Next, while the United States was handing over the Panama Canal, missionaries were renewing their fervor for the hearts of the Panamanian people. Missionary Mark Fuller with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board is working in small communities that have sprung up in the Canal Zone. Since 1982,100-thousand people have moved into this 10-mile area. Fuller is asking for prayer as the Canal Zone is a difficult place to minister. He says spiritual apathy, and economic depression are their biggest concerns.
“Change” is defined as an alteration, a shift or a transition from one thing to another. It is that description that has caused some Christian groups to focus their efforts on the church. The subtle movement frames Global Advance’s Dr. David Shibley’s thoughts on evangelism and the Great Commission in the 21rst century. “I think it’s very vital that we come into an important, respecting, honorable partnership with what some call the ‘third world churches’ because they are the ones that are really leading the charge in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.” Shibley thinks the American church will soon be learning about the risks involved with servanthood in the body of Christ. “I believe the Lord is going to allow us, in the American church, to become ready for this, even by tasting persecution, here in the United States as well so that we can really partner in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering with our brothers and sisters around the world.”
Elsewhere, the Flying Hospital is teaming up with Operation Blessing for a special medical missions trip to Pueblo, Mexico. Flying Hospital’s Kristin Vischer says the February trip is aimed at this area because: ” We are going to Pueblo, Mexico because it is one of the hardest hit Mexican states that just went through a recent earthquake and that earthquake caused floods. Because of a lot of infection and disease and things result in floods and stagnant water, we’re going to be going in there with a clinic.” Vischer says the people who visit the hospital during the clinics will also be exposed to the Gospel. “Our sponsor, Operation Blessing, will be having a counseling area in the clinic site where, as the people get treated, they’ll go through the counseling area. If they choose to, they can sit down with a counselor, and we’ll give them a free Bible. Also, World Reach is going to be doing some evangelistic activities.”
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.