KHARKOV, Ukraine (BP) -- It was still dark outside as I rose to go to prayer. A chill in the room told me that it was going to be a frigid mile walk to the square. I wanted to crawl back under the covers but resisted. "I've been doing this for only three days while my Ukrainian friends have done it every day for five years," I rebuked myself. Leaving the hotel, I picked my way around frozen piles of ice and deep muddy puddles, bent my head away from the wind, wrapped my scarf a little tighter, and walked in the early morning light to Freedom Square in Kharkov. It was 26 degrees with fresh snow falling and a bitter wind beating at my face, but I arrived to find big smiles, hearty handshakes and warm cheek-kisses from a jovial group who seemed not to notice the cold at all. The contagious joy warmed me from inside out and made me glad I'd come.
COSTA RICA (BP) -- IMB missionaries Jeff and Lori Herrington met Costa Rican believer Luis when he took on a leadership role in their local church. Luis, like the biblical Timothy, had been deeply influenced by the faith of his grandmother and became a Christian when he was 11. But it was in his post-high school years that 22-year-old Luis began to understand what it means to walk closely with the Lord and pursue Him in earnest.
THAILAND (BP) -- Aroon* was once a ladyboy. In Thai culture, little boys age 2 or 3 who show any inkling toward femininity are often labeled a "ladyboy" and raised to believe that even though their outside gender is male, their spirit is female. Ladyboys are rarely given a choice to be who they want to be. They often struggle to find jobs, and are often treated as less than other men and women. Aroon is also Deaf, which further separates him from the mainstream culture.
CENTRAL ASIA (BP) -- The Luli Gypsies mainly work as beggars and struggle to rise above prejudice and poverty. They are often treated as untouchables by countrymen, even by many believers. But lives are transforming for Christ through the efforts of a few who are showing love and acceptance across the cultural barriers. In one city, 40 to 50 Luli came to faith in one year. They quit begging, pursued legitimate employment, and have been welcomed into fellowship by local Christians.
LIMA, Peru (BP) -- Most people wouldn't think of Peru as being a hub of Chinese work, but there are more than a million Chinese in the country, 200,000 in Lima alone. They began coming to Peru three generations ago when the abolition of slavery left a void in the country's workforce. They were indentured servants, and once they fulfilled their contracts, many stayed and opened their own businesses. Today, Lima's Chinatown is a bustling center of activity with markets, stores and an abundance of delicious food that Peruvians have grown to love.
VIENNA (BP) -- When Maria* began to feel God nudging her to share Christ with Persians, she didn't know exactly what a Persian was. (There's no Persian language and no Persia on the map.) But within a week Maria met a girl from Iran. When Maria asked what language she spoke, the girl said "Persian," so Maria invited the young lady to study the Bible. Maria didn't set out to start a new Persian church. She was just obeying God. But that Bible study has now grown to over 100 people -- a mixture of former Muslims from Iran and Afghanistan, former Buddhists from Vietnam and former atheists ...