.”

Church in La Habana, Cuba.

The evangelical Church in Cuba is vibrant, Kenney says, despite the government’s best efforts to repress it. They have not built any new church buildings since 1959, but their house church growth is up to 7,000. Putting tools into the hands of the Body of Christ in Cuba is helping it grow even more. “With the audio Scriptures, they’re able to evangelize and disciple their people,” Kenney explains. So what? With the resumption of diplomatic relations with the U.S., and Pope Francis' visit, Cuba is more open to receive God's Word than it has been in many years. FCBH representatives who have worked there advise other ministries to do their homework and establish strong relationships in Cuba--which already has a strong and determined Church--before assessing its spiritual and practical needs. “They want to impact the world and fulfill the Great Commission,” Kenney says of Cuban believers.


If God is calling you to Cuba, connect with FCBH by calling (800) 545-6552 and ask to speak with Phil Kenney. Or, click here to send FCBH an e-mail. “We would be really receptive to…conversing and…share our experience, talk about some of the things we’ve learned, and try to connect people appropriately.”
Categories: Mission Network News

Amid refugee crisis, relief is coming

Mission Network News - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 5:00am

(Video capture courtesy Alpha Relief/Global Advance)

International (MNN) -- One of the big questions that people have when they hear about the refugee crisis is: "How did this suddenly get so big?" If you start with Syria and the Arab Spring (now called the Arab Uprising) of 2011, you can see where the spark began.   Syrians joined in the protest against the authoritarian regime of President Bashar Assad. He responded with brutality, which fueled the flame of rebellion, which eventually became a civil war. While fighting continued in Syria, another group--a militant Islamist group--rose up in Iraq with plans to re-create the Caliphate (a Muslim government under the supreme rule of the Caliph, a direct descendant of Muhammad). Within weeks, they rolled across parts of Iraq and Syria and called the territory they controlled the "Islamic State." About half of Syria’s population--11 million people--have been displaced, either inside Syria or have taken refuge in other countries (mainly Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan). They were joined by hundreds of thousands fleeing ISIS in Iraq. Add in those fleeing the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS chapters, and other militant groups, and you have 60 million people who have been displaced because of war, conflict, and persecution.

(Video capture courtesy Alpha Relief/Global Advance)

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, that’s the highest level of displacement in the world’s history--exceeding the numbers for the first time since World War II. ISIS declared war on all Christians, who are among those millions who have fled to places like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. The Kurdistan region of Iraq and Egypt have been remarkably generous, too. Together, they have taken over 7 million refugees from Iraq and Syria. There are so many that the demographics of the countries have changed. 25% of the people in Lebanon are Syrians. it’s 10% in Jordan, parts of Turkey, and elsewhere. Domestic public services are overloaded. Water and sanitation systems are overwhelmed. There’s not enough room in schools and hospitals. Because of the competition, social tension is at an all-time high. So, they escaped death, only to survive as refugees, forced to rebuild their lives from nothing.

(Photo courtesy Global Advance)

Yet even in the midst of such darkness, the hope of Christ is shining brightly. The humanitarian crisis wing of Global Advance is Alpha Relief. Global Advance’s David Shibley explains, ”They have been involved in ministry to the persecuted church for a number of years. We are very grateful to be partners together in ministry. They have very strong contacts in the Middle East: a particular pastor in Jordan, another one in Lebanon.” Alpha Relief partners with men like these to provide emergency extraction, refuge, and relief aid to those in desperate need. Shibley acknowledges the needs are bigger than they can support alone. However, “We simply need to respond however we can, the best we can. Though we cannot do everything, we CAN do something. That’s what we’re doing. We’re bringing humanitarian relief through the ministry of Alpha Relief.” Christian families have infiltrated predominately-Muslim controlled areas with the love of Christ, evangelizing and discipling Muslim converts in a new faith in Jesus. Alpha Relief supports missionaries equipping new believers and secret house church gatherings, which spread the gospel message to extended families and neighbors. Here’s how, says Shibley: “All of our giving to relief outreaches is in cooperation with pastors who are on the ground and who know the condition of their flock. Many times, they’re mobilizing their church to assist.” He can’t emphasize the need enough. The pastors he’s talking about are personally involved with reaching out to the refugee communities in Lebanon and Jordan. The challenge: “Often, they simply run out of food, they run out of blankets, they run out of bottled water, and just the very basic needs.” Alpha Relief can stand in the gap with resources. More than that, “We do that within the context of personal prayer and ministry that is provided by these pastors and others, so it’s not simply giving them the humanitarian aid that they need, but also in ministering to their spiritual needs.” On top of basic survival needs, there are special safe houses which offer counseling and rehabilitation for former Muslim radicals and those persecuted by Muslim family members after their conversions. Many guests at the safe houses are equipped to return to their communities as undercover missionaries and house church planters. The crisis has been going on for a long time. Many of the aid projects from the United Nations are perpetually underfunded. Some programs are out of money. Until there’s a face with a name put to a situation, that’s not likely to change much. Shibley says that’s why they’re bringing in two pastors (from Lebanon and Jordan) for their Global Summit next month. Part of their purpose is to provide respite for church leaders who desperately need rest. Part is that these pastors are among 52 other church leaders who are the movers and shakers in this world. “We want to get a first-hand report from them and to assess from them the situation that they are close to every day.” Through Alpha Relief, Global Advance also educates churches in the U.S. about areas of intense persecution and acts as a conduit for support and involvement. The ministry believes in following the example of Jesus Christ who demonstrated compassion to those in need. Click here for a list of MNN partners who are assisting with the refugee crisis.
Categories: Mission Network News

Growing spiritually and economically as a community

Mission Network News - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy FARMS International)

International (MNN) -- There’s a saying that goes, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." That’s the principle behind FARMS International. FARMS provides a loan program for Christian families in poverty and helps give them a jumpstart for a project, a small business, or to build up a better farm. Their programs also get clients more involved with the church through tithing. “It enables the church, because one of our requirements is that [those we help are] believers..., a member of a church, and they’re willing to tithe to that church,” says FARMS’s Joe Richter. “The whole process of this actually is a great way to disciple people and to show them how faithful God is when they’re faithful.” As a result, there’s been incredible success through clients’ lives and growth in churches. In Thailand, for example, several believers received loans from FARMS and started a coffee production. The business grew, and they were able to increase their tithing. As a result, their church was able to support a church-planting missionary in Myanmar. “That’s really exciting to us that we’ve gone full circle where those who [we] are helping are also sending out missionaries and doing church planting work across borders,” Richter says. Thailand is just one country where FARMS is making an impact. Loan programs extend into several other countries in Asia, two in Africa, Cuba, and Moldova. It’s easy enough to say FARMS’ reach expands across the map in a variety of diverse places. Now the ministry has plans to expand into Ecuador. “There are still many families and villages that are in poverty, and the churches have very little financial help...because the people are that poor,” Richter explains. “We feel FARMS has a real opportunity in Ecuador to help in those villages and in those village churches.” In most situations that FARMS has seen, when a church doesn’t have an adequate amount of tithing, it’s hard for them to support a pastor. In Ecuador especially, a pastor might have to service a dozen churches because they can’t afford local pastors. Richter says, “This is not a healthy situation.” So why doesn’t FARMS just give to these churches? Because they want to see the people as well as the church grow together spiritually and economically as a community. But to see this new program come to life, FARMS needs your support and prayer. “New programs like this need new funding from individuals that might have a heart for South America or for the Kichwa people in general.” Want to see this program work out? Make a move! Contact FARMS.
Categories: Mission Network News

Syrian Christians face life-and-death choices

Mission Network News - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 5:00am

Surviving Syrian refugee family members hold
close to one another.
(Photo and caption courtesy of Christian Aid Mission)

Syria (CAM) -- [EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an article posted directly from Christian Aid Mission's Web site. Click here to find other ways this organization is helping the indigenous church assist Syrian refugees.] Three years after a pastor moved his family from a war-torn town in Syria to the more serene city of Sweida, a deadly bombing there last week brought the violence home. Along with other Christian leaders in Syria, the pastor must decide whether to stay or flee. Like members of his congregation, the pastor must constantly evaluate the risks of staying--with the added weight of having to choose between fleeing to protect his family and remaining to disciple the converts who make up most of his church. The car bombing on Friday (Sept. 11) killed a prominent Druze cleric and 25 others on the outskirts of Sweida, and retaliatory violence has reportedly killed another 21 people. In the initial attack, a second car bomb exploded near a hospital in a neighborhood where at least 50 injured people had been taken. No one has taken responsibility for the bombings. Sweida Province will be coveted territory for the Islamic State (ISIS), said the pastor, whose name is withheld for security reasons. "Sweida is a target for two reasons," he said. "First, religious reasons: the Druze are not Muslims. The Druze are very educated and modern. Druze women dress quite modernly. Secondly, Druze are considered to be loyal to the government, which makes Sweida a big target to ISIS." ISIS militants can be found near Tadmore, less than 20 miles from Sweida, he said. After leading a church in Daraa in southern Syria for 8 years, he had moved to his home village of Kharaba, about 30 miles east, when civil war broke out in 2011. From there he was still able to serve his church in Daraa, but the next year rebel militias took over Kharaba, forbidding Christian worship or even the ringing of church bells. Most Christians fled, and the militias resettled 500 Muslim families to take over their homes. The pastor moved his family another 30 miles east to the Druze stronghold of Sweida. He has been able to continue visiting his church in Daraa once a month while leading a new church among Sweida's Druze, who made up 3% of Syria's pre-war population but account for 96% of the Sweida area. Unlike his congregation in Daraa, where most people came from Christian families, those in his Sweida church are former Sunni Muslims displaced from other areas, and former Druze, a religion originating in the early 11th century as a gnostic mix of various philosophies and religions. The Sweida church's ministry has expanded to serving people displaced by the war. Christians make up 2% of the Sweida population, and between them and the displaced, most would like to leave. "When we talk with the Christians here, we find that 80% of them want to leave," the pastor said. "But there are two things that keep them here. First, most don't have the ability to leave financially. Secondly, where would they go?"

Children help offload aid at a tent camp
for refugees in Turkey.
(Image, caption courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

Sweida's Druze are preparing to defend their land against both rebels and government soldiers but have sympathizers on both sides. Residents report that the Druze have formed a militia to defend against rebels, but the Druze's initial support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad has reportedly waned. The Druze cleric who was killed, Sheikh Wahid al-Balous, had spoken out against Assad's regime. After the cleric's death, Druze protestors blamed the government, smashing a statue of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar Assad's deceased father, who previously ruled the country. "The Druze are against the war; they do not agree with ISIS or the extremists' armed militias, so they don't want war," the pastor said. "However, they formed groups under the observation of the government to protect their land. So, they are willing to stand up against any attack on them if it happens." Area Druze will try to defend their land, though they don't have heavy weapons to withstand an onslaught from ISIS, other rebel groups, or government forces, he said. Should ISIS advance on Sweida, Christians and especially their leaders would be among those sought in the group's push to establish a caliphate ruled by Sunni Islam, said the Middle East director of Christian Aid Mission. "As ISIS pushes westward inside Syria, Christians are in the cross-hairs," he said. "They're running out of places where they can safely flee." When two Syrian Christian workers assisted by Christian Aid Mission were killed last year, the organization helped their wives and children to escape to Lebanon. Since then, four other workers with ministries that Christian Aid assists have been captured and killed. Many such indigenous missionaries feel called to risk their lives to remain in Syria, while others may wish to stay but cannot abide the possibility of family members being captured, raped, sold into sexual slavery, tortured, or killed. Seeking to help these Christian workers and their families to survive, Christian Aid has created an evacuation fund to have resources ready when indigenous missionaries need to move fast. "Christian Aid Mission has had pleas from Christian workers in Syria to get their families out," the Middle East director said. "We have connections in countries adjacent to Syria who know how to get them out. An emergency fund has been established to rescue Christians before they're massacred. These funds will be sent to ministries who have the know-how to do the job." The aim is not to remove the indigenous workers from their ministries, but to provide a way for them to continue, he said.

(Image courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

"We are not helping ministries to abandon Syria, but rather trusting that God has other plans for reaching the people of Syria, even the most radical terrorists, with the gospel," the director said. "Evacuated Syrian Christians can serve as a gospel witness among their people who are resettled in safe countries, or they can evangelize those still in Syria through Internet and media ministries. Almost all refugees seek to return to their homeland, so we could help preserve the indigenous witness from Syria to someday return, should the country become stable in the future." Syrian Christians who remain in the country would find a way to reach their countrymen, even if Syria is overrun by militants who vent their hatred of Jesus Christ, he added. "God's Spirit is not bound by armies and hostile ideologies." The pastor in Sweida said villages bordering militia areas are already seeing random terrorist attacks in which innocent people are killed. He is not eager to leave a fruitful ministry. Of the 90 people attending services in Sweida, 70 were raised in other religious faiths. Last year the pastor baptized 32 people--three from traditional churches (Orthodox and Catholic) and 29 from Islamic or Druze families. Christian workers in Syria said they would not leave their ministries unless they have made provisions for the work to go forward. "We will not allow the ministries to be destroyed," said the leader of a ministry Christian Aid assists in Syria. "We will make sure the ministry is still running."
Categories: Mission Network News

The JESUS Film Project assists refugees

Mission Network News - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 5:00am

Children watching the 'JESUS' film.
(Photo courtesy The JESUS Film Project)

International (JFP/MNN) -- When people lose their homes, livelihood, and family to events like natural disasters and outbreaks of violence, their beliefs and worldview are "rocked." But often times, social walls crumble. There is plenty of upheaval going on around the world right now: nearly four million Syrian refugees have flooded into Jordan and Lebanon, as well as thousands into Armenia, Turkey, and Greece. Next door in Iraq, people are fleeing from violent extremists to safer parts of the country, as well as to Jordan and Turkey. A similar situation is happening in Ukraine, where civilians are fleeing the violence of civil war and finding refuge in churches. The good news? Times of pain and uncertainty often create an openness to the Gospel. The JESUS Film Project is responding by asking that you pray for opportunities to help meet physical and spiritual needs. One specific way this organization shares the Gospel is through the “JESUS” film, a two-hour docudrama on the life of Christ. It also uses a variety of other digital technology tools to reach as broad of an audience as possible. Would you consider praying for a few of this ministry’s specific needs?
  • Pray for the September mail appeal focusing on seeking funds for DVDs, SD cards, video tablets, pico video projector sets, and compact video players. Thank God for how His Spirit is moving and pray that the ministry might see His blessing through the resources provided for global film evangelism.
  • Pray for a good response to the mailing of a new video titled “He Is For Us” which shares how God is working in India and invites support for church-planting teams and film equipment. Pray that hundreds will respond and take advantage of the challenge grant that will multiply the impact of their giving.
Click here to find a full list of prayer needs, or follow this link to learn more about how The JESUS Film Project is helping change lives.
Categories: Mission Network News

Kansas attorney gives children hope

Mission Network News - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

USA (BCS) -- [EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a blog post from Bethany Christian Services based on a recent podcast interview. Click here to listen.] “Find something you love to do,” the saying goes, “and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” A career litigator with the Kansas City law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Gene Balloun loves the work he does so much that he does some of it for free. Balloun has been providing pro bono legal representation for families adopting children through the Kansas foster care system for nearly 30 years. His efforts have helped families provide permanent, adoptive homes for more than 1,000 children. Although the state pays the attorney fees for these cases, Balloun has directed that money to a scholarship fund to help children formerly in foster care attend college or pursue vocational training. To date, this fund has distributed more than 500 scholarships totaling more than $700,000. By awarding these funds, Balloun said he wants to “give every child a chance to be everything they can be.” For Balloun, this mission is as personal as it is professional. He and his wife, Sheila, have fostered 29 children and adopted two. Balloun shared his story with Brian DeVos, Bethany’s senior vice president of child and family services. Learn more about how you can become a foster parent or be the forever family a teen in foster care has been waiting for at bethany.org. Bethany’s Every Child audio podcast engages leading voices from ministries, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and the arts to discuss issues relevant to children and families. Topics often include child welfare, family preservation, social justice, and culturally appropriate social services in developing countries.
Categories: Mission Network News

Nepal has been declared a secular nation

Mission Network News - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Gospel for Asia via Facebook)

Nepal (MNN) -- Nepal has been chaotic for the last few weeks. The chaos still remains, but protests are looking a little different. Since 2007, the country has been looking to a temporary constitution that was created at the end of a civil war. Parties disagreed over the details of the constitution as to whether or not Nepal should be a Hindu or a secular nation. The argument dragged on for years until the disastrous April 25 earthquake, which brought on the decision to establish a new, permanent constitution. During this time frame, disagreements started building tensions. “The religious fundamentalists didn’t want the constitution, democratic or secular nation. They want to still remain a radical Hindu nation,” says Gospel for Asia’s (GFA) K.P. Yohannan. If the country were declared a Hindu nation, religious minorities--including Christians--would face restrictions in sharing and practicing their faith legally. There would also be strict anti-conversion laws. Hindu activists marched through streets and clashed with police demanding the country be declared a Hindu nation. Around 40 people have died in the violence, including 11 policemen and one child, according to the Guardian News. Voting took place in the last days, and despite activists’ violent protests, only 21 lawmakers in the 601-seat constituent assembly voted in support of making the country a Hindu nation once again. Nepal has been declared a secular nation. “I honestly think that this is the answer to tens of thousands of people’s prayers throughout the world,” Yohannan says. “What does it mean for God’s work? I think this is an answer to prayer, and our God is going to continue to use these people to help you understand the love of Christ.” While Christians have been celebrating their newly-declared religious freedoms, Hindus have acted violently, bombing two churches. A bomb intended for a church exploded in a police station, injuring four. “The church can exist there legally. But persecution and problems and some other things possibly will always be there.” Several Bridge of Hope Centers supported by GFA have closed temporarily to keep tutors and children safe. Be praying for safety over GFA’s partners and Christians. Also be praying for peace and that protests and violence will subside soon.
Categories: Mission Network News

ISIS death threats reach Turkish Christians

Mission Network News - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 5:00am


Turkey (MNN) -- As if believers in Turkey didn’t have enough to deal with, evangelical leaders are now receiving death threats from ISIS. “These threats are against Islamic converts to Christianity,” Rody Rodeheaver of International Needs explains. “ISIS wants to make an example of them, and are threatening to do just that.” This news, along with increased fighting between PKK terrorists and the Turkish military, has set the Church in Turkey on edge. Turkish turmoil Though they’ve escalated at an alarming rate recently, the troubles in Turkey’s east are nothing new. “For years and years and years, the Kurds and the Turks have been struggling,” Rodeheaver says. A Kurdish presence in Turkey threatens the native Turkish population, he explains, especially because the Kurds are growing in number. If the Kurds get political power, Rodheaver adds, the Turks fear they will lose control of the country.


As a result, Turkish forces have been battling to subdue Kurdish militants in eastern Turkey since the summer began. According to Bloomberg News, over 100 police officers and soldiers have been killed in Kurdish attacks. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is spearheading the recent unrest. “Up until the last month or so, things had been fairly settled; not a lot of overt military action against the PKK by the government,” explains Rodeheaver. “Now, that is changing, and it is sending a shockwave through the government and also the general population.” Against this backdrop of chaos, International Needs is fighting to make the peril faced by Turkish Christians known. Speaking up

(Photo courtesy International Needs)

Last week, International Needs’ ministry leader in Turkey flew to the capital at the request of several governmental leaders. While there, he spoke to the serious danger posed to Turkish Christians by the recent ISIS death threats. It was also an important opportunity to remind the Turkish Parliament that-- under Turkey’s Constitution--Christianity is a legitimate member and deserves protection. Will you stand with International Needs in prayer? “What we’re praying is that one: these pastors will be protected,” shares Rodeheaver. “Two: we’re praying that this will be an opportunity for the Christian Church to speak out and share with the rest of Turkey that they, along with the Muslim population--in a Republic--have freedom of religion.” You can also help by giving to support the work of International Needs in Turkey. “We have the ministries going on, but [we need help],” Rodeheaver says.
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Burkina Faso military takes over

Mission Network News - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 5:00am

(Map courtesy Wikipedia)

Burkina Faso (MNN) -- Burkina Faso is under new management. The military took to the airwaves yesterday to declare control and name the new head of state, a former aide to ex-President Blaise Compaore. Brigadier General Gilbert Diendere, a longtime ally of Compaore, said the military staged the coup because the country's political process was biased.  He promised a dialogue that includes all parties and will lead to elections at a later time. The coup--the country's sixth since it won independence from France in 1960--unfolded overnight. Late Wednesday, the country's interim president and prime minister were arrested at the presidency. They were so close to anticipated stability. Voters were supposed to elect a new government on 11 October. The transitional government came to power after Compaore, the president of 27 years, was ousted last October over his plan to amend the constitution so he could extend his stay in office. It wasn’t without blood, though. The military takeover sparked deadly protests when the Presidential Guard fired on demonstrators who had gathered at the presidential palace.

(Photo courtesy Compassion International)

Unrest rattles communities; it rattles families. Compassion International has worked in Burkina Faso since 2004. Their church partners lead the corps in bringing Christ to the communities. So far, that means more than 190 child development centers, working with more than 50,000 children there. Because the situation is still unfolding, Compassion released this impact statement through spokesman Tim Glenn: Compassion has temporarily suspended operations at our field office and many of our implementing church partners throughout Burkina Faso, in the wake of the civil unrest in the capital city of Ouagadougou. No Compassion children or staff have been harmed in this situation. The closure of our offices and church partners is a security measure to protect our children and staff. Those offices and churches will remain closed until we deem it is safe for children and staff to return to our program. Compassion-sponsored children have access to education, medical care, nutritious food, and knowledge of the love of Jesus. Pray for wisdom and safety for the churches and families involved. Pray, too, for a quick return to stability.  
Categories: Mission Network News

BTAKs enhance safety of Bible translation

Mission Network News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

International (MNN) -- The life of a Bible translator can be stressful. Many translators in hostile areas, such as the Middle East and North Africa, are consistently on the run. They must keep their work inconspicuous to avoid being persecuted or even killed. That’s why Wycliffe Associates started Bible Translation Acceleration Kits (BTAKs). The kits may contain a laptop computer, satellite communications terminal, solar-powered charger, battery, and power supply. They’re enhancing the safety of the translation process and making it possible to continue work on the go. “It provides a reliable power source in places where there are not existing electrical infrastructure,” says Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “For the translation teams that are using laptops and using electrical resources, the ability to provide them a reliable solar power system on their location is the first thing that enables them to just do their work on a daily basis. “The second thing is that it provides them communication capabilities so they can connect with resources that are beyond their local village, so that they can be in contact with consultants [and] access online resources to help their Bible translation quality assurance process. “But the third thing, in light of the insecurity...is these things are all portable and small. We’ve got lots of stories of our partners who basically just put them in a backpack, put them on their back, and take them with them when they have to migrate because of the threats that are around them.” One would think that seemingly endless threats of violence and having to relocate so many times would take its toll on the Bible translators. But Wycliffe Associates says Christians aren't giving up. “Just last year in both Northern Nigeria as well as the Central African Republic, because of the terrorist activities that are going on in both of those places, we’ve had teams that had to essentially abandon their homes, abandon their offices with a suitcase and with a backpack, and just grab their kids' hands as they started walking and heading away from the violence,” Smith says.

(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

“The fact that they care enough about God’s Word, that this is one of the first things that they take with them when they have to abandon their homes, is a huge testimony to their own commitment to getting God’s Word to their people.” But these kits aren't just beneficial during times of chaos. Advancements in technology have accelerated the Bible translation process as a whole. “Just by connecting them with good power and reliable communication has in many cases doubled the pace of Bible translation, just because it has removed the delays that previously were in place when they couldn’t recharge their computers,” Smith says. In the past few years, Wycliffe Associates has already installed about 515 of these kits around the world. Throughout the next year, it’s looking to install 250 more at $3,967 apiece. Can you help provide these resources to those who greatly need them? Click here to see how you can help.
Categories: Mission Network News

Breaking Global Hunger down to the individual

Mission Network News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)

International (MNN) -- When we say Global Hunger, there’s not really an image of an individual that comes to mind. Instead it’s more like a sea of unknown faces. Baptist Global Response (BGR) encourages you to look closer. Right now, there are nearly 800 million individuals that are malnourished, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Each one needs help. This includes refugee families who have fled ISIS or Boko Haram, children who have lost their parents due to disasters like the Nepal earthquake, and forgotten people who live in extreme poverty. While the issue is easily ignored when you’re not near it, look around. Malnutrition affects nearly half of all countries, according to the 2015 Global Nutrition Report. That could include yours. While nearly 800 million is already a scary number to begin with, the threat of that growing is even scarier. But what if you could make a dent in that number? BGR’s Global Hunger Sunday is October 11, a time to take a step forward and start ending malnutrition. BGR has partnered with Global Hunger Relief to feed people around the world. A recent video shows some of the workers who brought 100 tons of food to a forgotten village in Nepal. Villagers they served are just a few people they’ve been able to help. And, with your support, they’ll be able to bring tangible encouragement to even more. In Jesus’ name, they are using food as a bridge to share the hope and peace only God can provide. “You’re helping to give food to those who need it the most,” says Jeff Palmer of BGR. And, 100% of any donation you make will go toward ending world hunger. Start making a difference in the life of an individual or a whole family today.
Categories: Mission Network News

Courage and hope remain for Roshni

Mission Network News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

India (Open Doors) -- Fifteen-year-old *Roshni of India is still struggling with the trauma of her past. Two years ago, she was raped as a punishment for passionately sharing her Christian faith. She and her parents filed a case against the assaulter, but they were denied justice as he was set free after serving only two years of imprisonment. The news of his release petrified Roshni--so much so, that she stopped eating. As a result, she fainted due to weakness and was admitted to the hospital to recover. Roshni is just one of the hundreds of Christian girls and women in India who are physically or sexually assaulted because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Many of them fear disgrace and do not file official complaints. If they do report the abuse, they are called into court to remember and testify in public about their horrific experiences. They are usually denied justice because the judicial system is never in favor of Christians. “The culprit managed to bribe the lawyers and make connections with the local politicians. He was set free,” says Roshni’s father. Roshni comes from a very poor family. They struggle to meet even their basic needs. Roshni and her family--her parents, three brothers, and two sisters--moved to the city five years ago from their native village in hope of earning a better living. Her parents came to faith during a Christmas worship service where they saw people being healed in Jesus’ name. Slowly but surely, the entire family, including Roshni, gave their lives to Jesus. In the excitement of her new faith, Roshni began sharing about Christ. “I used to share my faith with my neighbors. They ridiculed me for it,” she recalls. After a brief pause, she resumes: “The ladies in my neighborhood often made fun of me, but one day they seemed very interested about my faith. They called me to a home to share about Jesus and served me juice, which I drank, not knowing that they planned to drug me and have me raped afterwards. After the drink, I lost consciousness. "When I came back to my senses, I realized I had been raped. Since I feared public disgrace, I ran to my home silently and told my parents everything. A police complaint was made, and the case lingered for two years. My attacker was jailed during that period of time but was proven innocent and released.” “She tried committing suicide after the incident. By God’s grace we were able to bring her to the hospital in time and her life was saved,” recalls her father with tears rolling down his face. Due to financial constraints, Roshni was able only able to study through the 4th grade; however, she manages to read the Bible slowly. Roshni still struggles with depression and is trying to overcome her fears and feelings of insecurity. When a partner of Open Doors went to visit Roshni in the hospital, she still looked sad and pale. For a long time she just stared outside the window. During the conversation, she told the Open Doors representative that she liked to sing worship songs. She was then gently persuaded to sing one worship song. She sang in an exceptionally sweet voice. The lyrics were very clear: “When I sing, Lord, let Your spirit fill my soul and let Your name only be glorified. Let it be that I keep singing and You keep listening to my song of praise.” Her expression changed as she sang. She looked a lot stronger and her eyes beamed with courage and hope. India ranks #21 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. *Name changed for security reasons
Categories: Mission Network News

Government crackdowns alert Christians

Mission Network News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Hans V)

Egypt (MNN) -- Red flags are going up among Egyptian Christians following the latest round of government crackdowns. President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi’s administration is trying to eradicate corruption and terrorism in Egypt. As a result, they’re passing hundreds of new laws restricting basic freedoms. Take the freedom of assembly, for example. “When you start talking about a law against people gathering together in a private home, well, is that going to affect house churches? Obviously it could; the police could come into that meeting as well,” explains Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) USA spokesman Todd Nettleton. Bottom-line: while government crackdowns are intended to target terrorists, Christians could bear the brunt of unintended ripple effects. “I think as we see him [SiSi], sort of, ‘tighten’ the levers of control, Christians are starting to say, ‘Wait a minute, we need to watch this closely,’” Nettleton shares. Government crackdowns: 2013 Two years ago, then-President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a coup d’état by Egyptian Armed Forces. Several weeks of protests followed as demonstrators for and against Morsi’s removal gathered in the streets.

2013 protests

A series of government crackdowns culminated on August 14, 2013, in what is now known as the Rabaa massacre. The following summer, then-Defense Minister Abdul Fatah al-Sisi was elected President. “When SiSi came to power, predominantly the word we heard from Christians in Egypt was, ‘This is a good thing,’” Nettleton shares. “Coming out of the Muslim Brotherhood being in control, this looked like…a step in the right direction.” However, a barrage of new laws and the latest government crackdowns are making believers a little uneasy. Government crackdowns: 2015

President Sisi
(Photo courtesy Abdelfattah Elsisi via G+)

According to a recent Al-Monitor report, nearly 200 laws have been passed since Sisi took office. “There is not a sitting Parliament, and so these laws are being put in place by the presidential administration without a lot of checks and balances,” explains Nettleton. Furthermore, the laws are being put in place under the auspices of “fighting terrorism.” Anyone who questions whether the laws are needed is assumed to be a supporter of terrorism. “There are some real challenges going on in Egypt,” says Nettleton. “These laws are already being used to ‘put a lid on’ freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.” Over 20 people are currently being detained because of their activity on Facebook. “It does seem--from a human rights perspective, and a freedom perspective--things are going in a very concerning direction.”

(Photo credit 8thirty8 Facebook page)

Learn more about the troubles faced by Egyptian Christians on VOM’s Web site. As this story continues to unfold, please surround Egyptian believers in prayer. “Certainly as we see these laws passed, we want to be aware of the fact that they do affect Christians there as well,” notes Nettleton. Prayer Points
  • Pray that the new laws being put in place won’t hinder Church growth.
  • Ask the Lord to protect His followers in Egypt from potential harm.
Categories: Mission Network News