Ebola is a wakeup call for the Church
“People are dying--physically and spiritually.
This is a wakeup call for the Church.
We are taking our nation for Jesus.”
(Photo credit Christian Aid)
Liberia (CAM) -- Fourteen years of civil war. The fourth-poorest country on earth. Now the Ebola epidemic threatens to wipe out thousands of lives. Is there hope for Liberia?
James Cuffee certainly thinks so. The dynamic leader of Christ Evangelical Fellowship Ministries (CEFM) recently told Christian Aid Mission,
your link to indigenous missions, that churches across the country have been “very busy fasting and praying” for God’s intervention in this health crisis.
“The Church in Liberia has agreed to stand together in faith and pray against this killer disease. I strongly believe the Lord will surely work miracles as we pray in Jesus’ name,” he said.
Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea in March, 1,552 infected individuals in four West African countries have died. Liberia has reported the most cases (1,378) and seen the most deaths: 694 as of Aug. 28. Those figures surpass the total number of deaths for all previous outbreaks of the disease combined.
Reports of 13 suspected Ebola deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have heightened fears that the disease will spread further into Africa. The DRC is located in the central part of the continent, and, according to health officials, tests show this strain of the virus is different from the one in West Africa.
Two weeks ago, two American missionaries were released from an Atlanta hospital after undergoing intense treatment to save their lives. Both contracted the disease while caring for Ebola patients at a medical facility in Liberia. Through God’s healing power, their miraculous recovery offers hope that the disease can be contained and treated in Africa, too.
If the outbreak worsens in Liberia, officials worry it could have an impact on the nation’s already tenuous food supply. Subsistence agriculture is practiced by the majority of rural Liberians.
(Photo credit Christian Aid)
Farmers barely grow enough to feed their families, and they are always at the mercy of floods and droughts. If the family provider should fall victim to Ebola and is unable to tend to crops, his or her loved ones may simply go hungry.
The situation isn’t helped by the series of internal conflicts that ended in 2003 with the nation’s infrastructure and economy in shambles. More than a decade later, much of the country lacks electricity and water services, and 80% of the people live below the poverty line.
“People are dying--physically and spiritually. This is a wakeup call for the Church,” Cuffee said. “We are taking our nation for Jesus.”
CEFM wants to step up its efforts to meet some of the food needs through a variety of agricultural projects. When farmers returned to their villages after years of exile as war refugees, they had to rebuild their homes and livelihoods from scratch. They had no seeds, no fertilizer, no tools, and no tilled soil for planting crops.
Even today, farming is done by hand. Draft animals and tractors are almost non-existent. Rice is the primary staple, but Liberians must rely on imported food to sustain them.
The ministry oversaw agricultural projects from 2007 through 2009, but stopped due to a lack of ongoing funding. At that time they planted 10 acres of cassava outside a village in Bomi County. The villagers cultivated and sold the crop, generating a good income. Gospel workers also saw a spiritual harvest as a church was started there that is now attended by about 100 people.
Cuffee’s goal is to resurrect the project, this time planting corn, beans, cassava, and other produce on 50-acre tracts in four villages. CEFM would provide seeds, farming implements, and mechanized equipment so villagers can raise enough food to feed themselves and have some left over to sell at a local market.
Support the work of Christ Evangelical Fellowship Ministries here.
(Photo credit USAID via Flickr)
As a component of the agricultural program, the ministry would also like to provide livestock and poultry for needy families to raise. A pair of pigs ($150) will produce offspring that can be given to other families in the community for eventual breeding and for meat. A goat ($70) supplies fresh milk for children. Chickens ($5 each) can yield a steady source of eggs rich in protein and other nutrients.
In one village, a CEFM Gospel worker gave a very poor couple a few chickens. “At the end of the year, the husband built a two-room house for his family from the sale of eggs and some of the chickens,” said Cuffee. “The man was a Christian, and some of his neighbors later came to Christ because of him.”
That’s the ultimate objective of CEFM, a ministry started by Cuffee nearly 30 years ago to satisfy his people’s greatest need: the spiritual hunger of their souls. As CEFM missionaries develop relationships within the villages, they have opportunities to share God’s Word in small group Bible studies and at open air crusades that typically draw 2,000 to 3,000 attendees.
Many of the villages are located in the interior of the country, where people still practice animism and idol worship. These faithful workers know they are putting their lives at risk, but, like the medical personnel treating Ebola patients, they desire to make Christ known so that souls will be saved for eternity.
“All of these projects open the door to reach more unbelievers. It’s proof that the Church loves, cares, and is concerned about people’s needs,” Cuffee said. “Jesus saw and met needs, and because of that, the multitudes followed Him. The early Church did the same when they followed the principles of Christ.
"So, if we as the Church, and as a ministry, can follow Jesus and the apostles and do these things, we will gain more converts.”
(Photo cred: Christian Aid)
The strategy must be working, as CEFM has planted 25 churches. With assistance from Christian Aid, the ministry also cares for 100 orphaned or abandoned children and distributes food packages and necessity items to thousands of refugees still living in overcrowded settlements.
In addition, plans are underway to build a medical clinic in one rural area so villagers will no longer need to travel three to five hours to seek basic treatment. An estimated $23,000 is needed to complete the construction.
Cuffee thanked Christian Aid donors for their generous financial support that enables his ministry to reach villagers in Liberia who have never heard the name of Jesus.
“Most of the individuals we help become believers because they see the true love of God manifested through His people. They turn from idol worship and give their lives to God. They know He is providing for them."
Nepal floods submerge 80 more villages
(Photo credit GFA)
Nepal (GFA/MNN) -- August was a month of destruction as Nepal floods and landslides, triggered by severe monsoon rains, affected over 200,000 people. Gospel for Asia (GFA)
is one of the groups responding to this disaster, giving food and the hope of Christ to flood survivors.
In one village, flood waters completely destroyed three temporary church buildings, and two more permanent church structures were filled with water. As pictured below, a line of GFA workers stood in knee-deep water in pouring rain to hand packets of food to 100 needy families.
The leader of GFA's work in the area gave a message of encouragement, and the team handed out packets that included 22 pounds of rice and 4 pounds each of dal and potatoes.
“I don’t have words to say thank you
for this item of ration,” said one recipient. “My family is in great agony.... My house is under the water now; we are living on the village pathway under the plastic sheets provided by the government.
GFA workers gave food packets to 100 families in this flooded Nepali village. (Image courtesy GFA)
"We are seven members in our family. The ration items given by the church are more than sufficient for us to eat for several days. My children will not starve to death now. Thank you so much.”
The same flooding that ransacked this village forced its way into a total of 80 villages in the region. Last week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued an emergency appeal
to help families affected by the Nepal floods.
Back in the village mentioned above, most believers are staying on the streets because their homes are flooded.
Many children who attend one of GFA’s Bridge of Hope centers live on riverbanks. Twenty-nine of these children have lost their homes. Now, the students are not only homeless but also without food, clean water, or clothing.
“We have nothing--nothing,” cried one mother. “What we had has been taken away by the flood. We do not have home, food, water, proper clothes. How shall we survive?”
The home of a GFA-supported pastor.
(Photo credit GFA)
“I have given all to make this house,” shared the father of a Bridge of Hope student, “but the flood has taken away all my life’s effort, making my family empty-handed. This was my 20-years saving and effort. Now I am old and I have no hope of rebuilding it. I do not know what steps I should take.”
Gospel for Asia is working to aid individuals along with the families of the Bridge of Hope students who have been affected by Nepal floods.
You can come alongside their efforts here.
Bibles smuggled by faith alone
Contact Vision Beyond Borders to get
a copy of 'By Faith Alone.'
USA (MNN) -- How do you get Bibles into a country where they're outlawed? By faith alone--which also happens to be the title of a new book by Patrick Klein, Vision Beyond Borders president.
"I'm hoping what it will do is encourage us, as Christians in America, that people still around the world are putting their lives on the line for the Gospel," Klein says.
By Faith Alone
is a collection of stories Klein wrote about God's faithfulness. They're true stories about all the times God has helped VBB teams smuggle Bibles into closed countries.
Here's why VBB brings Bibles across closed borders.
Klein says he first became excited about Bible smuggling after reading God's Smuggler
by Brother Andrew. In case you've never read it, God's Smuggler
is a true-story account of Christian missionary Andrew van der Bijl's adventures in Bible smuggling during the Cold War.
"I think it's really important to build faith in people today and get excited that God is at work around the world today; it's an exciting time to be alive," shares Klein.
Just as God's Smuggler
motivated him as a young Christian, Klein hopes By Faith Alone
inspires those who read it.
"I hope it encourages more people to step out in faith and say, 'God, what do you want me to do? What is it You have for my life?'"
With a $15 USD donation, you can get a copy of By Faith Alone
and help God's Word reach believers in closed countries.
"All the money from the book goes right back into printing more Bibles and getting more Bibles around the world," Klein explains.
Contact Vision Beyond Borders
to get a copy of By Faith Alone.
Cameroon Bible translation teams tempered in crucible of war
(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
Cameroon (WAS/MNN) -- Just as a crucible can withstand very high temperatures, so is Cameroon being tested by the heat of persecution.
Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates,
explains that the country is wedged in between Nigeria and the Central African Republic. "The borders of these countries are somewhat porous. This is the situation that Cameroon is starting to experience: they're being impacted from the West from the Boko Haram terrorism, and they're being impacted by the East from the Seleka rebels and things like that in the CAR."
Violence from both insurgencies is disruptive, but rather than stopping Gospel workers, it's spurring them to greater action. Smith explains that because so many people are facing their mortality, there's an increased appetite for Truth.
The national translation team remains focused on one thing: "We've got to act now to get God's Word to our people so that these outside pressures don't overcome us."
Wycliffe Associates responded by launching plans to help build a translation center in Maroua, Cameroon
. If it sounds familiar, here's why: "The Translation Training Center that we're working on developing with our Cameroonian partners is in the northern part of the country that's actually under the greatest religious pressure, right now," says Smith. Specifically, it's the same area where two Italian priests and a Canadian nun were kidnapped on April 5 by suspected members of the terrorist group Boko Haram and later released.
Local partners believe they have an open window of only a few months to establish relationships and resources to continue Bible translation efforts. They recognize the struggle for what it is: spiritual warfare. "We need the sword of the Spirit," says Smith. "We need the Word of God. We need offensive and defensive Scriptural weapons here in order to really participate in this battle effectively and defend ourselves. So, they're the ones whose commitment is really being tested and being proven to really increase, despite the opposition they're facing."
(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
While Cameroon’s official languages are English and French, there are 280 living languages spoken in Cameroon, including 24 major African language groups. Currently, there are 130 Bible translation projects underway, and 70 translations of the Scriptures have been completed so far. Smith emphasizes that it's this diversity that drives the national translators forward. "This is a Center that will be a resource for training, supporting, and equipping Cameroonian translators to do work in their own languages in this arena of the country." He goes on to say, "Entire communities are asking--begging--to have Scripture in their own heart language."
As part of Wycliffe Associates' support of development projects and literacy training being conducted by local Bible translation partners, the organization aims to raise $175,000 which will be used to train local translators, form relationships with communities, and help direct translation efforts.
From here, it's important to translate the intention into action, Smith adds. Then, "Listen to the news and remember that behind the news, there is always a story about the implications for the Church in that arena. In light of Wycliffe Associates' mission of Bible translation, remember that translation teams are affected by these stories, as well."
Religion laws, Myanmar, and the future of the Church
(Image courtesy World Mission)
Myanmar (MNN) -- Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is at a crossroads.
Three months ago, Burma was considering a controversial "Religious Conversion Law." It bore resemblance to the anti-conversion laws of India with language like "people found to be applying for conversion, with the intent of insulting or destroying a religion, can face imprisonment of up to two years."
Additionally, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in its 2014 report that “political reforms in Burma have not improved legal protections for religious freedom and have done little to curtail anti-Muslim violence, incitement and discrimination, particularly targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority.”
An August visit proved disappointing as observers noted “state-sponsored discrimination and state-condoned violence against Rohingya and Kaman ethnic Muslim minorities also continued, and ethnic minority Christians faced serious abuses during recent military incursions in Kachin state.”
Being Burmese is synonymous with being Buddhist, so those who deviate have been traditionally seen as traitors or threats. World Mission
CEO and Executive Director Greg Kelley says, "Many times when you give your life to Christ, in the Buddhist context here, you are literally losing almost everything."
(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
Despite the risk of being socially ostracized, Kelley says, "These people are responding to an authentic Christian." In fact, he adds, "We just received a report from a village that 25 people had given their lives to Christ. Most of them are being baptized now. We're so excited about the Word of God not returning void in Myanmar."
is World Mission's digital audio Bible. The palm-sized unit has a built-in solar panel with rechargeable batteries. It brings the gospel to life for these unreached oral learners. "Most of them have never heard the Gospel [even] one time. So we distribute The Treasure.
We set up listening groups in the Burmese language. About 100 people will hear the Gospel every time we send in The Treasure
What happens to those who've been rejected by their communities? They don't remain alone, says Kelley. "In many instances, as these Christians mature, they're able to reintroduce and get re-acclimated into their communities and gain favor with these same people who maybe ostracized them at one point in time."
In the meantime, Kelley says, "It becomes really critical that there is a community of believers that you are being nurtured in and being discipled in." World Mission is also responding to that need next month by offering leadership development and training. "We'll be gathering 50 leaders from about six different key areas of northern Myanmar. They do the heavy lifting, so it's our opportunity over a couple of days to just really pour into them and encourage them."
The final point: it takes all of us together to take the Gospel where it has never gone before. "I think it's important that we acknowledge that God has already positioned strategic people to advance the Gospel to these areas. As we can, lift them up and pray for them to represent the ends of the earth and resource them with things like The Treasure
. That's a great role on our end." Click here to get started.