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special reports

Greg and Team to Russia

By | missions, MNN, news, orphans, special reports, travel | 5 Comments

Russia (MNN) — You’ll never know what it means for you to love a child. That statement is reverberating around in my head. I have been on many short-term mission trips. Most of them have centered around helping orphaned children. I’ve always wondered what difference it made — until now.

On June 30, 2013 I will be traveling with Orphan Outreach to document a story that’s come full-circle. It’s the story of a woman who discovered a little boy with incredible needs and simply loved him.

Greg with Svyeta

Greg with Svyeta

I don’t want to spoil the surprise because the video that we’ll be producing will give you the details of the story. But, the conclusion is that because of this woman’s love and affection for this boy, now, as a young man he understands that God is the one who orchestrated it.

The bottom line is this young man had a disability that most of his caregivers said he wouldn’t survive. It caused incredible deformity. Yet, this woman’s relentless care for him made it possible for him to get the medical attention he needed to lead a normal life (his words). Even though it took years.

Understanding that she did something special for him, he made it his purpose in his young adult life to find her and thank her for what she did for him. One year ago, he found her. This week we’ll be reuniting these two. We’ll catch it all on video so you can see it first hand.

While I’d love to give you all of the specifics, I would like them to play out naturally. As they do, I’ll pass the information along to you through this blog.

It’s all happening in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. A city full of history. It’s also home to orphaned children who can no longer be adopted by American families. Their futures are bleak.

The second part of our coverage will focus on what happens to orphaned children when they age out of the orphanages. Who do they look to for guidance. Who helps them understand how to budget, buy groceries, pay bills, take care of their apartment, and help them make important personal decisions? Also, what role does the local church play in all this?

We’re hoping to answer all those questions and develop a tool to encourage Christians in the United States to come along side churches in Russia so they can work together to help orphaned and foster care children in both nations.

Come by my blog all week along and I try to share my heart.

From the Midwest to Mumbai

By | india, MNN, special reports, travel | One Comment

Anyone who knows me well knows the fire God put in my heart for India, and especially the Dalits. They’re the social lepers of India, a people once labeled “untouchable”. We’ve written hundreds of stories about the Dalits at MNN, and every time we get a news alert from our partners, I’m eager to see how God is working among them.

Over the next two weeks, I don’t have to wait for a story to come in to hear how God is working. I get to see it first-hand.

I’ll be traveling from Delhi in northern India all the way to the southern state of Tamil Nadu. I’m expecting to see how God is working among orphans, widows, Dalits & indigenous missionaries. Each day, I’ll be sharing what I experience with our followers on MNN, Facebook, & Twitter.

As I sit at the airport waiting for my delayed flight, I can’t help but wonder – how will God change me? I’m eager to see how God is changing lives in India, but how will I change as a result? How will this trip affect our marriage? Jeff & I have only been married for 8 months, and this is the longest time we’ll be apart – it’s been a struggle already, and I haven’t even left yet! How will God comfort us during this time of separation?

These questions & so many more are pop-corning around my mind like grasshoppers in a jar. Hopefully I’ll have some answers/insights for you in the coming days!

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.

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.

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

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.