Category

persecution

Background check: Rohingya boat people

By | missions, news, persecution, special reports, urgent prayer needs | No Comments
Rohingya starvation

Many Rohingya are facing starvation since foreign aid workers were forced to leave the region by the government.
(Image, caption courtesy Partners)

Most Rohingya refugees currently adrift in the Andaman Ocean fled persecution in Myanmar months ago with the help of traffickers. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place, and had to make a decision.

Myanmar’s government doesn’t allow the Rohingya to move beyond highly-monitored zones resembling concentration camps. Since beginning their work in Rakhine state three years ago, Partners Relief and Development has helped improve daily life in the camps for many Rohingya refugees.

But as time went on, many saw the writing on the wall and took to the sea.

“Two years ago, [the situation] seemed like it was temporary, and that they were going to be able to go back to their homes eventually,” says Partners co-founder Oddny Gumaer.

“Now, it’s looking like this is where they will be for the rest of their lives.”

For most Rohingya, the desperate escape from Myanmar has turned into an unimaginable trap. Boat people keep getting pushed back to sea as nations throughout Southeast Asia continually deny them entrance.

Why are countries turning a “cold shoulder” to the Rohingya?

As government talks drag on, it doesn’t look like the Rohingya crisis will end any time soon. In this article, Gumaer shares what YOU can do about it.

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.

Urgent Prayer Request from E3

By | persecution, urgent prayer needs | No Comments

Hey friends,

(Graphic cred: E3 Partners)

(Graphic cred: E3 Partners)

E3 Partners’ Tom Doyle shared an urgent prayer reminder with me during a recent interview. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, we also need to be mindful of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

“We get excited about worshipping Jesus,” Doyle shares. “Believers [in Syria] wonder, ‘What’s the blowback going to be?’.”

Because Christmas is known as a “distinctly-Christian” holiday, Christians in areas controlled by ISIS will be targeted.

“People will die just because they’re known for following Jesus, and [Christmas is] the day that we celebrate His birth,” says Doyle.

During Easter last year, “ISIS and other terrorist groups claimed, ‘we will wash the streets in Syria with Christian blood’.”

A similar reaction is expected tomorrow.

“They (terrorists) hate Jesus, they hate the resurrection; therefore, they’re going to hate the day that we celebrate His birth.”

As you gather with your families for Christmas and celebrate Jesus’ birth, pray for His family.

Join E3’s prayer initiative for Syrian Christians here.

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.”

How can you have peace in hard times?

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“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Tornadoes, like the one that came through our neighborhood earlier this year, can cause major destruction in a matter of minutes. How do you find peace when the tornadoes of life come?  (Photo cred: Katey Hearth)

Tornadoes, like the one that came through our neighborhood earlier this year, can cause major destruction in a matter of minutes. How do you find peace when the tornadoes of life come?
(Photo cred: Katey Hearth)

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples in one of their last meetings together. In the hours that followed, Jesus would be severely beaten, mocked, humiliated and ultimately hung to suffer on a Roman crucifix. The disciples’ world was quickly turned upside-down and sideways, simply because they followed a humble carpenter from Galilee.

The same is happening today to hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world.

The list goes on and on; persecution of Christians is taking place on a worldwide basis. Check out this list our friends at Open Doors USA put together. It’s called the “World Watch List”, and it shows you which countries have the most violence against Christians.

Peace may seem hard to find in this chaotic and often-violent world. When peace is elusive, at least in my case, anxiety is quick to set in. When situations and circumstances spiral out of control, my knee-jerk response is to worry and fret.

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

These simple statements a two-fold promise: you will face trials, but you will also overcome them. We often don’t know how the Lord will help us get through a hardship, or when we will see Him act. But, the end result is promised: we will overcome.

When you know how a story ends, it often provides peace to “ride out the storm” and endure whatever challenges come your way. Please join me today in praying for peace and endurance for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

How do you find peace in the middle of life’s storms? Let me know in the Comments section! 

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: https://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.

My Take on Terror Threat

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As many U.S. Embassies are closed today because of what the U.S. Government calls ‘terrorist chatter’, I can’t help but wonder what’s behind these alleged threats.

Let me recap what’s going on. The U.S. State Department intercepted messages among senior al Qaeda operatives in the last several days that forced authorities and consulates Sunday across the Middle East and North Africa. Much of their attention is in the country of Yemen, where U.S. drone strikes killed a half-dozen or so radical Islamists.

The question many people are asking is, why? Why are radical Muslims planning attacks on Western governments. Why can’t they just live in peace with everyone? Why is it that they have to do these evil things?

Some Muslims say, “don’t lump us with radical Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion.”  In looking  at that statement, I have to look at facts.

1. There have been thousands of attacks on innocent people  in the last decade alone that have been attributed to Muslims who claim they are doing it in the name of Allah.
2. Islam is the only religion that kills people when they leave Islam. Muhammad set the example for this.
3. Islam teaches that non-Muslims are less than human. It’s also taught that Muslims could be put to death for murder, but never put to death for killing a non-Muslim.
4. The Qur’an is absent of Allah’s love for non-Muslims, but speaks of hatred for them instead.
5. Islamic leaders have dressed women and even children in suicide bombing belts to attack innocent people.
6. Muslims are killing innocent people for comics and videos that depict Muhammad in a negative light. They also strike out against innocent people when the Qur’an is desecrated.

There are many who claim Christianity is just as evil. My question to them is, “when was the last time you heard someone attacking innocent people in the name of Christ?”

This post isn’t designed to hate Muslims. On the contrary. It’s designed to point out the truth, but then take it a step further — to LOVE them?  Why?

The passage of Scripture that comes to mind is what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said,”You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” While many people stop there, Jesus goes on to say in verse 47, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than other? Do not even the Gentiles to the same?” If Christians do what is ‘unnatural’ many will notice — including those who mean to harm us.

By Loving our enemies we have a platform to share our faith, and they’ll listen. Let me give you an example. After 9-11 terror attack on the United States, many Muslims were afraid. It would have been a great time to reach out to them in love. How? By simply inviting them into our homes for coffee or a meal. This is cultural. There are many Christians in the western world who don’t even know a Muslim. If they do, they know very little about them. Love give us an opportunity to find out about them, learn their culture, with sharing the same with them.

At Mission Network News, our desire is to talk about ministries that may motivate Christians to get involved. Many Christians are sleep-walking today. They’re walking through life with their eyes closed, not even looking for opportunities to share their faith. We want to change that.

That’s why we’re having a Wake Me Up Summer promotion. It’s inspired by a song for Josh Wilson’s new Carry Me CD. The song is called, Wake Me Up. During the month of August MNN is encouraging you to wake up and do something intentional when it comes to sharing your faith.

We’re also asking you to support the work of Mission Network News with a generous donation. As you do, you’re helping MNN tell  even more stories that will wake up Christians around the world — waking them up to do something intentional regarding their faith. When you do, I’ll send you the new Josh Wilson CD.

If you want more information on the Wake Me Up Summer promotion, watch this video.

To donate to the MNN Wake Me Up Summer campaign, click here.

What’s the message through the mess?

By | MNN, news, persecution, trends, Web site | No Comments

You’ve heard the headlines. The Obama administration is caught in scandal after scandal. Persecution against Christians in Eritrea is at an all-time high. Human trafficking is up 18 percent in Europe. The Oklahoma City tornado kills school children. Syria continues in civil war. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood continues identifying Christians for violence.

The world is in chaos….at least it appears to be that way.

The reality is that God is in control. The amazing thing about these headlines is that God is using each and every one to glorify Himself. Have you thought about that?

Each situation, tragic as it may seem to us, God is using to motivate His people to think outside of the box to do something more for Him.

That’s the tricky part for Mission Network News. Our job is to tell you about the news and information nobody else is talking about with a unique perspective — the perspective of how God is using people like you and me to accomplish this.

I’m always amazed at how God does this. He brings in what appears to be a bleak situation, then BOOM He does something incredible. It just goes to prove that our plans aren’t always His plans. The tricky part is trying to figure how to match up your plans with God’s plans.

I’m still trying to figure that out. Stay tuned.

It’s Going To Be Busy

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

Fall is in full swing. You’re probably experienced it. If you live in the United States you’ve probably already had your homecoming weekends. The football games are underway. Your kids have already started their school and church activities and you feel more like a taxi cab driver than a parent. While you’re feeling the stresses in your household, we’re feeling the stresses at Mission Network News, too.

For us, the fall means a few things. It means getting ready for See You At the Poll, start planning for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Radio broadcast, and this year we’re getting ready to take the whole team to Urbana. While those events create stress, we’ve also added two new staff members, and we’re redesigning our website.

See You At the Pole is over, so that stress is gone. Now, we start focusing on IDOP. We have to find a speaker who will motivate. We have to find music that will be compelling and go with the subject of the persecuted church, which is never easy. Then we have to line up people to pray for areas of the world where there is persecution of Christians. Then we have to recruit radio stations. We have less than one month to do it.

Urbana is the world’s largest student mission conference. It takes place every three years. This year Urbana 12 is being held in St. Louis, Missouri. We’re taking our entire team there so we can bring coverage of the event. We’ll be providing daily coverage on our radio broadcast, but also providing long form programming that we hope many radio stations will air. So, my time will not only be getting the broadcast ready to air, but recruiting radio stations.

Our two new staff members you probably have already met. Katey Hearth replaces Elisa Talmage, who resigned in August. Kara Tucker is a part-time writer/producer. Katey is just about up-to-speed on her responsibilities. Now, she’s just fine tuning. Kara is just getting started and there will be a pretty significant learning curve for her. So, be praying for both ladies.

Next, our website is being redesigned. It has been forever since we have done this. We’re going with an entire new back-end design that is requiring a lot of time and effort. The actually look of the website is coming along nicely and I think you’ll like where we end up.

And finally, I am spending a little more time talking to donors and finding out who has a heart for missions so we can keep Mission Network News financially healthy. Overall, our revenue is off just a bit. With our current economy I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s requiring a lot more of my attention these days. The good news about that is that I get to spend more time talking to donors and people like you who value and love what we do here.

So, when i look all everything we have to do between now and December 31 it’s overwhelming. But, it’s also exciting. It’s exciting because Mission Network News has the privilege of telling countless stories of God working supernaturally all over the world. Not only that, but we get to encourage people like you to get involved in it.

Thank you for being a part of what we do here. If you feel the Lord leading you to give financially to Mission Network News, click here.