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Unity for Vietnam’s Baptists is pastor’s next goal

RENTON, Wash. (BP) -- When Christian Phan felt God's call to plant a church in Vietnam in 2007, he never dreamed it would lead to a new three-story building -- one of the first public places of worship built in Ho Chi Minh City in decades -- and, now, the launching of an entire denomination. But that is what Phan was privileged to be a part of during his most recent mission trip to Vietnam.

WEEK OF PRAYER: Church planting fire burning in S. Asia

SOUTH ASIA (BP) -- For Mitch Englehart*, it's a beautiful sight that's taking place in some very dirty water. The South Carolina native watches from the bank of a stagnant canal as six new believers are baptized outside a small village in the South Asian countryside. Dhanwan is one of them. "I want to follow Jesus!" the young man says, explaining that he became a Christian following a miraculous healing through the prayers of a local pastor. That pastor, Lalbahadur, is a fifth-generation Christian whose faith can be traced back to Englehart's church planting network. ...

Laser engineer connects with S. Asians

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- Walt Tucker is an MIT grad who is as comfortable starting house churches as he is building lasers to protect aircraft from heat-seeking missiles.

Platt shares IMB calling with church family

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- David Platt was in Nepal on the last day of a mission trip in February when he awoke to an email that would change his life: IMB's president, Tom Elliff, was retiring.

2nd VIEW: TRUSTEES: Funding for short-term workers, Mideast refugee crisis accompany Platt vote

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- To a rousing chorus of cheers and applause, International Mission Board trustees overwhelmingly elected "Radical" author and pastor David Platt as IMB's 12th president during their Aug. 26-27 meeting near Richmond, Va.

TRUSTEES: Funding for short-term workers, Mideast refugee crisis accompany Platt vote

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- To a rousing chorus of cheers and applause, International Mission Board trustees overwhelmingly elected "Radical" author and pastor David Platt as IMB's 12th president during their Aug. 26-27 meeting near Richmond, Va.

2nd VIEW: Baptists called on to provide aid to Iraqi Christians, Yazidi Kurds

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP) -- As U.S. military forces launch airstrikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, IMB and Baptist Global Response (BGR) are asking Southern Baptists to help provide humanitarian relief for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds forced from their homes.

Baptists called on to provide aid to Iraqi Christians, Yazidi Kurds

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP) -- As U.S. military forces launch airstrikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, IMB and Baptist Global Response (BGR) are asking Southern Baptists to help provide humanitarian relief for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds forced from their homes. Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a "looming humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country's Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar's Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees. While the U.S. has begun airdropping water, food and other supplies to Yazidi refugees in the mountains, BGR representatives are focusing efforts on helping the reportedly 200,000 internally displaced Iraqi refugees who have fled ISIS militants' rapid advance. BGR is a primary ministry partner of IMB. In June, ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, ordering thousands of Iraqi Christians to leave, convert to Islam, or pay heavy taxes. Yazidi Kurds and other Iraqi minorities have been forced from Sinjar and surrounding villages under threat of death. Many of the refugees have fled to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, or south to Baghdad. "The news coming out of Iraq is even more heart-breaking than usual," Jeff Palmer, BGR's executive director, said. "We have been helping Iraqi families over the past few months but must now intensify our efforts due to this heightened conflict. We are grateful to have so many friends who care about people in need. Suffering Iraqis will have an opportunity to know God's love firsthand as our partners bring desperately needed relief." Rallying for relief Thursday, Aug. 7, more than 150 Yazidi immigrants rallied in front of the north lawn of the White House to plead for American involvement in the growing crisis. The protestors came from across the U.S., with at least one group driving more than 30 hours from Phoenix, Ariz. Holding signs and chanting slogans such as "Down with ISIS!" and "Save our kids!", the Yazidis' pain and sense of desperation was evident in the faces of protestors such as 27-year-old Nayyaf Abdo. Abdo grew up in Sinjar and came to the U.S. in 2011 after serving as a translator with the U.S. Army. He traveled to Washington for the rally with a group of more than 50 Yazidis from Lincoln, Neb., and said his parents, six brothers, sister and grandmother are among those stranded in the Sinjar Mountains.

2nd VIEW: Prayer urged for Iraq’s Yazidi Kurds as militants attack

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)-- As tens of thousands of Yazidi Kurds flee Islamic militants in northern Iraq, IMB workers in the region are joining Yazidi immigrants in the United States in a desperate plea for international aid and prayer amid the developing humanitarian crisis.

Prayer urged for Iraq’s Yazidi Kurds as militants attack

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)-- As tens of thousands of Yazidi Kurds flee Islamic militants in northern Iraq, IMB workers in the region are joining Yazidi immigrants in the United States in a desperate plea for international aid and prayer amid the developing humanitarian crisis. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as the Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city of Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the country's border with Syria. Sinjar is the home of Iraq's Yazidi people, a "minority among minorities," International Mission Board's David Edwards,* who has spent the past 14 years working among Kurds, said. Though ethnically Kurdish, Yazidis are not Muslim like the majority of their Kurdish brethren, Edwards said. Instead, Yazidis follow an ancient religion rooted in Zoroastrianism that ISIS equates with "devil worship," making the Yazidis a prime target along with Christians, Shia Muslims and any other belief system outside the militants' ultra-conservative brand of Islam. ISIS's ultimatum is simple: convert or die. Terrified by the brutal violence directed at Christians when ISIS captured Mosul in June, Sinjar's Yazidis quickly emptied the city early Sunday morning as Kurdish security forces, reportedly low on ammunition, retreated. Many residents left everything behind. Thousands of Yazidis without transportation escaped into nearby mountains, including as many as 25,000 children according to UNICEF. It's a situation John Harper* said he shudders to think about. "They are going to be encountering hell," said Harper, the former IMB worker, who has extensive experience in Kurdistan. Sinjar's desert-like mountains have little vegetation and no water. Daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees. "Even if you're sitting in the shade with some wind, it would be like sitting in front of an oven with a fan," he said. Harper's Kurdish contacts say at least 50 Yazidis already have died from exposure, including children. He fears many more stranded in the mountains may perish within the next few days without immediate humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, Yazidis who could not leave Sinjar remain locked in their homes, at the mercy of ISIS. The situation is so dire that more than 300 Yazidi Kurds in Lincoln, Neb., rallied at the state's capitol building Aug. 3-4 to raise awareness about the crisis. Lincoln is the home to one of the world's largest Yazidi populations outside Kurdistan, and residents such as Gulie (pronounced Julie) Khalaff remain desperate for something -- anything -- to be done.