We turn next to Central Africa, where a deadly epidemic is decimating families there. Action International Ministries’ Doug Nichols says that in Zambia, 16-percent of the population are orphans, and in neighboring Mulawi, 12-percent are orphans. “The reason that there are so many orphans is because of AIDS. The whole population is being effected because of this tremendous situation with AIDS, and missionaries are needed to share the Gospel, to move alongside these people and love them, and care for them and to do something with these kids.” Nichols says their ministry takes care of the physical and opens the door to spiritual care. “It’s not cheap evangelism-it’s a powerful demonstration of the true meaning of the Gospel…in doing whatever it takes to enable them to understand the truth of the Gospel which is the power of salvation.”
Wildfires in South America have virtually wiped out the main food source for one people group. The fires caused widespread damage to villages and destroyed 70-percent of the crops for the Guarayo people in Bolivia. The International Mission Board is working with the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund to provide seeds and New Testaments to those families. IMB is hoping to build new relationships and eventually plant churches.
Next, an evangelical ministry has worked themselves out of work in the Ukraine. Walk Thru the Bible’s Terry Sparks just returned from the country. Sparks says they’ve turned their World Teach program over to national workers. “The whole strategy is based on nationals. So, the world teachers are nationals, the equipers are nationals, the national directors, regional directors – everybody are nationals. We’re working ourselves out of a job and in five years we will perhaps have many more than 1,000 trained Bible teachers, maybe as many as 10,000.” According to Sparks, they plan to expand the work in other provinces, called oblasts. “Of the 25 oblasts, we’re currently in 14. And, our plan is to add another six next year. And, expand World Teach to Russia, Latvia, Armenia, Belarus, and possibly one in Moldova.”
We begin today in Russia where the military has issued an ultimatum telling all Chechens to leave Grozny within five days or face an artillery bombardment. The Russian government guarantees safety to those who evacuate by December 11th. Open Doors’ Mike Yoder says since the border was sealed, they’ve heard nothing from the Christians who were trapped in Chechnya. “With five days, and no possibility of outsiders being allowed in this area, [we] have no way to help those few Christians that are left behind inside Grozny, inside Chechnya-one of the best things we can do is pray for them, that God will sustain them, and that they can join this exodus of terrified refugees and get over the border to safety.” Yoder says the church’s testimony is borne out in years of oppression: “An increasing time of persecution, or pressure, even the intensity of an operation that causes the church to be totally scattered, often is something that God will use to basically spread the Kingdom. God has not given up on Chechnya, and it’s not impossible that somehow they can return and it could be an unprecedented opportunity for the church.”
Next, HCJB World Radio reports that Christians have received government permission to start a Christian FM station near Grozny, the capital of war-torn Chechnya. HCJB officials recently signed a partnership agreement with North Ossetia (oh-SEE-sha) Mission to put the station on the air. Daily broadcasts are expected to begin soon. Since 1990, the mission has worked in more than 70 countries to put Christian broadcasts on the air, often in areas formerly closed to missionary efforts.
Evangelical mission groups believe the time is short for sharing the Gospel freely in the Ukraine. Terry Sparks of Walk Thru the Bible says while a moderate was just elected president for another five years, the poor economy may end religious freedom. “We don’t think the doors will remain open in Ukraine indefinitely and it may be that these will be the last five years of freedom. People look back to the “good ole days” even though it was communist and say, I would rather have that than what we’re experiencing right now.” Sparks was in Ukraine to help with their Project Teach program. He says the program is needed to establish churches. “We learned that there were 1,500 villages that didn’t have a church or a pastor. We challenged the people to go to a village and take on the challenge of planting a church. And there were about, probably 400 to 600 people who responded to that challenge.”
Meanwhile, evangelical missionaries are making a concerted effort to reach street children with the Gospel in Mexico. Latin America Mission’s Sue Leak says LAM is building what they’re calling The Victory Center, a facility to house and rehabilitate children living on the streets. She explains the need. “We’ve found 5 and 6 year olds that are just all alone, living in the park. They’ve run away. One little boy we found in the park…definitely physically and sexually abused.” Leak hopes this center will enable them to reach these children with the Gospel more quickly. She says the longer a child has been on the streets, the more difficult they are to reach. “A kid that’s been on the street less amount of time is more likely to trust you, more likely to want to believe.” Leak hopes to house a number of homeless girls who she says are extremely vulnerable if they continue living on the streets.
Topping the news today, while European leaders want the Milosevic regime out of power, Christian groups are pointing Albanian Kosovars to Christ. Mark Hoekstra is with Audio Scriptures International. He says they just completed the Albanian translation of the New Testament on audiotape. He says it should be a draw for people. ” We got a reader from Albania. He’s one of the theater actors and one of the people that makes the movies and things. It took two weeks to do it. The entire recording has been completed. We just completed it last Friday. It’s now being processed and going to be put on cassette.” According to Hoekstra, Muslims will be the primary target of this audio scripture project. He explains why they put scripture on cassette. “The majority of the people over there don’t read, as so they don’t have access as we readers do to the New Testament. So, unless they have it in audio they actually won’t be able to hear it for themselves.”
Elsewhere, Trans World Radio is getting ready to launch a new project from St. Petersburg, Russia late next month. TWR’s Richard Greene says it’s a breakthrough for the ministry because: “We’re very excited that God has provided a major transmitting site in St. Petersburg to broadcast to the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway as well as developing new ministries, particularly a teaching ministry through the Bible, to Latvia and Lithuania.” Greene says their old site will close in late January and they’ll begin broadcasting from the new site at that time. He adds that there’s a lot to be thankful for. “We certainly praise the Lord for a tremendous year of ministry. We’re now broadcasting just shy of 150 languages. We’ve increased the number of hours of broadcasting to over 14-hundred hours per week in well over 160 countries around the world.”
Japanese Christians are concerned about recently passed legislative requirements regarding the use of their national flag and anthem. Christian Reformed World Missions reports that the new legislation leans toward nationalism and encourages Shintoism, or worship of the emperor. Christians believe the change may lead people to substitute worship of the emperor with that of Christ. Many also feel that the legislation could lead to restrictions against evangelism and Christian ministry.