PODCAST: Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon Celebrates 60 Years (Whyte House Report 11.08.20)

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According to Mission Network News, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Lebanon is celebrating 60 years of providing theological education for church leaders across the MENA region. And what a chaotic 60th year it has been. Elie Haddad, President of the school, says, “We had the economic meltdown in Lebanon with the hyperinflation, the social and political uprising, the pandemic, and then the big Beirut explosion in August. We’ve been through a series of crises.” All this, especially COVID-19, has caused ABTS to rethink its residency program and adjust programs accordingly. American missionaries first founded the school as an aid to church planting. Haddad says, “They started the school to train the pastors that were assigned to these new church plants. So, they came in, created the need, and met the need. It was an amazing thing for something like that to happen in 1960.” The seminary originally trained leaders for churches in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. Looking to the future, Haddad says ABTS needs to be aware of the challenges in the region, such as poverty, unemployment, and the fallout from COVID-19. ABTS always seeks to train church leaders for the real situations they will face. Haddad says, “It is not logical,” that a small school like ABTS should survive for 60 years. Praise God for His faithfulness, and pray He will continue guiding ABTS into the future.

According to the Christian Post, A Nigerian pastor is still being held captive by an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group despite previous reports that claimed he’d been freed. “Rev. [Polycarp] Zongo [of the Church of Christ in Nations] has not yet been released by the abductors, contrary to the false information earlier asserted,” Nigerian Christian lawyer Dalyop Solomon told The Christian Post on Wednesday. Churchgoers had prematurely celebrated the pastor’s rumored release as prayer vigils turned into celebratory worship gatherings amid the false reports. The jihadist terrorist group known as Islamic State West African Province, based in northeastern Nigeria, captured Zongo along with two Christian women who were traveling with him from Jos to attend a church conference in Nigeria’s state of Gombe on Oct. 19, said Nigerian Christian leader Gideon Para Mallam in an interview with CP. The group that released the proof of life video was the Islamic terrorist group Khalifah Army, Para Mallam said. It’s unclear whether the Khalifah Army has ties to either ISWAP or Boko Haram, he added. Para Mallam, who also heads the Nigerian Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, also confirmed that Zongo has not been released.

According to Mission Network News, For the first time ever, Deaf people with American Sign Language as their heart language now have a full digital Bible in ASL. The American Sign Language Version (ASLV) was primarily translated by Deaf people, for Deaf people. Deaf Bible Society helped propel this translation project over the last 38 years along with Deaf Missions, American Bible Society, Deaf Harbor, DOOR International, Pioneer Bible Translators, The Seed Company, and Wycliffe USA. Chantel Pagan with Deaf Bible says, “It’s been years and years in the making. So it’s such new ground to say, yes, we have every book of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in American Sign Language — the first sign language of many, many that are still waiting.” Deaf Bible’s website and app are easy ways for Deaf individuals to access sign language Bible translations. Deaf Bible works diligently with its partners to get these translations as soon as they are available and publish them on their digital platforms for distribution. With the completion of the ASLV and CBT Bible translations, over three million Deaf individuals now have access to all of God’s Word in their heart sign language for the first time in history.

According to Assist News Service, Being arrested is becoming a regular occurrence for pastors in India on the back of growing religious nationalism, warns  Christian charity  Open Doors. The charity says that more and more pastors in the country face arrest and detention on charges of breaking anti-conversion laws. For many of them it is now ‘part of the job’. Pastors are being arrested and detained for using ‘fraudulent means’ to convert people to Christianity. Those  who are arrested are seldom convicted, however they are left ostracised and struggling to find work – sometimes for years at a time. “Because most Christians are never convicted their punishment is never over,” said Asia communications director at Open Doors International Jan Vermeer. Anti-conversion laws exist in eight of India’s  29  states. While the wording  varies in each state, they generally state that ‘no person should convert or attempt to convert, either directly or indirectly, any person from one religion to another by use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means’. According to Jan arrests of pastors and of Christians more generally under the laws are taking place on a monthly basis. “The lack of convictions under these acts, compared to the significant number of arrests and cases filed against religious minorities, demonstrates the widespread abuse of the law to target religious minorities,” he said.

According to Christian Post, North Korean citizens infected with COVID are being placed in “quarantine camps” where they are deprived of food, water, and medicine, causing many to starve to death, Christian activists have revealed. Tim Peters, a Christian activist who runs Seoul-based nonprofit Helping Hands Korea, told The South China Morning Post that sources in the North had reported the establishment of COVID “quarantine camps” in cities near the Chinese border. “One of the more alarming pieces of information that has come our way is that the DPRK government is providing absolutely minimal or no food or medicine to those who are interred there,” said Peters, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Peters, whose NGO delivers medical and other supplies to North Korea, added that reports corroborate the testimony of survivors of the country’s prison camps. In those camps, “providing an absolutely minimum amount of food” is common practice, causing many inmates to die of starvation. “In short, my sense is that the situation pertaining to COVID-19 inside North Korea is gravely serious,” he said. David Lee, a pastor who works with North Korean defectors in Seoul, told the outlet that those who kept in contact with relatives still in the restrictive country had reported cases of people with COVID symptoms “being forced into isolation, or being boarded up in their homes without food or other support and left to die.” Lee said North Korean authorities “don’t have proper testing kits” to track or stop what is known in the country as the “ghost disease.”

According to to Mission Network News, Nigerian Christians continue to suffer from persecution and problems related to the pandemic, but Mission Cry is offering those suffering a measure of peace and hope. The ministry has sent three containers of Bibles and Christian books to the country. Jason Woolford of Mission Cry explains that these materials are vital for encouraging believers who live in fear of terrorist groups. “We’ve [sent the containers] because of Boko Haram. The radicals [are] charring bodies [and] cutting off limbs. [They’re doing] the most grotesque things all because these people are believers. The request has come from our Mission Cry missionaries asking for the Word of God,” he says. While one of the containers has already arrived in the country, the other two should be there around Thanksgiving. Woolford explains that Mission Cry still needs help financing the last shipment. “We would like to see the support, $11,000 for that container, come in before Thanksgiving. That sounds like a lot of money, but that’s going to support nearly half a million dollars worth of free Bibles and Christian books.” In addition to prayer and monetary support, you can help Mission Cry by donating your used Bibles and Christian books. “If it’s something that is bound, in decent shape, and has [all] the pages, then we can take that, and people [will be] so excited to get it overseas,” Woolford says.

According to Christian Post, For children living in impoverished regions across Russia and the former Soviet Union, Christmas is anything but “the most wonderful time of the year.” The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic collapse forced many state-run orphanages and children’s homes across Russia and neighboring countries to close, leaving thousands of children vulnerable to neglect, exploitation, and domestic violence. “The need in these areas is greater than ever,” Michael Johnson, president of the Slavic Gospel Association, told The Christian Post. “Not just physical, but spiritual, as well. There are children and teenagers who have no knowledge of God. Christmas is the most significant opportunity for evangelism in these countries.” To help meet this need, the Illinois-based SGA is partnering with local churches in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the former Soviet countries of Central Asia for Immanuel’s Child, an annual Christmas outreach event bringing hope to underprivileged children and their families. Launched by SGA in 2002, the Immanuel’s Child initiative last year reached 34,000 children with the hope of the Gospel. This year, in partnership with churches and individuals in the U.S., local Russian-speaking Christians hope to distribute Christmas gifts, children’s Bibles, and personalized ornaments to a staggering 50,000 children. “Orthodox churches in Russia celebrate Christmas from January 7 until January 11,” Johnson explained. “This gives us a great opportunity to bring unreached families into churches so that they can hear the proclamation of the Gospel. It really is one of the most effective tools because we support an event that’s already taking place, but the fruit that we see is absolutely phenomenal.”

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless you.