November News

Hurricanes Challenge Aid Efforts

First it was Tropical Storm Bonnie. Then it was hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne that ravaged the Caribbean and the southern U.S. In Grenada, Hurricane Ivan left 60,000 people homeless, representing two-thirds of the country's population. Jeanne, the sixth hurricane of the season, left more than 600 dead in Haiti, according to Sept. 21 reports.

In Cuba alone, damage from hurricanes Charley and Ivan was estimated at $1 billion. Similar figures can only be expected from other countries as their infrastructures and buildings were destroyed or left compromised from relentless winds, rains, and flooding from the back-to-back hurricanes. Charley ripped through Cuba in mid-August, followed by Frances which arrived in the Bahamas the first weekend of September. Ivan, the worst hurricane to hit the Caribbean in more than a decade, made its way through Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic before invading the U.S.

In the U.S., as of Sept. 20, more than 1,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from 15 states were assisting victims of Hurricane Ivan's remnants as far north as Wheeling, W.Va. And disaster relief units from North Carolina and Tennessee were continuing their response to in-state flooding problems in western North Carolina and the Chattanooga, Tenn., area.

"We're doing feeding sites where people are standing in line for blocks to come by and get our food," said Jim Burton, director of the Southern Baptist's North American Mission Board's Disaster Relief Operations Center near Atlanta. In Flomaton, Ala., a mobile kitchen stationed at Little Escambia Baptist Church operated a drive-thru service for cars lined up for at least two miles. Burton expected meal distributions to increase significantly once American Red Cross vehicles were able to deliver meals into neighborhoods and communities decimated by the storm.

Burton said of the 60 disaster relief units which were on site in the hurricane-stricken region, about one-third of the units were mobile kitchens. Most of the other units on site were chainsaw and recovery teams as well as mobile shower units.

Salvation Army spokesman Maj. George Hood said the unprecedented series of storms in the southeastern U.S. has stretched the denomination's resources and staff to near breakpoint. "Our expectation is that we are spending an excess of $40 million in response to these various disasters," he said. The Salvation Army is part of the Christian Emergency Network. "It's very important that the body of Christ pray for these people," Hood says. "Pray that resources will be made available for us to respond in the way that we believe we need to respond."

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) airlifted nearly 150,000 pounds of emergency supplies to Kingston, Jamaica, for distribution to those affected by Ivan. Included were plastic sheeting, soap, powdered milk, baby cereal, tarpaulins, and rope. ADRA coordinated its relief with other non-governmental organizations as well as local and government authorities to provide only specifically requested items.

Robin Mahfood, president and chief executive officer of Food for the Poor, reported that Ivan destroyed many lives and property in Jamaica. "Houses are flattened. Families in Portland Cottage helplessly watched their children swept away by raging floodwaters," he said in an email to ministry supporters. "We need to raise $3.5 million to help hurricane victims in the Caribbean who lost loved ones and homes."

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union. "It seems clear that we are going to need resources to assist several of our members and communities to get back some semblance of normality and we would welcome whatever assistance could be provided." Some of the greatest needs include "drinking water, tarpaulins, mattresses, and such things to make life more livable until people can go back to their homes."

Mission Network News/Adventist Press Service/Assist News Service/Baptist World Alliance Information Service/Baptist Press

Record Numbers Gather for School Prayer Rallies

Initial reports indicate record numbers of students turned out for the 15th annual See You at the Pole prayer rallies at schools across the world Sept. 15. Final totals for this year's participation are not available yet, but last year the event drew more than 2 million teens in all 50 states and on six continents.

During the past 14 years, millions of teenagers worldwide have circled around flagpoles for See You at the Pole, taking the opportunity to intercede for their friends, their schools, their countries and prominent issues in the world today. Some pray silently, some aloud. Most sing worship songs as well.

"Ascend: Clean Hands. Pure Heart" was the theme for this year's rally, based on Psalm 24:3-4. According to Doug Clark, a national spokesman for See You at the Pole, "The only explanation for the remarkable turnout is that God wants to raise up students to pray."

Baptist Press

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Goats Open Doors for Gospel

Many Gypsy families living in Arab lands are nomadic, often camping in the middle of the desert in tents made of canvas, with wooden poles. In most countries they are societal outcasts, denied jobs and opportunities. Children resort to begging on city streets or rummaging through dumpsters in search of food scraps.

Native missionaries realize that in order to reach these ostracized people, they must meet practical needs. Also, in a few Islamic countries, openly preaching Christ can result in death, so practical outreaches are a more effective and safe way to spread the gospel. Thus the "goat outreach": Gospel workers give poor Gypsy families goats for free, as long as they agree to use the animals as a consistent form of livelihood and not sell them for quick money. Not only do goats provide families milk and meat; they also give missionaries a reason to visit Gypsies regularly, building relationships that often lead to open discussions of the Christian faith. For those Gypsies who already know Christ, the visits can be times of discipleship as well.

Mission Insider

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Release of 3 Missionaries in India Called Miracle

Three native missionaries with Gospel for Asia (GFA) who were captured and threatened with death in India's northeastern state of Bihar were released by anti-Christian militants "in a miraculous turn of events," reported GFA on Sept. 10. The hostage takers had threatened to kill Pastor Manrathan, his wife and a "Bible woman" named Sarita within 48 hours for "desecrating a village with the gospel" unless a ransom of 25,000 Indian rupees (US$540) was paid. They were "severely beaten and tied to a sacred tree by an anti-Christian group," said GFA President K.P. Yohannan in a message to his organization's supporters. Yohannan said the believers' release "answered the prayers of thousands of believers worldwide."

Assist News Service via MissionNet

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India's Fastest-Growing Religion Is Islam

While Hinduism is the predominant religion in India, Islam is the country's fastest-growing minority religion, says David DeGroot of Mission India, a ministry based in Grand Rapids, Mich. He points to the high birthrate among Muslim families. However, this segment of society is also the most open to the gospel, especially the women among whom literacy rates are low and abuse is high, and they are looking for help, DeGroot says. "We've seen Muslims filtering into our programs in a number of states [of India]. This is a tremendous statement of many things, including their acceptance of Christianity and their rejection of the old Islamic values that have kept them down for centuries." DeGroot is excited about this opportunity. "I would call this a new development in the last few years. Reaching Muslims years ago was an extremely rare thing. Now in India they're appearing in our programs all across the board—church planting, Bible content in adult literacy, and a large number of Muslim children in children's Bible clubs."

Mission Network News via MissionNet

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Rwanda Asks 500,000 Bibles for AIDS Victims

As HIV/AIDS spreads in the African country of Rwanda, the government is concerned not only about people's physical problems, but also their spiritual needs, says Rochunga Pudaite, founder and president of Bibles for the World. "Almost 60 percent of the population in that country is infected with HIV," he says. "We met with the president [Paul Kagame], and he made a very strong appeal that these people are going to die. He asked, Would you be so kind enough to provide Bibles?'" Pudaite says the people are more open to the gospel because they know they're dying. "They're suffering with AIDS. They do not have a Bible. The president is appealing that we provide half a million Bibles right away so that these HIV-infected people will have a chance to read the Bible at least once in their lifetime before they die."

Mission Network News

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Christian TV Brings Hope to Iraqi Believers

The recent departure of an estimated 40,000 Christians from Iraq in areas where fierce battles rage between coalition forces and terrorist supporters could lead to a "very disastrous situation," says Glen Hartson of SAT-7 which beams Christian programming to the Middle East and Egypt. If the exodus continues, evangelism will be affected, further exacerbating the situation. The broadcasts are playing a key role in helping the church "grow and be strengthened," he says. Ironically, the mass departure of Iraqi Christians has resulted indirectly from the liberation of Iraq and is largely due to the tension and fighting between the coalition forces and terrorists. Iraqi Christians have gone from living in relative security to living in constant danger, Hartson explains. While Iraqi Christians are caught in the middle of a tense political situation, the ministry is urging believers to maintain a presence and witness in the troubled country.

Religion Today/Agape Press via MissionNet

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Former Soviet Areas Hunger for Gospel

Christian ministry leaders in several countries of Eastern Europe have been encouraged lately by the receptiveness of their countrymen to the gospel. This comes against the backdrop of hearts hardened by numerous civil wars, low growth of the sluggish economy, and resulting unemployment. In addition, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches have picked up the mantle of religious persecution where the communists left it, opposing evangelical groups in most Eastern European countries. In fact, in some of these countries, there are fewer evangelical Christians than there are in countries considered "third world."

But recently in Bulgaria, a native pastor reported a revival began when a visiting pastor from Korea encouraged believers to begin daybreak prayer meetings. Now, 110 people meet at 5:00 a.m. daily. The pastor says, "This was one of the strongest things I have ever experienced–to see more than a hundred people praying strongly hand-in-hand before the Lord." He went on to say that many new people have been added to this fellowship, including some who had been adversaries of the church, even resorting to smashing windows with rocks. They, along with some of the community's most hopeless drunkards, have repented and given their lives to Christ.

Mission Insider

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Christianity Makes Inroads in Satanic Strongholds

Animistic and spiritist religions are rampant in much of Africa, sometimes demanding human sacrifices as witchdoctors keep entire communities in fearful submission. Christians are often accused of "angering the gods" and chased from their homes or sentenced to death for "offending" a deity. The Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin reported that about a month ago Nigerian police raided at least 11 shrines and were shocked by what they found: 30 skulls, 50 decaying human corpses and five fresh dead bodies. In another part of Nigeria, a Christian woman and her family had to run away from patrons of an animist shrine. They claimed that their "god" had chosen this woman to be its priestess. When she refused because of her Christian beliefs, followers of the idol sentenced her and her family to death. Despite such incidents, native missionaries persevere in spreading the gospel among animist tribes, and they are seeing "great breakthroughs" in their evangelistic outreach to spiritist communities. One ministry in Benin, a country known worldwide as the "cradle of voodoo," reported that 300 animist chiefs and witches have given their lives to Christ in recent months.

Religion Today/Christian Aid Mission via MissionNet

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Christians Compete with Communists

Native missionaries have long faced difficulty from the New People's Army (NPA), a communist guerrilla group, in some rural areas of the Philippines. Communists try to keep all "outsiders" away from tribal communities, particularly Christians.

In response to this opposition, missionaries have developed creative strategies that enable them to reach the lost and train new believers despite the terrorists. One indigenous ministry has established a training center in a city surrounded by tribal villages. Tribal believers are brought to the center and taught basics of church planting and evangelism.

They are also trained in different aspects of agriculture, such as growing bananas or mangoes and raising pigs, chickens, or cows. The missionaries can then return to their mountain villages with valid means of making a living, enabling them to provide for their families and avoid the suspicious eye of the communists. Income from farming also helps support Bible schools they establish near their homes.

Education is another important tool in spreading the gospel to tribal areas. One ministry works to remedy this problem through a school for tribal gospel workers and their children. Not only are they given a basic education; they are also trained to return to their villages and establish their own schools so they may educate new generations in the name of Christ.

Mission Insider

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