This is Whyte House Report podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Assist News Service, As the Winter Olympics are launched this week, church leaders in Beijing say they are preparing to keep a low profile to avoid coming into conflict with Chinese authorities, according to the Christian persecution charity Open Doors. “We know that we should not be ‘active’ during this kind of event,” says Pastor Huang* from Beijing. “We know how we should behave during this time. And that is to lie low.” According to Zhang Wei* a local contact for Open Doors, “At times of major events like this, ministers are warned to ‘behave’, ‘be quiet’ and ‘remain invisible in the public domain’. If the churches do not comply their church meetings run the risk of being stopped.” By now, Beijing’s churches know what to do,” he says. During celebrations for the National Day of the People’s Republic of China last year, there were reports of authorities making regular calls to house church pastors to reiterate their ‘boundaries’. “They were basically expected to lay low and do very little,” says Zhang Wei. “Meeting in smaller groups is tolerated, but larger church events are frowned upon.” Pastors who are suspected of conducting church activities other than low-profile regular Sunday services can be forced to have what are known as ‘tea meetings’ with local party officials. “For ordinary believers, the consequences may be just warnings or registration of their ID,” says Zhang Wei. “For leaders and pastors, they can be interrogated for hours, detained overnight and fined. There can be more severe consequences if the churches resist the authorities and cause disturbance. If ever the pastor/church leader is found out that he pushed through with conducting church services, he can receive an administrative detention for a few days up to two weeks. “So far, we have not received any ‘tea meeting’ invitations or any warnings,” explains Pastor Huang. “However, it is clear what is expected of us,” adding that he will comply with the requirements as he understands them. As the government considers Christianity as western in origin, they see Christianity as a threat of foreign infiltration. Therefore, the authorities warn the churches to minimize their activities.
According to Mission Network News, In Uganda, Christian schools thrive despite the world’s longest pandemic shutdown. “Throughout the lockdowns, we’ve had 720 decisions for Christ, and about 120 of those were the parents and guardians of kids in our schools,” Set Free Ministries’ Dave McIntyre says. “We’ve been very blessed during the lockdown. Our team ‘took the bull by the horns’ and went out there and continued the work of Christ.” When strict lockdowns sent students back to their home communities in March 2020, “We just went to Plan B,” McIntyre says. “We’ve been paying our teachers during the entire shutdown, and we sent them out to the villages. They were hand-writing lessons to take out to the kids. [This] was not a one-time meeting; those teachers were going back again and again, week after week.” The believers’ commitment “made a huge impression on parents and the villages,” McIntyre continues. “When they first started doing it, the parents [said], ‘We’re not paying school fees, why are you here?’ And they (the teachers) [said], ‘Well, we just love your kids, and we’re going to be meeting with them.’”
According to Mission Network News, Mission Network News is introducing a new Partner: Christian World Outreach. The ministry started in Haiti during the late 1970s. Greg Yoder serves as the ministry’s president. He says, “Our goal is to share Christ, to share the Gospel. The way we do that is by meeting physical needs, social needs. That way we have the opportunity to share why we share Christ’s love. We’ve seen God expand the ministry beyond Haiti, into Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso. This past year, we moved into South Africa and Sri Lanka.” In these five countries, CWO provides aid and education for women and children. They also give access to healthcare for people in need and training for local Christian leaders. Yoder says, “We don’t have American missionaries. We’re not sending people. We’re working with the nationals. They know their culture. We’ve got some great leaders who have a heart for God and want to minister in their home countries For instance, in Burkina Faso CWO operates a school for young girls. Education is something often denied to women in the West African country, especially for these girls, since many of them come from refugee families. Yoder says, “They’re hearing the Gospel, but also seeing it lived out by our staff there. We have great leadership that just represents Christ and loves the girls. We don’t determine what religion they’re a part of when they come and apply.” Because of this, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t shut down CWO ministry.
According to Mission Network News, Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley emerge from the worst snowstorm in decades. The same system compounded challenges for refugees scattered throughout the region. According to the United Nations, 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced, while 5.7 million have registered as refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Piles of heavy snow collapsed tent walls and roofs. “We went in with our team and shoveled off roofs, fixed two-by-four ceilings, and got [the tents] livable again,” Heart for Lebanon’s Tom Atema says. “Locals tell us this is the worst snowstorm they’ve seen since 1985.” Winter brings snow to this region every year, “but usually not to this degree. [It’s] very unusual to get this much snow in one snowstorm, plus the bitter cold on top of it,” Atema says. Plus, when you’re a refugee living far below the poverty line, winterization supplies cost more than a typical budget allows. Atema asks, “When you have nothing, and the best you can do [to construct a home] is a couple of two-by-fours and some tarps thrown over the top… how can you prepare for snow?” Along with the home repair, Heart for Lebanon teams provide food aid to refugees in need. “We don’t give out milk, bread, meat, and those kinds of things, but we do provide food assistance to some 4,500 families every month,” Atema says.
Believers’ help is a tangible expression of Christ’s love and compassion, and it soon leads to Gospel conversations. “Within a short period, they’ll [ask] us, ‘Why are you helping me? Why are you providing this aid?” Atema says. “‘Nobody else is helping me. If they help me, they want something in return almost immediately. You’ve never asked for anything.’ Well, that’s because it’s the love of Jesus Christ.”
According to Mission Network News, Insurgents killed 10 soldiers in Southwest Pakistan during a January 25 shootout. Greg Kelley with World Mission says it shows how great the unrest in the region has become. He recently returned from visiting Afghan refugees who fled the Taliban into Pakistan. But they aren’t safe yet. “The Taliban still comes in and causes terror in the evening time. In the areas we were in, we had to make sure we were out by the evening. Because the Taliban still have influence.” Kelley says most people in the camps have lost at least one family member to extremist violence. “A lot of the people that we spoke to particularly didn’t want their daughters to live underneath the Taliban regime. Because the daughters are being taken as sex slaves. They’re abused, and families have no say in it. The Taliban just come into communities and they essentially confiscate or kidnap the daughters.” You can support local Christians who deliver aid to these refugees in Jesus’ name. Ask God to bring comfort and healing to them. Kelley says, “The only answer to that is the Gospel. There’s no amount of money or a nicer house that can fix that. That trauma is so buried inside of their hearts that the Gospel is the only answer. And we found incredible receptivity.” Kelley even encountered men who once had operated in the Taliban. “They approached us. As we were interviewing them, they talked about different people they had killed. And they were just filled with guilt. But the only thing that’s going to heal their heart is the Gospel. I literally watched them receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The guilt that they had of doing the terrible things was lifted.” These men then went to tell current Taliban members about Jesus. “That is the only solution for Afghanistan,” Kelley says. Ask the Holy Spirit to change many hearts among extremist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to Mission Network News, Unknown assailants shot and killed a Christian priest in Pakistan’s city of Peshawar. Seventy-five-year-old Father William Siraj was driving home after Sunday mass. One other priest in the car suffered injuries, while a third was unharmed. The police deployed additional personnel to protect the funeral, which was held in Peshawar’s All Saints Church on Monday. Over 3,000 people attended. Nehemiah with Forgotten Missionaries International says, “No group has claimed responsibility for the killing. But militant attacks on security forces and on common people in the markets have been not only on the rise in Pakistan’s northwest area (which borders Afghanistan) but in major cities as well, like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi. Many of them have been claimed by the TTP.” But Nehemiah says, “All these terrorists, even the ones who were caught by the police or security agencies, later are often released by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Even in the attack on a Pakistani public school, where hundreds of children were killed by the Taliban, all of those prisoners were released by the Supreme Court.” Christians make up a tiny minority in Pakistan, a predominantly Sunni Muslim nation. Estimates split this number mostly in half between Protestants and Catholics. One Pakistani Christian told Nehemiah this: “Don’t pray for us. Pray with us.” Ask God to bring millions of people to faith in Jesus all across Pakistan.
According to Mission Network News, Russian officials have denied any intention to invade Ukraine after massing 100,000 troops near the shared border. Russia wants assurances that Ukraine will not join NATO in the future, something the U.S. has denied. Frank Stephenson serves as the Director of Communications for Trans World Radio Europe. He talks about how these different forces tug on Ukraine. “There are those within Ukraine who have always had particularly strong ties with Russia, because of Russian being their predominant language. Then you have the other areas in Ukraine which are predominantly Ukrainian in the language and the culture. So there’s even kind of, in some ways, these two sides already in the country.” Despite the political tensions, TWR continues to minister in both Russia and Ukraine. Their radio programs have introduced Jesus to many. Stephenson says, “It’s really a privilege to work with the contacts and the people that we have in both countries, knowing they are doing their best for their people to point them to the One that gives hope and peace.” One woman in Kyiv says she listens to the programs every day. Another woman living in the countryside says she only knows one other Christian in her village, so she feels connected to the Church through these programs. An 8-year-old Russian child first heard about Jesus on a TWR program and decided to follow Him.
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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless you.