Believers Feel the Heat in Turkey
In late January, 12 people, most members of the Turkish Christian Fellowship, were arrested in Ankara. One was accused of distributing Christian literature printed outside of Turkey. Apparently, the rest were imprisoned because of their association with the man. All were released a week later, but, according to one MNS source, at least two of them have since lost their government jobs. The rest are likely to be blacklisted and, undoubtedly, will experience social pressure from family and friends.
That incident followed a common pattern, according to another MNS source. Local authorities often are urged by fundamentalist groups to arrest Christians. Later, when word reaches government officials at the top, the local decisions are overturned.
Expatriate workers are watched closely as well. Authorities often show up at their doors unannounced to search their homes and ask questions. Subsequently, some have had their visas cancelled÷always without explanation.
One MNS source strongly suggested that Iranians who live in Turkey÷nearly one million live in Istanbul alone÷incite Turkish Muslim groups.
While the number of known evangelical Christians in Turkey is less than 300. radio programs and a type of "pen pal evangelism" are producing significant new contacts. The pen pal program gets about 100 responses per month. Inquirers are sent a Bible correspondence course; some; lowed up by Christians in Turkey.
Generally, social pressures and incidents like that in Ankara tend to keep Christians a bit secretive. But some believers in Ankara are becoming bolder. They want to approach the government and ask for legal permission to assemble.
Meanwhile, North American observers say there is a void in the lives of many Turkish Muslims. Many don't attend mosque. Some Muslim traditions, such as the women's headcovering, have been changed or done away with. The traditional day of rest has been moved from Friday to Sunday.
According to the Kansai Mission Research Center, in 1950 there was one Christian for every 40,000 Japanese; in 1980 the number of Christians had increased so that there was one Christian for every 19,000 Japanese.
Evangelical Church Alive and Growing in Brazil
One of the keys to this growth has been the development of national leadership. There are now 27,000 ordained Brazilian pastors, close to 6,000 evangelical students in seminaries, 4,000 in Bible institutes, and another 12,000 enrolled in TEE (Theological Education by Extension) programs.
While not all the seminary and Bible college students will go into the ministry, and while most of those in TEE programs will remain unordained, still, there is a tremendous pool of trained leadership within the Brazilian churches.
According to Richard Sturz, a veteran Conservative Baptist missionary, another major contributor to church growth in Brazil is the "supernaturalist grasp of reality" found in Pentecostal and charismatic churches.
Sturz says Pentecostal and charismatic churches account for over three-quarters the total evangelical population in Brazil.
"While money, food, and clothes are important to the (Brazilian) people, God and spirit beings are much more significant," Sturz said. "The Brazilians hunger for a direct and personal relationship with the transcendent world of the spirits.
"It simply is not true, in Brazil at least, that one must care for (the people's) physical needs before they will have an interest in spiritual matters."
Christians are not permitted to conduct mass evangelism, in some areas there is occasional government interference in church matters, and almost no church enjoys trained leadership. Still, for the most part, Christians have considerable freedom to worship, and individual believers are involved in personal evangelism.
Rural Churches in Sri Lanka Multiply
Following on the heels of a 21 percent increase in 1985, the expansion of Christianity in this tiny island comes after a century of steady decline.
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (ICFG) is one of the largest groups working in this tiny island nation. Eloise Clarno, executive secretary of the ICFG's department of missions, said that besides the sovereign work of God, the only explanation for the rate of growth is the fact that "signs and wonders are following the ministries of the indigenous leaders."
"Most of our churches have been started as the result of someone being miraculously healed, or delivered from demonic powers," she said.
Although church growth strategists rejoice in the increase in the number of rural churches, they point out that rural churches number only 648.
Sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, "Singapore '87" sought to foster networks of cooperation and trust among those who will give significant leadership to the Church into the twenty-first century.
Integrity, devotion, and family life were considered in plenary sessions and workshops during the first five days. The second five days tackled such issues as urbanization, population growth, injustice, and the need to reach unreached peoples.
The plenary session on unreached peoples featured addresses by John Robb of World Vision, John Stott of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and Martin Alphonse, a leader in south India and former missionary to Singapore.
Stott and Alphonse gave strong endorsements to current efforts to identify and reach unreached peoples, but both expressed reservations about the application Of the "homogeneous unit principle" which undergirds much of the frontier missions movement.
Stott called for a greater emphasis on cultural heterogeneity in the local church, and Alphonse noted the complexities of distinguishing between peoples in today's rapidly changing cultural contexts.
Persecution Leads Muslim to New Life
As he lay in bed following his release, waiting for his mangled feet to heal, Hasim's thoughts turned to the gospel message his captors had accused him of preaching. He was moved to pray.
"God, if these things are true, make yourself known to me," he said.
To his amazement, his feet were healed immediately. He leaped up and began praising God.
Later, the Christian whom the police had been seeking came to Hasim's door to ask his forgiveness. He was surprised and pleased to find he had a new brother in the Lord.
Prisoners Converted in Muslim Country
The commissioner of two prisons asked missionaries to start a literacy work among illiterate prisoners. Six prison officers were trained and 250 prisoners were enrolled.
The literacy materials are based on the Bible, so that as prisoners are taught to read, they are learning the Scriptures.
As a result, prisoners are continually coming to faith in Christ. In addition to the literacy course, a discipleship training program has also been started in the prison. The group has grown so much that it has been divided into three groups.
Unreached Peoples Congress in Mali Sets 10-Year Goals
Rev. Nock, himself a Muslim convert who narrowly escaped death at the hands of his own family, urged the great majority of Christian workers deployed in the more developed south to brave the inhospitable desert conditions in order to minister to the northern nomadic tribes.
At the end of the Congress, the participants adopted the ten-year goals of:
1. Planting the Church in all 35 ethnic groups (12 of these have not yet been entered by Christian workers, and in only three of the 35 do Christians number more than one percent); and
2. Winning 20 percent of the population to Christ.
Tanzanian Church Growth Breaks Records
Doug and Evelyn Knapp, who went to Tanzania as agricultural missionaries, ministered in the area for 16 years before the spiritual breakthrough began. They credit much of the growth to prayer, crusades by U.S. volunteers, the work of trained African evangelists, and the foundational efforts of earlier missionaries.
Bulgarian Churches Grow Against the Grain
In January Ignatov was sentenced to three years labor in the south. His deportation follows six years of persecution by the authorities, including the abduction and molestation of his eight-year-old son.
The unregistered Pentecostal Church, which authorities say will never be sanctioned, has endured four generations of oppression and has started over from nearly nothing several times, yet today it represents 4,000 believers.
The churches in the capital city of Sofia secretly baptized 200 new believers last year, bringing the total there to 600. The baptisms are held at night in the mountains and other remote areas. In the larger cities the Christians meet in homes, though the homeowner faces a penalty as high as two months salary if they are caught in session.
Working in such a context, the believers use every occasion, including weddings and funerals, to build each other up in the faith. They contact each other daily to pray for one another, which may help explain how they are able to function when their leaders are taken away by the authorities.