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China (MNN) — As China recovers from the coronavirus outbreak, Bibles for China looks to “Hit the ground running.” The coronavirus COVID-19 is now spreading faster outside China than inside, with European and Middle Eastern countries being affected. COVID-19 has hit Italy particularly hard. The greatest concern at the moment is Iran, whose deputy health minister has recently been infected. Many worry Iran is not accurately reporting the number of victims in their country. In China itself, the COVID-19 outbreak peaked around the beginning of February, the World Health Organization found, and has been decreasing since. That is exactly what Bibles for China wants to hear. The ministry has been hampered by the outbreak, unable to move Bibles around China as efficiently as they were hoping.
The fallout of COVID-19While still primarily focused on providing scripture to the Chinese people, Bibles for China is helping with the crisis as well. Kurt Rovenstine says, “We are responding in a practical way to the epidemic, [giving] our supporters an opportunity, if they so choose, to support in helping to combat the virus with supplies, etc.” The major concerns Rovenstine sees with the fallout of COVID-19? Financial stress, and work simply not getting done. Rovenstine says, “I know that a couple of our people we work very closely with have been stuck in their apartments or homes for a few weeks now. And so, I can't imagine there's not some kind of an impact for them personally. Obviously large on a larger scale, China in particular [has felt economic impacts].” China’s economy is already beginning to recover, but Rovenstine says, “There probably will be a lag in the uptake when we turn back around. But again, our plans are to try to hit the ground running once it clears. Not knowing what that timeframe is does make it a challenge.”
The response of the Church in ChinaBibles for China exists to help the Chinese Church, and according to Rovenstine, local believers need all the help they can get. They are separated from each other, confined to using apps to meet together. Still, the Holy Spirit is working. Rovenstine says, “One of the neat things in this process is that when there's crisis, nobody responds better to hurt, pain, and fear than the Church.” Pray the threat of COVID-19 would disappear from China and the whole world and that those who are sick would be healed. Most of all, Rovenstine says, “Pray for the church in China, to be able to reach out in a substantial way to those who are hurting . . . And [pray] the word of God that we're so in love with makes a difference in the lives of the people there that are going through this epidemic at this time.” The coronavirus has peaked in China (Image courtesy of Bibles for China on Facebook)
Turkey (CAM) -- With the economy in his Middle Eastern country in tatters and his wife leaving him, Mohammad* saw no hope for himself or his young daughter. He was bitter, though not surprised, about his wife abandoning not only him but their 9-year-old daughter; his ex had made it clear that she wanted to erase her past and start over entirely. He spent most nights drinking her memory into oblivion. His daughter was largely uncared for during the day when he would look for odd jobs, usually without success. Christian Aid Mission. “Yet he admitted that he found no peace in his heart from any devotion to his old religion. He felt sure he would suffer a lot of penalties for living such a wicked life. He was sure he would be sentenced to hell, and that there was no hope for him.” “He was sure he would be sentenced to hell, and that there was no hope for him.” Turkey receives more than 64 percent of all refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan,and migrants from those countries seeking asylum often show up at the ministry center seeking help. There Mohammad met another Middle Eastern refugee who invited him to his apartment, where the new arrival noticed he had an Arabic New Testament.“They were very poor, and when he took out a loan, he spent it on alcohol and other bad habits. Then he came to Turkey as a refugee and decided to repent of these bad habits and return to his Shiite religion,” said a native of that area of Turkey, undisclosed for security reasons, who works for a Christian ministry assisted by
Explain ChristianityThe Shiite Muslim asked to borrow it, and the refugee gladly obliged; also raised a Muslim, he had been attending the native ministry’s Bible studies and was thinking he would soon become a Christian. Native missionaries had given him several New Testaments to share with others, and he gave Mohammad a handful of them. Mohammad read the Gospels of Matthew and Mark before he fell asleep. Fascinated by what he read, he sent a text message to the refugee at 5 a.m. asking if he was a Christian, and if so could he explain it to him. “I’m not able to explain it, but the pastor in our church can explain it very well,” the refugee answered, according to the missionary. He told Mohammad that the pastor also had an online lesson plan and would be eager to personally answer any questions he had. “This man, together with his daughter, took those lessons, and together they decided to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives,” the missionary said. “Now they are continually coming to the church and participating in any lessons being offered.”
Amazing MiraclesAs political, religious and ethnic violence continue to foster instability and roil economies in the Middle East, Muslims in the region are more open to the message of Christ’s saving grace than ever, native missionaries said. While Turkey’s economy is faltering, it represents great hope compared to those of war-wrecked Syria and Iraq and increasingly isolated Iran. Iranians have a long history of taking refuge in Turkey, including 2 million who fled there after the 1979 Iranian revolution. As the economy in Iran continues to falter under the weight of sanctions imposed last year by the United States, new influxes of refugees are arriving, according to The Weekly. “Thousands of people made the dangerous, cross-border trek last year into Turkey,” the news magazine reported recently. “Turkey is a U.S. partner that has already given shelter to many refugees. Turkish officials are engaging with nearly 4 million refugees at present. As per the reports, this is the world’s largest population of relocated people.” U.S. sanctions, including limits on banking, oil exports and supplies to Iran’s automotive industry, were followed by Iran abruptly increasing gas prices in order to fund cash handouts, upsetting people across the country. Such unrest throughout the region carries the ripple effect of new opportunities that astonish Christian workers in Turkey. “God continues to perform amazing miracles,” the native missionary said. “The Lord gives opportunities to share the gospel – sometimes in a boat, sometimes on a mountain and sometimes in someone’s home – actually, anywhere at any time.” The network of connections that expose Muslims such as Mohammad to the gospel are no accident, he said, thanking Christian Aid Mission workers and donors for their prayers. “This wonderful miracle and connection with this brother are all God’s doing,” he said. “It’s also because of your prayers and interest in this work. Without these prayers, how would the Holy Spirit minister in such a powerful way? If you had not been praying with us, how could this man really release himself from his religion to receive a different perspective on God’s salvation message and then receive it for himself, becoming a child of God?” Without donor help, he added, a New Testament or whole Bible would not be available to such refugees. If you're interested in helping native workers throughout Turkey reach people hungry for hope with eternal life in Christ, click here. *Name changed for security reasons Headline photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission.
USA (Crossroads/MNN) -- Richard Sifuentes was on the run. Determined to avoid a third trip to prison, he was dodging police who were tracking him on an attempted murder charge. Scared and not sure what to do, Richard called his mother. “The only one who can help you is God,” she told him. Richard didn’t think his mom’s God could help him, but he was at the end of his rope. He hadn’t prayed a day in his life. But that day, Richard got down on his knees and said: “God, if you are real, help me change. Help me get out of this.” Thirty minutes later, the cops kicked down his door, put him in handcuffs and carted him off to jail. Calling his mom from jail, Richard asked her, “What kind of God do you serve? I am in jail. He didn’t save me.” His mother replied that God was saving him – saving him from his own destructive behavior. It was a difficult message for Richard to hear, but he took it to heart. Richard was sentenced to 11 years in prison and soon discovered that God could redeem his situation. He began studying the Bible and encountered the love of God through reading His Word. Richard’s hunger for Scripture only grew after he signed up for Crossroads Prison Ministries’s mentorship program. He began the program as a way of keeping his mind off his surroundings but as he began completing the studies and reading letters from his mentors, he noticed his mind and heart beginning to change. “I started reading 20 to 30 chapters of the Bible a day, and it changed my life,” Richard said. Toward the end of his prison sentence, disaster struck. Richard found out his wife passed away and he could not attend the funeral. Ready to give up on life and on God, Richard threw his Bible in the trash can. But it wasn’t long before he rescued the Bible from the garbage. As much as Richard wanted to forget God and His Word, he couldn’t. He then came across Jeremiah 20:9:“But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” “I realized that God’s Word was a blazing fire in my heart that could not be put out,” Richard said. Since then, Richard has been faithfully and passionately reading and preaching God’s Word. Now on the outside, he is an ordained evangelist and has his own prison ministry in Texas called Deep in the WORD Ministries. Richard says the Crossroads program is a big reason why his life has turned around. “The lessons and letters meant the world to me,” he said. “I kept all my letters from my mentor. The way they would encourage me built me up. “It changed my life. I was a gangster for all my life and then all sudden, God changed me from a gangster to a minister, he changed me from a mess into a message.” To this day, Richard will go back and read the lessons and letters he received while he was in prison. He also has made it his mission to tell as many men in prison about Crossroads as possible. When he visits men in prison, he brings a pile of Crossroads enrollment forms to pass out. “The reason I have a hunger to go back into prisons and minister is because I remember the ministers and Crossroads mentors who visited me,” he said. “I’m giving back what I received.” You can reach men and women in prison with the life-transforming message of the Gospel. Find out more about becoming a Crossroads mentor here! Header photo courtesy of Crossroads Prison Ministries.