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missions

Facebook and Twitter, make an impact

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While I’m 46 years old — almost 47 — I’m amazed at the number tools we have to not only proclaim Christ to a lost world — friends and family included — but encourage fellow Christians to do something more for Christ. That’s the focus of Mission Network News. We want to make sure average Christians KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that they CAN do something for Christ whether that be through praying for a specific prayer request over and over again, or by giving, or by going.

Today, there’s even MORE that you can do. Let me explain.

While some would consider me ‘old’ I have been a Facebook member since before it was open to the public — when it was still an educational network. So, I’ve seen this tool evolve. It has grown into something beyond what I ever thought it would be. While the world can see everything we do if we allow it, it can also read things they NEED to read.

The Gospel is one example of what they need to read. For Christians, it’s information that will help them make a difference in world who needs to hear (read) God’s Word.

What am I getting at? Because you’re reading this post, you’re already interested it serving Christ. I’d like you to take another step and begin sharing what you read from Mission Network News and sharing it on your Facebook page. Why?

This is not to promote Mission Network News. This is to promote the ministries that MNN is talking about on the radio and on our websites. As you do, we believe God will use the things you share to motivate others to get more involved in God’s work.

Can you imagine what we, as Christians, can do on social media websites? We could mobilize prayers efforts, form giving campaigns for various projects, and organize short-term mission teams to make an eternal difference in people’s lives.

How do you do this? Simple. When you see a Mission Network News story that touches your heart, hit the ‘share’ button under the story and make a comment. As you do, you’ll be encouraging those on your Facebook page to either pray, give or go. It’s that simple. If you’re on Twitter, sign up to follow us on Twitter. We’re @MNNteam. Just retweet our tweets. You could make a difference in places like the Middle East, Asia or Africa without leaving your home.

Thank you for what you’re doing to mobilize God’s people to do more for Him through social media.

Katey Hearth added to the MNN Team

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Katey Hearth joins MNN today!I am pleased to announce the hiring of Katey Hearth as the newest staff member of Mission Network News.

As you remember, about month ago Elisa Talmage submitted her resignation, desiring to go back to school full-time to get her masters.

That’s when MNN posted the position. We had dozens of candidates. We narrowed the field down to nine prospects. Interviewed those nine, then narrowed the field down again.

You may remember Katey. She was actually an intern here at Mission Network News when she was a student at Cornerstone University. Katey is now married and brings with her social marketing experience, writing experience, and a love and passion for God’s work around the world.

We’re thrilled to have Katey back and a part of the team full-time.

Katey’s job duties will include writing, researching, social media, producing and communicating with our ministry partners and friends.

Katey’s first day on the job is today.

Mission Network News is heard on more than 1,100 radio outlets in more than 30 countries providing news and information that encourages Christians to get out of the pew and do something for Christ. MNN is now in its 21st year of ministry.

How Mozambikway is next to Indonesia

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Once upon a time, many years ago, when I first started at Mission Network News, I got a call from a listener who was talking to me about what she perceived to be an error in one of our stories.

Essentially, what it boiled down to was my arguing with her over an assertion that the country of ‘Mozambikway’ was next to Indonesia. Our conversation ended abruptly when she hung up on me.   I spent a lot of time ruefully shaking my head at her stubbornness, her refusal to know what the reality was and found myself generally quite puffed up with pride.

Today, our team still jokes about Mozambikway, but now that country has joined a list of misnomers (like Kajikistan) that came from my own lip trips, stumbles and assorted other bloopers where my mouth did not quite cooperate with my brain.

My point is this: sometimes, in the quest for kingdom building, we lose sight of the purpose and get stuck and proud over what we think we know. The Gospel is not about showing off. In fact, anyone who has ever been working as the hands and feet of Christ anywhere around the world knows that the moment you make the Gospel about you, you’ve lost your credibility as a ‘little Christ’.

The first Commandment is ‘No other Gods’, followed by ‘No idols’, and then ‘Don’t misuse My Name’. When we forget our purpose for being here, we forget not only ourselves, but also our message. Pride in our knowledge and pride in our excellence of work becomes the next brick we are making in the pyramids.  It’s so easy to lose sight of who God is, who we are and we get hung up on little arguments that ultimately do not service unity in a world that needs a Savior.  Ouch.

The Shema is a great reminder of who we are: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” ~Deut 6:4-9

Yes, at MNN, we strive for excellence, accuracy and Truth. We want to motivate believers to respond to what they’re hearing. We encourage you, our brothers and sisters to pray, give, or go.  Still, there’s Truth, and then there’s truth. Arguing for the sake of being right has no place in the Kingdom. What is true and real will always be so, in God’s creation. What that means is that for some people, Mozambikway is next to Indonesia…which is just south of Kajikistan in the world of mistakes.

I’m not advocating mis-education or ignorance, I’m merely pointing out that perhaps in that argument, I missed the forest for the trees. 15 years later, I realize that I missed her interest in taking Bibles to an island (the Moluccas) off the coast of Indonesia.

If part of the Shema is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”, let’s do that as we search for and share God’s truths with one another. Mission Network News plays a role in this walk for many.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Let’s journey together off the same map…

India

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Elisa Talmage

Elisa Talmage is heading to India.

Six days from now, I leave for my first ever trip to India. The South Asian nation has been on my heart for some time. When a massive earthquake struck India in 2001, the school I attended responded with a fundraiser called “India Fest”. It included Indian food, dancing, purses, bangles, henna and beautiful music. This was my first encounter, really, with Indian culture, and it had me captivated. The event was such a success that the school held annual “Culture Fest” celebrations thereafter, celebrating Indian culture, but also Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Senegalese and so on. Still, I was always drawn to the India table, vibrant with color, mirrors, silver, and intricate designs.

A number of years later, I began working for Mission Network News, where I learned really for the first time how impoverished and oppressed many were in the country that had caught my eye so long ago. I was not ignorant of India’s poverty before then, but I had never allowed myself to think on how much persecution her church faced. Upon this realization, I also came to terms with how many street children there were in India, unable to get an education or, many times, even a meal. My heart broke for India’s children, and I decided to sponsor a 10 year old girl through Gospel For Asia. As I dove even further into the findings of Indian society, I learned that the nation was also plagued by a terrifying trafficking issue. I unveiled the ugly truth that mothers had no option but to prostitute themselves, and their children followed; that some children were forced into begging on the street for money they couldn’t keep; that female infants were sometimes “dedicated” to gods in the form of temple prostitutes. It was devastated information, and yet if anything, it made me fall in love with the people of India more. The way I had seen the church respond to these issues–of trafficking, of poverty, of persecution–blew me away. Such courage and conviction of belief did not seem to be quite matched elsewhere.

This leads me to today, six days away from finally encountering a culture I’ve been secretly in love with for the last 11 years. I’ll be able to see the church up close. I’ll be able to watch beautiful children learn and grow. I’ll be able to stand in the middle of bustling cities. I’ll be able to feel the Indian heat.

And frankly, I can’t wait.

A chance meeting?

By | egypt, missions, MNN, news, persecution, travel | No Comments

You’ve probably heard someone say ‘There is no such thing as a coincidence’. Usually people nod their heads and murmur agreement, but the real question is “Do you believe it?“

Are people just wishful thinkers, or is God really so intimately involved in our daily lives that He orchestrate events on our behalf? What will a chance meeting turn into later?

The idea of seeds, planting and harvest is a theme resonant throughout Scripture. Aside from the overt nature of sharing the hope of Christ, there are times we don’t recognize an opportunity at the time, but hindsight has a way of revealing it to us.

On my last day in Cairo, I was sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for the rest of the team to come down for checkout. I opened my laptop, and began weeding through emails, and getting pictures uploaded for post, and checking through Facebook.

An older gentleman (whom I’d seen at different times all week) came over and said ‘You work too much’. I told him I was just killing time and not really working at all. He began asking me questions about my visit to Cairo.

Given the upset of the country, I was still guarding my words very carefully so as not to endanger people who live and minister in Cairo. He began asking more pointed questions like “What do you think of this revolution?”

Alarm bells were ringing in my head, so I trod very carefully as I answered. I told him that it was a very exciting time in Egypt’s history. Nothing would ever be the same for the country again. To be here during this growth period was both exhilarating and a little scary.

He then asked what my friends thought of the goings on. Now, here I had to be very careful. I asked God for wisdom and told him that depended on who I spoke with. There were some who were very optimistic about the outcome, although they knew there would be a hard period to get there. Others were very pessimistic and a little fearful about what lay ahead for them. Still others were moving forward in confidence.

He nodded a few times as I responded to his question, then said, “You should come to Lebanon.” I responded “I would LOVE to come to Lebanon!” So he handed me his business card and said, “E-mail me when you come.” He wrote his email address on the bottom of the card.

Initially, I was wary about taking some stranger’s e-mail, but I figured I would not necessarily use it and I did not have to respond by giving him my e-mail. We stood, shook hands and parted. I noted that as he left, he entered a diplomat’s vehicle. Only then did I read his business card.

It read “Mahmoud Hammoud, Lebanese Ambassador”. He’s the former Foreign Minister of Lebanon, currently serving as an ambassador. I have no idea why our paths crossed. However, God orchestrated it for some reason. There are no coincidences…just opportunities. I wonder what comes next.

Help us challenge the NEXT generation

By | missions, MNN, special reports, trends, Web site | No Comments

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.

What comes first: chicken or the egg?

By | egypt, missions, MNN, news, persecution, special reports, travel | No Comments

One thing I am noticing here is how different the context of ministry is from country to country.

Ruth on assignment

MNN's Ruth Kramer on assignment.

You can sometimes THINK you understand the concept of the vehicle, like micro-enterprise, but once you hear how things are put into practice, what works and what doesn’t, you begin to see the subtleties emerge.

For example, we met with a partner yesterday who assists community development. They are unashamedly Christian, because the Gospel is part of everything they do…however, they know that dealing with poverty is a ‘must’, as well.

So, which came first, the chicken (community development) or the egg (Gospel)? Can they be done simultaneously and be effective? Do you really just have two eggs or two chickens?

The clear answer on that was: ‘We have an egg, it becomes a chicken’. Folks, that’s the answer to the question of questions. The hope of Christ changes the outlook for the poor in this context.

The other big question was how the community development works in the Egyptian Muslim context in the rural areas. It is in these places where it’s likely opposition will rise up and equate physical attacks. The mindset is quite different.

Micro-enterprise comes up at this point. In some Asian countries, the structure of a micro-enterprise program works like this: church committee sees community member in need (often a believer under the discipleship of the pastor), they provide a loan so this person can start a small business–i.e.—buy a sewing machine to make clothes, or a couple of goats to make cheese and sell milk…from the profits, the person tithes to the church, enabling the support of the pastor…and the person is more able to support him/herself.

However, when I asked about the structure of the micro-enterprise, it can’t work that way in the Egyptian context. There are lots of things that can really be misinterpreted within the social structure (and Islam) and this is one of them.

The set up of the program is similar, but different because it’s tailor-made to fit the need of the people and the mission of the group. That just struck me. I had made an assumption that all micro-enterprise was the same.

I made similar assumptions about vocational training programs, literacy programs, etc (thinking I adjusting for a different context, language, etc). I think it’s kind of a colonialistic thinking that we slip into.

It’s kind of like providing someone a loaf of bread (mission field)…from the grocery store (missionary). They need the food to stay alive, but the plastic around the bread is giving them indigestion. They need to prepare the bread the way they now how and all we need to do is supply the ingredients (resources) and the recipe (training).

Yes, I know you might be thinking ‘well, duh’. It is one thing to say it and to think you might even understand it, it is another thing entirely to actually see it with my own eyes, hear what works and what doesn’t from the guys implementing helps.

By the way, because they do this work well, they have just come under scrutiny. One of this ministry’s main offices was raided by the Egyptian government this week, and the hard drive with the database was taken.

All of their records on every program were on it. Everything is exposed. Their face is an NGO and they are well-known. With the events that have occurred in Egypt over the last month, it’s no surprise they’re looking at all NGO’s.

Please pray for this team. They are careful, and they are smart. Most of all, they want to share the hope of Christ with those they encounter. That love for people permeates everything they touch…including the chickens in the coop…and eggs in the community. Works for me…

The power of prayer unleashed

By | egypt, missions, MNN, news, persecution, special reports, travel | No Comments

Last night, I attended a prayer meeting at a church in downtown Cairo, near Tahrir Square.

MNN in Egypt

MNN in Egypt

The church was gathering to cry out to God in their distress over the recent events in the country, and cry out, they did.

As we sang together, worshiped together, and encouraged one another, I experienced something I have never experienced before. I’m a fairly reserved person and I am even more so in prayer.

It is in times of great distress that I get out of my own way and fall before the Lord prostrate. Last night, although everyone around me was praying in Arabic, I found myself humbled before the Lord and joining in that chorus of crying out.

The pastor was beyond ‘crying out’….he was screaming and sobbing before the Lord, as was much of this nearly 1,000 person gathering. Here they were, in prayer before God, confessing, repenting, requesting and rejoicing…even as tear gas seeped into the courtyard from Tahrir Square.

All of a sudden, I found myself reminding God of His promises, and asking Him to give comfort to His bride in Egypt, to give them hope and wisdom and to be asking with a fierceness I had not ever before encountered…and moments later, the pastor or worship leader would be saying the same thing, or using the same verse, or introducing the song on the same topic…that happened over and over last night.

An immediate confirmation of God’s response left me stunned. Much of what I have heard from Egypt’s Christians that I have encountered has been this is a year of prophecy coming true. There is a GREAT confidence in many of the church leaders and congregations in forging ahead…

The other thing that we’re often hearing is that Egypt’s Church is not ‘persecuted’ so much as it is a church under pressure. The boldness of this family is so encouraging, and such a reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit…especially as they go out with joy to tend to the wounded people coming into the field hospital set up in their courtyard.

The confirmation of God’s answers to prayer gives a great boldness to those on the frontlines of the missional movement in Egypt.

While bombings, riots and general chaos looks really bad in the headlines (and it is happening), fear is not the response of this emboldened Body. Church leaders we have met with all over the city have said the same thing ‘The wall of fear is broken’.

Change is coming. Egypt will have her Revolution…and its face is the Church.

getting ready

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I am making the final preparations for a trip to the Middle East in a few days, and am predictably worried about forgetting something I might need, or not being studied up on the current events of the region.

As I joke about nightmares of forgetting my laptop or some other key piece of equipment, I realize this is a great metaphor for the return of Christ. Unless I live as Christ, eat, drink and breathe Scripture and use every moment to live the hope that is in Him, I will probably find that the time I had here on earth was frittered away.

What it boils down to is living purposefully, so as to not be caught unprepared. My brain immediately went to the parable of the 10 Virgins, in Matthew 25. While I realize this is more about salvation issues, I wound up reflecting on it in a little different context.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

This is what is meant to keep vigil. If I’m doing what I should be doing, there won’t be that ‘caught out’ feeling. So, I’ll finish my scramble to get the cords, bits and pieces and batteries together with extra clean socks and deodorant, but keep in my head Paul’s encouragement “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Strength unknown

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Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking with one of my all-time favorite interviewees, Tom Doyle, with E3Partners. Tom is a Middle East liaison of sorts for E3 and is more knowledgeable about the region than almost anyone else I know. It’s always refreshing to hear his perspective not just of the goings-on, but of the way Christians are responding, and will undoubtedly rise up.

This time, we talked about Libya. Libya has been going through a highly disputed (internationally) civil war for the past several months. Now that the country’s dictator Moammar Gaddafi seems to have run off for good, the country is preparing to revamp the government system completely. In many ways they are ready for change. But in other ways, things will remain the same, especially as it relates to Christians.

The nation is 97% Sunni Muslim. New country leaders have said the nation will continue on under the governance of Sharia law. For Christians, and especially Christian converts from Islam, this doesn’t exactly bode well. After months of terrifying war, Christians, according to Tom, don’t appear to be expecting things to get better for them. They will continue to be careful about how they share their faith and how they worship.

Next door, Libya neighbor Egypt is facing similar decisions. The government in Egypt is being similarly revamped, and now, as I see it, looks like it will likely be voting the Muslim Brotherhood as their rulers before long. Egyptian approval for the group has shot up over the last few months, and with organization and a promise of leadership, the group I think appears to Egyptians to be able to do the job. Christian in Egypt will face similar trials as Libyans. Lack of freedom, lack of peace. A recent poll showed that most Egyptians still believe that Muslims who convert to Christianity should be killed.

Now this is probably more background info than you needed; you’re probably not reading this for a news update. But the interesting–amazing–thing about all of this is the Christian response. Believers are not shouting in protest, or really voicing their opinions on their rights at all. More than that, they don’t seem to be that worried about the decisions being made in their nations. Don’t get me wrong, I am certain that some of them are frightened of the things that are possibly to come, but the boldness many have exhibited is astounding. Not only are Christians prepared to continue sharing their faith whatever the consequences (which have been arrest in several instances recently in Egypt), but they’re taking it upon themselves to reach out to other nations. Egyptian Christians are now headed to Libya as missionaries to spread the Gospel. They’re literally risking their lives to get the Gospel to as many broken and lost people as possible.

Now if I’m honest with myself, if I were in this situation, I don’t think that’s how I’d react. I have never in my life been in a situation in which my life was on the line for the Gospel. Now, I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with that–God placed me in America, and that’s where I live and can report these things and learn about them and be missional with my neighbors here. But when I hear stories about believers in war-torn nations, believers who are constantly harassed and even physically abused for their faith, my mind goes numb. That intensity of faith is so foreign to me that I can’t even fathom it.

You know, as an American, it’s so easy to look down on other nations. My whole life, I’ve been in classes talking about how great America is, I’ve said the pledge of allegiance probably about 2,500 times, I’ve been encouraged in America-centric thinking. “America leads the world,” “If there’s no hope for America, there’s no hope for anyone,” etc. With such a barrage of narcissistic beliefs, it’s almost second nature for any U.S. citizen to look at a third-world country and think–even if not in words but just in reactions–that we’re better than them. With that in mind, when I see countries at war with themselves, when I see governments crumble, I have an immediate, base reaction–however wrong it may be–to look down on it, thinking, “Oh, those uncivilized nations.”

And yet. When I see the way that Christians handle themselves, the way that they stand up for their Savior and boldly do anything and everything they have to for the sake of a life saved, all of my country-induced pride is immediately diminished. Here I am, this “great American” who finds it difficult to be bold with my own friends and neighbors in the safest of countries where nothing really is on the line at all. I may have the privilege of education, wealth and power here, but what do I know of true strength? What do I know of watching a sister die at the hands of extremists and not being able to do anything about it? What do I know of sharing my faith, not knowing if the person I’m talking to will rejoice over the news or turn me over to authorities? What do I know of this absolute trust in Christ and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit?

This has turned out to be a much longer thought than I had planned, but it’s good for me (even if you’re bored!) to think through these things and remember that the world is hardly about me, or even America. I have a feeling that on that Day in heaven, many of those who were uneducated, impoverished, oppressed on earth, will be lifted higher than any of the rest. And so today, how will you lift them up? How will I?