I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
“You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed you
to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.”
Dear Ministry Partners,
In 1986, when I stepped off the plane in Bombay, India – now Mumbai – I was met by Murli & Usha Menon. Murli was a newly converted Hindu businessman and newly married. I was newly called to India to explore what God had in mind for us there.
Believe me when I say that when you step off the plane in Bombay after 15 hours of flying, you need to see a familiar smiling face! After clearing Customs, I walked out the door into a pulsating sea of diverse humanity in the hot and humid atmosphere of strange sights, sounds and smells that quickly overwhelmed my senses! And every one of the thousands of people outside the airport wanted to speak to me … help me … carry my bags for me … get me into their taxi or rickshaw … take me to some hotel!
For some people, India is a “culture shock” beyond anything they have ever imagined or experienced! For me, it was another exciting “Kingdom Adventure!” I couldn’t wait to experience what God had in store for me there, since I had heard about India from my parents ever since I was a small boy!
You see my parents, pictured at left, had traveled to India before I was born on a mission fact-finding trip. Sensing God’s call to India, they returned to the States to plan and prepare to go back to India for life as missionaries. World War II prevented them from fulfilling that dream. Now in the fullness of time, it seemed God was allowing me to in some way be a participant in that calling. So I couldn’t wait to walk out this new “Kingdom Adventure” that had brought me to India. Nor could I wait to begin building a relationship with Murli and Usha – who would be two of my earliest “cultural guides” and “missionary mentors” in India.
That initial meeting with Murli and Usha led to a friendship that has now spanned 3 decades.
As Murli made his transition from the business world to vocational Christian ministry, we were privileged to help both him and Usha attend Union Biblical Seminary in India. This was made possible through ministry partners and churches in North Carolina. They both graduated with honors. (Since then, Murli has earned a graduate degree in Leadership, and Usha a PhD on the role of women and children in India, especially as it relates to female infanticide).
They spent the next decade of their marriage working with Usha’s father, Rev. Thomas Samuel, one of the pioneer evangelical Christian leaders in South India. His evangelistic and discipleship ministry was centered around a Retreat Center known as Quiet Corner – a place I traveled to many times for conferences and seminars in following years. This ministry was a wonderful place for Murli and Usha to focus their natural and spiritual talents for Christ.
After a fruitful decade of being mentored by his father-in-law, Murli launched his own ministry, Impact International. He had a special passion for teaching in India and in other countries on how the Bible relates to other world religions, international affairs, globalization, politics, economics, and social issues. Because of his keen mind, constant reading, astute observation, charismatic personality and communication skills, Murli became a much sought-after speaker and teacher on cross-cultural issues impacting the local and global Body of Christ.
Murli speaking at an event recently in Burlington, NC, on his annual trip to America.
Across the years, Murli has traveled annually and spoken in countries like England, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Romania, Kenya, Nigeria, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar and America. It has been my honor to travel and co-minister with him in some of these countries. And it has been a special privilege to help network him with so many of our ministry friends and partner churches in America.
Through the past 3 decades, it has been our joy to partner with Murli and Usha in many projects like pastors’ conferences, marriage seminars, children’s ministry, self-support projects, and tsunami and cyclone relief.
Murli showing me the property he wanted to purchase
as the headquarters and training center for his ministry
a decade ago!
Since 2005, our partnership has primarily focused on the development of a beautiful campus that is the headquarters of their multi-faceted holistic ministry, Impact International, based outside the city of Coimbatore in South India. Through the generous gift of a family foundation, we were able to help them buy a beautiful 20-acre piece of property that was a former plantation. It already had 900 mature coconut trees, 200 mango trees and 250 teak trees – all of which now contribute to the support of their ministry. Since the Campus is bordered on two sides by a beautiful national park, it can never be encroached upon – except by the elephants, deer, wild bore, peacocks and other animals that inhabit the magnificent mountainous park. Their Campus literally has a multi-million dollar view from every direction
The current campus nestled in the plantation of fruitful trees. At right, the
Bible College and Dormitory.
One of the two beautiful Children's Homes on campus.
Over the last decade, it has been a joy to see building after building carefully planned and built – without cutting the trees or disturbing the beautiful natural setting. The Bible College and dormitories were built first. Then a home for girls rescued from female infanticide. Next, a large kitchen and dining hall, followed by a staff quarters for the workers. Finally, a new classroom block was built and dedicated.
Additionally, we were able to help Murli and Usha build a personal residence and Guest House for visiting teams on top of the Cafeteria.
Murli & Usha standing on top of the Cafeteria,
where they hoped to build their home.
Together we made a step of faith toward building
their personal home and guest house.
Their personal residence and Guest House are constructed.
The completed facility over the Dining Hall.
Over this past two years we have partnered with my son, Joseph, and Feed the Hunger, in building Phase 2 of the classroom block. We will be officially dedicating it on our upcoming trip to India the end of this month.
Phase 1 of the Class Room Block, and Murli standing outside Phase 2, currently
Through the giving of our American partners, we have been able to recently help them drill a new well for irrigation, and to build a new large water storage tank that the elephants cannot break into! And in 2016, we hope to help them build a new Guest House on top of this water tank.
Murli and Usha wisely utilize every bit of space in the development of the Campus, while preserving the beauty and balance of their natural surroundings. One of the biggest recent challenges has been to cut a new, larger road into the campus. The basic construction is now completed and soon the paving will start, followed by the landscaping – which I hope to help with when I go to India in November. I always love the beautification process!
With a growing student body, faculty, staff and scores of children, one important need was to raise food. So it has been my joy to bring in drip irrigation for several large gardens.
Teaching drip irrigation to the students and staff.
Usha pours in the water for the standard "bucket drip irrigation kit."
In the middle picture, she shows the children from the Girl's Home the "wet spots"
for planting vegetable seeds...growing children and growing vegetables!
A larger "1/4 drip irrigation garden," which grew and flourished, was set up
among the coconut trees.
The girls enjoy the fresh vegetables from the drip irrigation garden.
It has been exciting to see how Murli has become an avid gardener and landscaper. This is especially amazing since he was born and raised in the “concrete jungle” of Mumbai – the business and entertainment capital of India. Growing up in one of the world’s largest metropolitan cities, Murli was only familiar with skyscrapers, high-rise apartments, business centers, asphalt, cement and steel. Gardening and plants were totally outside his sphere of exposure and experience.
But once he was introduced to gardening and landscaping, he took to it like a duck to water – or like a farmer to dirt! He discovered agricultural “roots” he did not know he had! Now he loves to do gardening and landscaping.
Recently, Murli has literally taken his gardening up to a new level – through rooftop gardening. Since gardening space is limited among the trees, Murli has put drip irrigation gardens on top of his home and Guest House. This also protects them from marauding animals that live in the surrounding jungles.
Because of the larger drip irrigation gardens and roof top gardens,
much of the daily vegetables needed to feed the children,
students, faculty and staff are grown on site.
FROM SOWING TO SEWING …
One of Murli and Usha’s latest projects is the development of “Sewing Schools” in the slums of Mysore. Through one of their partner churches there, they have started their first Training School – taught by the pastor’s wife.
Please pray for these very needy and poor women in the slums of Mysore who are being touched and transformed by this sewing school. After their 6 months of training, they will each be given a sewing machine through which they can help support themselves. And we hope that many of our partners will buy a sewing machine this Christmas for one of these women, at a cost of $150 each.
Thanks for the joy and privilege of updating you on our full and fruitful partnership with Murli and Usha in India. It is the faithful prayers and generous financial support of friends like you that make this partnership possible. Our relationship with them has been a long-term one – literally a life-long one!
Our friendship and partnership with Murli and Usha once again demonstrates God’s sovereign guidance in networking us with the exact national partners He wants us to be in fellowship and co-ministry with – for life. As I often teach, since God is a relational God, our relationship with Him is eternally secure because He is the Initiator and Sustainer of all of our relationships in Christ. Therefore, our relationship with His growing global family and national partners He networks us with is also secure through His Spirit – for time and eternity!
I firmly believe that the Bible teaches that both our marriage and ministry are based on God-ordained eternal covenant relationships. Both are sovereignly orchestrated by God as part of those relationships and resulting “… good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). That’s why projects must flow out of partnerships – rather than define and drive them.
Because one cannot be stronger than the other, we strengthen our ministries by strengthening our marriages. Patt and I are eternally thankful that our relationship with Murli and Usha continues to do that for us. Thanks for being a vital part of our relationship with them through your partnership with us. You are our “spiritual enablers” whom the Lord uses to make possible everything we do. So we will eternally praise Him and thank you!
In His Love for India,
JL & Patt
PS: By clicking on these two attachments: Impact News, and Impact International, Fall 2015, you can read Murli’s latest newsletter and see his beautiful brochure that will fully update you on the development of the Campus. I know you will be blessed!
“… upon this rock I will build My church …
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven …”
Dear Ministry Partners,
Like millions of Americans, I spent as much time as my schedule would permit watching the historic visit of Pope Francis to America – preceded by his equally historic visit to Cuba. Just two years into his papacy, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former Bishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has made a global impact as a Jesuit Pope. Since Jesuits make a life-long vow of poverty, Francis has really shaken up the traditions and trappings of both the papacy and the Vatican.
The Pope’s historic 6-day visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia was diverse and intense. The schedule was enough to push a young priest past the limits of spiritual, physical, mental and emotional endurance – much less a man of 78! But he endured and persevered with grace, dignity, joy and stamina, a strength that was portrayed as almost “supernatural!”
Pope Francis’ visit was a welcomed pause and breath of fresh air in the current rancorous and divisive presidential campaigns by Republicans and Democrats. Prior to his stepping on American soil, the political atmosphere was hot with anger … adversity … accusations … attacks … arrogance … acrimony… argumentation … anxiety.
His papal presence quickly “trumped” everyone and overshadowed the political rhetoric and rancor. He quietly lifted the conversation to a higher level of focus. As you watched the various news reports, positive words of description and affirmation gushed forth from even the most cynical of reporters and commentators. Words like these were used to describe Francis’ persona of piety: humble … joyful … loving … authentic … forgiveness … mercy … infectious … spiritual … holy.
Regardless of what one thinks about some of his policies and positions, Francis definitely brought 6 days of positive “climate change” to America!
Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post, expressed what many Americans felt as a result of Pope Francis’ visit. She confessed that she “drank the Kool Aid”!
“I did, I confess. I grabbed the Pope’s chalice, gulped it down and asked for more. It was magical. Palliative. Heavenly. For a few hours, I felt un-cynical. I wanted to be a better person and say nice things about Donald Trump. I wanted to invite strangers into my home, wash their feet and feed them fishes and loaves. I wanted to convert.”
That was the spiritual and emotional sentiment that many Americans experienced last week during Francis’ visit. But not everyone!
The Pope’s humility was personified by his small Fiat that was such a stark contrast to the armada of black limousines and SUVs that chauffeured the other political people who accompanied him! Both the “Fiat 1” and the white Jeep “Pope-Mobile” became unforgettable symbols of his identification with the common man – and his accessibility and approachability. This was especially refreshing in a time when political people are surrounded by an army of Secret Service, bodyguards, policemen, and soldiers.
The many unscripted and unexpected spontaneous words and actions by Francis especially endeared him to people. It was obvious that children energized him, and caused him to “light up” – especially those with special needs, handicapped or in wheel chairs. Who would not be drawn to that kind of loving compassion and approachability?! In this area he certainly exemplified the life of the Lord Jesus who also drew children to Himself … held them in His arms … laid His hands on them in blessing.
At this point in our national and international moral morass, Pope Francis has emerged as the single most dominant and respected spiritual voice. His unambiguous words of conviction are a refreshing and hopeful contrast to the current vociferous attacks by politicians … racial innuendos by so many blacks, whites and Hispanics … hateful threats by radical Muslim imams … divisive words by many Christian leaders … and overall air of political correctness.
FROM ANTICHRIST TO BROTHER IN CHRIST
Down through the centuries, the papacy in general, and specific popes in particular, have become the favorite target of prophecy prognosticators. Many have become convinced from their interpretation of Scripture that the pope is the coming antichrist who will play a crucial role in the end time events precluding the Second Coming of Christ. In their interpretation, several popes have had “666” written all over them! But to date, none of their prophetic scenarios have panned out as predicted. No doubt Pope Francis will also be the target of renewed prophetic predictions and typologies. Many Christians will continue to class him in the antichrist category.
However, it is noteworthy that a number of highly respected conservative evangelicals and Pentecostals have found great spiritual authenticity in Pope Francis. As they have gotten to know him personally, they have come to see and embrace him as their spiritual companion – not their spiritual enemy. Through their meetings and personal friendships with him, they have become convinced that he is indeed NOT the antichrist – but their brother in Christ.
Soon after Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as Pope, his longtime friend and fellow Argentinean, Luis Palau, pictured at left, was interviewed about Francis. As an internationally known evangelist, there are few more respected people in the evangelical world than Luis Palau. He has preached to over 25 million people in over 70 countries. He has been seen by many as the successor to Billy Graham, who is also one of his close friends. He has often been called the “Latin Billy Graham.” Palau has been a resident of America for decades, after moving from Argentina to base his evangelistic ministry here. Here are a few comments he made about Pope Francis in an interview with CT (Christianity Today; 3/14/13):
Another of the most well known and respected pastors and authors in America is Rick Warren, pictured at right. He is the founder and pastor of Saddleback Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in America. After meeting Pope Francis in the Vatican for the first time, Warren was also deeply impressed and impacted by Francis’ humility and referred to him as “… our new pope.”
Warren was one of the plenary speakers at the Catholic-sponsored “World Meeting of Families,” the day before the Pope spoke. It is held every 3 years and this year’s theme was: “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”
Here is an incredible quote from Warren that summarizes his message to that historic gathering:
“In today’s society, materialism is idolized, immorality is glamorized, truth is minimized, sin is normalized, divorce is rationalized, and abortion is legalized. In TV and moves, crime is legitimized, drug use is minimized, comedy is vulgarized, and sex is trivialized. In movies, the Bible is fictionalized, churches are satirized, God is marginalized, and Christians are demonized. The elderly are dehumanized, the sick are euthanized, the poor are victimized, the mentally ill are ostracized, immigrants are stigmatized and children are tranquilized. In families around the world, our manners are uncivilized, speech is vulgarized, faith is secularized, and everything is commercialized.”
Warren went on to summarize …
“Christians are often disorganized and demoralized, and their faith is compartmentalized, and witness compromised.
So what do we need? We need to revitalize our worship, minimize our differences, mobilize our members, and evangelize the lost. And we need to re-energize our families … the family is a launch pad for ministry.”
Cardinal O’Maley gave this response to Warren’s presence and presentation:
"It’s important that Rick Warren is here. This is a witness of unity that’s important in today’s world, as we strive to proclaim the gospel of life: the need to protect every human being from the first moment of conception until natural death, to defend the family as a sanctuary of life, and family as a sacred calling described on the first pages of the Bible as a man who leaves his mother and father to be joined in one flesh to his wife. It’s a great consolation to share this stage with a fellow Christian who is truly committed to preaching the Gospel. We are truly blessed by his presence and his friendship.”
I personally am very thankful that Rick Warren was there at this interfaith family festival to represent evangelical Christianity and to speak so cogently for the family and the church.
In addition to meeting with key evangelical leaders like Palau and Warren, Pope Francis has also met with other charismatic leaders like Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, John Arnott (“Toronto Blessing”), and the Green Family (owners of Hobby Lobby). As a result of these positive encounters, Geoff Tunnicliffe, who formerly headed the “World Evangelical Alliance,” summarized his visit with the Pope at the Vatican by announcing: “A new era in evangelical and Catholic relations.”
Interestingly, Pope Francis has personally identified with the Charismatic movement, taking place around the world in general, and in the Catholic Church in particular. Prior to being elected as Pope, he often met with and prayed with Pentecostal pastors in Argentina. For decades, the Catholic Church in Central and South America has been losing millions of members to Pentecostalism. And yet, he often visited their pastors and churches – not to spy out his enemies, but to fellowship with them as his Christian brothers and sisters. One testified, “Bergoglio … was a man filled with the Spirit and with a deep commitment to ecumenism.”
So, as well as being Christ-centered, Pope Francis is comfortable with the Holy Spirit in his own life and the lives of Catholics. He recently sent this letter of endorsement and encouragement to an annual gathering of Charismatic Catholics in Illinois:
“The year 2017 marks the 50th year since the sovereign irruption of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church, known today as the Charismatic Renewal, which was birthed ecumenically. I have invited those who have been born again (John. 3:3-4) in this river of Grace, to celebrate together in St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost this year, an invitation I extend to all Christians of all confessions, to worship our Lord and to pray for a new Pentecost for the Church and for the world.”
Unlike some of his papal predecessors, it is obvious that Francis subordinates theology to sociology – or orthodoxy to orthopraxy. He is far more concerned with the grassroots application of the Gospel – especially to the poor – than the ecclesiastical pontification of the Gospel from the exalted heights of the Vatican.
By precept and example, Pope Francis exhorts his fellow priests to get their hands and feet dirty with the needs of the poor and hurting people. He wants them to have the smell of sheep on them – not the perfume or incense of religiosity! As a shepherd-leader, Francis seems far more comfortable washing prisoner’s dirty feet than the clean feet of his cardinals and bishops! His “record” in this area is one of the things that made his visit to a prison in Philadelphia both unexpected and unsettling for many.
But in obedience to the clear words of the Lord, he seeks opportunity to visit those in prison (Matt. 25:36).
Because of Pope Francis’ emphasis on the practical and sacramental application of the Gospel over just a didactic proclamation, his papal ministry focus is making many inside and outside the church very uncomfortable. But, his words to the prison inmates in Philadelphia were Biblical and absolutely clear when he told them: “Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. We can only change through Him.”
BATTLE GROUND … COMMON GROUND … HOLY GROUND?
One of the distinguishing marks of this pope is his desire to find “common ground” with other Christians and denominations. By nature, he is a bridge-builder and reconciler wherever there are human, spiritual or denominational divides. And a bridge by nature is something that gets walked on from both sides!
Various popes in the past have had their own particular theological priorities and ecclesiastical agendas – just as every religious leader has. Some popes were primarily focused on church doctrine. Others focused on ecclesiology and church polity, while others focused on politics, etc. Many of these emphases are historic battlegrounds between Catholics and Protestants that will not be solved until eternity.
However, unlike some of his papal predecessors, Pope Francis leads from a soteriology (salvation) that is inseparably connected to a sociology of love, mercy and grace – more than from a theology of doctrine and dogmatism. This is an approach that offends people on both sides of the long-standing theological divide between the “spiritual Gospel” and “social Gospel.” For Pope Francis, his “spiritual Gospel” is his “social Gospel.” In his mind and heart, it is the horizontal beam of the cross of Christ that demonstrates and validates the vertical beam. Francis believes that you incarnate your love for God by your love for people – especially those in need.
As a result of this position, he made a statement that has now become synonymous with his papal approach: “Let us put theologians on an island to discuss among themselves and we’ll just get on with things.” While other popes have lead with doctrine, Francis leads with personal piety and practical application.
Through love and humility, Pope Francis seeks to turn our “common ground” as Christians into “holy ground” we can work together for God’s glory and the good of a hurting world. He rightly discerns that it is the devil, more than doctrine that really divides Christians. On an earlier occasion, Francis said this in a video message to the John 17 Movement:
"Division is the work of the 'Father of Lies,' 'the Father of Discord,' who does everything possible to keep us divided.
I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps. But there is someone who 'knows' that, despite our differences, we are one. It is he who is persecuting us. It is he who is persecuting Christians today, he who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom.
“The devil knows that Christians are disciples of Christ, that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn't care if they are Evangelicals or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic … he doesn't care! They are Christians."
The pontiff closed by insisting that:
“ … this division is a wound in the body of the church of Christ. And we do not want this wound to remain open" (He then urged the Christians to seek unity together and pray for one another).
It is impossible to miss, in these words, the clear echo of Christ’s High Priestly Prayer for His disciples then and now for love and unity (Jn. 17:21).
PAPAL BLESSING OR CURSE?
When Pope Francis departed America from Philadelphia on American Airlines “Shepherd One,” most people – Catholics, Protestants and secularists – had been impacted by some part of his visit. Did everyone hear or receive what they wanted from the pope? Hardly. Especially evangelicals. To meet all the expectations of the diverse Body of Christ in America would have been impossible for any Christian leader – whether Catholic or Protestant.
There were few times when Jesus walked away from a crowd leaving everyone satisfied. What “turned on” one group, “turned off” others. What encouraged some enraged others. What liberated some led to bondage for others. He was a “divine wedge” that always led to both decision and division. Neutrality was never an option.
As Paul would later write, the person of Christ is always the “… smell of death” to some and the “… fragrance of life” to others. In many ways, Pope Francis’ presence was the same “spiritual perfume” – odious to some and the “… fragrance of Christ” to others (I Cor. 2:14-16). Only you can determine what kind of spiritual fragrance he was to you.
The visit of Pope Francis again proved the principle that people usually “take away” whatever they “take into” an encounter or event. That’s why it is generally true that our insight determines our sight. We all view life through some set of “rosy” or “dark” tinted glasses. In other words, the perspective, principles, prejudices and presuppositions we bring to a situation determine what we will “see” and “hear.” We all have “lenses” and “filters” that skew our perspective on life. That’s the reality of our human condition.
For those who listened to Pope Francis from the political left, they were happy with his emphasis on more income equality … environmental stewardship … immigration reform … social and sexual tolerance … spiritual inclusiveness.
Those who watched and listened from the political right were encouraged by his apparent pro-Judeo-Christian, pro-church, pro-democratic, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-family, and pro-work perspective.
However, in the face of the Supreme Court’s heretical ruling on gay marriage, many of us evangelicals wish that Pope Francis had made stronger counter pontifications on traditional marriage between a man and woman. We would also have liked him to amplify and clarify his earlier statement about homosexuality when he said: “Who am I to judge?”
TRUTH OR TRADITION?
For those who watched and listened to Francis with an anti-papal and anti-Catholic perspective, they were disappointed with his lack of clarity on the priority evangelical issues that led to the Protestant Reformation: sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura.
Also, many of us from a protestant, evangelical or Pentecostal background were also “offended” by some of the Mariolatry, veneration of Catholic saints, blessing and kissing of icons. We were also uncomfortable with some of the “smells, bells and hails” of Catholic worship that appears so unbiblical, antiquated and a hold over from Medieval Christianity.
In addition, much of the “pomp and circumstance” of the liturgy of the Catholic mass, along with all of the robes, miters and vestments, are discomforting for most evangelical Christians. It is a Catholic “ … tradition of the elders” that is foreign to us (Mk. 7:18). It seems to contradict the clear words of warning that Jesus gave about such external religious emphasis (Matt. 23:1-7), something both Catholics and Protestants are often guilty of.
Whether our spiritual and ecclesiastical tradition is one of freedom or formality, we can be sure that it is a “turn off” to others in the Body of Christ! But we all tend to be convinced that our form of worship is the best and “most spiritual!”
As one who has had the joy of experiencing the incredible diversity of global Christianity with people from almost “ … every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 7:9), I have come to appreciate the richness of many different kinds of worship.
Some of those externals accoutrements and liturgical trappings of Catholicism caused many to filter out the other clear statements and proclamations by Francis on the spiritual essentials of the Fatherhood of God … the power of the Holy Spirit … Lordship of Christ … the uniqueness of Christ … the cross of Christ … the blood of Christ … the Trinity … the Second Coming … the Golden Rule, etc.
Did Pope Francis give a Christological clarion call on every occasion? Did he give equal emphasis to all of these Biblical issues? Absolutely not. But again, he came to America in the spirit of humility, seeking “common ground” rather than a “battle ground.” He sought to reach across spiritual, theological, political, economic and social divides. For some he “rang the bell.” For others his message was a muted disappointment.
In earlier years, when Billy Graham was the most widely recognized and respected moral voice in America, he was also characterized by this kind of public affirmation and inclusiveness. He often invited Christians from liberal denominations, Jews, Catholics, political leaders and non-believers, to sit on his crusade platform – a profile that caused him to be admired by some and criticized by others! But, Graham never defended himself by criticizing others. He humbly stood his ground for the sake of the Gospel he was faithfully proclaiming in word and deed.
When you look at the diversity of platforms Pope Francis stood on, from the White House … to Congress … to the 9/11 Memorial … to the United Nations … to cathedrals … to Madison Square Garden … to open air stadiums … to schools, seminaries, prisons and a number of massive masses – the cumulative message came through loud and clear in both word and deed.
To quote the words of Jesus, the Pope’s message was only heard by those who had “ … ears to hear” (Matt. 11:15; 13:9; Rev. 2:29, 3:22, etc). Sadly, for many observers, both their physical and spiritual eyes and ears were already closed to any possible message from the Lord through Pope Francis.
So, to paraphrase a popular maximum: “Many threw the baby Jesus out with the Catholic holy water!”
Whatever your prior perspective, if you watched and listened to this “Jesuit for Jesus,” you were touched by his humility, simplicity, joy, infectious smile, love for people – especially the poor … marginalized … ostracized … disenfranchised. His personal and practical “small step” exhortations resonated with many: “Cooperate for the common good … protect the family … do your part … make things better … never let evil have the final word … PRAY FOR ME!”
While Pope Francis’ trip to America was a special and timely break from a negative atmosphere of political warfare – it was especially a timely visit for the Catholic Church. Like many other denominations, Catholicism has been on a precipitous decline in America for several decades.
The question is this: “Have the people left the Catholic Church; or has the Catholic Church left the people?” Catholicism – like much of her Protestant counterpart – has been crushed by a heavy hierarchy and bloated bureaucracy, often out of touch with its members. She has become tradition-bound in many areas that have kept her from adjusting to the ever-changing world around her.
As a result, memberships have been in continual decline. Churches have been closed. Convents and Monasteries are no longer attracting new members. Sexual scandals by pedophile priests have left a lingering shadow of pain, doubt, suspicion and litigation. In the face of these ominous ecclesiastical statistics, the million-dollar question is whether Pope Francis’ visit can bring true lasting reform and revival – or just a momentary and superficial “feel good” moment?
While the Pope’s visit may not bring serious political change, to many it brought something far more important – a change of heart! Through his emphasis, Francis brought a new hope for the present and future through the nuclear family and the spiritual family.
Catholics and Protestants will always have their theological differences on things like the cannon of Scripture, papal succession and infallibility, transubstantiation in the Mass, Mariolatry, veneration of saints, celibacy of clergy, etc. We will also disagree over whether it was Peter, his confession, or Jesus, who was the “rock” upon which the Church is being built. And we will continue to contend over who is the real “keeper of the keys of the Kingdom” – Peter or every Christian?!
One thing is for sure, Jesus loves His Bride the church – whether Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic or non-denominational. As Pope Francis has exhorted over and over again, there is room for disagreement on our larger common ground of the Gospel. I fully agree.
If there is one thing age, years of living, travel, wide exposure and experience in the Body of Christ has taught me – it is to look for the “common ground” you have with other professing Christians. Don’t look for a “battle ground.” Like Pope Francis, approach other Christians with a sense of humility and appreciation. Be willing to listen and learn from their experience and perspective. Come with a towel and basin – not with the “sword of the Lord” unsheathed to do theological battle! That’s more akin to the spirit of jihaddish Islam than authentic Christianity! Everyone loses when we make our “common ground” a “battle ground” rather than God’s “holy ground” to stand on and speak from for the sake of the Gospel.
So, for my part, I say a “BIG THANKS” to Pope Francis, for his servant’s heart and shepherd leadership. Thanks for reminding us through word and deed of this cardinal principle that was the basis of Jesus High Priestly prayer for love and unity among His followers and disciples – especially His church leaders! Thanks for being an authentic shepherd who smells like his sheep – with the “… aroma of Christ” (I Cor. 2:25).
“To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen!” (Eph. 3:21)
PS: Next week I will begin to catch you up on some of our national shepherd leaders and what they are doing for the Kingdom in their fields of service. Be watching for that report.
“Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Ramsees (Egypt) …
about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children.
And a mixed multitude also went up with them…”
Dear Ministry Partners & Friends,
Just as Moses left Egypt with a “mixed multitude,” the current mass exodus from the Middle East into Europe is anything but homogenous. While the majority claim to be “religious refugees” from Syria and Iraq, many are simply “economic refugees” who are looking for job opportunities and a better way of life in Europe.
But unquestionably, there are an unknown number of ISIS and Islamic terrorists embeded among them. And there is little realistic infrastructure in place in these European countries to vet these people and separate the good from the bad. Since migration is one of the historic strategies of Islam dating back to the days of Mohamed, they will not miss this opportunity to further infiltrate as many European countries as possible. As I point out in my book, A Christian Perspective of Islam, one of the most successful strategies of Islam can be summarized this way: migrate, infiltrate, propogate, dominate. The Islamization of Europe over the past decade has proven again the effectiveness of this Muslim migration.
Regardless, this “march of misery,” as it is being referred to, continues to gain momentum each day with thousands of new refugees surging across European borders. As a result, many European countries feel they have lost control of their borders – just like many Americans feel we have done the same on our southern borders across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. It is obvious that there will be no quick or easy solution to this mass migration.
I am always edified by the perspective of some of our national partners on these global events. They often see America and our world through very different lenses. A timely example is the email below I just received from my Indian friend and partner of over 30 years, Bishop Ezra Sargunam. I think it is very relevant to this “mixed multitude” coming out of the Middle East and North Africa. Please take a few moments to read it (emphasis mine). He titled it:
TODAY’S REFUGEES MAY BE TOMORROW’S TERRORISTS!
Bishop Ezra Sargunam
The face of Europe is rapidly changing with the arrival of refugees from the Muslim countries, especially Syria. These hosting countries, especially Great Britain and Germany, who once sent missionaries all over the world, are directly or indirectly accepting Islam – the most dangerous, treacherous and diabolic religion on the face of the earth.
I am sure you must have heard about that Turkish Proverb which says: "Accept the hospitality of Christians when you go to their homes - but when you leave, let the beams of the house fall on their heads!" Of course, when you come across a suffering person you want to help the man in need, not asking what religion he belongs to. That is a different matter.
Christians by and large have been very compassionate at the time of natural calamities such as earthquakes or tsunami. You don't find any Muslim countries coming forward to help those who are in dire need. In our part of the world, the wealthy Arab countries looked the other way when a half a million of their own Muslim brothers died in Bangladesh about 8 years ago when the country went through worst kind of cyclonic storm and flood. Only global Christian Relief Organisations like World Vision and Samaritan's Purse were out there trying to rescue people and resettle them.
The people in Syria have been going through so much hardships, suffering and displacement because of the misrule of their own Muslim president and dictator, Bashar al-Assad. On the one hand they have lived under his repression, and then the atrocities and heavy bombardment metted out against them by some extreme Muslims like ISIS. Yet most are afraid to utter a word against this kind of atrocity as they arrive in Europe. However, others were heard shouting – not Hallelujah, but Allah-hu-Akbar (god is great), as my longstanding friend and partner, Dr J L Williams, has reported in one of his newsletters of 9th September.
The hundreds of thousands of “poor and huddled masses” – who are fleeing from their tormentors by sailing in leaking boats and risking their lives – are not escaping to the home of Islam like, Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia; or to other oil rich countries – but to the land of “infidels”. They are not rushing to Saudi Arabia and to the other wealthy kingdoms of the Gulf to pray for help from the builders of the great mosques and keepers of Holy Places where their prophet once lived and claimed to have received “revelation from God”. Instead, they are seeking shelter in the land of "infidels".
You may wonder why a poor Indian Christian like me should bother about these activities in the Gulf countries and Europe. I am just one of the thousands of national Christians who are lamenting the plight of the so-called “Christian countries” who once sent thousands of missionaries to our land and brought the Gospel to us. Besides, anything that happens in Europe and US will have its repercussions throughout the rest of the world. Today it could be the fall of Europe, tomorrow it could be even America.
But let me also bring to your attention the great missiological principle that uprooted and transplanted migrants are the most responsive to the Gospel in the early years of their new settlement. This may not be politically correct – especially for the Saudi Emperor who announced that on his part he would begin with building 100 mosques for the new Muslim settlers in Europe – which is his contribution to these half dead wretched Muslims!
But at the same time, I want to impress upon you the tragedy of these European countries that are very rapidly moving away from the God of the Bible to the worship of the god and goddess of their own creation. In the process they are beginning to live a life like animals approving and endorsing homosexuality and promiscuity. And it is in the Dollar and Euro they trust – not the true and living God. All the while there are millions and millions of people out there in the jungles of Africa and in India and in the city slums of the metropolitans of India or elsewhere from whom we hear the cry telling us, "Sirs, we want to see Jesus".
Mission organisations and churches should focus on such people who are willing to hear the Gospel and respond in great numbers. The Gospel is still powerful! Our God is still on the throne! Europe may fall and America may fall but His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom!
During these challenging global times, I urge one and all of you to get behind the great outreach ministry of ECI and our vision of 100 thousand churches and 10 million believers. I appreciate you for giving your time for pouring out my heart to you. I pray that God may help you and guide you in every possible way in getting behind the great ministry God has entrusted to us.
Though I may be laying down my office as Bishop President of ECI in a matter of few months, I still hope as long as I live till the last breath of my life I wish to preach the Gospel and die evangelising and planting churches. Pray for all of us here in India and our thousands of teams of evangelists, church planters, pastors and Bishops – “Let us not be weary in doing good; for in due reason we will reap if we faint not.”
Cordially in Christ,
M Ezra Sargunam
Bishop – President, ECI
AMERICAN POLITICS & ISLAM
No sooner had I finished writing this op ed when I received this poignant political cartoon from a friend. It certainly summarizes what both Bishop Sargunam and I have been sounding the spiritual and political alarm about concerning Islam locally and globally.
AN ISLAMIC AMERICAN PRESIDENT?
Dr. Ben Carson
This past week Dr. Ben Carson made the statement that he felt that a Muslim should not be elected president in America, an opinion he had every right to express as an American, a Christian, a highly acclaimed neuro-surgeon and a popular presidential candidate.
But this hypothetical “trick question” posed to him on NBC’s “Meet The Press” was a live gernade tossed his way with the pin pulled. It was an obvious spin-off of a statement made by a man at a Trump rally earlier accusing President Obama of being a Muslim. So this question to Dr. Carson was loaded with implications designed to intensify the Christian-Islamic tensions existing in many people’s minds.
Dr. Carson’s response was about as politically incorrect as any candidate could possibly make in this present super-charged atmosphere! It set off a fresh fire-storm of criticism and push-back from his political rivals and political pundits! Not unexpectedly, the most powerful – and most radical – Muslim group to criticize him was the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). They mmediately called for him to withdraw from the presidential race as “unfit to lead.”
But I totally agree with the personal opinion Dr. Carson expressed – just as millions of other thinking and informed Americans do!
To think or believe otherwise is to demonstrates ignorance of the historical context of our Constitution as well as the clear dictates of Sharia law. Our Constitution is supposed to be the highest law of the land. Every president is sworn to uphold it as his highest duty. Our US Constitution says there can be no “religious litmus test” for a potential president. That means that anyone can run for that office – whether he or she is a Christian, Jew, Mormon, Muslim, secularist or atheist.
However, the Constitution was clearly written by men who composed it from a Judeo-Christian perspective and worldview. They did not draft the Constitution from the perspective of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, secularism or atheism. God our Creator is assumed from start to finish. Even thouigh the word “god” is not in the document, the basic presuppositions of our Constitution are clearly Judeo-Christian.
That’s why the Constitution concludes with the phrase: “in the year of our Lord, September 17, 1787.” And the “Lord” referred to here is neither Lord Krishna of Hinduism … Lord Buddha of Buddhism … or the Allah of Islam! The “Lord” who is clearly implied here is the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible!
Conversely and clearly, Sharia law is written exclusively from the perspective of Islam – jihad and all! It is theocratic rather than democratic. It believes in a global Caliphate – not an American President. It does not support human rights – especially women’s rights. It’s highest ideals are not “ … freedom and justice for all” – but absolute submission to Allah! The very word Islam means submission or surrender – which means absolute submission to Allah through the prophet Mohamed as revealed in the Koran. To believe or teach otherwise about Islam is to distort the historical facts and submit to the pressures of theological compromise and political correctness.
Further, any person who has even a cursory understanding of Islam knows that every Muslim must submit to the dictates of Sharia law – just like every Christian is supposed to submit to Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. And as any honest Muslim will tell you, Shari law supersedes the laws of any other country.
Therefore, the highest loyalty of any faithful Muslim is always to the Islamic Caliphate – not to the government or laws of the land they have migrated to. If they are a Sharia-compliant Muslim, they have no other alternative. That’s why Muslim immigrants in European countries quickly demand, and usually receive, the right to have their own “religious courts” and live under Sharia law. And very often, the harsh and repressive laws of Sharia run totally contrary to the existing laws of the host country in which they live.
So, at the end of the day, if an American Muslim has to decide between their loyalty to our US Constitution or to Sharia law, there is no choice. They MUST always cast their vote in favor of Sharia law! Otherwise they will be a disobedient and “dis-fellowshipped” Muslim in this life – and one who will be damned to hell in the next! Therefore, if we elected a Muslim president, he would have to be more loyal to the dictates of Sharia law than to our founding Constitution.
I would also strongly encourage you to do your homework on what the 2 main holy books of Islam teach. Those books are the Koran, which is the Bible of Islam, and the Hadith, the additional sayings, thoughts and traditions of Mohammad. Here are just a few examples. (The word Sura is similar to our word for chapter.)
Those are just several verses that should caution us against electing a Muslim president of the United States. In addition, all non-Muslims are considered “infidels.” So how could a good, Shari-compliant Muslim American President rule with any simplance of objectivity when the majority of his nation are seen as “infidels” whose only hope in this life or the next is to convert – submit, to Islam!
It is this reasoned understanding that was the background of what Dr. Ben Carson said in the interview. As a neuro-surgeon, he has obviously done his homework spiritually and politically! We should not be surprised therefore, that the media has shown their ignorance once again in trying to posture him, or anyone else who disagrees with their bias, as a bigoted “Christian radical” and Islamaphobic who is out-of-touch with political reality!
Politically correct or not, Dr. Ben Carson is right in his perception of the incompatibility of islam and the presuppositions of our Constitution and American way of life. As a brilliant brain surgeon trained to operate from his mind rather than his emotions – or political correctness – he has clearly discerned and perceived the stark differences between our Constitution and Sharia law … between Christianity and Islam … between the Judeo-Christian worldview and the Koranic worldview of Islam.
It shouldn’t take a brain surgeon to realize these clear distinctions! Only a cursory reading of the Bible and the Koran reveal the political incompatibility between our Constitution and Sharia law! Anyone who believes otherwise, needs brain surgery to get their thinking right – spiritually and politically!
Speaking His Truth in His Love (Eph. 4:15),
PS: If you haven’t read my book, A Christian Perspective of Islam, I hope you will do so. It is “Islam 101” for Christians who want a basic overview of this fast-growing religion that is the only serious spiritual and global challenge to Christianity and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Please click on the picture of the book at left to order your copy today!
Bishop Trevor Manhanga & Murli Menon
Finally for this week, it has been a joy for Patt and me to have two of our strategic national partners with us: Bishop Trevor Manhanga from Zimbabwe and Murli Menon from India. Like me, they are both “political junkies” who are astute in the politics of their own countries as well as that of Europe, America and the world. We have enjoyed watching some of the polticial debates and interviews in between speaking engagements.
They will both be back with us for more speaking engagements in 2016. So, if you would be interested in hosting them in your church, Bible study group, home fellowship, businessmen’s fellowship, or civic club, please let me know.
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.
Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
I am the LORD your God."
Dear Minister Partner,
Since last week’s eNewsletter and focus on the “Refugee Crisis,” things have only intensified across much of Europe. The flood-gates have been forced open and trampled under foot by the ever-surging crowds of homless assylum seekers, from Syria, Iraq, Afhganistan, North Africa and other regions of the Midle East! While most claim to be fleeing from radical and militant and Islam, many others are desperate opportunists who are more “economic refugees” than “political refugees.”
The greatest challenge is the total inability by European governments, soldiers and policement to vet these people to the degree of being able to weed the good from the bad. This march they are on is already being called the “Jihaddist highway” to Europe and America! Every serious government official knows that groups like ISIS will embed as many of their radical jihadists as possible in this mass of moble humanity.
This abbreviation stands for “Internally Displaced Person.” It simply referrs to people who have been “displaced” in their own countries from their homes and towns. According to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), there are some 2.5 million IDPs from Iraq alone. Even more staggering is the fact that as of May 2015 there are 7.6 million IFPs from Syria – half of whom are children! But this is just the tip of the refugee ice berg. As I shared in my previous report, it is estimated that there are 60 million refugees worldwide. So it is not a problem that will be solved any time soon. And it is not one that we can ignore.
As I trust you know from some of my previous reports, Patt and I made a fact-finding trip to Jordan this past Easter. Since then, we have continued to work among “Christian refugees” there, primarily from Iraq, but also from Syria.
Father Ja'ar, Founder of "Messengers of Peace"
in Amman, Jordan.
Last week’s report focused on an Arab brother named “Pastor Sa’id” (Name changed to protect him). This week’s follow-up report is about “Father Ja’ar” (real name). He was one of the very first people who opened his church to the fleeing refugees from Iraq who flooded into Jordan. We were connected to him by an early alumni of our ministry, Ambassador Lewis Lucke, who was working with these refugees for several months in Jordan. The moment we met Father Ja’ar, our hearts were knit together through the love of the Lord Jesus. It mattered not that I was Protestant and he was Catholic. It was obvious that he loved Jesus and loved these refugees.
Quickly his church compound was filled to overflowing with several hundred refugees that he was housing and feeding by faith. So we came alongside him as one of our primary partners to these dear displaced Iraqi Christians representing one of the oldest churches on earth – dating back to the First Century. (Please click here to see one of our earlier reports on Father Ja’ar and our time with him). And even though his church facilities were unprepared and overwhelmed by these fleeing refugees, he kept taking them in. He even gave up his own small room for others to live in.
Father Ja'ar in his former room, now housing
a refugee couple and their son.
While we were with him, he showed us a rundown area of his church compound where he had a vision to make a small “Garden of Eden” for the refugees – especially the mothers and children. He had already begun to clean it up in the hopes of developing it as a playground and place of peace and beauty.
Patt visits with Father Ja'ar at the site of the future
"Garden of Eden" for refugees.
The moment I stepped onto that area, God immediately impressed on my heart to help Father Ja’ar develop it for the Iraqi Christian refugees. I hope you will be blessed and encouraged by the pictures below of the development of that area – made possible by partners like you.
Also, since these majority of these Iraqi Christian came with great skills and experience, they have done all the work on the development of this area. While they are not allowed to work outside the church, they could do this renovation inside the church compound. So this has been a “win-win” for everyone.
CLEANING, PATCHING & PAINTING …
REPAIRING WALLS AND LAYING PAVING STONES …
PREPARING A ROOF CANOPY…
BUILDING AN AVIARY FOR BIRDS …
PUTTING IN PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT …
PAINTING A MURAL OF CHRIST …
As you can well imagine, there is no easy, quick or cheap closing or conclusion to a refugee crisis like this! Sadly, this crisis will linger on for years to come. Repatriating these IDPs to other countries by the UNHCR will be painfully slow. And the “Christian refugees” living in Muslim countries – even moderate ones like Jordan, will be the last to get attention. As kafirs, or “infidels” to Muslims, they must either convert, die or be suppressed into slavary as second-class citizens. So while they should be the FIRST to be relocated to America or Europe, they will be the LAST to receive serious political and legal help from very prejudiced and biased governments. In the meantime, we must do all we can to bring sustenance and encouragement where they are – especially in “safe havens” like Father Ja’ar’s church.
IN HIS OWN WORDS …
Dear Brother in JESUS OUR LORD,
At the arrival of the first waves of Iraqi refugees in July 2014, many people in Jordan rushed to provide livelihood and support for the Iraqi Christian refugees. Churches, individuals and NGOs gave financial assistance for the needs of the Displaced Iraqi Christians in Jordan.
One year later, the Iraqi refugee number has increased in Jordan while the support has decreased drastically. As per latest records of 2015, 8,500 Iraqi Christians have fled to Jordan since July 2014. Approximately 350 families of them are accommodated in urban zones; they live in rented flats around Amman.
Even the Iraqi refugees who were financially secure a year ago have run out of their money because they cannot generate income as they are not allowed to work in Jordan. They self-arranged their accommodation upon their arrival to Jordan, but now are facing lack of financial resources to continue paying their rent; these families are at risk of being without shelters.
We are currently providing approximately 350 Iraqi refugee families accommodated in urban zones with JD35 ($50) per family/month; a JD 30 food voucher with a JD 5 non-food package distributed on monthly-basis. The voucher system allows the beneficiaries to visit Cooperative Supermarkets to purchase what they deem necessary for their daily needs. Additionally, we provide daily expenses of JD 106 per day ($150) for 5 Iraqi refugee families accommodated at the Latin Church.
All the expenses covering food and non-food items, and accommodation totally depend on available donations to ‘Messengers of Peace Association.’ The fact that Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers are not allowed to work in Jordan and the limited capacity of our association to respond to the basic needs of Iraqi refugees remains among the major challenges.
So I close with this recent email from Father Ja’ar. PLEASE take a moment to prayerfully read it to further educate and edify your spirit about this ongoing crisis – and the response the Lord would have you make to it (emphasis mine)…
We have recently sent our last funds available to Father Ja’ar to help him feed and house our persecuted and displaced Iraqi Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Any contribution you can make at this time would be honored 100% to help meet their needs.
In His Love & Compassion for them,
JL & Patt
P. S. I would like to remind you again that Patt and I will be leading an historic trip to the Holy Land Feb. 20 – March 4, 2016!
It will be a “double blessing” trip because we will split the time between Jordan and Israel. In both countries, we will not only visit the historic Biblical sites, but also meet and fellowship with both our Arab and Jewish partners. So Patt and I encourage you to give some serious thought and prayer about joining us on this timely trip. (Please click here for a digital copy of the Holy Land Trip brochure, and here for a registration form).
“ … He made them wander in the desert forty years … ”
Dear Ministry Partners,
If you have been watching the news in the past few days, you are aware of the mass exodus of over 300,000 refugees from the Middle East – primarily Syria and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and North Africa. Most say they are fleeing Islamic terrorists groups like ISIS, or protracted wars and ethnic violence that have destroyed their countries. This “northern march” is being called the largest refugee migration since World War II.
The UNHCR (United Nation High Commission for Refugees) is tasked with the challenge of dealing with all refugees around the world. They report an alarming 60 million refugees globally who have been displaced by war and ethnic violence. At this point Syria leads the world with more than 4 million refugees who have fled their war-torn country.
The pathetic scenes of masses of migrants on the move bring to mind the Biblical Exodus of the children of Israel as they left Egyptian bondage around 1290 BC for the hope of the Promised Land.
But this current Muslim migration also parallels something known as the hijrah, the prophet Mohamed’s migration with his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD – which generally marks the beginning of Islam. More importantly, this hijrah marked the transition of Mohamed from being just a religious leader to a militant military and political leader, on a jihad to conquer his world in the name of Allah.
Before this predominantly Muslim migration into Europe is over, the numbers are expected to exceed a million or more, as wave after wave of asylum seekers arrive by boat, train and on foot after crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. Countries like Greece, Macedonia, Hungry, Serbia, Slovakia, Austria and Denmark are already at a migrant tipping point with welfare systems unable to care for more refugees.
Additionally, several thousand have disappeared or died in the journey. The picture of the soldier picking up the body of a small boy that washed up on shore has riveted the world and become the image to summarize this refugee tragedy.
As a result of their own political problems and economic crisis, some European countries are turning these desperate refugees away through police brigades, hovering helicopters, fences and barricades. A few others are welcoming them with banners, food, clothing, tents and temporary housing.
To date, Germany has been the most welcoming – embracing some 600,000 refugees, or about 1% of their population. Because of their own strong economy, Germany is best able to absorb the largest number – setting aside over $6 billion to resettle them. Other countries like France and England are reluctantly taking in smaller numbers, while Turkey as the largest host country has absorbed 1.5 million refugees.
Obviously the great fear is that Islamic terrorists will be embedded in these migrations. There is no realistic way to distinguish true refugees who are seeking political safety and asylum from those who are just seeking economic opportunity and a better way of life. Nor is there any way to distinguish between the “moderate Muslims” who are fleeing Islamic fundamentalism from the “radical Muslims” who are using this migration as an opportunity to further infiltrate Europe for the purpose of Islamization through terrorism and jihad. Some of these Muslim migrants are arriving with shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is great!”
Already this has ceased to be just a “European problem,” as America is being pressured to take in more and more of these refugees. Historically, America has always led the world in welcoming and absorbing refugees from every troubled corner of the globe. But our Government is rightly concerned about the certainty that radical groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab will use this migration opportunity to secretly send in their jihadist operatives. Sadly, in a fluid crisis situation like this when people are already “on the march” by the tens of thousands, there is no chance for background checks.
It would be prudent if America accepted first those with a clear Christian background. Untold thousands of these refugees come from some of the oldest Christian traditions on earth – dating back to the First Century. As Eastern Orthodox Christians, they relate to our Judeo-Christian foundation as a nation. They are not attracted to Europe that is in a “post-Christian era” where Islamization has taken root in country after country. Recent terrorism in various countries has painfully revealed how many of those Muslims who were previously welcomed and absorbed have been “radicalized” to the degree that they committed acts of terror against their host country.
But to make those distinctions would be seen as discrimination. While it is a realistic solution in the short-run, it is not “politically correct.”
In light of these difficult realities, we have been doing what we can to help these Christian refugees in Jordan who were marked for execution by ISIS. This unexpected and uncontrolled mass migration into Europe affords a timely opportunity to update you on two of our strategic partnerships in Amman, Jordan. This report will focus on one, while next week’s report will update you on another. And both of these are “Arab to Arab” ministries by indigenous leaders from the Middle East.
First, meet again Pastor Sa’id. In addition to his Arab Church in Amman, he also ministers to Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as to Bedouins and Druzes.
Pastor Sa'id and family.
After Patt and I personally visited with him in Jordan over Easter, we sensed God’s “divine connection.” When we learned more about his present ministry to refugees and unreached Arab tribal groups, we helped him purchase a used van for evangelism and for the distribution of food and relief items. This $10,000 purchase was made possible through our partners like you who gave for our “Christian Refugee Relief” in Jordan. Since then that van has been kept very busy as another “donkey for Jesus” – taking practical expressions of love and compassion to very remote desert places.
I just received a wonderful report from Sa’id with pictures I wanted to share with you for your encouragement. So rather than me telling his story, I am letting him personally share with you through the following email and pictures …
“We just returned from a very encouraging church conference. The focus was on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We learned about His sanctifying work, His leading, and how to depend on the Holy Spirit and His gifts for Christian ministry. Forty from our church participated. The highlight of the event was the baptism service. Eleven new believers were baptized! All of them are committed to Jesus and the church, and most are being discipled in our weekly home groups.
(Note: In the following pictures, we have blurred out the women’s faces for their protection since they would be especially persecuted for being baptized.)
Our outreach to the village continues and is stronger than ever. This week we have two teams going out every day to visit the poor and the refugees in their homes in order to share the hope of Christ.
One act of kindness has really opened the hearts and homes of the villagers. We recently met a woman named Dallia. She was in the final stages of pregnancy and asked us for help in finding someone to be a midwife because she could not afford a hospital birth. She had experienced three miscarriages and was very fearful. Last week, my wife called Dallia to see how she was doing. Dallia was sitting on the road outside of a hospital. They had told her that she needed an emergency C-section but had refused her service because she could not pay. We sent her to a hospital nearby where one of the new believers in the church works. The church and another organization promised payment on her behalf and she had baby Ahmed successfully. This was a basic Christian act, but many in the village love us now because they are her neighbors and family.
We found a place to rent in the village. We use it for Bible studies and also for children’s ministry – for the refugees. They are not allowed to go to school so we would like to use this space as a learning center for the poor and refugee children. One man in the community offered to help organize teams of local college-aged volunteers. We need Christian teachers for these children.
Please pray for the following requests:
As you continue to watch the nightly reports in the news about this refugee crisis in Europe, please let them remind you to pray for Pastor Sa’id and his ministry in the Middle East. While I am very thankful for all our American partners who have enabled us to enhance and expand his ministry to unreached Arab groups, we have now run out of funds to support him. So any gifts you give for him will be deployed 100% for his ministry “to Arabs by Arabs.”
Finally, I would like to remind you that Patt and I will be leading an historic trip to the Holy Land Feb. 20 – March 4, 2016!
It will be a “double blessing” trip because we will split the time between Jordan and Israel. In both countries, we will not only visit the historic Biblical sites, but also meet and fellowship with both our Arab and Jewish partners like Sa’id. So Patt and I encourage you to give some serious thought and prayer about joining us on this timely trip. (Please click here for a digital copy of the Holy Land Trip brochure, and here for a registration form).
May God richly bless and reward you for your continued prayers and partnership with JLPF – whether in Haiti, Nepal, India, Africa or the Middle East.
For His growing global Kingdom,
JL & Patt