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.”
And finally, many mission groups are looking at what God has done over the last ten decadesas they look to the new century. For Jaars International’sNard Pugyao (POOG-yow), seeing his people, the Isnag, be evangelized through a video ministry is an exciting prospect for the future. “I’m praying that every one of those 35-thousand Isnags would hear about the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s why the passion that I have is that they too, will know the good news of Jesus Christ and know him in a real way.” Pugyao adds that the vision of groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators and its partners is: “…to translate the Scriptures in the hearts of those two-thousand more languages by the year 2025. I’m praying that other mission organizations would take the vision and the passion to go and disciple and make these people grow.”
We begin today’s newscast in Venezuela where the loss of life isn’t the only problem facing to people of that South American country. Bill Gwyer is with New Tribes Mission. He just returned home to the United States and says travel or shipping in and out of the country is at a stand-still. “It’s already effecting New Tribes because we’ve got people that are coming in and going out. It’s going to affect everybody for the next good month. They expect the main airport to be closed down for a whole month, so it’s going to be a real challenge just for us to get back to the country.” Gwyer and his wife are staying at D & D Missionary Homes in Florida. He says evangelism will be difficult during this time. “The physical needs up there in Caracas are so great that everybody is being utilized just to help out in some many ways. In that capacity there’s the great opportunity to share the word. But right now, just trying to get into the city is a major thing with the roads being out.”
Meanwhile, a snowstorm of historic proportions didn’t stop evangelicals from helping the needy in the Balkan region. World Hope’s Joel Samy and his team handed out Boxes of Hope to orphaned children in Bosnia and Croatia. “These boxes were individually wrapped and given by families in the states, but most importantly we’ve been able to include Christian material from Child Evangelism Fellowship and also the God Cares about your Cares booklet. This was all done during the worst snow storm that has hit this central Bosnian region recorded this century.” Samy says five feet of snow feel in a short period of time, causing one of their vehicles to slide off the road into a land-mine zone. Despite that, he’s thankful for the response from these Muslim people. “It’s really special to see these children start opening the Christian material and then start reading the material word by word. So, we are delighted by the response of these children have toward spiritual things.”
Team members of Greater Europe Mission continue their commitment of showing God’s love to the people of Kosovo. “Project Maranatha” uses volunteer members and area pastors in offering acts of compassion. The group has been trying to help re-build homes for war victims in the capitol of Pristina. Especially needy are the people who are physically and mentally handicapped as they are considered outcasts.
Next, Christians throughout the world are asked to pray and remember those who are still denied religious freedom and are persecuted for the faith. Baptist World Alliance has joined with others in protesting the arrest of Baptist pastors, refusal of authorities to register churches and the physical destruction of church building. BWA says authorities in Turkmenistan use tactics that claim the pastors were jailed for legitimate criminal activity.
Topping today’s news, Venezuelan troops began the dig-out process in a coastal area devastated by one of Latin America’s worst mudslides. Food for the Hungry’s Matt Panos (PAN-ohs) says the mudslides and raging rivers swept away shantytowns and left the area in a sea of rock-hard debris. Panos tells us what they’re doing to help. “God has opened an opportunity for us to serve the poor through our connections with those in the United States who are willing to give us services, goods and funds and we act as God’s hands and feet to bring those things to the people of Venezuela who need it. Food for the Hungry has sent a container, about $285,000 dollars’ worth of food, clothes and supplies.” Panos adds: “We, as Christians, need to be praying that they will find shelter and warmth, and we also need to be praying that God’s will strengthen the relief efforts from all over the globe for this area of northern Venezuela.”
Meanwhile, International Aid is encouraging believers to be global Christians in this aid effort to Venezuela. I-A’s Jerry Dykstra says sending relief supplies to the victims presents Christians a unique opportunity. “This is the 11th major disaster this year. So, there are so many needs out there and we just have to show compassion to the people who have been hit by the disaster. We just appreciate so much the people that have responded to our call for help. That’s really being global Christians and I really feel that’s what God wants us to be.” According to Dykstra they’re sending their first container of supplies today. “Initially our response will be sending blankets, medicine, food and hygiene kits and those hygiene kits will be such items as tooth paste, tooth brushes, towels, and those will be shipped there as soon as today quite possibly.” Dykstra says it’s all being done in an effort to lead people to Christ.