This is Whyte House Report podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Mission Network News, Super Typhoon Rai, known locally as Odette, claimed over 375 lives in the Philippines this weekend, and the death toll keeps rising. More details emerge as parts of the archipelago restore communication. Asian Access is on the ground, helping through local partners. “We see damaged houses, churches, flooded streets; there is a power outage in Cebu, and now no water,” National Director Herman Moldez says. “It’s difficult and [chaotic] but, at the same time, we see people beginning to organize [a response].” The strongest storm of 2021 made landfall on Thursday, affecting more than 1.8 million Filipinos. Information is still coming in, but many already compare Rai to Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the deadliest cyclone on record. “They experienced the same devastation and rising waters; it’s comparable to that situation (Haiyan). But I think people are more prepared [this time], so therefore, the disruption is not as big and fast,” Moldez says. Government officials preemptively evacuated more than 300,000 Filipinos before Rai made landfall, opening 674 evacuation centers. Hundreds of towns and villages in the central-south Philippines lack survival essentials like shelter, food, and water. Requesting prayer, one Filipino pastor told Asian Access via text: “Devastation in the Philippines after Typhoon (Odette/Rai) passed through… in some islands, 90-percent of buildings destroyed.” “We’re trying to assess the situation, understand the needs; we are gathering local resources as much as we can [to] respond to what is needed,” Moldez says. “Asian Access here (in the Philippines) is a small group, but we are part of a bigger network,” he continues, referring to the ministry’s collaboration with the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. Needs will vary by location. “Localities have different challenges,” Moldez says, but he expects immediate response efforts to include “helping (people) rebuild their places; give some food and water.” Pray people will find the hope of Christ through local believers.
According to Mission Network News, Theft in Lebanon is up by 265-percent. A research firm based in Beirut compared crime rates during the first ten months of 2021 to the same period in 2019. Lebanon’s never-ending crises drive widespread desperation. UNESCO estimates 1.25 million Lebanese families live below the poverty line, and 40-percent are below the extreme poverty line. “The increase in crimes, and theft, in particular, is the result of the political and economic instability,” a security source told Beirut Today. Officials received more than 500 theft reports in October alone. Ministries are not immune. “Last week, we had one of our generators stolen. We had it in a metal box with a double lock but still, people came in at night, and they broke all the locks,” Nuna of Triumphant Mercy Lebanon says. “Last night, we had somebody also trying to open one of our centers because we have computers and sewing machines. It was not stolen, praise God, but people are trying to steal.” The loss comes as Triumphant Mercy prepares a Christmas celebration for the poorest of the poor. “We’re going to have a celebration with children; taking them to a playground and do a Christmas activity, and give them gifts,” Nuna says. “We’re trying to make people feel a little bit better, which means not a regular food pack – beans and pasta and rice – it’s meat and vegetables and a whole dinner,” she continues. “We’re trying to celebrate in an extravagant way because I want people to feast on Jesus.” Pray the celebration points people to Christ.
According to Mission Network News, The Sammy Tippit Discipleship App has now been released in multiple languages spoken all around the world. Sammy Tippit is already hearing amazing stories about how Christians are using the app. For instance, one group of Brazilian Christians uses the app as they fellowship with Afghan refugees. Tippit says, “The Afghan refugees have been sent all over the world [since the Taliban seized control of the country]. And they’re receiving in Brazil thousands of Afghan refugees. The group that we’re working with has taken in a number of them. They use the Portuguese app and the Dari app because the materials are exactly the same. They can disciple Brazilians and Afghans using both apps.” Tippit says that’s the ultimate vision for this app: discipleship across languages. “Because you find in the book of Acts when people heard the Gospel in their own language, everyone was in amazement.” You can join this same work by downloading the app for free. It’s available in the Apple Store and Google Play.
According to Mission Network News, Rohingya refugees living in the U.S. and Europe have sued Facebook for 150 billion dollars. They say the platform allowed hate speech against them to spread in Myanmar. In 2017, the Myanmar military killed 10,000 Rohingya and drove many more from their homes into Bangladesh. The coup and continuing violence in Myanmar mean the Rohingya will likely have no chance to return home any time soon. Bruce Allen with FMI says the plight of about 1 million Rohingya is an ongoing disaster. “Just this week, 1,000 little shanty shops that these refugees have set up (in order to do business, buy food, or whatever they need) have gotten bulldozed by the Bangladeshi Government. Now the Bangladeshi government says these shops were illegal. And perhaps they truly were. But it’s what these refugees were relying on in terms of access to household items.” This week, a human rights expert from the United Nations will visit the Rohingya in Bangladesh. This includes an investigation of the island of Bhasan Char, where the government has moved many Rohingya.
According to Mission Network News, Thousands of people in Iraq amassed when the first Roman Catholic pope ever to visit the country arrived earlier this year, presenting local missionaries with an opportunity for mass distribution of Bibles – except when soldiers at a checkpoint confiscated them. Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq in March presented massive security challenges in the overwhelmingly Muslim country long battered by Islamic extremists, with all military and civil security forces taking stringent measures. Soldiers at checkpoints were instructed to seize the cargo of any transport vehicle, and before one major papal event, they confiscated local missionaries’ carload of Bibles. The soldiers told the workers they would return the Bibles after the event, the ministry leader said. The team had prayed that they would be able to distribute at least 1,000 Bibles during the event. “The strange thing is that we met several people while walking in the streets carrying the same Bibles that we distribute, and when we asked them, they said that they got them from the checkpoint,” the leader said. On the way back to the ministry base, the workers stopped at the checkpoint to retrieve the Bibles but found they were gone, he said. “When we asked the soldiers, they said, ‘It was written on them to be distributed free of charge, so we gave them to everyone who was stopped for inspection,’” the ministry leader said. “It seems that the Lord ensured the distribution of His Word in His own way. God’s plans are not like our plans, and His ways are not like our ways, for He is wiser and greater.” The workers distributed other Bibles to crowds at various cities and villages that the pope visited. “We had a team of 10 people, and each person was able to talk to 10 families to deliver them Bibles and visit them,” the ministry leader said. “We were able to reach 100 families in just two days. We visited these families after we presented Bibles to them and their children, and we invited them to accept Christ and His salvation. Many of them accepted Christ.
According to Mission Network News, Christians in Nigeria’s Zamfara State remain cautious after receiving threatening letters from extremists. The letters, delivered to local police stations, told Christians to close their churches or face death. Police have increased security for churches, but Fulani bandits now mostly control the rural areas of Zamfara State. Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says it’s not unusual for extremists to target churches during the Christmas season. “That seems to be what is happening in Zamfara State. A letter was delivered to the police saying ‘We’re going to attack Christians. We’re going to attack churches, between now and Christmas.’ The police are certainly treating it as a credible threat. They have warmed the Christian community. They have warned church leaders, ‘Hey, be on the alert, be cautious.’ We’ve got a few days until Christmas. We’ll see what actually happens.” Police are trying to figure out who exactly set the letters. They claim to be from a “Fulani association”. Nettleton says, “It’s not like it’s Boko Haram, a group that we know about and that has a history. There are certainly some questions about the letter. Who wrote it? Why was it delivered to the police rather than to a Christian leader? Nettleton says most churches haven’t canceled any Christmas services. But individual families have a decision to make.
According to Mission Network News, In Kenya, the Luo tribe and the Kalenjin tribe have feuded for over a decade. Young men from the Kalenjin tribe have stolen hundreds or even thousands of cows, and the Luo people have retaliated against them. Several people have died. In rural Kenya, especially among the Kalenjin tribe, a rite of passage for a young man is to bring a cow back to his family. Typically, they work to save up money and buy one. But corrupt leaders have used this rite of passage to convince young men to steal cows from their neighboring tribes, Bruce Allen with Forgotten Missionaries International says, “It’s even involving local politicians that are very corrupt, paying the youths to perpetrate these thefts. So then they bring the cow back to these corrupt politicians, and the politicians may present them to the families.” The rustlers sometimes steal $5,000 worth of cows per night. Allen says, “In the Kenyan economy, that’s huge. So there’s a big economic impact. There’s political fallout because of these corrupt authority figures as well. As the Luo people retaliate, Allen says, “It’s now not just an individual young cattle wrestler going out, but they’ve had to band together for their own security. It’s really a gang effort now.” Allen says, “They’ve taken to even going so far as announcing their intentions to a family. Before they come, they’ll say, ‘Hey, we’re going to come into your neighborhood tonight. And we’re going to take your cattle.’ It’s just escalated to the point of intertribal warfare.” Pastor Felix, an FMI partner, has planted a church among his fellow Luo people. But he has a vision for a reconciliation between the Luo and the Kalenjin. Allen says, “He’s been involved in trying to organize soccer tournaments. He recruits players from both sides of these areas so that they get to know each other and get to respect each other, even playing on the same teams so that they’re looking out for their teammates. He’s been involved in tree planting projects in the grasslands.” Early next year, Pastor Felix will receive packets of cards from FMI, explaining the story of Jesus in a Kenyan context.
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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.