Global News Update
Three Evangelical Church Leaders Assassinated Within Six Months
The Rev. Tateos Michaelian, age 62 and pastor of St. John's Armenian Evangelical Church in Iran, was found shot to death sometime between June 29 and July 2, 1994 in Tehran. He had recently been appointed Chairman of the Council of Protestant Ministers in Iran, a post previously held by Bishop Haik Hosvepian-Mehr, who was stabbed to death by "unknown assailants" on January 20th of this year.
News of the discovery of Pastor Mehdi Dibaj's body was released on July 6, 1994, with the cause of death reported as unknown. The 60- year-old Rev. Dibaj was a convert to Christianity from Islam and was a pastor in the Assemblies of God Church in Iran. Since 1984, he had been detained on charges including apostasy (renouncing Islam). For two years during his detention, he was held in solitary confinement and subjected to periodic torture and mock executions. On December 21, 1993, the Sharia (Punitive) Court in Sari delivered his death sentence (for the third time) for apostasy. However, as a result of the advocacy of Bishop Haik Hosvepian-Mehr and the inter-national attention focused on his impending execution, he was unexpectedly released on January 16th of this year.
On December 13, 1993, the Middle East Concern (MEC) issued a detailed report concerning Iran's evangelical Christians, stating that they faced "an unprecedented wave of state-sponsored persecution." On January 30, 1994, the MEC called upon Iran-ian authorities to "fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and death of Bishop Hosvepian-Mehr and to bring those responsible to justice."
In light of the latest two assassina-tions, the MEC urgently recommends that the United Nations Human Rights Commission issue an immediate mandate to its Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions and its Special Rapporteur on Iran to conduct independent inquiries into all of these deaths.
It is encouraging to note that in spite of the persecutions, church membership in Iran is growing. David Bentley of the Zwemer Institute for Muslim Studies attributes this phenomenon to two things: one, the Spirit of God is using the persecutions to turn people to Christ; and two, Islamic fundamentalism is alienating some people, causing them to become non-religious or to turn to Christianity as an alternative.
Steve Spaulding of DAWN Ministries reports that the 1.4 million Ietiem* people of northern India are on the brink of receiving and accepting the gospel as a nation. Although they are surrounded by other tribes who have been Christianized through earlier missionary work, the Ietiem have been resistant to the gospel because of the ethnic skirmishes and deep-seated rivalries among the Christianized tribes around them.
George*, a missionary from South India who has been working among the Ietiem, reports that in late 1993, two Christian workers, one of them an Ietiem, were traveling through a neighboring tribal area, reading the Bible on a bus. At a bus stop, they were hauled off the bus and horribly mutilated before being killed--their hands were cut off for holding the Bible, their eyes gouged out for reading it, and their tongues cut out for sharing the gospel; they were then told to walk away before being shot in the back; both died on the scene. As a result of such atrocities, the Ietiem have told George to go and "evangel-ize" the so-called Christian tribes that are daily slaughtering each other's children over territorial disputes, before coming to them with the "good news" of peace and love. George and his family have been threatened at gunpoint due to his perseverance in trying to reach these people.
However, in spite of these setbacks, there is good reason to believe that the whole Ietiem tribe will soon accept and receive the Gospel of Christ. Like the "Peoples of the Lost Book" reported by Don Richardson in his book Eternity in Their Hearts (Regal, 1981), the Ietiem have been predisposed to hear the message of Christ for centuries, resisting the Hinduism practiced by the majority of Indian nations with all its idolatry and pantheistic confusion. George has been able to obtain a photocopy of an ancient book from one of the priest figures in the tribe which explains the Ietiem's predisposition to being reconciled with their Creator-God.
The book involves the missionary work of a strange group called the Nestorians who are known to have gone to central China and parts of India as early as the 5th and 6th cen-turies, A.D. The Nestorians especially influenced the aristocrats and rulers of the day with the "philosophy" of the Christian faith, and the account of their work include references to the virgin birth, "Emmanuel," a name akin to "Jesus," other Hebrew extractions, pagan drawings and relics which include the Christian cross.
There is also a prophecy mentioned in the book that has been fulfilled today, causing "quite a stir" among the Ietiem. This prophecy foretold that, while none of the Ietiem women are ever to marry outside of the clan, there would be one woman who would go to a faraway country called "Angleland" and marry a man from there, and the entire tribe would embrace the religion of that man. Spaulding reports that one Ietiem woman recently emigrated to England and married a theology professor there! Since her return to her home- land, she has been approached and questioned by those who "know the times" and consider the prophecy fulfilled.
The dubbing of the"Jesus" film into the language spoken by the Ietiem was completed in mid-June of this year, and the governor of the state in which the Ietiems live have granted permission to show the film to over 40,000 Ietiems on the polo grounds of the state's capital city on August 15, Independence Day in India.
Furthermore, the King of the Ietiems has officially renounced Hinduism as the "formal religion" and is now "within a stone's throw of Christian conversion, reading the Bible regularly, and showing signs of sympathy for the Christian message." And there are churches now in 74 of the 1,948 Ietiem villages, most of them planted within the past two years.
*This report was extracted from the "Spaulding Update" published by DAWN Ministries in January, 1994. Names of the tribe and Indian missionary have been changed for security reasons.
Thousands from the feared Malto tribe of India are turning to Christ
The Maltos are a tribal group of people living in the state of Orissa in East India. They are illiterate and very much feared because of the violence and lawlessness rampant among them. They are plagued by witchcraft and evil spirits, and a social structure hardly exists among them. Children do not know who their parents are, and children die daily among them.
Missionaries serving with the Friends Missionary Prayer Band (an indigenous Indian mission) report that during the past few years, the gospel has come to the Maltos "with great power and blessing," and about 28,000 of them have turned to Christ as a result. Whole villages have become believers as first-century-type miracles happen among them on a daily basis--the dead have been brought back to life, lepers have been healed instantly with no marks of the disease left on them, and witch doctors among them are becoming elders and pastors among them.
The Malto believers are strong in prayer. They cannot read, and the Bible is not in their language, so prayer is "their only vital daily experience with the Lord." They pray for everything, for hours at a time, singing and dancing "with all that is within them," and God hears and answers. Witnesses go from village to village to spread the good news; they pray for the sick and they are healed!
Malto Christian men are now committing themselves to one wife; and if anyone is caught drinking, they are tied to a tree for a number of days without food! They also have a "Jesus time" every night when they meet to sing and pray and witness the work of the Lord among them. Furthermore, some of them are committed to go daily to witness in a village that has not yet heard the good news!
Algeria on the Brink?
Algeria seems to be tottering on the edge of chaos. Radicals murdered a French nun and priest May 14, bringing to 34 the number of non- Muslim foreigners slain since last fall. France is reported to be planning to evacuate its 40,000 citizens still there. The United Bible Societies' bookshop in Algiers, the only such establishment in North Africa, closed its doors March 27, after an employee was kidnapped, threatened, and released.
"Armed banditry is widespread and ordinary Algerians despair," one agency in the region reports. "Satellite dishes are destroyed, cigarette and newspaper kiosks are closed and their vendors killed, taxes collected following death threats, businesses closed which are not in accordance with Islamic law, women not wearing the veil are murdered. Fundamentalist leaders are appearing publicly."
Tired of Islamic terrorism and the government's lack of protection, beleaguered Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt are emigrating in large numbers. Tourists, vital to the economy, continue to stay away, to the tune of $1 billion over two years. In a country where 10 percent of the people depend on tourism, this is bad news.
Separately, Egypt's highest mental health board has ordered the release of the Egyptian who has been held in a mental ward for more than a year since his arrest with four Westerners on charges related to evangelism. The Egyptian, Abdul Hamid Adil Nafi, was arrested February 21, 1993.
Christians in Pakistan are worried over the Lahore High Court's ruling that the notorious blasphemy law covers all prophets, not just Muhammad. Now, Christians who worship Jesus as God may be found liable, since this goes against Quranic teaching. Several Christians and members of other religious minorities have already died as a result of the law, before the recent ruling.
World Population Growth
The world's population has hit 5.6 billion and will reach 7.9 billion by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Ninety percent of the newcomers will come from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Despite the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, that region will grow from 572 million to 1.1 billion. Today the median age in the non- Western world is 23, compared to 35 in the West.
New President Named for the Slavic Gospel Association of Loves Park, Illinois
On July 6, 1994, Board Chairman Warner Tillman announced that the Board of Directors had unanimously voted to name Dr. Robert W. Provost as president of the Slavic Gospel Association.
Dr. Provost is currently serving as European regional director for SEND International, and he is also president of Intocentre Ltd., a small joint venture between Kiev State University, Ukraine and SEND International. He holds a B.A. from Syracuse University, where he majored in Russian studies. He received his M.Div. from Grace Seminary and an honorary D.D. from Master's College and Seminary in Santa Clarita, California, where he was the executive vice-president and chief operating officer before joining SEND International. He will assume his new post with the SGA on September 1, 1994.
SGA is an interdenominational mission organization which has been working in the former Soviet Union since 1934, focusing on equipping churches in the Commonwealth of Independent States with Christian literature, training, and humanitarian aid.
Morris Watkins of All Nations Literature Goes Home to Be With the Lord
On Thursday, May 9, 1994, founder of All Nations Literature, Dr. Morris G. Watkins went home to be with the Lord. Dr. Watkins was a graduate of Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska, and Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. He received his Doctor of Missiology degree from Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Mission. After serving as a Lutheran missionary in Nigeria, Dr. Watkins and his wife Lois returned to the United States, where he founded and established the Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT). After serving eight years as Executive Director of LBT, Dr. Watkins started All Nations Literature, of which he was president at the time of his death.
Both Dr. Watkins and his wife Lois helped in the recruitment, training, and sending of scores of missionaries to many countries. They taught together in China for three summers, and then produced a Christ-centered dictionary which has been distributed in over 100 countries. Dr. Watson also wrote a number of other books and articles for use in evangelism and missions awareness. He is survived by his wife Lois, one brother, four sons, three daughters, nineteen grandchildren, and one great grandson.
Response to the May-June issue of Mission Frontiers
The Institute of Native American Studies has been overwhelmed with responses to the May-June issue of Mission Frontiers. The limited staff (Dot and Art Everett) are trying desperately to respond to well over 200 phone calls, letters and faxes. Some of these are relatively simple to answer; others are requesting detailed information on as many as 20 different people groups.
The Institute is still in the process of surveying much of North America. In many cases, that detailed information is not yet available. However, many people have indicated a willingness to do short-term survey work or write people profiles. The Institute is trying to coordinate the prospective laborers with the fields of labor.
One of the most encouraging statistics to come out of the Native American issue of MF is the 36 individuals who have indicated a desire to become actively involved in ministry to Native Americans. The INAS is working to link them with agencies with whom they might work.
If you have not yet received a response to your inquiry, please bear with them. The INAS will respond to you as soon as possible. And pray for the three individuals who are in the midst of the application process. They are applying to work on staff of the U.S. Center for World Mission, with a request that they be considered for assignment to the Institute of Native American Studies.
The following are a sampling of the responses we've received from readers:
"Please send me a list of Native American peoples. I just read the my issue of Mission Frontiers magazine. I was deeply moved by the entire issue. I had no idea that there are so many unreached people groups on this continent."--Sarah, from Austin, TX
"I recently read with great interest your article in the May-June '94 issue of Mission Frontiers. As long as I can remember, I have had a heart for Native Americans but until now had neither the opportunity nor the knowledge of any Christian agencies ministering to their needs. Please send me any information you can concerning the areas of service you need help with."--Charlene from Washington NJ.
"I am in the process of reading your latest Mission Frontiers magazine, and I am mentally processing some recent happenings and past history. The present result is a desire to begin to pray consistently for the unreached peoples among Native Americans. So I am responding to MF, p.18, suggestion 3. Please send me a list of Native American peoples, including identification of the unreached." --Jean M. Davis from Lompoc, CA
"For about three years I have been serving as a missionary with Youth With A Mission to the Native Americans on the Lac Courte Orialles Reservation near Hayward, WI. God has called me into full-time ministry to Native Americans, and my team and I have been doing an in- depth study of their culture and relationship with white Americans. We would like to know more about what the Native Americans faced when white men entered their territory. We believe the more we know about the Native Americans, the better we will be able to relate to them and understand their culture. I would greatly appreciate any information you have that would give me a better understanding of Native Americans." --Matthew Stone Weyerhaeuser, WI
"I am considering working with Indian Health Services, U.S. Government, as a nurse and would like to know about the different Christian agencies and missions that are working across the U.S. mainland and Alaska. If you have a list of these mission agencies, please send it to me." --Myrna Jung Alexandria, VA
"I recently read with great interest your article in the May-June '94 issue of Mission Frontiers. As long as I can remember, I have had a heart for Native Americans but until now had neither the opportunity nor the knowledge of any Christian agencies ministering to their needs. Please send me any information you can concerning the areas of service you need help with, what education/training is required, and if there are any programs I could be in that would afford me an opportunity to work directly with Native Americans. One of your goals, I see, is a training program to help missionaries focus on reaching people within the framework of their cultures. Do you have specific information on that?" --Charlene Warner Washington, NJ
"Our blessed, Holy Triune God called me into intercessory prayer twelve years ago. Can I help, or fast and pray for you? May He bless, help and use you for His honor and glory." --Howard F. Shoop Columbus, OH
"We have read your articles in the May-June Mission Frontiers, and we also have great interest in Native American peoples. We are non- Indians, originally from Ohio, but God placed the Native Americans in our hearts nearly 30 years ago and we rejoice when we hear of others who are working to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God's great love for them. For about five years in the early 1970s we were missionaries on the Navajo Reservaton in Arizona and have kept close contact with many of our Navajo and Anglo friends there. The Navajos are definitely a "reached" group! For a number of years, we have led a weekly prayer group, praying for a move of God among Native Americans. Our group is small, but we believe that God hears the prayers of even "two or three gathered together" in His name. Many times we have prayed for unreached Indian groups in general. Would it be possible to obtain a list of the unreached Native American groups so we can pray more specifically, or is such a list even compiled at this point? Even a partial list would be helpful. We were very interested in your article about the Pueblo peoples and possible ways to reach them. We have been aware that they have been closed to outsiders, yet God knows the way into their hearts. There will be some from EVERY group before His throne rejoicing, so there will be Pueblos there also! Please let us know if a list of unreached Native Americans is available, if we would be able to obtain a copy of it, and what the cost would be (we realize that research costs money). God bless you for your care for Indian peoples." --Phil & Angie Davis Pasadena, CA
"Greetings from Australia! I am writing to you regarding a possibility of a short-term mission with your organization. I was reading the journal Mission Frontiers and saw your advertisement for short-term workers in survey work. I am currently in my second year of Bible College, studying for a Diploma in Missiology, and I need to experience a 4-5 week cross-cultural ministry as part of the requirement for the course. I would be interested in helping in any part of Canada/America, in any capacity required." --Michelle Taylor Lilydale, Australia