February News from around the World

ARABIAN GULF: Frontiers Begins New “Gap” Program
Frontiers will soon begin a new “Gap” program in the Arabian Gulf. In the past, the program, which prepares new overseas workers through on-the-job training, has been held in northern Iraq. The new program will operate in the Arabian Gulf where Muslims are less needy and the cost of living is higher. More than eighty Gap workers have been sent to Iraq in the last five years, and more than seventy percent of Gap graduates go on to long-term service with Frontiers or other agencies. (Frontiers)

AROUND THE WORLD: Youth Gearing Up for Online Mission Trip
Nearly two thousand teens have signed up to participate in the “Online Mission Trip,” an organized effort to inundate popular social networking sites with the message of Christ. For two weeks, 1–14 February 2009, students from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Bermuda, and elsewhere will electronically share the gospel with those both far away and right next door. Training for the event was held in January. Participants will upload videos and photos, post links and blogs, and use status updates to share their personal walks with God. (Assist News)

JAARS, established in 1948 by Wycliffe Bible Translators co-founder William Cameron Townsend, has acquired a new Kodiak aircraft. JAARS is the first mission or humanitarian organization to purchase and receive the new plane, which it will use in its mission to provide support to Bible translation efforts. The Kodiak comes at a time when JAARS’ primarily piston-driven fleet is aging to the point of affecting the group’s ability to carry out its work. The Kodiak seats ten, has a turboprop engine capable of short take-offs and landings, uses jet fuel, and can carry a 3,100-pound load. (Assist News)

CHINA: Pastor Escorted Out of Beijing Again
According to ChinaAid, on 18 December 2008, Pastor “Bike” Zhang Mingxuan was forcibly escorted out of Beijing by Public Security Bureau officers. The officers dropped Mingxuan off in Hubei with twenty yuan to pay for a hotel room. This was the second time in two weeks the pastor had been forcibly escorted out of Beijing. The previous incident occurred 9 December 2008, when police broke into a home where Mingxuan was staying with another pastor. ChinaAid reports there have been a series of attacks by government officials against Mingxuan and the house church network of which he is president, the Chinese House Church Alliance. In October 2008, Mingxuan and his family were reportedly kicked out of their homes, his sons beaten, and he and his wife held by police for several days. (ChinaAid)

CONGO: Hundreds Killed in Christmas Massacre
Several news sources have reported that a Christmas massacre took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing an estimated four hundred people. The killing spree is reported to have happened in various villages in northeastern Congo. One of the sites was a Catholic church where forty-five civilians, mostly women and children, were reportedly hacked to death. Ugandan officials are said to be placing blame on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Uganda-based rebel group. The LRA denies responsibility for the attacks on 25 December 2008 and in the days following. Armies of Uganda, south Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo were reported to have carried out a joint offensive against the LRA in mid-December after its leader refused to sign a peace deal. (Mission Network News)

FINLAND: Nokia Revival Gathers Thousands over the Years
Over the past eighteen years an estimated fifteen thousand people have come to Jesus through the “Nokia Revival,” a celebration that began when former Lutheran vicar Markku Koivisto was miraculously healed of terminal cancer in 1991. After Koivisto parted with the Lutheran Church, the revival continued and is now a denomination called Nokia Mission Church. The revival has reportedly helped heal many others and has been the starting point of numerous church cell groups. In the highly-secularized, sparsely-populated region of northern Europe, gatherings the size of the Nokia Revival are unusual. Finland has an estimated population of about five million people, with only ten percent attending church each month. (Assist News)

GAZA: Palestinian Christians Caught in the Middle
A Baptist church located near a police station targeted by Israeli bombs was reportedly destroyed by the strikes in the Gaza Strip. Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA described the crisis in Gaza as an “unprecedented amount of violence against the Palestinian people.” Moeller said Palestinian Christians are not accepted by Israel nor by their own community, leaving them caught in the crossfire. (Mission Network News)

GAZA: World Vision Appeals for Aid to Thousands Suffering in Violence
World Vision (WV) has launched an appeal for $1 million USD to provide emergency assistance to fifty thousand of the most affected people in Gaza. As soon as the situation in Gaza permits, WV plans to provide food parcels to the most vulnerable families. WV will also distribute blankets and other basic supplies to help them cope short term. “Our priority now is to assist those who are living in intolerable conditions with limited access to food, water, or medical facilities,” said Charles Clayton, WV’s national director for Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza. “Eighty percent of the people in Gaza are already dependent on food aid, and even those who had relied on a meager daily income now find that it is no longer available.” WV continues to advocate for a complete cessation of violence, and for all parties to respect International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention. (World Vision)

INDIA: Gospel for Asia Missionaries Arrested
In December 2008, radical Hindu activists brought a church construction project to a halt in Uttar Pradesh, India. The extremists descended on the church, placing vermillion-red flags on the building, which was a sign that the building had been taken for Hindu use. Gospel for Asia (GFA) missionary Kushal Samuel was arrested after trying to talk to the extremists; GFA district leader Harish Kumar was beaten and also taken to jail by the attackers. Although false charges were invented by the attackers, police later released both men. Church construction, however, remained halted. (Gospel for Asia)

INDIA: Supreme Court Orders Protection for Orissa Christians
India’s Supreme Court has ordered authorities in Orissa to provide protection to thousands of Christians who fled their homes last year during some of the worst religious violence in decades. Founder and president of Serve India Ministries, Ebenezer Samuel, said the court’s decision is significant and not just a political statement. Violence against Christians broke out in August 2008 after the murder of a local Hindu leader. Samuel said that despite the violence, church growth has not slowed. “The Christians in Orissa are not going to abandon their faith,” he said. (Mission Network News)

JAPAN: The Manga Messiah Comes to Japan
Operation Mobilization (OM) workers will be using a new tool, The Manga Messiah, to communicate the gospel in Japan. Published by New Life League, the 300-page comic book depicts Jesus’ life from birth to resurrection. Comics in Japan are enjoyed by all age groups, with Manga now a large part of the Japanese publishing industry. During the Christmas season, The Manga Messiah was passed out by volunteers to busy shoppers in the town of Karuizawa. One missionary stated, “For reaching the Japanese, this book is far more effective than showing the JESUS film.” (Assist News)

LATIN AMERICA: Latin America Mission Appoints New President
Cypress Community Church (Salinas, California, USA) pastor Steven Rayford Johnson has been appointed the new president of the Latin America Mission. Johnson will take office in early February, succeeding the interim president, Jack Voelkel. Johnson was commissioned in 1987 to serve in Argentina with OC International. There, he co-pastored an Argentine church for four years alongside the president of the Argentine National Association of Evangelicals. He and the OC team developed a ministry that drew together leaders, pastors, and teachers from Argentina and Chile to provide interdenominational support, training, and encouragement. (Latin America Mission)

MALDIVES: Non-Muslims Declared Non-citizens
In December 2008, the Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP) released a full legal analysis of the new Maldivian constitution, which the agency had been watching since August 2008 for its tough stance against religious freedom. While the constitution offers new protections for human rights, including freedom of assembly and expression, the document is severely restrictive in that article 9(d) states, “A non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives.” Recommending that the article be removed, the IRPP noted that such reform would be unlikely without significant international pressure. (Institute on Religion and Public Policy)

PAKISTAN: Christians’ Homes Destroyed for Building of a Stable
International Christian Concern reported that a powerful Muslim village elder and his nephews forcibly evicted approximately thirty impoverished Christian families from their homes to make way for a livestock stable. The incident has left the families homeless in their village near Lahore, Pakistan. Boota Masih, a local Christian elder, said the hard-line Muslim leader of the Kotla Punjubaig village and his nephews carried deadly firearms when they invaded the homes and tossed the people and their belongings out. The leader, Muhammad Mansha, appeared to have permission from local officials in the Land Requisition Department to take over the land where the homes were located. (International Christian Concern)

THAILAND: Book of Hope Continues Working Despite Unrest
Amidst months of political unrest leading up to the selection of a new prime minister, Book of Hope, a ministry based in Florida, was able to continue its regular work in Thailand despite turmoil that included protestors occupying Bangkok’s main international airport for several days in November 2008. The organization is piloting a new method in distributing its materials, including working directly with families. Innovation manager Wayne Brown believes the recent upheaval in Thailand has led to its people being more receptive to the gospel. (Mission Network News)

UNITED KINGDOM: Summer School Training in Jewish Evangelism
UK-based Christian Witness to Israel (CWI) will offer training in sharing the gospel with the Jewish community. “A Kosher Encounter,” held in North London at CWI’s International Summer School, will explore Jewish life, culture, faith, and history. Attendees will meet experienced workers and share the gospel in the heart of London’s Jewish community. The program will be held 21–30 July 2009. (Christian Witness to Israel)

UNITED KINGDOM: New Leader for Evangelical Alliance
Steve Clifford will become the new general director of the Evangelical Alliance (EA), effective April 2009. Clifford has been behind a range of national church campaigns in the past decade. Former EA general director Joel Edwards stepped down last year to devote more time to the World Evangelical Alliance’s anti-poverty movement, Micah Challenge. Clifford previously chaired the leadership team of international youth ministry Soul Survivor, where he will remain active. (Evangelical Alliance)

UNITED STATES: SGA Celebrates Seventy-fifth Anniversary
The Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2009 with a series of publications and special events across North America. SGA was founded in Chicago and will host a major international conference there in September as part of the celebration. In 1934, a young immigrant from Belarus named Peter Deyneka, along with noted pastor Dr. Paul Rood and a group of Christian businessmen, founded what was then known as the Russian Gospel Association in the back room of Hedstrom’s Shoe Store in Chicago. Deyneka, a powerful preacher known as “Peter Dynamite,” had a deep passion to win the people in his homeland to Christ. President Dr. Robert Provost said that SGA continues to serve faithful evangelical churches, both here and in the former Soviet Union. (Slavic Gospel Association)

ZIMBABWE: Food Supplies Unable to Reach Intended Destination
Responding to the enormous need for emergency food in Zimbabwe, Serving in Mission (SIM) partnered with the SIM Zimbabwe HOPE for AIDS team, Multi Ministries, and the Central Methodist Church of Johannesburg to distribute a high nutrition porridge meal that has been used extensively across southern Africa in areas of starvation. Unfortunately, permission to import the relief food into Zimbabwe was reportedly withheld. So instead, the food was distributed in two Zimbabwean refugee camps in Johannesburg and Musina, South Africa. The joint relief effort continues to look for ways to reach those in Zimbabwe. Estimates of those in need of food there are roughly 5.5 million people. (Mission Network News)

ZIMBABWE: African Church Conference Calls Zimbabwe Rule Illegitimate
The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has pledged to pray for an end to “illegitimate rule in Zimbabwe.” Meeting in Mozambique, the conference said in a resolution dated 11 December 2008 that Robert Mugabe “is using power-sharing negotiations as a strategy for wasting time and exercising continued control” over the nation. The AACC called on the African Union, comprised of fifty-three nations, to declare the current Zimbabwe regime “illegitimate” and stop recognizing it. The AACC set 25 January 2009 as a day for churches around the world to engage in a special Africa Day of Prayer and Fasting for Justice in Zimbabwe. (Ecumenical News International)