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International Day of Peace

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A photo by Nitish Meena. unsplash.com/photos/RbbdzZBKRDY

 

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6 ESV)

It certainly sounds like we’re in that season, doesn’t it?

This morning, we read of violent protests that took place in North Carolina overnight after a black man was killed by police. Meanwhile, the story behind the NYC bombings continues to unfold. That’s just in the United States where things are relatively quiet compared to countries where terror attacks remain commonplace. In Syria the shaky truce has been beaten down.  We could go on and on.

Today is the International Day of Peace, and yet many people have started to avoid the news so they don’t have to hear about stories like these. The violence around us is insurmountable and overwhelming.

Facebook announces International Day of Peace saying, “peace begins with love.”  It’s true,  lasting peace does begin with Love.  God’s Love which was presented to us through his Son who paid the wages of our sin. We were once his greatest enemy and carried violence towards him in our hearts. Because of his sacrifice, there is peace between us now.  Additionally, we know that an eternity of absolute peace awaits us.

Just before Jesus went to the cross, he said to his disciples,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

The peace given to us through relationship with Jesus is like no peace we can find in this world because it is not from this world.

Jesus said there will be more signs of the end of the age to come, painful and violent things. But his words also remind us that God has a plan. He is not surprised by the events taking place in our world today.

As Christians, the most powerful action we can take to advance peace is to introduce the Author of peace to those around us.

Start with your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends, your family. Consider how you can be an influence of peace globally. We hope you’ll take advantage of the resources we provide to pray, give, or go to send forth the Gospel, all to God’s glory.

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?

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. 🙂

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

Favorite Fan/Follower Comments!

By | MNN | No Comments

7K0A0796_resizedTo mark our annual Facebook Fan/Follower Appreciation day, here are some of our favorite comments from the MNN page:

Thanks for the being done, we are to be the light & lifeline to a dying world out there
(From Henry Tavune on 03/01/14)

I love this,plz kp me up dated!
(From Dina Reinard on 01/11/14)

Always feed me information dat can encourage me to network with missions
(From Egbudu Alice on 11/2/13)

We love the work that Mission Network News does; your concern for the world and the Mission inspires us to enable continuing action in the most difficult environments across the globe.
(From Jason Moorhead on 10/16/13)

Thank you for opening my eyes I will be looking into this Jesus I pray you bless Mission Network News 100 fold in everything they do god bless xxx
(From Annabel Letford on 05/07/13)

Very Inspiring picture. Thank You MNN for sharing & working to Glorify Him.
(From Koshy Jinu on 04/25/13)

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. Than you for your voice 🙂
(From Bill Cheshire Jr on 02/07/13)

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.

Final days in Russia

By | church planting, MNN, news, persecution | No Comments
Men watching the Russian hockey game in the Fun Zone tent.

Men watching the Russian hockey game in the Fun Zone tent.

Sochi, Russia (MNN) — The final day of ministry in Sochi, Russia wasn’t very nice. A cold rain fell on the Fun Zone all afternoon. It kept many of the usual visitors away, however it wasn’t a complete wash-out. There was both ministry, excitement and concern.

The day started with our friends from Russian Ministries and The Gideon’s International of Canada joining local and national Christians, volunteers from SOAR International in the United States for ministry at the Fun Zone.

Flashmob at the concert. Singer on big screen. Flashmob in front. They kept cutting to the group during the concert.

Flashmob at the concert. Singer on big screen. Flashmob in front. They kept cutting to the group during the concert.

Face painting, balloons animals, and crafts were all moved inside the ministry tent on the church grounds. The other activities were moved into the back annex of the church. Practice for the flash mob, also was moved inside. Oh, I didn’t tell you about the flash mob.

All week long volunteers from Russia and the United States worked on a flash mob that was to erupt during at concert Tuesday night. They worked very hard. A Christian singer was having a concert during the Olympics. When she got to the song of choice, the flash mob was supposed to start their choreography. Even though it was a rainy evening it went well.

Rahim was arrested as he handed out Scripture during a flash mob at a concert.

Rahim was arrested as he handed out Scripture during a flash mob at a concert.

One of the local Christians decided that would be a good opportunity and risk handing out Bibles. He was arrested and later released. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to interview him before we left because we left Wednesday morning. According to our friends at SOAR International, the man was arrested and released. SOAR reports, “Rahim risked it and started to give away New Testaments at during the flashmob. You can’t really do it outside of church territory. He got arrested. Now back and smiling again.”

Pray for the church in Sochi. One of the churches there is facing pressure from the governement. The government wants to reclaim the church property and sell it. The church is located on prime real estate. They city would make a lot of money from its sale. The pastor of the church is working with authorities to try and work out an agreement. If it isn’t overturned, the church will lose it’s home and the community will lose a neighbor who’s investing in their lives helping with marriages, teen problems and the Gospel.

SOAR's Richard Page (left) with MNN's Greg Yoder (left) in front of the church hostel in Sochi, Russia.

SOAR’s Richard Page (left) with MNN’s Greg Yoder (left) in front of the church hostel in Sochi, Russia.

Before leaving Sochi, I interviewed the president of SOAR International Richard Page. We talked about the project, ministry, and the future of SOAR’s involvement in Sochi. You can read the story here: http://www.mnnonline.org/news/olympic-ministry-moves-forward-despite-higher-costs/. Page tells us that the cost for doing this ministry was much more than anticipated. They failed to accurately predict the inflationary prices created by the Olympics hysteria. Food, water, everything went up because of the Winter Olympics.

Today, we’re spending our final day in Russia in St. Petersburg. The team will be spending the day see the highlights of the city. I will be visiting a little girl that I met in 2004, Sveta. She’s now 13 years old. She can’t be adopted because of some family issues. Pray for her. She’s one of those children, in the proper environment, could really thrive. I don’t know where she is spiritually, but she’s a loving little girls with a servants heart.