Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bringing the Joy of Jesus to Children in Syria

Bringing the Joy of Jesus to Children in Syria

Syrian children hold up crafts they made during an Easter celebration in April. The outreach received an enthusiastic response from parents and prompted the startup of Kids’ Clubs this summer.
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise?’” (Matthew 21:16, NIV)
Kids are kids everywhere, and that includes Syrian boys and girls whose country is embroiled in a horrific civil war.
At this morning’s gathering, the music leader begins by telling the children he is thankful. He praises God for the talent given him to sing and play the guitar. He is thankful for God’s love that changed his heart. He is thankful for life and health and all the precious boys and girls in the room.
The young musician has a captive audience. His ministry team expected a low turnout this weekend due to summer activities. Instead, they had more children than ever show up—75 kids accompanied by their moms and some dads.
The church sanctuary livens up as the children stand and sing a song about Jesus. One girl is wearing a lime green Mickey Mouse shirt. A boy adjusts his baseball cap and turns to say something to his brother beside him. They are smiling and enjoying themselves. Since most come week after week, the children have the lyrics memorized.
They sing with zest. To an outsider, the music may sound more like joyful noise than sweet harmony. It is joyful nevertheless, and that’s what counts.
Near the front of the pews, about 20 three- to five-year-old kids clap to the music and try to sing along.
The team leader invites the assembly to give thanks to their Heavenly Father, but he is surprised when six youngsters in this group raise their little hands to pray.
“Dear God, help my daddy find a job,” began one.
“Please make people stop hurting each other,” interjected another child.
“Thank you for our teachers. They are nice to us and give us hugs,” added another.
The leaders were touched and speechless. If they needed a demonstration of proof, this was it. God is indeed doing a great work in the hearts of these boys and girls.

Putting a song in their hearts

These youth are finding lots of reasons to sing and praise Jesus for His blessings in their lives.
Wars are waged by adults, but children cannot escape the consequences. During the past three years of outreach to traumatized Syrian families, relief workers from a Christian Aid-assisted ministry saw that children’s emotional and spiritual needs were being overlooked. Some type of activity or program was needed at least once a week to help them be kids again, a safe haven where they could have fun and learn about Jesus.
As a result, the ministry launched a program called Jesus for Kids (JFK) during Easter weekend. Originally called the Easter Clubs, these meetings provided opportunities for a team of Syrian Christians to introduce children to their risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
The two initial programs were a whopping success. Some 700 kids, the majority from Muslim households, packed the church for the first event. They watched a skit about God’s greatest gift and were invited to pray to receive that gift. At a follow-up gathering, 350 children attended, of whom over 100 were Muslim.
Seeing the potential, the ministry had bigger plans for JFK as an ongoing outreach to Syrian children, but financial difficulties were a great concern. Thanks to the generosity of Christian Aid Mission donors, however, the workers are now able to focus full-time on ministry, not fund-raising. The team still faces physical danger on a daily basis, but that has not deterred them from seeking to bring a ray of hope and light to hurting hearts.
The response has been astounding. Since the launch of JFK , the program has already reached over 15,000 Syrian children in Aleppo, Damascus, and other cities!
The team of mostly young adults travels to different churches, leading the children in songs, crafts, Bible games, and prayer. Currently there are 18 full-time JFK workers, but the ministry would like to put additional teams into service soon.
“For the children of Syria, seeing Bible stories portrayed through flannel graphs or with puppets can make the Bible come to life,” said Stephen Van Valkenburg, the Middle East area director for Christian Aid. “These wonderful tools for evangelism bring laughter and joy to a room full of children.”

Lives transformed

Children who have witnessed the ugliness of war can enjoy a stable and fun environment at club events.
This simple ministry is having an impact on more than the kids. Parents and other family members accompany their children to the events, so they are listening to the gospel message too.
JFK team members also conduct follow-up visits with families in their homes during the week. This aspect of their ministry is critical, as the individual visits afford them one-on-one opportunities to build relationships and disciple new believers. Parents attend home Bible studies and gather for prayer. Their faith blossoms when they see those prayers answered—sometimes in miraculous ways.
Recently a team member was summoned to the hospital bedside of one of the children who regularly attended club meetings. The boy was seriously wounded by a bullet that had entered through his neck and had lodged less than a centimeter away from his heart.
The child’s mother could not hold back her tears when the team member walked into the room.
“It’s a miracle that the bullet stopped before it struck my son’s heart,” she said. “Jesus stopped the bullet.”
Then it was the team member who cried. “This boy and his family had never been in a church before. They were from a Muslim background,” he said. “I sat down and prayed that Jesus complete His healing work in this child’s life, and that He be glorified through this family.”
The ministry leader estimates that about 90 percent of those being reached through JFK are Muslim. He said it is possible that, since Easter, 20,000 Syrian children, their parents, and other family members have believed in Christ through the JFK programs.
“When you hear the children sing the songs, and they know the words, that’s when you realize they really have been listening. It’s not just about having fun,” he said.
“You can see a huge difference in them, especially the older kids. Only God knows how the seeds planted through this ministry will come to fruition in the future.”
The ministry would like to expand its Jesus for Kids outreach from just one to a dozen teams in order to cover additional locations in Syria. The leader’s wish list would include 50 full-time staff and some 300 volunteers. Craft supplies, crayons, flannel graphs, ministry props, and audiovisual materials are also needed.
Use the form below to contribute online. Or call 434-977-5650 to contribute by phone. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 414JFK. Thank you!

Escape from Mosul

Escape from Mosul

Mosul has been a Christian stronghold in Iraq for centuries. With the takeover of the city by the radical Islamic group ISIS, many Christians have fled to the more hospitable Kurdish region.
After nearly 2,000 years of Christian heritage, Mosul was emptied of the remnant of its faithful believers July 19 by order of militants who seized control of the Iraqi city last month.
Leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) issued a decree a week ago stating Christians in Mosul had three options: convert to Islam, pay a special tax called a jizya, or face execution. Families were given a deadline of noon on Saturday to evacuate. According to the announcement, if Christians did not comply, “They will have nothing but the sword.”
Several hundred Christian families were believed to still be living in Mosul just two weeks ago. Most Christian residents had already escaped the city, heading north to the Kurdish-controlled region of the country.
Those remaining families who were part of the final exodus left with only the clothes they were wearing. Some were stopped at checkpoints at the edge of the city, where armed men confiscated their cars and any personal belongings, including cell phones and money.
Elderly or sick believers who cannot travel out of the city face a very different challenge. According to the Assyrian International News Agency, 15 Assyrian families with members who were not healthy enough to flee opted to convert to Islam. The New York Times reported that five Christian families consented to a forced conversion to Islam because they have members who are also too ill to venture away from Mosul.
A ministry based in the Middle East has helped 40 families escape from Mosul during the past six weeks. Christian Aid Mission has supplied funds to provide food, clothes, medical assistance, and shelter. All of the families are Muslim-background believers (MBB) who have faced great peril due to their conversion to Christianity.
The ministry leader sent this first-hand account to Stephen Van Valkenburg, the Middle East area director for Christian Aid:
I picked up eight new families from Iraq last week. Things are extremely hard on those who stayed and don't want to leave. Those MBB families that arrived looked like wounded soldiers coming back from the battle. Of course they had nothing with them except some clothes. They couldn't talk much. Even when we reached our destination where they are currently staying, they were too frightened to talk. They were in shock.
In Mosul they had been living through hell—trauma after trauma after trauma, taxing them beyond what they could endure. They left everything behind. They have been emotionally and physically abused for the past month. They were permanently scarred by barbarian tactics. They love Jesus and wanted to stay in Mosul to be a witness, but beatings and killings were more than they could endure.
We had a cup of tea together before I left them at their temporary living quarters. I said, “Sorry, but I need to go now. It is late and you need to rest.” One man grabbed my arm and said, “Please stay. Don't leave us.” You could see they were scared. I was their only human source of security.
Iraqi Christians are weary of persecution and war.
As I started to pray, tears started running down my face. I couldn't finish praying. I looked at them and could see that they had been through a lot. I decided to stay with them until almost everyone went to sleep. One brother asked that we pray for some MBBs who refused to leave and want to serve the Lord in Mosul, even with all the threats they are getting.
Please pray with us for these new families. Pray especially that we can find a place for them to stay. We only have this current place for a week, and we need to find them another location. Pray for the kids, as they are still in shock.
Pray for two of the women. We could see that they were deeply wounded, even on a physical level with rape and extreme abuse. Pray that the Lord will give them strength during these difficult days. Without God’s help, they will never recover from this trauma.
These new families are now with us. We have no choice but to care for them. They need rest, a place to live, food, prayer, and much, much, much grace from God.
A decade ago, an estimated 60,000 Christians lived in Mosul. Those numbers plummeted after several waves of attacks on Christians following the 2003 American invasion and ousting of Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.
The Christian population in the city prior to the ISIS takeover in June numbered around 35,000 people.
Mosul is the capital of the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq, located across the Tigris River from the ancient Assyrian city where the Old Testament prophet Jonah preached around the 8th century BC.
The Mosque of Prophet Younis (Arabic word for Jonah), located east of Mosul, houses a sepulcher that is believed to be the burial place of Jonah. Earlier this month there were unconfirmed reports that ISIS militants destroyed the tomb, along with many other ancient shrines in the region.
Use the form below to contribute online. Or call 434-977-5650 to contribute by phone. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 400HIC. Thank you!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Asia Bibi’s husband asks Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain for pardon

Asia Bibi’s husband asks Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain for pardon

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy four years ago has written to the president to ask for her to be pardoned and allowed to move to France. 
This was revealed in a story carried by

Asia Bibi
Asia Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.A high court in the eastern city of Lahore confirmed the death sentence last month, dashing hopes it might be commuted to a jail term.
“We are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mamnoon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water,” husband Ashiq Masih wrote in an open letter dated November 17 and published by the New York Times.
The website said that Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has said the couple are welcomed in the city, and Masih quoted his wife as saying she sent her “deepest thanks to you Madame Mayor, and to all the kind people of Paris and across the world”.
Asia's husband with some 
members of his family
Masih added his wife was not guilty of blasphemy.“The plea for being allowed to move to Paris comes days after the mayor of the city Anne Hidalgo requested President Hussain to grant her a pardon,” said the story.
“Senior opposition leader Bruno Retailleau Wednesday asked French President Francois Hollande to intervene in the case.”
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the majority Muslim country, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence.
“Masih, 50, lives in hiding with two of his five children and has to keep his identity secret as he scrapes together a living as a daily laborer,” the story added.
“He visits his wife once a month, making a five and a half hour journey to her jail in Multan in southern Punjab.”
The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was laboring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women she was working with.
Protestors against Asia Bibi's 
death sentence
She was asked to fetch water from a well, and when she drank from a cup on the way back, the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.
Amnesty International has raised “serious concerns” about the fairness of her trial and has called for her release.
Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy and has had a de-facto moratorium on civilian executions since 2008.
But anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Removal of Crosses Sparks Controversy in China

Removal of Crosses Sparks Controversy in China

Crosses have been forcibly removed from the rooftops of hundreds of registered churches in one eastern province in China, and more are coming down each month. Why the sudden crackdown?
During the past six months, one aggrieved congregation after another has watched helplessly as cranes swooped down and yanked the cross from atop churches in Zhejiang Province.
Chinese authorities defend their actions, claiming they are cracking down on “illegal constructions” of buildings, both commercial and religious. Christians have a different view, however, and fear the government is underhandedly trying to curb the rapid growth of churches in the region.
The assistant director for the China Division at Christian Aid Mission was in the country visiting ministry leaders when news broke of the anti-cross campaign. That was in the spring, when 64 crosses were removed and demolished. In June the number of destroyed crosses doubled. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), now more than 360 churches have been targeted. Chinese authorities are threatening to demolish entire church buildings if congregants refuse to remove the public displays of their religion.
“When I was in China the church leaders I talked to were very nervous about what was happening. They were concerned that the government was not upholding its own constitution regarding religious freedom,” he said. “They advised Chinese believers to be cautious and not take part in protests that might make the situation worse. They were praying that the crackdown would not spread to other parts of China.”
Last week one congregation made international news when they did decide to take a stand. On July 21 a crowd of some 1,000 Christians formed a human blockade around ShuiTou Salvation Church outside the city of Wenzhou. It was the 32nd night in a row in which the congregation held a vigil to guard their church’s cross.
Around 3 a.m. local time, 400 police officers attempted to remove the cross by force and beat some of the Christians with iron batons, ICC reported on their website. After a one-hour attack the police retreated, unable to accomplish their purpose.

Sanjiang Church

The cross controversy began last October when the communist provincial secretary visited Wenzhou and saw crosses prominently positioned atop spires and domes on registered churches. The city is considered the Christian hub of China and is sometimes described as the “Jerusalem of the East.”
What seemed most incongruous to him, however, was the $5.5 million, multi-story Sanjiang Church perched on a hillside next to a freeway.
The secretary said the cross on the church was “too high” and “too conspicuous.” Furthermore, he claimed the building itself was illegal and violated codes.
“The media has reported that a year ago the Sanjiang Church building was praised by local officials. It was a landmark in Wenzhou and people were proud of it,” said the Christian Aid spokesman.
“But the church was very visible, with a big cross. The government also said it was five times larger than the approved size of 20,000 square feet.”
In March the government increased pressure, stating if the cross was not removed and most of an auxiliary building torn down, the entire church would be demolished.
The church was asked to “self-rectify” by April 22, but only 5,382 square feet of the structure was torn down by the deadline. Church members refused to lower or remove the cross.
About 3,000 people peacefully occupied the church in shifts, inside and outside, to prevent a demolition. Their valiant efforts were not successful, however, as the Three-Self church was destroyed April 28.

Making a statement?

Located in eastern China across the sea from Taiwan, Zhejiang Province is known for its affluence and has many wealthy entrepreneurs. Christian businessmen and professionals are among those who are enjoying the prosperity. Blessed with abundant resources, these congregations can afford physically impressive buildings like the Sanjiang mega-church. Many of these churches have large crosses prominently placed so that they tower over the surrounding landscape.
Some have argued that the believers in Wenzhou have inadvertently antagonized the government by making perhaps too bold a proclamation of their faith. Too much emphasis has been made on church buildings, they say, and not enough on building up God’s true Church—His followers.
The Christian Aid spokesman points out that the government did not order the churches to dispose of crosses altogether. What Christians were mandated to do was reduce the size of the crosses and move them indoors.
“I think when the provincial secretary came to Wenzhou, he saw all of those crosses. He saw the monumental Sanjiang Church by the freeway. He didn’t like the way Christianity was so visible,” the spokesman said.
The government insists it is clearing illegal structures throughout Zhejiang Province for urban renewal projects and is not singling out Christian-owned buildings. In Wenzhou alone, 32 million square feet of buildings—mostly commercial properties—have been demolished in the last year.
However, the issue remains why officials would zero in on removing crosses. Are these religious icons in violation of a building code, or are they an advertisement for Christianity that officials feel they can no longer tolerate?
Frustrated by the battle of wills, Chinese church leaders have expressed their view that it is the government which is trying to make a statement. Under the guise of enforcing zoning laws, they believe the authorities are seizing opportunities to place a chokehold on Christianity’s presence in the province.
A nine-page internal government document obtained by the New York Times states Chinese provincial leaders seek to regulate “excessive religious sites” and remove crosses from rooftops and “on both sides of expressways, national highways, and provincial highways.”
So is the cross removal an all-out anti-Christian campaign? “Probably not,” the Christian Aid spokesman responded, given that the Chinese government wants to be more progressive regarding human rights than in times past. They would also be violating their own constitution, which provides for religious freedom, but with restrictions on the location and types of activities that worship entails.

Symbol vs. true faith

Echoing the sentiments Chinese ministry leaders shared with him, the Christian Aid spokesman said it is important to make a distinction between man-made representations of our faith and the genuine worship of Christ.
“As Christians, we don’t worship a symbol of our faith or an idol. We worship a living God,” he said. “For true believers, what matters is our spiritual walk with the Lord and the cross that abides in our hearts.”
“Yes, we are called to ‘take up the cross and die to ourselves.’ But Christ never called us to die for an outward structure,” he continued. “It’s another matter, though, if we are asked to deny our Lord. He is the One Who is worth dying for.”
No one knows how far the government will go with its cross-removal initiative. Christian Aid does not provide financial help to any of the affected churches in Zhejiang Province, as these congregations are all self-supporting. There are concerns, however, that government action taken against churches in one province may inspire copycat changes in other areas of the country.
“Only time will tell,” the ministry spokesman said. “What we can do is pray that the action by the government in this province is not the start of a wider crackdown on Christianity in China. Pray for the steadfast faith of believers in China, and that they will continue to do the Lord’s work in their country.”
Christian Aid has assisted indigenous ministries in China for 28 years by helping to establish Bible schools that train missionaries and church leaders, planting and fostering the growth of churches, and meeting the needs of orphans and impoverished rural communities.
Use the form below to contribute online. Or call 434-977-5650 to contribute by phone. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 900WMN. Thank you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Devoted to the Kingdom in China

Chinese believers praying

Devoted to the Kingdom in China

Students from Antioch Mission Seminary at an undisclosed city in China pray at their daily 6 a.m. devotional. As Christianity mushrooms in the communist country where churches are strictly controlled, the government is cracking down on official and unregistered churches.

Tent Churches Emerge in Iraqi Refugee Camps

Tent Churches Emerge in Iraqi Refugee Camps

September 11, 2014
In the Kurdish area of Iraq, where people of different beliefs fled atrocities of the Islamic State, the Iraqi ministry team supported by Christian Aid Mission found people in need of water, food and medicine.
Fatima, an Iraqi woman who fled atrocities committed by the Islamic State (ISIS), was drawn to the sound of singing in a tent in a refugee camp in Dohuk, in the Kurdish region of Iraq. She approached cautiously.
Though embarrassed when the Christians worshipping inside saw her, she came closer and asked if she could enter and listen to what they were saying. By the time the meeting finished at 4 a.m., she was on her way to embracing Christ as Savior and asked if she could bring friends and family to the next meeting.
Fatima, her husband and three daughters put their trust in Jesus for their salvation, and within a few weeks her involvement led to another 60 families making the same commitment, according to an area ministry leader supported by Christian Aid Mission.
“Tent churches are going on everywhere,” said the ministry leader. “Last week we had 68 families openly surrender their lives to the Lord. With all their large needs and difficult situations that they are going through, they thank God for the indwelling of Christ in their hearts. Twelve of those families were Muslims.”
In addition, 200 children who received Bibles and coloring materials prayed to accept Jesus into their hearts.

Broken Hearts

Near Amerli, which Islamic State fighters besieged for more than two months before Kurdish and Iraqi forces aided by U.S. warplanes drove them out on Sept. 1, the ministry leader’s team encountered people in need of water, food and medicine. In a visit with a group of families able to escape before the ISIS siege, the team found opportunity to meet both spiritual and physical needs.
“The Lord gave us many souls who believed in Christ there,” the team leader said.
In northern Erbil, the leader’s team met with displaced Yazidis, a predominantly Kurdish ethnic group practicing a mix of Zoroastrian, Islamic, and Christian rituals, who suffered the slaughter of an estimated 500 of their members at the hands of ISIS. Some 130,000 Yazidis of Sinjar had fled to Irbil or farther north to Dohuk.
“Our ministry to them was filled with tears and broken hearts to hear scary stories about abducted children and women and the slaughter of men,” the team leader said. “They asked us if God even exists for this to be allowed to happen. It was very difficult, but the Lord has given us grace in their sight to represent Jesus and the love of the work, which was shown to be wonderfully accepted among the Yazidis. They asked us to come back and took all our Bibles ‘in secret.’”
The local ministry team in northern Iraq found opportunity to meet both spiritual and physical needs.
The Iraqi ministry team has prepared 2,000 Bibles, including those for children, plus 2,500 New Testaments in Arabic, Aramaic and Kurdish, along with tracts and Bible-based coloring books.
“We have a lot more that is needed, such as gas, workers’ support, radios, clothing and miscellaneous ministry items,” the team leader said.
Christian Aid Mission is helping the ministry to provide two kinds of food to Iraq’s internally displaced people – one for those who have cooking facilities, and another for those who are homeless. A box containing eggs, salt, oil, rice, cheese, beef, tomato paste, powdered milk, macaroni and bread costs $25. For 300 tents for small families, the cost comes to $7,500.
The team provides 800 sandwiches a day to different areas and groups at a cost of $2 per sandwich, which amounts to a weekly cost of $11,200. The ministry has borrowed sleeping bags and mattresses from a local store with the hope of repaying the merchants at $20 per mattress.
“Four hundred mattresses cost $8,000, and we are almost out,” the leader said.
The ministry team also provides medicines for blood pressure, diabetes, headaches and stomach ailments, along with personal hygiene items.
“Our goal was to provide $10,000 worth. We are starting with only $2,000 now,” he said. “Thank you so much for your prayers and support.”
For more information on indigenous Iraqi ministries, see #HelpLocalIraq on Twitter.
Use the form below to contribute online. Or call 434-977-5650 to contribute by phone. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 444SHM. Thank you!


Meet Ameena Masih. When her husband, Younis, was falsely arrested and sentenced to death because of his faith in Christ, she was left alone to care for their children. With no formal training, the family was thrust into abject poverty. 

Because of ICC donors, Ameena and the children were recently moved into a two-story home with running water and electricity. Ameena was also given tools and training to open her own shop, allowing her to provide for her family. 

In addition, due to ICC's advocacy efforts, Younis was released this spring and has been reunited with Ameena and the children. 

As a voice for the voiceless, we are the number one resource for information on Christian persecution on the Web. Each month, ICC reaches hundreds of thousands of people through Web media, print media, and social media. 


We are dedicated to healing, restoring and sustaining underground pastors, persecuted communities, and the wives and children of martyrs through the most effective means possible. 


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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why God Doesn’t Tell You Everything

Why God Doesn’t Tell You Everything …

By Trevin Wax
It’s Wednesday night, and I’m helping our kids get their shoes on, jackets on, and Bibles ready as we’re about to rush to church. I hustle them out the door, tell Corina we’re waiting for her in the car, and then load them into the van.
Along the way, I tell Timothy (our 7-year-old): “Watch out for the puddle in the driveway. Zip up your jacket. Open the door for your sister.” He gives me the exasperated look that smacks of a bad attitude, and I ask him what his problem is.
He lets me know: “People tell me what to do all day long. Before school. During school. At lunch. During class. When I get home. I just get tired of everyone else being in charge.”
We’re in the car now. Julia (our 3-year-old) is buckling herself into her car seat. Timothy is ready to go.
“So you want to be in charge?” I ask him.
“Yes. I want to be in charge and make my own decisions,” he tells me.
Thinking this might be a good time to wax philosophical, I say, “Well, son, that day is coming. But right now, other people are in charge, and the reason we’re in charge is because God has told us to be. God wants us to do our best to help shape you into the kind of person who can make wise, God-honoring choices on your own.”
He nods. He knows.
But I keep going.
“One day, you’ll leave home. You’ll go off to college, and no one is going to be telling you what to do every day. You’ll be on your own, making decisions. And I want you to be ready for that day.”
At this, the weariness of the day overcomes Timothy, and the vision of such independence overwhelms him. He wails. Big tears coming down.
“That makes me so sad! I don’t want to leave home!” He is hysterical. “Why do you say that? I don’t want to think about that.” Julia starts to cry, too. “What’s wrong with Timo?”
I sigh, put my hand to my head, and try not to smile. So much for waxing philosophical. Now, it’s time to reassure him.
“Timothy, that day is far away, and by the time you get there — trust me — you’ll want to be on your own, making those kinds of choices.” He is comforted. Crisis averted. I make a mental note: “Don’t bring up college again.”
Afterward, Corina and I were talking about that conversation, laughing about how the thought of independence overwhelmed our son. As adults, we can look ahead to his future and can envision him as an independent young man, mature in his faith, making wise choices.
As a child, our son wants to get there, but he can’t imagine what that would be like. The very thought of being an adult scares him. There are too many unknown variables.
And then, I realize why God doesn’t tell us everything about our future. He lays out the vision of who we will be — people walking in a manner worthy of Christ, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. But He doesn’t tell us everything this journey will entail. He doesn’t tell us everything we will accomplish along the way.
Sometimes I’ve wondered why God doesn’t reveal the specific plan He has for all of our lives. Now, I realize it’s a good thing He doesn’t. We wouldn’t be able to handle it. We’d cry like an overwhelmed kid if we knew the specifics of His plans for us. We’d wonder how in the world He will manage to make us resemble Christ in so many surprising ways.
And the thought of the suffering, pain and responsibility it will take to get us there — to form us into that kind of person … well, if college is enough to overwhelm a 7-year-old, then maybe the specifics of how we will become more like Christ over a lifetime would be too much to handle.
Better instead to listen to the loving voice of our Father, who seals us with His Spirit and promises to renew our humanity day by day as He remakes us into the image of His Son.
Better instead to take our baby steps as we wobble down the journey of life, basking in our Father’s good pleasure, trusting in His Son’s sacrifice when we fall, and leaning on the power of the Spirit to pick us back up again and to help us continue the walk.
God gives us the big picture of our future. And it’s glorious!
But He chooses not to fill in all the details for us. And that’s a good thing.

Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum line developed by LifeWay Christian Resources for all ages. This column first appeared at, a Gospel Coalition blog.
This article comes from Baptist Press. Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. Used by permission.
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Putting Faith Back Into Your Future

Putting Faith Back Into Your Future

By Kenny Luck
Worrying about the future is big business and a big burden. We ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up. Tiger moms and dads pressure their kids to perform at a high level at very tender ages in order to get little Johnny and Jenny out in front of the future. In the process, we are creating kids who are paralyzed by the prospect of not meeting expectations. Case in point, I asked a high-school senior the other day what her college plans were and she walked away from the whole group. In her mind it was easier to excuse and embarrass herself than to take on her future.  This obsession with controlling the future is getting out of hand and adults are no better.  We are constantly peering into the crystal ball, planning ahead, forecasting, imagining what may be, dreaming of new realities, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.  But what happens when my future fails to meet my own, someone else’s, or culture’s expectations?
ANSWER: It becomes a burden.
Not meeting forecasts, getting behind on “the plan”, missing goals, dates and deadlines can be consuming. Uh-oh – What now? Is the solution to become better planners, make more task lists —properly prioritized —work harder, smarter and longer —constantly chasing the unknown?
The fact is that we are all afraid of the unknown. In the precarious space between the known and unknown, we spend a lot of energy trying to discern the unknown, predicting and protecting ourselves from the unknown at the expense of the present.
Don’t get me wrong, planning ahead is a valuable skill.  Wise people always think ahead. But trying to control the future can also become an idol, inhibiting us from loving God and loving others.  Few would ever say they actually are trying to control or predict the future but watch what happens when unplanned disruptions to the “plan” occur.  The emotional response says it all without saying it explicitly.
What does God say about worrying about the future? He says, “I’ve got this. Give me tomorrow, and rely on me today.”
God used King Solomon to tell us exactly how we can actively put faith back into our future so that we don’t miss the present.  Listen closely:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3: 5-6
In other words, TRUST God’s person, LEAN on God’s wisdom, and LIVE OUT God’s ways to start getting God’s direction toward your future.  This is God’s tried, true, and tested way of resetting and returning your faith to your future. The question is this: are you trusting, leaning, and living out your faith presently?
Jesus put all of this into a practical perspective on two specific levels. First, he said “Do not worry about your life…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
In other words, it is emotionally and spiritually unhealthy to take on the future. Get that. Resolve not to do that. Instead, Jesus says, put that energy into knowing and doing life in God and with God today.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” — Matthew 6: 33-34
Still not convinced? Listen to King Solomon again:
“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.” Ecclesiastes 7:14
Because we are not God, we shouldn’t assume his responsibilities. The focus needs to be on being present today, and trusting God with tomorrow. We all have problems, and worrying about future ones doesn’t help. God isn’t telling us to ignore them, stop planning or trying to get ahead. He’s just saying let it go. Give it to him. Trust him with it. And, be present. You have a chance to make a difference in the world when you are dealing in the moment. But chasing the future can steal away our energies, wear on our relationships and erode our ability to be intimate with God and others.

Illnesses Outpace Supplies for Iraqis Fleeing Islamic State

Illnesses Outpace Supplies for Iraqis Fleeing Islamic State

November 13, 2014
A young girl in northern Iraq suffered infection and fever when a nail penetrated her foot.
As night-time temperatures begin to drop, locally-based aid workers report that illness is deepening the gloom for many Internally Displaced People (IDPs) already discouraged at the lack of prospects for returning home.
“The needs are great, and the displaced feel very disappointed,” said the director of an Iraqi ministry providing aid in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region. “They thought they would return to their homes within days, but the wait is getting longer. Now they know they will not return soon, and their condition is worsening with the onset of winter and the low level of aid.”
In Erbil, Dohuk and Zakho, where people arrived when Islamic State (ISIS) militants drove them from their homes in Mosul and other areas of Iraq, IDPs are suffering acute respiratory infections, flu and severe cases of diarrhea, among other ills. They need medicines for these sicknesses, as well as antibiotics, treatment for burns, and drugs for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
The indigenous ministry would buy the medicines locally if it had the funds to do so.
“One young child had a nail penetrate her foot because she does not have shoes, causing many infections in her body, and she suffered from high temperatures,” he said. “I bought an antibiotic for her, and that’s all I could do. There are very large needs, as the number of children is huge, and the list of patients is in excess of 200 children in each compound.”
Another child had an ear infection that led to swelling on the left part of her head, and it prohibited her from speaking. “And the list goes on,” he said.
A United Nations spokesman said this week that illnesses, especially among children, are expected to spike when winter brings temperatures below freezing to hundreds of thousands of people in the high-altitude areas of Kurdistan.
The ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission has been distributing blankets and heaters to the people who have taken refuge in concrete buildings under construction and those living in tents and other outdoor areas.
Yazidis, members of a minority religion blending Christian, Islamic and Zoroastrian rituals, along with nominal members of historic churches and Muslims, are among those receiving aid and opportunities to hear the message of Christ’s saving sacrifice.
The last few visits to the displaced Yazidis showed a long list of sick people, and most of them were kids. Their family can’t afford to take them to hospitals, and they have no medications.
In Duhok churches have provided volunteer doctors who are willing to help once they have supplies.
“We have two volunteer doctors so far, and we believe there are more who want to help – even volunteer doctors from around the world who want to visit and help for a while,” he said.
In Erbil, Duhok, Zakho and surrounding villages, the ministry in the past three months has distributed about $5,000 in medications; 3,500 mattresses at a cost of about $70,000; 3,500 blankets at a cost of about $35,000; 1,000 heaters costing $30,000; 2,000 food boxes for 2,000 families at $25 each, or $50,000; 1,000 meals and sandwiches for $2 each, or $2000; 10,000 Bibles, tracts, children’s Bibles, coloring books for $5000; 10,000 radios and Bible audio players for $5,000;
More funds for heaters and blankets, foods and medications are needed.
A leader for another ministry supported by Christian Aid Mission said he saw 1,000 people packed into an unfinished building in Erbil.
Blankets purchased for people in this tent will help them survive cold nights.
“Living in a construction site, many suffer from sinus infections and skin and eye problems,” he said. “They have nothing. They share a tank of gas to cook their meager meals.”
The streets of Erbil are lined with children begging for money and food. Displaced families are everywhere – in tents and churches and unfinished buildings.
Many of the displaced people are doctors, engineers, business owners and professionals who have lost everything to ISIS.
Some of them walked for days to make it to Erbil and Duhok. The leader shared, “Our people feel very grateful and appreciative for the assistance you offer them. And while it’s difficult for us to mention our sources of assistance for many reasons, such as our work with Muslims, everyone, without exception, saw the love of God that appeared in the giving, which was a blessing for the salvation of many.”
To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call 434-977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 444IRAQ. Thank you!

Soul Craft for the Grief-Stricken in Iraq

In October a woman from Qaraqosh, which was home to the highest number of Christians in Iraq before Islamic State militants drove them out in August, left the refugee tent area in Erbil where most arrivals languished and sat down against this church wall. There she knit for hours, intermittently weeping, as she mourned the loss of her previous life at home. She was just one soul among 6,377 families who left their homes in Qaraqosh, rather than accept the Islamic State options to convert to Islam, remain non-Muslim and pay the (often exorbitant) Islamic jizya tax or be killed. A locally-based ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission is providing such displaced people in Erbil with blankets and food, among other aid, along with the message of God’s love.