Mission News Network

News Worth Listening To
  1. Japan (MNN) -- “When it rains, it pours.” In other words, when something bad happens, more trouble is right around the corner. Such is the case in Japan. Earlier this month, a typhoon brought record-breaking rainfall to southwest Japan. Last week, flooding caused by the rainfall triggered massive mudslides and left people stranded on rooftops. Now, says Takeshi Takazawa of Asian Access, a heat wave is complicating recovery efforts and the death toll keeps on climbing. More than 200 people have perished so far. Many of the deaths have occurred in three prefectures: Okayama, Hiroshima, and Ehime. “Just like the tsunami that happened seven years ago, the flood came rather quickly,” says Takazawa. “[There were] many people who couldn’t move quickly to the higher ground and also it was early morning, so people couldn’t leave the home, and they were swallowed by the water.” In response, Asian Access is coming alongside its network of local Japanese believers and churches “to share Christ’s love, along with disaster relief.” As stated here, Asian Access prioritizes its response based on the three types of people/organizations involved in disaster relief:
    • Nationals and residents who live there, have been through the disaster, and will stay. Asian Access listens first, and well, to these nationals and residents
    • People and organizations with a previous connection to the region and the people
    • People and organizations who are involved because of the disaster.
    “We come alongside local churches to reach out and help disaster victims,” Takazawa explains. A decade of natural disasters and partnership has sharpened the response of local believers to community needs.

    Photo courtesy of Kyoto News via Asian Access.

    "Disasters [are] a horrible thing to experience. But, each time, our (partner) churches in Japan are getting quicker and [finding] better ways to organize ourselves in a national network and churches [are] coming alongside together…to reach out to the community.” There’s a role for you to play, too. “This is not a short-term thing…so please continue to pray that local churches can be able to act as the hands and feet of Christ.” Please pray for the surviving family members of flood victims. Ask the Lord to comfort them in this time of grief. Pray for flood survivors in the disaster zone; more than 2,000 households have no access to clean water. Finally, pray for Asian Access and Japanese Christians as they put God’s love into action.

    "[Prayer] is the call from God, who cares for every people group, every person on this earth. He mobilizes the global Church, including YOU (listeners/readers), to pray for this disaster response."

    Asian Access is also coming alongside churches and leaders in the disaster zone to help with developing strategy and providing physical, professional, emotional, and spiritual resources as God permits. If you’d like to give to the Japan Disaster Relief Fund, click here. “Give financially, or give time and energy by joining one of our reconstruction teams,” Takazawa suggests.   Header photo courtesy of Asian Access.
  2. Papua New Guinea (MNN) -- It has been almost five months since a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Powerful aftershocks came in the following days, adding to the destruction and death toll. According to ReliefWeb, nearly half a million people were affected by the quake and 247,000 were in immediate need of emergency supplies. The devastation killed more than 100 people and wounded more than 500. What made this earthquake so difficult to address was how remote many affected communities were. Major landslides and damaged roads made travel nearly impossible. The rebuilding and aid process in PNG is still ongoing.

    MAF Aerial Survey of PNG following several strong earthquakes, February 2018. (Photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)

    Mission Aviation Fellowship works alongside ministries and organizations to serve isolated communities in PNG. They deliver health and educational supplies, food, and provide medical evacuations. When the major earthquake struck on February 26, Sharlene Coker with MAF says the ministry sprang into action. “We woke up that morning in the early morning to the earthquake, and once the sun was up we had two aircraft in the air which had already been scheduled to go to that part of the country, checking on the communities. So the pilots took some extra time talking to the community leaders and people on the ground at the airstrips they were at, finding out their needs. “So we had that information coming in from pilots, and then we also have HF radio. We have people monitoring that on a regular basis. Also, we partner with CRMF -- which is Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship -- and they are monitoring the HF frequencies at all times. So people would be calling in because cell networks were down and being able to get communication was one of the issues.” Between the radio communication and an aerial survey, MAF was able to pinpoint areas with the greatest needs following the earthquake. From there, the ministry communicated these needs to other organizations and ministries that could then provide aid and assistance. MAF also collected donations of food, rice, and water and flew those aid items to the hardest hit areas.

    MAF Aerial Survey of PNG following several strong earthquakes, February 2018. (Photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)

    “In PNG, a lot of people know that if they can get to an airstrip, help will come. So that is what happened in the weeks following the earthquake.” The psychological trauma was hard on communities as well. Tremors can bring on a renewed sense of stress and panic in the wake of the earthquake. Some people have gone back to rebuild, but not everyone can. “There are certain areas...that it is not safe for them to go back in. So there are areas -- care centers is what they call them -- at the different airstrip areas where many people are gathered and they are still sorting out where they will make home in the future because they can’t get back home.” Coker explains, “At this time, we’re more in the recovery phase. So most of the supplies going out now are more for rebuilding and hygiene, and organizations are offering training on clean water and how to obtain that and gender protection and different things that need to happen. But rebuilding right now is the main focus.” While there is demand for rebuilding supplies and aid, there is also a deep desire for spiritual truth in PNG. “For us, the most important need is Christ, getting the Word of God into people’s hands. Our planes are all equipped with a Wi-Fi Bible and that allows people to use their cell phones and download many items, Bibles, and other Christian resources to their phones. And yes, in the bush airstrips, they have cell phones!” says Coker.
    “Our pilots also take out Bibles and Christian resources on their planes in a box wherever they go. Rarely do they come back without an empty box…. People are just hungry for the Word of God.”
    Even in the midst of hardship and devastation, MAF pilots and staff in PNG are seeing God move. “We could not reach so many people without the Lord working. Even after the earthquake when many had gathered at the airstrips and they were asking for food and water and basic things, they were also asking for the Bibles. We had calls coming in from the people working on the ground asking us to put Bibles on the airplanes.” If you would like to learn more about MAF and how you can support their ministry, click here! One of the best ways you can support MAF and Papua New Guineans is through prayer. Coker asks, “Pray for safety in flight. The weather here can turn at any moment and it really impacts what we can do. But keeping our pilots and those on board safe is always a prayer request. [Pray] for people to be open to God’s Word; and also for those who have heard it, to really grow in their faith as they get a better understanding of what Scripture is about and what Christ has done for them.”
  3. India (MNN) – In Nagaland, India, a simple loan program is transforming a community. Scott Clifton has been serving as the Assistant Director of FARMS International since May. Before that, he served as a board member. “Previously I worked as a design engineer for an aircraft company and so I left that job to pursue ministry with FARMS as I felt God was leading.” After he came on staff, Clifton joined executive director, Joe Richter, on a 25-day trip to the various projects FARMS has. Clifton says, “The most remote location on that trip was to a village in Nagaland, and we weren’t even sure if we would be able to go, but the rains held off long enough and we thought we could make it without getting stuck.” They were able to visit the village, but it was close call with monsoon rains. During their visit, they met with a pastor who received a FARMS loan sometime in the past few years. Clifton explains that this pastor had been serving the community for the last 25 years. “He talked about how before he received a FARMS loan, he couldn’t pay expenses for his family—he had three kids and his wife, and they couldn’t make ends meet.”

    (Photo and header photo courtesy of FARMS International)

    In other words, this pastor had a growing debt. But with the FARMS loan he received, he purchased a rice mill—a huge advance in technology for the area. Without the mill, people had to either shell their rice by hand or transport it far away. “Through this loan, he was able to increase his income, personally, by a significant amount, where as he’s able to pay off all those debts. He also receives a very low monthly wage from the church, so he’s able to supplement that. And, in fact, it’s enough income from this project, that he’s able to give more to the church.” Microloans through FARMS are interest-free, and loan-holders agree to pay tithe back to the church once their loan project begins to turn a profit. In this way, there’s less burden on the church to support the pastor, and more funds available to do ministry outreach. But, the rice mill has been beneficial in other ways, as well. “It’s also a really significant project in that it’s beneficial to the entire community. So, if someone doesn’t have enough money to pay… to have the rice milled, they can give a portion of the rice itself so that anyone who wants rice milled will have the means to have it milled.” This creates an economic advantage for rice farmers in that they no longer have to spend as much time milling their rice.

    Strengthening Church Outreach

    There are a couple of ways that FARMS loans impact the Gospel. In this story, we see that the loans make it possible for ministry workers to spend more time in ministry. This pastor was able to pay off his loan and his debts, and now he’s able to take adequate care of his family, financially. “The pastor is really carrying out ministry in addition to other responsibilities that everybody else would have. He has the same burdens of putting food on the table and trying to provide education for his kids, which is a significant hurdle for such a remote location as this. And so, he has those burden. But in addition, he feels that God has burdened him for ministry. And so, that’s a lot of commitments to try to balance.” Increasing his income means he can provide for his family, and focus more time on ministry.

    (Photo courtesy of FARMS International)

    “He’s able to do his work as a pastor more effectively. He’s freed up with the time and the resources to pursue that.” The second way these projects impact the Gospel is that they give non-Christians a glimpse at what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ. In this village, Clifton says, “Many were Christian, but there were also families who were not, who are part of a tribal religion." John 13:35 says that others will know Jesus’ disciples by their love for one another. This means that the members of the Body of Christ are in relationship with one another, and therefore care for one another. The FARMS program encourages just that—for the Body of Christ to use its resources to help those in need. The very act of caring for other Christians is a testimony to those who see these actions. Clifton says, “When they see the people come out of the poverty that everybody in the village is in, and they ask questions, we pray that it creates an attractive response to the Gospel, to the Christian message, knowing that those people, those believers in that village, are supported by a large community of believers who are both praying for them, but also seeking to partner in ways that help to bring them out of their poverty.” Do you feel like God is asking you to get involved with this? There are quite a few ways you can respond. “There’s always a greater need that we see, more places that we can go, more programs that we can expand than we have the financial resources available to do so. “And one of the things we’re passionate about is educating about giving. It can be easy for very well-intentioned believers to understand that God calls us to give, to want to experience the joy of giving. And so we give and we feel good about that, but we don’t always look into what we’re giving to, or how that operates. And so, we are really passionate about educating believers who are in a position to give financially, that we also have a responsibility to look into how that money is used and to have some intentionality with where we place it.” If you’d like to support FARMS International financially, learn more here. And, here’s how you can pray: “Some of the countries that we’re working in are very difficult scenarios for a number of different reasons. Pray for the believers who have received loans that it would improve their situation and that there would be good payment and that the churches would be empowered to pursue the ministry that’s on their hearts—to share the Gospel with those around them.”