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Facebook and Twitter, make an impact

By | missions, MNN, news | No Comments

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.

What’s the message from the VOM tragedy?

By | news, special reports | One Comment

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.

India

By | india, missions, MNN, news, special reports, travel | No Comments
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.

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

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

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.”

IDOP 2011

By | MNN, news, special reports | No Comments

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.

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?

Announcing the India/Nepal Trip Winner

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

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