Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Overcoming Prejudice and Persecution in Central Asia

Overcoming Prejudice and Persecution in Central Asia

In Central Asia, a person’s religious beliefs are closely aligned with cultural identity. Folk Islam has dominated the region for centuries, but more radical forms of Islam are gaining ground.
Raids and arrests by the secret police. Fines for Christmas gifts to children. Threats made against pastors’ families.
Unfortunately it’s a way of life for churches in parts of Central Asia, where Christians face persecution from both government authorities and radical Muslim groups.
During 70 years of Soviet rule, atheism was the law of the land and both Christianity and Islam were harshly suppressed. With the fall of communism in 1991, however, Islam was revived. Its influence spread during the same time many Christians of various European nationalities were migrating out of Central Asia.
Coupled with this history is a staunch cultural resistance to the “foreign religion” of Westerners, and a new wave of Muslim extremism that is infiltrating society.
Considering all of these factors, it is not surprising that hostility against the Christian minority is intensifying.
“In November we had planned to hold a special service for the 15th anniversary of our church. However, we couldn’t do this, as some chemicals were thrown on the building we were renting,” reported one pastor. “The chemicals gave off such a smell that it was not possible for people to be in the facility.”
Another church paid a fine of more than $1,000 for handing out Christmas gifts to children. They were accused of using the needs of people for their gain. An appeal of their case to the courts proved unsuccessful.
Laws regarding religious activity vary from country to country. Proselytism is largely prohibited, and churches must register with the government. Meeting the criteria for legal registration is complicated and sometimes almost impossible, however, and government monitoring of religious activities by spies or secret police is commonplace.
Some churches prefer to operate “underground,” meeting in private homes. If caught, believers face stiff fines or prison. In one village, a woman was penalized the equivalent of four years of her income for hosting a group of Christians for fellowship at her house.
In Tajikistan and Turkmenistan there are very few believers, and many rural areas have not been penetrated with the gospel.
Christian Aid Mission assists more than a dozen ministries working in the Central Asia region.
“We see a great need for more ministers to reach unreached villages and towns in the region where we live, and where we are preaching the gospel,” said the ministry leader in one Central Asian country.
To meet that need, the ministry is starting a three-week training school program which prepares missionaries and church leaders for Christian service. A theological education is hard to come by in this part of the world, and often requires a student to travel far from home. Many who do go away to attend Bible school in a large city do not return to their community.
Christians gather for worship at a state-registered church.
The classes will be taught in house churches in multiple locations so students will have less distance to travel. About 30 people are expected to attend the July session.
Those who complete the program will be better equipped to share the gospel and plant churches in unreached areas. The ministry has four missionary teams that are currently overseeing the nurture and discipleship of 39 small congregations. Additionally, they are at work planting churches in another 20 communities.
Despite the challenges, missionaries with a ministry in another Central Asian country have started more than 270 churches over the past three decades. Local believers who are already involved in ministry can attend Bible school training sessions that are held in select locations, so students from across that country can attend. The sessions vary in duration from six weeks to three months.
If anything, opposition to Christianity, particularly evangelicals, has only spurred greater unity and commitment among believers in the region. Overcoming cultural misconceptions is an uphill battle, but ministry leaders are encouraged by a new generation of believers who sense the urgency to take the gospel to their own people while they can.
Please pray:
  • For more Central Asian believers to receive missionary training and to start churches in communities unreached with the gospel
  • For Central Asian governments to make it easier for churches to receive legal registration
  • For those in spiritual bondage to experience true freedom in Jesus Christ
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: 462WMN. Thank you!

The Power of the Gospel in Iraq

The Power of the Gospel in Iraq

Christian Aid Mission assists a Middle East ministry that provides emergency aid and gospel materials to Syrian refugees in Iraq and Jordan.
Rasha* was four months pregnant when she came to a refugee camp in Iraq. The distraught woman was injured and had burns on her face. She couldn’t eat or sleep. When gospel workers visiting the camp ministered to her, they learned the reason for her grief. Her husband, father, and two brothers were all killed in Syria—on the same day.
The workers shared Rasha’s story of unimaginable loss with other believers and many people began praying for her. Although no one could erase her pain, those who visited lifted her spirits and encouraged her to focus on the blessing of the new life growing inside her.
Baby Farah brought her mother renewed joy.
As a Muslim, she thought of Jesus as a prophet, but when caring Christians told her He was so much more, she needed proof. They gave her a Bible and pointed her to the gospels. Rasha was stunned as she read about God’s love and His gift of salvation through Jesus.
“If everyone in my country of Syria had this book, we never would have had to go to war or fight each other,” she told one gospel worker.
Rasha kept reading. She realized she was not alone, that Jesus could give her hope and peace if she received Him as her Savior.
The prayers of the gospel workers were answered. Rasha committed her heart to Christ and asked Him to be Lord of her life.
Another prayer was answered a short time later. Rasha’s baby—a girl—was born last summer in the camp. Rasha named her Farah, which means “joy.”
Now the happy mother loves to recite her favorite Bible verse to express gratitude for what the Lord has done to restore gladness in her heart. “He has given me ‘beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’” (Isaiah 61:3), she declares. Rasha is a great testimony to her neighbors and friends.
Her story also greatly encourages the gospel workers who do their best to meet a myriad of needs at Syrian refugee camps in Iraq and Jordan. Since the refugee crisis began three years ago, the Iraq-based ministry has distributed food, clothing, heaters, and other emergency aid to refugee families.
But gospel workers saw another pressing need that was not being met—the opportunity to read the life-changing truths found in the Bible.
“Each Syrian refugee gets a Quran for free as a gift from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. It is an attempt to encourage refugees to cling to their Islamic faith,” said the ministry leader. “So it is our duty as believers to provide the true Word of God to this multitude who live in a big prison, boxed in and away from the outside world.”
As part of a Christmas blitz project, the ministry stepped up its Bible distribution efforts in December and January. Gospel workers handed out 18,000 New Testaments, children’s Bibles, and gospel tracts with the message of salvation in three languages.
Conditions are difficult for refugees living in overcrowded camps.
“A huge number of Syrians asked for the Bibles,” said the ministry leader.
Not everyone can read, however, so the ministry is using another medium to help refugee families hear the gospel—radio.
Due to safety concerns, as well as a lack of transportation, most refugees cannot travel to a church or attend public Christian gatherings. But the good news can be brought to them via Christian radio stations and programs.
“The camps are mostly in the desert. They can’t leave their place, so we deliver Bibles and radios to them,” he said. “That is much easier than taking them long distances to churches, and this will help them to learn more about the Lord and grow in their faith.”
With the radios, which cost $5 to $10 each, a family can access more than 10 Christian AM and FM stations and tune into preaching, gospel music, and talk shows.
During the Christmas season the ministry gave out 1,032 radios.
“They rejoiced to receive the radios. Although some have TV’s and free satellites, a larger number of them are cut off from the outside world and do not have anything,” the leader said.
Children’s outreach is another important facet of the ministry, and youngsters were delighted when gospel workers had something special for them, too—their very own illustrated Bibles.
The distribution of children’s Bibles has not been limited to refugee camps. A group of men and women from a church in Iraq rejoiced when God opened the door for them to hand out Bibles at an elementary school in the area in December.
According to the ministry leader, they had prayed for years for an opportunity to give children’s Bibles to students at this school. The administrator always refused their request. But in October the school administrator called them, asking that a team from the church come during Christmastime to tell the children about the meaning behind the celebration. He asked them to give Bibles and small gifts to the youngsters.
Praise be to God, the administrator was true to his word and welcomed the church team when they arrived at the school two months later. They handed out children’s Bibles and gifts to 150 boys and girls. The team also gave a 10-minute gospel presentation entitled “Who was the baby Jesus and why was He born?”
One 11-year-old girl paid close attention to the part of the story in which team members shared the Apostle Peter’s message that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
A distribution of children’s Bibles
“Jesus still heals and does miracles,” the speaker told the gathering.
After the presentation, the girl walked up to the speaker and inquired if Jesus could heal her sick mother, who had been paralyzed for a year.
A team visited the child’s home, where they met her two younger sisters, her father, and her mother, who was lying on a bed. They told the family about Jesus Christ and gave them a Bible.
The little girl’s prayers for healing for her mother were answered in a way that she did not anticipate. Although her mother has not regained use of her legs, she has begun a new walk with the Lord. All of the other members of the family have also surrendered their lives to Christ.
In the midst of terrible human suffering, the Iraqi ministry is seeing the gospel heal the hearts of men, women, and children—one life at a time—and give them hope, comfort, forgiveness, and joy.
Already hundreds of people have received Christ, according to the ministry leader, as a result of gospel workers who are visiting the camps, door-to-door evangelism in neighboring communities, and believers who have invited refugees to house churches.
“The Word of God, the love of Christ, and salvation are abundant and strong in times of distress. Chaos and turmoil will upset mankind, causing hearts to search for God and the Savior,” he said. “We need your prayers for the souls that are saved, and we need your continued support so we can continue to preach Jesus Christ and lead sinners to Him.”
Christian Aid Mission provides ongoing assistance to the Iraqi ministry for the purchase of evangelistic materials, food, blankets, and medicine. The ministry reaches out to Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, proclaiming the good news to both refugees and nationals in displacement camps, towns, and cities throughout the region.
* name changed
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: 444SHM. Thank you!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Silent Killer: Health Crisis is Staggering in Syria

The Silent Killer: Health Crisis is Staggering in Syria

This Syrian father is grateful his daughter was able to receive prompt medical care. Over half of the country’s hospitals have been destroyed or severely damaged in the civil war.
Dr. Samir* is a physician in need of a physician.
During his residency training as a general practitioner in Syria before the war, he treated patients for an assortment of ailments ranging from respiratory infections to high blood pressure and stiff joints.
Antibiotics and pain medications were readily available. So were children’s vaccines. An infected cut on a finger or a sprained foot might be the worst injuries he treated in any given day.
Like others in his profession, the young doctor found great satisfaction in helping others, and he looked forward to a long and rewarding career.
Then everything changed.
When fighting broke out between government forces and various rebel factions three years ago, no place was safe. Hospitals, clinics, and doctors themselves became targets just for providing medical treatment to the wounded. Gunfire in the streets discouraged residents from making visits to doctor’s offices for routine checkups.
Dr. Samir’s case load started to drop off as some of his patients fled the country. Other families ran out of money and ceased to seek medical care unless they faced a dire emergency. For those who still rely on his services, he has precious little to offer them as medicine is as rare these days as a peaceful night’s sleep.
Now it is his own health that is in jeopardy.

Awaiting surgery

Since childhood, Dr. Samir has struggled with ear problems and suffered partial hearing loss. This year he developed another infection, but with a limited availability of antibiotics to treat it, the infection spread throughout his middle ear. Without immediate intervention, the infection could potentially advance to his brain and be life-threatening.
Dr. Samir is a friend of Christian Aid Mission and his father oversees a ministry we have assisted in Syria during the past 12 years. The family contacted Middle East Director Stephen Van Valkenburg and asked if Christian Aid could help with expenses.
Due to safety concerns, arrangements to transport Dr. Samir across the Syrian border into Jordan for surgery were nixed last month.
Prayers have been answered, as a surgeon was located in Damascus that can perform the mastoidectomy to remove the infection and hopefully save the hearing in Dr. Samir’s damaged ear. The procedure is scheduled for Thursday, May 1.
If all goes well, Dr. Samir will return to his medical practice in a matter of days. That’s good news for the doctor, but it’s even better news for his patients who might be hard-pressed to find a substitute.

Medical care collapse

A breakdown of the health care system in Syria is of no surprise to anyone, but its long-term ramifications are finally raising concerns among the international community.
Already an estimated 150,000 Syrians have been killed in the brutal civil war, and 9 million are internally displaced or living as refugees in other Middle Eastern countries. But what is most alarming is the secondary death toll—an additional 100,000 to 200,000 Syrians who have died because they lacked access to medical care.
These figures include women who die in child birth, heart attack victims, people who suffer from diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer, and children who succumb to diarrhea, pneumonia, and other treatable illnesses.
While the polio outbreak affecting 80,000 children has garnered much attention recently, communicable diseases like measles, hepatitis A, and typhoid are on the rise. Skin maladies are also rampant.
Attacks against medical institutions and personnel have only punctuated the crisis. According to the World Health Organization, over half of Syria’s hospitals have been destroyed or severely damaged.
Some 15,000 doctors have fled the country. Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, once flourished with 5,000 doctors offering their services to the public. Now there are less than 40.
A patient receives treatment at a hospital in Damascus.
In a March report by the group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), there were 20 separate attacks on medical facilities during the first 10 weeks of 2014 alone. As of March 5, “440 medical personnel had been killed since the beginning of the conflict, including 161 doctors, 90 nurses, 83 medics, and 45 pharmacists, among others,” the report stated.
Even if a doctor is available, medications and supplies often are not. Old clothes have been used for bandages. PHR noted that in some instances, patients have chosen to be “knocked out with a metal bar” because a surgeon had no anesthetics.
An assessment of 111 sub-districts in northern Syria found nearly 500,000 people are in acute need of health care. Another 2.8 million are in moderate need of medical assistance, according to PHR.

Christian Aid Mission wants to help

In the midst of such desperate needs, Christian Aid Mission is working with ministries in the region to bring help and hope through Jesus Christ to the suffering.
Dr. Samir and his father are among the courageous believers who have remained in Syria and are committed to sharing the gospel with their countrymen. Before the war, his father established an effective outreach to Muslims in their region.
Plans to build a community center and medical clinic were halted as the ministry focused its efforts on distributing food and other basic needs to displaced Syrian families.
As Dr. Samir prepares for his own surgery, he knows there are hundreds more who are not as fortunate. That’s disheartening for a health professional who took an oath to do all he could to save lives.
To assist medical workers like Dr. Samir in Syria, Christian Aid Mission wants to help another local ministry transport a 40-foot container of supplies into the country. The donated materials, including crutches, wheelchairs, and prosthetics, will be given to civilians left crippled or maimed by war violence.
“Doctors are really handicapped and limited as to what they can do,” said Van Valkenburg, who received the urgent request for Christian Aid’s assistance. “Once things calm down, whenever that is, lots of medical supplies will be brought into the country. But for now, it’s a bad situation there and any supplies that we can help get to the doctors will be hugely helpful to them.”
Van Valkenburg said the ministry needs about $11,000 to ship the items from Europe to the Middle East and then into Syria. Christian Aid is blessed to be able to work with this “boots on the ground” outreach that has the ability and connections to get materials across the border and dispensed to those who are most in need.
Christian Aid Mission has helped local ministries deliver clothing, food, and Bibles to Syrian families. Now we would like to assist a ministry that wants to transport a 40-foot container of medical supplies into the country.
Last year the ministry transported shipments of New Testaments, food, and other emergency relief provided by Christian Aid for displaced families in Syria. In addition, the ministry has sent containers of supplies to refugees in Iraq and Jordan.
Since the outbreak of war in March 2011, Christian Aid has helped ministries in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Greece address the needs of refugee families. As gospel workers like Dr. Samir respond with compassion, they see a deepening desire among the Syrians to experience God’s love and to hear His Word.
“Dr. Samir is a strong Christian who has stayed in Syria and will be an important person in the rebuilding of the country,” said Van Valkenburg. “Pray that in his lifetime this young doctor will be greatly used by God to bring spiritual and physical help to many of his people.”
There are thousands more Syrians like Dr. Samir who have pressing health issues. Many are not as fortunate and will never receive the medical assistance they need. Christian Aid wants to alleviate their suffering and bring hope to as many people as we can.
How You Can Make a Difference:
  • Pray/give for the $7,000 still needed to cover the costs for Dr. Samir’s surgery and associated expenses. Pray that his procedure will be successful and that he can return to work soon.
  • Pray for thousands of Syrians who need medical treatment or surgery.
  • Pray/give for the $11,000 needed to ship the container of medical supplies into Syria. Medical needs are immense. If the war slows down, the ministry will need many more medical supplies.
  • Pray for the salvation of both government and rebel forces and their leaders.
  • Pray for peace in Syria and great spiritual encouragement for the believers.
* name changed to protect identity
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: 400MED. Thank you!

Still No Christmas in Laos

Still No Christmas in Laos:
State Sponsored Persecution Directed Against Lao Hmong Believers, Political Dissidents Increases

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- On Christmas Day, 2014, the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) has raised concern about the increased persecution of minority Christian, Animist and independent Buddhist believers in Laos at the hands of military and security forces of Laos and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Anguish on the face of a Hmong woman
 as children look on
They say that religious freedom and human rights violations have dramatically increased under the Hanoi-backed, one-party communist government in Laos, especially against various Laotian and Hmong minority groups, including religious believers and political dissidents.
“Intensified religious freedom violations directed against ethnic Laotian and Hmong Christian believers are increasingly violent and egregious, with independent religious ceremonies and Christmas celebrations prohibited, or under attack, by the Lao military and security forces,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.
“In the latest crackdown, Lao and Hmong Christians, and Animist, believers have been arrested, tortured, killed , or have simply disappeared, on a systematic and more frequent basis, as the Marxist government of Laos, working in coordination with the Vietnam People's Army and authorities in Hanoi, continues its policy of attacking independent religious believers who wish to worship freely outside of state-controlled, and state-monitored, religious institutions.”
Christians in Laos meet to listen 
to a radio broadcast
“Clearly, under these dark and grim conditions, there is still no Christmas in Laos for those who seek to celebrate and worship outside of the watchful eye of the military, secret police and communist authorities in Vientiane and Hanoi,” Smith stated.
“It is also clear, and unfortunate, that the current Stalinist government in Laos is unwilling to cooperate on the many international appeals for the release of prominent political dissidents and prisoners, including Sombath Somphone, the Lao Students' Movement for Democracy protesters, and significant numbers of Hmong refugees,” Smith concluded.
Hmong women praying
Earlier this month, the CPPA and a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) urged the United Nations to address ongoing serious human rights violations, as well as religious and press freedom violations, by the government of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR).
The NGOs also raised concern about the plight of a growing number of Lao and Hmong people who have disappeared at the hands of Lao military and security forces, including Sombath Somphone, Lao student protest leaders, Hmong refugees and others.
For more information, please go towww.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org or send an e-mail to either Maria Gomez or Philip Smith atinfo@centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

Saving The Victims of ISIS

 ICC Logo

I know you have heard a lot about ISIS this year and all their atrocities in Iraq perpetrated towards Christians. 
ICC aid being
distributed in Iraq
They butchered and raped their way through Iraq in 2014 and forced 100,000 Christians to flee, most with only the clothes on their backs, eastward towards Erbil. 

ICC Lands In Iraq

Fighting them with weapons is for others. We, though, "fight them" by aiding their victims and sending in the Gospel.  

ICC was able to send two of our staff to Iraq at the height of ISIS' incursion in August. ICC staff gave out tents, food, bedding and baby formula while ISIS was only 60 miles away. 

Now, we are giving out heaters and blankets as Iraqi Christians suffer in tents in the cold of winter. In the end, we will distribute $250,000 in aid or more. 
ICC's advocacy director briefing congressional staff on Iraq. 

ICC Helps Secure $65 Million in Aid For Iraq's Christians and Yazidis
When our staff returned from Iraq, we spoke privately with congressional representatives and the State Department to let them know that Christians were not receiving any aid from the $138 million the US had given to the UN to assist victims in Iraq. 

Key members of Congress supported our desire to brief congressional staff on the situation so that the problem would be better known. 

We assembled a panel that included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Open Doors, and then briefed 90+ member staff on the lack of aid flowing to Iraq's religious minorities. 

Then, with the help of several congressmen and the State Department, we informed various US government agencies involved with aid. 

As a result, since our return from Iraq, these agencies have released $65 million in aid that would not run through the UN but get directly to Christians and Yazidis.

How Many Ministries Can Do This Kind of Work?

Frankly, there are very few Christian ministries in the world that can pull off this combination of on-the-ground aid to Christians and securing assistance and 
protection via the lead government of the world to protect our hurting brothers and sisters. 

ICC: In the Field & In the Halls of Power

ICC is in the field with the persecuted Christian but we also have access to the halls of power and can leverage that access to free the prisoner and push back countries that persecute. 

ICC: A Resource for the Whole Body of Christ

ICC is a resource for the entire body of Christ. We help the persecuted whether they are evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal, or orthodox. We don't care about denominations; we only want to free the prisoner and touch the 
believer who is attacked because they love Jesus. 

We are a bridge between the persecuted believer and the free believer and can only operate if the free believer will protect and care for their persecuted brother and sister. We are only your hands and feet and can do nothing without you!

Our giving in the next 5 days will determine how many believers we can free from prison next year. It will determine how many Bibles we can smuggle into the most dangerous countries, and it will determine how many wives and children of murdered Christians we can rescue.  

Would you please give a generous year end gift? 

If you are willing to help, then click on the "DONATE" button below to make a generous donation now. 

In Christ, 

Jeff King

International Christian Concern

Thursday, December 25, 2014

How Can the Church Respond to Depression?

How Can the Church Respond to Depression?

by Todd Wermers , Phil Herndon on Friday, April 19, 2013
Humans struggle. Particularly in more "churched" communities of the United States, the church has often assumed churchgoers are immune to the struggles of those outside its walls. This is no less true with depression. Fortunately, the veneer is coming off, and it must. Christians struggle with depression. The reality of this human condition compels us to tell the truth about its presence in the church family.
Pastors have the unique opportunity to open the pages of Scripture and speak to people about other people. Elijah, David, Jonah, and the defeated apostles immediately after Christ's crucifixion all point to the experience of depression in the lives of real people. It has been said that Scripture addresses two main topics: the human condition and the character of God. Rather than minimizing depression, teaching directly about its existence allows listeners to experience the empathy of those "in that great cloud of witnesses."
How Can the Church Respond to Depression?Because depression is a "de-pressing" of a person's passion for living, the church must be a proactive voice addressing the topic. Few things rob a person of the rich, joyous life Jesus gives to those He has saved more than depression. This condition propels people into isolation, apathy, and resignation, all of which are antithetical to living fully in Christ.

How should the church respond?

One way of viewing the presence of depression in the church is as a "wolf" that preys on the sheep. In this case, the wolf attacks the flock not from without but from within, in the very hearts and minds of the sheep. Addressing the wolf directly is a key to ministering to those struggling with depression. While it is important to directly confront the condition, it is equally important to remember that depression "stands on the chest" of those who are depressed. They need room to breathe. The simple presence of another caring believer can accomplish this.
"Sitting Shiva" is the Jewish foundation for mourning. In Job 2:11, 13, Job's friends come to him and simply sit with him. This act recognized Job was hurting, afraid, sad, and depressed. They did not offer prescriptions or false assurances, nor did they attempt to talk him out of where he was. In fact, when Job's friends did offer explanations for his condition, his depression worsened considerably!
Pastors and fellow church members must also admit their limitations, and be willing to refer people struggling with depression to those gifted and trained to help. Just like a person experiencing a heart attack needs more than a family physician, those suffering from depression often benefit from the expertise of skilled professionals and possibly treatment through therapy.

What are the benefits of therapy?

The process of therapy provides direct, applicable attention to the existence of depression. For the person suffering from depression, walking into a counselor's office can be strikingly different experience than walking into church. The most obvious difference is that the relationship between counselor and counselee is built upon the recognition that there is a problem. Sadly, it's possible for this same person to walk into a local church seeking help and to be discouraged from talking about it.
The freedom to speak openly during the therapeutic process can break denial, provide tools for recovery, and facilitate development of a language to communicate personal struggles. The decision of whether or not to seek medication is another issue often discussed in counseling, so patients will be better prepared to efficiently and safely approach the subject with a medical doctor.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of counseling for depression is the inclusion of the family. Depression is more than a temporary condition affecting one person. Integrating the family into the process allows the person dealing with depression to explore their condition in the context of those with whom they are most closely connected. Depression is not just a person issue, but a people and family issue that the family and church body can and should embrace.
Todd Wermers, M.A., serves on the clinical staff of Center for Professional Excellence in Nashville, Tennessee.
 Phil Herndon, M.A., is the clinical director at the Center for Professional Excellence in Nashville, Tennessee.

Overcome the Stigma of Depression

Overcome the Stigma of Depression

by Christa A. Banister on Wednesday, October 01, 2008
This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine
After graduating from college, 25-year-old Gina Morgan seemed to have everything going for her. She landed her dream job as a newspaper reporter near her much-beloved Missouri hometown. She married Carl, the man of her dreams. She went to church whenever the doors were open and even taught a Sunday school class.
Conquering Depression: A 30-Day Plan to Finding HappinessYet before long, "everything was falling apart," Morgan confesses. "But I just kept saying I was fine."
One day a co-worker pulled her aside and told Morgan she was exhibiting classic signs of depression. Although Morgan was convinced her co-worker was nuts, a fight with her husband later that night almost cost her something valuable - her marriage - as she packed her bags and was prepared to move back in with her mom.
Noticing how out of character her reaction to their fight was, Morgan made an appointment with a therapist, just to see if there was any validity to her co-worker's claims about depression.
"Instead of asking me how I felt, she asked me if I was [experiencing] certain things," Morgan recalls.
"For the first time, I really felt I wasn't losing my mind. In retrospect, I find it funny that one of the first signs I had of depression was the inability to make decisions. One of the biggest fights Carl and I had was that I couldn't decide what to fix for dinner. Or if we went out and I had to chose from a menu, I absolutely couldn't do it."
Morgan did decide, however, that she no longer wanted to pay the bills (something she says she "hadn't exactly informed my husband about"). She also was sleeping all the time and had no interest in doing anything.
"I would come home from work, take a shower, and go to bed by 6 p.m. Then I would oversleep the next morning if Carl wasn't there to wake me."
At her worst point, Morgan considered driving her car into the lake.
But like many who struggle with depression, Morgan was still able to put on a happy face and minister at church because she knew that's what people expected.

Overcoming stigmas

According to statistics reported by WebMD, more than 18 million people in the United States battle depression, but archaic thinking still permeates the subject. Author Marion Duckworth writes candidly about her journey to healing in Naked on God's Doorstep (Multnomah). "I fell into the category of Christians who think that Christians shouldn't have to seek psychological help," Duckworth admits.
"Yet with things I'd gone through in my past, including having a father who was mentally ill, I didn't address [those issues] until I hit my 40s. I knew something was wrong, but I hadn't put the pieces together. I was always using accomplishments to make myself feel better. As a Christian in ministry, there's always the need to live up to expectations. You're the one that provides the help; you don't go for help."
As for her father, Duckworth used to believe he'd chosen to become ill. "Plenty of people told me he didn't have a mental illness, he just chose to give in."
"Fortunately, in the last couple of decades, Christians have come to realize that we are complicated creatures," Duckworth says. "We each have a mind, emotions, and a spirit - and a mind can become ill."

Healing steps

Many who are depressed self-medicate through alcohol or illegal drugs. Morgan drowned her sorrows in caffeine. In fact, she drank so much coffee and Diet Coke that she landed in the emergency room for dehydration. But through the constant, patient support of her husband, regular visits to her therapist, and prescribed medicine, Morgan began to notice a difference, although not immediately.
"The first time I went to the therapist, I figured she'd fix me in one session," Morgan says with a laugh. "But it took talking through past issues to begin the healing process. And as a result ... my relationship with God started to improve."
For Duckworth, it was the realization that God truly loved her, something she reaffirmed through a Bible study that led her on the path to healing.
"We were studying Ephesians, where God talks about how He chose to make us His own," Duckworth recalls. "He makes us holy so we can live in His presence forever, and His grace overflows to us. The verbs in these passages came to life in me. God's love became real and tangible, and He enabled me to cultivate my gifts. I always felt constrained writing for publications, but I took a class and joined a writer's organization, so He kind of walked me through the whole process. Then gradually, as I began to tell my story, other people wanted to talk to me. God turned it into something productive and turned the situation around for me."
Duckworth encourages those who aren't part of a Bible study to "do what I did not do."
"Go to a Christian counselor. Find someone to talk it out with. [Depend on] members of the body of Christ. We need ministers and those who are schooled in particular areas in our lives. Journaling also helped me. It's great to discover what you're thinking and put the pieces together on paper. I think the Holy Spirit uses that process to reveal things."

Light at the end of the journey

If you've ever heard Chonda Pierce's redemptive brand of stand-up comedy, then you already know she's a funny woman. But in what seems like the ultimate irony, Chonda spent months in emergency rooms before being diagnosed as clinically depressed.
"My emotions were so numb, it was as if an Out of Order sign had been thumb-tacked across my heart," she recalls in her memoir, Laughing in the Dark: A Comedian's Journey through Depression (Howard). She's the first to admit she's not a counselor but feels that by sharing the intimate details about her journey, she might help others experiencing their own dark moments.
"I know 132 shades of gray, but I also know that life doesn't have to be gray forever," Pierce says. "There was light at the end of my journey."

Depression: A Biblical Model for Healing

Depression: A Biblical Model for Healing

by Gene A. Getz on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Understand the importance of medical science and the body of Christ.
Most of us have times when we feel the bottom has dropped out of life. It's called depression. Darkness floods the soul. Despair follows. We may feel mired in a world of "sinking sand."
When that happens, let's try to remember that some of God's greatest servants felt this kind of abandonment. Take Elijah. The Lord had used him in miraculous ways, which culminated in his victorious confrontation with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah on Mount Carmel. Fire fell from heaven and consumed not only the sacrifice, but also the altar, the rocks, the dust, and the water that filled the crevasses. The children of Israel broke their silence and cried out, "Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!" (1 Kings 18:39).
To add to all this drama, the rains fell after three and a half years of drought, and Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab's chariot all the way to Jezreel -- about 20 miles in a blinding rainstorm. We might call this episode the first biblical marathon!
Then it happened. Queen Jezebel threatened Elijah's life, and he escaped into the desert where he wanted to die. He told the Lord that he had had enough (1 Kings 19:4). He was not only physically exhausted but also emotionally and spiritually depleted.
At that moment in Elijah's life, God began the process of restoration - a series of steps that took many days and weeks. First, God ministered to him physically with food and rest (1 Kings 19:5-6). Second, God eventually clarified Elijah's theological perspective - not to continue to rely on the miraculous (19:11-12). Third, God reassured Elijah he was not alone. There would be others to help him carry out the difficult task that lay before him (19:18). Fourth, God brought Elisha into his life to be his friend and close companion (19:20-21).
This is a great biblical model for dealing with depression. But we can also learn from David. He was open and vulnerable with the Lord - sharing his feelings of despair. Listen to his words: "LORD, how long will You forget me? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me?" (Ps. 13:1-2).
The point is this: Let's not be afraid to share our deepest feelings with the Lord. He knows them better than we do. And, He cares!

The Body of Christ

Let's remember that we have a unique advantage over both Elijah and David. We're members of the body of Jesus Christ. We can bear one another's burdens - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor. 12:26).
When we are participating in a Christ-centered and loving church, we can experience the healing that comes when believers bear one another's burdens and pray for one another. This is what James had in mind. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect" (Jas. 5:16).

Medical Science

We have another advantage -- even more so than Elijah and David as well as New Testament Christians. We live in a world where medical science has provided unusual help in many ways. Who is not thankful for plain old aspirin and other varieties of painkillers that bring relief to our physical bodies? Who among us is not thankful for medications that soothe both the body and the soul? And, when it comes to depression, we also have medications to help restore the chemical imbalances that often help with emotional healing. I'm confident that Dr. Luke, Paul's physician, would be the first to write a prescription for this kind of depression had he known what we know centuries later. This is one of God's gifts.
But, let's remember one very basic principle. Aloneness -- in both body and soul -- only adds to our pain and confusion. We need a sympathetic and listening ear -- someone who cares, someone who understands, and someone who can advise and counsel us with wisdom and grace. Perhaps you are the one God will use to help set a captive free from a "dark night of the soul."
This article is courtesy of Mature Living magazine.

Christians Aren't Immune to Depression

Christians Aren't Immune to Depression

by Victoria York on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Recognize that seeking professional help and trusting God can go hand-in-hand.
In the Winter of 2006-2007 during an especially sorrowful and stressful period, I plummeted into a mental state unlike anything I've experienced before or since. This was not simply a case of the blues. I lost all interest in the activities that constituted life: engaging with people, writing, enjoying recreation, being productive in my career, and daily rituals like grocery shopping. The moment I woke, I longed for bedtime -- for escape -- and yet I couldn't sleep.
Nausea, confusion, and exhaustion plagued me. Smiling was impossible in the face of intolerable sadness. Pulling myself out of bed each morning was torment. The thought of continuing in such blackness for one more hour, let alone one more week, was unbearable as I struggled to "keep it together." I dreaded social situations. The sound of conversation and laughter among my coworkers became foreign to me, until I couldn't recall what either one felt like. I knew I'd laughed and conversed thousands of times, but now it seemed ludicrous and utterly impossible.
Worst of all, although God hadn't left me, the awareness of His presence that I'd always enjoyed had vanished. One evening, I mentioned my struggle to someone who was spiritually sound and whose opinion I valued. "I can't feel God," I said. "This sadness is devouring me, and I can't find Him, no matter what I do."
My friend answered, "There's got to be some kind of sin in your life if you feel separated from God. Examine your life and try to figure out where you've gone wrong."
My friend meant well, but he had inadvertently kicked me when I was at my lowest. His words didn't make sense. Even though I couldn't feel God, I knew I hadn't turned my back on Him. And somehow I knew He hadn't deserted me. My friend simply didn't realize that believers aren't immune to the horrors of clinical depression. Like many Christians, he mistakenly assumed that being a Christ-follower insulates a person against depression. This notion is so prevalent that many Christians feel too guilty and embarrassed to discuss their struggles. They forget that not even the spiritual giants of Scripture were immune to this type of suffering. Think of Elijah, who went from great victory into deep depression, or David, who expressed his pain in Psalm 6:6: "I am weary from my groaning; with my tears I dampen my pillow and drench my bed every night."
One Friday afternoon, my despair became so suffocating that I asked a girlfriend (whose husband had suffered mental illness) what was required to check oneself into a hospital, just in case. All hope, joy, pleasure, and light had ceased to exist for me. I begged God to give me a moment's assurance, some sign, but the nothingness continued. It was sheer grace that allowed me to hang on until Monday, when I finally called my doctor and dragged myself to his office. I remember feeling bewildered as I watched the woman across from me in the waiting area peruse a magazine and smile pleasantly at a nurse. How could she be so carefree? How was she untouched by the desolation that had swallowed me?
The next hour changed my life. After I described my symptoms to my doctor, he asked about my circumstances and then ran some tests. His conclusion: My depression was the result of years' worth of nearly continual stress, compounded by recent occurrences. Quite simply, I had drained my body of serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone. He prescribed a medication that would give me a bit of relief and allow me the time to "refill my tank." Within four months, I was off the medication. Finally, I was laughing and living again.
Can depression be a sign of disobedience? Yes, it certainly can. But it can also be caused by medical or chemical issues, mental or physical exhaustion, and so on. Can God heal us in an instant? Yes, He can and often does. But if you're in the "waiting stage," don't assume God is displeased with you. Talk with God about how you feel and listen to His voice of truth. Feeling separated from His presence does not equal being separated from His presence. Feelings can be very unreliable. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself while trusting that you completely belong to the Father. Recognize that seeking professional help and trusting God can go hand-in-hand.
Above all, remember that if you are a believer, your standing with God has not changed. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. For "not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Rom. 8:38-39).
This article is courtesy of Mature Living magazine.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bringing New Life and Hope to Inner Mongolia

In the grasslands of China’s Inner Mongolia Province, many isolated settlements have never been reached with the gospel. Christian Aid Mission recently began assisting a Chinese ministry that trains university students for outreach in some of these areas. The students go on “mission trips” to villages during their school breaks. Christian medical professionals sometimes accompany the students on these trips, providing free health care to impoverished families who lack access to even basic services. In the photo, student assistants are checking the vision of an elderly villager.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Creating a Better Future for Guatemala’s Youth

Creating a Better Future for Guatemala’s Youth

The children’s center in Guajitos is an oasis for kids who grow up in a world dominated by gang warfare. Living Stones Ministry seeks to get children off the streets and teach them Christian values.
Yo tengo gozo, gozo, gozo, gozo, en mi corazón,
en mi corazón
en mi corazón
Yo tengo gozo, gozo, gozo, gozo, en mi corazón
porque Cristo me salvo.
The room rings with laughter as the group of 40 high-spirited Guatemalan boys and girls, barely able to catch their breath, launch into singing the next stanza of “I’ve Got Joy in My Heart.” With each round they pick up the tempo, making a series of rapid hand motions that conclude with vigorous clapping.
Seven-year-old Jorge, standing in the front row, is ready to do it all over again. In fact, he loves every activity—the singing, Bible lessons, and kicking a soccer ball with his friends afterwards. He’s a regular here, having come to the children’s programs two or three times a week since 2012.
Jorge’s mother, Yaneri, started bringing him to the Living Stones Ministry (LSM) outreach in hopes he would make friends and enjoy a few nutritious meals there each week. With her small income, she could barely pay to keep a roof over their heads. Jorge’s father was not a part of their lives, and the little boy seemed lonesome and reclusive. She feared he would end up joining a gang when he got older.
Those worries are legitimate. While Jorge and his friends sing songs about joy in their hearts, it’s hard to imagine the danger that lurks outside the front door.
The barrio where they live is located in Guajitos, a district of Guatemala City that is notorious for gang-related violence. Teenagers are perpetrators of many of the crimes, but children as young as eight or nine are “recruited” to engage in illegal activities.
Keeping youngsters off the streets helps, but Yaneri realizes the temptations are inescapable. That’s why she is grateful for a ministry like LSM that offers a safe environment for her son and teaches foundational Christian values.
Already she has seen changes in Jorge’s behavior. LSM has become a second home for him. He is more outgoing, and he enjoys reading Bible stories and learning about God’s love for children.
Last winter Jorge heard about the miracles of Jesus in one of the Bible classes. The teacher asked the students if they would like to have a miracle happen in their lives.
Jorge stood up. “I already received a miracle,” he replied. “Now I know I have a father, a Father in heaven Who loves me and cares about me.”

The battle for souls

Jorge and his friends enjoy fun activities at the center.
Saving Guatemala’s children has been the aim of Living Stones Ministry’s founder, Humberto Chavez,* since he started the ministry nearly 20 years ago in the Guajitos slum. He has a sympathetic heart for poor or abandoned kids, having been forced to survive on the streets when he was just seven years old.
The streets are a far meaner place for today’s children. Gang violence has reached epic proportions in the capital city and across the country. Delinquent youths, usually initiated into the maras in their early teens, take part in acts of extortion, robbery, drug trafficking, and crimes against rival gang members.
Last year, just two blocks from the headquarters of LSM, five members of a gang of extortionists and hired assassins were captured in a raid conducted by the National Civil Police. The detainees were teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19. The gang’s leader was 14 years old.
LSM is not immune to the violence either. Chavez said the headquarters building has been broken into and robbed seven times. Gang members are believed to be the culprits. In the last incident the ministry’s cooking utensils and public address system equipment were taken.
Most disconcerting, however, is the manner in which the gangs generate income by levying “taxes” against local businesses, bus and taxi drivers, residents, and even churches. The practice is common, and there is a high price to pay for those who refuse to give into their demands.
According to the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, 166 bus drivers and their assistants were killed in one year alone in 2009. The majority were killed by gang members for not paying extortion costs.
LSM’s ministry leader said gang members often resort to harassing and frightening youngsters, using them to collect the extortion money.
“They may target a child who is walking to school and threaten to harm the family if the boy or girl doesn’t do what they ask. Of course the children don’t want anything bad to happen to their parents or siblings, so they do it,” explained Chavez. “Or the gangs may offer a child from a poor family cash to carry out their instructions. That’s how they operate.”
A clothing distribution
Socioeconomic problems in the country have helped create an environment which has done little to dissuade youth from gang culture. The same limitations that crippled their parents—lack of education and limited job opportunities—plague their generation too. Neglected and abused children wander the streets and become easy prey for gangs who offer them shelter and satisfy a need for acceptance.
The scourge impacts every level of society, but it is the nation’s youth who are caught in the crossfire as both instigators and victims of gang violence. Thus far neither the police nor politicians have been able to get a handle on the crisis.

Grounded in love

Living Stones Ministry refuses to run and hide. Its main building is located in the midst of Guajitos’ most dangerous barrios, where children are aggressively recruited by gangs at the local schools.
“Our ministry is doing everything we can to steer youngsters away from this path,” said Chavez. “We talk to each child about the goodness of God and how our Heavenly Father can give them a better life than they will ever find in the gangs. We want to plant the Word of God in their hearts while they are young.”
With support from Christian Aid Mission, LSM currently operates eight children’s outreach centers in Guatemala and ministers to more than 800 youngsters ages 4 to 14. Two of the centers are based in Guajitos, collectively serving about 150 children.
Christian Aid has also provided funds for the ministry to distribute food, clothing, and school supplies to the children of families who are most in need.
One of the goals of LSM is to offer recreational activities that will get kids off the streets. This reduces opportunities for gang members to target them for recruitment or extortionist acts. Safely in the confines of the centers, children take part in games and Bible studies and enjoy a meal or snacks. Sometimes they watch educational films warning about the dangers of drugs, gangs, or other societal issues.
In the afterschool program offered at the two city locations, children like Jorge can receive help with their homework or play until their parents get off work. The urban centers are open on Tuesday and Friday afternoons and during weekends.
The six rural centers are open three days a week and serve the villages of Santa Teresa, San Pablo La Laguna, Solola at Pichiya, Xejuyu, Aldea Llano Jalapa, and Tierra Blanca.
LSM is also reaching the parents of the children with the good news of Jesus Christ. On Sundays, children and their parents attend worship services together.
The ministry operates eight outreach centers that provide Bible teaching, games, after school tutoring, and a meal or snack for children.
Last year the ministry reported some 70 children and adults received Christ as their personal Savior.
Jorge’s family experienced another miracle within the past few months. God had already used the ministry of LSM to touch the lives of the boy and his mother, but the earthly father Jorge hardly knew had a change of heart too. Now his parents have reconciled.
While years of hurt and separation will take time to heal, Jorge no longer feels abandoned by his dad. Even at a young age, he knows that Jesus is the only One who can truly transform hearts.
Chavez hopes Jorge will continue to grow in his faith and will be able to resist the pressure to join a street gang. That’s his prayer for all of the youngsters who must confront a dark and dangerous world when they leave the ministry centers.
“We want to be God’s hands to protect them. We want to be God’s heart to love them,” he said. “We want to be God’s feet to carry them to a better future, and we want to be God’s eyes to show them the right path.”
*name changed
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: 176LSM. Thank you!

Planting churches and crops

A church-planting ministry in Thailand has a vision to establish fellowships in every one of the country’s 76 provinces. They also seek to revive hundreds of small, struggling rural congregations by offering missionary training classes so they can evangelize their local area. Through agribusiness projects, the ministry is able to establish trusting relationships with villagers and help them develop sustainable livelihoods. Crop cultivation and the raising of livestock are opening many doors for community outreach—with the ultimate goal to produce a harvest of souls for God’s eternal kingdom.

Four Steps to Reversing Ministry Burnout

Four Steps to Reversing Ministry Burnout

By Rick Warren
I wrote last week about four big mistakes that lead to ministry burnout. One thing I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t just give us the causes of our problems in life. It gives us cures. When Elijah faced burnout in his ministry, God helped him do four things that are just as applicable to our lives today as they were in Elijah’s era.
If you are discouraged and on the verge of burnout, you’re depressed, or you’ve got the “blah’s”, and you want to be like Elijah and just run away from the responsibilities in your life, then you need to do these four things.

Step #1: Rest your body.

Relax. Take care of your physical needs. That’s the first thing you do when you’re getting emotionally burned out. When Elijah was at the point of burnout, the Bible says, “Then Elijah lay down under the tree and he fell asleep. All at once after a while the angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat’ and he looked around and by his head there was a cake of bread baked and hot coals and a jar of water and he ate it and drank it and he lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank again. And strengthened by that food he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:5-8)
It’s interesting to me that when Elijah started having a pity party and started contemplating suicide and started saying, “God, I just want to die!” that God did not scold Elijah. He did not add to his guilt. God’s remedy, step one, was to have Elijah to eat, then sleep, then eat and sleep some more. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is go to bed. It’s amazing how a good night’s rest will do wonders for your attitude. Weariness and fatigue promotes depression and getting in shape is an excellent preventative to emotional burnout. You will be a lot stronger spiritually if you’re physically strong. Relax. Rest your body.

Step #2: Release your frustrations.

Pray about it. Tell it to God. Get it off your chest. Complain to the Lord. Confess it to God. Spill your guts. Share with God what you don’t like.
God said to Elijah in v. 9, “What’s bugging you?  What are you bothered about?” Elijah let him have it, “Then he went into a cave and spent the night and the word of the Lord came to him, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ Elijah replied, ‘I’ve been very zealous for the Lord … “  and he tells God how he feels.
God let him complain until he was out of words. God did not interrupt him. God did not criticize him. God is not shocked when you complain, when you say, “God, I think my job stinks!” or “God, I don’t like the fact that I’ve had poor health.” God is listening. God was letting him get it off his chest. There’s a spiritual catharsis, a cleansing. And it always helps to have a Christian friend to talk to.

Step #3: Refocus on God.

Take your eyes off the problem and get a fresh awareness of what God wants to do in your life. God took Elijah outside. “Come outside the cave, Elijah. I’ve got something I want you to see.” And God put on a production. It was unbelievable. Verse 11 says, “God said, ‘Go out and stand in the mountain in the presence of the Lord for I’m about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” God put on one fantastic light show. There’s thunder and lightening, earthquakes, and rocks are splitting apart. It’s unbelievable, but God spoke to him in a whisper.
Isn’t that typical? God rarely speaks to us in the dramatic ways as when all of a sudden you feel the Lord’s presence and get a word from God. No, most of the time God speaks to us is in the quietness, sitting still, praying, reading the Bible, sitting out by a quiet lake and just being quiet before the Lord. It is then that He’ll plant an idea, an inspiration. God reminded Elijah that he was right there, that He hadn’t gone away, that He was there beside him, and He said, “Just be quiet. Realize I’m here with you.”

Step #4: Recommit your life to God.

Recommit your life to God’s purpose. Let God give you a new direction, a new purpose, a new job, a new career if need be, a new ministry. The Bible says in verse 15, “Then the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go back the way you came.'” He said, “Get back to work Elijah, go to this city and anoint this man to be the king.” He gave him a project, a job.
The quickest way to defeat your depression is to get involved in the needs of other people. Start a ministry. Find a place to give yourself away. As you give yourself away, God gives to you and you become a channel. The happiest people in the world are those who help other people. God gave Elijah a new job to do which would help other people.
Some of you are struggling with depression. You look like you’ve got iron poor blood. Maybe you didn’t feel like getting up and out of bed this morning. Maybe some of you are having a hard time making decisions. You just don’t know what to do. That’s a symptom of burnout when you can’t make decisions anymore — you’re not decisive. Maybe you feel like everybody’s against you and you’re gloomy and it seems like the world is falling apart. Maybe you’re trapped — trapped in a job you don’t like or trapped in a relationship you can’t stand and you don’t know what to do. You’re constantly tired. You have no energy. Maybe you feel like running away like Elijah did.
I have good news for you. Jesus Christ says there is hope. There is a way out. You don’t have to stay depressed. God can help you through it if you’ll take these steps. You’re not alone. God cares about you and so do the people in your church. You can change with God’s help.
photo credit: javi.velazquez

Friday, December 19, 2014

From Home Burnings and Violence in Syria, Good News Arrives in Turkey

From Home Burnings and Violence in Syria, Good News Arrives in Turkey

December 18, 2014
Perhaps, especially for children, a refugee camp is like a prison.
Among the anguished throngs that have fled Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists trying to take over the strategic city of Kobani in northern Syria, one refugee has good news.
As reported here on Oct. 16, when ISIS fighters invaded Kobani three months ago, a man in his 50s was forced to choose between fleeing the area to save his family’s life or waiting for his oldest son to return home. His son was out taking care of their sheep. In tears, the father left his son and took the rest of his family across the border to Turkey.
The director of a ministry providing aid in the refugee camp told Christian Aid Mission that on a recent visit to distribute aid, the smiling father hugged him.
“He told the story that I was waiting impatiently to hear, but I dared not to ask,” the director said. “He said, ‘After you had gone, in eight days my son came! When he saw the smoke of our village at our house that ISIS burned, he did not go to our house, but he ran away. He lost the sheep, but came by himself.’”
The ministry director in Turkey thanked supporters of Chistian Aid Mission for praying for the father, adding that he was happy to hear the refugee tell him, “God saved our son.”
The director prayed with the father and gave him a copy of the New Testament. Many people from various religious backgrounds at the camp were witness to the exchange, and after receiving aid and taking it to their tents, they returned and asked the director’s team to pray for them.
“They took their little children in their arms and came back to us,” he said. “They asked us to pray. ‘Our children are sick’. ‘Our old parents are sick’. ‘We want to go back to our country; pray that the ISIS terror will end’. ‘We want our children to eat well.’”
The team prayed with them over these concerns but told them the power for help did not come from themselves.
“We told them, ‘Jesus Christ has all the power. Pray to Him. He will help. Here, we brought you His Word,’” he said. “Actually, when I was distributing the aid, I was wondering about how I could distribute the New Testaments. But God had already prepared all the things spontaneously that needed to happen for the people to be open to receiving the New Testaments.”
ISIS has reportedly executed hundreds of Kobani residents as “infidels,” and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees estimates 400,000 mostly Kurdish people have fled to Turkey from the city and surrounding villages. As Kurdish forces continue to hold off ISIS fighters in Kobani, at refugee camps across the border illnesses are spreading. Most of the children and many of the elderly are sick. Baby food is lacking, and many children are without socks and shoes.
“At one time these people had houses, gardens,” the director said. “But now, unfortunately, they have nothing. For a kilo of mandarins, people are crushing each other and trying to get it.”
As the ministry team delivered aid, the director wondered what it must be like for children to be enclosed in a tent camp.
“You see the children who are standing by the wire fencing. They used to play in front of their houses easily, but people took from their hands their toys, their warm house, their food, their school, their hospital,” he said. “They are living as prisoners in fenced-in enclosures.”
Before the attempted takeover of Kobani in ISIS’s attempt to establish a Sunni Islamic caliphate in a region across Iraq and Syria, Kobani itself had been one of the centers of refuge for the estimated 6.5 million Syrians internally displaced by war. Of the more than 3 million Syrians who have fled to other countries, more than 1.6 million are estimated to have fled to Turkey.
A refugee child has only parsley to put into his bread.
“Children need boots for the cold months,” the director said. “We need many tents, electric heaters, quilts, beds and food. It is winter here, so they need so many fruits. While children in the free world were eating chocolate cakes, the refugees were putting only parsley into bread and eating that.”
Children are playing with rocks in the winter cold, and the ministry team supported by Christian Aid Mission would like to buy toys for them. Giving shoes to children, he said, makes you a hero, and they run to their parents to tell them so.
“The children who understood that we are helping them through your support, they ran to us and showed their love to us,” he said. “These children will never forget these painful days. At the same time, they will never forget that some Christians came and gave them boots, candies, and blankets. I am thankful to you. Thanks to you from those children for making them happy.”
The kids also have prayer requests. They asked the ministry team to pray for God to give them dolls and balls to play with, as well as coats.
The ministry provided tents to four families who were sleeping in the open air, and dozens of families still needed shelter. Some refugees have invited the ministry team to their tents to pray for people unable to walk because of their advanced years or sores on their legs.
“Every tent that we visited, we gave a little financial support to the oldest person of the tent secretly. In this culture, to support them openly would make them feel shame,” he said. “We told them, ‘God loves you so much, and these troubles are going to end. If you would like, you can read these love letters from Jesus from the New Testament.' Many young people took New Testaments to read.”
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: 416MPON. Thank you!

Fire and Ice

Temperatures are dropping to near freezing at night on the high plains of southeastern Turkey, where an estimated 400,000 Syrian refugees have settled after fleeing the Islamic State’s bid to seize the border city of Kobani and surrounding villages. Many refugees lost relatives to execution as ISIS joined anti-government forces in Syria’s civil war and sought to expand its strict Islamist “caliphate” across Iraq and Syria. Refugees lacking food and clothing saw workers with a ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission as heroes as the team strove to demonstrate their genuine care for them. “We tried to show them that we really care about them, and we prayed for them,” the ministry director said. “We were not just coming to give them New Testaments and leave – we really share in their pain.” The heaters that the ministry distributed were joyfully received, he added, but many more are needed along with baby food, shoes, blankets and coats, among other items.