Winter 2018 A publication of Canadian Baptist Ministries
Embrace What You Believe
cover & inside cover photo: Johnny Lam Photography
Putting a Face to Faith
4 Embracing the Mystery of God: A Reflection on Faith 3 Terry Talks: Faith, Hope & Love
8 Putting a Face to Faith: Portraits of Faithfulness
14 The Soura Story: An Inspiring Legacy of Christian Faith in India
[pictured on the cover]
17 Just Think
“Jesus is my hope. He will help me in all areas of my life.”
For more profiles, see page 8.
18 Give Us Courage to Stand: 5 Actions to Help the Persecuted 20 How Should Arab Christians React to Persecution? Faith in Minority 22 All Her Eggs in One Basket: A Story of Faith in the Family
onina grew up in a small village of 23 houses (approximately 155 people) in Odisha State, a remote region of India that is home to high levels of illiteracy, malnutrition and the death of children under five. Her people, the Soura, came to Christian faith as a result of the witness and ministry of those first missionaries sent out by Canadian Baptists. Ponina is one of 20 students in her village’s adult literacy class, offered by the Soura Baptist Church in the evenings. She was joyful to finally have the chance to go to school. “It made me sad to see other children going to school while I had to work with my parents in the rice fields. Now, I am so happy to recognize letters of the alphabet and to learn to read and write.” Ponina’s dream is to be able to read the Word of God and work in the church – one day even to become the leader of the 29 Soura Baptist churches in the area. What gives her the most hope? “Jesus is my hope. He will help me in all areas of my life.”
7185 Millcreek Drive Mississauga, ON l5n 5r4 Tel: 905.821.3533 firstname.lastname@example.org www.cbmin.org Mosaic is a community forum of local and global voices united by a shared mission. Mosaic will serve as a catalyst to stimulate and encourage passionate discipleship among Canadian Baptists and their partners. Mosaic is published three times a year by Canadian Baptist Ministries. Copies are distributed free of charge. Bulk quantities available by request. Managing Editor Jennifer Lau Art Director Gordon Brew
Faith, Hope & Love M
ary Bates McLaurin was one of the earliest pioneers of the Canadian Baptist missionary movement. Along with her husband John McLaurin, and her sister Jane and her husband A.V. Timpany, they were the first missionaries sent out from Ontario, settling first in Ramapatam, then in Kakinada, India. A lifetime of service followed, shaping the nascent churches in East India. I have had the chance to make my own pilgrimage to her grave in the shadow of the Kakinada Theological College on many occasions. In a biography of Mary Bates McLaurin (written by her daughter) there is a story of how Mary preserved in her Bible a carefully folded letter from her father, which she received at age 11. In the letter, we read these words: “Always pray to Jesus to guide you and bless you every day, because there will be temptations every day for you to meet. Ask Him to strengthen your faith, your hope and your love, along with all the graces that adorn a Christian’s character, that the Lord may bless you is the prayer of your absent, but affectionate father.” Faith … hope … and love. In our Christian tradition, we refer to this triad as the three theological virtues, or the three graces of our faith. In Mary’s life, I wonder if having been identified by her father, they became the three identity markers of a lifetime of mission service. In the upcoming editions of Mosaic this year, you are going to read more about the relationship of faith, hope and love to our mission as Canadian Baptists. We believe that they are a firm foundation upon which we can build our own praxis: being, doing and saying – bracing ourselves as we are embraced by God and embrace what we believe. The Apostle Paul leaned heavily on the three to identify the heart of Christian praxis. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NRSV) he wrote, “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith, hope and love. The stability of the three, leaning into the Christian life and outward into the world. On this we can find our centre of gravity. Have you ever noticed how, on an uneven floor, a four-legged chair will wobble but a three-legged stool will stand stable? The three points determine a plane. In the midst of unevenness, they create a centre of gravity, just as these three graces ground our lives. This past Christmas, I spent time reflecting on the mystery of faith, the first of the virtues, and the inconceivable uniqueness of the incarnation that lies at the core of what we believe – surely one of the strangest and strongest doctrines. The enfleshment of the deity in
the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The cosmic Creator became a baby. Nothing permanent like that had happened before. He wasn’t known to take up residency in human body. Nor has he since. Certainly, for us at CBM, we like to appropriate this doctrine of incarnation in our own immanent missiological praxis: We incarnate the gospel. We make hope real. We are God’s hands and feet among the poor. God alive in the Church in local communities. Perhaps we also need a healthy dose of humility. We don’t make the sacrifice he made. Heavens, most of us wouldn’t even accept to sleep in a barn. We are not God. Rather than trying to find some application of the miracle of the incarnation, perhaps we need to embrace its mystery once again. As David Guretzki points out in a wonderful article in Faith Today (The Incarnation Mystery, Nov./Dec. 2017) the biblical essence of mystery is not that it is a problem to be solved, but rather that it is something to be revealed. The Apostle Paul wrote of his apostleship in Ephesians 3:9-12 (NRSV): “… to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known … in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.” We are the Revealers. This is our calling. Living into a place, a space, where peace and balance are the rule. In the dark places in our world … hold it, forget that thought. Make it, in the dark places of our soul, God reveals the mystery of faith through the Incarnate One. We are not so much called to incarnate the Good News as to reveal it, accepting that it is always something incredibly odd. We bear faithful witness of a mystery revealed in a tiny baby, lying in a manger, the Godhead three in one, in flesh. God didn’t have to become a human, but he chose to in order to allow us to experience him in all his fullness: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him.” (Col. 2:9-10a, NRSV). My favourite theologian, Lesslie Newbigin, wrote, “Faith is the hand that grasps what Christ has done and makes it my own” because “Christ has laid hold of me.” As we lean into 2018, may we all embrace the mystery and a life of faith, hope and love, just as we have been embraced by God.
Terry Smith CBM Executive Director
Embracing the Mystery of God A R E F L E C T I O N O N FA I T H
by Gordon King
believe. Help my unbelief.” Many of us could repeat this plea originally uttered by a person standing before Jesus.
We each have a unique story about the beginning of the faith journey. For some, there was a decisive moment when God broke through into their lives. Others relate a prolonged process in which they dealt with doubt, intellectual arguments and agonizing prayers. Faith, once born, matures through experience, including times of tragedy and loss. One of the mysteries of life is that suffering can be fertile ground for developing a deeper faith and stronger moral virtues. Yet, even at the best of times, we are aware of the frailties and gaps of our faith. We may cry out to God: “Help me in my unbelief.” “Strengthen my faith.” “Give me eyes to see your work in my life and in the conflicts and disparity of this world.”
I have come to realize that for some people this conviction is as natural as breathing. Others must work through theories of scientific materialism only to discover that they fail to offer explanations that satisfy the longings of the mind and heart. There is a feeling that there is something more – an unseen presence in the universe. In different ways we come to the conclusion that we are called to embrace the larger mystery of the invisible presence of God.
Faith is more than an apprehension of God for Christians. Most followers of Jesus have held common doctrines of faith. A mature faith is Trinitarian in nature. This means that when we say God we mean Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Presence. I still use the traditional language of Father, Son and Spirit knowing begins with that God cannot be classified by gender.
Faith the apprehension that there is an unseen presence, a transcendence beyond the range of the human senses.
The starting point of faith is often the conviction that the unseen is more important than the visible. Humans live by their senses. We touch. We smell. We hear. We taste. We observe. We rely on our senses and come to trust them. In Western cultural settings, such as Canada, reality has been narrowed to the material and physical that we access through our senses. As a consequence, companies spend billions of dollars to advertise products with promises of personal fulfillment through the possession of material things.
Faith begins with the apprehension that there is an unseen presence, a transcendence beyond the range of the human senses. This conviction may come when we walk along a dark path that is illuminated by the light of the moon and stars. It can come when we stand by the seaside listening to the crashing of the waves. A farmer standing in a field of wheat on the Canadian prairies may quietly believe that the abundance is not simply a product of his work and machinery. There is an apprehension of a loving God.
I count myself among those people for whom the doctrine of the Trinity initially seemed strange and difficult. I embraced faith at university centred on Jesus of Nazareth. I was moved at the story of Jesus and the leper (Mk. 1:40-45). Leprosy was considered to be a contagious disease and a devastating curse. The man who threw himself at the feet of Jesus was isolated, alone and unclean. Jesus had the moral right to send him away with a stern warning to keep his distance. However, Jesus was filled with emotion, touched the leper, restored him and sent him back to his community. I still marvel at this gospel story. I believe that Jesus was the visible image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15; Jn. 14:9). His love for the leper revealed the heart of the Father who sent him into a broken and wounded world. Working out from Jesus, I have confessed my faith in the Father and the Spirit that is the continuing presence of God among us. I take great comfort in the New Testament’s teaching that the Spirit leads us into the truth and helps us in our weakness (Jn. 16:12; Rom. 8:26-27). As in the story of the leper, God never runs from us. He embraces us to heal, restore and guide.
Faith leads to a re-ordering of life so that we may live passionately and responsibly in the presence of our God.
The content of our faith grows as we reflect on the scriptures, learn from personal experience and attend to the testimonies of others. We confess together that Jesus died for the sin and evil of the world, including our own. We celebrate the resurrection as the triumph of God. We learn that there is a sacred quality to life because women and men are created in God’s image. We marvel at the gifts of the Spirit manifested in the shared community of the local church. We are humbled that God calls each person to a unique participation in the mission of his kingdom. These are not simply cold doctrines of faith written in books by theologians in the comfort of the academy. The content of our faith is life-giving for all people, in all places. Faith leads to a re-ordering of life so that we may live passionately and responsibly in the presence of our God. In a time of national crisis, the Hebrew prophet Habakkuk proclaimed that the righteous would live by faith (Hab. 2:4) St. Paul repeated these words to Christians that lived in the heart of the Roman Empire: “... The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17). I interpret this phrase to mean that faith is a way of living. The life of faith, like the virtues of the gospel, does not come to us as a nicely wrapped gift. We are required to learn and develop practices of faith in the rough and tumble of our social locations. We stumble, fall and move forward on the journey of faith. There is a historical consistency to the practices of faith. They include the following: • Scripture reading and reflection • Confession and prayer • Participation in a community of faith • Mentorship and spiritual guidance • Service to others through acts of mercy, justice and generosity
In past years, I was called to work on the margins of the world among the poor. I was proud to represent the faith commitment of Canadian Baptists. Closer to home, I have seen other Christians move into more local borderlands. They accompany people in hospices, volunteer time in food banks, assist single mothers, offer hospitality to refugees, protect women from domestic abuse, and work with prisoners and their families. The borderlands are never far from where we live. I believe, as a doctrine of faith, that God calls us to leave places of security and to risk misunderstanding in order to build relationships with people who need expressions of love and grace. I end this article considering faith as quiet trust and confidence in God. One of the most disturbing experiences of my life was visiting a church in Ntarama, Rwanda. The killers had shown no mercy during the 1994 Tutsi genocide. The bones of at least 500 people lay strewn between the wooden benches of the church. Three human skulls had been placed on the communion table as a macabre trinity of cruelty and violence in a place of worship. There were no words that could be spoken. I understand how people can lose their faith in God during a genocide as they watch loved ones taken from them with relentless cruelty. However, in Rwanda I was also witness to God’s miraculous work of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. It reminded me that God promises to hold us by the hand and walk with us. The memories of Ntarama still emerge from time to time in disruptive ways. They are reminders of the evil and cruelty that millions of people experience in the world. Yet faith forges in our hearts the quiet confidence that God’s grace will prevail over all violence and sin. The most profound healing can be found in the places where the greatest wounds were inflicted. Despite uncertainty, fear and pain, followers of Jesus continue to bear faithful witness to God’s love. We raise our voices with them: Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.
• A deliberate movement to witness in the margins or borderlands I want to dwell on this last point. God calls his people to bear witness to their faith in places where human life is threatened by poverty, disease, despair and violence. Christians take their faith in God’s transforming love and grace into difficult and dangerous contexts.
Gordon King serves as CBM’s Resource Specialist. He is the author of several books, including Seed Falling on Good Soil: Rooting Our Lives in the Parables of Jesus.
Spiritual Exercises On Faith Embracing the Mystery of God gives attention to three aspects of faith. First, there is content to our faith. The decision to be a Christian involves embracing historical beliefs shared by diverse people in different times and places. Second, faith requires us to order our lives in different ways to make room for God and to participate in the work of his kingdom. Finally, faith is quiet trust in God’s grace and power to heal the wounds of the world.
EXERCISE 1: MY FAITH JOURNEY Think of your life as a river that flows from the mountains to the sea. On a piece of paper, mark a place that represents where life began for you. Trace the movement of your life through different stages and locations. You can note changes in direction. Still waters can represent times of relative peace. Rapids and waterfalls can signify periods of disruption and threat. Mark where you are now on your life journey. Now go back and review important moments in which you experienced God’s presence in special ways. Draw a symbol to represent the significance of that time for your faith. Answer the following questions as you look back on your faith journey. What are the most important beliefs that sustain your faith today? What have you learned about ordering your activities to create space for God and service to his kingdom? What are the concerns of life that you wish to lay at God’s feet in quiet trust?
I believe, as a doctrine of faith, that God calls us to leave places of security and to risk misunderstanding in order to build relationships with people who need expressions of love and grace.
EXERCISE 2: HEBREWS 11:1-12:3 Generations of Christians have used this passage of the New Testament to guide them into a deeper understanding of faith. It begins with the words: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We are reminded that faith requires us to trust beyond the limits of what we can touch and handle. The list of people of faith starts with Abel and ends with members of the first century church. The descriptions remind us that faith is more than doctrine; faith must be lived by individual women and men. Read the words of scripture slowly, either by yourself or in a group. Is there any person of faith that stands out in a special way? What is significant about this individual for you? Are there any phrases that are particularly meaningful? How do you understand the meaning of these words for your life of faith? What does it mean for you to consider yourself as a stranger and foreigner on earth seeking a better homeland (11:13-16)? The author encourages us to not grow weary and lose heart (12:3). How does this speak into your faith at this time of life? You may close your time of spiritual reflection by thanking God for his faithfulness and grace in your life journey. You may ask for him to deepen your faith commitments and trust. ~Gordon King
Putting a Face to Faith PORTRAITS OF FA I T H F U L N E S S by Laurena Zondo
“People think that this is the time to run away from the Middle East. This is the time to be here. This is the time to make a difference; the time when the Church can have an impact.”
hat does a faithful life look like? The men and women in these portraits have lived out their faith in God with courage, love and obedience, often at great personal cost. We hope you are inspired and encouraged by their faithfulness. They are part of the Global Church who demonstrate how they put their faith into action.
photo: Amy Holloway Photography
photo: Randy Vanderveen
“I was only nine or ten at the time when I told my parents that I wanted to be a nurse and go to India as a missionary. At the end of nurse’s training I had to decide whether this really was a call from God or a childhood fantasy. I prayed about it and knew this was where God wanted me.”
“It is wonderful to see the Global Church, to see us working together. We can be a blessing, and be blessed when we give our hearts to our heavenly Father.”
“We must not be led by fear! We are already dead and made alive in Christ. No one can take our true lives away.”
left his home country of Lebanon near the end of a brutal 15-year civil war. So, too, did Mireille. They met in Canada, married and started a new life together. “We had many bad memories from the war. We felt that we had wasted our prime years hiding from shells and bombs. We never wished to return,” remembers Elie. Over the years, they became strong believers, active in ministry. “We loved our church family. We loved our life here. This was home,” he says. Sensing a call from God to something else, Elie enrolled in seminary while continuing to work as a senior IT consultant. After completing his studies, an email arrived asking the Haddads to consider going to Lebanon to work at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). “If it’s from God, we can’t say no,” says Elie. Elie left his well-paying job. They sold their house and bought plane tickets. “We were going to Beirut not knowing how God was going to do it.” Conversations with CBM led to their appointment as Field Staff. “It was a tough time disengaging from Canada,” says Elie. “Usually when missionaries go to a new place, they are afraid of what they don’t know. For us, we were afraid of what we knew, what we had run away from.” Twelve years later, they continue to serve in Lebanon. As President of ABTS, Elie oversees a strategic seminary in the heart of the Arab world, training leaders for the growing church in North Africa and throughout the Middle East. Mireille has her own meaningful ministry, serving among the large number of refugees who have fled conflict in Syria, Iraq and other places in turmoil. “We’re very blessed. It’s exciting to be part of ministry here,” says Elie. “People think that this is the time to run away from the Middle East. This is the time to be here. This is the time to make a difference; the time when the Church can have an impact.”
grew up in a large family in the Maritimes. “I was 13 out of 15 children,” says Muriel. “Those were the days without electricity and indoor plumbing. We worked hard, but we learned ethics and good values.” She ended up working in several countries around the world, faithfully serving as a CBM missionary for almost 40 years. Her calling came early. “I was only nine or ten at the time when I told my parents that I wanted to be a nurse and go to India as a missionary,” says Muriel. “At the end of nurse’s training I had to decide whether this really was a call from God or a childhood fantasy. I prayed about it and knew this was where God wanted me.” Muriel served as a missionary health worker in India for 20 years, helping some of the poorest people to access medicine, care and treatment. Then her life was re-directed. “I couldn’t get my visa to return to India,” she remembers. “CBM offered me a position as a community health consultant for projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America.” One of the hardest parts of overseas ministry for Muriel was missing significant family occasions. “My mother died when I was overseas. This is one of the things that you regret, but it is just part of the journey,” she says. Today, Muriel’s passion for helping the poor continues in a wonderful way: knitting mittens to raise funds for microfinance in India. “I have seen firsthand what it does to families. It gets them out of poverty and gives them a start on some family income, so they can send their children to school,” she says. Muriel is a contributor of CBM’s new 323 Collective, an online store that features global craft makers and entrepreneurs willing to contribute their handiwork in service of those who need a hand-up. Visit 323Collective.org to learn more.
grew up in Bolivia, in a Christian family, and remembers going to church all her life. But it wasn’t until she was 15 years old that she made this faith her own. “I went to youth camp and had a personal encounter with God,” she says. Over the years, Patty became a passionate follower of Jesus with a deep and growing love for the Church. She invested her life in local ministry, as a leader in the Baptist Bolivian Youth and also as a deacon in her church. She volunteered for many years, helping Canadians coming to Bolivia on CBM short-term mission trips. “It really impacted me how people from so far could come and serve the local church,” she says. “I wanted to be part of CBM, but it was not in God’s time.” Patty faced some hard trials in ministry, but is thankful that they moved her closer to the heart of God. “I cried many, many tears, but was able to understand that God is my heavenly Father who comes to my defence, fights the battle for me; the one who I can run to and hide in his arms and cry for hours and receive comfort and guidance.” She was delighted when God opened the door to serve with CBM in 2015. As Global Discipleship Coordinator for Bolivia, Patty loves to engage volunteers from Canada and help them to understand Bolivian culture and meaningfully serve alongside local believers in ministry. “It is wonderful to see the Global Church, to see us working together. We can be a blessing, and be blessed when we give our hearts to our heavenly Father.”
PASTOR IBRAHIM MAKUNYI’S
faith and perseverance are an inspiration for many, as he has endured religious persecution, hardship and attacks on both his church and his own life. He began his ministry in North Eastern province in 1976, and went on to start the East African Pentecostal Church of Garissa in 1981, making him the longest standing Christian minister to have served in the county. In recent years, it has also been a region in turmoil. A grenade attack by extremists in November 2011 killed two of his church members and seriously injured four others. In July 2012, another series of attacks in Garissa killed 18 Christians and seriously injured 60 others. In response, CBM provided a training conference to help pastors and leaders better respond to post-traumatic stress and fear arising from the increased persecution and attacks. One day in February 2013, two pastors were shot. One of them, Pastor Ibrahim, survived. The other, a spiritual son he had brought to the Christian faith and mentored, died. Although his recovery took much time, Pastor Ibrahim praises God for healing. In 2014, CBM offered a new program, Certificate of Integral Mission in a Majority Islamic Context, called BRIDGE, to strengthen Christian leaders and local churches in building transformative relationships with their neighbours and the broader community. Participants have been encouraged to seek peace building and live out the love of Christ toward their Muslim neighbours. Their churches have established literacy classes, community gardens, feeding programs for vulnerable children and ministries for people with disabilities. On November 11, 2016, 31 students graduated, including Pastor Ibrahim. “We must not be led by fear!” Pastor Ibrahim encouraged his fellow graduates at the ceremony. “We are already dead and made alive in Christ. No one can take our true lives away.”
The Soura T Story
he Soura are tribal people who live in the remote, hill country of the current state of Odisha in India. In the early 1900s, they were considered to be even lower than “untouchables” in the social context of Odisha. When Souras walked through the streets of the Oriya (another tribal group in Odisha) community, people poured water on the path afterward, as if they were cleaning a road that had become unclean.
AN INSPIRING LEGACY OF C H R I S T I A N FA I T H I N I N D I A by Blair Clark and Suraj Komaravalli
In the first part of the 20th century, India became one the centres of mission activity. Missionaries were motived by their belief that each person was loved by God and that Christ had died for the sins of every individual. Rev. and Mrs. J. A. Glendinning, in 1905, were the first Canadian Baptist missionaries assigned to work among the Souras. The call to bear witness was difficult and discouraging. Rev. Glendinning summarized the first two decades of mission in the following words: “The Souras had not a shadow of interest in our message.”
Today, there are more Soura Baptist believers than Canadian Baptists! The account belongs in the annals of mission history.
Today, there are more Soura Baptist believers than Canadian Baptists! The account belongs in the annals of mission history. So how did such challenging beginnings eventually bear so much fruit? We can identify some key markers of faith and faithfulness in the history of the Soura Baptist Church. These are just some of the inspiring glimpses of the larger narrative of God’s work in this region.
A HOSPITAL The building and operation of the Serango Christian Hospital in Odisha was an expression of the missionaries’ faith that every life mattered to God. There were no medical facilities in the hill country to respond to disease, accidents and maternal health care. The hospital opened in 1924 under the direction of missionary Dr. Hinson West. The Soura people were one of the ethnic groups who received treatment and care at the hospital. The Serango hospital still operates today in two locations. The hospital specializes in cataract surgery and maternal/infant health care. The doctors and nurses are Indian Christians who continue to bear witness to God’s love.
CONVERSION OF A BUSINESSMAN The conversion of Matthew Limma was a turning point. Limma was an Oriya businessman whose wealth was gained by cheating the uneducated Souras out of their crops and money. He came to faith in Christ in a remarkable conversion. Like the gospel figure of Zacchaeus, Limma felt that his faith required him to make amends to the Souras that he had cheated. He went from relative wealth to poverty by returning money to the families and villages that had been victimized. He initially faced persecution as he witnessed to his faith among the Souras. But during the 1950s whole villages embraced faith in Christ due to his message and sacrificial love.
[top left] Meet members of Ponina’s village in India. Ponina, the young woman on our front cover, learned to read and write in the adult literacy classes offered in her village by the Soura Baptist Church. Can you spot her in the photo? Twenty villages have established Adult Literacy Centres. The project has expanded to offer tutoring classes for children in 30 villages to help them get a better education and stay in school.
TRANSLATION OF SCRIPTURE INTO SOURA The translation of the Scriptures into the Soura language is a remarkable story of faithfulness involving Canadian and Indian Christians. The Glendinnings began the translation of selected Soura passages. Alice Munro’s translation of John’s Gospel was published by the Bible Society of India. Matthew Limma’s translation of Matthew’s Gospel was published in 1951. Limma, along with Perry and Edith Allaby and Soura believers produced the first version of the entire New Testament published in 1965. The Soura churches longed for the Old Testament. A former lawyer from B.C., Dave Hayward, and his wife Ruby, took on this task with a team of Soura collaborators. They worked diligently through health problems, family needs and visa issues. The complete Soura Bible was published by the Bible Society of India in 1992. About 35,000 Soura believers gathered for the service of dedication for their Bible.
LEADERSHIP TRAINING Faithfulness requires investment in a new generation of leaders. Perry Allaby launched a unique program of leadership training among the Souras that continues into the present time in a modified way. Each week, he gathered congregational leaders to study a passage that had been translated, discuss its meaning and prepare sermon outlines. The same passage was preached each Sunday in every Soura Baptist congregation. The Souras have continued to follow this system. For the past three years, CBM has worked with the Souras to provide theological training to thousands of pastors, deacons and evangelists to help them improve their skills in interpreting the Bible, teaching and preaching.
OPPOSITION AND PERSECUTION Faith may be tested by opposition and persecution. In the early years of this century, Hindu fundamentalists stirred up hatred against tribal Christians in Odisha, including the Soura. The army watched as houses and shops were burned, women raped and churches destroyed. Many believers were killed and children were left orphans. The members of Soura Baptist churches remained faithful to their Lord.
THE LEGACY OF FAITH Faithfulness to the gospel motivated the Souras to participate in the mission of God. In the late 1960s they began sending missionaries to a neighbouring state. Later, as young people from Soura began leaving their remote villages for better jobs in India’s major cities, the leadership realized the need to plant churches in cities like Mumbai so the faith of their people would continue to be nurtured in the midst of the many temptations and pressures of urban living. Soura Baptist churches are now found in the largest cities of India.
Truly, we can see that the mission of God in the world is built on people of faith who are faithful! The Souras continue to engage in integral mission, a theological term that has become part of the vocabulary of mission in the recent past. We use it to express our belief that mission involves word and deed. Those early Canadian and Indian Christians grasped the concept without the terminology. Today, the mission they helped to plant continues. Village health programs offer training and primary care in local communities. Farmers are assisted with sustainable crop production and the care of animals. Literacy programs bring education to girl children and adults. A hostel was built to give Soura girls living in rural villages the opportunity to be educated. Water projects in villages have been completed. Last year, CBM worked with Soura leaders to provide skills training for widows in craft and furniture making so they can better take care of themselves and their children. Truly, we can see that the mission of God in the world is built on people of faith who are faithful!
Blair Clark has faithfully served in various capacities over the years with CBM, from Field Staff in Indonesia to Director at Large & Diplomatic Liaison before his retirement from full-time work in 2015. He currently directs estate and legacy planning for CBM. Suraj Komaravalli serves as the CBM India Team Leader, helping to develop integral mission strategies in CBM’s priority areas of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states.
Seeing the Fruits of Faithful Labour AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT By Peter and Wendy Burnham, faithful CBM supporters. Wendy also serves on CBM’s Board of Directors.
We had a most amazing opportunity to travel to southern India to visit with the Soura people on a CBM trip in November 2010. Memories drifted back from childhood of children’s stories with place names I had forgotten, and black and white photos on the church’s walls of David and Ruby Hayward, just two of many CBM missionaries to serve in India. So much of this trip served as an opportunity to see God working through the church as a giver of hope and as God’s hands to those who are impoverished. We drove the narrow, dirt roads offering scenes of natural beauty as we climbed into the hills. In one village of just 100 people, we were warmly welcomed with music and singing as we walked the remaining distance to the village past banana fields and rice paddies. A highlight was witnessing two young women reading from their writing slates. Though it was now nearly dark, the light of pride and dignity shone in these young women’s faces. In this area, through the work of CBM and its church partners, the literacy rate has risen from 7% to nearly 70%. We also heard the story of the Jodasing villagers growing tamarind. They had always been dependent on the company who owned the tamarind packaging machine and the price that company would give for the tamarind. Through a loan from CBM’s partners in India, a tamarind packaging machine was purchased and now household incomes had increased significantly. Independence from those who were in economic control was a very good thing! Women no longer sat in their huts alone. They belonged to cooperatives, were literate and able to be involved in buying and selling. Hope, in the name of Jesus and his Church, had come into their lives. The next morning, Sunday, we drove down from the mountains into the lush valley. We were once again welcomed with music and dancing. It was particularly touching to see the local people carrying Bibles in their own language. This translation was accomplished by much hard work of many Canadian Baptists and local Soura people. After a beautiful church service with Indigenous music, we were served lunch. We were very aware that this welcome should have been for the people who served and sacrificed in ministry to the Soura. The joy they would have felt was a gift to us that we did not deserve. This trip was life changing for us.
Faith Afloat In one of these boats you must pull using your own strength against the elements. In one of these boats you sit by yourself facing in the opposite direction from your destination. In one of these boats you look backwards, with the horizon only ever holding where you have already been. In which one of these boats does your faith float today?
Give Us C Courage to Stand
hristians remain the most persecuted faith community worldwide. Millions of brothers and sisters live in contexts characterized by religious discrimination, violence, intimidation and imprisonment. Some of the most recent data from the Pew Research Center notes that Christians face persecution in 108 countries, Muslims in 100 countries and Jews in 81 countries. At times this marginalization unfolds within particularly difficult circumstances.
For example, earlier this year I was in Somalia visiting a network of underground believers. Our organization, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, seeks to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, visiting and training people of faith in areas of persecution, and empowering churches to stand in solidarity.
5 ACTIONS TO HELP THE PERSECUTED by Elijah M. Brown
One of the Christian leaders I met in Somalia was Abdullahi. When Abdullahi was a nine-year-old boy he had a dream and heard a voice say, “Follow me. My name is Jesus.” He immediately gave his life to Jesus – though it took him six years to find a Bible. Unfortunately, when his family found him studying that Bible they turned him over to the authorities, and at the age of fifteen he was incarcerated for six months. Though those months were filled with beatings and torture, he described how Matthew 28:20 sustained him: “Do not fear. I will be with you always up to the very end of the world.” As he clung to this promise and proclaimed his faith, two of those torturing him secretly became believers in Jesus Christ.
Elijah M. Brown is the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a position he began at the start of 2018. Previously he was the Executive Vice President of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a Christian human rights organization working to empower a global movement to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, capacity building and technology. Dr. Brown received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh with a dissertation that focused on the role of the church in the development of the Sudan-South Sudan peace process. He previously served as an Associate Professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University where
he taught mission and world Christianity and where he was also the founding Director of the Freedom Center. He has conducted research in refugee and displacement camps in Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. He remains firmly committed to mission, world Christianity and justice engagement. Dr. Brown is the 9th General Secretary of the BWA, founded in 1905, which is a network of 235 member bodies in 122 countries representing more than 45 million individuals and 170,000 churches. CBM is an active member of the BWA and looks forward to his leadership of this important global network. To get connected to Dr. Brown and the BWA, follow him on Twitter @ElijahMBrown.
Today, Abdullahi is married. He and his wife have four children and have adopted five more. But in 2016, his wife’s family realized that she and their children had decided to follow “the false religion of Christianity.” One night Abdullahi’s wife’s family descended on their home and stole his family. It left him devastated and heartbroken. Yet this is how he described his daily prayer: “Lord, will you give me joy? I am trying to be the light and the salt. When those who know what has happened to me, how my family has been stolen, ask, ‘How can he have joy?’ I will be able to share with them about Jesus.” To hear that even in the midst of this tragedy, Abdullahi’s first concern was to look for an opportunity to live as a witness filled with grace left me convicted. I followed-up by asking, “How would you ask others to pray?” Abdullahi concluded:
“Do not pray for an end to the persecution because without it we would die. But pray that the Lord will give us the courage to stand through it.”
“Do not pray for an end to the persecution because without it we would die. But pray that the Lord will give us the courage to stand through it.” Unfortunately, Abdullahi’s situation is far from unique. There are five actions we can each take to help the persecuted. 1.
PRAY. On average, each day 20 Christians are martyred for their faith. Would you begin to regularly pray that the Lord will stand with these 20 and the families they leave behind? A Baptist church leader from Syria recently told our team, “Sometimes I cannot pray, and that is when I depend on the Church in the West to pray.”
2. PUBLICLY CHAMPION RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR ALL. Religious freedom must belong to all or it is vulnerable for all. For 400 years, Baptists have championed religious freedom for people of all faiths, and at a time of increasing societal polarization, we have an opportunity to continue to lean into this legacy. 3. PRESS FOR CHANGE. The vast majority of embassies rarely hear from their own citizens. Write to the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi, which oversees Somalia, asking them to press for religious freedom across Somalia. Ask your pastor or small group leader to dedicate one Sunday to stand with the persecuted. Sign up for free resources at www.21wilberforce.org and encourage others to do the same. 4. PRIORITIZE OUR RESOURCES. One mother I met in Somalia who had become a Christian and excluded from her family was struggling to find $600 to send her six children to school. As individuals and churches, we can prioritize our giving to align with Hebrews 13:3 and “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” 5. PARTICIPATE WITH THEM IN BOLDLY SHARING THE HOPE OF CHRIST. We have much to learn from these our brothers and sisters. Can we join the prayer of Abdullahi and ask for the courage, regardless of the circumstances, to stand as public witnesses for Jesus Christ?
Fast Facts On Global Religious Freedom • 79% of the world lives in contexts facing religious freedom challenges • Primary Drivers of Persecution Today: • Crisis unfolding across the Middle East • Authoritarian governments • Transnational activities, especially those related to terrorism • Countries to Watch: • Iraq – the Christian population has plummeted from 1.5 million to 250,000 • Nigeria – 13,000 churches have been burned • Myanmar – more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have been actively displaced as refugees • Call to Prayer: On average, every day 20 Christians are martyred for their faith. Please pause today and each day to pray for these 20, their families and the communities they leave behind. Source: 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative
How Should Arab T Christians React to Persecution? FA I T H I N M I N O R I T Y
he bombing of two churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday last year, which claimed more than 44 lives, was a gruesome reminder that there are still many in this region who seek the complete demise and disappearance of Christianity from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa). Syrian and Iraqi Christians need no reminding of this as they line up at UN and foreign embassy doors, waiting for their turn to be resettled in Western countries. Whenever we mention one or two such tragedies, it feels like we are betraying hundreds of thousands of other Middle East Christians, whom we fail to mention every time – all those who have died and been displaced as a result of hundreds of other attacks, bombings, and targeted religious “cleansing” over the past few years, decades and centuries. In the midst of it all, Christians struggle to find the appropriate response to their suffering.
photo: Randy Vanderveen
by Martin Accad
The media reported extensively on how Egyptian Christians have shocked the world by their ability to forgive their killers. Many MENA Christians feel that forgiveness is the most appropriate response to those who persecute them. Others argue that we need to do more to seek justice, and they call for spelling out a more robust “theology of liberation.” The tension between these two poles could be felt during our treatment of the topic even at our last consultation (the Middle East Consultation held in June 2017 at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut). I would like to propose three possible responses that Christians might adopt in the face of persecution, and reflect on which might be the most appropriate in light of Jesus’ teaching.
Based in Beirut, Martin Accad is the Chief Academic Officer of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies and Associate Professor of Islamic Studies.
Assad Habib Assad Toma, an Arab Baptist Theological Seminary graduate, is an Egyptian church planter now based in Lebanon. He helped to start 1,100 new home groups in villages in Egypt where there are no churches, as well as trained hundreds of people from countries across the Middle East and North Africa on church planting and home group leadership. “We are seeing a spiritual movement in the Middle East,” he says.
The first response is revenge and victimization of others. In the Middle East, the call for revenge is the most common response to loss. Revenge killing is still common practice in this part of the world, where a feud between two families or tribes can easily last for generations. This background explains the perplexity of Amro Adib, the Abu Dhabi TV presenter who, on his program Kul Yawm Jumaa (“Every Friday”), expressed his amazement at the capacity of Coptic Christians to forgive. “The Copts of Egypt are made of steel!” he exclaimed, after hearing the moving testimony of a mother who lost her son, Naseem Faheem, who was in charge of security at St. Mark’s Cathedral during the Palm Sunday bombing. “These people possess this amount of forgiveness because it is founded on truth, it is based on doctrine.” What a powerful testimony forgiveness is to the message of Jesus, in a culture and world where our strong sense of justice invites us to exact revenge on criminals!
In the case of Christians in the Middle East, the repeated suffering of our community at the hand of Muslims across history has led us to a wholesale demonization of Islam, following from selfvictimization. Just as “whiteness” was not in itself the root of racism, but rather a certain interpretation of “whiteness” as equivalent to “white supremacy,” it is not Islam itself, I believe, that leads to the persecution of Christians. Rather it is a specific interpretation of Muslim texts that ignites a sense of Muslim superiority, which leads to a desire for global supremacy and exclusion.
The third response is forgiveness and the launching of active initiatives of change. This response is not an easy one, for sure, but it is the only one that can break the cycle of revenge and violence. When we forgive those who have harmed us, it is not then to be used as a platform for self-victimization and prejudice, or even less for flight through emigration. When MENA Christians The problem with revenge is that it triggers a cycle of victimization, forgive Muslim attackers of a church, it is then their responsibility where the victim can soon become the victimizer. This does not, to courageously launch initiatives of change as they seek to of course, negate the crucial role of the state transform the unjust system in which they to act as judge and punisher of criminals. live. Martin Luther King Jr. would say that But where the state fails us, does that give us the lack of resistance to racism amounted What a powerful as MENA Christians the right to take justice to not loving our enemies, as we abandoned into our own hands? The Coptic Christian testimony forgiveness is them to the evil power of their sinful nature. model offers us an example of how forgiveness Active resistance to racism, even at the cost to the message of Jesus, of his own life, was the only legitimate way against all odds provides for a much more powerful testimony to Christ than revenge. he found to respond to the injustice of social in a culture and world segregation. The second response is self-victimization and
where our strong sense of
the demonization of others. This response has In the same way, as followers of Jesus, we been more common among Christians in the justice invites us to exact are not to respond to violent persecution, MENA. It is passive-aggressive and subtler, either through active reflexes of revenge, revenge on criminals! therefore, in the damage that it causes to the or through passive self-victimization community in the long run. The question here that leads to emigration or the wholesale is what do we do after we have gathered the demonization of Islam. Our response to capacity to forgive those who have harmed us? The tendency for persecution should be, first, forgiveness; secondly, the pursuit all of us is to associate the perpetrator of harm with the group of justice for our Middle Eastern societies as we seek to bring to which they belong. There were many responses available in perpetrators of violence to justice under the law; thirdly, the the face of racism and segregation in the U.S. during the '50s and recognition that violence resulting from a sense of Islamic '60s when Martin Luther King Jr. led his historic campaign. The supremacy is the outcome of a demonic way of interpreting Black Panther Party, for example, called for armed resistance to Muslim texts. It is this ideology that must be resisted both segregation, and legitimized the use of violence against white by Christians and Muslims who refuse this interpretation, people. The suffering of African-Americans led, in some circles, to working hand in hand to overturn these ideologies at their roots. the labelling of all whites as the “white devils.” Similarly, after 9/11 For a full version of this edited article, see Martin’s blog post the fact that the 19 perpetrators of the crime were Muslims led, in (July 6, 2017) at www.imes.blog some circles, to the incrimination of all Muslims for the crime.
All Her Eggs in One Basket A S TO RY O F FA I T H I N T H E F A M I LY by Nicolette Beharie
was a 1946 Easter treat that Gunter Rochow will never forget: one egg per person. He was 11 years old at the time. “When food was in short supply as a consequence of the Second World War, the German government issued a special egg ration of one egg per person,” remembers Gunter, now 83. “Most people boiled or coloured theirs as an Easter treat.” But Gunter’s resourceful mother, Annie, had a different plan in mind.
With a firm resolve to feed her three children – and a little faith – Annie convinced her family to give up their Easter treats. Gunter vividly recalls his mother’s reasoning at the time. “If each of us eats the Easter egg it makes for a nice Easter treat, but then the eggs are gone and the misery of supply continues.” While their friends and neighbours enjoyed the delicious multicoloured eggs that were arrayed on their tables that Easter, Annie had faith for something more. Carefully securing her family’s five eggs, she searched for someone to exchange them for fertilized ones instead. After receiving the new eggs, Annie waited patiently for the incubation process to be complete. Thankfully, all five of the eggs hatched. Gunter’s family decided to raise the chicks outside their residential building. Surrounded by a garden, they kept the chicks in a fenced area of the yard – in plain view of their neighbours and skeptical passersby. Although it was an uncommon sight to find chickens outside a residential building, the enclosed area created what Gunter calls “the perfect setting” to raise chicks. “It caused some surprise, and maybe a bit of envy, from others who had not taken that course,” says Gunter. “But, fortunately, our neighbours were very decent and we had no problems.” Gunter’s family and neighbours watched as the five noisy chicks in their yard grew to become mature hens. Before long, the wisdom of Gunter’s mother paid off. They now had an abundance of eggs that they could eat on a regular basis. They also had enough to share with their neighbours.
Looking back, Gunter is thankful for the experience he had as a child and for his mother’s faith. “I don’t think I ever questioned the wisdom of my mother in making that suggestion [to trade our Easter eggs],” he remembers. “Even at that time, it seemed like a wonderful idea to us: to forgo the satisfaction of the moment for the expectation of better things to come.”
“Even at that time, it seemed like a wonderful idea to us: to forgo the satisfaction of the moment for the expectation of better things to come.”
“It was an unbelievable experience,” says Gunter. “When you think we could have finished our eggs at Easter time, yet by September or October the eggs were a constant source of supply.” This experience made an indelible impression on Gunter’s life. He learned how powerful faith can be in the midst of challenging circumstances. This lesson, along with many others he learned from his mother, helped shape him into the person he is today. It also encouraged him to instill some of the same values in his own three sons. This past Christmas, Gunter and his wife, Reinhilde, were reminded of his mother’s faith when they came across the CBM Hopeful Gifts for Change catalogue, which offers gifts for people in need around the world. “When we saw the two hens and a rooster, it immediately jumped out at us – how meaningful that was at the time when I was growing up,” says Gunter. He and his wife decided to purchase a poultry gift through the CBM catalogue for each of their 11 grandchildren, and they shared Gunter’s egg story in their Christmas cards to illustrate the impact that the gift of chickens could have on a family. “We hope that our grandchildren will look beyond themselves and that this will become a part of their lives,” says Gunter. “I have every reason to believe that will be happening.”
[far left] Annie Rochow, Gunter’s mother. [above] Gunter Rochow as a boy; Gunter and his wife, Reinhilde, continue his mother’s legacy by giving gifts of poultry to aid families in need.
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