AsiaCMS launch: "one giant leap for mission"
More than 450 gathered on 8 March (Saturday) for the official launch of AsiaCMS (a Faith2Share member) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While the focus was on Asia, the attendees were drawn from almost every continent and included leaders from CMS in the UK, CMS Australia, New Zealand CMS and CMS Africa (all Faith2Share members). Dozens of AsiaCMS co-mission partners and mission partners from the UK who serve in Asia also attended - one of whom joked that the evening was “one giant supper for us, one giant leap for mission.” In the opening speech, Bishop Moon Hing of the diocese of West Malaysia, said now was the time for a “fifth wave” of mission in Asia, a time to intentionally send well-trained people into cross-cultural mission. Asia CMS would be pivotal in this process. Back-to-back addresses included Kang-San Tan (pictured), executive director of Asia CMS and Wonsuk Ma, an internationally respected missiologist based at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in the UK.
Putting hope in God in the Ukraine
Christians and churches continue to be “the salt and the light in Ukraine”, according to Petro Kovaliv, who works for Ministry Ukraine, a Christian ministry based in Kiev. Christians of different denominations have been playing an important role at the capital’s Independence Square (known as Maidan), which was the scene of demonstrations against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych on 18-20 February. More than 80 people were killed and hundreds more injured. Now, in the aftermath, hundreds of Bibles are being distributed each day there. “Yesterday,” says Petro, “I brought a carload of New Testaments to Maidan to a Christian Prayer tent.” During the clashes with riot police, one tent was burnt down. Everything was destroyed - apart from a copy of the New Testament, whose cover was tattered but none of the pages were damaged.
Making better disciples of Jesus in Central Asia
In a number of Central Asian countries recent changes to government laws mean that any work with children (including activities inside a chuch building) is forbidden, and any perceived attempt to evangelise or to do mission would mean a hefty fine or a prison sentence. Even house churches or informal Christian gatherings are being treated the same way. So it was even more special for Faith2Share to learn how several local national teams are being formed to explore how low-key church-based Christian theological education could reach every member of their church despite all those restrictions. These teams include a number of major denominations, represent most language groups of the region and are ready to play their part in making local national believers better disciples of Jesus Christ across this vast and very challenging region.
WEA to see major leadership changes
The World Evangelical Alliance will see two of its senior leaders move on at the end of this year. At the annual meeting of the WEA International Council in New York, Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe (left), Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the WEA, announced that he would not be seeking a third term at the end of 2014. Dr. Tunnicliffe, who was elected in 2005, has served two five-year terms, which is one of the longest tenures in WEA’s history. Dr. Tunnicliffe said. “I believe the future of the WEA has never been brighter as we experience unprecedented opportunities for global Kingdom impact.” Rev. Ndaba Mazabane, Chairman of the International Council, said: “Geoff is leaving the WEA in great shape. His contribution to the work has been outstanding." It was earlier announced that Dr. Bertil Ekstrom, Executive Director of the WEA Mission Commission will also leave at the end of this year.
New TV series on Jesus' death for Middle East
A Christian media agency working across the Middle East, Arab Vision, plans to produce a series of ten TV programmes this Lent on the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion and His resurrection. "Almost everyone in the Arab World", they say, "grows up with the words from the Quran: “but they killed him not, nor crucified him.” (Sura 4, verse 157). Arab Christians are often confronted by this well-known verse. It is impossible for the human mind to grasp the significance of the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord. Words are not sufficient to explain redemption through the cross and the availability of a new life through Jesus’ resurrection." The ten episodes will be co-produced with Sat7, one of the main satellite channels for the Arab World. The series will also be re-broadcast in 2015 by several other stations, and can also be watched as streaming video on the Internet. You can support this ministry here.
SOMA strikes spiritual gold in South Sudan
A team from SOMA UK (A Faith2Share member) went to South Sudan recently to hold a youth conference and were warmly greeted in Wonduruba, 85 miles west of Juba - an area that has suffered at the hands of various inter-group rivalries. Team leader Ron Hart says that some of the local insecurity from inter-group tensions has escalated into community violence and spilled into the church - particularly affecting young people. "We were the first visitors for very many years, and our presence itself generated excitement, curiosity and faith. Bishop Matthew and the delegates all spoke with warmth and enthusiasm for the conference. It had come at just the right time for them, and they said it had greatly helped the reconciliation process," said Ron. Some people received healing, including one elder who arrived with a walking stick and ended up dancing!
IEM helps people read in villages
A community-based literacy awareness programme led by Indian Evangelical Mission has attracted more than 56 people at one sitting drawn from several neighbouring villages in Chhattisgarh state, central India. Held in Sathlawand village at Panchayat community hall, the meeting started with a cultural song by a woman from one of the villages and a play acted out by the literacy teachers to encourage people to think about the importance of literacy. “I have never been to school and I did not even know how to read my name. Now I can read and write my name, I am so happy,” commented Mrs Sukumani, of Chinnari village after the classes. IEM says it has seven literacy centres in its Batri mission field in Chhattisgarh state and has a goal this financial year of starting 10 more centres to make at least 100 more people literate.
Pray for peace in Ukraine
Faith2Share's partners in Ukraine - and Crimea in particular - are asking for prayerful support amid the uncertainty of the current crisis there. Church leaders and Christians from both Russia and Ukraine are also urging the global Christian community to join them to pray for the end to this dangerous situation and for the leaders of these countries to reach an agreement and restore peace. Sergey Rakhuba, president of Russian Ministries, reports that Yuri Sipko, a prominent evangelical Russian leader and former president of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Russia, has issued a challenge to the church in Russia to resist pro-war rhetoric and propaganda, and to stand high with their prayers and spiritual responsibility. Sergey Rakhuba adds:"Please pray specifically that evil forces would be stopped in any attempt to destabilise, divide and conquer Ukraine. Pray there would be no bloodshed as a result of this conflict and peace would be restored. The church in Russia and Ukraine would emerge stronger and more unified in order to serve as instruments of reconciliation and peace and to be salt and light to those around them."
Faith2Share goes fact-finding in Central Asia
Faith2Share associate director Anton Ponomarev is travelling for much of March. His first port of call is Central Asia where he will be seeking to encourage local emerging mission movements and exploring how we can partner effectively with them. As he explains: "This is a fact-finding and relationship building trip. We are always trying to find out what God is doing through emerging missions and in Central Asia we do not have much knowledge and influence - so we are looking at trying to partner appropriately with those partners we know." At the end of March (22-30) Anton and Faith2Share's regional coordinator in Asia, Vijay Isaac, will be facilitating a Faith2Share Depth Discipleship Consultation in Nepal.Please pray for these two trips.
Restrictions on Christians in Syria
Syrian Christians are requesting continued intercession for their country following the formalisation of rules of submission by an extremist group in control of the town of Raqqah. That's the message from Middle East Concern (MEC), which reports that measures include Christians having to pay a special tax, known as jizya, and having to conduct their religious rites behind closed doors in places of worship and in ways that are not visible or audible to Muslims. Also, no Christian symbols can be visible. In public, Christians have to abide by Islamic commercial, dress code and dietary regulations, says MEC. Let us pray that Christians in Raqqah would know the daily presence, protection and peace of Jesus and let's pray too that a solution can be found for the whole Syrian crisis. Read more on this MEC report here.