Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Spiritual Battles Rage in Sri Lanka

Spiritual Battles Rage in Sri Lanka

February 11, 2016
Sri Lankans worshipping in small, crowded sanctuary.
The kingdom of God is breaking in to people's hearts in Sri Lanka.
Many rural Sri Lankans incorporate spiritist rituals to appease demons in hopes driving out illness, but indigenous missionaries are seeing the kingdom of God break in as they offer a powerful alternative.
In Sri Lanka, an island country just south of India, about 70 percent of the people are Buddhists and 13 percent are Hindus, but Operation World calls for prayer against spiritual powers and principalities that heavily influence those religions.
"Beneath the layers of Buddhism and Hinduism lies an ancient cocktail of spirits, gods and demons," the authoritative missions handbook states.
Most people in the country attribute powers not only to images of the infamous "evil eye" but also to the "evil mouth," according to local press, leading rural dwellers to use Gara Raksha masks in ritual dancing to deflect misfortune. Gara was originally considered a demon, called Gara Yakka, but with good works it eventually made it into the pantheon of gods, according to Sri Lanka's Sunday Observer.
"The rural folk in Sri Lanka still believe that demons have the power to cause numerous diseases," according to the newspaper.
Certain demons (yakkas) are thought to cause different illnesses: Riri Yakka, diseases related to blood circulation; Kalu Yakka, ailments of females and infants; Ahimana Yakka, mental illness; Suniyam Yakka, paralysis. In drawn-out rituals, the yakka is represented by a dancer donning the designated mask while a shaman recites verses in time with a loud drum beat to drive the demon away. Demons are said to leave the patient after receiving offerings they have demanded.
Amid this mist of dark forces, a ministry leader based in the capital, Colombo, has trained more than 100 indigenous missionaries who have brought healing and salvation to people in southern, central and western pockets of the nation by invoking the power of Jesus Christ as Lord. One indigenous missionary trained by the director said he and other team members in a small town in Southern Province recently came across a woman in the grip of a malevolent force.
"A lady was possessed by an evil spirit, and she was sick," the indigenous missionary, an area pastor, said. "God delivered and healed her by His mighty power. Another person was paralyzed and could not speak. We went to their home, shared the Good News and prayed. God miraculously gave complete, divine healing."
The pastor also encountered a couple so deeply in debt the pair planned to commit suicide.
"We met them, shared the Good News and prayed for them," he said. "Thank God, who changed their minds and answered their problem."
In an undisclosed southwestern town, a pastor trained by the ministry said God has touched several people.
"A lady had a mental problem," he said. "Her family spent nearly 450,000 rupees [US$3,050] trying to help her, but there was no healing. When they heard about God, we went and she was prayed for. God gave her complete healing, and now she is coming to church."
A recently trained missionary who went to an undisclosed area less than six months ago said he encountered malice in the local people. He said the Good News he brought helped overcome their initial ill will, and knowing God has brought healing to the villagers.
"A 36-year-old woman was pregnant, and when she went to see the doctor, he told her that when she delivered her child, she would die," he said. "After she returned home, she was struggling in her mind. I shared the gospel and prayed with her. Thank God, now the mother and child are fine."
A pastor who was trained and sent to work in a small town in Southern Province, said God has worked many miracles in recent months.
"A blind man received his sight, and many evil-possessed people and sick people received divine healing and deliverance," he said. "Our big problem is there is no permanent building to have services in our town. We have many members."
Local opposition to constructing a church building is strong, he said, but the indigenous ministry director said there is a building available that would cost $21,000 to purchase.
Though many have come to Christ in the area, the church has been unable to visit some villages because managers of the tea plantation won't allow it. The indigenous ministry director said most tea plantations in southern Sri Lanka are owned by staunch Buddhists.
"They don't like Christianity," he said. "If people become Christian, they won't go to work on Sunday. It's a problem for the management. Some plantations are very strict and do not allow outsiders onto the tea plantation."
Likewise, in a town undisclosed for security reasons, a pastor said it was very difficult to proclaim Christ because area Hindus harass people who go to Christian worship.
"Some Hindus are going and telling people, 'If you become a Christian, you will die soon,'" he said. "This is a hindrance to my ministry. In any event, God has brought many children with whom to share the gospel. Through these children, I am able to visit their parents."
Most of the majority Sinhalese in Sri Lanka are Theravada Buddhist, while most Tamils, the largest ethnic minority, are Hindu. The indigenous ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission works among both Sinhalese and Tamil, with about 70 percent of its outreach directed toward Tamil Hindus, who have been more responsive to the gospel than the Buddhist Sinhalese, the director said.
The ministry director who trains these indigenous missionaries came to Christ himself after miraculous healing, he said. Though his parents were Christian, he was still resisting Christ when at age 23 he became seriously ill. Doctors told his family he would need an operation or he would die.
"Being poor and uneducated, my parents were opposed to this, afraid that surgery would just kill me," he said. "I realized there was nothing else to do except pray. I did not know how to pray, and all I said was, 'If you can heal me, I will believe in you.' Within one week I was healed – without an operation, and not even medication. With the help of my parents, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and gave Him my life."
While many in Sri Lanka come to Christ after healing, in some cases conversion comes first. A pastor in the southern city of Yakkalamulla said a family in one house church was in Satan's grip.
Sri Lankan children having Sunday school outside.
Sunday school at a village church in Sri Lanka.
"I met that family and shared the good news with them," he said. "Thank God, who delivered them from Satan's power. Now they are coming to church. Within the last six months, 14 people accepted Jesus and received water baptism."
Likewise, in a south-central town in Sabaragamuwa Province, a pastor reported that a 13-year-old girl was healed only after repentance.
"After we shared God's Word, they confessed their sin and accepted Jesus," he said. "After that, God healed her and delivered the evil spirit from that girl."
In past years the ministry director traveled throughout the country to train indigenous missionaries in three-day seminars, but he said there are no longer funds for that. He now settles for training seven missionaries the last week of each month in five-day seminars at the ministry center.
The ministry seeks assistance for the training seminars, construction of buildings for the churches that missionaries have planted and for three new workers to join the 10 team members that help the director evangelize, lead open-air meetings and organize cell groups and churches.
"I recruited three new workers to extend our ministry – I prayed many years, but this year I took a step of faith," he said. "Please pray for God's providence. I am no longer as physically fit, but God gives strength to do the ministry. Please pray for me."
To help indigenous missionaries 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: 701HML. Thank you!

Kingdom Building

Christians make use of an unfinished building in an undisclosed town in central Sri Lanka, where a native ministry is training indigenous missionaries who are overcoming entrenched belief in malevolent spirits, along with Buddhist and Hindu traditions, to present the gospel. Workers soon hope to finish construction of the building. Partly for cultural reasons, Sri Lankans prefer to meet in church buildings rather than homes, said an indigenous ministry director who trains church leaders in the country. "We want to finish the church construction this year, and we want to extend the church building in another town," he said. "We also want to build a church in a town in Sabaragamuwa Province – this is an urgent need, and we need at least $11,000. Congregations in three other towns also need church buildings."

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A Glimpse of God’s Love

A Glimpse of God’s Love (Writer's Opinion)

By Carol Round, Special to ASSIST News Service
CLAREMORE, OK (ANS – February 14, 2016) -- “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever”—Psalm 136:1(NRSV).
A glimpe of Gods loveOn a recent overcast day, the cold had driven the birds to my suet feeders. The feeders are located outside my kitchen window, offering me a great view of the variety of birds dining on the peanut butter laden treats. When we have an extremely cold winter, I have to refill the feeders more often. With this year’s milder weather, I’ve not had to do so. The usual visitors are shades of brown and gray.
On this particular day, several cardinals showed up to eat their share. I marveled at their red beauty and by the contrast they provided to the dull winter colors of the bare trees and dead grass. While the drabness of winter doesn’t bother me, the unexpected appearance of these creatures brought hope to my weary soul. Overwhelmed, all I could say was, “Thank you, God, for sharing your love today.”
If we would only open our eyes, we could see a glimpse of God’s love everywhere, every day. I am reminded of this when I see an elderly person struggling to open a door and, before I can respond, a teenager rushes to pull it open. I always smile because it’s a reminder of His love.
Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” That’s love.
When I read news stories of youngsters who have been inspired to help others by collecting coats or blankets for the homeless, I smile. That’s love.
1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
A glimse of heavenRecently, I witnessed something on the basketball court that made my heart sing. My 10-year-old grandson was participating in a game when a player on the opposing team tripped and hit the court hard. Instead of grabbing the ball he had dropped, my grandson stopped to make sure the other player was okay. That’s love.
Matthew 25:45 says, “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”
St. Augustine once said, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
When we change our view, we change our attitude. When we expect to see God’s love at work each day, we will. When we look for ways to express His love to others, we will find it. When we recognize God’s love at work, we’ll see a glimpse of heaven.
Photo captions: 1) A glimpse of God’s glory in the form of loving arms wrapped around a hurting little boy (http://jenniferbleakley.com). 2) A glimpse of heaven illustration (http://rachelyvonne.com/glimpse-heaven-romantic-short-story). 3) Carol Round.
Carol Round useNote: I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to email me with your thoughts at carolaround@yahoo.com . You can also visit my blog at www.carolaround.com.
** You can republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).

A Place a Church Can Call Home

A Place a Church Can Call Home

News Release from Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.org) – For Immediate Release
WILLS POINT, TX (ANS – Feb. 15, 2016) -- A crowd assembled around the little house. Someone stepped forward to lock the door from the outside. With rocks in hand and the exit securely fastened, villagers hurled their stones against the outer walls, yelling threats at the believers trapped inside.
Fellowship Begins Through Healing
Going to church GFAIt was a drastic measure, but the villagers living in the place where Gospel for Asia-supported pastor Nirbhay served believed only outcasts should worship Jesus.
When Pastor Nirbhay first began ministering in this place, few people responded to his message, yet Nirbhay still shared about the love of Christ.
After a few months, the Lord began bringing people to Himself through healing miracles in the village. Those with sicknesses and injuries were completely healed when Nirbhay prayed for them, and many people decided to follow the Lord. The pastor began worship services and prayer meetings in his home as the fellowship was birthed, but it came with opposition.
Forced to Move
Three times, circumstances forced the fellowship to move their place of worship to another location. The first time, villagers locked the believers inside the pastor’s home and threw rocks at the building. Then on two separate occasions, Nirbhay’s landlords were pressured by villagers to kick the pastor out of the house he was renting. Pastor Nirbhay and his family moved a few miles away, but the opposition only followed him. Three villagers stirred the people against him, encouraging them not to listen to the pastor. They even came with a group to beat Nirbhay, but the Lord protected him.
Church Withstands Opposition
Though a few in the fellowship were scared and stopped attending services, the rest of the believers grew strong in their decision to live for Jesus, believing the Lord would see them through each trial.
Soon the fellowship became large enough to need a bigger building. The believers searched the surrounding area, but no one would sell their land to be used for a church building. After looking at about 25 plots of land, the Lord answered the believers’ prayers and gave them a good piece of land to purchase. But problems arose yet again when they began construction.
Make shift church GFA“You cannot build a church here,” villagers insisted.
All construction came to a standstill as the congregation prayed and fasted together for more than a month. By God’s grace, the work finally began again 45 days later.
Standing on the Promises of God
In May 2015, Pastor Nirbhay and more than 200 believers gathered to worship together for the first time in their newly completed church building. Though some opposition still continues, God has strengthened the believers’ decision to live for Jesus in each trial and situation. Now, after nearly 10 years of waiting and shuffling prayer meetings from house to house, the growing fellowship joins together freely to offer praise and worship to the God who always provides for their needs.
GospelforAsia (www.gfa.org) is a mission organization sharing the love of Jesus across SouthAsia.
Find out how you can pray for church buildings by going to: (http://www.gfa.org/pray/2013/september-church-buildings/?cm_mmc=GFAReports-_--_--_-).
Photo captions: 1) Believers going to church. (GFA). 2) A make-shift church. (GFA)
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).

Prayer and Obedience

Prayer and Obedience

Prayer Thoughts: A Monthly Memo to Encourage Us in Our Prayer Life
By Colin Stott, Special to ASSIST News Service
Pray and ObeyMURRIETA, CA (ANS – Feb 15, 2016) -- “This is love for God: to obey His commands.” (I John 5:3 NIV)
Essential to effective praying is obedience. It is impossible to overstate the importance that the Scriptures put on obedience to God. It is a tangible way of measuring our love for Him. “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15 NIV).
Disobedience on the other hand is a great hindrance to prayer and usually indicates that there is something that seeks a higher place in our lives than God. If something not of God dominates our lives (our priorities, our time, our money or desires), and we are not willing to let go of it, then we have allowed that thing to become an idol.
A.W.Tozer doesn’t mince his words when he says: “Grace will save a man but it will not save him and his idol. The blood of Jesus will shield a penitent sinner alone but never a sinner and his idol.” A line from the old hymn Rock of Ages is a timeless word to us, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” We can’t go the way of the cross while covering up an idol or sin. It didn’t work for Achan (Joshua 7) and it won’t work for us.
A. W. TozerIf we are struggling with some issue of obedience, God’s answer is always the cross. The cross is that ground where the will of man intersects with the will of God: it’s the place where we choose either to obey His will or to disobey it. Satan will tempt us to refuse the cross or to seek a compromise. But there is no way around the cross, only the joyful necessity of bowing to God’s will.
Jesus desires our obedience because He knows that what He is asking of us is for our highest good. And He makes available all the resources we need—the desire to obey and His Spirit to empower us. With so much riding on our obedience: our love for Jesus, an ungrieved Holy Spirit, God’s glory in our lives, and our effectiveness in prayer; there must be only one outcome—our full surrender.
Our Lord won’t force us to obey but patiently awaits our willing consent. Will we bow the knee? This quote by May Stephens is a fitting prayer: “I choose Thee, blessed will of God! In Thee alone my heart can rest.”
Photo captions: 1) Don’t just pray -- Obey! 2) A.W. Tozer. 3) Colin Stott.
Colin StottAbout the writer: Colin Stott is International Prayer Coordinator for Global Recordings Network (GRN), a mission that provides audio Bible stories in over six thousand languages and dialects. Colin was born in England. He and his wife Patti make their home in Murrieta in southern California. For more information about GRN and using its materials visit www.globalrecordings.net. For more information about reprinting this article and others in this series on prayer, contact Colin at colinstott@globalrecordings.net  
** You may republish this or any our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Help Christians Provide Food and Employment to ISIS Victims

Help Provide Bread to Iraqi Refugees
You can help Iraqi Christians reach their neighbors in refugee camps.

VOM has worked closely with church leaders throughout Iraq for many years, and recently we met a group of Christians in northern Iraq who are prepared to share the gospel through a new and innovative outreach.

In partnership with a local church, the believers have established a bakery to support thousands of displaced refugee families. With VOM’s help, the bakery will be able to sell its products at very affordable prices. The Christians operating the bakery also plan to hire 10 Yezidi women who were severely persecuted at the hands of ISIS.

The budget to establish the bakery and help it become self-sufficient for the remainder of 2016 is $120,000, and The Voice of the Martyrs invites you to become a part of this unique outreach.

Help Sponsor the Bakery

Help Provide Bread to Iraqi Refugees

Our Iraqi brothers and sisters understand the challenges of sharing Jesus’ love among the refugees. They will bless the refugees with food for their bodies, while also sharing about the Bread of Life — Jesus Christ.

Help Iraqi Christians Serve Refugees

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Al Shabaab Kills Christians in Raid on Village in Coastal Kenya

Al Shabaab Kills Christians in Raid on Village in Coastal Kenya

At least four dead in latest Islamist extremist attack in the area
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
Jihardists attack Christians in KenyaNAIROBI, KENYA (ANS - February 2, 2016) – In a pre-dawn raid on a predominantly Christian area in coastal Kenya on Sunday (Jan. 31), Islamic extremist Al Shabaab rebels killed at least four Christians, beheading one of them, area sources said.
In the Kaisari area of Maporomoko village, near Pandanguo about 25 miles inland from the Indian Ocean town of Lamu, Al Shabaab rebels attacked from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., a wounded survivor at Mpeketoni Sub-County Hospital told Morning Star News (http://morningstarnews.org).
The victim, a Christian from the Maporomoko-Bondeni area who was shot in his right hand, said there were five or six heavily-armed assailants who spoke Somali and were dressed in military uniform. They shot two Christians to death, hacked and beheaded another and killed at least one other by setting his house on fire, he said.
“I could not understand them, so they shot me in my hand, but I managed to escape while a neighbor who was with me was beheaded by the other attackers,” the Christian (name withheld) said from his hospital bed. “As I fled for my life bleeding, I could see two houses burning. Those who were attacked are Christians. I am very sure that the attackers were looking for Christians.”
The beheaded man was identified only as Mwaura, a Christian.
“This is the third time the area has been attacked, and we have lost several Christians,” the survivor said.
According to the East Africa Correspondent for Morning Star News, the rebels, who are fighting government and regional forces in Somalia, regard the northern coastal area of Kenya as Islamic territory. Al Shabaab, linked with Al Qaeda, took responsibility for the attack in a call to news organization Al Jazeera.
“Our fighters attacked non-believers in the occupied Muslim land of Lamu,” a spokesman said. “Our Mujahideen [Jihadists] killed several non-believers in the attack. We will give more details later.”
Unknown people resembling Al Shabaab militants had previously been seen in Pandanguo, a predominantly Muslim area, an area Christian leader said. Pandanguo is about 60 miles from the Somalia border.
“The Muslims want to wholly own the coastal region, and they want that the Christians should leave the area for them, but our presence in Lamu will bring many to the Christian faith,” the pastor said. “God has called us to be the salt and the light and to lead many to the marvelous light of Christ.”
Maporomoko village has a population of about 2,000 people from Christian tribes – Kikuyus, Meru and Kamba – and from non-Christian or Muslim Orma, Boni and Wasanye tribes, as well as Somalis. The Al Shabaab militants attacked only the Christian areas, the Christian leader said.
Children worshipping the Lord in KenyaThe rebels burned homes, left several people wounded and kidnapped some Christians, according to various sources.
“Security forces were following the footpaths of those kidnapped, who disappeared into the Pandanguo area, which is the home of the Boni and Somalis,” the pastor said. “The Christians are now finding out about some of their missing neighbors. The security personnel are not disclosing information, as tension remains high in areas where Christians have settled themselves: Mpeketoni, Hindi and some parts of Maporomoko area, which has been a target of Al Shabaab militia.”
MSN went on to say that Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet told media the attack occurred near Pandanguo, which witnessed killings during June 2014 Al Shabaab attacks. Boinnet reportedly said security personnel were in the area tracking down the militants.
“They were dressed in military attire and heavily armed,” a senior police officer reportedly said. “They spoke in the Somali language and shot at locals and beheaded others before escaping on foot.”
On June 15, 2014, Al Shabaab rebels attacked Mpeketoni, in Lamu County, selecting out Christian males as they killed more than 57 people, area sources said. The estimated 50 Al Shabaab militants attacked two hotels, a police station and other buildings in a five-hour assault with guns and grenades. Sources told Morning Star News the attackers were chanting “Allahu Akbar [God is Greater]” and killing whoever could not recite verses from the Koran.
After Sunday morning’s assault, Mpeketoni residents on Monday morning (Feb. 1) protested terror attacks by Al Shabaab militia in the region. Police had to stop the demonstration of angry Mpeketoni residents to keep them from retaliation attacks on Somalis living in the area. At the same time, hundreds of people in Kaisari, greater Maporomoko and nearby Jima and Nyatha villages have been seen fleeing their homes.
“We feel very insecure, and our lives are in danger,” a mother of four in Hindi told Morning Star News. “Next time, the attackers will come and destroy us completely.”
Al Shabaab rebels have launched several attacks in northeast Kenya since Kenyan forces led an African coalition into Somalia against the rebels in October 2011, in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya’s coast.
Photo captions: 1) A Christian lies dead after attack by Al Shabaab rebels. 2) Children, who face great danger from Al Ahabaab, worshiping the Lord in a Kenyan church. 3) Dan Wooding speaking some years ago at an open air service in Kenya.
Dan Wooding speaking in KenyaAbout the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books and has two US-based TV programs and a radio show called “Front Page Radio.” He has reported from all over Africa for ANS, including Kenya on several occasions.
You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).