We begin today in Nigeria where President Olusegun Obasanjo is visiting the northern city of Kaduna, where more than two-hundred people died in sectarian clashes a week ago. Meanwhile, ethnic riots erupted yesterday in the southeast in a backlash to last week’s violence. Evangelical Baptist Mission’s David Jacobs says: “The government has made it clear that the present government of the state of Nigeria is not an Islamic state, and as such, we still have the freedom of worship–and the present government has never interfered with any religious activity, as long as you have not violated the principle and the law of the government.” Jacobs says despite the trouble, their work continues. “We need more missionaries to help, and to evangelize the area that still needs to be evangelized. A couple of churches were destroyed by the fanatic Muslims, but that really has not affected the propagation of the Word of God. It rather has enhanced.”
Even as India remains in turmoil over parliamentary elections, evangelistic work continues. Audio Scriptures International’s Harvey Hoekstra says they are concerned for the believers acting on behalf of ASI’s “Adopt-a-Village” outreach program. “In some of the villages where people have turned from Hinduism to Christ, there is opposition. Recently, one of the coordinators in the “Adopt a Village” program and his wife and their son were attacked during the middle of the night. Fortunately, there were no deaths, but this was an effort to put fear in their hearts.” Hoekstra explains what the “Talking Bible” project. “This is a version which has an entire New Testament in whatever language one wants to use. These 500 units will be field tested in the “Adopt a Village” program in India. In villages where there is a very high percentage of non-readers, someone volunteers to gather the people together to listen to the Scripture in their language.”
Next, a new radio broadcast targeting India is bearing fruit already. According to Insight For Living their new Malayalam (MAH-lay-AH-luhm), Telagu (TEHL-ah-goo), and Bengali language broadcasts went on the air at the beginning of the year. As we reported a few weeks ago, they have already received 280 letters. However, 159 letters came in response to the Malayalam program alone. In fact, 51 of those were from new believers. Pray that the broadcast ministry will continue to change hearts.
Headlining today’s news, ministry leaders say freedom of religion isn’t coming with reformers who were elected to parliament in Iran. While the reformers, loyal to President Mohammed Khatami, are pledging wide-ranging reforms, Iranian Christian International’s Abe Ghaffari says they won’t affect Christians. “Anyone who abandons Islam, shares the Good News of Christ with the Muslims, these kinds of actions are punishable. I think we’re a long ways from expecting any liberalization in those areas. For example westerners going there and doing any missionary activity.” Ghaffari says despite the persecution, Iranians are coming to Christ. “There are over 100,000 secret believers who have mostly come to Christ through radio programs, through mailings of literature. We do believe that the spiritual interest is great. What is not great is the freedom.” Pray that doors will open for evangelism as reforms take place in Iran.
Meanwhile, a mission agency specializing in agriculture is helping the people of Ecuador deal with a struggling economy. Farms International’s Joe Richter says Ecuador is their newest project and they’re helping the Quichua Indians through income generating projects. “Farms comes along side the church in places of deep poverty. It helps families out of poverty by providing a project that will produce an income. In Ecuador our first project will be green houses. These green houses enable farmers to extend their growing season.” Richter says the program requires participants to tithe to the church. “Our hope for the Quichua church is that they will learn to be self-supporting. We believe the church can be tremendously strengthened. We believe that evangelism can only happen when there’s a strong indigenous church.”
Christian publishers are excited about the first World Christian Book Fair hosted by Christian Book Sellers Association of India. The event was held recently in Bombay. International Bible Society’s Steve Johnson says they participated in the event, which was risky. “It’s becoming more and more hostile toward Christianity. And, so this book fair was of particular significance because it enabled the exhibitors to showcase their materials in an environment that in many ways is becoming more hostile toward Christianity. So, they are real opportunity to help equip believers in India for more effective discipleship and evangelism.” Johnson says 50-thousand people visited the book fair. He says literature is a key tool in evangelism in India. “I think it’s absolutely true that the more resources that are made available and the more publicity these resources receive in India the more believers in India will be involved in greater evangelism and outreach. The Indian culture cherishes literature.”
And finally, 30 Christian radio stations from the state of Michigan joined together yesterday to help encourage people to be a lighthouse in their community. The Lighthouse Movement’s Paul Dozeman says the goal of the Lighthouse Movement is to… “Mobilize Christians, putting them into their neighborhoods in a form of prayer evangelism, where we talk to God about our neighbors before we talk to our neighbors about God. And so, that’s the Lighthouse Movement. It’s mobilizing Christians to be effective in their neighborhoods to be that shining light.” Lee Geysbeek is the General Manager of Radio station WCSG in Grand Rapids. He says this is the first event of it’s kind, but it’s catching on. “There are states around the country that are looking at what we’re doing today to learn from and to hopefully model.” People from every part of the state called, sharing their commit to prayer evangelism in Michigan.
We begin today in Nigeria where new outbreaks of violence have erupted in Kaduna. The riots between Christians and Muslims came over demands for the introduction of Islamic law. The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Mark Kelly says during the riot, a seminary student was killed and the mob breached the wall of the Baptist Seminary compound. “People are waiting to see how things develop right now. There are news reports that there was additional violence in the city. Nigerian Baptist leaders have been able to come back to the campus. They discovered that the administration/academic buildings, the chapel all were burned, but part of the campus are still intact.” Kelly says the tensions are growing, and the believers need support. “There are a lot of tensions between ethnic groups as well as religious groups, and it would be awfully easy for this violence to spread to the rest of the country…people are asking that we pray that lives will be spared, that the violence will end quickly.”
Next, persecution against Christians continues in Vietnam. Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton explains the latest event that has many Christians on their knees. “Voice of the Martyrs has learned that the last Assembly of God church building in the nation of Vietnam has been destroyed. Before 1975 when the communists took over Vietnam there were 10 Assembly of God Churches and nine we taken over or destroyed kind of in the years after revolution.” According to Nettleton, the evangelical church has been forced to go underground, however evangelism is flourishing. “In the countries where Voice of the Martyrs works the church is growing in spite of these types of situations. It’s a little different breed of Christian because they’re tested by fire from early on in their spiritual walk. And, so you get a quality of Christ that is really on fire for Christ and on fire for others to hear the Gospel.”
There’s been a breakthrough for the “JESUS” film project in Indonesia. The organization reports that a coordinator was looking for a way to broadcast the dramatized audio version of “JESUS”, but felt that few radio stations would consider it. However, an unexpected introduction to two radio station managers led to a network of contacts with all the radio stations in south Sumatra. The end result: “The Story of Jesus,” aired on 22 of the islands’ 28 stations and reached thousands with the Gospel.