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missions

A God bigger than numbers

By | missions, MNN, persecution, Personal Life | One Comment
Photo courtesy of Lynne Hand via Flickr, creative commons (https://flic.kr/p/CdUSJ)

Photo courtesy of Lynne Hand via Flickr, creative commons (https://flic.kr/p/CdUSJ)

Most mornings, I start my day no different from any other college student. I push snooze too many times and wake up in a panic when I realize how late it is. I quickly get dressed, wait for my coffee, and then I’m on my way.

Like many college students, I have a job. I work here, at Mission Network News. But this is no typical college job. For a few hours a day, I’m pulled out of the inward-focused world of an oblivious student to learn and write about what on earth is going on.

If you’ve been keeping up on international news, you know that things aren’t so pretty around the world. The Islamic State continues to hog the headlines with new horror stories. They post on social media, glorifying their latest and most heinous deeds.

Meanwhile, isolated families in Africa are without access to resources that will protect them against the very diseases they’re being quarantined for. Millions of people in South Sudan are on the brink of famine, but the civil war continues.

Worldwide, countries struggle against the number of orphaned children living in the streets. Many of these children, caught in the harsh cycle of poverty, face a harrowing future.

Lebanon, Western Ukraine, and many other countries fight the financial and logistical challenges created by refugee and IDP camps. The camp residents themselves are freezing or starving to death but there is little they can do about it.

Meanwhile, one of our biggest annual events back at home, the Super Bowl, continues each year to walk hand-in-hand with the exploitation of human beings through sex-trafficking.

I could literally go on forever about the trials being faced all around the world: deceitful world leaders, abused children, decades-long attempts at genocide, church burnings, and more. I could even zero in on an often-overlooked hardship– missionaries who face rejection on a daily basis by people groups who have been a burden on their hearts for years and years.

Don’t get me wrong– we don’t just write tragedy and horror. We pass on wonderful stories of redemption, perseverance, forgiveness, and overcoming. Most inspiring are the stories of people turning to God and finding hope just when they thought there was none. And with each story we cover, we’re able to offer resources and access to people who want to help.

Even so, some days this typical college student is faced with the temptation to despair. Or perhaps even worse, I’m tempted to turn back inwardly again and focus on my own issues. They certainly seem friendlier than the face of terrorism, starvation, etc.

But to do so would be to miss something extremely important. Not only is it important for me to care and help anyway I can, but it’s important to remember that God does care and can do anything.

Journalists often use cold, hard, numerical facts to convey important information. These statistics have the potential to stun and shock. All too often they’re overwhelming. But I want to remind you, God is no stranger to statistics. He is not overcome by numbers.

"I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore."(Genesis 22:17a ESV) Photo by Julie Oosterhouse

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”(Genesis 22:17a ESV) Photo by Julie Oosterhouse

In fact, our perception of God’s glory is often magnified through numbers. For instance, a nation as numerous as the number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the earth came from two people in their 90’s!

Time and time again God protected this nation when they were far outnumbered by their enemies– and he continues to do so. A God who can cover a land with innumerable locusts and frogs in a day and then remove them just as quickly can certainly lead his people out of the reach of the enemy.

God built his temple by numbers, and led 300 men into victory against the Midianites and Amalekites who were as numerous as sand.

God allowed three men to walk unscathed in a furnace that was heated seven times its normal temperature.

From a few loaves of bread and some fish, Jesus fed thousands– twice. His miracles and healings were so numerous they would fill a never-ending book.

Later on, Jesus allowed himself to be betrayed for just 30 pieces of silver. He allowed himself to be denied by a beloved disciple three times. He allowed the majority of the crowd to desire the life of a criminal more than his. Yet in three days, he rose again.

God does not operate within the bounds of numbers or quantity. His decisions aren’t based on probability, financial availability, or even ticking time. He is ruler over all these things. And through them, he is glorified.

When I’m tempted to turn away from the world’s number of horrors, and the horrors illustrated by numbers, I’m disallowing myself from seeing some of God’s glory. I am forgetting he will conquer all, that his plan is absolutely perfect, and that he is bigger and stronger than any plan according to man.

To be able to learn this as a college student and be challenged by it daily is just one of the many blessings that come with working at MNN.

What Muslim extremists have taught me

By | missions, MNN, persecution, Personal Life | No Comments

USA (MNN) — The last few weeks have been kind of frustrating both professionally and personally. Professionally as I have covered terror in the world. Personally as I have been the target of attacks simply for being a Christian.

Mission Network News continues to focus on what’s going on in the world as it relates to Muslim extremism. Islamic State gains and their tactics to gain control of the world have been shocking. ISIS fighters are kidnapping girls and using them for their own pleasure, attacking innocent people because they don’t agree with their faith, crucifying Christians, and forcing children to execute men and women. These things are horrifying.

Those things–coupled with Boko Haram using children as suicide bombers in Nigeria, plus the Muslims radicals who attacked a satire magazine/newspaper in France killing 12 people–leave me wondering, “What’s next?”

I actually find myself shaking my head in disbelief.  I find myself wondering, “How could any human being be associated with this religion? Why don’t we just annihilate them? Why don’t we just shoot and ask questions later?”

Personally, I received some attacks from a couple of people while I was tweeting. I was complaining about not having a particular news service that I believe is fair and balanced, when I was verbally assaulted. First, it was because I was a loyal viewer. Then, when they realized I was a Christian, they started saying things that would make a sailor blush. I was shocked.

At first, I was really angry. “Why would people be saying something about me when they don’t even KNOW me? How could someone be so verbally vicious? How could someone really have those views of ALL Christians?” I wanted to jab back with insults and anger. I started to. I made a couple of comments that were — um — probably not so nice. Then, I realized something.

In both of these circumstances, they don’t know any better. How can we expect anyone who isn’t a Christ-follower to act like a Christ-follower?

In the first situation, I firmly believe the evil one is using radical Islam to attack those who are trying to reach them with the Gospel. Think about it. Today, we’re seeing more Muslims than ever before coming to Christ. Do you think Satan likes that? What better way to hamper that outreach than to encourage Christians to be afraid of, or hate Muslims. Many Christians are so afraid they won’t even talk to a Muslim. Some Christians are so full of hate toward Muslims they’re not much better than the radicals.

In the second situation, I believe Satan was trying to luring me into an argument that would do nothing but hurt my reputation and testimony and give the attackers even more fodder for their verbal assaults. So, rather than lobbing venomous insults at those attacking me, I simply asked questions. I tried to be kind (which is hard to perceive in a tweet that’s only 140 characters).  I asked them why they were swearing at me and lobbing sexual insults to me simply because I was a Christian. As I was able to get the tone ratcheted back in check, I asked the question of myself, “What if I’m the only Christian these people have ever met?”

I may have blown it. We may be blowing it together. When you’re attacked (physically or emotionally) by someone who’s a non-Christian, what’s your first response? I’m not saying it’s easy to love people like that. It’s hard. But, why aren’t we following in the steps of Jesus Himself who willingly gave the executioner His hand, only to have nails driven into them? Why aren’t we trying to ignore the insults and love our enemies — even doing something kind for them, which is anti-everything we’re thinking about.

Mission Network News constantly tells incredible stories of Christian men and women who are suffering. They aren’t asking that we pray for their protection (even though we should do that). They’re not asking us to advocate for them to their local government (even though we should do that, too). They’re humbly receiving oppression, trusting that God is in control and that He as a plan for everything — even their suffering.

The question that I have for you today is this: “How are you responding to oppression by those who don’t know Christ?”

I would like to hear your stories of how God is allowing you to be oppressed for your faith and how you’re responding to that. Many of you live in the West where it’s pretty easy to be a Christian. Others of you don’t. Please include your successes and your failures. Perhaps we can all learn from each other.

#GiveHope15 to be a voice for the voiceless

By | missions, MNN, special reports | No Comments
#givehope15

(Graphic cred: MNN)

MNN partners with 71 mission groups who are working to build God’s Kingdom globally. Their focus of ministry ranges from Bible translation to child evangelism.

Meet our partners here.

By helping us #GiveHope15, you’re supporting the people who work on-the-ground. MNN gives these missionaries a voice they might not otherwise have. These partnerships allow us to relay news and needs to you, so you can make a difference by praying, giving going, or sharing.

That’s right — by sharing MNN stories you’re becoming a “voice for the voiceless”, too. Whether it’s clicking the “Share” button on Facebook or forwarding one of our Daily Emails to a prayer warrior you know, you’re spreading the word and helping others get involved.

Will you help us continue sharing “news you won’t get anywhere else” in 2015?

What happens when you #GiveHope15?

By | missions, MNN, special reports | No Comments

If you’re following MNN on social (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), you’ve probably caught a glimpse or two of the hashtag #GiveHope15 with one of our posts. In case you’re wondering, there IS a reason it’s there 🙂

For starters, “hope” is a multipurpose theme…

  • Your encouraging feedback gives our team hope
  • Supporting projects & groups that meet physical needs worldwide gives tangible hope to people in need
  • By getting involved in the Great Commission, you’re giving others the ultimate source of hope: Jesus Christ

During the remaining days of 2014, we’ll explore how you can “give hope” in each of these areas.

Today, we’d like to share some of your remarks that have helped “give MNN hope” in 2014:

#givehope15

(Graphic cred: MNN)

“It’s my best source of news! I don’t know what I’d do without MNN!! Thank you SO much for all of the stories you send my way. I feel like I’m so much more informed about what is happening within the body of Christ worldwide. I have a heart to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters and MNN helps me pray with current information. It is the best news service I have ever found. So, so thankful.” –Laura Guarnieri

“Thanks for the [work] being done, we are to be the light & lifeline to a dying world out there.” –Henry Tavune

“I learned about you for the first time as I was on-air with Greg Bullen waiting to be interviewed this morning. All your information made me want to hang up and pray. Thank you.” –Jeannie St. John Taylor

“I heard about you through Yes FM 89.3, Lima, Ohio, this morning…If the Church of Jesus would know more about what foreign Christians go through, it enables us to pray more specifically. [Thank] you for your voice :).” –Bill Cheshire Jr.

“Want to use this opportunity to thank Mission Network News for the update about the religious crisis in my country Nigeria. Thanks to Greg and the entire crew. God bless and protect you all.” –Name withheld for protection

“It helps me to know how to pray and I know the news I get is the truth!!! Thank you.” — Lorraine Gardenier

We LOVE all of our friends and “followers”, whether they’re on email, social media or radio. The encouragement we see on Facebook or website comments and the uplifting call-in’s we get from listeners remind us why we do what we do. Thank you all for reassuring our team of its purpose!!

Our team here at MNN can only accomplish our 2015 goals with your help. Would you consider partnering with us financially?

Pakistan: Anti-Blasphemy Laws

By | church planting, missions, news, persecution, trends | No Comments
FMI_Muslim prayer in Pakistan

Muslim workers pause for a few minutes along an alleyway in the afternoon to offer their ritual prayers.
(Image, caption courtesy FMI)

According to Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI), terrorists aren’t the only source of persecution for Pakistani Christians.

Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws were first put into place in 1927, but the amendment that has made the laws infamous for persecution wasn’t added until 1986. Between 1927 and 1986, there were only seven violations of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law; however, from 1986 onward, as many as 4,000 cases were formed.

According to Contributoria.com, half of the people charged were minorities.

Today, the laws are mostly used to persecute Pakistan’s religious minority groups, such as Christians and Shi’ite Muslims.

“What is so ironic is Pakistan itself was founded for the protection of minorities,” says Allen, referring to the Pakistan-India split of 1947.

He says those belonging to the “religious majority” in Pakistan follow Sunni Islam. Shi’ite Muslims comprise 10% of the remaining population, while Christians and Hindus make up less than 4%. Less than one-percent of Pakistani’s are evangelical Christ-followers.

Nevertheless, “They’re ALL being affected by these anti-blasphemy laws,” says Allen.

You can help provide a safe haven for persecuted Pakistani Christians here.

“We operate several safe houses where they can go for crisis or transition and receive medical care, a safe place to live; perhaps some vocational training,” says Allen.

Get more FMI updates here.

“Pray for the repeal of the anti-blasphemy laws. They are being so abused in Pakistan,” Allen suggests.

“[Pray] that God moves in the hearts of the political leadership to see that justice — true justice — gets done.”

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday: where to begin?

By | Giving Tuesday, missions, MNN, special reports | No Comments
Giving Tuesday

(Photo cred: GivingTuesday.org)

Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday) — a global social media initiative tracing its roots back to 2012. A couple of U.S. non-profits wanted to shift the holiday shopping focus from getting to giving. (Read the full history here.)

Giving Tuesday is a great way for non-profit ministries like MNN — which relies primarily on donor finances — to both spread awareness about their work and raise support to keep that work going. Any charities can participate; they just designate a hashtag to single-out their efforts (#GivingToKeysDay or #RICE4LIFE, for example) and include it in all of their social media posts, along with a link to their website.

We’ve got a whole gob of non-profit ministry friends here that are doing great work around the world. To see if they’re doing any special #GivingTuesday campaigns, just click on the website link included on each group’s profile page.

(Just don’t forget about MNN! We need your help too! #Giving2MissionsDay)

To kick-off your #GivingTuesday, we’re spotlighting a few friends for your consideration:

Partners Relief and Development: For the past 20 years, Partners has been caring the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of refugee children living near the Thai-Burma border. What started as a gift of $30 to provide care for one child has grown to 911 children cared for across 16 community based homes.

By making a donation this Giving Tuesday, you are helping provide care for each of these beautiful children and ensuring they can continue to attend school.

Keys for Kids Ministries: Keys for Kids produces radio, print and Internet materials that point children ages 6 to 12 years-old to Christ. This year, Giving Tuesday is vital for their brand-new radio ministry.

“We are trying to raise $135,000 that day so that we can keep the new programs we’ve started on the air on Keys for Kids Radio,” says Executive Director Terre Ritchie in a recent article.

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF): This year, MAF is hoping to raise $24,000 on Giving Tuesday to keep their work going in isolated parts of the world. They’re challenging supporters this year with the hashtag #DoMoreIn24.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday place such a huge emphasis on buying and materialism,” said John Boyd, president and CEO of MAF. “Giving Tuesday is a way to turn our thoughts toward helping others.”

We’d love to hear who you’re supporting this #GivingTuesday & why! Please share in the Comments section below. 🙂

SE Asia trip report

By | india, missions | No Comments

Full trip report from Vision Beyond Borders

“I just returned from a week in India and Nepal. God blessed our trip as we visited our contacts and saw how God is using them to touch and transform lives of women who have been sold into sex trafficking.

The lady we work with in India has been ministering to the oppressed and downtrodden in the Red Light District (RLD) for over 17 years. It is amazing to walk through the RLD with her. The ladies who have been sold, often against their will, are drawn to her as she shines the light of Jesus Christ in this dark place. These women are forced to have eight to twelve customers a day. If they do not service that many customers, they do not eat. The red light areas are dark, oppressive and hopeless.

Our contact knows many of the ladies by name, greeting them with hugs and kissing their children. I have been challenged by her fearless love of these people; she is not concerned with whether they have Aids or other contagious diseases and what may happen to her own life. I am reminded of Jesus concern for the lepers. Our sister works tirelessly to minister to those in need, whether it means waking up in the middle of the night to take a lady or one of her children to the hospital or buying them medicine out of her own money. She loves these women and children as her own family, and many times opens her home to those in need.

We are working with our sister to set up a salon in this area as a point of contact in which to minister openly to those who have been trafficked. We are excited to see how God is going to open more effectual doors of ministry to her as her passion is to serve Jesus Christ in spite of death threats and many challenges. She is truly one of my heroes of the faith. I have also been challenged as a Christian man that we, as men, need to stand against the oppression of women and children around the world.

After spending a few days in India, we flew to Nepal to visit the safe house that we established in January.  One morning, we visited the largest Hindu temple, a holy place that many pilgrims come to worship Hindu deities. The day we were there, there were literally thousands of women dressed in red saris coming to pay homage to Shiva, hoping to find a good husband or to see their husbands become better men. Women were standing in line for hours with empty eyes, holding offerings in their hands to a god made of stone.

The headwaters of the Ganges river, the ‘mother of all rivers,’ flows through this temple.  The water is filthy dirty; but worshipers believe that if they drink of the water, their sins will be washed away. Unfortunately, they have been blinded by the enemy and cannot see that Jesus already paid our debt. ‘Holy men,’ often wearing little clothing and covered with the ashes of humans , looked on while smoking marijuana. The smoke from the funeral pyres coupled with the stench of burning flesh filled the air. This place reminds me of what hell must look like.

After leaving the temple, we made our way to the safe house. It is exciting to see God transforming lives as ladies are being saved and renewed in Christ.  What an incredible contrast between light and darkness. Here the ladies openly read the Bible as they gathered for morning Bible Study. The faces of these ladies are radiant as they reflect their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Their smiles brought joy to my heart and the other two guys with me. There are about 13 women who have been rescued and are living in this home, where they are loved and cared for. After Bible study, we had a time of prayer and worship with them.

Later, we had lunch and enjoyed times of laughter with our new sisters in Christ. There was an 18 year old lady, who recently came to the safe house, after she and her younger sister ran away from home. Their father had raped his daughters for four years, while their mother justified his actions saying, “This is how he shows his love.” The girls ran away and ended up on the streets; we are working to find the younger sister to bring her into the safe house. The father is wealthy and has threatened to sell the older daughter into a brothel in Delhi. We are praying to hire full-time security to protect the women and young ladies in the home. It was encouraging to see the young lady smile as she feels at home now.

Three of the ladies who were rescued have left the home to start a salon and to move forward in their lives. These three ladies have become followers of Jesus Christ, and we are praying about helping them set up a salon/tailoring shop near a church. We pray the local Christians will frequent their shop and encourage them in their walk with Jesus. My heart was thrilled to hear the reports of God transforming lives. With so much sadness and hopelessness in the media these days, I pray it will be encouraging to know that God is still on the throne and saving people. We are excited as we trust God to set up another safe house to provide a safe haven for women and their small children. Please take a moment to thank Jesus for His sacrifice on the cross, His love for the world, and what He is doing around the world.”

30-Days of Prayer for Muslims

By | missions, MNN | 25 Comments

Have you participated in the 30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World?

Since 1993, the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World Prayer Guide has been offered to help Christians learn about and prayer for Muslims during their most holiest month — Ramadan.

Many of those years, Mission Network News has offer the resource to our friends. Perhaps you’ve received one. I’d like to ask you a question: Did you like the prayer guide?  If you did, how did it help you? Did it make praying for Muslims easier? Did the information provided in the guide open your eyes to their needs? Also, how as MNN helped you in this process?

Here’s your chance to tell us about your experience and encourage fellow Christians to get their own copy so they can pray more effectively.  Write as much as you’d like in the space provided below. Perhaps we’ll use some your comments in an Mission Network News story in the days ahead.

Thanks in advance for your help in this effort.

In His grip,

GregYoderBAK

 

 

Greg Yoder, Anchor & Executive Director
Mission Network News

Ukraine In Crisis

By | missions, MNN, news, special reports | No Comments

Ukraine (MNN) — I have been watching with dismay the situation in Ukraine. The ouster of the government, now the Russian troops that have invaded Crimea, and now an illegal referendum vote, have left the region in chaos. This is Ukraine in crisis.

(Image courtesy Sergey Rakhuba via Facebook)

(Image courtesy Sergey Rakhuba via Facebook)

It reminds me a little of the Cold War days when the Soviet Union would do things that were only in their interests, not the interests of the people. This situation, though, could have serious repercussions for the world both politically and spiritually. How?

Let’s talk about the political side first. Ukraine is wrestling with a new government that has basically divided the country. The pro-Ukrainian side appears to outnumber the pro-Russia side. Unfortunately that divide could  cause the country to lose a portion of a treasured region, Crimea. This pro-Russian mindset may be the spark of sussession. Ukraine is mobilizing troops to try and defend its sovereignty, but they don’t stand a chance.

That leads to other questions. If Ukraine attempts to defend itself, will it ask for help from the United States and he European Union? If those nations respond, will China get involved? If the United States assists Ukraine, what will that mean for the future of USA/Russian relations?

If the United States and the EU are asked to help and they don’t, what kind of message are we sending to the rest of the world? Is it a sign of weakness? Is is a sign of disinterest? Will Ukraine ultimately fall into Russian hands, creating another Soviet-like state? If the U.S. doesn’t respond, will this be the end of U.S. Influence in the region? Will Russia continue it’s invasion into Ukraine, eventually taking over the entire country?

On the spiritual side, the crisis in Ukraine is creating an uncertainty that this generation in Ukraine hasn’t seen before. Openness to the Gospel has never been better. Russia has a similar openness, which I witnessed while I was in Russia this past week.

Will the strained relations between Russia and the U.S. prevent American Christians from being able to go to Russia to help people understand the Gospel? Will short-term mission trips to socially needy parts of the country end?

These are all questions that have no answers, yet. Because there are so many questions we MUST pray. Don’t just pray for the country, pray specifically for the following:
1. Pray that Russia will leave Crimea and that peace would be restored to a sovereign nation.
2. Pray the newly appointed Ukrainian government will be given wisdom from God to be able to handle this difficult situation.
3. Pray that God would use this uncertainty to help Christians share the certainty that can only come though the Gospel.
4. Pray that the EU and the USA would be used by God to help the situation end it peace.
5. Pray each nation’s leadership would be given divine inspiration on what they should do.
6. Pray that God would use this crisis to lead entire cities and communities to Christ.
7. Pray that planned ministries would be allowed to move forward despite the uncertainty.
While these are the requests of men, pray that these requests are also the desires of our Might And Holy God.

Mission Network News will continue to cover the unfolding situation in Ukraine, including the Crimean Penninsula.

Russian fans watching the USA vs Russia hockey game in the Fun Zone (photo by Greg Yoder).

Fun zone unity is infectious

By | missions, MNN, news | No Comments
Olympic Park - Sochi, Russia (photo by Greg Yoder).

Olympic Park – Sochi, Russia (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russia (MNN) — We only have one day left in Sochi, Russia and the church Fun Zone. I wasn’t able to update this blog until this morning, so let me give you an update over the last three days.

On Saturday, a few of us traveled to Olympic Park to watch an Olympic event. Curling. The trip to Olympic Park is great. It’s a brand new electric train. It’s free to help get spectators to and from events. As you get closer and closer to the events, the excitement grows. By the time you arrive on the 30 minute journey, you’re ready to almost run to where you’re going. Except, you don’t realize how FAR you have to walk. It’s a haul. It’s got to be over a mile.

Vicki Adams Curler for Great Britain (photo by: Greg Yoder).

Vicki Adams Curler for Great Britain (photo by: Greg Yoder).

We walked to the IceHouse, the home of the Curling event. We thought the USA was playing in the three team event, but they weren’t. But, it was a great time. We sat next to Gordon and Kate Adams, the parents of Vicki Adams, a team member of team Great Britain’s Curling team. We didn’t know any of the rules or strategy surrounding the game. The Adam’s were very gracious in explaining them and event encouraged us to cheer for her daughter. The Great Britain team won on the final stone. It was actually exciting, especially as we watched the parents get nervous for their daughter.

We spent a little more time in Olympic Park. The areas features the ‘Fun Houses’ of Switzerland, Russia, Canada, United States and more (I’m sure). But, unfortunately an invitation is required for the most of the Fun Houses. It was a little disappointing. Coke had and exposition and so did Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Games. I’ll tell you about that later.

Russian fans watching the USA vs Russia hockey game in the Fun Zone (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russian fans watching the USA vs Russia hockey game in the Fun Zone (photo by Greg Yoder).

Following our time in Olympic Park we traveled back to the Fun Zone. Why in the evening? It was the USA vs Russia hockey game. It was a fun rivalry. The Russians were talking ‘smack’ with us. We were gracious (most of us were). One person wanted to bet 100 rubles. I told him it’s not that important, besides he would lose. So, we shook on it and watched the game together. It was a back and forth contest that could have gone either way. But, the Americans prevailed. The whole Russian crowd was disappointed. However, we waved our American flags very proudly.

Germany vs Finland in women's hockey (photo by Greg Yoder).

Germany vs Finland in women’s hockey (photo by Greg Yoder).

On Sunday, Feburary 16th a number of us had tickets to the Germany vs Finland women’s hockey game. I must tell you that we were looking more forward to being able to walk through Olympic Park, rather than watching women’s hockey. After watching so much men’s hockey, I think I’m spoiled. While we watched closely, the speed of the game is much slower and the skill is much less than the men. It was fun to be a part of the Olympics event, but the level of hockey wasn’t really there for me. Finland won 2-1.

Greg's Coke endorsement with the Olympic torch.

Greg’s Coke endorsement with the Olympic torch.

We spent almost all day in Olympic Park. We knew that would probably be the last day our team would be able to soak it all in. So, we went to Korea’s Fan House. There, they showed us the dream for the Olympics of 2018. Hopefully they’ll be able to get everything done in time, unlike Sochi. After that, we stood in line for the Coke experience. It was two huge blow-up buildings. It was basically a coke informercial, which culminated with a free bottle of coke in a special commemorative aluminum bottle.

Following that, we traveled back for dinner at the hostel.

Russian Ministries' Wally Kulakoff with SOAR International's Richard Page at the Fun Zone in Sochi (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russian Ministries’ Wally Kulakoff with SOAR International’s Richard Page at the Fun Zone in Sochi (photo by Greg Yoder).

On Monday, it was a time of ministry. I spent most of my morning writing, waiting to see my friends at Russian Ministries. They were to arrive at the Fun Zone when it opened at 3:00 pm. I arrived just prior to the opening, but the bus ride to the church was interesting.

Our group of four got on the bus. About four stops in the four people got on the bus. They were speaking broken English. One of them looked around the bus and spotted me, an obvious American. He sat next to me on the bus and started talking to me in Russian. I couldn’t understand him very well, so I told him so. Then he acted like he couldn’t understand me (in English). He asked me where I was from — specifically. When I asked him he said, “Chechnya — Grozny.” That made me a little nervous. But, what happened after that REALLY made me nervous. All four of the people got their Ipads, Iphones and other electronics out and started acting very aggressively. Unbeknownst to each other, we were all feeling VERY uncomfortable. So, our Russian translator said, “Let’s go.” It wasn’t our stop, but we all got up and got off the bus a few stops early. As we got off, we all said, “That just didn’t feel right.”  After we got off the bus and made it to the Fun Zone, we were pulled aside by our hosts that the secret police informed them that a high terror alert was issued. We felt good that we listened to our instincts.

We walked a few blocks to the Fun Zone. That’s when I discovered Russian Ministries had

Russian Ministries Team Gennady Tarkun and Pavel Tokachuk (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russian Ministries Team Gennady Tarkun and Pavel Tokachuk (photo by Greg Yoder).

arrived. It was great seeing old friends: Pavel Tokarchuk, Gennady Torkun, and Wally Kulakoff. Russia Ministries provided the printed materials for the Fun Zone: Bilingual New Testaments and Gospels of John and a little magazine called “Hope.”

Many people attended the Fun Zone Sunday. In an interview with Wally Kulakoff, he told us about their 11 city marathon, sharing the Gospel in 11 cities during the Olympics. This was one of their stops. I’ll tell you more about that in our special report Wednesday.

It has been a wonderful experience being here in Sochi for the Olympics. Keep praying. SOAR International Ministries is helping to support the ministry. They still have a week to go and they need funding to help keep it going. Because of the excitement and popularity of the Fun Zone, they’re running a little over-budget. Could you help support them?  Go here: http://www.SOARinternational.org.