Ministry Wrap-Up for 2013
January 2, 2014
During 70 years of communist rule, Russian Christians could not freely worship God, and possession of a Bible carried a three-to-five year prison sentence. Even today, the marks of atheism have been difficult to erase. In Russia alone, 130,000 villages and small cities are still without any Christian church. In Ukraine, there are some 25,000 villages with no believers or churches.
Christian Aid Mission assisted local ministries that dispatched young missionary teams to unreached areas of these two countries, with the ultimate goal of placing four New Testaments in every village that has no witness for Christ. Called the “One Year for Jesus” project, some 200 college-age men and women agreed to dedicate 2013 in service to Christ to be part of these traveling teams. As part of a new generation of believers, they desire to point their culture back to the Bible and back to Jesus Christ. The project is part of a 10-year program that began in 2011. During the first two years, 36 missionary teams preached and witnessed in 13,600 Russian villages. An estimated 5.5 million people heard the gospel, more than 1.8 million prayed to receive salvation, and 430 new churches were established.
Thus far over 220,000 New Testaments have been purchased for distribution in Russia, including remote areas of Siberia. In Ukraine 25 missionary teams were commissioned with the goal to hand out New Testaments in 25,000 villages before September 2014.
In the Southeast Asian country of Laos, Buddhism and animism are staunchly upheld as the traditional religions of the people. Christianity is viewed with suspicion, as a white man’s religion and a product of Western culture. Persecution, particularly in rural villages, is an ever-present reality. The year’s first religious rights incident in Laos was reported February 5, when three Christian pastors were arrested for “disseminating Christian religion.” The pastors stated they brought a DVD film about the end times to a local business to have copies made. According to the report, the pastors told police they had three copies made so they could view the DVDs in their own homes. However, authorities insisted their intent was to spread the Christian religion through distribution of the film. The three pastors were released in March, after being imprisoned for more than a month. Christian Aid Mission works with ministry groups in Laos that plant house churches and meet physical as well as spiritual needs.
An angry Muslim mob torched homes, churches, and businesses in a mostly Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan, on March 9. More than 120 families were displaced as a result of the fiery riots. Prompting the violence was a heated argument between two friends, one a Muslim, the other a Christian, in which the Christian allegedly made derogatory comments about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Enraged Muslims reacted to the news by targeting Joseph Colony, a nominal Christian enclave where the accused man lived. No injuries or deaths were reported since most residents fled before the attacks. A Pakistani church-planting ministry used funds from Christian Aid to distribute food packages and water to victims.
Suspected Boko Haram jihadists set fire to the homes of three missionaries who serve with an indigenous Nigerian ministry assisted by Christian Aid. Over 180 gospel workers are active in the ministry, and many of their mission fields are located in the nation’s Muslim northern region. The Boko Haram was blamed for several attacks on schools, churches, and motorists in 2013. Christian organizations and government offices are prime targets. Due to an increase in the violence, the ministry had to move out of the office it had rented for 20 years. Christian Aid donors supplied funds for the purchase of land and the construction of a mission base in a safer, more centralized location. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” seeks to impose sharia law across Nigeria and rid the country of Western influences. For the past 13 years the terrorist group has been linked to violence, resulting in some 10,000 deaths.
“To know, to live out, and to share the Word—Jesus.” That was the 2013 motto for Open Doors Church, a Kosovo-based ministry that receives assistance from Christian Aid. This year Open Doors Church started a women’s outreach that included weekly gatherings in private homes, Bible studies, and Saturday kids clubs. Raw wounds of resentment and distrust persist in Kosovo, 14 years after a bloody conflict with Serbia that left thousands dead and displaced nearly one million residents.
Many Kosovars are ethnic Albanians, as well as practicing Muslims, who view Christian Serbs as their enemies. A Kosovar woman who converts to Christianity may face abandonment by her family and have no means to support herself. Open Doors Church comes alongside these female believers to encourage them and to bolster their faith. As part of their outreach efforts, the ministry is also seeking to build relationships with Kosovar women who are not Christians. Through fellowship, prayer, and delving into God’s Word, the women are receiving the love of Jesus Christ and some are becoming witnesses for the Savior among their families and friends.
Kenya´s infamous Long Rains season was especially devastating in 2013, causing extensive flooding in several areas of the country between March and May. More than 140,000 people were displaced and 96 people were killed. The deluge also destroyed crops, drowned farm animals, and flooded homes, several of which belonged to native missionaries working with Kenya Evangelism Team, a ministry assisted by Christian Aid. In response to their need, Christian Aid provided funds for food sacks, blankets, mattresses, and construction materials to help the missionaries rebuild their homes.
Gospel workers with Associated Ministries of Argentina (AMA) visited 36 Wichi tribal communities along the Bermejo and Teuco rivers in the northern region of the country. The area is called “The Impenetrable” because there are no roads. The people subsist by hunting and fishing. They speak their own tribal language and are animist worshipers. Because of extreme poverty and no access to medical care, there are many deaths among children and the elderly.
Evangelistic teams brought the good news of Jesus Christ to these remote villages. Through their ministry, an estimated 4,000 people received Christ as their personal Savior this year! Twenty of the new believers were chosen for Bible training and will become leaders in the churches that are being planted there. Since Christian Aid started assisting AMA, the ministry has had more resources to send workers deeper into the jungle. Thus far they have reached five ethnic groups: Wichi, Tobas, Chorote, Pilage, and Guaranies.
The Egyptian government forcibly shut down two political protest camps set up by followers of former President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted from power in July. Christians were blamed for Morsi’s fall, and Muslim Brotherhood supporters turned their fury on believers by destroying over 60 churches. Christian homes, schools, and businesses were also heavily damaged. Among the casualties were two bookshops owned by the Bible Society of Egypt, a ministry assisted by Christian Aid. The stores, located in the cities of Minia and Assiut, were burned in the first wave of violence August 14. The ministry leader said it was the first time in the Bible Society’s 129-year history that they became victims of an attack. Christian Aid has worked with the Society to give Bibles to prisoners and to supply educational materials to Christian schools in Egypt.
Dorothy Sun, the China Area Director for Christian Aid, visited one of the best above-ground Bible schools in the country—Handan Bible School. The Bible school currently has an enrollment of 122 students. The reputation of the school and its graduates has encouraged many servants of the Lord to enroll each year, but due to the lack of space, many are turned away. We praise the Lord that He miraculously provided this year for the beginnings of a new branch of the school. Construction of the facility is underway. For the past 20 years, Christian Aid has come alongside this indigenous ministry and witnessed God’s abundant provision. We are even more excited to see what God will accomplish in the new year through His faithful servants at Handan Bible School. Graduates of the school receive training in theology and evangelism and are equipped for service as missionaries, pastors, worship leaders, and children’s ministry directors.
Cyclone Phailin, a Category 4 storm, caused widespread property and crop damage in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states of eastern India. Although loss of life was minimal due to ample warnings and large-scale evacuations, hundreds of thousands of Indians returned to their communities to find little left to salvage after floodwaters receded. Christian Aid responded by supplying funds to area ministries so they could assemble food packages for needy families. In addition, funds were used to buy plastic tarps for temporary shelters until the displaced could rebuild their homes.
The Philippines experienced a series of crises this fall, beginning with a Muslim insurgent group’s raid of Zamboanga City on the island of Mindanao September 9. Five barangays (districts) of the city were razed to the ground, leaving about 200,000 people displaced. In quick succession there was a 7.2-magnitude earthquake October 15 that shook Bohol Island in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, followed by Super Typhoon Haiyan —one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall—on November 8. About a dozen native ministries assisted by Christian Aid are taking part in the massive and ongoing relief efforts. One group distributed canned goods and other emergency supplies to a congregation that lost everything in the flooding. Another ministry responded by sending work teams to help two communities rebuild their collapsed churches. As they meet physical needs, gospel workers are sharing the eternal hope found in Jesus Christ that no storm can buffet or destroy.
With no end to the nearly three-year civil war in sight, an additional one million Syrians fled their country in 2013. That brings the total exodus from Syria to over 2.5 million people. Many sought sanctuary in adjoining countries like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Greece, and Iraq where Christian Aid-assisted ministries are actively working to bring physical relief and the love of Jesus Christ to traumatized refugees. Ministries are also providing assistance to Christian families who have chosen to remain in Syria and be a witness for Christ to their Muslim neighbors. Churches are experiencing unprecedented growth among Muslims who are becoming more open to the gospel and turning to believers for emotional support and prayer.
The Syrian refugee crisis worsened in December with the onslaught of winter. Colder than normal temperatures and several inches of snow added to the misery of refugees living in camps without heat, electricity, or running water. Christian Aid donors gave generously throughout the year to provide emergency materials, including food, milk for infants, clothing and shoes, blankets, and heaters.