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Reports from Around the World
Mexico: The Saul of Chamula
One of The Fiercest Persecutors Of Mexican Evangelicals Now Follows Jesus
Manuel Perez Gomez is called "The Saul of Tarsus of Chamula." And for good reason.
Like Saul, who persecuted Jesus' followers, Manuel earned the reputation in the 1990s as one of the fiercest persecutors of Christians in the San Juan Chamula area of Chiapas, Mexico. For the last 30 years thousands of indigenous evangelicals near the town of Chamula have been forcefully expelled from their land, imprisoned and killed. As a cacique, or Mafia–like landowner, Manuel had the power to do what he pleased. And he loved to flex that enormous muscle.
"We didn't want Christians in Chamula....so we forced them out and threatened them," he recalls. "When people became Christians, they didn't buy posh (powerful home–made brew) from me and that made me angry. I was evil back then. I drank a lot and danced with other women. I wronged a lot of people. People were scared of me. But there was little authority, so I did what I pleased."
Life was good for Manuel and his family, which included eight children. But there was one continuing heartache. His only son had a serious illness. "My wife (Guadalupe) cried and cried for my son," he says. "I paid 5,000 pesos (approximately $450) to a witch doctor for a cure. But he couldn't cure him. It seemed hopeless."
But soon Manuel's life would never be the same. Just like Saul's life after his conversion on the road to Damascus.
Manuel heard about a Christian pastor in the area who had prayed for a sick boy. That child had been healed. So Manuel and Guadalupe made some inquiries. For a cacique to contact an evangelical pastor was unheard of in Chamula where cristo–pagan practices are the norm. But they were desperate for a miracle.
"The first thing the pastor said was that if you want real healing, you need to see God and have the love of Jesus in your heart," he says. "We prayed and I became a Christian." A group of Christians prayed for his sick son. And he was healed. Guadalupe was also healed of a sickness.
Like Saul, Manuel soon began paying the price for his new–found faith in Jesus Christ. Former cacique friends now became his worst enemies. They put a price on his head. As a result, he couldn't go into his fields. His crops failed. He lost all his money. During one attempt on his life, a total of 86 bullets were shot into his home. Fortunately, he had just moved into the nearby home of a family member.
Manuel says: "If I live, it's in the name of Jesus. If I die, it's in the name of Jesus. The Lord has protected me and my family."
Manuel, 53, and his family now attend a church in Arbenza, a community near Chamula. He also hosts a small group of men that meets in his home for Bible study. He would some day like to start a church in the Chamula area. Whether it's Saul or Manuel, nothing is impossible for the Lord!
Since the early 1980s, Open Doors has actively ministered to the persecuted church in Chiapas. "We have been working in Bible distribution, training and community development projects, with a vision to contribute to conflict resolution and reconciliation," said Richard Luna, director of Open Doors Latin America. Despite the unrelenting pressure, Luna notes, evangelical Christianity has grown steadily throughout Chiapas. Chiapas today has more Protestant Christians per capita than any state in Mexico.
USA: Pentecostals' Pursuit of Higher Education Sees "Explosive Growth"
A growing number of Pentecostals and charismatics are pursuing higher education to go along with a higher calling. Enrollment at seminaries has increased by 22 percent in the last decade, according to the Association of Theological Schools, a membership organization of graduate schools in the United States and Canada.
Vinson Synan, a well–known Pentecostal historian, says that schools that have a Pentecostal distinctive have seen "explosive growth" in recent years. Synan, dean of the divinity school at Regent University, says that enrollment at his school shot up 32 percent for the current academic year, which runs through May, while its distance–education component doubled.
Other options include modular scheduling where pastors can visit campuses for short–term studies or weekend classes.
Synan credits this growth to an increasing number of congregations who have grown beyond their pastors' training.
"They pastor very large churches with middle–class and professional people. They feel they have to get better prepared to minister to more sophisticated congregations," Synan adds.
However, Pentecostals harbored distrust for years toward higher education, he notes. Some feared education would prove a Trojan horse that would introduce liberal ideas and unbelief into the church; others felt it might quench the Spirit by embracing intellectualism.
While misgivings still exist in some quarters, Synan says Pentecostals have largely overcome such objections. The first Pentecostal Holiness Bible College, today known as Emmanuel College, opened in 1919; the first Assemblies of God liberal–arts school (Evangel College, now known as Evangel University) followed in 1955. Today, Pentecostals are making up for lost time.
"Once they moved into education they came in with a vengeance," says Synan, noting many have turned Bible schools into colleges and universities. "That reticence toward education was misguided in the sense that people could have been much more effective if they had an education.
"The idea that ignorance is good was a terrible misconception," Synan adds. "Pentecostals who understood the Scriptures knew they had nothing to fear from education."
To pastors and church officials who question the value of higher education, Bob Proy, a former pastor with more than 20 years of experience, who earned master's degrees in communication and marriage and family counseling from Oral Roberts University last May, points out that leaders are to be healers in a world where people are hurting and dealing with complex issues in every area of life.
Proy, 53, says God demands that His servants be equipped and trained to bring that healing touch. Without a well–informed touch, Proy thinks ministers can do more harm than good.
Synan agrees, noting that: "The Bible says, 'He will guide you into all truth.' So even though we have all these educational systems, colleges and so forth, in the end ... the Holy Spirit is the prime teacher, even in the classroom."
Source: Adapted from CharismaNOW http://www.charismanews.com/a.php?ArticleID=8780 Used with permission.
Kakamas, South Africa: sharing Jesus with a forgotten people
While handing out a few gospel tracts, a couple of missionaries were asked to explain them. Jennifer, a 53–year–old Coloured woman, admitted to never attending a church. Yet she seemed desperate to hear the gospel. Over the distractions of her drunken older sister, Jennifer intently listened in hope. She accepted the Lord that day. She thanked the missionaries over and over for coming to share the Good News. She said, "For the first time, now my heart feels good." Pray for Jennifer to be built up in Christ.
A hard life had hope
Siela is a 59 year old woman who shows the effects of a hard life. You can see it on her face. She admitted that she had only recently been released from jail. She gladly accepted the gospel and prayed for Jesus to come into her life. Now she has hope. Unfortunately, her daughter, Sonja, who also was just released from jail was not ready to ask Jesus in her heart. She wanted to hear the gospel and accepted a tract in her language, but she said that now was not the time.
The Coloured of the African Cape
The Northern Cape Coloureds (population of approximately 460,000) in the country of South Africa are a unique culture of racially mixed origin. They are part of the 3.2 million Coloureds living in the whole country. Their rural and rugged location has separated them from any significant evangelical Christian presence. Most are lost and deceived by an empty association with Christianity.
Even though every person and home is different, you will find a typical picture of Jesus displayed somewhere. Religion and religious pictures are not uncommon, kept around as if they are good luck ornaments. Some observers may conclude that everyone is a Christian. However, most have no idea of the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus. They do not know the true gospel. Almost all express a hunger to know more about God's Word and Jesus Christ.
Source: adapted from http://peopleteams.org/forgottenpeoples/nrthcape/nc_c_exp.htm and http://peopleteams.org/forgottenpeoples/nrthcape/nc_c_o2.htm
China: One story of persecution and spiritual gain
The most recent wave of persecution of house churches by the Chinese Government began in January 2004, when the DVD The Cross, Jesus in China became available. "Between one hundred and one thousand house church leaders are currently imprisoned, receiving sentences of up to three years," reports mission agency Open Doors. Brother Zhong from central China tells of his first imprisonment, which lasted 33 days: "All of our house church leaders were arrested in a raid by the National Security Office while we were training them. In prison, our heads were shaved, and we were interrogated for days. We were told that the other inmates were waiting for their chance to beat us up when we were sent to our cells. Up until then, every new prisoner had been beaten up. I entered my cell shaking with fear. It was a fearsome sight: sixteen other prisoners standing in two rows, fists ready. My heart was beating hard, and I prayed rapidly for help. Suddenly, the leader of the gang asked 'Why are you here?' 'Because I am a Christian,' I answered, timidly, expecting the first blows. 'You don't beat people up?' he asked. 'No,' I answered. The next question surprised me: 'Can you sing?' 'Yes,' I replied, wondering where this was heading. The gang leader told me to sing. The song 'I give myself as a seed' came to mind, so I sang. The words are:
Who doesn't have a brother or sister?
Who doesn't have a wife and child?
Who doesn't want to be with his family?
Who doesn't want to be among his relatives?
But if the Lord calls me to carry His Cross,
I would ignore them all, even if they passed by my house.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I sang. The Holy Spirit came in our midst, and half of the other prisoners were in tears when I finished. The leader stepped forward and clapped me on the shoulder. He then asked me to read the Gospel to them. They wanted to hear it every day. One day, when we sang again, a guard came to ask what we were doing, and who was responsible. I stood up, and was punished. I had to take off my clothes and stand against the wall in a very uncomfortable position. The leader stood up and demanded to be punished as well. Many of the others also stood up, demanding the same punishment. The guard became very angry, and stormed out of the cell. One of the other inmates became a Christian that day. I was released soon afterwards, because my wife managed to pay my bail of 150 Euro. My time in prison impaired my health, but the spiritual gain was worth far more. I am very grateful to God."
Source: Brother Zhong, Open Doors. By way of FridayFax 2004/28. Used with permission.
Iran: Underground Church's "Spontaneous Growth" Amid Persecution
Despite tragedy and persecution, a vibrant underground church is growing in Iran. After an earthquake on Dec. 26 devastated Bam and buried thousands of people under the rubble of their homes, Western churches sent relief to the ancient Iranian city.
With the situation in Bam opening doors previously shut, missions leaders believe the compassionate response of the worldwide church to the disaster could be a catalyst for the nation's explosive church growth.
Iran is located in the biblical region of ancient Persia — the home of such Bible heroes as Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel. Acts 2 lists Elamites, Parthians and Medes (all Iranians) among those present at the feast of Pentecost celebration in the first century when the Holy Spirit came in power.
Today, the church in Iran is growing — spurred by a fresh, sweeping move of the Holy Spirit and strengthened through the fellowship of suffering believers. Missions experts estimate 20,000–30,000 indigenous evangelical and Pentecostal believers today, most of them from Muslim backgrounds. Some experts — citing an unknown number of "secret" believers — claim the true figure could be much higher.
"In the last 20 years, more Iranians have come to Christ compared to the last 14 centuries," said Lazarus Yeghnazar, 55, an Iranian–born evangelist now based in Great Britain. "We've never seen such a phenomenal thirst," he added.
Missiologist Patrick Johnstone, co–author of "Operation World," estimated that Iran has 17,000 evangelicals, 7,000 charismatics and 4,000 Pentecostals. With annual church growth of 7.5 percent, Pentecostalism is the fastest–growing religious movement in Iran.
Everywhere, the charismatic influence is strong. Many indigenous churches practice prophecy and healing. Services, which are marked by vibrant worship and fervent prayer, can last for hours.
"They are hungry to learn, eager to discuss the Bible and, in particular, Jesus. They're searching for the truth." explained Tom White, director of The Voice of the Martyrs, an Oklahoma–based ministry to persecuted Christians worldwide.
He noted that the courage and spiritual passion of Iranian believers is a key factor in the "spontaneous growth" of Iran's house–church movement. Driven underground by persecution, thousands of Iranian Christians — as many as 30,000, according to White — meet in homes. They switch locations to avoid detection.
"In the past eight years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of converts from Islam," White said. "Much of the evangelism goes on inside people's homes."
Most Iranian believers shun the few official, state–sanctioned churches because the secret police scrutinize church membership rolls to root out what they call Muslim "apostates."
Although violent persecution has subsided, conversion to Christianity during the last decade has resulted in beating, imprisonment, torture and even execution. Despite the risks, some congregations continue to worship publicly — even placing crosses on the front of their buildings.
Constitutionally, the rights of other religions are guaranteed but closely monitored. Christian proselytism is forbidden.
Source: Adapted from CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=9346 Used with permission.
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We are looking for stories about what God is doing in the world, reports about the persecution of Christians, and information about significant trends and ministry opportunities. If you have a news item to report, please send an email to the Informer
- See other news to pray and praise God about in the Prayer Requests department below
Resources You Can Use
Resources for Chaplains and Christian Military Personnel
has interesting and informative articles and tools for outreach in Iraq and everywhere US Armed Services personnel find themselves. From their web site, "As a ministry of Mission to Unreached Peoples, Operation Reveille mobilizes military Christians to seize their unique opportunity to understand and support God's work in overseas regions where they are professionally committed."
Articles recently featured
- 3 Reasons Why a Good Testimony by Service Christians is Imperative
- Spiritual Profile on Pakistan
- Eternal Perspective on Abu Ghraib Prisoner Treatment
- A University Prof's Perspective on Rising Non–Western Christianity
- The Ambitions of Chinese Missionaries
- Church/State Developments in India
- Outreach Tools for Iraq
- Reception of the Gibson Passion Film in the Mid–East
- Opportunity to Help Iraqi Kids and Military Christian Fellowships
Thanks to www.Brigada.org for information about this resource.
Christian Workers "Find a Place of Rest" From Hospitality Ministry
A unique hospitality ministry seeks to give full–time Christian workers some rest and relaxation. The burdens that go along with ministry have inspired innkeepers worldwide to offer their hotels and getaways as a place of refreshing and renewal. They have joined the Christian Hospitality Network (CHN), which within a year has attracted 880 lodging properties that offer a minimum 25 percent midweek discount to ministers.
Tell us about Your Resources
These innkeepers subscribe to the practice of hospitality as a Christian virtue, pointing to the Bible's instruction in Hebrews 13:2 to "eagerly show hospitality to strangers because in so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it." This belief has fueled the early success of the CHN, along with the dedication of its founder, Paul Cowell.
"Over 1,800 full–time Christian workers leave the field every month due to the stresses of the ministry." "We [Christian innkeepers] have the opportunity to help pastors, ministers and missionaries find a place to get the rest they need to continue the battle God has called them to," he added.
Cowell, who was pastor of Christ Chapel in Knoxville, Tenn., for 25 years, built Whitestone Country Inn, a luxurious AAA Four–Diamond estate in Kingston, Tenn.
Touted as "A Sanctuary for the Soul," the bed and breakfast quickly has earned a reputation for excellence and quality within the hotel industry. Set on 360 acres on Watts Bar Lake, Whitestone includes a 21–bedroom inn, three conference rooms, three dining rooms, 12 miles of walking trails and a wedding chapel meticulously built to replicate a historic Anglican church.
For more information about the Christian Hospitality Network, visit www.christianhospitalitynetwork.org.
Source: Adapted from CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=9364 Used with permission.
Does your ministry, church, or business offer resources that would be helpful to other Christians? Tell us about it by send information to Member Services: http://www.pneumafoundation.org/contactus.jsp
Thoughts to Ponder
"It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither."
– C. S. Lewis
"A gentle word opens an iron gate."
– Bulgarian Proverb
"People who do not grasp how much God Himself wants to maintain relationship with us end up feeling resentful towards Him. They feel angry guilt. But what a contrast this is to the truth about God; His love is so powerful, His desire for eternal closeness with us is so compelling that He was willing to give up everything most valuable to Him in order to reestablish lost relationship with us. What He sacrificed and why He had to restore our broken relationship with Him is really the story of the Bible."
– Daniel A. Brown
"In the kingdom of heaven, suffering is the path to true greatness and fulfillment and joy. He or she who wishes to save their life will lose it (Lk. 9:23–24). What did Jesus mean by that? Instead of control and power and strength, and holding tightly onto everything you have, the kingdom of heaven is more characterized by trust and obedience and acceptance and submission and letting go and, yes, weakness and the cross and suffering. The Apostle Paul said it very succinctly in 2 Cor. 12:9, when he said, 'Jesus power shows up best in weak people' (LB)."
– David Dean
"When people abandon the truth, they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything."
– G.K. Chesterton
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- Pray for believers in China: More than 100 house-church leaders were recently arrested in the country's central region, part of a growing crackdown on worship outside the state–controlled church. On June 11, about 50 policemen raided a religious retreat held by the China Gospel Fellowship (CGF) in the city of Wuhan, located in Hubei province, according to China Aid Association (CAA), a U.S.–based human–rights group. The whereabouts of those arrested are still unknown, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
A senior CGF leader, Xing Jinfu, 39, was among those detained. Jinfu has been arrested at least three times before for his church activities and was sentenced to three years re–education through labor in 1996 for his "illegal preaching." Police also detained pastor Shen Xianfeng, CGF's leader, who was put under house arrest after authorities searched the house where he was recovering from leg injuries.
The CGF was established in the mid–1980s and is one of the five major house–church groups with an estimated membership of at least 5 million. CAA said the communist government ordered a new crackdown on independent religious groups following a recent conference on religious affairs, the AP reported.
Meanwhile, a well–known house–church leader was recently released from custody after publicity raised by international pressure. According to the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Zhao Wenquan, 60, was freed two weeks after his May 9 arrest in Hegou Town, located in Anhui province.
He was arrested when police raided a group of more than 4,000 Christians gathered for a special harvest celebration. Wenquan reportedly suffered only "minor beatings" during his incarceration and was in good spirits after his release.
He has been working in the nation's unregistered churches for more than 30 years. About a dozen other church leaders who escaped arrest on the day of the harvest celebration are still on the run, VOM said.
Elsewhere, house–church leader Gu Xianggao, 28, was beaten to death on April 27 while in custody of authorities. Xianggao Gu was a teacher in the 500,000–member church group known as "Three Grades Servants," based in Heilongjiang province, located in northeast China.
The authorities reportedly paid Xianggao's family about $28,000 in local currency to stay silent in an attempt to cover up his murder, VOM said. In addition to Xianggao, police also arrested Three Grades Servants leader Xu Shuangfu, who has been arrested more than 20 times, and spent more than 20 years in prison.
"Our brothers and sisters in China still desperately need our prayers and support," said VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton. "While the release of Brother Zhao is good news, persecution of Chinese Christians is not going away."
Source: CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=9288 Used with permission.
- Pastor Plamen in Northeast Bulgaria writes: "Please, pray for our youths since many of them who have unbelieving parents are forced to marry at the age of 13. Gipsy teenagers and young women are still sold by their parents to their husband–to–be."
- Pray for believers in Iran: The wife and children of a pastor have been released from jail after their arrest in the country's northern region, but the minister and another church leader remain imprisoned in an unknown jail. Khosroo Yusefi and a fellow Christian from Chalous are reportedly being held in the vicinity of Sari, a city near the Caspian Sea, Compass Direct reported.
But since June 8, when other church leaders jailed with them were released, local Christians have been unable to make contact with the two remaining prisoners. "Nobody can visit them yet," an Iranian Christian told Compass, "and they have not been allowed to see a lawyer."
Yusefi was arrested and imprisoned on May 23 with his wife, Nasrin, and two teenage children. A week later, his family was released and allowed to return home. Converted from the Baha'i religion nearly 20 years ago, Yusefi was overseeing a number of unregistered Assemblies of God house churches at the time of his arrest.
The families of the church leaders arrested currently have no means of regular financial support. No known charges have been filed against Yusefi and the other church leader.
Source: CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=9375 Used with permission.
- Ezekiel in Kenya, Africa has sent this request: "keep praying for me that I may get a sponsor who will stand with me as I will be studying M.A in Bible and Theology. For now I am teaching at Nairobi Pentecostal Bible College. This College offers diploma in Bible and Theology. But from next year the College will be offering a degree and all teachers like me who don't have Masters have been asked to increase their studies. If not we shall not continue teaching. Therefore, I request you to continue sharing my need with your staff and all your members. May God bless, Ezekiel."
- For a second time this year, a 17-year-old Christian girl reportedly has been kidnapped by militants trying to force her to convert to Islam. According to Barnabas Fund,
the girl, whose name was not identified, was abducted on June 2 from a district in Cairo, and local police supposedly aided the Muslim abductors, Assist News Service (ANS) reported.
Barnabas Fund, which urged prayer for the girl, said the latest incident was part of a development in Egypt where "police have overlooked and sometimes even aided Muslim men in stealing Christian girls from their families and abusing them in the name of Islam."
The human–rights organization noted that the girl's family was "completely devastated," as they already "endured a horrific ordeal since she was abducted [the first time] in April after leaving the house.
During her initial abduction on April 6, she reportedly was sexually abused and drugged. Barnabas Fund said her abductors allegedly tried "to force her to convert to Islam, and one now claims to be her husband," ANS reported.
Egyptian law specifically forbids the marriage of a girl under 21 without her parents' consent and also makes it illegal to convert a Christian girl under the age of 18.
Source: CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=9440 Used with permission.
- Rev. Christopher P. Amolo writes: "We would like you to pray and believe God together with us for the following needs: Financial break through, land and establish Technical Training, women program, widow, orphans, HIV/AIDS program, Agricultural and office building."
- Tom Felten met with his oncologist on July 1 who confirmed that his tests show that he now has no cancer. Let us join with him in praising the Lord for His healing and mercy!
- Todd Hunter, who has served as the national director of the Association of Vineyard Churches, has been named president of Alpha USA. Some 7,000 churches use Alpha's introductory course about Christianity. Source: http://www.erickeck.com/2004/05/29
- Believers in Iran released: A pastor who was arrested with his wife and children in Chalous, a city along the Caspian Sea coast, was recently released from prison. On July 6, Khosroo Yusefi and another believer were freed. They are reportedly the last of several dozen Christians arrested throughout May in the province of Mazanderan and later freed by police, Compass Direct reported.
Yusefi's wife, Nasrin, and the couple's two teenage children were released after a week in detention in May. In his late 40s, Yusefi converted to Christianity from the Baha'i religion nearly 20 years ago and gives pastoral supervision to several unregistered Assemblies of God house churches in the Caspian region.
A source told Compass that the jailed Christians were ordered to stop meeting for worship and to "stop talking about Jesus." The theocratic Islamic republic forbids proselytizing among Muslims.
Any Muslim who converts from Islam to another faith faces the death penalty. The recent police crackdown in the country's northern region targeted the spreading house–church movement, made up mostly of former Muslims who have come to faith in Christ.
Source: CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=9461 Used with permission.
- Drs. Fidel and Melody M., medical missionaries in southeast Asia, have sent us a praise report about their daughter: "Just a few days after sending an email to you regarding Monica's asthma attacks, she significantly improved. Praise the Lord! Our God indeed is responding to combined prayers. And we know Monica's body is responding to God's healing power. Though she's still not 'out of the woods,' her asthma attacks have decreased and her sleep has improved... that means Mel and I are sleeping better too =) Monica's medications are almost out. Next week I (Fidel) will have to go to Bangkok to get her asthma medications, which are not available in Cambodia. Micah's respiratory infection is also subsiding. We thought we had enough meds supply from the Philippines but the last weeks required that we use their medications more frequently than we expected."
Please send us your prayer requests and praise reports. We have a great God who always meets our needs.
If you would like more information about how you may help in meeting these needs, please contact Member Services.