PICTURE edition 44: The church in Sudan: amazing growth amidst persecution

1. History
Sudan is Africa’s largest country and the name means Land of the Black People, a term coined by the Arabs to describe the Nubian peoples living below Egypt. The modern map is a result of British imperialism but the this is the home of the ancient Nubian Kingdom of Cush which was deeply entwined in the affairs of Egypt. Sudan even have their own pyramids! The Cushite kingdom lasted thousands of years, right up to the 4th Century AD and this kingdom is specifically mentioned in Isaiah 18:1 and Habakkuk 3:7. In fact Numbers 12:1 says Moses’ second wife was a Cushite.

After the 4th Century the once formidable kingdom disintegrated into three separate Christian kingdoms. These kingdoms were able to repel the Arab Empire on several occasions and thus kept their political autonomy for many centuries. This ushered in a golden age for this Afro-Byzantine Christian region through to the 11th Century. In this era the Nubians developed an alphabet based on Coptic and women enjoyed high social status and access to education and land. They often used their wealth to endow churches and church paintings. Even the royal succession was matri-lineal, with the son of the king’s sister being the rightful heir!

From the 12th Century onward migration from Egypt increased and in the 15th Century Sudan was overrun by Muslim Arab Bedouins. Sufi holy men then began to spread Islam up and down the Nile communities. However, the Sudanese folk Islam that evolved preserved many rituals stemming from the prior Christian traditions until the recent times. In 1821 the Ottoman Turks conquered Sudan, and in 1896 the British wrestled control of the country, keeping it until independence in 1956.

2. Today
Sudan today is a byword for misery and conflict and it was oil that provided Sudan with 90% of its income to fight those wars. Life expectancy for Sudan’s 50 million people is low and education was largely missing for a decade for many of its citizens. The vastness of Sudan’s territory and the racial mixing of Arabs with Nubians over many centuries has resulted in some 597 ethnic groups and 134 languages.

Civil war has raged throughout most of its time as an independent nation. This is because of the country’s increasingly violent Islamism and the remarkable growth of Christianity, particularly in the south. After the deaths of countless southerners and the displacement of 2.5 million people, peace was finally secured in 2005.  North and South Sudan then began to slowly rebuild infrastructure.

On the 9th of July 2011, South Sudan became an independent country, the worlds newest. The two nations today enjoy an uneasy peace. Sadly, within a year or two of South Sudan’s independence fighting broke out between its two major tribal groups, the Dinka and the restless Nuer tribes. This conflict alone cost another 50,000 lives and displaced millions.

However, southern Christians were not the only ones fighting the government. In Darfur some 300,000 people were killed when separatists defied northern control. As I said, Sudan is a byword for misery. Today Sudan is in the grip of a Chinese led investment boom, with all the usual Chinese strings attached.

3. True Christianity
As mentioned, Christianity came here very early and put down deep roots. However, these were ripped out one by one over the last thousand years. The destructive radical Islamist vision of president Al Bashir being just the latest wave of forced Islamisation. Most churches, Christian hospitals and schools in the north were systematically destroyed by his government. Never-the-less, a remarkable flowering of true Christianity has been underway since independence. From just 1.6 million in 1980, Christians now number some 12 million, mostly in the centre and south. South Sudan is now 80% Christian, but still very tribal.

Just as remarkable is the turning away from Islam of many people in the centre and north of Sudan after witnessing the atrocities of the government which ruled in the name of a puritanical Wahhabist Islam. Whole villages and tribes have crossed over to Jesus, even though the penalty is death. Churches are being planted in previously unreached areas as many refugees return home with the fire of God in their hearts. In fact Sudan is one of the few established Muslim countries that is losing significant parts of its population to Christianity. This goes a long way to explaining why Satan tried to use force to squash the growing church, but it backfired, as it did the day Jesus died on the cross!

Sudan is now very open to the Gospel as most northerners now have much sympathy for their southern brothers. This has led to some unusually open doors to preach in the north. Many Sudanese studying in Egypt are also coming to faith. Most new Christians in Sudan are pentecostal believers, and the church is now one of the fastest growing in the world at over 8% per year. The blood of the martyrs truly is the seed of the church!

4. Prayer Points
Pray for the current outpouring the accelerate!
Pray for the next generation of believers who don’t know war, that their faith will not grow cold
Pray for the millions deeply affected by the war
Pray for continued church growth inside previously Muslim areas
Pray for the thousands of ex-child soldiers, and those damaged by them
Pray for the safety of South Sudan
Pray for the increasing number of Ethiopian and Nigerian missionaries appearing in Sudan
Pray for leaders, many of whom do not have any training
Pray for the 100,000 southerners who were abducted and sold into slavery in the north
Pray for southerners to not only forgive the northerners, but to reach out to them with the love of Jesus
Pray for the newly Christianised Nuer, Mabaan, Uduk, Dinka, Moru, Toposa, Acholi and Nuba tribes, that they will in turn reach others.

Next week: Syria



Somalia is a nation of around 15 million people that occupies the Horn of Africa. It is an ancient land, with rock paintings being some of the oldest in the world. Its earliest civilisations are intricately connected to those of Egypt and Ethiopia as evidenced by the Wargarde Wall and many conical pyramidical structures belong to the ancient Land of Punt. In that era the Land of Punt enjoyed trading relationships with the Egyptians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Indians and Romans. Frankincense and Myrrh were prized exports and it was the Somalis who first domesticated a local wild animal, the camel. Being just outside the orbit of the Romans, Somalis were able to control the lucrative cinnamon trade from India and amass great wealth around the time of Christ.

Somalia eventually came under the control of the Arab Empire very early on and slowly adopted Islam, with various sultanates vying for control of the region for the next thousand years. In the late 19th century European powers began the Scramble for Africa, which inspired the Dervish leader Mohammed Abdullah Hassan to rally support from across the Horn of Africa and begin one of the longest colonial resistance wars ever recorded. In several of his poems and speeches he emphasized that the British have destroyed our religion and made our children their children and that the Christian Ethiopians in league with the British Christians were bent upon plundering the political and religious freedom of the Somali nation. Thus began the modern Somalian hatred for all things Christian. During this period Italy controlled the southern half of Somalia and the British controlled the north. During the 1930’s Italy attacked both Ethiopia and British Somaliland. In 1941 both Somalia and Ethiopia were retaken by the British in a little known theatre of World War II. Independence was achieved in 1960.


After independence Cold War rivalries saw Somalia quickly disintegrate into wars with Ethiopia, then clan warfare, then civil war and brutal dictatorships, with 14 failed governments in 14 years. Since 2000 the Al Shabab Islamists have filled some of the power vacuum in the south, where fighting between them and the official government has become endemic around the capital of Mogadishu and any Western intervention is seen as another invasion of the Christians.

Against this depressing trend, Somaliland, the ex-British controlled region in the northwest, and Puntland on the Horn of Africa, have set up their own independent national governments and become a model of peace and good governance compared to the ex-Italian colony around Mogadishu to the south. The popular image of a Somalian failed state portrayed in the media only applies to the southern third of the country and half the population. Puntland has very low rates of poverty compared to the rest of the country while both the breakaway states are functioning democracies!

Geographically the country is largely flat and hot. Mountains in the north and two Ethiopian highland rivers in the south sustain the only agriculture. The Somali people are clan-based Sunni Muslims, and about 70% still follow a nomadic pastoralism, one of the highest percentages in the world and making it very difficult for traditional Christian missions methods to penetrate the culture. Intriguingly it Somalia right next to Arabia but only around 2% of Somalis are Arabs.

Somalia is Africa’s most failed state along with Sierra Leone. The average income is 0.5% of the USA and the narcotic leaf called qat drains the energy and morale of the nation. Over 2 million people are internally displaced and UN humanitarian workers are routinely targeted by Al Shabab who control large sections of the south and dish out a harsh form of Sharia law. Somalia has also become a byword for smugglers and pirates. Most women still suffer female mutilation and the country has the lowest health per capita budget of any nation on earth. Need I go on!

True Christianity

Bear with me for a moment while I reconstruct Somalia’s religious history. Both modern Western historians and influential Somali scholars have tried to delete the history of Christianity in Somalia, and this has bred the myth that Christianity is a foreign and hostile religion. Somali people are therefore are deeply antagonistic toward Christianity.

Christianity DID NOT come via British colonial missionaries. It arrived 1,800 years earlier with traders not long after the day of Pentecost and thrived alongside the many Jewish locals. Written records, archaeological remains and the use of symbols such as the cross on graves, contract notes, camel brands and other places point to a once deeply embedded Christian culture. There are several written, Arab sources from as late as the 10th century that still described a port city in present-day northwest Somalia, Zeila, then known then as Seylac, as a Christian city whose king received tribute from the small Muslim minority! A letter from the Catholic missionary, Francis Xavier, to Jesuit headquarters dated from September 1542, describes a Christian population on the nearby island of Socotra who claim to be converts of St. Thomas. In 1854 the first European explorer to visit Somalia described ruins of what the local Warsangeli clan claimed to be a church in what is now Sanaag Region of eastern Somaliland. In addition, many of the all-important clan genealogies of the Somalis do not become Islamised until the 15th Century and there are at least four Somali clans whose origin is Jewish. Many people also have Biblical names that are not used by any other Muslims.

Sadly, rivalry with Christian Orthodoxy in nearby Ethiopia over hundreds of years gradually forced the Somalis deeper into Islam and by the time of the European colonists little remained of what was once a largely Orthodox Christian region before the arrival of Islam.

By 1913 there were virtually no Christians in the Somali territories, with only about 100–200 followers coming from the schools and orphanages of the few Catholic missions in the British Somaliland protectorate. There were also no known Catholic missions in Italian Somaliland during the same period. In the 1970s, during the reign of Somalia’s then Marxist government, church-run schools were closed and missionaries sent home. In December 2013, the government even released a directive prohibiting the celebration of Christian festivities in the country. This is hostile territory for any Somali thinking of following Jesus. The lawlessness of the southern part of Somalia just adds to the fear barrier.

Miraculously, there are still some 26,000 Orthodox Christians living in Somalia; remnants of the ancient church. However there are only around 4,000 Somalis known to be evangelical Christians. Public confession of Christ is to invite retribution. Little is known of secret believers, but they are sure to be there as many Somalis are now using the internet to investigate the empty pages of their pre-Islamic history. In addition, large numbers of the  4 million strong Somali diaspora have become Christians. Operation World says an infant Somali church is emerging from the chaos and those in power admit Somalia is no longer 100% Muslim.

Prayer Points

Somalia needs our prayers!

Pray for the northern regions as there are almost no known Christians

Pray that the cruel Al Shabab rulers will drive many away from Islam

Pray for the infant church, it faces many dangers

Pray for the distribution of the Somali Bible

Pray for Christian radio beamed in from Ethiopia to reach the hidden believers

Pray for divine encounters

Pray for boldness and spirit led evangelism, healings and miracles

Pray for those in power to encounter the power of Jesus

Pray for internet evangelists to reach their own people anonymously




Sierra Leone is a small tropical country on the south west coast of West Africa. It has been inhabited for at least 2,500 years and for most of that time it was isolated from much of the world due to its impenetrable rainforests. Sierra Leone was host to the tsetse fly, which carried a disease fatal to horses and the zebu cattle used by the Mande people to the north. This protected the people of Sierra Leone from conquests by the Mande and other African empires. This also reduced the Islamic influence of Islam. It was only in the 18th Century that Islam became widely adopted along the coast.

In 1462, Portuguese explorer, Pedro de Sintra, mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour, naming the hills Serra da Leoa, or Lioness Mountains, which eventually became the name of the country. In later centuries many of its people were deported to the Americas as slaves. However, after the American war of independence, the British took thousands of freed slaves to Canada and London, and eventually established a colony for them around Freetown. Freetown later became the dropping off point for any slave ships intercepted by the British navy after that empire abolished slavery in 1807.

These returning Africans were from many areas of Africa, but principally the west coast. Along with many black migrants from coming from the USA in the 19th Century, these peoples created a distinct hybrid African/Western ethnicity called the Krio people (creole people) and a trading language called Krio which became commonly used among many of the ethnicities in the country. The Krio people were black but Western in outlook because they had lost their African language and cultural roots. They were English speaking, and often Christian, so considered themselves above the indigenous peoples. In time this would create a huge barrier to the spread of the Gospel.

In 1896 the British annexed the interior of Sierra Leone and so began the conquest of the local peoples. As more locals were educated they began to push for more autonomy and the country was granted independence in 1961. This was sadly followed by a succession stupid wars and brutal anarchy which cost 100,000 lives and culminated in the return of British military forces which finally brought about a restoration of democracy in 2002.


Sierra Leone’s seven million people are at or near the very bottom of the global HDI index. It has a life expectancy of less than 50 years and literacy levels are abysmal. The average income is a dollar a day but for two thirds of the population subsistence agriculture is the only option. In addition, corruption is endemic and the country’s infrastructure lies in ruins because of the war. Sadly however, there seems to be very little urgency on the part of the government to tackle any of Sierra Leones many pressing problems.

Satan has this country firmly in his grip and this can be seen in the enormous influence of secret societies, the Freemasons and the occult have over the lives of most people. This is the prime cause of the country’s profound social darkness. The casualties of war are everywhere, from the countless orphans, to the countless amputees, to the countless child slave soldiers and the countless victims of rape and torture. Then there is the mental trauma that most of the population suffer through in silence. Sierra Leone needs our prayers as few other countries do.

True Christianity

In 1785 Freetown built the very first Protestant church building in West Africa and at that stage there were virtually no Muslims anywhere beyond a few traders on the coast. This region was open for the Gospel. Yet after 235 years Christianity has not penetrated the culture to any great extent. Sadly the country is now 70% Muslim, about 13% Christian and the rest animist. Only around 4% of the population know Jesus.

The historic Christian denominations have grown impotent while the newer denominations are shallow and infected with prosperity teachings, animistic practices and Freemasonry. And the true church that loves Jesus is being overwhelmed by the size of the task of ministering to a wounded society, especially as most evangelical church leaders have only a rudimentary education.

Islam was followed by a very small minority of the population when the British arrived, yet it is now the dominant religion. Its growth was spurred along by the opening up of the interior to trade with countries to the north who were Muslim, the many Muslim evangelists coming to the country from the Middle East, and in recent years by the mosque planting efforts of the Pakistani and Bangladesh UN peacekeepers who proved to be very effective evangelists for Islam.

Sierra Leone is therefore a major success story for global Islamic evangelism, and this has happened right under the nose of British Protestant Christians. This is largely because the pride and arrogance of the Krio ethnic peoples who saw themselves as superior to the indigenous Africans. In response the locals have rejected Christianity and embraced Islam.

Prayer Points

For a heart of love, humility, compassion and service to enter the Krio Christians

For the millions who suffer because of the mindless atrocities committed during the war.

For 250,000 evangelical Christians to get a heart for the Kingdom’

For the spiritually shallow churches to begin to serve and love the lost

For the many Christian humanitarian aid agencies who labour faithfully among the suffering

For a discipleship multiplication movement to come to Sierra Leone, it’s the only way we will see a multitude come to him, the old wineskins are leaking!

For a breakthough!




Senegal occupies a prominent position as the western-most country in Africa and it completely surrounds the country of Gambia. Humans came here with the first wave of humanity after the Great Flood. By the Roman era the Berbers of North Africa were pushing down into the region, while the Wolof and Fulani Negroid peoples were establishing themselves from the East and south. Senegal was another of those many melting pots of humanity in Africa and the Middle East. In the Christian era we find Senegal lying in the western shadow of the formidable Ghanaian Empire to its east and a conduit of trade between Rome and the sub-Saharan world. In time the Wolof peoples would come to dominate this region and to this day they control the culture of Senegal.

With the coming of the Arab Empire in North Africa, commerce and cultural exchange continued and increased. Some Wolof and Fulani people began to convert to Islam, but not in great numbers. By the time the Europeans arrived, Senegal was still less than 30% Muslim. Animist religions with their heavy involvement in witchcraft and voodoo were the order of the day.

By the middle of the 15th Century the Europeans were active on the west coast of Africa. First came the Portugese, then the Dutch as explorers and traders. Dakar was a natural spot for trade. The global rivalry between the British and the French eventually saw the area come under the control of the French, except for the narrow region surrounding the Gambia River which was retained by the British and is now the nation of Gambia. The entire West African Coast played a central part on the tragedy that was the Atlantic slave trade to the Americas and it is quite possible that a portion of black Americans today are Senegalese by descent.

French power was centred around the city of Dakar and slowly over several centuries the local population was allowed some say in their own affairs. This culminated in full independence in 1960. The march of cultural Islam in Senegal and the rest of the French West African colonies was relentless during the 20th Century, growing from 40% of the population to some 90% today. Having said that, the vast majority of that 90% of the Senegalese are Muslim in name only, with little understanding and shallow roots in the religion.


Since independence Senegal has been one of the few African countries to embrace and respect the rules of democracy, a point of which they are very proud. They are equally proud of their religious tolerance mainly because there has been such an impotent example of Christianity on display. Sadly democracy and tolerance has not translated into economic development. The country consistently comes in near the bottom of the International Human Development list: The average life span is not much over 50 years, half the population is under 20 years, and literacy is just 40%. A unique feature of Senegal is the power of the Sufi brotherhoods, of which there are three. They are wealthy, well organised and powerful; literally states within a state.

True Christianity

Sadly, true Christianity has only recently arrived in Senegal. If there was a Christian presence in the New Testament era coming down with the Berbers from the north it has not left any records. With the French came Catholicism and the country is now 6% Catholic. Their influence is larger than their numbers because they are well educated and run many of the countries hospitals and schools. Because there was no vibrant evangelical witness during the entire colonial era, most of those who were Animist in religious orientation in previous generations switched to Islam in protest against the dead European religion. This was in stark contrast to the situation in former British colonies where Christianity is now flourishing in Africa.

For the moment there is freedom of religion in Senegal and there are some 50,000 evangelical believers in the country, mostly around Dakar and other centres on the coast. Little missions work has been done in the vast swathe of villages in the interior. The country still awaits a move of God that is indigenous in culture but Biblical in spirituality. There are some reports of new spiritual foundations being laid and an openness to the Good News on the internet, but they are few and far between.

Prayer Points

For the rising rejection of radical Islam to grow into a powerful hunger for the truth

For the millions who are nominal Muslims but with a respect for Jesus

For the 100,000 street kids of Dakar

For culturally relevant church planting strategies

For the preservation of tolerance toward Christianity

For Souls, lots of souls to come to Jesus

For deep discipleship, not shallow conversions

For a wave of revival to invade the half a million Catholics

For the unreached among the proud and resistant Wolof people

For the nomadic Fulbe herdsmen who are very hard to reach by outsiders

For the Maures, who are all Muslim and who live near the Gambia River



Because Saudi Arabia is the custodian and epicentre of Islam, and I have spent a large part of the last two years studying to origins of Islam, today’s blog will be a little longer than usual. Many of the links below are to my website and relevant essays on Islam.


Saudi Arabia is the heart and soul of Islam. Islamic tradition (but not the evidence) says that this is where Islam started and this is where Muhammad lived. Arabic is the heart language of Islam and Mecca is, well, the Mecca of all Islamic worship! This privileged position sets Saudi Arabia apart from all other Islamic countries. If Islam falls here, it falls everywhere.

Saudi Arabia is mentioned in the Bible several times and is always associated with the  Ishmaelites, Qedarites, the wildernesses of Shur and Paran, and the Midianites (1 Chronicles 1:29Isaiah 21:13, 16, Ezekiel 27:21, Jeremiah 49:28). In fact the Arab people have throughout history been more often called Ishmaelites and Hagarites than Arabs due to their ancestral ties to Abraham’s first born son, Ishmael. There were Arabs present at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10) and Paul spent time in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). The Arab ancestral claims to Abraham run very, very deep and to this day are the source of much of the tension between the Muslims/Arabs on one side, and Jews/Christians on the other side.

The church took off in the Arabian Peninsula just as much as most other places in the New Testament era. However, with the  Nabataean Empire being the centre of Arab wealth, culture and language, Christianity always competed with the traditional Arab worship of cubes, meteorites and sacred pilgrimage sites. These traditions eventually all found their way into Islam.

During this era the Christian Arab Ghassanid and the pagan Arab Lakhmid tribes moved north into Syria to work for the Byzantines, and to the Euphrates to work for the Persians. They both grew rich and powerful under their respective patronages. With the collapse of the Sassanian Persian Empire in 622 at the hands of the Byzantines, the entire Fertile Crescent was theirs for the two Arab tribes to claim in the name of the particular type of Christianity they had adopted. They literally fell into an empire; it had nothing to do with the fabled conquests of Islamic tradition of which we can find no significant evidence.

Sadly, the Arian theology of these believers, with its belief in the unity of God instead of the Trinity, and subsequent belief that Jesus was a servant of God and not God incarnate, clashed with the theologies of the Byzantines. In fact the Council of Nicaea was called to deal Arius’s theological threats and it from this event that we can begin the countdown to the rise of Islam.

Thus the scene was set for the seemingly eternal theological and civilizational war between Islam and European Christendom that still rages today globally. Because the Arabs were initially winning their wars against what they saw as the heretical Byzantines (and with the Byzantine Catholic worship of Mary, saints and the incorporation of so many Greek traditions, rightly so), the Arabs became convinced God was on their side. They were not yet Muslims in the modern sense but about to become so under the guidance of their leader Abd al Malik and his sons of the Umayyad dynasty and then after 750AD, the astute Abbasid legal scholars of Baghdad. In this period mosques turned from Petra to Mecca, the Nabataean sacred cube and meteorite was moved from Petra to the new pilgrimage site of Mecca and the Qur’an began to be codified.

Between 750 and 1,000AD clever Islamic scholars working from modern day Baghdad back-dated and rewrote their entire Arab history with a great flush of imperial and religious hubris via the fictitious Sunnah and Hadith literature.  Mecca was established as a pilgrimage site, the term Muhammad changed from being a title of Christ to a fictitious warrior prophet from the then imaginary city of Mecca, the concept of Islam (originally meaning submission to our way, not the Byzantine way) was invented and the Qur’an was written up from a collection of scripts circulating at the time. (The book is actually two books in one. The first is an adaptation of older Christian literature, and the other is a more recent exhortation to follow the new religion. The first is poetry and the second is prose.).

Thus was born the idea that the Arab Empire, now known as Imperial Islam, was divinely destined to conquer the whole world. Islam then became the big stick that Satan used to reclaim the Middle East from Jesus and try to force Christianity out of Europe. Its claim to have been divinely ordained in an isolated region of the world cut off from all other religions collapses in light of the fact that every single theological concept is not only borrowed from Syriac/Arian Christianity but the very words are also.

In the Middle Ages the Crusaders tried to retake their lost Christian Holy Lands of the Middle East but failed. However, they brought back precious Greek manuscripts that had been preserved by the Muslims. This accident began that great wave of innovation and learning that resulted in European Christendom pulling ahead of the rest of the world. Toward the end of this era it was European technology that enabled its seafaring explorers to discover new routes to India and China, thus avoiding the Muslim/Arab stranglehold on the spice trade. From that point on the Middle East slid into economic obscurity.

This led to the Colonial era when Arabia and Islam were thoroughly humiliated by the European powers who easily carved up the Middle East in gentleman’s agreements. Islam’s theology of world conquest was in tatters. From the soul searching that this caused came the Wahhabi teachings with its call back to the pure Islamic Jihad of Muhammad. This theology is the backbone of all modern jihadi movements today who seek to re-establish the ascendency of Islam over Western culture. They are grinding a very big historical axe! The ties between the Wahhabis and the local rulers also gave rise to the House of Saud as the current ruling clan of Arabia.

In 1947 oil was discovered in vast quantities. If it wasn’t for this accident of history Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf States would still be an economic backwater at the level of modern Yemen. Oil money drives the current Wahhabist resurgence of Islam.


Saudi Arabia is today a nation state of 31 million people owned by a single family, the Saud family. It has an average income of just 40% of the USA (very unevenly distributed)and relies on oil for 90% of its national income. It is still a feudal state with perhaps the worst human rights record of any modern country. It sends hundreds of millions of dollars overseas each year to fund Islamic expansion around the world. The country would collapse if not for the massive amount of foreign workers that do most of the menial tasks. Saudi pride results in most locals considering themselves above these jobs. Unemployment and idleness among Saudis is therefore very high, education is not taken very seriously. Women are treated as vassals that rarely work and are legally transferred from family to husband at marriage. Their rights are miniscule. Shiites make up 8% of the population and are actively discriminated against.

The future of Saudi Arabia is very uncertain. It faces great social and economic stress from its disenfranchised and frustrated youth, combined with their access to global ideas via the millions of internet VPN’s active in the country, its total reliance on foreign workers and oil exports, its brittle, hated and inequitable political system with no feedback loops, its constant meddling in regional wars, its reliance on the USA for military covering against Iran, and its Wahhabist conservative clerics. When the kingdom runs out of oil (and Ghawar, the source of over 50% of its oil revenue, is already seventy years old) I predict it will run out of food and international friends and a future. It is now desperately trying to diversify its economy to avoid such a fate.

True Christianity

A society that destroys women’s rights, severely restricts its peoples expression, demands total subservience to the national religion and bullies its way around the world via its toxic ideologies is ripe for a move of God! And the church is definitely growing inside this feudal country.

First up, the nine Christian satellite  television stations broadcasting from Lahore in Pakistan are having an impact.  I spoke to the owners of one of these stations, Isaac Television, and they said their highest rate of response comes from Saudi Arabia where they link new believers with trusted networks of underground churches.

A couple from the USA have been leading a public church of 1,200 people in Riyadh for the last eight years. They started in their home and it grew into an expatriate congregation of mainly Asian and African believers, with a few westerners tagging along. They asked permission to rent a hall and surprisingly their request was accepted. In 2011 they even held an outdoor evangelistic rally in Riyadh with some 5-8,000 attending, including many of the 200 or so underground churches that litter the city.

An Indian friend of mine who has started over 400 churches has four in Saudi Arabia where expatriate Indians secretly meet. He said they are his strongest churches and services will include some two to three hours of intercession for their employers and the country. They pray for miracles, divine visitations and the opportunity to pray for the sick so the power of Jesus can be seen.

Saudi citizens are some of the highest users of the internet in the world, and they are using this technology to research the truth about their own religion and about Jesus in ways the government is desperately trying to stop. Many Middle Eastern church leaders call the internet the Fifth Gospel. One report says that individual conversions have now morphed into Saudi families coming to Christ. In a nation that has no acceptable social structure outside the state, the mosque and the family, this is a huge break-though.

Sadly though, many new Saudi believers pay a high price for their spiritual liberation. Fatima Al-Matayri became famous for her Christian blogs, until her brother, a member of the religious police found out and hideously tortured and murdered her in front of the whole family. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death throughout Saudi Arabia.

Prayer Points

The breakthrough has begun! Please pray for the following:

For Satan’s grip on this country to be destroyed

Social upheaval that destroys the current regime

More families to come to faith. This is the key to winning the nation. Viral networks of believers spread very rapidly in most Islamic countries.

Imam’s and religious leaders coming to faith

For the dreaded control of the religious police to be broken via social upheaval

For dreams, visions and miracles

For continued ministry via the internet.

For this once Christian region to once again lift up the name of Jesus with all its heart

Lord, set this dark nation free!!!!!!!!!



Qatar is a small finger of land jutting out from the north-east coast of Arabia. Human occupation of Qatar dates back to the immediate post-flood era. Mesopotamia, where the tower of Babylon was located, was the first civilization to have a presence in the area during this Neolithic Period. The peninsula fell under the domain of several different empires during its early years of settlement, including the Seleucid, the Parthians and the Persian.

Many of the inhabitants of Qatar were introduced to Christianity after the faith was dispersed eastward by Mesopotamian traders and monks from in the 3rd Century. Many monasteries were constructed in Qatar during this era as the faith became the major religion of the peninsula. During the latter part of the Christian era, Qatar was known by the Syriac name ‘Beth Qatraye’. The region, however, was not limited to Qatar; it also included Bahrain, Tarout Island, Al-Khatt, and Al-Hasa. Islamic tradition says that in 628AD, most of the Arab tribes converted to Islam, however this is a fiction as in all areas where the Arab Empire spread, it took decades for Islam to emerge and centuries for Christianity to wane. History records famous saints such as Isaac of Nineveh, Gabriel of Qatar and Dadicho Qatraya active in the region after the alleged arrival of Islam.

After Islam eventually took root Qatar became a pearl trading centre and for many centuries was a backwater.  The Ottomans expanded their empire into Eastern Arabia and Qatar in 1871 but withdrew from the area in 1915 after the beginning of World War I. In 1916, Qatar became a British protectorate and in 1940 high-quality oil was discovered.


Along with Bahrain, Qatar declined an offer to join the United Arab Emirates during independence talks in the lead up to full autonomy in 1971. In 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani seized control of the country from his father. Since then Qatar has experienced a moderate degree of liberalisation, including the launch of the Al Jazeera television station, the endorsement of women’s suffrage or right to vote in municipal elections, drafting its first written constitution, and inauguration of many churches at a site called Church City. In 2010, Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, making it the first country in the Middle East to be selected to host the tournament.

Qatar is by far the richest country in the world with an average income 100% higher than for America! This is due to the fact that there are only a few hundred thousand citizens from among the 2.6 million inhabitants that get to share the colossal oil and gas wealth. Some 92% of the total population live in Doha, the capital. Foreign workers amount to around 80% of the population, with Indians and Philippinos being the largest communities and subject to large scale discrimination. Qatar is totally dependent on oil for its wealth, so if it fails, so does the country.

The True Church

Qatar is a strict Wahhabi-Sunni Muslim nation. This is the strictest kind of Islam, the ideology behind Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. No Qatari Muslim citizen is allowed to leave Islam but expatriate workers are allowed to practice their faith. In fact several denominations have been offered land to build the first churches in the nation in 1,400 years. Operation World says there were some 15,000 evangelical believers in 2010 among the nearly 2 million expatriates. That number has skyrocketed in the last 10 years.

My research suggests there is a strong underground church network among non-Western expatriates. Reports suggest around 100,000 people  roll through the new Catholic church building on any Friday, most are from the Philippines. The mass of immigrant workers finalising the many new soccer stadiums are also coming to Christ in significant numbers. Church City houses many new church buildings, but they are still crowded many times a day on days of worship. Many thousands of Christians choose to live nearby. These developments are showing the local authorities that Christianity is a global religion, not a Western one.

For Qatari citizens it is a very different story. It is one of the hardest places on earth to be a Muslim background believer. Persecution levels are very high. The best chance for evangelism is from the thousands of servants working inside Qatari homes and from media ministries of various kinds. I could not find any information on the Qatari MBB underground church apart from this one prayer website.

Prayer Points

For incidental opportunities to witness to the Qatari’s

For continued growth of the expatriate global church among guest workers

For internet and other anonymous means of sharing the gospel

For the Holy Spirit to set up divine encounters

For Qatari’s meet Jesus through miracles, dreams and visions

For this once Christian country to once again lift up the name of Jesus as Lord

Officially, Qatari people are a completely unreached people group. Pray for change!


Thank you so much for praying for the trip to Pakistan. There is much to tell.

First up, impressions of Pakistan: It is poor and far more Indian and far less Middle Eastern in its culture, language and worldview. After the violence of the last decade, Lahore is now safe again for foreigners to visit. We did not see a lot of mosques and I was told that if you approach the topic respectfully, you can have a conversation about Jesus with most culturally Muslim people. On that note, most Pakistanis don’t seem that serious about Islam. The visible rituals of Islam are not followed to any great extent and there are far fewer mosques than in the Middle East. It is a lot more like Kazakhstan than Saudi Arabia. I was told there are at least four Christian TV stations in Lahore alone, broadcasting to the whole country and the Middle East. That fact alone tells you a lot. Because Pakistan is a democracy and a lot of voters watch these TV stations, the government has never threatened to take them off the air. Lots of Pakistanis are hearing the gospel.

Regarding the trip, we were there one full week. We were always under the protection of security because of the large size of our team, which was greatly appreciated. We were slotted in to do a large scale prayer festival the next night, a Christian evangelism rally in any other language. However it was washed out by a thunderstorm! So our hosts, the gracious and generous leaders of Isaac TV, hastily convened a pastors leadership conference at which I spoke about the importance of discipleship instead of just making converts, praying for the harvest and looking for persons of peace.

The next night we conducted a satellite prayer festival some two hours north of Lahore at which we saw some 1,500 people attend. We conducted several more of these types of meetings over the next few nights and in all of these our hosts consistently said to us that about one third of those attending were from a Muslim cultural background, fantastic news to my ears. Many people indicated they wanted to follow Jesus, but as is always the case in large meetings, you don’t know the ins and outs of any of those decisions. There was one incident that stood out that first night. After mass prayer for healing they then had healing testimonies. One village woman displayed her five year old walking and said it was the first time the child had ever walked in its life!

Nightly meetings continued in similar vein for the next few days. In between I was interviewed for an Isaac TV program on prayer, sharing two testimonies of healing in my own life and praying for viewers who may have similar problems. That was a personal highlight of the trip because two years ago I began praying for the Holy Spirit to move in Muslim majority countries and initially had no idea what that would lead to. Now here I was preaching the power of Jesus on air to thousands all over Pakistan!

One day we had the privilege of visiting a community of brick-making debt slaves and setting one family free. This was made possible through the donation of one of our backers in Australia. It was a difficult day for me emotionally as I was witnessing first-hand the shocking injustice experienced by these people because of one bad debt resulting in multi-generational slavery. In the end the Lord reminded me that I too was a slave to sin until I were redeemed by his blood sacrifice. We baptised 50 people that day, so we will see many in heaven, free at last. We will be publicising their plight widely so that many others can be freed.

The final night saw a replay of the washed out main meeting some two hours out of Lahore, and it too was subject to a thunderstorm! The place was a mess, so we prayed and the rain immediately lifted. They brought in truckloads of soil, replaced the carpets and the meeting went ahead with some 10,000 in attendance, less than expected due to the rain. It was a crazy night; Lots of music, prayer, powerful preaching on the sacrifice of Jesus, praying for the sick (with one testimony of a small girl having a tumour disappear from her neck), handing out 1,380 Bibles randomly to the crowd…and it didn’t finish till midnight! After a two hour high speed police escort back to Lahore we were on a plane out of the country by 5am!

What happens now? Well I managed to meet up with an old Pakistani friend whom I have known for 25 years. My wife and I paid for his children’s education in Lahore for over a decade and we trust each other implicitly. He has a church of 4-500, a missions vision but no tools for discipling or multiplying disciples as he is stuck in the western mould of church. I have the opposite; lots of experience at underground church, knowledge of discipling, but no one to train. We old men decided to put the “boat” out into the deep and see if we can catch some fish!

So early next year I will go back and do the opposite of what I did last week. I will have nightly home-based meetings of local believers and train them in how to become fishers of men. I believe Jesus wants to start a movement in Lahore that grows exponentially as his did between Luke 3-10 (He actually wants that everywhere so it’s a no-brainer) All such movements are birthed in prayer so I will be fasting and praying weekly from now till next year as that is what Jesus did before starting his mass movement and he is the model for us to follow.

Conclusion: It was one of the craziest weeks of my life. I was with a great team of YWAM’ers and if it was not for this first trip I would not be doing the second trip. Only Jesus knows the long term impact of what we have just done, and the long term impact of what will happen next year.

Once again, thank you so much for all your prayer support. The Holy Spirit is indeed moving in Pakistan.


1. History

The Sultanate of Oman occupies the eastern horn of the Arabian Peninsula to the east of Saudi Arabia. Its location close to the cradle of civilization speaks of a deep history. Its mountains were once a source of frankincense and its proximity to India led to much exchange with South Asia and China. Being crucial to east-west trade, it was part of several empires before the Persians took control and used it as a buffer against Rome-India trade and associated naval ambitions. One of many conquerors, Alexander the Great sent ships here to examine the region. Arabs migrated to the region in large numbers during the Persian era.

Christianity came here early and took root in Oman a few centuries after Christ. Christianity arrived in the gulf from a number of directions: from Christian tribes in the Arabian Desert; from Ethiopian Christians to the south; and from Persia and Iraq, where Christian communities flourished under Persian rule. Christianity and Judaism were adopted by many Arabs. However, Christianity dwindled after Islam arrived. This was sadly due to the highly religious nature of Christianity by this time. Vibrant New Testament faith was no longer the norm in the centuries just before Islam emerged. How different would the history of the Middle East be if the reverse was the case!

The Portugese came in 1508 and in the centuries after the arrival of the Europeans Oman grew in stature as an ally in their global trade ambitions. Oman’s political power peaked in the 1850’s when it occupied a vast coastal strip of Arabia and Africa, but much of its wealth was built on the back of the African slave trade. In fact Oman only banned slavery in 1970! From the 1850’s onwards colonial powers, especially Britain, wrestled control over Oman’s external affairs. In 1951 Britain recognised Oman as a separate sovereign state.

2. Today

Oman is an absolute monarchy, even though there is an assembly and some voting rights. After deposing his father in 1970, Sultan Qaboos opened up the country, embarked on economic reforms, and followed a policy of modernisation marked by increased spending on health, education and welfare. Despite some liberalisation of the political landscape, the Sultan still faces much opposition from the people he rules. Interestingly, radical Islamists are routinely incarcerated but many personal freedoms for foreigners are tolerated.

A significant factor to Oman’s regional and political separation from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is its official belief which is a form of Islam distinct from the Sunni and Shi’a branches. The Ibadi movement has several teachings and practices that differ from those two larger sects of Islam. Probably the main religious difference however, is the Ibadis’ self-imposed disassociation from non-believers, which makes Christian evangelism all the more difficult.

Economically, Oman is a reasonably wealthy country, with an income 50% of the USA. Most of this wealth comes from oil related exports. There is a large expatriate community present to run this industry and many others. Native Omani’s constitute slightly less than half the population, with other Arabs, Iranians and South Asians making up the numbers. Muslims therefore only make up 88% of the population, with Sikhs at 6%, Hindus at 4%, Christians at 3% and Buddhism at 4%. Expatriates are allowed to worship freely but not to convert Muslims.

3. True Christianity

Modern true Christianity is believed to have first entered Oman in 1889–1890 with the arrival of James Cantine and Samuel Zwemer who opened hospitals in this backward part of the world. With the arrival of large number of expatriate workers from Europe when oil was discovered and from South Asia later on, the church in Oman was planted and is now growing strongly. The Catholic Church is the dominant Christian presence, but is actually now outnumbered by the different evangelical groups. These smaller churches are doing a fantastic job at winning their fellow expatriate workers and the true church is growing at around 6% a year. This robust growth aligns with church growth currently occurring in both India and Pakistan, home of many of the expats.

Reaching the Muslim community is another story altogether. Evangelism is banned and sadly  I could find little information on Muslim background believers in Oman. The number of Christians from a Muslim background is believed to be tiny but growing despite fierce persecution and pressure from both government and their community. Omani society shuns those who leave Islam, and those who convert from a Muslim background risk legal discrimination, as well as losing family, house and job. So at this stage nobody really knows if MBB believers are expanding the Kingdom or holding on in isolation. This alone makes Oman a reason for concerted prayer.

4. Prayer Points

For continued growth of the Expatriate evangelical church among the 1 million foreign workers

For a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit: for signs, wonders, dreams and visions to come to the Islamic community

For divine appointments for the few MB believers who are brave enough to share their faith

For viral networks of whole Muslim families coming to faith

For Iranian expatriate workers who are Christian to penetrate the Omani Muslim community

For the Mahra and Jibbali nomads. There are no known believers among them.

For a change in government policy toward Christianity, a softening of the hardness

For more and more Muslims to start questioning their faith

For internet evangelists such as Isiq Abla to reach more and more Islamic women

For SAT-7 and Isaac TV satellite programs to reach the unreached (I will be appearing on Isaac TV later this year as they are hosting our Pakistan trip in two weeks!)

For Omanis who study abroad to come to faith.


Why Nigeria?

Although Nigeria is not technically a majority Muslim country, it has 200 million people, over 80 million being Muslims, I have therefore decided to include it in our prayer list.

1. History

Nigeria is an amalgam of three major ethnic groups straddled together by British colonialism. Recorded history began in this region as long ago as 1500BC as trade kingdoms flourished on the north-south and east-west African trade routes. Islam arrived in the north around 1000AD via trade between the Kenam Empire and Egypt.

With the outlawing of the slave trade in 1807 Britain stationed soldiers in the region to stop local slave traders. This led to interference within the region to stop slave-trade friendly local kings and chiefs.

By 1885 Britain was in control of most of Nigeria, and with the British came large numbers of Protestant missionaries. For all its faults, without this colonial Christian influence Nigeria would be another vastly Muslim country similar to all the former French colonies in this region of Africa.

Independence came in 1960. Corruption led to coups, counter coups and a civil war between the three major ethnic groups in 1967. Eventually true democracy emerged at the end of  the first decade of this century.

2. Today

Nigeria is the giant of Africa with over 200 million citizens, making it the seventh most populated country in the world.  One in six Africans is a Nigerian (by the way, half of all the world’s children now Africans!!!!!). Staggeringly, the population of Nigeria is projected to reach 400 million by 2050 and Lagos will be on its way to becoming the largest city in the world. This country, and this continent, will matter to the whole world in the near future!

Unfortunately Nigeria relies on oil for 90% of its foreign exchange, and most of this wealth is squandered in cesspool of rampant corruption. The country is therefore poor, but not absolutely poor like its neighbour to the north, Niger. The Christian south of Nigeria is wealthy compared to the Muslim north, with its depressing love of feudal/sharia Muslim political systems. Life expectancy is around 50 years but literacy is relatively high at over 70%, mores so in the developed south.

Nigeria’s three major ethnic groups are split along religious lines. The northern Hausa and Fulani are 95% Muslim and 5% Christian. The western Yoruba are 55% Muslim, 35% Christian and 10% Animist. The south-eastern Igbos people are 98% Christian. The middle of Nigeria is where the two religions mix uneasily.

Needless to say there is religious and ethnic friction. The Fulani Muslims in the north are losing their pasturelands to desertification. They in turn prey on Christina farmers further south. Thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled still further south and flood the already overcrowded cities. The Muslim/Christian conflict threatens to eventually split the country both geographically and spiritually. Compounding the climate crisis is the resurgence of Militant Islam with Boko Haram being its poster child because of its ongoing violence.

3. True Christianity

The 1963 census indicated that 47% of the 50 million Nigerians were Muslim, 35% were Christian, and 18% members of local Animist religions. Today the picture is very different. Most surveys now suggest Christianity constitutes just over half the population and Islam 45%. Both have grown at the cost of traditional indigenous religions. Christianity has made little inroad into Islamic areas because of its Westernised structures and teachings. Some 31% of the entire population of Nigeria, over 50 million people, are now evangelical, and almost all of these were charismatic or Pentecostal. This makes Nigeria one of the most powerfully Christian countries in the world while simultaneously having one of the highest number of Muslims. It’s a paradox!

Like America but more so, Pentecostal mega churches in Nigeria now own whole suburbs and cities, banks, entertainment precincts and even infrastructure such as water and power. Their tax-free status has led to much corruption and it will probably lead to their demise in the future. This blatant Westernisation and commercialisation makes it almost impossible for these churches to reach out to the Muslim community.

Nigeria still awaits the rise of Christians who can decisively penetrate the spiritual darkness that pervades its Muslim countrymen. That is why I have included Nigeria in this series of newsletters.

4. Prayer Points

Pray against corruption inside the church, this is the greatest danger of all

Pray for true discipleship, not just attendance

Pray for Muslims, they are not being reached in significant numbers

Pray against second generation Christian nominalism, a real problem

Pray for the many churches that mix Jesus with Animistic practices

Pray for the salvation of Islamic militants

Pray for multiplication of the few with a heart to reach Muslims

Pray for unity among Christian leaders, sadly lacking as they seek their own empires

Pray that the Islamic militants will unite Christians in prayer and a sense of mission

Pray for northern underground church planting networks to spread even faster!

Pray for the Fulani Muslim tribesmen, some are now responding to the gospel

Pray for the northern Maguzawa people. A turning to Jesus has started


1. History

The Republic of Niger takes its name from the Niger River that flows close to its south-western boundary. Niger is a large land-locked country in the centre of the Sahara Desert in north Africa. Large numbers of people once lived here after Noah’s Flood when the Sahara was much wetter than it is today. In recorded history it’s infrequent waterholes provided stopover points in the north-south trade between Berber and Arab peoples to the north and the African Negroid peoples to the south of the desert for thousands of years. This trade eventually brought Islam to regions south of the Sahara.

In the 7th century, Songhai tribes settled down north of modern-day Niamey, which is now the capital of Niger and from then until the 17th Century the southern parts of Niger were dominated by the powerful Songhai Empire. The Songhai Empire prospered greatly and managed to maintain peace with its neighbouring empires including the Mali Empire. From the middle of the 15th to the late 16th Century, Songhai was one of the largest Islamic empires in history. In time it gave way to the Hausa kingdom and they remains the largest ethnic group in Niger today.

Various kingdoms came and went after these glory years until the French took control around 1900 as part of its West African possessions. French rule was brutal and interest in human development was minimal in comparison to British rules parts of Africa. It was during this era that Niger went from being half Muslim and half Animist to becoming almost all Muslim. True Christianity was not allowed to take root during this time due to French political policy. This, by the way, is why all former French West African colonies lag the rest of Africa so badly in Christian numbers today. It was an historic opportunity lost that Islam filled.

2. Today.

Independence for Niger came in stages between 1958 and 1960, and the new country was a stitching together several diverse ethnic groups into one country based on French notions of geographical boundaries. Because of this, the first two decades of the new country inevitably saw several military coups come and go, but the last ten years has seen a stable democracy take root.

The country is arguably the world’s poorest with 40% of the national budget needing to be propped up via foreign aid. Literacy is a mere 30% and that figure includes a majority of males over females. Life expectancy is just 50 years and most people are subsistence herdsmen or farmers in the Savannah of the extreme south where rainfall is higher. Frequent droughts and creeping desertification play havoc with most people’s lives on a regular basis. Famine is a regular visitor to most people. Outside the capital, Niger basically still lives in medieval times.

3. True Christianity

Thankfully Niger is a non-sectarian Muslim state with relative freedom of religion at the government level. Socially, however, it is very hard for Muslim people to convert to Christianity as they will face ostracism from the key social unit, their family. Adding a layer of complexity to traditional Christian outreach via mercy ministries is the deeply-rooted occult/voodoo superstition and demonic possession that sits below the official adherence to Islam.

The number of true believers in the country is miniscule, at just 0.1% or some 23,000. Most of these are in urban areas that have been exposed to foreign missionary work. Growth is just keeping up with the rapid population growth, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Most believers are in small clusters, they feel isolated, and many are illiterate. Many who do convert then turn back to Islam due to pressure. Even though the church is small, this has not stopped several splits already forming. To compound matters, militant Islamists such as Boko Haram are now killing and driving out known Christians from certain areas of the country that border Nigeria and Chad.

A ray of hope comes from an increasing missions vision for Niger from the large and influential Nigerian church to the south (50 million believers and counting!). They are being aided by missionaries from Brazil.

4. Prayer Points

Satan has Niger firmly in his grip. Demonic powers control the people and we must break the strongholds before growth will be unleashed:

Pray for the tiny trickle of new believers to become a flood

Pray for Niger’s Christian schools to have an oversized impact on future leaders

Pray for the breaking of demonic chains

Pray for aid ministries to also have an impact on peoples spiritual destinies

Pray for a move of God among women, they control family culture

Pray for the Kanuri peoples, they have a1,000 year history of Islam and are resistant to Jesus

Pray for the Sahara nomads. Who is going to reach them?

Pray for young people, they are the most open to the gospel

Pray for the 10% who are Arab/Berber. We need workers to reach them

Pray for the salvation of thousands of prostitutes in the Capital city

Pray for Christian radio, probably the best way of reaching the most people