Women of faith and risk

Bob LuntBy Bob Lunt

Praise God that women are coming to faith in Jesus across the Muslim world. Yet for many the personal cost is horrifically high, as they are marginalized and persecuted both for their faith and their gender. Please pray for women like these:

  • - Aizah* faced violent rejection from her family when she chose to follow Jesus. Yet now she wants to help other women who suffer for their faith and gender. “We want to have a safe house for women expelled from home after their conversion”, she says.
  • - Aasma* became a secret believer four years ago but her Saudi family have since married her to a Muslim. She prays in secret but has few chances to meet with other Christians.
  • - Nava* started following Jesus after meeting him in a dream, like so many Iranians. She is now boldly sharing her faith with others. “I know I’m risking my safety. But it doesn’t stop me. I can say wholeheartedly I am ready to suffer for Him.”
  • - Mansuri was rejected by her Bangladeshi family and community after marrying a Christian and becoming a believer. But through her husband’s witness her family came to Christ. She now runs a Bible study group for women after attending an Open Doors Bible class.
  • - Joyce came to faith in China from a Muslim background and was imprisoned for that faith in 2017. Now released, it is too dangerous for her to connect with other believers.

Naomi* is a pastor’s wife from Indonesia, where there is rising religious intolerance. Besides some violent attacks on churches, Christians experience discrimination and verbal abuse. Most members of Naomi’s church are from a Muslim background and face oppression from their families. “People who are forced to leave home for accepting Jesus have to live in other church members’ houses”, she says. “Their relatives only want them back when their economic situation improves. Their children are frequently mocked and intimidated at school. But we stand strong.”

Open Doors has launched a campaign called See. Change. to restore hope, dignity and identity to women persecuted for their faith and gender. Across the Middle East and North Africa Open Doors’ partners are establishing leadership development programmes for women to help them share the Gospel. And in situations like Naomi’s, Open Doors runs projects to help people improve their economic circumstances.

Source: Open Doors

*Name changed

Editorial – May 2019

by Carole Robinson

Try Honking not Bleating

At the time that I am writing this it is still the Easter Season. Fields are filled with the sight and sound of bleating young lambs and there are still some Easter Eggs on the Supermarket shelves, bur before long we shall be hearing different sounds.

At the end of summer when the harvest has been safely gathered in, the village of Treeton is blessed by a visit from a large skein of Grey Lag Geese. They come at the same time every year to glean on the grain that has been left behind by the Combined Harvester. I have no idea how they know what time of year it is or how they find their way to Treeton, but I was so impressed by them that I looked up some facts about the geese, these are just some of them:

  • The geese fly in V formation, this reduces the amount of effort each goose needs to lift them into the air and to keep them on the right track.
  • When the lead Goose gets tired it moves back and a new leader comes forward.
  • When a Goose becomes ill and drops out of formation other geese go down with it and don’t leave it until it gets better or dies
  • Throughout the flight the Geese at the back are continually honking to encourage the geese at the front

I think we could learn a great deal from the Geese, don’t you.

At the moment, the Rivers Team and the Church of England as a whole are facing great changes. Like the Geese, we need to work together as a team, if we are all working together for the same goal the job will be much lighter. During the season of Lent, we looked at the Early Church and learned how they worked together sharing everything they had, their possessions, and their gifts. Working together in unity made them more effective and their numbers grew.

We need to comfort the sick, and champion the used and abused in our society.

We need to support our leaders especially Margaret and Philip as their work load grows and we need to recognise and raise up new leaders. As we continue to grow as a church, let us remember to always to do more Honking than Bleating

Spotlight on Mission – Tear Fund

spotlightWE’RE CHRISTIANS PASSIONATE ABOUT ENDING POVERTY

Tear Fund Go – every year many people volunteer to go on overseas for a short time to help with a project and here are some reflections on two volunteers Julie and Earl.

At first glance it looks like their common ground is both being over the age of 65. But, after they shared their experiences of travelling with Tearfund, I discovered that it’s their courage and closeness to Jesus that unites this brilliant pair.

Julie didn’t know that she was a teacher until she was faced with a room full of people to teach in Zambia. She gave a lesson in how to care for others, listen well and resolve conflict. You may think that you don’t have the skills to be a volunteer, but if you’ve ever led a Bible study, hosted a small group or been through a challenge in your life then you’ve got experience and wisdom to share.

Julie learnt that it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s about your strengths. ‘An older man was surprised to see me painting, and asked me my age,’ she says. ‘When he heard I was in my early 70s, his verdict was that I was strong.’

For Earl from Lincolnshire, the challenges started before he even left the country. First, where to go? ‘Cambodia seemed to stand out,’ says Earl. But after some research, he changed his mind. ‘I don’t do heat, and 28–32 put me off.’ Yet, within a few days… ‘God spoke to me through his word saying not to worry about conditions. He will help me cope in whatever circumstances,’ he says.
Next, the cost. Recently retired and on a pension, Earl had every reason to be careful. But a timely sermon confirmed the decision to travel. Did age ever factor into Earl’s decision? ‘Yes, my age did make me hesitate,’ says Earl. ‘But not my ability.’ Earl’s courage comes from his relationship with God: ‘It is not what we can do, but what God can do through us,’ he says.

Find out more about Tear Fund by visiting their website

They want to wipe us out

Bob LuntBy Bob Lunt

In November, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) brought six men and women from Burma to meet politicians, journalists and Christian leaders in London and Brussels. These religious leaders and human rights defenders from three ethnic groups shared their stories of Burma’s crisis and pressed for urgent action.

“We see human rights violations by the state and the military as crimes against humanity”, said one. Another explained: “Rape, sexual violence, torture and arbitrary arrest are some of the abuses meted out. The military want to wipe ethnic people out.” The six asked the UK to ensure that justice, human rights and accountability are at the centre of its relationship with Burma.

The country was ruled for over 50 years by military regimes which committed grave violations of human rights. It has also endured over 60 years of civil war between the military and many of the ethnic nationalities who seek autonomy. Religion and ethnicity are intertwined, and Burma’s minorities have suffered severe violations of their human rights, including that of freedom of religion or belief.

At heart is the question of Burma’s identity. Does Burma wish to be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, or a Burman, Buddhist nation which at best tolerates non-Burmans and non-Buddhists, or at worst seeks to repress, restrict and drive them out? In 2011 the military broke a 17-year ceasefire with the mainly Kachin Christian armed resistance, unleashing a major new offensive. In 2012 a campaign against the mainly Muslim Rohingya escalated, resulting in horrific violence in Rakhine State. In 2013 anti-Muslim violence broke out in other places. And in 2016 and 2017, renewed brutality against the Rohingya claimed hundreds of lives. All this despite head of government Aung San Suu Kyi’s expressed desire to confront religious hatred.

The chair of the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said: “The military has systematically targeted civilians, and established a climate of impunity for its soldiers. I have never been confronted by crimes as horrendous and on such a scale.” His report concludes that senior generals must be investigated for genocide and war crimes.

The genocide against the Rohingya is well known. But non-Rohingya, Christians, and even Buddhists who try to counter militant Buddhist nationalism, face severe danger. Yet the risk the six people took in coming to Europe to share their stories shows the flame of hope still burns.
Source: CSW

Editorial – April 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker, Team Vicar

Dear Friends
As I write this editorial Lent has just begun. I wonder if you have managed to do whatever you have planned during this time or perhaps it’s been rather a struggle. Like many of you I have had my ups and downs, as life has thrown a few curved balls and I have not quite achieved everything I wanted to. But one thing I know I will be able to do, and that is celebrate Easter: the most important date in the year for Christians.
The first Christians did not know what would happen like we do. They needed to trust that God was in control even when things were so bleak. We know that some even denied their faith like Peter, one of the disciples, but that did not mean that God gave up on them as he never will give up on us.

There are occasions in our lives that are a struggle, and it’s then that we need to trust that God is in control. I am sure you know people who don’t even have that belief and that’s our challenge to share Easter, our biggest celebration, with others for the real reason.

Easter is not about chocolate eggs, lambs, chickens – to name just a few things which are portrayed about this season. It’s about the fact that Christ died on the cross and rose for you and me, so that we might have life and be able to live it in its fullness. And that’s what we need to share through our words and actions

We need to make it special for ourselves and those around us as we praise and thank God for Jesus and his great love and care for everyone. We need to remember that God is not dead but lives through you and me.

The Christian faith is based on this wonderful occasion, and it’s just amazing if we really ponder the great sacrifice that God gave for all of us.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” said the angel.

Happy Easter

Prayerful Best Wishes

Margaret

Litmus Test of a Free Society

Bob LuntBy Bob Lunt

A collective moan rose among Open Doors supporters. The launch in Parliament of the World Watch List 2019 would clash with a key Brexit vote. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wanted to speak – would he cancel? Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was due to attend – would she come? Would anybody come?

But as ever, the event was in the Lord’s hands. A total of 98 parliamentarians came and five more sent representatives, including senior faces, and the voice of the persecuted church echoed around the corridors of Westminster. In his speech Jeremy Hunt said that freedom of religion is the ‘litmus test of a free society’. He thanked Open Doors supporters for ‘the fantastic work you are doing to highlight the fact that nearly a quarter of a billion Christians around the world are facing persecution for their beliefs’. He added that he had had a copy of God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew since he was ten. Emily Thornberry recorded a message sharing her serious concern that ‘for the fifth year running, persecution of Christians has increased’. It was encouraging to see senior support for the persecuted church from both sides of the political spectrum.

Henrietta Blyth, Open Doors’ CEO, shared how denying the right to freedom of religion or belief plays a ‘central and devastating role’ in global crises, and highlighted the rise of both India and China on this year’s list. And heartfelt pleas on behalf of persecuted Christians were brought by Open doors partners from Malaysia and Nigeria.

Parliament has upped the heat – not a week goes by when the Foreign Office isn’t asked a question about religious persecution. And not only has the Prime Minister appointed a Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, but Jeremy Hunt announced an independent review into whether the UK is doing enough to support persecuted Christians worldwide. “I want [Christians] suffering this terrible persecution to think there are people who understand what they’re going through and are sincerely trying to do everything they can about it.” This review is led by Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro and until recently head of Church Mission Society. Pray it will lead to real change that positively impacts the lives of persecuted Christians.

The World Watch List highlights the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian.

Source: Open Doors. Watch messages from Jeremy Hunt and Emily Thornberry at www.opendoorsuk.org

Expect a Miracle – Expect Growth

dvickersBy David Vickers

There is a sign in St. Mary’s Church which reads, “Expect a Miracle”. There is much written in the Bible about miracles. But why would God perform miracles today?

I have seen the result of miracles which have led to addition, multiplication and exponential growth in our Kingdom family.

A visit to a family one evening and I found a young man on the floor with a leg wound from a motor cycle accident. The would had become infected and his mother was doing her best to apply dressings. As a nurse, I showed her how to do this properly, told her not to disturb it as often as she was and I prayed for healing in the name of Jesus. When the dressing was removed a week later, there was no sign of there ever having been a wound. Halleluliah. The young man and his brother asked us how to pray to this Jesus. We told them and led them to Christ. This is addition.

A Kurdish refugee woman came to a church in desperation with advanced cancer of the breast. All treatment had failed. She was prayed for in Jesus’ name and was completely healed. She and her family gave their lives to Christ. They then brought friends and neighbours to hear about Jesus and their numbers multiplied.

I met a young man fourteen years ago and struck up a friendship with him. We used to meet in a café. He was a school teacher. One day he told me of a problem with his head master who had given him more classes than he could handle and in subjects he was not confident in. We prayed in the name of Jesus for a solution. Two days later, he came to meet me again. The head teacher had been replaced. The first act of the new head was to call my friend to his office and discuss and reduce his workload to an acceptable level. This miracle led my friend to give his life over to Christ. I discipled him to be a discipler. Over the years, he led many others into the Kingdom. He now leads a growing church movement of over 700. Disciples who disciple lead to exponential growth.

We may be used to bring just one person to Christ. God’s miracles to the rest, by addition, multiplication and exponential growth. All those of us who have a relationship with the miraculously risen Christ are, in turn, miracles. So, expect a miracle and expect to be used in God’s miraculous plans.

Editorial – March 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

 

Dear Friends

Just like you all, I am wondering what is in store for the Rivers Team and the Diocese of Sheffield as David and Helen have moved on and new opportunities are on the horizon for our Diocese.

Change is on its way, has already started really but that is always the case for we never travel back in time only further on.

It’s the fear of the unknown that can be unsettling, but it can also be a time to learn and develop new skills along the way.

When my ministry as a Church Army officer began, I never dreamt that I would be a Team Vicar and yet it feels just the right place and role for me to have. I have learnt so much, it’s not always been an easy path but looking back I see the highs and lows knowing that God truly guided and helped me change direction when I have needed too.

A change of direction is what is in store for all of us as members of The Rivers Team and the Anglican church in Sheffield.

We sometimes would just like to continue doing things like we have always done, and its difficult to get our heads around new ways of working for a while eventually getting caught up in how things go.

One thing that is very certain we do not go back as I have already said even if some changes need to be developed or even stopped to carry on.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6: 33-34 to first seek the kingdom of God

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well. 4 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As Lent approaches, I hope you will be able to find time to reflect on your own journey through life and acknowledge the changes that have taken place for you and your Church. Looking forward to everything that God has in store for us as changes happen within our Team and our Diocese.
Prayerful Best Wishes
Margaret

Forgiveness – it’s about Faith

Bob LuntBy Bob Lunt

Last May three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia, were hit in a co-ordinated bombing, all by members of the same family, adults and children. Thirteen people were killed and many injured in these brutal attacks. How do you respond?

The message from the priests, the pastor and the relatives of victims was the same: “We must love others; we forgive the attackers; we do not want revenge.”  The mother of two boys aged 8 and 12, who died as a result of their injuries at Santa Maria Catholic Church, said just two days after the bombing, “I have already forgiven the bombers. I don’t want to cry any more. I know that our Mother Mary also lost her son, Jesus. I forgive.” The priest commented, “For the Church, we must forgive – this is our doctrine. But for an individual, like this mother, the ability to forgive is about faith, not doctrine.”

He went on: “None of the victims ever asked, ‘Why has this happened to me?’ They just said ‘Okay, we forgive them, and we pray for the victims.’ There was no anger, no criticism of other religions, only forgiveness and prayer. It came from their heart. Our message: Keep doing good, don’t discriminate, and work for equality, solidarity and unity. Respect for God means respect for other persons.”  Santa Maria’s security guard is a Muslim who lost both legs and was blinded trying to stop the attack.

At the Pentecostal church attacked, the stories were similar, as were the messages of forgiveness. “We don’t understand why this happened, but we continue to teach about forgiveness and love. God’s plan is still good”, said the pastor.

 

That evening at Mass in the Catholic Cathedral of Jakarta, the capital, two young Muslim women arrived and began to hand out red and white roses (the colours of the Indonesian flag) to the congregation in a gesture of solidarity and peace. And in Surabaya itself Muslims came to the churches to express their condolences and help clear up the wreckage.

Much work is needed to help heal the wounds inflicted as Indonesia struggles against its growing culture of intolerance. But the churches of Surabaya, and the actions of their Muslim friends, offer hope that faith and forgiveness in Indonesia isn’t gone for good.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Spotlight on Mission – Church Pastoral Aid Society

spotlightCPAS is an Anglican evangelical mission agency working with churches, mainly in the UK and Republic of Ireland, who are committed to mission and equipping churches for their God-given task of evangelism. Believing the most strategic way to help churches become more mission focused is by developing effective leadership.

CPAS is all about helping churches in the UK and Ireland reach out to the men, women and children in their communities with the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ and do this through:

  • Enabling hundreds of churches to make disciples and develop leaders through our Growing Leaders and Mentoring Matters courses.
  • Helping churches continue to thrive in times of vacancy through our Growing Through a Vacancy resource.
  • Equipping influential younger leaders on our Arrow Leadership Programme.
  • Helping hundreds of people to explore God’s call through our vocations events and resources.
  • Partnering with dioceses to deliver high-quality bespoke training for clergy and lay leaders.
  • Resourcing thousands of leaders be more effective through Lead On.
  • Providing training events for lay and ordained leaders on a variety of topics.
  • Giving 4,500 children and young people an amazing week of fun, faith and friendship on our Ventures and Falcons each year.
  • Appointing evangelical clergy to our 500+ patronage churches.

Please remember to pray for these activities and the other areas of work that CPAS do.

To find out more why not visit their website www.cpas.org.uk

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