We begin today in Indonesia, a heavily populated Muslim nation. There are reports of demonstrations in Jakarta over the lack of respect for the holy month of Ramadan. When asked why the Muslim population got quick response, AMG International’s Muriel Lovestrand said: “The Indonesian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But, that hasn’t been practiced very widely, and that is why the Muslims are stronger and have gained more control [in Indonesia]. The new President has promised to give consideration to all religions. Some of the people are hoping for more equality in the future.” Lovestrand adds that Ramadan is an fitting time for the Gospel to come through because spiritual awareness is heightened. “Sometimes there’s more opportunity to speak to your neighbors, opening up a conversation about Christianity, questions about “do Christians fast, and if so, why and when?” Those things do come up during the month of Ramadan, which are not as much discussed at other times.”
Next, the entire Muslim world is observing the holy month of Ramadan, which began last Thursday. An estimated 10 million Christians around the world will be praying for the world’s one billion Muslims. Arab World Ministries’ Bob Sayer says this time of year is difficult for non-Muslims. “Because of this heightened spiritual time, some of the people who aren’t Muslims in these countries could possibly persecuted or at least thought less of if they’re not Muslims and not partaking in this fast. And so, it’s a difficult time for our missionaries and for the nationals in these countries who are not Muslim.” Sayer says they are offering a help guide for those who want to pray. “We have an e-mail prayer guide that goes out daily during the whole month of Ramadan, and you can find this prayer guide and sign up for it at our website. I think it would be great if people could mobilize churches to reach Muslims, and I think that we, as Christians, need to really begin reaching these people for Christ.”
More people are needed to help ministry to young people in Guatemala. Ezequil Martinez (ee-ZEEK-yihl mahr-TEEN-ehz) works with Impact International. “The larger population of Latin America is a young generation. Of instance in Guatemala 60 percent of the population are 24-years and under. Well need more people to come and continue reaching out to these teenagers in Latin America.” Martinez, who is staying at D&D Missionary Homes in Florida, says American as well as Hispanic Christians are effective in ministry. “The people in Latin America are very open to a cross cultural experience. So when we bring a group from the United States to Latin America you find that the kids are very open to talk to American kids.” Martinez says many come to Christ because of that outreach.
Elsewhere, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee is mounting an effort to help repair damages in La Isla, Mexico. Extensive repairs are needed after the worst period of flooding in 50-years hit the area. CRWRC is sending a team of medical specialists who will set up clinics and help stave off disease, while others will be helping with food supplies, agriculture and construction. The group works with people and their communities to create permanent, positive change in Christ’s name.
We begin today’s news in Chechnya where international attention has focused on the plight of Grozny’s civilians. Russia’s military says it is offering safe passage for those who want to flee the fighting. However, Russian Ministries’ Peter Deyneka says: “During the day, there is bombing that takes place, and so people are afraid, wondering when they can come out, when it’s going to be totally safe. Another reason is, lack of transportation. The routes require refugees to make long treks by foot, without knowing what lies ahead-so it’s the uncertainty that causes many of them to remain huddled in their basement.” Deyneka says because Chechnya is Muslim, “We are reaching out in a united effort to try to evangelize these 200,000 refugees while they are out of Chechnya. This week, Wednesday or Thursday-Chechen children and young people will hear the Gospel at a Christmas program, and then we will give gifts to all of these children that will include clothing, some food, [and] Christian literature.”
Next, it’s a county of nearly 61 million people, however they don’t have a Bible in their own language. That’s the word from International Bible Society’s Steve Johnson talking about the country of Ethiopia. Johnson says they’re now translating the scripture into the language of Amharic (am-HAHR-ihk). “The scripture that most Ethiopians use today is an Amharic translation, translated from ancient Geez, which is virtually not understandable to a common every day Ethiopian. The closest analogy in our context would be a person trying to read the word of God in Chaucerian English.” According to Johnson the project is nearing completion. “We’re hoping to have the translation complete late this year. We hope to have the type setting and ready to go to press some time in March of the year 2,000. And, right now the hope is to be able to generate sufficient funding and resources so that the folks in Ethiopia can print and do major distribution of this resource.”
Compass Direct is reporting that an evangelical radio station in Athens is now closed after police raided its offices and arrested the technician, a 73-year old pastor. Greek authorities accuse ‘Channel Station 2000’ of not having a proper operating license. However, the station manager says no free radio station has ever managed to get one. Further, he believes the Greek Orthodox Church is behind the order to close them down, citing a rise in anti-Protestant sentiments in the area.
Meanwhile, we continue our series on the needs in Liberia after years of civil war. Feeding Starving Children International’s Dick Proudfit just returned from the country. A thriving church and Christian government are two areas that will help them reach those in need. Proudfit says they’re trying to raise five-million dollars to help feed the starving children there. He says by doing so, it opens doors to share the Gospel. Pray that God will meet this financial need as millions of children are starving and dying without Christ.
We begin today in Sri Lanka where a 16-year civil war has left thousands dead and many families grieving. Sri Lankans now want an end to the fighting and peace has become a major issue in the December presidential elections. Shelter Now’s Jeff Hollenbeck says the situation is still a bit unstable. “There has been quite a bit of ethnic unrest within the country. There’s a group of people trying to pull away from the government-it’s a revolutionary kind of force that’s trying to gain independence from India and create a society for themselves. Sri Lanka is a country where people are doing Christian work, but you do have to be a little bit careful about where you do that sort of thing.” Hollenbeck says in the lull between battles: “One of the projects that we’re working on is to build some homes for the war widows in six of the villages up there in the north. It involves housing, and some water and some sanitation. In the name of Jesus, demonstrating the love of God, just doing what we do for these people and just hope that the seeds that we plant will grow inside these people.”
Meanwhile, the International Bible Society is providing resources to help people through depression and other emotional needs. IBS has developed some scripture tools to help in seven key areas of emotional stress, which many times, hits around the holidays. Debbie DeaBueno (dee-BWAYN-oh) is the managing editor of this project. “We know that God’s word can heal hurts in lives, but sometimes giving someone a Bible is a little overwhelming. They start with page one and they get stuck in Deuteronomy or Numbers. Although the power of God’s word is there, we needed to direct people straight to some of the scripture.” DeaBueno says pointing people to scripture will turn many hearts to Christ. “Seeing that it’s okay the Jesus cried out to God in these scriptures and other Biblical characters did the same, I think it helps to know that I’m not the only one who’s ever had this problem and they received help and comfort and hope. ”