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Greg Yoder

Russian commentary no empathy, no truth

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Mission Network News has learned that there is a growing conflict between Russian evangelical Christians and Ukrainian evangelical Christians. The accusations between the two sides are astounding. 

On March 9, Dr. William Yoder (no relationship to me, that I know of) wrote an article and commentary about the schism between the two. Unfortunately, he sided with the Russian pro-Putin church. 

I’ve decided to give equal time to Ukrainian evangelical church who are in the cross-hairs of Yoder. Here is the response to Yoder’s accusations. 

Ukrainian Christians believe some Russian Christians are aligning themselves with pro-Putin radicals in Russia. Russian Christians are accusing Ukrainian Christians be being ultra-nationalist revolutionaries. Dr. William Yoder, representing the interests of the Russian Baptist Union, came to the defense of Russian policy regarding Ukraine.

In his mailing on March 18th, 2014 he criticized the Ukrainian Maidan protesters and their defenders for not being democratic enough, and not waiting for the next elections, but instead seizing power and provoking the secession of the Crimea.

Additionally, Yoder compares Ukraine’s claims to the Crimea to a former spouse, who was never actually legally married, but after splitting up claims a right to the other’s belongings. Crimea was given away by Khruschev illegally in 1954, therefore no one owes Ukraine anything.

 

Justifying Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, Yoder criticizes Ukrainian church leaders who have come to the defense of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country. He corrects of the vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, Valery Antonyuk, and states that Kiev Protestants have no right to talk about their country’s integrity because the eastern part of the country wants to be part of Russia.

 

He also commented on the “illegal” interim government of Ukraine and acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist, who is supposedly hurting the reputation of Baptists in Russia. William Yoder defends Yanukovych’s regime from accusations of cruelty by saying, “Was Yanukovich’s administration more despicable than Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge?” It seems that all regimes any less despicable than the Khmer Rouge must be acknowledged as fully democratic.

 

But the height of cynicism from Yoder’s side was his criticism of a Christian organization for supporting the family of Alexander Khropachenko, who was killed by a sniper on the Maidan. Yoder believes that this is evidence of one-sided sympathies. Yoder suggests equal assistance for the families of police who lost their lives (who killed over 100 Maidan activists and injured hundreds more), in order to show a non-partisan and peacemaking front. And because some of the ministry’s leaders took a clear stand on the side of the unarmed protesters instead of the armed killers, Yoder accused them of criticism of Russia and anti-Russian viewpoints. However there is a distinction between disagreement between Russia’s policy, which is natural for the civilized world, and truly unacceptable Russophobia.

 

The commentary of Dr. William Yoder is a mix of naïve faith in the authority of Russia, loyalty to his employers, and lack of understanding in the sphere of politics, history, and culture. You cannot talk about peacemaking while avoiding the truth and failing to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim, right and wrong. Peace can only be achieved after truth – acknowledgement of and repentance from crimes committed. Therefore the comments of William Yoder should have begun with an acknowledgement of the obvious fact of Russian intervention, without which everything written is a manipulation of facts. But what is even more noticeable and sad is his lack of empathy and sympathy for the tragic events in Ukraine. It is a bad sign – without empathy you cannot hope to come to the truth, let alone achieve peace.

 

M. Kuznetsov

What’s the message from the VOM tragedy?

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Late last week I received some terrible news. It was a message from Todd Nettleton. He’s a dear friend at Voice of the Martyrs. He told me in an email that a man I have admired for a long time, Tom White,  had died. The story surrounding his death is tragic. If you haven’t heard, here’s the release on VOM’s Web site:

“April 20, 2012 The Voice of the Martyrs statement concerning the death of Tom White:

The events of the last week are tragic. On Wednesday we learned that Tom White, VOM’s executive director, had died.

Allegations were made to authorities this week that Tom had inappropriate contact with a young girl. Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life.

None of those in leadership at VOM, including our board of directors, were aware of these allegations at the time of Tom’s death.

There is no doubt that Tom cared about his wife, his children and his grandchildren. And there’s no doubt that he cared about VOM.

We are deeply saddened by these events. Our hearts are broken.

However, the work that God has called VOM to do is bigger than any one of us. There are persecuted Christians who need our help. The legal process will go forward, and we will continue serving with our persecuted brothers and sisters.

We appreciate the many who are praying for our work, and we encourage you to join us in praying for Tom’s family during this difficult time.”

What is the message from this tragedy? I wish I had an answer. I lost a lot of sleep the night I found out about this news. If this can happen in Tom’s life, this can happen in the life of ANY Christian. I Corinthians 15:10 starts by saying, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” I can only say that we would all fail if it wasn’t for God’s grace. Apart from Him we’re nothing. Apart of Christ, we can’t help but be as pagan as anyone else in the world.

The question I have is what are we doing to protect ourselves? How are we holding each other accountable? For those in high leadership positions, who’s their accountability? For men, pornography can debilitate us. It can cripple our ministries. The sexual sins are the ones Satan will use to destroy us. If it can happen to a man after God’s own heart (King David), it can happen to anyone. As Christians we need to stay in His Word and have accountability partners who we’re not just meeting with once a week. We need people who are intimately a part of our lives, asking tough probing questions.

We’ll never know what happened in this situation. If the allegations are true, a man who I admired as a man of God who cared about persecuted Christians around the world, fell. His sin cost him his life by his own hand. It puts a ministry in the cross-hairs of the secular scrutiny.

What can we do? My suggestion is pray! Pray that God would comfort Tom White’s family. They have to be feeling so much pain. Pray for the alleged victim and her family. Pray for Voice of the Martyrs. Ask God to protect them from the fall-out from what could happen as the secular press begins talking about this tragedy.  Finally, pray God’s protection for yourselves and other Christian leaders. We need your prayers. Pray that God will protect us from attacks from the Devil, and that He would protect us from ourselves.

Help us challenge the NEXT generation

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You have probably seen my posts about our website. I’m not going to go into great detail. But, to recap briefly — IT’S OLD, and it needs to be updated and reprogrammed. But, we still have more than 50-percent to reach our goal of $15,000.

Get an MNN mouse pad when you giveWe NEED your gift of $50 and $100, but we also need some large gifts of $1,000 or $2,000. We need it NOW because it’s being match dollar-for-dollar by a generous donor, up to $7,500.

Why do we need a new Web site? Well, it’s simple — we can’t do some of the things we’re called to do. One of those things is calling young people — the next generation — to join this task of sharing their faith with those who haven’t heard. Yes, we’re doing it on Facebook and Twitter, but we’re missing out in one specific area — phones.

The new website will allow us to provide news bites to those who are using smart phone technology like I-phones and Androids. As part of the reprogramming effort will be creating special apps for each of these devices so those using them can get news and information they need to be Christians who are not only WILLING to go, but more informed where they can go.

Your generous donation can be made here: https://www.MNNonline.org/donate/special and give as generously as you can so we can meet this matching grant quickly!  God bless you for what you’re going to do.

IDOP 2011

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After a four year absence from the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Radio broadcast, Mission Network News is again featuring a special this year. Why has MNN been away for so long?  It’s not because we don’t care about the persecuted church.

Mission Network News never wants to put a broadcast on the air for the sake of putting a broadcast on the air. Our desire is similar to our radio broadcast, we want to present a broadcast that will change hearts and lives. Our desire for IDOP is to provide music that coincides with the persecuted church. We want to have a speaker that will challenge Christians to step out of their comfort zones and do something for God, no matter what the cost. We also want to provide a time of prayer for hot spots in the world where persecution is taking place every day.

This year, Mission Network News will again be broadcast the IDOP Radio broadcast features music, message and prayer from persecuted church believers. We’ll have music from some of your favorite Christian artists, Carl Moeller will present a message about the privilege of persecution, plus Christians from around world praying for their nation where it’s a challenge to simply be a Christian.

If you’d like to hear this radio broadcast, encourage your local radio station to air it. It’s free and will be available on our website for a free download, or stations who have the Amb-os system will have it available on their system on November 7.

Remember, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is Sunday, November 13. Also, if you’d like to remember to pray for the persecuted church every day, get a “One With Them” barbed wire looking rubber wristband. It’ll not only remind you to pray for persecuted Christians worldwide, but will be a great conversation starter.

Announcing the India/Nepal Trip Winner

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All month long we’ve been seeing hundreds of people enter the Mission Network News/Global Action Touch the World trip to India/Nepal. We’ve read through testimony after testimony.

Today, we randomly picked a winner. Here is the winner — are you ready?

Are you sure?

Are you really sure?

It could be you —

But, the winner of the trip is…..

…..

….

….

Amanda Miller from Pennsylvania.

She’ll be heading to either India or Nepal to distribute blankets to the needy in either November or December (her choice).

Be watching here for more opportunities to win a trip in the weeks and months ahead.

Greg Yoder, Mission Network News

Feeling ‘used’ in a good way

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Orphanage 40 child

Aleena at Orphanage 40.

There are days when you feel inadequate. Then there are days you KNOW you made a difference, even if it was a subtle difference. Today was that day for many of my teammate on the Orphan Outreach trip to Russia this week.

Everyone got up, ate breakfast and checked out of the hotel by 9:00. Actually, for the first time all week. I was late. I thought I heard, be down with your luggage at 8:00am, breakfast at 8:30 (which were both correct), but here’s where I got side-tracked — I heard, but down by 9:00am, but we won’t leave probably until 9:30. So, to me that meant be down by 9:30, right? Well, not so much. Long story short, I was late — the VERY last person on the bus.

The reason for my delay was uploading video from the previous day.

Excited little boy

Excited little boy at Orphanage 40.

However, today, we were heading to our final stop at Orphanage #40. This orphanage is for children with eye issues — at least ‘officially’. However, there are MANY other issues, too. Cleft lip and pallet, down’s syndrome, severe fetal alcohol issues and the like.

We arrived at the camp along the Gulf of Finland at around 10am. We walked into the woods to a secluded camp setting. There was on newer building that looked like a long motel that you’d see in the U-S. However, the other buildings were wooden structures far enough apart that it takes a little time to walk from building to building.

Team member Olga with Oxana

Team member Olga with Oxana

I started off with the most functional kids. These 12 or so children were those who had eye issues, but we high functioning. Almost all of them were 6 years old. These children listened so well. They did crafts, putting fish stickers on a fish tank looking piece of blue foam. They shared the creation story and they all listened.

The second group of kids, the largest group, of about two dozen kids were those younger and a little less functioning. They were kids with down’s syndrome and fetal alcohol issues. However, most of them could communicate, but they couldn’t control themselves. This group was able to do the craft, but that’s about it. This was the ‘super charged’ play group.

Then, the final group of kids were those low functioning — Down’s syndrome children, fetal alcohol, and other disabilities that require hands on attention.

I visited each group this year. The first group, there was a little boy with my name Gregori, or Gresha. I got a chance to talk to him. He seemed proud that we had the same name. I was able to watch them do their craft and tell a Bible story. It was great to see the happiness on their faces.

We finished with them at around noon, boarded the bus and headed back to St. Petersburg for lunch.

Our next to the last night devotions were really sweet. Ellie shared from the Word, but many more people talked about what God is doing in their lives because of being on the trip. It was a great time of sharing.

Our night ended at McDonald’s. Most got ice cream and just hung out laughing. We’ve done a lot of that on this trip.

Open hearts, closed hearts – mission team unwavered

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What a dramatic difference between Wednesday and Thursday.

First, let me apologize for not posting anything on this blog yesterday. I got everything done — pictures uploaded, video made and scripts written — only to realize the time on my internet card had run out. Unfortunately, no free wifi in Russia. At least not at the hotels we’ve been staying in this week. So, this will be two updates in one.

Orphanage 2

Sergey is a wonderful little boy. We met him last year.

Yesterday, we got up at the same time, ate breakfast and headed in teams to Orphanage Camp #2. This is the camp where we had so much fun last year. We really connected with a lot of the kids. And, it was great to see so many of them again this year. It wasn’t good they were there, but it was fun seeing them grow and seeing them laugh.

 

When I arrived, we walked back to the field where we would be holding our vacation Bible school program. We basically did the same activities we did at the previous day. However, when we made the circle to begin the day, my little friend Sveta walks up and hands me a piece of watermelon. I’m not sure, but I think it was a part of her breakfast. What a thoughtful, loving little girl. I made her eat it. I told her I had already eaten breakfast and she needed to eat it.

After singing a few songs (in English), we broke up into groups. Craft, recreation and memory verse. I went to recreation. Why? Not sure. Knees my age aren’t supposed to be there any more. I may have to start volunteering for crafts in the years ahead. 🙁

Two girls at orphanage 2

Two girls at orphanage 2

It started raining in the afternoon, but despite the rain, we went ahead and did “The Everything” for the teenagers. If you haven’t seen it, click here.

Following the skit, Melissa Blough gave her testimony and I presented the Gospel. Following the skit, there were a few who had questions about it. One girl who will leave the orphanage was challenged by Masha, one of our interpreters, about what she’ll be doing with her life. Many of the boys in the group got very quiet, reflecting on what they had seen and heard. While no one made professions of faith, we were seed planters.

As we got ready to leave the camp, I got the shock of my life. A teen girl who befriended one of our team members last year, pulled me aside. Through an interpreter asked some questions about adoption. I’d like to ask you to pray for this girl we’ll call Ella. She came to Christ last year during camp. She just needs a chance. Pray God will give her one either through adoption or a Christian mentor program.

Today, was a different day altogether.

The camp was cold in every way — emotionally and spiritually. Kids in this camp were actually displaced by a fire. It was in their living area. So,

Teen girl in Orphanage 14.

Teen girl in Orphanage 14.

they were in strange surroundings. When we arrived there wasn’t the typically running beside the bus yelling and screaming. Children weren’t playing happily. There was just a dark cloud.

This was the camp last year where the director has taken our gifts to the kids and took them for himself. The man run his orphanage like a boot camp. There’s much anger and little love. When we walked in the kids hardly even noticed we were there. We organized some duct tape crafts and dream boxes. One boy took his box, threw it out the window and said he was making believe that it was a bomb and he was a terrorist.

While, discouraging, we were able to present the skit. I was able to talk about the fact that they’re either a slave to sin or Christ and that in reality, we have NO freedom. I told them that Christ died for unlovely sinners. He gave His life for people that are actually His enemy. I said it didn’t matter the sin, it was paid for at the cross.

There wasn’t much, if any, response. But, they DID listen. Again, we’re not called to save people. We’re just called to preach the Word and be faithful. God will provide the increase. I’m praying God will protect these kids for angry caregivers and that he’ll replace this unfriendly, unkind director with someone who actually loves the kids.

Pray for the kids as they return to the orphanages next week.

August 17, 2011 Russia Video

Click here to view photos

Laughs in Russia Video

Norway terror may hurt Christians

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Police have arrested 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik of Oslo, Norway on the island of Utoya in connection with the deadly bombing and shooting that killed 92. Investigators allege Mr. Breivik detonated the car bomb and then drove to Utoya and opened fire on teenagers attending a camp there organized by the ruling Norwegian Labor party.

There’s more tragedy to this story. On his Facebook page he calls himself a ‘Christian’. That has led to news reports calling him a ‘radical Christian’. Does that sound familiar?

What will this mean for Christian work in Norway? It’s still unfolding. According to news reports churches across the country were open all weekend to help Norwegians deal with the tragedy. In a pluralistic society that doesn’t tolerate intolerance, who knows what this monicker ‘fundamentalist Christian’ will reveal.

The other question I have is how will the rest of the world treat Christians in response to this tragedy? In the United States, Christians have already been marginalized because of what they call ‘extreme views’.

What extreme views? There is only one way to heaven, through Jesus Christ alone. There are moral absolutes. I could go on about our views, but those are the ones that bother non-Christians the most.

This tragedy could further marginalize Christians. As left winged political pundits begin focusing on Mr. Breivik’s Christianity, my fear is that all Christians will be painted with the same brush.

However, we know that killing 92 people isn’t what Christ would have us do. Jesus said to “love one another.” How many times did He tell us that?

Unfortunately, when we’re attacked, it’s hard to do that. That’s why we need the help of our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer every day for being a Christian. They simply keep loving, in spite of the trauma they face.

My prayer today is that God will allow REAL Christians to come forward in Norway. That REAL Christians will show the world what Christianity is all about and that His name would be glorified through the pain.

MNN 20th anniversary & Challenge For Change

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20 years is a long time. When a ministry celebrates milestones, typically they do it to highlight they’re ministry. They hold dinners, concerts, or other events to help promote their work.

Mission Network News is celebrating 20 years of ministry. I wish Cornerstone University could take credit for the idea of starting MNN, but the idea for MNN came from a couple of organizations — World Concern and the Raymond Group. After God used these two organizations to developing the program, they graciously gave it to Cornerstone University to be the next steward of this broadcast that’s calling Christians to action.

To celebrate 20 years of service to the Lord, Mission Network News is challenging YOU to do something for God during the month of July. We’re calling it, Challenge For Change.

Challenge For Change is a month long initiative that will provide you ideas and resources that will help you do something for God. For example:

COLOMBIA PARACHUTES
We are partnering with a group in Colombia that is dropping Christian materials (Bibles, Christian literature and pre-tuned, solar-powered radios that are pre-tuned to a Christian station) into areas of the country controlled by the Marxist FARC guerillas, areas where churches are closed and pastors are often targeted for assassination. We now offer a kit that has all the materials needed to make 10 parachutes for $10. The people cut the material into circles, glue or sew on the ribbon, and tie on the zip-lock bag which is used to hold the Bibles or other materials. They then send the parachutes back to us, along with $5 to get them to Colombia and provide fuel for the plane that drops them into the FARC areas. We also have the pattern for the parachutes posted online if people want to get their own materials and just follow the pattern.

Each day you can go to our website. When you do, there will be suggestions that you can do to share your faith, or reach out in love to your neighbor across the street or around the world. We’ll have simple suggestions like, praying for Jesus film teams trying to reach an unreached people group. Or, getting a group together and holding a vacation Bible school in the former Soviet Union.

Why are we doing this? Because we know ALL Christians should do something for God, but sometimes we just don’t know WHAT to do. So, in July — every day — you’ll know WHAT to do.

As part of the Challenge for Change initiative, we’re also giving you an opportunity to shoot some video of YOU and your family and friends in action. You can go here https://mnnonline.org/challenge/ to do that.

Check back with Mission Network News as we get closer to the Challenge for Change initiative.

MNN criticized, let me explain

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Over the last couple of weeks Mission Network News has been criticized for our coverage of the Egypt riots. It’s been kind of interesting to hear their complains. While I understand their criticism, I’m not sure it’s founded.

The first critique came from someone who didn’t like the characterization of our report. He wrote:

“I was listening to the radio yesterday (Feb 3) and heard the report on Egypt. I was struck by the curious wording that< “the situation is becoming dire for churches and Christians.” While I am aware that there is tension between the religious groups, my impression is that not only the Christians are experiencing the things that were then mentioned in the report. However, as I heard it, the report left the impression that the challenges in daily life that were mentioned were unique to the Christian population. I found this to be unhelpful in nurturing compassion for ALL people of the region who are in a difficult situation.”

This story was a story we aired after already reporting on rioting and why the thousands of protesters were (are) in the streets. Because we had already reported on the issues facing the average person, we thought it would be good to focus on Christians and the local church. So, we did that. Unfortunately this person took issue with that report. Again, I agree that EVERYONE is affected, but every OTHER network (including ours) had already talked about everyone else — so we wanted to focus on the story behind the story. For MNN, that story was about the church. Which also fits our mission.

The second criticism came today:

“I feel you need to retract or correct your paragraph from E3 Partners today. You wrote, “Assist News reports that 11 Christians were
killed by radical Muslims”. This portrays that the crisis in Egypt is Muslims vs. Christians, and this is NOT the case at all! I’m hearing
from several sources that Christians and Muslims are unified in their push to oust Mubarak, and there is no religious sectarianism involved.
In this case, casualties were random, and Christians are 10% of the population. I urge you to guard against fanning the flames that this is an extremist revolution like Iran had 30 years ago. Focus your readers/listeners to love and reach out to Muslims, not to hate and fear them.”

While I understand his comments, I’m not sure I can do that. First of all, the story we aired was about a coordinated effort to attack and kill Christians. They were Muslims. And, they were radicals. In order to do something like this, I think you’ll agree that would have to be the case.

For many of you who read or hear our news every day, you know we talk about loving Muslims and sharing the Gospel with them. We know this is important. In fact, we have encouraged people to show them love, hospitality and point them to the Injil (New Testament) to help them understand the person of Jesus.

Are we perfect? NO. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Are we painting the picture that Muslims are bad? That’s something only you can answer. We do tell stories about Christians who are attacked by not only Muslims, but also Hindus, Buddhists, Communists and any other organized groups. Unfortunately, the Islamic faith has jihad as part of their core beliefs. Does the mean we’re ‘hate mongers’? It just means we’re telling the truth. Sometimes the truth is painful.

Sometimes I find it interesting that Christians want us to ‘dumb down’ our news to make it more friendly. Unfortunately, many of the Christians who face persecution around the world just want to know that other Christians are standing beside them. They want people to know the suffering they’re experience. They want Christians to pray. So, we honor that by providing as much information we can, without causing safety issues for the individuals and/or ministries.

Why am I talking about this? Providing news and information can be polarizing. Even though we’re talking mostly to a Christian audience, Satan can use it to divide us. We can’t let that happen. We need to use this information to circle the proverbial wagons to pray, reach out with the Gospel and/or gather funding to help these ministries.

Each week we write dozens of stories about what God is doing around the world. Much of the news focuses on persecution of Christians, disasters, outreach/evangelism, politics and other popular news topics. Why? So, we can tell you how it affects Christians around the world and how God is using it to bring people to Himself.

The bottom line (as one of my friends likes to say) is that MNN has the privilege of being able to talk about God’s work around the world every day. My prayer is that MNN will glorify God in each story we air, encourage Christians to get off their ‘duff’ and do something for Him, and provide news and information that will encourage the body of Christ.