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Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Cross and Crescent

This early afternoon the FBCC team left for Tunisia.  They will be back in two weeks (on Wednesday).  Please pray for them.  Also, we finally got an email from another team/couple who is also in a mass-majority Muslim country:

November 6, 2008

Dear Friends,

Email Failure. Many things have happened since we last wrote and most involve my very active wife! I will share more about her later but first need to let you know why the long delay in sending out an update.

At the beginning of October, shortly after my wife sent a prayer request for my health, our secure email system failed completely. We could not read or reply to any past email or send out updates. (We still need to reply to some of you! Sorry!) New email sent to us after the failure was readable on the internet, and we could reply to the sender, but could not read other email from before the failure.

To repair the system meant long travel and half a day spent with our company’s email expert–but my illness kept me in bed for the most part.  When that lifted (thank you all for your prayer!), I had a fresh system installed but needed to rebuild all email addresses and reconnect old email files by hand–a long process.

Before I had that finished, I got sick again, this time with simply a major, major head cold–hacking deep chest cough, blowing nose, etc. During the earlier week when I felt great, I may have not been fully strong enough to do all the running around I did and caught something fresh from crowded buses, trains, etc. I’ll never know.

The email is finally, finally working again and hopefully I did not lose anyone’s email address.

Health. We are both currently healthy and active–praise God!

Conferences. We mentioned in August that we would attend a week conference regarding a new approach to planting churches. We did attend and hope some of the concepts we were exposed to will be useful for our work.

We later had a two day opportunity to learn from an Egyptian believer and author who radically challenged our most fundamental concepts of understanding Muslims. It will take some time to ruminate and digest what he talked about as his approach would require 99% of the workers in this country to rethink virtually everything they have learned and are doing daily. After reading his latest book slowly and carefully, we hope we can find ways to incorporate some of what we learned into our own work. As always, 1 Thess 5:21 applies here. [Test everything. Hold on to the good.]

My Student. I am hoping and praying that the timing of my illnesses has not damaged my good relations with the student who comes to our home. We had scheduled meetings that I was forced to cancel, rescheduled, cancel again, and so forth because of the back to back illnesses. I have not met with him now for several weeks. This past Monday I called to reschedule after I was certain I would not be coughing and blowing my nose each and every minute.

But I know he was really disappointed and I am not sure he believes I was really sick–or maybe thought that I just did not want him to come. When I talked with him, he seemed distant and un-enthused for the first time–like he had given up. It is now Thursday night and he has not called–unusual for him.

The timing seems particularly bad as during our last meeting, he began to ask me questions about what I believed, the difference between the various types of Christians in the world, and more. His final question was, “Is Jesus God?”

This question might seem straight forward to answer to most of you reading, but to a practicing, devout Muslim, this question is not for seeking truth. It is asked to confirm what he has been taught since childhood about what Christian’s believe. To answer “Yes, Jesus is God” has the same impact as it did on the Jewish rulers at the time of Christ. If God is One–He cannot be “two or more”. So to answer that question is to try to explain the Trinity and the very nature of God to someone who is certain that they have the final understanding of who God is. I won’t continue with this, but I wanted you to try to understand how complex a simple question can become. I look forward to more such questions if God gives opportunity.

My Wife’s Teaching and Outreach.

Teaching. Each week she continues to travel and teach her student.  My wife has come up with some very interesting and innovative ways to convey basic truths and doctrines of the Christian faith. Lately she has been using an 8 inch long artist manikin (a small wooden figure with movable joints) and using various colored cloths and other items, to demonstrate sin, redemption, baptism, the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and more. She finds she is able to teach these truths in a very clear manner this way. She also uses a set of gift boxes that fit one inside the other to help teach and memorize various gifts of the Holy Spirit. Her student loves learning this way and with other physical methods that my wife has adapted to teaching and even for memorization use. My wife consistently reminds her also that she should share her faith and not hide it. Her student is finally beginning to do this with relatives.

Outreach. Every Wednesday, my wife has been doing on the street outreach, handing out tracts and stopping to have conversations with ladies sitting in park-like areas.

On one occasion, after a few hours of handing out a specific tract (single page with words on both sides, about the size of a business card) she and her co-worker sat at an outdoor table of a small restaurant to have a cup of tea before continuing. Two police came up to them and were upset that they were handing out material and told them forcefully to stop. My wife took from her purse and handed them a copy of the national law that specifically states that anyone is free to share their faith publicly and that this right must be protected by authorities! After they read this, she told them this was their right to do this. They only became more upset and said they MUST stop because they did not have the permission of the local mayor! They stopped trying to persuade the officers as it was pointless, finished their tea, and left. After walking 10 or 15 minutes from that location, they began again–actually encouraged by the events.

I stop here to point out that the law my wife gave the police is real. It is by far a higher law than the permission of a local mayor. It should be known to each and every law officer–but it is not only “not known”–it seems unbelievable to them. To allow anyone to share their faith openly is unthinkable in the minds of authorities and so the law is simply a “paper law” for the benefit of convincing other nations that there is freedom of speech here (there is not–ask any journalist here.)

As the ladies continued distributing, one young man immediately turned around and caught up to my wife quite angry. (Tracts are handed out to people you meet as you continue walking–you do not hand out while standing in one place.) He had only read the first line which reads, “What’s bigger than God?” Thinking this to be some sort of attempt to say there was something greater than God, he was immediately upset with my wife, the “blasphemer!” She tried to explain but finally decided to just keep walking away and he eventually left her.

If he had read the rest of the tract he would have understood. The next line reads, “What is badder than the devil?” and it continues with a few more questions like this. When you turn the card over to see the answer, it reads, “NOTHING!” and continues on with a brief challenge to consider Jesus.

On other days my wife has encountered angry people demanding to know who she worked for, who paid her to live here, who paid for the literature and where did it come from, etc. On the other hand, she has sat down and had many long conversations where she has found people really ready to reflect on their sin and the lack of assurance of salvation that is part of Islam. Much wisdom and care is needed in each encounter as reactions can range from abrupt anger to gentle openness. God must lead us to the right people.

Special Outreach. In addition to the weekly outreach, there is another unusual opportunity that has just begun here. There are a few of the old Orthodox churches that remain here. For some reason, a few of these churches have the reputation among the local people (non-Christians), that if you have the priest pray for you, you will have your request answered–healing, finances, etc. The first day of each month is considered a more special day for blessing. On that day, the local Muslims enter and come to the front of the church and have the priest pray for them. A long line forms with a crowd that extends out of the church and into the street! This is an astounding opportunity as these are Muslims with a high spiritual interest who dare to enter a church–much more open than normal. Most local people would never consider doing this.

A local member of one of these orthodox churches, after spending years in the States, decided that he would hand out a small piece of paper with the Lord’s Prayer printed to those standing in line who would receive it. Nothing more. When some ask him, “Where did this come from?”, he tells them it is from the New Testament. If they ask for a copy of the New Testament, he tells them he will give it to them next month if they come again.

A worker here met him and heard about this and offered to help, if he wished. He gathered together a small group of other workers (my wife included) and they went for the first time. They specifically were told to only hand out the Lord’s Prayer and nothing else, but of course talk with anyone who wanted to talk and offer prayer while they waited in line.

It was an exciting visit and many things happened that I will not write now as I am already writing too long. But there is a need for prayer because of what happened the following month.

The first month, the priest was very accepting of the group of workers and seemed to be a good man, praying earnestly for the visitors. The next month, the man who had started this ministry had returned to America for 3 months and was not there. More important, there was a different priest. This younger priest demanded each person in line put money in a basket that he kept on a stand near his side before he would hear them and offer prayer! What must Muslims think of Christians? Yet, believing there was special blessing here, they would pay. This priest also was angry with the workers, occasionally shouting at them and telling them to stay away. Finally, he yelled out that they were all mssnys! At this point, the workers gathered and decided it was time to leave.

Next month, I will also visit with my wife and the group. If the same priest is there, we will leave and will not return until the member of that church who is in America returns so that we can understand what is happening.

Church Visits. Because of my back to back flu and cold, we haven’t visited as many churches as we did before. But one church we visited last week was memorable in that it was designed from the outset to do everything in the local language and also in English. A hymn is sung from beginning to end in each language, sermons translated, etc. Not sure what to think but they really emphasized the need for local people to share their faith publicly, something that most local believers are very frightened to do.

One of the men who spoke was local and said he is able to share the story of how he has 3 birthdays! His normal, his spiritual, and his medical (he is handicapped and has backwards converted the approximate age of his bones into a third birthday.) By this means, he has found a way that people listen and conversations open. He encouraged everyone to share Jesus openly–not a common message here.

Another young man who spoke was from Uzbekistan! His message was also on the real central need for each of us to actively share our faith. What was most interesting was his view on living in our country. How open, free, and full of opportunities it seemed to him! It’s all perspective. Uzbekistan has become extremely closed and the majority of workers have left that country in the last 5 years because of real danger. Through his eyes, we saw this country and the need to share with new light.

I wonder if you realize just what incredible opportunity you have to openly, boldly, and with protection, share Jesus freely where you live? Makes me remember that phrase, “What would Jesus do?”

Local Fellowship Ministry. My wife and the local fellowship team finally were able to meet to discuss the future. She will pursue outreach and will continue teaching her student, but decided not to continue meeting with the team for now. The other remaining team member, a single lady, also will not continue with the team, at least for several months. She is pursuing another type of ministry and wants to put 100% effort into that to see if it is possible.

The remaining couple will continue on holding Bible studies weekly in place of services as they seek God’s direction for the best way to minister.

We will continue for the next several weeks to visit other fellowships to see what others are doing in this city, but will also visit the local fellowship occasionally during these weeks.

Prayer Requests.

  • For my student language partner that he would return and not be discouraged; that the meetings and relationship would continue and grow stronger with more opportunity to discuss spiritual matters. Pray God constantly works on his heart to open it and call him to Himself.
  • For my wife’s teaching: Wisdom and strength and new ideas as she prepares each weeks lessons.
  • For her student that she would continue to grow in the Lord and her love for Him.
  • For my wife’s weekly outreach: That God would prepare the right people to share with and shield and protect her and the group from angry people or police.
  • For the special outreach at the Orthodox church: That the Lord would intervene and purify the leadership there, remove the angry priest, and replace with a faithful servant. (There are reports in our city that there is a small revival among some of these priests–more than I can write here.) Also, that God would cause the right people to come next month–open to hearing more about the Truth.
  • For our health. It is good now, but that we might keep strong. I especially do not want to cancel ever again on my friend.

Finally, we will attend the wedding of my wife’s brother in early December.  We look forward to seeing friends in Hong Kong. Pray that my wife will have good visits with her mother who continually is becoming weaker with poorer health as she ages.

In His service,

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Dear Abby: Now that election time is nearing, I would like to address a question that invariably comes up this time of year — that is, people asking me who I voted for. I think this is a personal subject. I am registered with a party and support it at election time. Who I vote for is my business.  My answer is, “I voted for the person I want to win.” Sometimes this is not good enough for some people, and they insist I tell who I voted for. I just repeat my answer and go on. Any advice on this?  — Registered Voter in North Carolina

Dear Registered Voter: I agree that it’s nobody’s business for whom you voted. I find it interesting that if I answer the question and my candidate isn’t the one my questioner prefers, I then hear a recitation of their candidate’s campaign slogans. You are handling the situation correctly.

Dear Abby: I am writing in regard to the letter from “Registered Voter in North Carolina” (Sept. 23). I never tell anyone whom I voted for, not even my husband (even though I usually tell him everything). It’s not that I don’t want him to know, but we respect each other’s rights to voting privacy. We have lots of discussions about the candidates and issues, and both research them together. We have similar political views, and through our discussions we pretty much “know” whom the other voted for.  I hate when people ask me whom I am voting for, and I always decline to state. My husband went to war to protect our rights — including the right to privacy — and more people should respect them. — Gloversville, N.Y., voter

Dear Voter: Thank you for writing. I was pleased to hear from a large number of readers also stressing the importance of exercising our freedom to vote. I am sure I don’t have to remind everyone how important it is to vote in the Nov. 4 national election. This is a crucial time in our nation’s history. Your vote will affect generations to come. Read on:

Dear Abby: I say you should be proud of your candidate of choice and say it! If someone refuses to say whom they voted for, to me it seems like that person is ashamed to admit he or she supported this candidate instead of that one. If someone asks me whom I voted for, I gladly let them know. — Proud Supporter in Columbus

Dear Abby: When asked, I say, “I voted for the person I want to win.” If the questioner persists, I say, “I don’t discuss politics. My doctor says my blood pressure is too high as it is.” — Middle of the Road in S.C.

Dear Abby: I tell people I voted for “the president,” because whoever wins, I will support and pray that he/she makes the best decisions for me. I believe no matter who wins we must work together to overcome the problems we face. — Jane in Jacksons Gap, Ala.

Dear Abby: The quickest way to get people to drop the subject is to reply, “Isn’t it great that we live in a country with private ballots, so we cannot be persecuted or nagged for whom we vote for?” The nosy person generally changes the subject after that. — U.S. Citizen, Oxnard, Calif.

Dear Abby: I grew up in a household in which my parents sat on opposite sides of the political fence. My mother had a very tactful way of shutting down conversations about personal politics by responding calmly, “We have a secret ballot in this country for a reason.” — Erin in Independence, Mo.

Dear Abby: I have a simple answer when pollsters or friends ask whom I voted for (or will vote for). I say: “I don’t even tell my husband that. That’s why there are curtains on the voting booth.” That usually shuts ’em up. — Anna in Alton, N.H.

Dear Abby: When I’m asked the same personal question, I lean in close and ask in a whisper, “Can you keep a secret?” Of course, they always say “yes.” Then I back away and reply, “So can I!” — Voting In Hastings, Neb.

Dear Abby: I tell people I don’t care how anyone votes, as long as EVERYONE votes. Sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to have that privilege. — Alexxia in Frankfort, Ill.

I voted in the last election, in El Paso, and I’ve already voted for this coming election, at Lost Creek Park, but I don’t usually reveal who I voted for.  I see nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself or talking extensively about it.  But I prefer to keep it to myself.  I’m hesitant in revealing my choice because I am extremely uninformed.  I don’t even know how McCain or Obama sound like, let alone their stances politically.  And I’m beginning to realize that, even if I feel I have a lot of facts going on, I still seem to make a choice that isn’t any better than someone who makes a choice pretty quickly (this is in general, not only specifically regarding elections).  But Hannah said something on Saturday that made me ponder: “Well, as long as you voted.”  I asked her if she indeed believed that it’s better to vote uninformed than to not vote at all.  She confirmed.  I’m beginning to agree with her (well, I guess my actions would show that confirmation since I’ve voted twice already, uninformed).  As the last Dear Abby reader implied, voting at least acknowledges our appreciation for the privilege to somewhat select who we elect.  If we make a poor choice, we need to admit that at a minimum and work through the consequences humbly.  Lastly, I agree with “Jane” that we need to support whoever ends up taking office.  It is an awesome responsibility. 

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. [Romans 13:1-2; see also 1 Peter 2:13-14]

This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.  [2 Corinthians 13:10; see also 10:8]

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. [Hebrews 13:17]

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