Kenya (MNN) -- Kenya is generally considered a stable country, but their neighbors to the north and east? Not so much. Tribal fighting plagues southern Ethiopia, and Somalia has to deal with the militant Muslim group known as al-Shabaab. These conflicts can leak into Kenya. Earlier this month, Crossroads Prison Ministries sent a team to reach a prison in northern Kenya with the Gospel. Crossroads’ Kenya country director Jefferson Gathu was with the team of six other people. They had already visited two prisons and were headed to the third and final prison. On the way, the Crossroads team was attacked. Gathu reports, “We found ourselves engulfed by the people from Somalia on the right, and actually when we proceeded, we had the fighting actually coming now from southern Ethiopia. It was terrible. I remember my team and [me], we were in such a big problem.” The team had a security escort and their guards overpowered the attackers -- likely a mix of tribal fighters and al-Shabaab militants. They made it to the prison shaken but unscathed. “There were casualties because people were fighting each other. We may not know the cause of the fighting because...there is a lot of insecurity in the country of Somalia and there is a lot of insecurity actually in southern Ethiopia…. We were surrounded by the tribal men who actually wanted to fight us. But, as I’ve said, God was on our side because we had the military with us and they helped us. “[The guards] were telling us that if we had gone without an escort of security officers, we would not be talking because it was terrible. We are told that the previous night, [the al-Shabaab fighters] had killed about three people.” According to Gathu, that area in northern Kenya is too dangerous to travel without an escort since fighting and attacks are common. “If you are new in that area, you are not supposed to go. You can’t go to northern Kenya without security. Sometimes you can go during the day but from 3 pm in the evening, you can’t go alone. This is always common and the security is not good in that area.” This means the visitors to these prisons in northern Kenya are few and far between. It’s even dangerous for the people who work in the prisons. “I remember one of the prison officers who was in charge showed us where the bullets would always hit…. They hit the walls and actually, he shared with us how one of the kitchen staff was injured because one of the stray bullets caught up with him.” Gathu shares, “It was amazing when they received us. They told us they are lucky to have us because nobody wants to go to those prisons because they fear for their life. But we told them that God had sent us and we went and shared with them.” In total, the team members with Crossroads told at least 5,000 inmates about Jesus Christ and over 100 of them embraced Him as their Savior. Crossroads offers biblical courses for inmates to go through with Christian mentors outside the prison. Mentors communicate with the students through mail and grade their lessons. On this trip, 30 students enrolled in Crossroads’ biblical studies. They are still trying to work out the details to stay connected with the students and new believers in these northern Kenyan prisons. But currently, Crossroads Kenya is looking at a system that would get mailed lessons to the inmates once a month. As the Crossroads’ team praises God for keeping them safe, Gathu says their ministry could use encouragement from the global Body of Christ going forward. “We need prayers because...nobody would like to risk his life going there. But our team, Crossroads Kenya, we have given ourselves out to go and reach those people. As the Bible says, if you don’t do it, who can go? We need to remember them as we ourselves are one of them.” Also, Gathu adds, “We need to raise funds so that we can have the parcels and Crossroads materials reaching them at the time they are needed every month.” They also need funding for a reliable vehicle to use for future trips, since the team cannot count on vehicles from their security escorts. If you would like to donate to Crossroads Prison Ministries, click here! Finally, please pray for the inmates in northern Kenya. “We need to realize that those people are in need, not only that we go taking the Word of God to them. They are in need of food, they are in need of clothing...they don’t have even mattresses to sleep on. They sleep on the ground.” Pray for the new believers to grow in discipleship and in their relationship with the Lord. Please pray also for those inmates who heard the Gospel, but did not yet accept Jesus. Ask God to soften their hearts over time and that the seed planted would eventually grow into a newfound faith in Christ. Interesting in becoming a mentor with Crossroads in your area? Learn more about their mentorship program here! (Header photo courtesy of Crossroads Prison Ministries)
Lebanon (MNN) – Resurrection Church Beirut is reaching more than 1,300 people on a regular basis.
Resurrection Church BeirutResurrection Church Beirut’s Lily Malky shares, “Our local congregation in Beirut is made up of two-thirds refugee families and one-third locals, so we reach out to Lebanese, North African people who live in Lebanon, migrant workers who live in Lebanon, Syrian and Iraqi refugees.” Resurrection Church Beirut is filling out their community by reaching expats who are living in Beirut as well. Malky shares that their ministry is walking alongside people and mentoring them to help them grow in their relationship with Christ and with other believers. Their focus is set on three main areas. “We encourage everyone to develop holy relationships. We ask them to grow in a Church community and have fellowship and worship together as a congregation and to grow deeper in knowing what it means to follow Christ through a life group. Malky explains Resurrection Church Beirut’s life groups bring people together for either formal Bible studies or simply to share about what’s happening in life. The main purpose of these groups is to form relationships and disciples for Christ. “We try in everything we do to follow Jesus in the pathway of discipleship. So, we ask people to believe in Jesus Christ, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to learn and grow how to crown Jesus Lord over their life, and what it means and how to belong to the one body of Christ... and how to equip others and make disciples.” Resurrection Church Beirut is seeing God move through the ministry. Malky says with the little resources, time, and energy they receive, God is maximizing it.
Challenges in LebanonHowever, there are many challenges in Lebanon as well. Refugee families are struggling to provide and receive basic needs like food, medical supplies, and child education. Malky says there’s a great need for prayer “for the struggling families and the new generation, the children, and the teenagers of the refugees who have no education, no resources, a lot of discrimination, and have little access to a normal childhood.” Resurrection Church Beirut is walking alongside these refugee families by providing them with much-needed food, education, and medicine. However, donations from locals are tight and sometimes impossible due to the economic crisis looming in Lebanon. Many Lebanese families are facing economic hardships. They’re either overworked or they are unemployed and unsure how they will provide the next meal. Lebanese families, Malky says, are better off than refugee families, however, the busyness of their jobs and the stress of unemployment is affecting their families. “A lot of child neglect is there because parents work two or three jobs to be able to provide for their families, and children are left to grow without a solid and healthy relationship at home and we’re seeing the result of that in a broken community in Lebanon.” Finding jobs, renting apartments, and even getting married have become so difficult for younger generations, that many are leaving Lebanon to live in Gulf and Western countries. “I think as a Lebanese population, we have more Lebanese outside Lebanon than in Lebanon,” Malky says. The result of these economic hardships points to the refugee crisis, to government corruption, devalue of the currency, and high taxes. Each of the challenges faced in Lebanon shows the direness of creating disciples and ministering to others to give hope in Christ. Come alongside Resurrection Church Beirut through prayer. Pray for the provision of leaders who can guide and empower others. Pray for refugee families and for the economy in Lebanon. Also, financially partner with Resurrection Church Beirut and help support their work.
International (MNN) -- Sunday is a historic day for Deaf people. It’s the first-ever International Day of Sign Languages, and it kicks off the 2018 International Week of the Deaf. Rob Myers of DOOR International – a Christian Deaf ministry – says it’s an important step towards the recognition of sign languages as actual languages, not just collections of gestures. “The desire is to see Deaf people fully included…and the best way to see that inclusion happen is through access in sign language,” notes Myers. “Only 37 countries recognize sign language as a legitimate language.”
Inaugurating the International Day of Sign LanguagesSeptember 23 was recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Sign Languages at the end of 2017. Colin Allen, president of World Federation of the Deaf – the advocacy organization behind IWD – stated the following:
"This resolution recognizes the importance of sign language and services in sign language being available to deaf people as early in life as possible. It also emphasizes the principle of 'nothing about us without us' in terms of working with Deaf Communities."The ‘nothing about us without us’ principle is also critical to DOOR’s work. “No decisions should be made about the Deaf community without the input – and, really, the leadership – of the Deaf community,” explains Myers.
“Many times, people are making decisions for them without including them either in the information or in the decision-making process.”
Translating Scripture into sign languagesThe importance of sign language recognition also applies to the Great Commission. “There are an estimated 350 sign languages around the world…every single one of them represents a Deaf community where that is their primary or first language, their heart language,” says Myers.
“Only 26...of those 350 sign languages have any sort of authorized, published Scripture.”
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