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A God bigger than numbers

By | missions, MNN, persecution, Personal Life | One Comment
Photo courtesy of Lynne Hand via Flickr, creative commons (https://flic.kr/p/CdUSJ)

Photo courtesy of Lynne Hand via Flickr, creative commons (https://flic.kr/p/CdUSJ)

Most mornings, I start my day no different from any other college student. I push snooze too many times and wake up in a panic when I realize how late it is. I quickly get dressed, wait for my coffee, and then I’m on my way.

Like many college students, I have a job. I work here, at Mission Network News. But this is no typical college job. For a few hours a day, I’m pulled out of the inward-focused world of an oblivious student to learn and write about what on earth is going on.

If you’ve been keeping up on international news, you know that things aren’t so pretty around the world. The Islamic State continues to hog the headlines with new horror stories. They post on social media, glorifying their latest and most heinous deeds.

Meanwhile, isolated families in Africa are without access to resources that will protect them against the very diseases they’re being quarantined for. Millions of people in South Sudan are on the brink of famine, but the civil war continues.

Worldwide, countries struggle against the number of orphaned children living in the streets. Many of these children, caught in the harsh cycle of poverty, face a harrowing future.

Lebanon, Western Ukraine, and many other countries fight the financial and logistical challenges created by refugee and IDP camps. The camp residents themselves are freezing or starving to death but there is little they can do about it.

Meanwhile, one of our biggest annual events back at home, the Super Bowl, continues each year to walk hand-in-hand with the exploitation of human beings through sex-trafficking.

I could literally go on forever about the trials being faced all around the world: deceitful world leaders, abused children, decades-long attempts at genocide, church burnings, and more. I could even zero in on an often-overlooked hardship– missionaries who face rejection on a daily basis by people groups who have been a burden on their hearts for years and years.

Don’t get me wrong– we don’t just write tragedy and horror. We pass on wonderful stories of redemption, perseverance, forgiveness, and overcoming. Most inspiring are the stories of people turning to God and finding hope just when they thought there was none. And with each story we cover, we’re able to offer resources and access to people who want to help.

Even so, some days this typical college student is faced with the temptation to despair. Or perhaps even worse, I’m tempted to turn back inwardly again and focus on my own issues. They certainly seem friendlier than the face of terrorism, starvation, etc.

But to do so would be to miss something extremely important. Not only is it important for me to care and help anyway I can, but it’s important to remember that God does care and can do anything.

Journalists often use cold, hard, numerical facts to convey important information. These statistics have the potential to stun and shock. All too often they’re overwhelming. But I want to remind you, God is no stranger to statistics. He is not overcome by numbers.

"I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore."(Genesis 22:17a ESV) Photo by Julie Oosterhouse

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”(Genesis 22:17a ESV) Photo by Julie Oosterhouse

In fact, our perception of God’s glory is often magnified through numbers. For instance, a nation as numerous as the number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the earth came from two people in their 90’s!

Time and time again God protected this nation when they were far outnumbered by their enemies– and he continues to do so. A God who can cover a land with innumerable locusts and frogs in a day and then remove them just as quickly can certainly lead his people out of the reach of the enemy.

God built his temple by numbers, and led 300 men into victory against the Midianites and Amalekites who were as numerous as sand.

God allowed three men to walk unscathed in a furnace that was heated seven times its normal temperature.

From a few loaves of bread and some fish, Jesus fed thousands– twice. His miracles and healings were so numerous they would fill a never-ending book.

Later on, Jesus allowed himself to be betrayed for just 30 pieces of silver. He allowed himself to be denied by a beloved disciple three times. He allowed the majority of the crowd to desire the life of a criminal more than his. Yet in three days, he rose again.

God does not operate within the bounds of numbers or quantity. His decisions aren’t based on probability, financial availability, or even ticking time. He is ruler over all these things. And through them, he is glorified.

When I’m tempted to turn away from the world’s number of horrors, and the horrors illustrated by numbers, I’m disallowing myself from seeing some of God’s glory. I am forgetting he will conquer all, that his plan is absolutely perfect, and that he is bigger and stronger than any plan according to man.

To be able to learn this as a college student and be challenged by it daily is just one of the many blessings that come with working at MNN.

Ukraine In Crisis

By | missions, MNN, news, special reports | No Comments

Ukraine (MNN) — I have been watching with dismay the situation in Ukraine. The ouster of the government, now the Russian troops that have invaded Crimea, and now an illegal referendum vote, have left the region in chaos. This is Ukraine in crisis.

(Image courtesy Sergey Rakhuba via Facebook)

(Image courtesy Sergey Rakhuba via Facebook)

It reminds me a little of the Cold War days when the Soviet Union would do things that were only in their interests, not the interests of the people. This situation, though, could have serious repercussions for the world both politically and spiritually. How?

Let’s talk about the political side first. Ukraine is wrestling with a new government that has basically divided the country. The pro-Ukrainian side appears to outnumber the pro-Russia side. Unfortunately that divide could  cause the country to lose a portion of a treasured region, Crimea. This pro-Russian mindset may be the spark of sussession. Ukraine is mobilizing troops to try and defend its sovereignty, but they don’t stand a chance.

That leads to other questions. If Ukraine attempts to defend itself, will it ask for help from the United States and he European Union? If those nations respond, will China get involved? If the United States assists Ukraine, what will that mean for the future of USA/Russian relations?

If the United States and the EU are asked to help and they don’t, what kind of message are we sending to the rest of the world? Is it a sign of weakness? Is is a sign of disinterest? Will Ukraine ultimately fall into Russian hands, creating another Soviet-like state? If the U.S. doesn’t respond, will this be the end of U.S. Influence in the region? Will Russia continue it’s invasion into Ukraine, eventually taking over the entire country?

On the spiritual side, the crisis in Ukraine is creating an uncertainty that this generation in Ukraine hasn’t seen before. Openness to the Gospel has never been better. Russia has a similar openness, which I witnessed while I was in Russia this past week.

Will the strained relations between Russia and the U.S. prevent American Christians from being able to go to Russia to help people understand the Gospel? Will short-term mission trips to socially needy parts of the country end?

These are all questions that have no answers, yet. Because there are so many questions we MUST pray. Don’t just pray for the country, pray specifically for the following:
1. Pray that Russia will leave Crimea and that peace would be restored to a sovereign nation.
2. Pray the newly appointed Ukrainian government will be given wisdom from God to be able to handle this difficult situation.
3. Pray that God would use this uncertainty to help Christians share the certainty that can only come though the Gospel.
4. Pray that the EU and the USA would be used by God to help the situation end it peace.
5. Pray each nation’s leadership would be given divine inspiration on what they should do.
6. Pray that God would use this crisis to lead entire cities and communities to Christ.
7. Pray that planned ministries would be allowed to move forward despite the uncertainty.
While these are the requests of men, pray that these requests are also the desires of our Might And Holy God.

Mission Network News will continue to cover the unfolding situation in Ukraine, including the Crimean Penninsula.

Final days in Russia

By | church planting, MNN, news, persecution | No Comments
Men watching the Russian hockey game in the Fun Zone tent.

Men watching the Russian hockey game in the Fun Zone tent.

Sochi, Russia (MNN) — The final day of ministry in Sochi, Russia wasn’t very nice. A cold rain fell on the Fun Zone all afternoon. It kept many of the usual visitors away, however it wasn’t a complete wash-out. There was both ministry, excitement and concern.

The day started with our friends from Russian Ministries and The Gideon’s International of Canada joining local and national Christians, volunteers from SOAR International in the United States for ministry at the Fun Zone.

Flashmob at the concert. Singer on big screen. Flashmob in front. They kept cutting to the group during the concert.

Flashmob at the concert. Singer on big screen. Flashmob in front. They kept cutting to the group during the concert.

Face painting, balloons animals, and crafts were all moved inside the ministry tent on the church grounds. The other activities were moved into the back annex of the church. Practice for the flash mob, also was moved inside. Oh, I didn’t tell you about the flash mob.

All week long volunteers from Russia and the United States worked on a flash mob that was to erupt during at concert Tuesday night. They worked very hard. A Christian singer was having a concert during the Olympics. When she got to the song of choice, the flash mob was supposed to start their choreography. Even though it was a rainy evening it went well.

Rahim was arrested as he handed out Scripture during a flash mob at a concert.

Rahim was arrested as he handed out Scripture during a flash mob at a concert.

One of the local Christians decided that would be a good opportunity and risk handing out Bibles. He was arrested and later released. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to interview him before we left because we left Wednesday morning. According to our friends at SOAR International, the man was arrested and released. SOAR reports, “Rahim risked it and started to give away New Testaments at during the flashmob. You can’t really do it outside of church territory. He got arrested. Now back and smiling again.”

Pray for the church in Sochi. One of the churches there is facing pressure from the governement. The government wants to reclaim the church property and sell it. The church is located on prime real estate. They city would make a lot of money from its sale. The pastor of the church is working with authorities to try and work out an agreement. If it isn’t overturned, the church will lose it’s home and the community will lose a neighbor who’s investing in their lives helping with marriages, teen problems and the Gospel.

SOAR's Richard Page (left) with MNN's Greg Yoder (left) in front of the church hostel in Sochi, Russia.

SOAR’s Richard Page (left) with MNN’s Greg Yoder (left) in front of the church hostel in Sochi, Russia.

Before leaving Sochi, I interviewed the president of SOAR International Richard Page. We talked about the project, ministry, and the future of SOAR’s involvement in Sochi. You can read the story here: http://www.mnnonline.org/news/olympic-ministry-moves-forward-despite-higher-costs/. Page tells us that the cost for doing this ministry was much more than anticipated. They failed to accurately predict the inflationary prices created by the Olympics hysteria. Food, water, everything went up because of the Winter Olympics.

Today, we’re spending our final day in Russia in St. Petersburg. The team will be spending the day see the highlights of the city. I will be visiting a little girl that I met in 2004, Sveta. She’s now 13 years old. She can’t be adopted because of some family issues. Pray for her. She’s one of those children, in the proper environment, could really thrive. I don’t know where she is spiritually, but she’s a loving little girls with a servants heart.

Mission Network News in Sochi

By | missions, travel | No Comments

While the 2014 Winter Olympics are already underway, I am waiting patiently for my flight to leave. Yes, I am leaving for the Winter Olympics on February 11 to catch up with Russian and American Christians who are working together to love those who are in Sochi. This is a grass roots ministry effort spearheaded by the Russia Inland Mission, support by SOAR International based in Alaska.

Sochi Hospitality Center.

Sochi Hospitality Center.

What’s the ministry? They have open three hospitality centers in three areas. Each center will have viewing centers, but will also provide entertainment and interaction with those who venture in. The goal is to begin relationships that open doors to eventually share Christ.

Beginning February 13, I’ll begin covering the outreach events at the centers. I’ll be interviewing local Christians,national ministry leaders, participants and maybe even athletes about their involvement. I’ll also look behind the scenes to get unique stories about God’s work at the Olympics.

I’ll be featuring stories for radio, video and here on this blog every day between February 13-19. Unfortunately I will not be there for the entire Winter Games, but I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with my brothers and sisters who are sharing their faith in Sochi.

 

The new Mission Network News Website

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

It has been long in coming. Mission Network News, after more than a year, has a new website. It hasn’t come with out a little pain. We’re still dealing with some of it, but we’re excited about what will be able to do through it. I wanted to take some time to tell you what’s new about this website.

First, the design is totally different. 2005 was the last time we redesigned our website. This website is more appealing to the eye, but it will also allow us to provide you with breaking news easily. Also, each story gives you an opportunity to interact. You can leave comments and share each story on your favorite social media outlet. Also, in each story we can use all kinds of media to tell the story including photos, video and audio.

Another update is the Mission Network News daily and weekly email news and prayer updates. The last time this service was updated was in 2005. The backbone of the service had roots to 1997 technology. It’s amazing that it served us as long as it did without any issues. The new service will allow us to be more effective in the way we not only send our email, but how we recruit new subscribers.

The new website hasn’t come without challenges. We completely renamed everything on our website, so Google is going to take some time catching up to our file system. You can help us. If you have a Google+ account, when you post links to your page, you’ll encourage Google to re-index our website, which will help us in search engine referrals.

No website is perfect. But, we believe with you help we can make it a missions website that will motivate ordinary people like you and me to tell an extraordinary message of Jesus Christ.

 

It’s Going To Be Busy

By | missions, MNN, news, persecution, special reports, urbana | No Comments

Fall is in full swing. You’re probably experienced it. If you live in the United States you’ve probably already had your homecoming weekends. The football games are underway. Your kids have already started their school and church activities and you feel more like a taxi cab driver than a parent. While you’re feeling the stresses in your household, we’re feeling the stresses at Mission Network News, too.

For us, the fall means a few things. It means getting ready for See You At the Poll, start planning for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Radio broadcast, and this year we’re getting ready to take the whole team to Urbana. While those events create stress, we’ve also added two new staff members, and we’re redesigning our website.

See You At the Pole is over, so that stress is gone. Now, we start focusing on IDOP. We have to find a speaker who will motivate. We have to find music that will be compelling and go with the subject of the persecuted church, which is never easy. Then we have to line up people to pray for areas of the world where there is persecution of Christians. Then we have to recruit radio stations. We have less than one month to do it.

Urbana is the world’s largest student mission conference. It takes place every three years. This year Urbana 12 is being held in St. Louis, Missouri. We’re taking our entire team there so we can bring coverage of the event. We’ll be providing daily coverage on our radio broadcast, but also providing long form programming that we hope many radio stations will air. So, my time will not only be getting the broadcast ready to air, but recruiting radio stations.

Our two new staff members you probably have already met. Katey Hearth replaces Elisa Talmage, who resigned in August. Kara Tucker is a part-time writer/producer. Katey is just about up-to-speed on her responsibilities. Now, she’s just fine tuning. Kara is just getting started and there will be a pretty significant learning curve for her. So, be praying for both ladies.

Next, our website is being redesigned. It has been forever since we have done this. We’re going with an entire new back-end design that is requiring a lot of time and effort. The actually look of the website is coming along nicely and I think you’ll like where we end up.

And finally, I am spending a little more time talking to donors and finding out who has a heart for missions so we can keep Mission Network News financially healthy. Overall, our revenue is off just a bit. With our current economy I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s requiring a lot more of my attention these days. The good news about that is that I get to spend more time talking to donors and people like you who value and love what we do here.

So, when i look all everything we have to do between now and December 31 it’s overwhelming. But, it’s also exciting. It’s exciting because Mission Network News has the privilege of telling countless stories of God working supernaturally all over the world. Not only that, but we get to encourage people like you to get involved in it.

Thank you for being a part of what we do here. If you feel the Lord leading you to give financially to Mission Network News, click here.

New Kid on the Block

By | india, MNN | No Comments

Yep, I’m the new kid here at Mission Network News. My name is Katey Hearth, and I’ve been working here for a whole 1.5 months. 🙂 While my preferred function is writing, I do some production work too.

I like to think of myself as the “new old”. I actually worked here for a couple of years while attending Cornerstone University. Sadly, there wasn’t a position available when I graduated; so, I spent some time at a B2B (business to business) trade magazine. This August, I returned to MNN with new appreciation and deep fervor for global missions. Especially the Dalit people of India – about six years ago, God lit a fire in my heart for these societal outcasts.

I want to see justice for the “least of these” throughout the world, not just the Dalits but oppressed women and child soldiers too.

Will you join me in prayer?

Katey Hearth added to the MNN Team

By | missions, MNN | No Comments

Katey Hearth joins MNN today!I am pleased to announce the hiring of Katey Hearth as the newest staff member of Mission Network News.

As you remember, about month ago Elisa Talmage submitted her resignation, desiring to go back to school full-time to get her masters.

That’s when MNN posted the position. We had dozens of candidates. We narrowed the field down to nine prospects. Interviewed those nine, then narrowed the field down again.

You may remember Katey. She was actually an intern here at Mission Network News when she was a student at Cornerstone University. Katey is now married and brings with her social marketing experience, writing experience, and a love and passion for God’s work around the world.

We’re thrilled to have Katey back and a part of the team full-time.

Katey’s job duties will include writing, researching, social media, producing and communicating with our ministry partners and friends.

Katey’s first day on the job is today.

Mission Network News is heard on more than 1,100 radio outlets in more than 30 countries providing news and information that encourages Christians to get out of the pew and do something for Christ. MNN is now in its 21st year of ministry.

Russia Team with Orphanage 60 camp

By | missions, MNN, news, special reports, travel | No Comments
Kids at Orphanage 60

Orphanage 60 kids at Camp

There are times when you face uncertainty. And, there are times when you wonder what God has planned. Perhaps those are one and the same. I think all of us had a little of that today as we set out to be the hands of feet of Jesus to a group of young people who live in Orphanage 60 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

However, these kids weren’t in an orphanage this week. They were at summer camp. A place they spend more of their summer, away from the busy city life. This particular camp was a former boot camp during the Soviet days of communism. We were told this camp was over 50 years old. However, many of the buildings were brand new, including a nurses station and laundry facility. They have plans to keep this camp open all year long.

However, our job was to present Jesus to them in a way they would see it, hear it, and understand it.

We started the day with breakfast in the hotel like we always do. Then, the 29 of us got on a bus and headed about 90 minutes out of town to this camp. Unfortunately, the trip had a few surprises. First, there are a few people in our group who get car sick. Secondly, there are some people in our group who weren’t feeling real well and had to answer nature’s call in the middle of no-where. However, those were the only hitches.

We arrived at the camp mid-morning. We were informed most of the boys were away at a soccer tournament. That was a little disappointing

Katya throwing football

because we have four men in our group, all of whom wanted to show interest in these young men, something they don’t get a lot of. We also wanted to hold a basketball clinic. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interest for that. So, instead, we just starting playing. We through American footballs, kicked the soccer ball, hit the volleyball around, and just ran and played.

Then, the teen group of our team took over. We split the kids up into groups. The first group played games, the second did tie-dye t-shirts, and the last group did a circle of trust. You get in a circle, blind-fold someone, and ask them to cross the circle with the guidance of someone telling you where the obstacles are located. These obstacles were sins written on paper and placed on the ground within the circle. The first time it kind of easy. Then you have people MOVING the obstacles as you try to cross the circle. Then, you have a friend help point you the way. It’s a picture of God using His Word to guide us.

After that, we had lunch at the camp. It was good. Soup, chicken, and potatoes.

Tie dye shirt making

After lunch we played volleyball, made duct tape wallets and roses, gave the girls make-overs and ended the time with a skit which in mime form, addressed certain social issues facing many of these teens. It was presented in a compelling way that helped them understand they need Jesus. While I don’t believe Jesus has any difficulty saving us, I do believe when we struggle in our sin it appears to US the Jesus struggles to take us under His wing. The reality is, we have our idols that prevent us from having a relationship with Him.

The teens watched intently to the drama. Following that, Anna gave her testimony about the struggles she has in her life. I followed up by asking the question? If you follow God, are you afraid you’ll lose your freedom? Then I pointed out they’re not really free at all because they’re trapped in their sin. They can’t escape it without Christ. They can try, but they’re slave to their sin and only Jesus’ death on the cross for evil people can rescue them. It’s His work ALONE on the cross saves us.

I think they heard. I’m praying seeds were planted and much fruit will come from them.

Tomorrow, we leave St. Petersburg and head to the Gulf of Finland for more ministry at orphan camps outside St. Petersburg.

Monday Wrap-up Video – Click here for Monday’s wrap-up video.

Russia Skit Team – click here for the skit video.