in this issue March/April 2000, Vol. 4 No. 2
- People Profile
- Agency Profile
- Resource Reviews
- News and Needs
- Web Site Review
What on Earth Is God Doing?Some may think this map is upside down, but people from Australia may actually prefer this version of right side up. Perspective affects many things in our lives.
by Bruce T. Sidebotham
God has an agenda for history. He is achieving his objective. God's mission gives unity and purpose to divine revelation, the future, the past, the present, and our lives.
Perspective on the Bible
For decades I thought Psalms 46:10 just told me to slow down and concentrate on God. I didn't realize the rest of the verse told us what we are to know about God namely, that he will be exalted in the whole earth.
"Be still and know that I am God:Understanding God's agenda to be exalted in all the earth gives new insight into the Bible stories that many of us were weaned on.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
The story of David and Goliath is not just about overcoming great odds through faith. David's assurance that he would be victorious came from knowing God's agenda and how he (David) fit into it. David said to Goliath, "This day the Lord will hand you over to me . . . and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel." (1 Samuel 17:46)
When God protected Daniel in the lion's den, it wasn't just because he loved Daniel. It was so that King Darius would write "to all peoples, nations, and men of every language . . . 'I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.'" (Daniel 6:25)
God did not harden Pharaoh's heart and devastate Egypt because he loved Israelites and hated Egyptians. Speaking to Pharaoh, God said, "I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (Exodus 9:16)
God's agenda to be glorified among all peoples throughout all the earth resonates in all of Scripture. Glorious feats of courageous faith are possible when they promote God's agenda.
When God's people work contrary to his agenda by embarrassing him or besmirching his reputation, they lose his blessing. Prayer according to God's agenda gets answered. Moses even persuaded God to change his mind by appealing to this agenda. (Numbers 14:11-20)
Perspective on Prophecy
From Genesis to Revelation, all Scripture predicts that God will sovereignly achieve his objective.
God established his covenant with Abraham so that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:3) John witnessed a future "great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb" worshipping God and Christ. (Revelation 7:9) Isaiah predicts, "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9) David writes, "All nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name." (Psalm 86:9) Malachi foretells, "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name." (Malachi 1:11)
Jesus said all the Scriptures reveal that "repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations." (Luke 24:44-47)
Bible study that does not integrate God's plan to be worshipped among all peoples in all the earth recapitulates Pharisaical ethnocentric myopia and ignorance.
Perspective on History
Every king and kingdom and every natural or man made tragedy brings God closer to his objective. Here are just a few examples:
Stoning of Stephen
Persecution against the believers in Jerusalem after Stephen was stoned caused the gospel to spread. "Those who had been scattered preached the gospel wherever they went." (Acts 8:1-4)
Fall of Jerusalem 70 A.D.
For many years the Jewishness of Christianity constrained its spread among Gentiles to such an extent that the first ecclesiastical controversies arose over applications of Jewish rituals. (Acts 11:2-3, 15:1-21, Galatians 2:11-21) Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D. helped establish Christianity's uniqueness from Judaism so that faith in Christ became more readily accepted among the Gentiles.
Fall of Rome 476 A.D.
Christian expansion stagnated after permeating the Roman empire which roughly stopped at the Danube and Rhine rivers. The few evangelists who crossed these borders were mostly banished heretics. Since Christians of the civilized empire failed in taking the gospel to the barbarians, God brought the barbarians to the civilized empire, and Europe entered its Dark Ages.
Fall of Eastern Christendom 632 A.D.
For a time Christianity was the foundation of all Near Eastern civic and social structure. Then it was nearly obliterated in less than one hundred years. Emanating from centers like Alexandria, Carthage, Antioch, and Jerusalem, Christianity included Near Eastern cultural baggage that constrained its ability to permeate Western cultures in the same way that Judaism had constrained growth among Gentiles before 70 A.D. As Rome took over theocratic prominence, Christianity penetrated Western cultures more easily.
Viking Invasions 800-1000 A.D.
When the gospel missed being taken to the pagan Norse tribes of Scandinavia, God brought these warlike tribes to find it in Christianized Europe. For at least two hundred years Viking war bands terrorized the coasts while Norse settlers displaced Britons and other European peoples. Their ferocity was not tamed until they accepted the gospel from enslaved captives.
The Age of Exploration 1500-1900 A.D.
Beginning with the Spanish and Portuguese and ending with the British Empire upon which the sun never set, ethnocentric and sometimes brutal imperialism established gospel beachheads in America, Asia, and Africa where Christ had never been known.
Demise of Western Christendom 1900-present
Secular Humanism is doing in the West what Islam did in the Middle East. In less than one hundred years Christianity's once formidable power over social and civic structures is nearly gone. While eighty percent of North Americans and seventy percent of Europeans still claim at least nominal adherence to Christianity (down from nearly 100%), as evaluated by influence upon public as opposed to private life, Western civilization is definitely "post-Christian."
Just as the separation of Christianity from Near Eastern culture in the seventh century facilitated its expansion into Western civilization, separating Christianity from Western cultural baggage is facilitating its acceptance among non-western peoples. Since 1920, professing Christians in Africa have been increasing ten percent every ten years and professing Christians in Asia have doubled every two decades since World War Two.
Sometime this past decade the number of non-Western Christians surpassed the number of Western ones. This century has seen more martyrs than all centuries prior to it combined precisely because Christianity is growing exponentially in heavily populated areas where it has never been before.
Many Americans are praying for revival in the West that will restore Christian morals to public life. James 4:3 says that we don't receive when we ask because we ask with wrong motives so that we can satisfy our pleasures. I wonder, are we asking God for revival in order to be more comfortable or so that God will be glorified in all the earth? Revival in America will not happen unless it facilitates the latter. Prayers for revival in America, unless they are grounded in God's agenda for the whole world, won't be answered.
Perspective on Current Events
Solomon tells us, "The King's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." (Prov. 21:1) This includes President Clinton, Deng Xao Ping, and Milosevic. Here are some examples from current events.
The biggest news ignored by professional media is the growth of the church in China. After hundreds of years and thousands of missionaries, Europeans managed to win a few thousand converts and congregate them in a few scattered European style churches with pews, podiums, sermons, translated hymns, and even Sunday school.
In 1950, when Communists were arresting pastors and closing churches, Watchman Nee was asked to preach to a gathering of Christian leaders. Knowing he would be arrested if he spoke and wanting desperately to encourage his brethren, Watchman Nee mimed this parable.
Non-verbally Watchman Nee communicated that he represented the government and a fine crystal vase represented the church. He slammed the vase to the stage. Then, he stomped vigorously upon the shards scattering them and grinding them into the wooden floor. Suddenly, in bewilderment and futility he began trying to gather up the pieces.
Since Watchman Nee delivered this parable, the number of Christians in China has increased from a few thousand to over fifty million. By smashing the institutional church and grinding believers into underground home fellowships, the Chinese government accomplished the dispersal and indigenization that European missionaries could not.
State of Israel
Most of us marvel at Israel for the way it miraculously fulfills so many Biblical predictions, but the real miracle in this little state is the way it unwittingly advances God's agenda. also happen to be the least reached with the gospel.
Muslim theology is not just religious. It is also political, utopian, and triumphal. Muslims everywhere hate Israel -- even Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia who have little reasonable basis to do so. Israel's existence has thrown Islam into psychological crisis. This tiny Jewish state on "holy ground" affirms geopolitical realities which affront Islamic theocratic ideology so thoroughly and fatally that more Muslims have decided to follow Christ in the last fifty years than in the last fifteen hundred all put together.
Crisis in Kosovo
Since communism's failure ten years ago in Albania, the number of believers has been doubling annually. Meanwhile in Kosovo, among people of the same culture and language under Serbian domination, Christian growth has been stagnant.
When Kosovars fled to Albania, they experienced the difference between genuine faith and the cultural kind. Few classes of people are more desperate than refugees. Albanians from Kosovo not only heard the gospel but they saw it in action through the ministry of relief agencies and Albanian congregations.
Today, the demand from inside Kosovo for workers to shepherd and train new believers in newly established congregations is overwhelming missionary sending agencies.
Earthquakes in Turkey
For centuries, popular Turkish opinion has held that Turkish believers represent a subversive cult. Turks have felt about relatives following Jesus the way you and I might feel about a son or daughter following Sun Myung Moon or Hare Krishna.
Earthquake relief from many international Christian organizations was channeled through Turkish congregations, giving Turkish believers their first positive profile since the Crusades. Turkish believers still face suspicion and many challenges but this has been a big step towards vindication.
Perspective on Our Lives
While God's mission helps us understand his Word, the future, the past, and the present, his agenda is especially profound for the purpose it gives us.
1Cor 5:18-20 says that God is reconciling the world (people from every tongue, tribe, and nation) to himself, and that we, as his ambassadors, are his instruments for mission accomplishment.
Matthew's articulation of the Great Commission, illustrates three points.
"All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go (as you are going) and make disciples of all nations. . ." (Matthew 28:18-19)
First, the commission is based on Christ's authority as Lord over all heaven and earth. The Great Commission is not our responsibility; it is God's. But, as Christ's followers, we are "therefore" given the opportunity and privilege to partner with God in what he is doing.
Second, the main verb in this verse is "make disciples." The tense of the Greek verb translated "go" actually means "as you are going." Making disciples is not reserved for a special breed of professionals like pastors and missionaries. Vision for mission accomplishment must be integrated into the lifestyle of all believers so that whether we eat or sleep and work or play, everything gets done for the glory and purpose of God. All legitimate vocations are sacred.
Third, the objective of evangelism is not only personal but also corporate. Discipling nations certainly involves personal evangelism, but it also involves completely penetrating cultures until God is worshipped among every people in the whole earth.
Many of us know the promise in Romans 8:28 by heart, but many of us aren't as familiar with the conditions. "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose." In context, Paul goes on to discuss how that purpose involves our calling and predestination to be conformed to the image of Christ. Well, if being conformed to the image of Christ means going about the work of Christ, then we have no business expecting anything to work together for good unless we are cooperating with his agenda to reconcile the world to himself.
Could anything be more fulfilling than following God on His mission?
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Blue Nile Tribes in Sudan Have Supplied Slave Traders for Centuries
Three major people groups live in the Blue Nile region of southern Sudan. They are the Fonj, Uduk, and Mabaan.
The Fonj (also called Burun) people live near Kurmuk. They are mostly farmers and miners, but they used to be very powerful in regional military and political matters. From 1890 until she was executed by the British in 1906, Queen Amna ruled a Fonj empire which captured and sold into slavery nearly seventy five percent of the neighboring Uduk tribe.
Fonj language has never been written down. Fonj people are innovative and resourceful. In 1999 they built the first ever water tower in the region out of bamboo sticks, grass, and mud. They understand economics and have had a gold based medium of exchange for many years. Many Fonj speak Arabic and some speak English. Most Fonj are Muslims, but this has not stopped them from being persecuted as blacks in Arab dominated Sudan. No Christian resources are available in the Fonj language.
What remained of the Uduk people after the reign of Fonj Queen Amna settled in the Chali area of the southern Blue Nile. Missionaries of the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) worked among them from 1938 until expelled in 1964. When the National Islamic Front (NIF) began enforcing Sha'ria (Islamic) law about half the Uduk tribe fled to refugee camps in Ethiopia where missionaries are still working among them. The New Testament, Genesis, and Psalms are available in Uduk language.
Until recently, the Mabaan people populated a corridor between Boing and Yabus, just east of the Adar Yel oil fields. During the NIF offensive against Boing in 1999, over twenty thousand Mabaan fled east with only the clothes on their backs to the rebel (SPLA) controlled territory around Yabus where they now live destitute as internal refugees. Mabaan language was first written down by SIM missionaries who continue to work "off-site" among them.
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US Sends Helicopters Among Southern Africa's Least Reached PeoplesI was up later than usual and heard someone shouting, "Aqua!" Within minutes water was rushing across the floor. By the time I could throw a few essentials together the water was halfway to my knees." (Melanie Morrow, World Relief Child Survival Program Specialist)
Victim of southern Africa's worst flood in fifty years, Mozambique also hosts the world's largest Animistic unreached people group and the "largest concentration of unreached peoples in Africa south of the equator" (Operation World).
Nearly twenty million people in some thirty-eight indigenous ethnic groups populate northern, southern, and central geographic regions created by the Zambezi River in the middle. While more than half the population lives in the north, most of the Christians live in the south where flooding was worst.
Among northern and central Mozambique peoples, little to no gospel proclamation has occurred. These may be more than ready for the gospel message of reconciliation and hope. Few people have suffered more from war and despair than the citizens of Mozambique.
Over four hundred years of Portuguese rule gave way to thirty years of Marxism and guerrilla warfare interspersed with recurring natural calamities resulting in the world's poorest country. At its height in 1992 the civil war produced close to six million refugees (over one third of the population). Religious freedom has come to Mozambique for the first time in its long history.
Today, Mozambique receives attention from CNN, relief and development organizations, and even the U.S. military. Recently, the United States sent six hundred troops, thirteen C-130 aircraft, and six MH-53 helicopters to help with flood relief.
Pray the increased international attention results in increased opportunity for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mozambican Peoples People Group Population Estimates N
Makua 5 million Lomwe 1.5 million Chwabo 700,000 Makonde 400,000 Yao 350,000 Maviha 130,000 Matengo 130,000 Mwani 90,000 Akoti 40,000 Sangage 20,000 C
Sena-Nyungwe 1.4 million Shona-Ndau 1.2 million Nyanja 500,000 Kunda 170,000 Nsenga 160,000 Podzo 100,000 S
Ronga-Tswa 2 million Tsonga 1.6 million Chopi 800,000 Swazi-Zulu-Ngoni 160,000 Tonga 21,000
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Partners International Helps Third World MissionariesA recent graduate from a seminary in Jordan has started three churches of new converts in Iraq. Another third world missionary has begun churches in three of Cambodia's poorest and most remote villages. In North Africa, Berber conformity to Islam and Arabic culture is crumbling where native missionaries use the regional language for Christian literature, music, videos, and Scriptures.
Partners International (PI) facilitates these and over four thousand other outreach efforts through seventy-nine locally run indigenous ministries in fifty-two countries among one hundred and sixty unreached people groups.
PI scours the earth to find promising dreamers with motivation, integrity and vision for sharing Christ with unreached peoples in their home countries. Then, they invest charitable donations from churches and individuals in these spiritual entrepreneurs.
But these gospel trailblazers are not supported directly. PI supports the native missionary and his ministry vision through partnerships with reputable local agencies and boards of directors so that structures for accountability and emotional support are right there within the visionary's homeland.
PI directs no ministries. They visit, mandate audits, and minimize dependency by requiring that locally raised finances be a majority and growing percentage. Most importantly, PI staff devote themselves to developing relationships with nationals in indigenous ministries and joint ventures to grow communities of Christian witness in least Christian regions of the world.
2302 Zanker Road, Ste. 100
San Jose, California 95115
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David's Pouch Helps You Help Sudan ChildrenBlue Nile Project's David's Pouch Program will help students in the Blue Nile region of South Sudan by sending them your gift of the following for a suggested donation of five dollars per pouch to cover shipping.
- gallon size freezer style ziplock bag
- pen pal letters
- small notepad of paper
- three unsharpened pencils
- pencil sharpener
- small sewing kit
- small bar of soap
- baseball cap
- anti-bacterial ointment
- other small and simple items
Blue Nile Project will . . .
- send you information on how to involve your group.
- send you a teacher's information packet for you to present information on Sudan to your group.
- ship your pouches to the Blue Nile region in Sudan.Blue Nile Project
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God in the Corners Provides Cliff Hanger DevotionsTwo hundred warriors screamed their blood-chilling war cry as they charged straight across the wide clearing toward us. Closer and closer they came, leaping and screaming and waving their spears and clubs as they ran. No point in trying to escape. "So this is what it's like to die," I thought.
One time bush pilot in Latin America, founder of AirServ International, former field operations director for Food for the Hungry, and former President of Partners International, Chuck Bennett has been around the proverbial block more than a few times. His book, God in the Corners: Personal Encounters Discovering God's Fingerprints in Remote Corners of our World, recounts some excellent lessons learned through some of the most amazing experiences you will ever read.
This book is published by and available from Partners International, the agency featured in this issue.PARTNERS INTERNATIONAL
2302 Zanker Road, Suite 100
San Jose, California 95115
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Genocidal Attrocities Meet Good Samaritan in Sudan"All around us, we saw children being shot in the stomach, in the leg, between the eyes. Against the dark sky we saw flames from the houses the soldiers had set on fire. The cries of the people forced inside filled our ears as they burned to death," said Victoria Ajang in testimony before Congress on 27 May 1999 about a government raid on her village in 1983.
news and needs
Today, Samaritan's Purse operates a hospital with two volunteer American doctors and a volunteer American nurse at an old mission station in southern Sudan. Over the past three years, they have helped more than 100,000 patients, but since officially registering with the occupying rebel forces in February, several patients have been injured or killed in bombing raids by government warplanes.
Since 1983 war waged by the Arab north has killed over two million Sudanese blacks; Christians, animists,and Muslims alike. This war is waged for race, for religion, and for oil.
Victoria Ajang says, "In the government's mentality, all blacks are 'abd' slaves. Whether Christian, Moslem, or animist, we should be slaves forever. We are inferior beings who must submit or be killed."
Kartoum's latest scorched earth campaign against black women and children appears aimed at creating an ethnically cleansed zone for petroleum production and exploration.
South African pilot Derek Hammond of the Christian medical and relief organization, Love in Action, relates his aerial observations, "Huts are burned, crops are destroyed, cattle are taken or killed, and water has sometimes been poisoned" around the oil fields. Survivors not mowed down by helicopter gunships report chemical related vomiting, eye problems, and breathing difficulty.
In recognition that oil revenues are sustaining Sudanese Arab atrocities, the United States imposed economic sanctions this February against Sudan's government operated oil company, and a joint venture of three foreign oil companies. But the U.S. has not sanctioned Canadian, Malaysian, and Chinese petroleum firms investing in Sudan.
China, whose National Petroleum Co. holds a forty percent stake in the Nile region joint venture, is selling Sudan tanks, jet fighters, and SCUD missles. Columns of Sudanese National Islamic Front soldiers are marching to the oil zones over a Chinese built bridge.
The situation in Sudan neither threatens our national interest nor worries our national conscience. Major news organizations and humanitarian organizations like the NAACP and the United Nations seem unconcerned. For exposing government support of slavery in Sudan on the floor of the United Nations, Christian Solidarity International was voted out of its consultative status last October.
With U.S. armed forces stretched beyond capacity and Kartoum closer to Mecca than Saudi Arabia's own Dahran, military intervention seems neither likely nor prudent. Nevertheless, this situation warrants close observation, fervent prayer, and diplomatic engagement.
Organizations Engaging Sudanese Attrocities Organization Phone Number Web Site American Anti-Slavery Group 1-800-884-0719 www.anti-slavery.com Blue Nile Project 1-888-918-4100 www.blue-nile.org Christian Freedom International 1-800-323-2273 www.christianfreedom.org Christian Solidarity International 1-888-313-4468 www.csworldwide.org Faith in Action 1-888-918-4100 www.liaafrica.org International Christian Concern 1-800-422-5441 www.persecution.org Samaritan's Purse 1-828-262-1980 www.samaritan.org Voice of the Martyrs 1-800-747-0085 www.persecution.com
Status of Oil Companies Operating in Sudan Company Name Country Ownership Sanctioned Sudpet Ltd. Sudan government yes Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co. joint venture private yes Fosters Resources Ltd. Canada private no Talisman Energy Inc. Canada private no China National Oil Co. China government no Petronas Malaysia government no
How Selected Countries
Voted on CSI's UN Status
Country Vote Algeria against Brazil abstained China against Cuba against France abstained Italy abstained Korea abstained Pakistan against Russia against Saudi Arabia against Spain abstained Turkey against United Kingdom for United States for Vietnam against
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World Relief Honors the Heroism of Albanian ChristiansAlbania's 160 churches in the Albania Evangelical Alliance received the World Relief Helping Hands Award for the year 2000 in March. An estimated 80% of 480,000 Kosovar refugees benefitted from their physical and spiritual care last spring.
news and needs
"For a national church to go from having just five known evangelicals to transforming the lives of Kosovar refugees within ten years is an amazing story," said Clive Calver, president of World Relief, the relief arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.
"This is the church at its best," he said noting "the willingness of the churches to be salt and light, self-sacrificially serving their Lord."
Churches responded wholeheartedly despite their poverty. In Kukes in northern Albania, a small church helped refugee mothers with newborns, providing food and a place to bathe their children.
In Tirana, churches ran a transit center, processing 5000 refugees a day, and sent volunteer teams to prepare food for a tent city of 2000.
A church in Erseke cared for 760 refugees, and churches in Dures oversaw a camp pf 200 people.
As the refugees return to Kosovo, the churches are following and continuing to help.
They are rebuilding homes for widows, providing trauma counseling, and making loans to help widows start new businesses. Long term Albanian evangelicals want to see new churches planted throughout the region.
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Link to the Official US Government Religious Freedom Commission with . . .This site features . . .
web site review
- an archive of commission press releases.
- frequently asked questions.
- the State Department's Report on International Religious Freedom in 194 countries.
- links to other sites.
- names and biographies of the commission members.
- the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act and amendments made in 1999.
- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- the 1998 State Department Human Rights Report.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
. . . Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
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The Reveille Shofar
Volume 4, Number 2 - March/April 2000
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