Archives For Russia

Global missions focus is December 3-10

LMCO Moscow.jpg

GROWING NEED – Moscow now has more Muslims than any other European city. Here, thousands gather for Friday prayers at the city’s Grand Mosque.

Every December since 1888, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has empowered Southern Baptists’ international missions work. This year’s Lottie Moon Offering and Week of Prayer feature people doing difficult work around the world—whether they’re reaching out to Muslims in Russia, starting a new church in Japan, or giving hope to refugees.

Reaching the unreached
When most people think of Russia, they may conjure up images of Romanov royalty, a parade of dictators like Stalin and Lenin or Brezhnev, or maybe cultural icons such as Mikhail Baryshnikov or Dostoyevsky. They don’t think of Muslims.

But Islam is part of the fabric of old Russia—it made it there 66 years before Christianity did. As a result, Muslim groups are indigenous to the North Caucasus region, an area between the Black and Caspian Seas situated on northern slopes of the mountain range that generally separates Europe from Asia. These people groups include 45 to 50 subsets of people and even more languages, making them very difficult to reach.

However many of them are moving into Moscow, Russia’s capital, which now has more Muslims than any other European city. Its newly reopened Grand Mosque can hold 10,000 worshippers.

“God says, ‘If you can’t go to them, I’ll bring them to you,’” said Elizabeth*, a Christian worker among Muslims in Moscow. “There’s no better time to be in the former Soviet Union. God is moving Muslims right under our noses.”

Seeing the impossible
International Mission Board missionaries Jared and Tara Jones knew that God could do a lot with something little. But they never imagined just how many doors he would open through their adopted infant son, Ezra.

In the East Asian country, 40,000 children live in orphanages, but parents rarely give up their rights so that a child can be adopted. But the Joneses knew God had placed a baby on their hearts, and they prayed. “We serve a God who makes doors where doors don’t exist,” Jared said. “And this little guy gives us multiple opportunities to talk about the Lord.”

Their son’s pediatrician was the key to another door—a church plant they had been praying about for years. One day, the doctor told Tara out of the blue that she wanted to start a church at her office and asked if Jared could lead it. Tara described it as a divine appointment. The first Sunday 70 people came. They’ve seen hearts changed and people keep coming.

Remembering the forgotten
Don Alan* says he remembers a refugee telling him once that he didn’t feel alive, but he wasn’t dead either—he was somewhere in between.

“Hopelessness is a universal feeling among refugees,” Don said. “They feel forgotten.” That’s why International Mission Board missionaries like Don, who serves in North Africa and the Middle East, and Seth Payton*, who works with refugees in Europe, spend their lives taking hope into those hopeless places.

“Refugees come to Europe looking for a better life, and many times they find nothing,” Seth said. Often, they’ve paid traffickers a high price for a long, miserable trip across the desert and then a dangerous boat ride across the Mediterranean Sea. If they make it alive, then they often can’t get jobs. They spend their days scrounging for food and their nights packed into an apartment with 15 other people.

“We pray that through this time God will open their hearts and draw them into his kingdom through the hope that he offers,” Seth said. “Hundreds of refugees from closed countries are becoming believers in Europe. So there are great things happening in the midst of a heartbreaking situation.”

Go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering for videos, stories, photos, and prayer requests for each day of the Week of Prayer for International Missions.

*Names changed.

– From IMB.org

 

 

The Briefing

Christian nation no more?
Most Americans do not believe America is a Christian nation today, even if many say it was in the past. About one-third (35%) of the American public believes the U.S. was a Christian nation in the past and is still a Christian nation today; close to half (45%) say the U.S. was once a Christian nation but no longer remains so; and 14% say the U.S. has never been a Christian nation.

SWBTS apologizes for photo
Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, apologized for a photo of white professors posing as rappers that appeared on Twitter and was instantly deemed racist. The photo featured senior School of Preaching faculty members gesturing and wearing bandannas and chains and was labeled “Notorious S.O.P.” One of them appears to hold a handgun.

Cedarville’s Philippians 4:8 rule
This spring, Cedarville University enacted new curriculum guidelines inspired by Philippians 4:8 and aimed at purifying coursework of erotic and graphic content. The university has spelled out new guidelines officially barring any materials that “may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students.”

Religious freedom dying in Russia
Russia’s nationwide outlaw of Jehovah’s Witnesses will likely ricochet and strike other religions outside of Russian Orthodoxy there, said Donald Ossewaarde, an independent Baptist missionary forced to shut down his church in that country. He has exhausted his appeals on an August 2016 conviction of operating a church without a permit under the 2016 anti-religion Yarovaya Law. Ossewaarde, who is making plans to return May 8 to his home in Elgin, Ill., said every religion outside Russian Orthodoxy is considered a cult.

Students: Biblical views on sex ‘unChrist-like’
A student club at Seattle Pacific University recently protested against the Christian university because it adheres to biblical views on human sexuality and gender identity.  The club, called SPU Haven, which advocates for gay students, claims that the university’s “Statement on Human Sexuality” is “unethical, unscientific and unChrist-like,” according to College Fix.

Sources: Facts and Trends, Religion News, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Christian Post

The BriefingPhyllis Schlafly, ‘Founding mother’ of the modern conservative movement, dies at 92
Phyllis Schlafly, best known for her tireless work to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, has died at the age of 92. “Phyllis Schlafly courageously and single-handedly took on the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment when no one else in the country was opposing it,” said James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. “In so doing, she essentially launched the pro-family, pro-life movement.”

SBC leaders grieve court’s expansion of parenthood
The decision by New York’s highest court to expand custody and visitation rights to “de facto parents” serves as evidence same-sex marriage advocates desire to overthrow humanity’s oldest institution and as part of “a major turning point in human history,” Southern Baptist leaders said.

Chicago homicides in 2016 reach 500
Chicago’s 500th homicide of the year happened over Labor Day weekend, according to the Chicago Tribune. That number carries a lot of weight for the city — not just in quantity, but in meaning: 2016 is now the deadliest year in two decades.

‘Sad’ Russian anti-evangelism law ends a ministry
Independent Baptist missionaries Donald and Ruth Ossewaarde always suspected their Gospel ministry in Oryol, Russia, wouldn’t last when they began in 2002. But they did not expect Donald to be among the first people arrested under Russia’s new law prohibiting organizations from evangelizing outside church walls and without a government permit.

Missouri sends first openly lesbian to Miss America Pageant
Miss Missouri, Erin O’ Flaherty, will compete for the Miss America crown this weekend as the first openly lesbian contestant. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been well-represented, but I’m the first openly gay title holder, so I’m very excited,” she told The Associated Press. “I knew going in that I had the opportunity to make history. Now I get to be more visible to the community and meet more people.”

Sources: Baptist Press, Religion News Service, CNN, Baptist Press, Time Magazine

The BriefingWhen it rains, it pours for weary south Louisiana
For the second time in five months, historic flooding has left widespread devastation and suffering through south Louisiana. As of Sunday afternoon, four people have been killed in the flooding, thousands have been displaced and thousands of homes, businesses and churches have been affected by the flooding. Louisiana Southern Baptist churches are responding amid the devastation.

Five Christian gold medalist Olympians at Rio 2016
Athletes from across the globe have gathered in search of gold at the 2016 Olympic Games, and five Christian sportspeople have managed to overcome obstacles to earn the top honor. Simone Manuel, Caeleb Dressel, Laurie Hernandez, Osea Kolinisau, and Anna Van Der Breggen are five Olympians whose Christian faith has helped them prevail when stumbling blocks could have prevented them from winning gold medals in Rio De Janeiro.

Egyptian sent home from Rio for refusing to shake Israeli’s hand
An Egyptian athlete who refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after their judo bout has been reprimanded and sent home from the Rio Olympics. When Sasson extended his hand, El Shehaby backed away, shaking his head. The referee called the 34-year-old El Shehaby back to the mat and obliged to him to bow; he gave a quick nod and was loudly booed as he exited.

Russia’s ban on evangelism is now in effect
Last month, Russia’s new anti-terrorism laws restricting Christians from evangelizing outside of their churches, went into effect. The “Yarovaya package” requires missionaries to have permits, makes house churches illegal, and limits religious activity to registered church buildings, among other restrictions. Individuals who disobey could be fined up to $780, while organizations could be fined more than $15,000. Many are wondering how strictly will it be enforced.

Countries make Christian charity harder to give and receive
Nearly 20% of the world’s population could lose access to the ministry efforts of Western Christians next year. In April, China banned foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from engaging in or funding religious activities. The measure could expel Christian groups that are doing medical, developmental, or educational work in the world’s largest country by population, with 1.4 billion people.

Sources: Louisiana Baptist Message, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Christianity Today

The BriefingTransgender troop ban repeal called ‘disastrous’
The Obama administration’s decision to allow openly transgender people to serve in the U.S. military has been classified by Southern Baptist leaders as “deluded,” “disastrous” and a step toward self-inflicted “national weakness.” Mark Coppenger, a former Illinois pastor and retired Army officer, said lifting the ban imperils “decency” and “military readiness.

Justice Alito’s warning about religious freedom
The Court’s decision not to hear a case challenging a Washington state law that forces a family-owned pharmacy to dispense emergency contraceptives is an “ominous sign” for those who value religious freedom, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said. “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern,” Alito said in a critical dissent.

SCOTUS marriage ruling sparked ministry
Numerous Baptist state conventions have helped equip churches for ministry in the new marriage culture. “Our energy is going into making sure churches understand their religious freedoms regarding same-sex marriage assertions, and helping them take steps to protect those liberties through their bylaws and written operating procedures,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. We have used conferences, articles and especially downloadable resources on our website to make these protections as accessible to churches as possible.”

We’re talking about religion
When it comes to who’s having those religious conversations with family and friends, it’s particularly evangelicals and black Protestants. The majority of evangelicals talked about religion in the last month with their immediate family (70%) and people outside their family (55%). Most black Protestants also had religious conversations with immediate family (61%) and extended family (51%). \

Russian law would prohibit evangelizing
The proposed Russian laws, considered the country’s most restrictive measures in post-Soviet history, place broad limitations on missionary work, including preaching, teaching, and engaging in any activity designed to recruit people into a religious group. To share their faith, citizens must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization, and they cannot evangelize anywhere besides churches and other religious sites. The restrictions even apply to activity in private residences and online.

Sources: Baptist Press, Daily Signal, Baptist Press, Facts and Trends, Christianity Today

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

True_Love_Waits(From Baptist Press) A new documentary marks the 20th anniversary of “True Love Waits,” an abstinence movement that found its footing in American churches and has since made an impact in countries around the world. “True Love Waits: The Complicated Struggle for Sexual Purity” was produced by LifeWay Films; Jimmy Hester, LifeWay’s then-student ministry director, helped create True Love Waits in 1994.

“We knew from the beginning we wanted to address the criticisms as well as the successes of the True Love Waits movement,” Travis Hawkins, the documentary’s director, told Baptist Press. “We knew viewers would see through any spin we put on the story. We weren’t afraid to have an honest conversation.”

Susan Bohannon is one early “True Love Waits” committee who shares her story in the film. The young woman, who became a teen spokesperson for the movement, struggled in college with peer pressure and the commitment she’d made. Clayton King, author of the curriculum that will relaunch True Love Waits this year, told BP that Bohannon’s story exemplifies the need to return the movement to one focused on the purity found in Christ.

“I want people to know they are pure because Jesus purified them from sin, not because they have perfect behavior and have never had intercourse or looked at porn,” King said. “The good news is that temptation, lust, porn, sex, shame and guilt are no match for the grace that Jesus offers us.”

Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Other news:

Nun faces sentencing for protest at nuclear plant
Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun, will be sentenced today for a break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Rice and two other protestors who hung banners and painted messages on the walls of a bunker could receive six to nine years in prison, according to this Associated Press story.

Research examines Russian religion
With the world’s eyes on Russia during these Winter Olympics, Pew has found the nation is much more religious since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The number of adults identifying as Orthodox Christian increased from 31% to 72% between 1991 and 2008, according to Pew’s research. And the percentage claiming no religious affiliation fell from 61% to 18%. But the number of Russians who regularly attend church only increased from 2% in 1991 to 7% in 2008 (with a peak of 9% in 1998). Read more at Pewforum.org.

Wheaton students protest former lesbian’s testimony
Collegians at Christian university Wheaton College protested a Jan. 31 presentation by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a former Syracuse University professor and author of ““The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.” The students’ actions indicate a “generational shift in attitudes about human sexuality,” writes  Baptist blogger Denny Burk.

The truth about camels
An archaeological discovery has led some scholars to renew questions about the Bible’s accuracy, Christianity Today reports. Researchers in Tel Aviv used carbon dating to determine that domesticated camels weren’t used in Israel until near the end of the 10th century B.C., almost 1,000 years after the biblical patriarchs. But some Bible scholars say their findings are “overstated,” CT reports.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Russia’s ban penalizes orphans
(Baptist Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to ban adoptions between his country and the United States was a political move, thought by many to be retaliation for U.S. sanctions against Russians accused of human rights violations. But adoption advocates say of all the parties involved, the ban is most harmful to the most vulnerable: Russia’s orphans. Christians are called to take up their cause by praying, speaking truth, and creating a culture of orphan care, said pastor and adoptive father Tony Merida. “We must be a voice for the voiceless.” More

Adoption credit made permanent
(Baptist Press) The adoption community received better news earlier this month, when a tax credit for adoptive families set to expire at the end of 2012 was made a permanent part of the U.S. tax code. The credit makes adoption more affordable for families. “Every child deserves a protective, loving family, and I hope that a permanent Adoption Tax Credit will enable many more families to open their hearts and homes to a child in need,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-La.), who sponsored the act to permanently establish the credit. More

Hobby Lobby defies mandate
(Baptist Press) Craft retailer Hobby Lobby will face up to $1.3 million in fines every day it refuses to comply with a federal mandate that requires employee health care plans to cover contraceptives that cause chemical abortions. “To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” said attorney Kyle Duncan. Hobby Lobby sued the federal government in September over the mandate, but a judge ruled the corporation isn’t a religious organization and doesn’t qualify for the exemption that covers churches and ministries. More

Thumbs-up for Cooperative Program
(LifeWay Research) A vast majority of Southern Baptist pastors have a high opinion of the Convention’s Cooperative Program, according to a recent study by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,066 pastors found 81% believe CP “fuels an aggressive enterprise of reaching unreached people groups around the world,” and 73% say it supports ministries valued by their churches. Smaller majorities believe the entities supported through CP are moving in the right direction (55%) and using their contributions effectively (52%). More

‘Flat Lottie’ travels the globe
(IMB) The International Mission Board introduced a new teaching tool in “Flat Lottie,” a two-dimensional version of famed missionary Lottie Moon. IMB tracked Lottie across Asia on their Facebook and Pinterest pages, sharing how giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering makes missions and ministry possible around the world. Her stops included a well-digging project on the grasslands of Mongolia and a slum in Bangladesh where missionaries and ministering to women and children. Follow Lottie’s journey here.