Next, in a little over a month, New Tribes Mission will mark the 7th anniversary of the kidnapping of missionaries Mark Rich, Dave Mankins, and Rick Tenenoff. Agency spokesman Scott Ross says they’ve received several leads, half saying the men are dead – half saying they’re alive. “What’s encouraging to us is not that type of news, but that we are now getting movement out of the Colombian military to be willing to go into some of those hotter areas and search out and check some of these leads. So, we have four more of those that we would really like to have followed through, over half of them claiming in some way or another that our men are live.” According to Ross, it’s been a long seven years and he’s asking people to pray for truth. “The wives have always wanted the truth and we do too. We know that this group holds people for a long time, but we also know that it has been a long time and jungle living, especially with the combat that our men might not have survived.” However, New Tribes still believe they are alive.
Even though Christmas is over in the western world, it has yet to be celebrated in Russia. Russian Ministries Peter Deyneka says they’re using the Russian celebration to minister to a few street children, orphans and other needy young people there. But there is still a great need. “Christmas in Russia is not December 25th, it’s January the 7th. We still need $100,000 in order to put together these Christmas care packets that contain food, clothing, Christian literature for these 17 to 20,000 children.” According to Deyneka, the care packets won’t be the only tools used to lead these people to Christ. “We’re doing this in parallel to a Christmas program where the Gospel is being presented to these children, many of them hearing the Gospel for the first time. And, it opens the door to thousands of children’s hearts and to their parents and to orphanage directors. And, this is all being accomplished by our national workers, whom we’ve been training.”
Meanwhile, a pastor of thriving house churches has been arrested in China. Pastor Li DeXian was arrested Tuesday after police in six vans stormed the meeting. According to Voice of the Martyrs, 70-year-old Ah Ling was arrested along with DeXian as she was giving her testimony during the meeting at Haudu, in Guangdong province in southeastern China. DeXain has been arrested several times over the last few months for holding meetings in unregistered underground churches.
We begin today in the Ivory Coast where missionaries are questioning their safety in the wake of a coup in that traditionally stable country. A military junta that took power on Friday ousted President Henri Konan Bedie, who fled the country. Scott Ross is with New Tribes Mission. “We contacted our people out there and they advised us that it looked like it was going to be more of a peaceful coup, if there is that such a thing. It wasn’t aimed at any civilians necessarily, it had a lot to do with the military not being paid and different things. We only have really one couple in the capital city. We have many couple around the country. The coup was taking place in the capital so they didn’t feel that they were threatened at this point, but they were just staying indoors. The U-S embassy had instructed all American personnel to stay indoors and off the streets.” The Ivory Coast has been peaceful since declaring its independence in 1960. Evangelism is not expected to be affected by the new government.
Next, while Russian forces continue their onslaught of Chechnya, missionary radio is hoping to expand its impact on the region. Far East Broadcasting Company is using radio to speak to those impacted by war in the region. However, FEBC’s Victor Akhterov says that impact will be expanding in January. “We hope to switch another better AM frequency and we’ll be broadcasting 16 hours a day, so the impact of FEBC Russia will multiply. At this time we have five hours of daily broadcasts and it is working miracles.” Akhterov says this is just another attempt at helping the church be more effective in ministry. ” We are just letting pastors talk about the every day issues, including these issues of war. We present the Christian point of view and people like it and people come to local churches.” Giving pastors more opportunities to share the Gospel.
Meanwhile, Americans are heading to Venezuela to assess the devastation left by a massive mudslide that destroyed towns and villages near Caracas. The Southern Baptist International Mission Board is helping both physically and spiritually. Last week they released 80-thousand dollars for food, water, and medicines. A team is also on the ground assessing how to help with long term ministry evangelism projects. The I-M-B is asking people to pray that God uses this tragedy for His glory.
Meanwhile, in an effort to stamp out all minority religions Turkmenistan has deported two Baptist pastors and their wives. After suffering months of interrogation, threats, fines, and arrest, the two couples were both deported last Thursday. According to Compass Direct, Turkmenistan is the most religiously repressed of the former Soviet republics and continues to stamp out all religious practices that are not officially sanctioned with Muslims or the Russian Orthodox Church.
We begin today in Cuba where Christians are still being persecuted for their faith. Now, there is evidence that evangelistic work is now being hampered. World Servants’ Chris Clum (kluhm) explains the changes they’ve seen recently that have caused concern. “We have partnered with a group of pastors-we’ve gone in as a humanitarian group-we’re going in to meet a specific need, which has given us the ability to get visas. But, the last two years, it has gotten increasingly more difficult to get into the country…and this last summer, [the government] decided they weren’t going to let us in, so we had to re-route our team to the Dominican Republic.” Clum asks that people pray for mission groups in Cuba as the difficulties they face continue. He adds that despite the obstacles presented, evangelism will not cease. “I think that the best way to go into Cuba is to go in to do relational evangelism, because the big, overt kind of evangelism is the things that the government is going to be opposed to…but the relational evangelism works wonderfully. People are curious–they’re hungry for it.”
Next, we turn to South Africa where the field of missions is wide open and still growing. SIM’s Steve Weiandt has worked in Africa for more than thirty years. He is particularly excited about the growth of one ministry aimed at the miners in Pietermartzburg. “We have literature, we take bookmobiles and evangelists. They go and they sell literature, and then they hold evangelistic meetings. Then, they do hospital visitation on the mines and follow up a lot of those that show interest.” Weiandt adds that there’s a need for more missionaries to help develop the nationals’ work. “This is developing now to further follow up and tying it in with our church planting ministries. In the past, because of the men all being immigrants from other countries, those men would go back and start churches in their home countries. More and more, it’s local people starting churches in the localities.”
Poverty’s grip has shaken Eastern Europe to its foundations. As more people grow disillusioned with their governments, many are turning to Christ. As a result, the church is exploding and Global Advance is readying a Frontline Shepherd’s conference in Russia and Ukraine. Dr. David Shibley says: “Right now, they are begging for us to come and provide training and resources for them. We believe in seizing opportunity for the Gospel, and that’s why, even in the midst of Y2K concerns and the potential for some real hostility, we believe it’s time right now to strengthen the hands of our brothers and our sisters in Ukraine and in Russia.” Shibley says the meetings next month will shape a new role. “We are looking to train probably around 12-hundred Russian and Ukrainian pastors to help mobilize the evangelical wing of the church to help fulfill the Great Commission…raising up the Ukrainian church and the Russian church to be a tremendous force in the earth and a new missionary force for the 21rst century.”