Mary - Cameroon
Caleb - USA
As you know, in January, an Ambassadors women’s team comprising players from our WPSL team and from our the United States, travelled to Lima, Peru to work with our locally based ministry there. In Peru, traditionally men play soccer and women play volleyball, but that mentality is changing and now more girls and women are interested in playing soccer. Using the WPSL team in Cleveland as a base, Ambassadors formed a women’s team and sent them to play in the Peruvian capital of Lima. Everyone who interacted with the team had a front row seat to a humbling mix of elite play and servant hearts. From the National Stadium to impoverished areas, the team ministered to top club teams including Sporting Cristal as well as small children all over the city. The players opened doors for future partnerships and laid groundwork for football, faith, and future to spread the name of Jesus throughout the city.
This month we will continue to look at different countries, the conditions of Christians there, and the work of the church in that place where possible.
1st April - Eritrea Population 5.5 million, 2.5 million Christians, President Isaias Afewerki
Africa’s most repressive state views Christians as agents of the West, and arrests, harasses and kills them with impunity. Christians who live in Muslim areas are made vulnerable by Islamic militancy. Conversion to Christianity is seen as a betrayal of community, family and Islamic faith. Arrests and forced disappearances are common, with more than 300 Christians arrested last year. Many believers are held in miserable conditions, some in shipping containers in scorching temperatures. Thousands have been imprisoned, some for over a decade.
8th April - Uzbekistan Population 30.7 million, 350,000 Christians, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev
Due to the general Islamic culture, Christians from a Muslim background experience pressure and violence from family, friends and local community. In addition, the police, secret services and urban authorities monitor religious activities by bugging homes, tapping phones, infiltrating groups and monitoring church services. Non-registered places of worship are raided, religious materials confiscated, believers interrogated, leaders arrested and churches fined. Russian Orthodox churches experience fewer problems from government as they do not usually attempt to make contact with the Uzbek population.
15th April - Egypt Population 95 million, 9.5 million Christians, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
A rise in violent and deadly attacks caused the deaths of 128 Christians last year and left many injured. So-called Islamic State targets Christians and the government’s low regard for fundamental rights means there is little protection. Muslim-background believers face enormous pressure to recant; official recognition of conversion is almost impossible. Building places of worship is difficult because of administrative restrictions, communal hostility and violence. Church leaders are monitored by the state. Believers, especially women, face discrimination and abuse at work.
22nd April Vietnam Population 95.4 million, 8.4 million Christians, President Tran Dai Quang
Local and national government authorities persecute the Christian minority through their laws. Believers from ethnic minority groups face the greatest persecution. Seen as traitors of their culture and identity, they face harassment, violent attacks and social exclusion. Villagers collude with local Communist authorities, beating believers, kicking them out of their villages and stoning places of worship during meetings. Non-Christian relatives cut family ties and deny inheritance. Christian bloggers and political activists have been arrested and sentenced.
29th April Iraq Population 39 million, 258,000 Christians, President Fuad Masum
Persecution comes primarily from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) – whose ideology is not dead – and other radical militants. Tens of thousands of Christians remain displaced following the IS insurgency in 2014. In addition, Islamic leaders, clan leaders, extended family and ‘normal citizens’ all put pressure on Christians from a Muslim background to recant, sometimes using torture or physical attack. Converts risk harassment or discrimination at check-points, universities, work places and government buildings; they may also lose jobs, inheritance rights, or the ability to marry.
Geoff, Fay & Danni
Easter has come around very quickly and, as you can imagine, this is a very busy time for many engaged in Christian work throughout the world. At Mission Care, we are planning to do several services throughout the homes, as well as Bible Studies that focus on topics like: Who is God?, Who is Jesus?, and Who are we?. I am hoping that these studies will give them an overall understanding of our need for a Saviour. Like the analogy my dad so loves to use, ‘if you have never had heartburn you will not appreciate the beauty of a Rennie or Gaviscon!’
With all this in mind, I would love for you to pray with us that this amazing message will be alive and moving us as we share it. The horrible thing about human nature is that we can become so overfamiliar with things – even the most important things! Recently, I experienced the Spirit’s moving during a Bible Study, reading the famous words of John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ I’ve read or heard this verse so many times that it almost doesn’t sink in anymore, but at that moment it hit me anew, like it did when I first began to understand grace: that the Creator of the universe chose to die for me, me! It moved me to tears. This is the incredible message we get to share every day.
Please pray for two people in particular. The first is a lady who I see regularly. Her first reaction to the pastoral team was "stay away I’m not good enough to talk about God" but, after many weeks, she allowed me to just sit with her and the reason that she felt this way came out. We have slowly been able to build a relationship, but please pray that the Lord brings healing from the past to her life, and that she can experience His love and renewal. The second is a man with whom I have been meeting. He has a great desire to learn more about the Lord but is missing that final piece of understanding, the person and work of Christ. Please pray he will come to know and grasp the gospel fully.
Colossians 2b-3:so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Tim & Alison - UK
What does February hold for us? In some ways every day is an unknown, and we realise how it is only through God’s grace we are able to survive each day / hour / minute. Without God all things would be impossible!
The loft extension is just over half way through: this has meant lots of noise, dust, decision making and weather watching. Due to part of the roof being off, the wind and rain has meant flapping plastic and cold temperatures which has disturbed us all. However, we are all looking forward to more space and being able to settle as a family of 6.
Work for Tim continues to be a real challenge, and in addition to the mix of striving to catch up, he will be training and handing over two of the financial accounts. People within countries have been struggling with visa situations, which puts pressure not only on the person themself, but also their family and the wider community who rely on them doing their jobs. Please pray for this situation as this area seems to be getting more and more challenging.
For Alison, who is currently working 4 days per week but is being asked to consider doing 5, being so involved with the children and their families lives can be so emotionally draining. It is a great opportunity to walk this part of their journey, helping to steer towards the next step and be a witness during challenging and stressful times. Nevertheless, the knock on of emotions within work can be a struggle when also potentially having to deal with the many emotions in the home environment.
Please keep praying that we will hold firm to this promise: "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11
Helen & Alastair - Ireland
Alastair enjoyed his time connecting with some of our supporting churches in London. He is now on his sabbatical, taking a three month break from his OM responsibilities, but still involved in the community with chess and U9 soccer coaching.
St Patrick’s Outreaches went well. The teams were involved in four different St Patrick’s Day parades in very creative ways, re-enacting the story of Patrick. The Easter Show has been at some schools and community centres over the past three weeks. They have had a really good response especially from schools that they haven’t been to before.
Helen, meanwhile, is extra busy as she is helping to coordinate the European Leaders Wives Retreat, which takes place every other year. This year it is being held here at Lacken House from 16-20 April. There will be a group of 20 leaders wives and we will hear from a speaker and have time to relax together. Helen has also been helping to coordinate a joint Good Friday worship and prayer evening with a couple of other churches. This is the first time we have done such an event.
As I write this, we are about to head off for a week’s holiday in Co Kerry, looking forward to being away as a family, and with Drew & Hannah joining us for part of the week.