38. THE CHURCH IN PAKISTAN: PART 4: REPORT

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.

PICTURE EDITION 37: THE CHURCH IN OMAN: GROWING AMONG EXPATS, INVISIBLE AMONG LOCALS

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.

PICTURE EDITION 36: THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA: HUGE BUT WILL IT REACH ITS 80 MILLION MUSLIMS?

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

PICTURE EDITION 35: THE CHURCH IN NIGER: ONLY ONE IN A THOUSAND KNOWS JESUS!

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

PRAY FOR AN INDIGENOUS CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT TO EMERGE THAT IS TRULY LOCAL AND LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.

 

 

PICTURE EDITION 34: THE CHURCH IN MOROCCO: ALMOST VISIBLE AGAIN!

1. History

Morocco is situated in the north west corner of Africa. It has fertile land in the north, the Atlas mountains in the centre and the Sahara desert to the south. The recorded history of Morocco begins with the Phoenician colonization of the Moroccan coast between the 8th and 6th centuries BC, although the area was inhabited by indigenous Berbers for some two thousand years before that.

In the 5th century BC, Carthage extended its rule westward over the coastal areas of Morocco, while the hinterland was ruled by indigenous kings. These kings re-took control a few centuries later and ruled until 40 CE, when Morocco was annexed by the Roman Empire.

The region was then conquered by the Arab Muslims in the early 8th century and was the launching point for the Muslim assault on Western Europe in 711AD. Berber-dominated Morocco broke away from the Arab-centric Umayyad Caliphate after the Berber Revolt of 740AD. Under self-rule, Morocco has dominated north-west Africa for  the last 1,300 years, and also Muslim Spain for the first 500 years of that period.

In 1912, European powers took control and divided Morocco into French and Spanish protectorates. Moroccans agitation for independence grew stronger from the 1940’s onwards and the Moroccans were granted independence from France in 1956 on the condition that they become a constitutional monarchy. In 1975 it occupied land in the western Sahara claimed by Spain and has maintained control of this disputed territory since then. Sadly, Morocco is now a majority Arab country, with the native Berbers now constituting only 41% of the population. The official language is Arabic, but Berber is still widely spoken in many homes.

2. Today

Compared to many other Muslim nations Morocco has enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence since independence due to a limited form of democracy. However, it is increasingly authoritarian in the face of a rising Islamist threat. Literacy is low, officially around 50%, but functionally much lower. The economy survives on tourism, fertilizer mining, textiles and agriculture, with incomes being some 6% of the USA. This figure hides the sad fact that there is a great gap between the rich few and the masses of poor. Unemployment is very high so many youth seek employment in Europe. Such massive income disparity provides fuel for the Islamists.

Sunni Islam is the state religion, officially claiming 99.88% of the population, but the existence of now vastly shrunken historic Christian and Jewish communities is tolerated. Islam’s drift toward fundamentalism among the poor and the opposing force of materialistic secularisation from neighbouring Europe are tearing at the fabric of religious unity in modern Morocco.

3. True Christianity

Christianity is much older than Islam in Morocco. It was the religion of opposition to the tyranny of Rome among the Berbers. Even in modern times Morocco was still home to a large minority Christian community. Casablanca was almost 50% European during the time of the French Protectorate. However, most Europeans and Christians from the ancient denominations have migrated to the Western world since independence.  In modern Morocco it is legal to talk about Christianity and to invite discussion, but all known Christian activity is closely monitored by the government. During the Arab Spring in 2011 a large number of expatriate Christians were deported and their institutions closed. Local believers are regularly  harassed by police and have been known to be imprisoned for their faith. The state-run media plays its part in stirring up opposition to any form of Christianity. Their motivation comes partially from the French and Spanish Catholic push to convert Muslims during the colonial era.

The Voice of the Martyrs reports there is a growing number of native Moroccans (45,000) converting to Christianity, especially Berber people in the rural areas. Many of the converts are baptized secretly in Morocco’s old churches. Some local believers deliver podcasts via internet radio stations and youtube, and then distribute Bibles to interested listeners. House churches dominate indigenous expressions of faith so it is unknown just how many Moroccan believers there are or how fast the church is growing. Arrests are common, suggesting that the underground church is growing significantly. Agadir and Marrakech, in particular, are known to have significant Christian populations. Intriguingly, recent statements from the government suggest a change is in the air and tolerance of Christianity is finally coming to pass.

4. Prayer Points

Something has started. Let’s fan the flames with prayer!

Pray for a major breakthrough among the Berbers, as is happening in Algeria next door

Pray for that breakthrough to flow into the Arabic community

Pray for signs wonders, dreams and miracles

Pray for internet media to reach into millions of hearts

Pray for boldness in the face of persecution from family and friends

Pray for faith to take the place of fear in all believers

Pray for the government to continue softening its tone toward Christians

Pray for believers to challenge Satan’s strongholds

Pray for the Good News to reach the nomadic tribes in the south

Pray for refugees and immigrants transiting through Morocco, many are Christians

Pray for Bibles, numbers are currently restricted

PICTURE EDITION 33: THE CHURCH IN MAYOTTE: VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTANT

1. History

Mayotte consists of two small islands located half way between Madagascar and Africa, and is part of the Comoros chain of volcanic mountain tops jutting out from the Mozambique Channel. The area was known to Arab and Iranian traders who brought their religion to the islands, and its name is a French corruption of the Arabic Jazīrat al-Mawt meaning islands of death. Mayotte’s people are 90% indigenous to the island or the Comoros islands and their ancestors were likely people from the African Swahili and Bantu cultures who came over from as early as 1000 BC.

Shiragi Arabs from Persia first arrived in AD 933, bringing Sunni Islam with them. From the 8th to the 13th centuries they were followed by an influx of Austronesian sailors from Southeast Asia, who had earlier settled nearby Madagascar. Thus, like Comoros next door, Mayotte can lay claim to being the first site of the complete mixing of the African, Arabian and Asian people groups.

In 1843 France took control of all the islands of all the region and on July 6, 1975 the Comorian parliament passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence. The representatives of the island of Mayotte abstained and in two subsequent referendums the population of Mayotte voted decisively against independence from France. Mayotte thus remains under French administration and is 9 times richer than the other Comoros islands due to French financial subsidies.

2. Today

Although far richer than its neighbours in Comoros, Mayotte is by far the poorest protectorate in the world belonging to France. It is home to a French military base and widespread welfare subsidies have dramatically reduced any incentive to be self-sufficient. Thus agriculture is collapsing and the population lives off expensive imported foods. All the while the population grows through natural means and large scale illegal immigration from Comoros. Many times the United Nations has condemned France’s continued occupation of the islands, and has repeatedly recognised Comoros’ legal claim to sovereignity, but to no avail. This is at odds with 99% of the population who wish to remain part of France.

Two hundred and eighty thousand Mayotteans live on just 373 square km of land. Literacy is somewhere between 30 and 50%. Because money is relatively easy and life relaxed, a spirit of complacency rests on most of the population. If nothing changes in Mayotte there will be an eventual disaster and major policy shift from France as lazy wealth continues to attract a never-ending stream of illegal immigrants from Comoros to these two tiny islands.

3. True Christianity

Around 97% of the population is Sunni Muslim, but folk Islam and witchcraft are widespread. Many people are involved in cults practicing spirit possession. Approximately 26% of the adult population, mostly men, report regularly entering trance states in which they believe they are possessed by certain demonic spirits. Islands of death is definitely an apt description of the spiritual state of Mayotte.

There are only around 250 known evangelicals on the islands as part of a wider community of 3,200 nominal Christians, mainly Catholic. There are just three evangelical congregations on the islands, and they do not yet have a fired-up vision for reaching their fellow citizens. Because Mayotte is French, evangelism is legal and never challenged, but is not common due to widespread social pressure. Evangelical Christianity needs to find a way to get inside the indigenous culture. The most response to the Gospel comes from the illegal immigrants from Comoros where they have never heard anything to do with Christianity.

4. Prayer Points

As for the Maldives and nearby Comoros, Satan thinks he owns these islands. But prayer will change the future!

Pray for demonic powers to be decisively broken

Pray for local believers to get a vision for souls

Pray for culturally sensitive evangelism

Pray for ex-Muslim evangelists to come as church planters

Pray for signs, wonders and miracles to shake up complacent hearts

Pray for souls!

Too Proud? Fifty Years After The Stonewall Riots

Note from Kevin: The following article, by James Parker, is the best summary I have ever read about the homosexual movement. James is a former gay activist who today supports same-sex attracted people and their loved ones.

Fifty years after the Stonewall riots: What the LGBTQI+ movement needs is less pride and more humility…

Fifty years ago gay, lesbians and cross-dressers fought back when police raided a seedy bar in New York, the Stonewall Inn. The ensuing riot lasted for a couple of days. It was the opening shot in the gay liberation movement and over the years has acquired an almost mythological status. This weekend, “pride” events will be celebrated across the world.

I became a gay activist 20 years after the Stonewall Riots. I set out to fight for a better world, where no one should feel shame for being honest about who they were sexually attracted to. I had been raised to believe that a person’s future flows from facing their present reality. My reality was that I fancied men, and only men.

Accepting during puberty that I was erotically attracted to my own sex was an excruciatingly painful revelation, and not without suicidal undertones. By accepting my reality I found a new inner strength, purpose – and yes, pride.

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person to come out in my Catholic high school. I was also the first person to come out in my university college and consequently saw it as my duty to make a stand for lesbian and gay, or L & G, rights. (There were no BTQQIAAPP+2S minorities in those days.)

I learned of the successful attempt in 1973 by gay members of the American Psychiatric Association to tweak 81 words which suddenly redefined homosexuality and cast off its ancient shackles as a sexual deviance and a mental disease. Just this past week, American psychoanalysts offered an apology for labelling homosexuality an illness.

In the 80s, I engaged with leading gay strategists from the USA and the UK. I devoured their content which outlined all we are seeing transpire today.

Their strategy was that homosexual men and women should infiltrate and take leadership within key areas of society, most notably the entertainment industry, mainstream media, education, politics, healthcare – especially psychology and psychiatry, the military, religion and sport. The purpose was to use their positions to bring about homosuperiority. Yes, not homonormativity or even mere equality, but homosuperiority.

Homosuperiority was to be achieved by meticulously following the propaganda manifesto entitled After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays In The 90s, by neuropsychiatrist Marshall Kirk and communications consultant Hunter Madsen.

If you didn’t know, the manifesto is working exceedingly well, thank you very much, with its key themes on display in the Israel Folau debacle.

There were eight principles. Principle 5 laid down in After The Ball calls for portraying gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers, and the use of propaganda to rely “more upon emotional manipulation than upon logic, since its goal is, in fact, to bring about a change in the public’s feelings”.

Propaganda, it says, “can be unabashedly subjective and one-sided. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this.” Corporate Australia has dived headfirst into this principle.

To call people “homophobic” is also expected should opponents fail to wholly embrace homosexual ideology. Politicians and civic leaders have equally become puppets to this principle.

Any speech which opposes, or even questions, homosexual behaviour should be banned as “a clear and present danger to public order”. The school curriculum, psychology and psychiatry and mainstream media all now tow the rainbow party line.

Principle 5 states that “in time, we see no reason why more and more diversity should not be introduced into the projected image” citing “drag queens, bull dykes, and other exotic elements of the gay community”. Remember, this vision was cast over 30 years ago. You now need look no further than local bookshops and libraries to see this principle being lived out.

Once birthed, the seed of pride demands that layers of further lies and calumny be added to protect the original fault from being exposed. Welcome to the world of Gay Pride.

With every generation there is a growing demand to ensure each social stratum is more deeply inculcated with adherence to the original lie. No one must admit that the emperor has no clothes on. Therefore, “conversion therapy”, a term recently created by gay activists, has been used in the past decade to demonise any assistance given to someone suffering the pain of same-sex attraction.

To add another layer of lies to the conversion therapy myth is the phrase “internalised homophobia” which denotes that individuals who refuse to embrace and even celebrate their erotic attractions to the same sex are somehow turned in against themselves. Yes, they are their own problem.

No stone must be left unturned The same lie must be repeated incessantly that not only is gay good, but that gay is godly, and even that God is gay.

This of course requires a complete perverting of the natural world. Aldous Huxley wrote clearly of this when describing the results of social anthropologist J. D. Unwin’s study of 80 primitive tribes and six known civilizations through 5000 years of history laid out in the book, Sex and Culture.

Huxley wrote:

“Sex and Culture” is a work of the highest importance. Unwin’s conclusions… may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of four cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the rationalistic the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes pre-nuptial and post-nuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity.

According to Unwin, after a nation becomes prosperous it becomes increasingly liberal with regard to sexual morality and as a result loses its cohesion, its impetus and its purpose. The process, says the author, is irreversible:

The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.

The LGBTQI+ communities barely bat an eyelid to open relationships – before, during, after and without same-sex marriage. Group or polyamorous relationships are fast becoming acceptable. Any additional minority that wishes to add its letter to the alphabet acronym must be welcomed and incontestably supported, meaning that any sexual activity undertaken by any minority group who “cannot help the way they feel” be accepted. This should both frighten and anger us.

It is no wonder that 50 years after Stonewall, contemporary riots are not being waged on the streets against the police and statutory authorities but appear online with rugby at the heart, one of the globe’s toughest team sports that was deliberately formed not only on Christian values, but with the purpose of forming a strong, robust and masculine spirit evidenced in the witness of Israel Folau.

Our online riot is foremost a fight against Judeo-Christian values, the very glue that has held together Western society and permitted it to excel as it has.

The activists’ world I embraced demanded that I take on a calculated intolerance, a bigoted mindset, a capacity to rabidly hate, and the ability to reject, or at least to distort, everything I came across that even questioned the establishment of a homosuperior world. And all of this while bowing to the mantra that #LoveWins.

I had to believe first within myself that the lie I was being sold was nothing short of the truth. There is no wonder that lavender militants are alarmed to discover that the younger generation they have been resolutely brainbow-washing are now growing less rather than more tolerant of LGBTQI+ individuals and ideals.

Stonewall and contemporary LGBTQI+ activism have never been about an equal, diverse, inclusive and tolerant world. No. The illusory pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is more a darkened cauldron. It brings to the table a diminishment, and ultimate eradication, of mainstream freedoms such as speech, thought, association or a belief or anything which fails to pay total homage to what for millennia has previously been defined as a sexual deviancy.

If you think I have an axe to grind, well, you are right. I care too much to remain silent.

On a daily basis I walk with young people coming to terms with their same-sex attractions, with individuals struggling with the concept of being male or female, and with men and women ditching their other-sex spouse and children (and now even their same-sex spouse and surrogate or adoptive children) to pursue a “more fulfilling” relationship with one or more people somewhere over the rainbow.

Fifty years on from Stonewall, with every pillar of society now rainbow-friendly and frightened, I see 50 plus shades of gay grey which continue to imprison those who pursue an LGBTQI+ utopia. Five decades later, dysfunction has not only been accepted, but in places it has actually worsened.

The cocktail of gay hook-up apps along with accessibility to the drug Truvada taken by HIV-negative people to reduce their risk of HIV infection has birthed a more sexually compulsive world than existed prior to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Unbridled sexual activity only leads to more addictive and destructive disconnection, which in turn is leading to more partner interpersonal violence and sadistic practices.

The sexual health clinicians I have spoken to in the past month report working on a constant level of overdrive trying to deal with the inordinate numbers of problematic sexual health cases they have to diagnose and process.

Self-harm is on the rise, even if only looked at from the perspective of time spent engrossed in the consumption of pornography which cuts off individuals from the healthy engaging relationships which we all need to survive and thrive. Then there are the mood disorders, panic, bi-polar and conduct disorders. There is a new rise in agoraphobia, and no significant reduction in suicides, even in pro-homosexual nations like Sweden, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Is this the Golden Liberation we should be celebrating? For the most part, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is a celebration of man’s ever deepening foolishness. The story of Israel Folau reads like a fable and yet unravels before our very eyes displaying layers of pride woven to cover pride to cover earlier pride, all based upon one man privately posting online three verses of the Christian Scriptures.

I fear for members of the LGBTQI+ community and for those who join their ranks. I equally fear for any society that embraces essentialist viewpoints about human sexuality without the balance of constructionist and developmental viewpoints which are presently being silenced.

My activism today is born out of a different heart. For nearly two decades I have facilitated spiritual support groups for those who experience varying degrees of same-sex attraction and for those questioning their biological sex. Those who attend can ask deeper questions compared to those who remain isolated at home or who engage with the gay community as a whole. Attendee’s desire answers – and many get them, and especially to matters relating to childhood sexual abuse, to emotional or physical abuse or neglect.

If one person can move from being homosexual to heterosexual (and believe me there are thousands across Australia and in every nation who are rejecting homosexuality) then it is clear that the fundamental LGBTQI+ narrative of being born gay contains within it a number of myths, each one of which requires dismantling, not celebrating.

I still fight for spaces where young and old alike can face the reality of their attractions. No one should be afraid to admit to, or be discriminated against for, being erotically attracted to their own sex or for questioning their own gender identity.

And yet as celebrations of Gay Pride unfold across the globe, today more than ever I believe we need to take stock of the Biblical proverb quoted consistently throughout the ages, “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

I was invited to reject pride. Today, my dominant attraction is very much towards women. I am one of the fortunate individuals who escaped the gay community and stumbled across professional therapy which enabled me to pursue the developmental viewpoint about human sexuality.

My earlier dysfunctions, still prevalent at the heart of the LGBTQI+ community, have diminished or disappeared. I am no longer a label, or divided from mainstream society, or fighting a losing battle.

Fifty years on from the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, much has indeed changed, but not all for the good. Instead of giving time and energy to matters of pride, I believe it is time to engage on a whole new level of forming a society where humility becomes ubiquitous at all levels. And for everyone’s sake, that is a battle worth fighting for.

 

PICTURE EDITION 26: KYRGYZSTAN: A SMALL AND STRUGGLING CHURCH

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1. History

Kyrgyzstan was at the heart of the Silk Road trade for millennia because of its east-west oriented mountains and subsequent abundant food and water supply. The ancient nomads pioneered the many local trade routes before horse traders from China took them over and started trading further and further west, eventually reaching Europe. In fact the southern city of Osh was famously called the half-way point in this once great trade route. Various peoples, including the Buddhist Kushans and Uyghurs, ruled these lands before the Mongols invaded in the 13th Century. This invasion was devastating, costing the Kyrgyz their written language and their independence.

A century later the Turco-Mongolian empire of Timur brought devastation to the Christian communities of the entire Central Asian Region, reportedly killing over 7 million believers in his Satanic purge of Christianity form his empire in the name of Islamic domination. In 1775 the Russians, under Catherine the Great, began to take an interest in the Kyrgyz people and region. In 1876 they formally annexed most of central Asia. This was the first and only time Central Asia has been ruled by Europeans. Eventually Communism was brutally imposed on the Kyrgyz, supressing Islam at all levels.

2. VToday

In 1991 Kyrgyzstan finally gained its long awaited independence only to be ruled by two corrupt dictators, both removed through popular revolt. It has since become one of the few former Soviet Bloc countries that has successfully transitioned to a democracy and is friendly with the west, even allowing US troops to use its airport during the Afghan War.

With only 6 million people, so much mountainous terrain and few natural resources, Kyrgyzstan remains a poor country with an income of just 2% of the USA. Consequently, half a million Kyrgyz have had to seek work abroad, mainly to the north in Kazakhstan.

Most Russians left the country soon after independence, but they left a distinctly European landscape and culture in the Capital city of Bishkek. German is also widely spoken in Kyrgyzstan as it was where Stalin sent many of his German prisoners of war. At independence the country was 5% German! Nearly all have since left. However, if you travel several mountain ranges to the south of the country there is a distinctly Islamic ethnicity, culture and identity, and it also much poorer. That’s what I found when I was there in 2016.

As with most Central Asian countries, Islam is on the rise since the fall of Communism. Some 2,000 mosques were built with Middle Eastern money between 2000 and 2005. Increasing Islamisation has created an atmosphere of fear for the few remaining Russian Orthodox and newer evangelical believers. However, most Kyrgyz people are still nominal Muslims and we met some while there who were proud to talk of their obvious shamanist beliefs.

3. Evangelical Highlights

Because it was on the Silk Road, the Nestorian church with its amazingly active missionary movement came to Kyrgyzstan very early in the history of Christianity. Several uniquely Christian cities have left remains in the fertile valleys of Kyrgyzstan even to this day. We saw a stone image of Christ in 2016 while visiting an archaeological site of the Kyrgyz Medieval city of Balasagun destroyed by the Mongols.

With the fall of Communism there was a short window of opportunity for Christian missions within Kyrgyzstan and the church grew impressively in those few years. Today believers number some 50,000 or around 1% of the country, are centred in the northern city of Bishkek, and are culturally Western in their Church practice. This is a legacy of 120 years of a “real church” having a building and being registered with the government. This is unfortunate as visible Western displays of faith are associated with European subjugation and Islamic repression in the minds of the Kyrgyz peoples. Kyrgyzstan awaits a truly indigenous expression of the Christian faith such as we are seeing in Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are signs that this may finally be taking shape via a fledgling house church movement in the south.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for the young people who are making a stand for Jesus in the face of strong persecution

Pray for a culturally sensitive expression of Christianity to emerge, such as house churches

Pray for the intrepid and invisible church planters from South Asia. It is their backyard

Pray for boldness in the face of Islamic intimidation, property destruction and violence

Pray for unity between the old orthodox and the new evangelical believers

Pray for believers in the south, they are few and far between

Pray that radical Islam will become repulsive to the local people

Pray for apostolic leadership to rise up, people with a vision to take the land

Pray for the many young professionals in Bishkek who are now followers of Jesus

Pray for a decisive spiritual breakthrough, this used to by a largely Christian land!

Pray for the nomads, there are many. How do we reach them?

Pray for the emerging house church network of the Fergana Valley in the far south.

 

PICTURE EDITION 32: THE CHURCH IN MAURITANIA: ALMOST NON-EXISTENT!

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1. History

The history of Mauritania, what little there is since its people were mostly desert nomads until the 1970’s, is bound up in three distinct ethnic groups. There are the sub-Saharan black Africans who have always inhabited the extreme south hugging the Senegal River. Then there are the Berber/Arab people who were in control of the northern regions since the beginnings of the Arab Empire in the 10th Century. They are called the White Moors. Mauritania even takes its name from an ancient Berber kingdom. Then there are the Black Moors who are in part the descendants of the slaves of the White Moors. The nation is split evenly between these three ethnic groups, with the last two always vying with each other for power. Arabic is now the official language.

Islam came to the region a thousand years ago via the slave trade and the wider Islamisation of the Sahara desert regions. It is now deeply entrenched at all levels of society but as is common in Africa, under the surface of Islam there is widespread involvement in witchcraft and black magic. Satan has an iron grip on the people of Mauritania.

2. Today

Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania now has 4 million people but was still 70% nomadic as late as 1970. It is statistically depressing: It is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has a life expectancy of just 51 years. Over 40% of the population is under 15 years of age and fewer than half can read, especially women. One third of children face chronic malnutrition and the desert grows harsher every year. Most people still make their living from subsistence herding in its vast deserts while only 1% of the country is arable, this being the thin northern floodplain of the Senegal river. Mauritania is a place that both time and the outside world have forgotten about.

Being 99.75% Muslim, it has suffered more than its fair share of political violence and military coups. Islamic tradition is responsible for the still functioning slave trade in the interior and Sharia law is widely followed. Sadly, Mauritania is a also key transition point for African refugees seeking a better life in Europe and South American drugs heading the same way.

3. True Christianity

There is virtually none. Mauritania has never known the Good News in any way shape or form. The only Christian presence is in the far south among the Sub-Saharan black Africans. There are barely 2,000 evangelicals and 4,000 Catholics among some 4 million people and expatriate Christians are few on the ground following violence toward some of their numbers a decade ago. Local believers have been known to be beaten, imprisoned and endured social ostracism. There is tremendous social and family pressure to conform to Islam, which the national religion of the state and it is unlawful to publish any material that is deemed to be critical of Islam. Few locals travel abroad so opportunity to reach even those few is limited. Compounding the issue for evangelism is the continuing nomadic nature of some 20% of the population.

Having read these depressing statistics it is encouraging to note that most evangelicals are now Spirit-Filled and their numbers are growing at around 6%, or a few hundred, a year. A minority of evangelical Christians are Muslim-background believers who meet in secret underground church groups. We will never know their true numbers. These believers are the key to the future growth of Christianity in Mauritania but they remain well hidden due to increasing Islamic radicalisation. There is some work among Mauritanians living south of the border in Senegal.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for Christians who have paid a high price for their faith.

That God would raise up apostles, prophets, teachers pastors and evangelists

Pray for spiritual growth and maturity of believers

Pray for boldness to take on the demonic powers of darkness

Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to and guide the church.

Pray for Muslim religious leaders to receive dreams and visions of Jesus

Pray for increased availability of Scripture in all national languages

Pray that the daily radio broadcasts in Arabic and Pulaar would be listened to by many

Pray that the Lord to raise up labourers and send them to this white for harvest field.

 

PICTURE EDITION 31: THE CHURCH IN MALI: GOING NOWHERE. NEEDS A LOT OF HELP!

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1. History

Mali takes its name from the medieval kingdom of the same name that straddled the Sahara Desert and the Sahel grasslands to its south, and acted as a conduit for trade between the north and the south. The famous city of Timbuktu is synonymous with this region and era. Not much is known of the era before this time although one ancient writer describes the king of Mali converting to Islam sometime in the 11th Century. Sometime around the 14th Century a significant minority of the population adopted Islam and Timbuktu became the southern outpost of Islam and a major source of slaves taken from the black Africans further south. About this time the great Mali kingdom began to grow in influence, aided by the fact that the mighty Niger River penetrates north into the Sahara before turning south east.

The Mali kingdom declined around the 17th Century and from then until French occupation in the 1892 Mali was ruled by a succession of short-lived kings. Mali was ruled as a section of the French West African Federation. As with other French colonies, economic and social development was never encouraged as France was more interested in exploitation and suppression. No Protestant ministries were allowed in this era and sadly, it was during this time that the major Islamisation of the country took place. The spiritual story of Mali and all other Sahel countries would now be so different if evangelical ministry was allowed to take root a 100 years ago.

2. Today

Mali finally won its independence in 1960 and for a few years the new country included modern day Senegal. Its current boundaries are ethnically artificial so it includes many different people groups in near equal numbers, except for the 30% Melinke-Bambara peoples. Mali is one of the poorest countries on earth and has many depressing statistics that back-up that unfortunate distinction. Perhaps the worst two are life expectancy at just 48 years, and literacy at 20%. Drought, locusts and desertification are all considered normal in Mali. Drug lords use the unpatrolled desert to ship South American drugs to Europe and there is always a break away Islamic militia somewhere on the northern horizon.

3. Evangelical Highlights

In the midst of all this there is a remarkable democracy and freedom of religion present in the country, a rare commodity in this part of the world. Mali is 87% Muslim but it is a tolerant form of the religion as it is not deeply engrained in the culture. It is still 10% Animist and many Animist practices are still prevalent in the Muslim majority. Occult and voodoo practices are rife in Mali.

Just 2.5% of the country is Christian of which Catholics make up 4/5ths of that figure. There are only 100,000 Protestant Christians out of 16 million people but most Protestants are evangelical believers. This true church grew rapidly between independence in 1960 and 1990 but has since stopped growing and has even shrunk as a % of the population. This is very unusual for an African country of any type and the cause is simply rapid population growth exceeding meagre church growth. Second generation Christianity is proving to be a shallow witness to the surrounding culture (as it is in most Western countries!). Even though the country is spiritually receptive, many who do make decisions for Jesus are poorly discipled and go back to previous practices.

Mali is still very much a mission field and there is some missions work going on, but not nearly enough. A culturally sensitive Muslim-focussed church planting movement is desperately needed.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for African ex-Muslim followers of Jesus to the get a vision for Mali.

Pray for the local church to awaken to the call of the Great Commission

Pray for apostles to be raised up who can initiate change

Pray for prayer warriors to engage the spiritual battle

Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Pray for the semi-nomadic northern people who have zero contact with Christianity

Pray for existing believers to throw off fear and begin to engage in spiritual warfare

Pray for radical Muslims to have power encounters with Jesus, just as Saul became Paul.

Pray for the Good News to be followed by signs and wonders

Pray for the lack of Biblical church leaders