USA (MNN) -- Human life continues to take center-stage in US politics. Most of the country’s attention and headlines are focused on pre-born life. Abortion decisions in New York, Virginia, and Louisiana have been “the buzz” for weeks. State leaders are making end-of-life decisions, too. Bills that legalize medically-assisted suicide are being considered in Maryland, New Jersey, and New Mexico. Eric Verstraete, President of Life Matters Worldwide, tells us Christians need to pay attention. "I think it’s been a real wake-up call,” he says.
“We are citizens of this country, we have to be concerned about what’s going on in the legislature because – as we can see from these bills that are being passed – it is attacking life at its essence."
Life and death decisionsLast month, Verstraete highlighted the US “abortion debate” as a sanctity of life issue. On January 22 – two days after Sanctuary of Human Life Sunday – New York legislators passed the Reproductive Health Act (RCA) into law. The decision started a new level of controversy. The RCA allows doctors to perform abortions past the 24th week of pregnancy, which is near the end of the second trimester. As described here, babies at the 24-week stage weigh just over one pound and are roughly the same size as an ear of corn. They can move, swallow, and hear sounds. Pre-born babies in this stage are especially vulnerable to pain, this Canadian neurologist explains, because "the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop.” Today, says Verstraete, the conversation about life expands to include end-of-life legislation.
“Both of these groups of people – the preborn and those who are at the end of life – unfortunately, are not seen as an asset. They are seen as a liability… that paradigm needs to shift.”
The bill would require dying patients to ask for life-ending medication themselves, and two witnesses would need to verify in writing that the patient was “of a sound mind” and was acting voluntarily. Only one of the witnesses could be a relative, anda neither witness could be the patient’s physician.Similar bills are working through the legislative process in New Jersey and New Mexico.
What now?Now that you know, how will you respond? “As citizens of this country, we have to be concerned about what’s going on,” notes Verstraete. First and foremost, he adds, the news is a call to prayer. “We need to know what’s going on; we need to be praying for our leaders,” he says. “Even though we may disagree with them, the Bible clearly says that we need to hold them in respect and high regard.
“They (politicians) are not the enemy. I want to make sure people hear that.”Life Matters Worldwide helps Christians protect life on both ends of the spectrum. Learn more about their work here. "We believe that life begins at conception and has all of the necessary components to be a person and to have value and worth...and that value stays with a person until natural death occurs… [as] we like to say, ‘from womb to tomb’." Header and story images are stock photos obtained via Unsplash.
USA (MNN) -- Do you know who your Deaf neighbors are? There is probably a Deaf community closer than you think. However, it can be difficult for hearing people to know how to engage the Deaf. There is a language barrier and even a cultural barrier between the hearing and Deaf communities. JR Bucklew, President of Deaf Bible Society says despite these challenges, Christians have an obligation to reach the Deaf with the Gospel. We often talk in ministry circles about equipping believers to pray, give, and go in missions. When it comes to the Deaf, Bucklew says, “This isn’t a people group that simply lives in a far-off land. These are people that live in our own backyards. How do we neighbor with our Deaf communities? We’re living in the same places. These are people we can’t just ignore. So what does ‘go’ mean for the everyday person?” To answer that question, he offers some key strategies we can employ to engage, build relationships, and share Jesus with our Deaf neighbors.
Identify Your Local Deaf CommunityFirst, to engage our local Deaf communities, we need to identify who the Deaf are in our communities. Deaf Bible Society has an online search tool called Deaf Church Where that identifies local Deaf churches and ministries across the United States. From there, you can contact these churches and ministries and ask about the needs in your local Deaf community. You can also do some investigating in your own church, university campus, or community center and ask about Deaf outreach opportunities. Bucklew says it’s important to have more people asking questions and talking about the Deaf to raise awareness. “During a panel discussion here at Indiana Wesleyan University, we asked one of the professors, ‘How many Deaf students do you have on campus?’ The answer was honest and it was, ‘We have no idea. On all the committees I sat on, I have never even heard the topic brought up.’ “The unfortunate reality is many religious schools and seminaries are so far behind because they don’t receive state or federal funding and they don’t ascribe to a lot of those financial models. They have more freedoms...but when it comes to ADA provisions, they’re not bound by that either and therefore they won’t provide interpreters to Deaf students.” When we identify the Deaf in our communities and work to improve Deaf accessibility, it increases opportunities for hearing and Deaf Christians to connect with Deaf neighbors and share Jesus with them. “Where do Deaf people go? What seminaries can they go to? Where can they be educated? How can we equip Deaf pastors to do their jobs well? It all starts at the basic neighborhood community, at the root…. How are we making our other hearing neighbors aware of the needs and of the realities of Deaf people in our communities?”
Learn and Ask QuestionsBucklew also emphasizes that in order to reach the Deaf with the Gospel, we need to engage them with humility. “The biggest mistake I think that hearing people make when they begin to decide whether or not Deaf ministry is for them is oftentimes they go in it thinking, ‘Okay, we’re here, we’re the missionary, we know everything and here is what you need.’ “You can’t serve your neighbor well if you don’t know who they are, you don’t know where they’ve been, and you don’t know what their needs are. When we assume things, that’s when we always have those bad relationships with neighbors, right? We assumed that this is what’s going on in their life, and it wasn’t. The same applies to Deaf people in our communities. Instead of making assumptions, Bucklew suggests getting to know our Deaf neighbors by asking questions. “Rather, we really need to go in as learners. Our first priority should be to go in as a learner and to listen to what the Deaf community has to say, to listen to their pain, to their experiences…. Learn from them. Then say, ‘Here are all the skills that I have or that I feel like I have. Here is the education that I have. Here is what I have learned. What do you need from me?’”
Don’t Let Fear Stop YouFinally, engaging a new community of people can be intimidating. However, Bucklew says when it comes to Deaf outreach, don’t let fear stop you. “The fear of you don’t want to be an inconvenience and maybe someone else is already doing it -- that’s just part of the learning process. Engage! Make a phone call. Send an email. You making a phone call to the Deaf pastor is not going to be a hindrance in any way. The technology is there. It will connect you to an interpreter on the line that’s already paid for. “Let them say, ‘No, JR, it’s okay, someone has filled that role. What we really need is this.’ And then you’re able to say, ‘You know what? That is something I can really pray about doing,’ or ‘well, I can’t really do that, but I have the ability to give so this person over here can do that.’” One thing that helps overcome fear is to start praying for the Deaf before you reach out. As you pray, God can stir compassion and grant humility needed to engage. Pray for Gospel opportunities with your Deaf neighbors and for the Lord to give you wisdom in outreach. “The needs of the Deaf community when it comes to engagement are so great,” Bucklew reflects. “There [are] so many Deaf people right here in our own backyard that don’t know who Jesus is. Don’t let your fear be a burden [preventing] them [from] learning who Christ is.” Header photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society.
Africa (MNN) -- During a recent e3 Partners trip to Africa, the e3 team had a chance to share the Gospel with their translator’s family. Their translator, Kofi, was a Christian, but his family was not. He asked the team if they could come to his home and share the Gospel with his loved-ones. The team said yes. On the day the team went with the translator to his home, somehow Kofi’s brother discovered the plan and shared it with the other family members. The team arrived at an empty house, apart from Kofi’s mother-in-law. There they waited for his immediate and extended family to return.
Encountering ChristOnce people gathered, they began by sharing about the dangers of human trafficking while offering education on the topic. Then, e3’s Jeff Johnston says an opportunity opened up for sharing the Gospel. Kofi’s uncle Zain was convicted by the Gospel message. He believed it was good and true. But, Zain was fearful. If he became a Christian, Zain was scared of what his community would do to him when they found out. At his age, it would be difficult to defend himself from potential attacks. Still, this was not the only concern holding Zain back from saying “yes” to Christ. “He said, ‘I’m an old man…I’m too late, you know. I’ve spent my whole life worshipping other gods, and I’m an old man now’. So, he thought he couldn’t become a Christian in his old age, that it was too late to make up for all of the time he’d spent worshiping other gods and all the other things he’d done in his life. “Then the team shared with him the story of the sinner on the cross becoming a Christian essentially on his death bed and the way Jesus said that he would be in paradise with Him. They said Zain was moved by this story, just awestruck by the grace and mercy of Jesus,” Johnston shares. A few days later, the e3 team returned to check-in with Zain. It was then Zain confessed a belief in Christ. Today, Kofi disciples his uncle Zain, whose faith continues to grow. However, Zain’s story is also a reminder of how as long as there’s breath in our lungs, it is never too late to start a relationship with Christ.
Ways to RespondSo, how can we let this story impact our day-to-day lives? By realizing opportunities to share the Gospel and the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
“We need to go share that same message with everyone else because there [are] millions of people across the world that haven’t heard the message of the Gospel, and haven’t heard that their sins are forgiven, that Jesus has already defeated sin and death and saved us and given us an opportunity to have salvation through Him,” Johnston says.Pray for Zain as he grows in his relationship with Christ. Ask God to protect him and give him boldness in his faith. Also, pray for the Gospel to transform the lives of the rest of Kofi's family. Will you help someone realize it’s not too late to know Jesus? Find out how you can join e3 on a trip here! e3 also offers free online training for anyone who wants to communicate better the Gospel message or their own testimony. Johnston specifically recommends the “Your Testimony in 15 Seconds” video. Access the e3 training here. Header photo courtesy of e3 Partners.
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