Russia (MNN) — We only have one day left in Sochi, Russia and the church Fun Zone. I wasn’t able to update this blog until this morning, so let me give you an update over the last three days.
On Saturday, a few of us traveled to Olympic Park to watch an Olympic event. Curling. The trip to Olympic Park is great. It’s a brand new electric train. It’s free to help get spectators to and from events. As you get closer and closer to the events, the excitement grows. By the time you arrive on the 30 minute journey, you’re ready to almost run to where you’re going. Except, you don’t realize how FAR you have to walk. It’s a haul. It’s got to be over a mile.
We walked to the IceHouse, the home of the Curling event. We thought the USA was playing in the three team event, but they weren’t. But, it was a great time. We sat next to Gordon and Kate Adams, the parents of Vicki Adams, a team member of team Great Britain’s Curling team. We didn’t know any of the rules or strategy surrounding the game. The Adam’s were very gracious in explaining them and event encouraged us to cheer for her daughter. The Great Britain team won on the final stone. It was actually exciting, especially as we watched the parents get nervous for their daughter.
We spent a little more time in Olympic Park. The areas features the ‘Fun Houses’ of Switzerland, Russia, Canada, United States and more (I’m sure). But, unfortunately an invitation is required for the most of the Fun Houses. It was a little disappointing. Coke had and exposition and so did Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Games. I’ll tell you about that later.
Following our time in Olympic Park we traveled back to the Fun Zone. Why in the evening? It was the USA vs Russia hockey game. It was a fun rivalry. The Russians were talking ‘smack’ with us. We were gracious (most of us were). One person wanted to bet 100 rubles. I told him it’s not that important, besides he would lose. So, we shook on it and watched the game together. It was a back and forth contest that could have gone either way. But, the Americans prevailed. The whole Russian crowd was disappointed. However, we waved our American flags very proudly.
On Sunday, Feburary 16th a number of us had tickets to the Germany vs Finland women’s hockey game. I must tell you that we were looking more forward to being able to walk through Olympic Park, rather than watching women’s hockey. After watching so much men’s hockey, I think I’m spoiled. While we watched closely, the speed of the game is much slower and the skill is much less than the men. It was fun to be a part of the Olympics event, but the level of hockey wasn’t really there for me. Finland won 2-1.
We spent almost all day in Olympic Park. We knew that would probably be the last day our team would be able to soak it all in. So, we went to Korea’s Fan House. There, they showed us the dream for the Olympics of 2018. Hopefully they’ll be able to get everything done in time, unlike Sochi. After that, we stood in line for the Coke experience. It was two huge blow-up buildings. It was basically a coke informercial, which culminated with a free bottle of coke in a special commemorative aluminum bottle.
Following that, we traveled back for dinner at the hostel.
On Monday, it was a time of ministry. I spent most of my morning writing, waiting to see my friends at Russian Ministries. They were to arrive at the Fun Zone when it opened at 3:00 pm. I arrived just prior to the opening, but the bus ride to the church was interesting.
Our group of four got on the bus. About four stops in the four people got on the bus. They were speaking broken English. One of them looked around the bus and spotted me, an obvious American. He sat next to me on the bus and started talking to me in Russian. I couldn’t understand him very well, so I told him so. Then he acted like he couldn’t understand me (in English). He asked me where I was from — specifically. When I asked him he said, “Chechnya — Grozny.” That made me a little nervous. But, what happened after that REALLY made me nervous. All four of the people got their Ipads, Iphones and other electronics out and started acting very aggressively. Unbeknownst to each other, we were all feeling VERY uncomfortable. So, our Russian translator said, “Let’s go.” It wasn’t our stop, but we all got up and got off the bus a few stops early. As we got off, we all said, “That just didn’t feel right.” After we got off the bus and made it to the Fun Zone, we were pulled aside by our hosts that the secret police informed them that a high terror alert was issued. We felt good that we listened to our instincts.
We walked a few blocks to the Fun Zone. That’s when I discovered Russian Ministries had
arrived. It was great seeing old friends: Pavel Tokarchuk, Gennady Torkun, and Wally Kulakoff. Russia Ministries provided the printed materials for the Fun Zone: Bilingual New Testaments and Gospels of John and a little magazine called “Hope.”
Many people attended the Fun Zone Sunday. In an interview with Wally Kulakoff, he told us about their 11 city marathon, sharing the Gospel in 11 cities during the Olympics. This was one of their stops. I’ll tell you more about that in our special report Wednesday.
It has been a wonderful experience being here in Sochi for the Olympics. Keep praying. SOAR International Ministries is helping to support the ministry. They still have a week to go and they need funding to help keep it going. Because of the excitement and popularity of the Fun Zone, they’re running a little over-budget. Could you help support them? Go here: http://www.SOARinternational.org.
West Africa (IBS) — “It’s like the birth of a baby, and a long awaited one at that,” says Rose Birenge, director of publishing and outreach for Biblica Africa.
She is referring to a new Bible translation in the Yoruba language, recently completed by Biblica translators based in Africa.
The Yoruba language is spoken by up to 30 million people in the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. Until now, the one of the few Bibles available was a translation first published in 1868, which many readers found incomprehensible.
Biblica’s Yoruba Bible is a completely new translation, several years in the making. “It has been tough and difficult,” says Ebenezer Boafo, director of translation for Biblica Africa, “but the Lord has been our strength and helper.”
The Yoruba Bible is one of roughly 30 Bible translation and revision projects underway at Biblica. The 200-year-old Bible ministry targets major languages with a million or more speakers, such as Yoruba, in order to maximize impact. “Our carefully trained Bible translators are committed to giving people a text that is both accurate and readable,” says Scott Bolinder, Executive Vice President for Biblica. “We believe people everywhere deserve the very best translation of the Bible in their heart language.”
In West Africa, anticipation is high for an accurate, readable Bible in the Yoruba language. Click here for details on Biblica’s mission.
Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) — You’ve heard of the 10/40 Window, as it applies to missions, right? (If not, it refers to regions of the eastern hemisphere, plus the European and African part of the western hemisphere, located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator-places with the highest levels of socioeconomic challenge and the least access to the Gospel.)
What about the 4/14 Window? It represents the golden age of opportunity to transform the world. It’s actually describing kids from age four to fourteen years old, which is the most open and receptive age to every form of spiritual and developmental input.
Yet, this people group has often been overlooked. They are the most vulnerable to upheaval and sometimes, the least protected. Many countries experiencing social upheaval have a very young population that is being impacted by the ideologies surrounding the uncertainties in their countries. Still, with the right focus and resourcing, this enormous and largely ignored people group can become agents of change in God’s Hands.
Every Child Ministries’ Lorella Rouster shares a case in point with a pastor she spoke with in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I talked with a pastor who had received our training from years back, and that training was about how to reach children with the Gospel.”
The first step for this pastor was to raise awareness. The fact that he was working in Kinshasa pointed to an issue dealing with the value of children. “You’d think that the Church, having the Scriptures, would realize the value of children, but that isn’t always the case.”
She goes on to explain, “He ended up in Kinshasa, the capital city, and began gathering a small group of neighborhood children and started a Sunday school for those children, and those kids enjoyed what they were hearing. He began to visit their families and won many of them to Christ.”
Careful cultivation of the relationships with both the kids and their families yielded results. “Today, that effort has grown to an active church of several hundred people”, she says, adding that serves as the model for other work in other countries. “We’re finding that starting a Sunday school for children can be a very effective way to plant new churches.”
You may be wondering how kids are effective evangelists. That’s answered by this question: “Have you ever had your child participate in something he/she really likes? ” It’s singular focus and enthusiasm that drives the Gospel message into the homes of the Sunday school kids. “We’re trying to reach children one by one, but children are attached to families , so when the children come to Christ, typically, they go home and talk about the good things that they’re hearing, and how much they enjoy it.”
According to ECM the average for village Sunday schools seems to be about 80 children. This means ECM training is responsible for about 200,000 children receiving weekly Bible training in Central Africa.
The pastors who utilize the training start with friendship with the families-building relationship and trust within the communities. ECM’s goal is to empower local Bible-believing churches to reach children through any means possible. “Reaching children is a very effective way to building the kingdom of God. People can actually support a person to receive a year of intensive training and reaching children for only $350.” Rouster goes on to explain that $350 is really an investment in one person’s life, “and yet It can result in thousands coming to Christ, not only children, but whole families, and even in churches being planted.” ECM is asking for a little boost to help more trained leaders get through the Window before it closes. Resources are one part of the solution. Prayer is the other. “Pray that those who have been trained will remain true, they will remain faithful to Christ and to the Scriptures.”
Want to help support leadership development in Africa? Click here.
Once upon a time, many years ago, when I first started at Mission Network News, I got a call from a listener who was talking to me about what she perceived to be an error in one of our stories.
Essentially, what it boiled down to was my arguing with her over an assertion that the country of ‘Mozambikway’ was next to Indonesia. Our conversation ended abruptly when she hung up on me. I spent a lot of time ruefully shaking my head at her stubbornness, her refusal to know what the reality was and found myself generally quite puffed up with pride.
Today, our team still jokes about Mozambikway, but now that country has joined a list of misnomers (like Kajikistan) that came from my own lip trips, stumbles and assorted other bloopers where my mouth did not quite cooperate with my brain.
My point is this: sometimes, in the quest for kingdom building, we lose sight of the purpose and get stuck and proud over what we think we know. The Gospel is not about showing off. In fact, anyone who has ever been working as the hands and feet of Christ anywhere around the world knows that the moment you make the Gospel about you, you’ve lost your credibility as a ‘little Christ’.
The first Commandment is ‘No other Gods’, followed by ‘No idols’, and then ‘Don’t misuse My Name’. When we forget our purpose for being here, we forget not only ourselves, but also our message. Pride in our knowledge and pride in our excellence of work becomes the next brick we are making in the pyramids. It’s so easy to lose sight of who God is, who we are and we get hung up on little arguments that ultimately do not service unity in a world that needs a Savior. Ouch.
The Shema is a great reminder of who we are: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” ~Deut 6:4-9
Yes, at MNN, we strive for excellence, accuracy and Truth. We want to motivate believers to respond to what they’re hearing. We encourage you, our brothers and sisters to pray, give, or go. Still, there’s Truth, and then there’s truth. Arguing for the sake of being right has no place in the Kingdom. What is true and real will always be so, in God’s creation. What that means is that for some people, Mozambikway is next to Indonesia…which is just south of Kajikistan in the world of mistakes.
I’m not advocating mis-education or ignorance, I’m merely pointing out that perhaps in that argument, I missed the forest for the trees. 15 years later, I realize that I missed her interest in taking Bibles to an island (the Moluccas) off the coast of Indonesia.
If part of the Shema is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”, let’s do that as we search for and share God’s truths with one another. Mission Network News plays a role in this walk for many.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Let’s journey together off the same map…
My family still wrestles with what feels like very fresh grief over my dad’s passing last September. There are moments where things hit us and we feel this ache of his absence.
We know that he has gone to be with his Heavenly Father and no longer suffers from the limitations of this mortal coil. It’s just that sometimes, we miss him. It’s at those times when something happens that reminds us of the hope that we have in Christ our Savior, of our purpose here as followers of Christ, as co-laborers in the Kingdom of Heaven.
These reminders serve as encouragement to fight the good fight, keeping our eyes on the prize. I was thinking of my dad today and decided to read some of the devotionals he used to write for the ministry to which he dedicated his remaining years, Transport for Christ. When his health could no longer allow him to serve onsite as a chaplain, he wrote encouragement to the truck drivers and the chaplains in service.
I can hear his voice in these words. There’s great comfort in his reminder. I share his words with you so that you may also take comfort in a greater plan, and in the hope that comes from trusting God is in control:
“Most of the time, when we grieve, we grieve over something that’s happened in our lives. But there are also times when we grieve over something that hasn’t happened or “what might have been.”
Unrealized expectations and dashed hopes can paralyze us with sadness. We mourn for what we could have had, could have done or could have experienced. We live in a fog as we struggle with our unmet goals and dreams.
Are you wrestling with accepting something in your life? Mourning a shattered dream? Instead of focusing on what might have been, try focusing on what is and what could still be. Revising your dreams isn’t bad. It’s realistic. And the sooner you do, the sooner the weight of grief will let go. The fog will lift. Hope will return.”