News Worth Listening To
Sierra Leone (MNN) -- Sierra Leone is already not the most stable block in the Jenga pile. Its recent history has been marred by some shocking tragedies, and one more might just topple it. First, the world’s worst Ebola outbreak struck the coastal West African nation in 2014 and killed over 11,000 people. Then, last year, Sierra Leone suffered catastrophic floods and landslides that left 3,000 homeless and killed another 1,141 people. These devastations have compounded instability in the already struggling nation. According to the CIA World Factbook, high unemployment and low pay mean Sierra Leone’s mostly young population is restless. And now, people are on edge once again as a new Ebola strain was recently identified in the country. In this context, Mission Cry is sharing hope and truth with Sierra Leoneans. Just a few weeks ago, Mission Cry sent a shipment of used Bibles and Christian books to Sierra Leone! Jason Woolford with Mission Cry says they are confident that God’s Word will not return void. “When we’re sending the Word of God and Christian books, we’re changing cultures. We’re changing the way that people look at money, we’re changing the way that a father treats a son, a mother treats a daughter, [and] how a husband and wife change. I mean, you talk about culture change; there is nothing that does it better than the Word of God.” Sierra Leone is overwhelmingly Muslim -- 78.6 percent. Christians in the country only account for 20.8 percent of the population. Although Sierra Leonean believers are vastly outnumbered, Mission Cry aims to equip local Christians with free biblical literature. These used Christian books and Bibles serve to encourage the Church and enable outreach efforts. “We’re doing that in these areas where there [are] Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists and we’re giving...the people that are trying to minister to them the opportunity to understand who God is in and through His Word.” Mission Cry has been in ministry for more than 60 years. During that time, they have sent at least $330 million-worth of Christian books and Bibles to over 171 countries. Each shipment is carefully organized from generous donations and prayed over before being sent out. Woolford urges, “I want those that are listening to understand that our time is short here on this earth. Whether Jesus is coming tomorrow or should He tarry, He has given us a charge to be missions-minded…. You and I have the opportunity to send the Word -- Jesus -- in the form of the Bible, the Living Word of God, to people.” If you have any used Bibles or Christian books to donate to Mission Cry, click here to find out next steps! Meanwhile, please lift up Sierra Leone in prayer -- both for this latest Ebola strain to be quelled and for the shipment of biblical literature to change the lives of those it reaches. “Whenever you look at any sort of outbreak or anything, I understand that we live in a fallen world...but I also understand that there is a very real Devil who really hates God and hates God’s people. So we definitely need to lift them up in prayer.” Woolford also asks, “Pray for our ministry. The Devil hates what we’re doing. We’re giving the Word that doesn’t return void.” Learn more about Mission Cry and ways you can get involved! (Header photo courtesy of Annie Spratt via Unsplash)
USA (MNN) – There have been many changes for immigrants and asylum-seekers in the United States, and now, there’s another. “Along with some other countries, the administration is ending the temporary status for Nicaraguans,” Bethany Christian Services’ Bruce Mossburg says.
Protests and Violence in NicaraguaIn Nicaragua, “there are some uprisings, there’s some conflict that may be leading to civil war. The Trump Administration has sanctioned the Nicaraguan government for human rights abuses.” Tensions have been building in Nicaragua for years due to President Daniel Ortega’s manipulation to continue holding power. But when the government announced cuts to the social security benefits, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Protests and rioting started breaking out in Nicaragua in April 2018 While students and citizens with pensions started peaceful protests, security forces violently attacked them. Since April, at least 322 Nicaraguans have been killed. Now, The Week reported, paramilitaries are detaining citizens every day. Citizens have been tortured after being accused of terrorism, organized crime, possession of weapons, and other crimes. The violence has heightened so dramatically that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said Nicaragua is traveling down the same path as Syria. Like Syria, Nicaragua’s citizens have already started fleeing their nation and requesting asylum in other countries.
Fleeing to Costa RicaCosta Rica has seen a massive influx of asylum requests from Nicaraguans. The Washington Post reports that 24,400 Nicaraguans are intending to apply for asylum in Costa Rica this year. Last year, from January to August, only 58 Nicaraguans applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Many who intend to apply for asylum are already living in Costa Rica. However, last month, NPR reported that 200 Nicaraguans are seeking asylum every day in Costa Rica and tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have already fled to Costa Rica over the past few months. “There’s been over the years, a lot of Nicaraguans that have fled to Costa Rica, but this influx is, of course, not typical,” Mossburg says. “I think it’s overwhelming Costa Rica’s infrastructure as well. It’s difficult for them.”
Splitting FamiliesMossburg says as the U.S. is ending temporary status for Nicaraguans, it doesn’t seem there will be any change or decrease in those fleeing to Costa Rica. Instead, it looks like the small nation will continue receiving waves of refugees. CNN reports that on January 5, about 5,300 Nicaraguans living in the U.S. will lose their protected status. They’ll either be forced to return home or become refugees. “A lot of them are targeted. A lot of them are afraid to go back because [of the] instability,” Mossburg says. “So, a lot of them feel like it would be risking their lives to go back.” Further, many of these Nicaraguans have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. They’ve built up their lives. They have jobs, houses, and started families. “Many of them have since had children. Actually, with all the TPS [Temporary Protected Status] grantees, there are about 250,000 children that have, in this country, that have at least one parent that’s somebody that has TPS... People will have to make decisions about what to do with their families, and I think folks will have to leave families behind potentially.” Mossburg says Bethany believes welcoming refugees is biblical and a large part of their ministry is preserving families. “We really believe in the integrity of the family and protecting families, but that’s our focus. I think in this instance, this will be tearing families apart.” TPS for Nicaraguans has been extended by every president since 1999 when Hurricane Mitch devastated the nation. Bethany asks for your prayer now for humanitarian immigration reform. Pray for the families that could be split. Pray for wisdom of the U.S., Nicaraguan, and Costa Rican governments.
United States (MNN) -- CityFest has come and gone in West Michigan. But, in a region heavily influenced by the Church, was CityFest a challenge or a breeze? “I think every city is hard and easy in its own way. For West Michigan, I think people are open to God, to talking about God, to talking about the Church. But our heart is to get beyond that. Our heart is really to remind people of the intimate relationship they can have with Jesus Christ, with the God of the universe,” Wendy Palau with the Luis Palau Association says. “West Michigan might have this unique, Christianized culture, but West Michigan is made up of millions of people who are trying to figure out, trying to understand who is God—what is my relationship with Him? And we are simply calling them to walk with Him, to be in true honest relationship with Him.”
CityFest's Foundations in Personal EvangelismPalau spoke at the CityFest women’s luncheon in Grand Rapids, MI. The women’s luncheon was one of many events to make up CityFest West Michigan. These various events provide opportunities for people from all backgrounds and personalities to interact with CityFest and hear the Gospel message. However, these events work because of local church involvement. For example, local Christian women had the opportunity to be a table host at the women’s luncheon. Hosts could then invite nine women to take a seat at their table during the event. These women could be friends, family, or that girl you always run into at the gym. CityFest partnered with 435 churches in West Michigan. Palau acknowledges the local Christian community’s joint efforts to bring CityFest to West Michigan are not sustainable. CityFest is structured mostly around personal evangelism instead of mass evangelism for this reason. “All we do is in, through, and for the local church. Because the local church[es] are the disciplers. The women’s Bible study groups, they’re the disciplers,” Palau shares. “The table hosts today who have invited nine women to sit are their table, they’re the ones who are going to get the response cards. They are going to receive an email saying this person responded, now you follow up, invite them. The women who respond will also be referred to a local church in their area.”
Be Prayerful, Be ActivePalau explains how discipleship is a necessity for the Christian walk. It is also vital for evangelism. CityFest acts as a catalyst to jump-start the opportunities for discipleship. The event isn’t the end game, though. Please pray for the people who began their relationship with Christ during CityFest West Michigan. Ask God to strengthen and lead West Michigan Christians in personal evangelism and discipleship. Pray local Christians would reach out into their communities and build relationships for discipleship daily. To learn more about CityFest West Michigan, click here. Check out the Luis Palau organization here.