EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today’s BP Ledger includes items from:
Compass Direct News
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
International Mission Board
Crown Financial Ministries
World News Service
Evangelist Shot Dead in Pakistan
Christian who wanted to serve the poor had received threats from area Muslims.
By Murad Khan/Compass Direct News
KARACHI, Pakistan (Compass Direct News)–An evangelist was shot dead here on Wednesday (Nov. 16) by an unidentified gunman in what his family believes was a radical Muslim group’s targeting of a Christian.
Zahid Jameel, 25, told Compass that his father, Jameel Saawan, and a helper were opening the doors of their cosmetics shop in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of Pakistan’s commercial hub of Karachi on Wednesday morning when a young man appeared and shot his father, first in the neck and then in the face.
The assassin fled on a motorcycle on which two people were waiting, keeping watch for him, Jameel said.
“We firmly believe that my father was killed because of his preaching of the Bible, because there is no other reason,” Jameel said.
His father had not spoken of any threats on his life in recent weeks, though he had received threats after voicing his desire to start a welfare organization for poor Christians in the Essanagri area of Karachi two years ago, Jameel said.
“That could not materialize after he started receiving threats from some unknown forces,” Jameel said. “We do not know who threatened him, but my mother persuaded him not to put his life in danger, for our sake.”
Nevertheless, Jameel said that his father continued to preach and was widely respected for being a vocal supporter of the Christian community.
“We live in a rented apartment and our shops are also on lease – we don’t have any property, and no enemies, which is why we are shocked by our father’s killing,” he said. “It wasn’t a robbery, because the assassin only walked towards my father and shot at him.”
Zahid said that his mother was in a state of shock, as were his three sisters and older brother, Shahid.
“Our father has been gunned down for no reason at all,” Jameel said. “He used to share the Word with Muslims, but I have never heard that he entered into an argument with any person.”
Jameel said that the family had moved to Karachi from Quetta about 10 years ago, with his father starting the cosmetics business two years later.
“My father was a very religious man, and some years ago he decided that it was time for him to reach out to the people and share the Good News with them,” he said. “Every day he would visit several families to share the Word of God and was very content with his life.”
His father used to sit with him at his shop from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., then go off to visit Christian families to share the Bible, Jameel said. On the day of the murder, however, his father reached the shop 15 minutes ahead of him.
“The young boy who helps me in my shop told us that he was opening the locks of the other door when he heard a gunshot,” he said. “The boy then saw my father trying to grasp the assailant, but the man fired another bullet that hit my father in the cheek and exited from the back of his head, killing him instantly.”
Michael Javed, a former member of the Sindh provincial assembly, told Compass that he had known the victim for several years, as both of them are from Quetta.
“Saawan was a very good man and was always eager to help his community,” Javed said. “I also think that he was killed by some religious forces, because he had shared with me once that he was receiving threats from some quarters.”
The former legislator said that no one had come forward to record statements with the police because of fears for their security, and it was highly unlikely that Saawan’s killers would be caught.
“There used to be quite a few cases of such nature in Sindh, but now the situation for minorities is worsening,” he said. “The government needs to make efforts to provide security to our people.”
Napolean Qayyum of the Pakistan People’s Party Minorities Wing told Compass that the PPP-led Sindh government would make all possible efforts to apprehend Saawan’s killers.
“President Asif Zardari’s spokesman has told me that the president had tasked Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan to investigate the incident and report back to him,” he said, adding that Wassan was likely to visit the family today.
Sharing Life Ministry’s Sohail Johnson said he regretted that the killing of the evangelist would instill further fear in Christians in the city.
“Pastor Saawan’s brutal murder shows that the forces of extremism and intolerance will go to any extent to disrupt peace and harmony in Pakistan,” he said.
Although police registered the case on Wednesday (Nov. 16), they have yet to make any progress in the investigation, sources said.
Saawan’s family was preparing for his burial today, still holding onto some hope that one day his killers will be brought to justice.
China Must Change its Repressive Policies to End the Deaths of Tibetan Monks and Nuns
WASHINGTON, D.C. (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom)–The self-immolations of Tibetan monks and nuns are the direct result of China’s harsh suppression of Tibetan culture and religion, said the US Commission on International Religious Freedom yesterday. The U.S. bipartisan federal agency urged the Obama administration to further challenge China to review counterproductive policies toward Tibetan Buddhism and to embrace concrete negotiations with appointed representatives of the Dalai Lama. The Administration previously had raised Tibetan issues with China at last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Hawaii.
“China’s infamous campaigns to restrict Tibetan religion and culture are squarely to blame for the despair that drives these horrifying acts of self-immolation,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF Chair. “The Administration should lead a global effort to stop future deaths and encourage negotiations between Beijing and the Dalai Lama’s representatives. The religious freedom of all Tibetans must be protected.”
Since March, 2009, eleven Tibetan monks or former monks and three Tibetan nuns have set themselves on fire. Six are believed to have died. Most of the self-immolations occurred at the Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province and were in response to China’s escalating attempts to stifle Tibetan’s peaceful political expression and public religious veneration of the Dalai Lama. Many Tibetans also oppose China’s compulsory “patriotic education” programs for Tibetan monks and nuns and new laws expanding Chinese control over the selection of Buddhist religious leaders.
“We commend Secretary Clinton’s public statements on Tibet at last week’s APEC summit,” said Leo. “We urge the Administration to develop a coordinated strategy and message at this week’s East Asia summit with nations such as Japan, South Korea, India, and Thailand that have significant Buddhist populations.”
USCIRF’s 2011 Annual Report to Congress states that “religious freedom conditions for Tibetan Buddhists…remain particularly acute as the government broadened its efforts to discredit and imprison religious leaders, control the selection of clergy, [and] ban peaceful religious gatherings… The Chinese government’s [policies have] led to significant religious freedom abuses and nurtured deep resentments among Tibetans.”
Further information and policy recommendations can be found at www.uscirf.gov.
Taking the Gospel to the stage in India
By Torie Speicher
INDIA (International Mission Board)–A crazy psychiatrist. A holiday dater. A domineering and demanding boss. These are just a few of the characters in Fletcher Lonsdale’s* play about living a Christian life in the workplace.
Lonsdale’s vision is to use theater to change the way people see the world and ultimately God. For him, theater is not just a play. It’s worship. Theater helps the California native share the Good News with South Asians who may not otherwise listen.
“When you watch a show or movie, you search for yourself on the stage or screen,” Lonsdale says. “You try to find someone to relate to, someone to tell your story. Their resolution, their conflict become yours. If someone sees themselves on stage and see that their problems can be resolved through having a relationship with Christ, they want that.”
The Mississippi College performing arts graduate says he found a way to use his gifts in a totally new arena while working in South Asia for two years. Originally, skeptics told Lonsdale that it would be impossible to stage a Christian play in such a predominately Hindu area. Instead, Lonsdale’s plays receive rave reviews and are performed before a packed house.
This method of sharing — through the arts — is making its impact on the community.
Sharing with the Cast
When Lonsdale saw his assembled cast for his first play, he noticed that everyone’s beliefs were different. A couple of actors were believers, but most were from other religious backgrounds, including Hindu, Jain, agnostic and Muslim. Yet all of these people had come together for the purpose of telling the story of Christ.
Lonsdale’s mission field would clearly be the cast first and audience second. So Lonsdale created Bible studies for each character and spent individual time with each actor, simultaneously rehearsing and sharing the Gospel.
Many of the actors who did not know much about Jesus showed an interest for the first time. One actor, who identified himself as an atheist, said, “There has to be something out there. There has to be a higher being out there.” Another actor asked for a Bible to read.
Sharing from the Stage
Acting in a play is not the most traditional way to share the Good News, but Kennedy Mathis,* a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student, doesn’t care. Since God gave her the ability to act, she sees it as useful for the kingdom.
“God is saying, I’ve given you talents. I’ve given you abilities and passions. Go and use them for my glory,” Mathis, who spent the summer taking part in the SA 101 program, says.
In the play, Sondra, Sammee, and Jai-Sir are people who go to an office everyday to escape their problems. Bree is the crazy psychiatrist who comes to help everyone. She quickly becomes overwhelmed when she doesn’t have the answer. When the characters are forced to face their problems and the possibility of losing their jobs, Sammee offers Good News through Jesus.
When everyone else is questioning his purpose, Sammee says, “I was created for moments like this.” He goes on to share about how Jesus changed his life so that he can encourage others to turn to Him. When Sondra hears that Jesus accepts her and provides hope for her problems, she says, “I want that!”
The purpose of the play isn’t to answer all the questions people have about Christianity, Lonsdale says it is to introduce people to the hope they can have in Jesus.
“It’s supposed to point the way to the answers,” Mathis adds. “It’s supposed to start the journey.”
Crown warns of next economic bubble: Student loans
ATLANTA, Ga. (Crown Financial Ministries)–Collapsing bubbles in recent years have taken a toll on the U.S. economy, noted Crown CEO Chuck Bentley, from Internet start ups to the housing market. But for parents and students preparing for college right now with loan applications and college entrance exams, it is important to stop and consider what Crown warns will be the next big bubble: Student Loans
Approximately one trillion dollars of debt already exists among the relatively small number of borrowers, 36,000,000 college alumni. But with the tightening job market, repayment problems and defaults are going to intensify.
“You can’t short-sell a college education,” said Bentley. “Parents and students are taking on tremendous debt right now in pursuit of future careers that may not provide the income to match the loan payments.”
Recently, President Barack Obama put forward a plan targeted toward those with student loans – which essentially encourages more student loan borrowing without addressing the real problem.
“The president’s plan will provide less than an average of $10 a month relief for students, but that is a drop in the bucket. Students will own the kind of debt that can swallow up all the resources needed to begin their life,” said Bentley, who noted that part of the problem was the undisciplined, continued expansion of college costs riding on the back of the student borrowers.
“How is it that when almost every other sector of the economy is scaling back expenses, costs at public universities have risen 8% a year? A good question for parents and students to ask themselves is whether they are getting the best value for the costs,” said Bentley.
For parents and students who are preparing to take on college loans, Crown offers tools and materials on money matters. Free analysis of college loan needs is available at: www.crown.org/studentloan. For more information on Crown materials go to www.crown.org or call: 800-722-1976
Eighty TMC students view
By Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (Truett McConnell College)–Defying the self-obsessed behavior of the typical college male, 68 Truett-McConnell College students — all single, save one — car-pooled to a local theater to see the film “Courageous” en masse.
After hearing the men’s assessments of the film, about a dozen women students also wanted to see the movie, so several TMC men accompanied them the next day.
What began in the minds and hearts of two students, Brandon Strange and Austin Temple, became reality for the 80 students who viewed the movie produced by Sherwood Baptist Church, Albany, Ga. “Courageous” follows four successful police in their struggles to be godly fathers.
Both Strange and Temple are Christian Life Coordinators who lead a Bible study in their dorm. Strange approached TMC’s Campus Minister Keith Wade with the idea of the male students seeing the film as a group activity. Already planning a gender-inclusive, campus wide function featuring the movie, Wade approved the idea and suggested that men from every dormitory attend the guys-only event.
“Alright, how many of you didn’t cry?” Strange told TMCNews, recounting a question from a classmate at movie’s end. At least 50 men replied in the affirmative, said Strange, expressing relief it was a men-only event.
“I heard one of my friends cry,” Strange said. “He cried like a grandmother, two rows up. But when I talked with him later, he opened up about a number of issues in his life.”
“I was either recovering from tears or starting new ones,” added J.C. Hitzing, saying the movie encouraged him “to work now” to “prepare my heart for the ministry that I’m going to have to my family.”
The victim of an absentee father, Kenneth “Kip” Stanley said he realized “the importance of being a father.” The movie “continued to water the seed about being a good father and taking a stand,” he said. “Not only that, but I realize that being a good father is something to celebrate,” he added, relating the lack of guidance from his drug-addicted and alcoholic father, who died when Stanley was 10.
Truett-McConnell student Chris Chapman said the movie spurred appreciation for his father and encouraged him to strive to be a spiritual leader: “I have to keep my relationship with God first before I can even think about entering into a relationship with a woman,” he said.
For newlywed Brian Wisdom, the film was “encouraging and convicting at the same time.” He said every man should see the film, especially those who consider themselves godly.
In days following after the mid-October venture, Strange heard comments on how God spoke to the students through the movie. “So often, you think you’re doing a good job at being a godly man,” Strange said, reiterating he struggles with “things just like everyone else.”
A missions major, Strange noted the importance of being a man of God by citing societal norms he’s observed in other countries: “Any culture I’ve even been in or seen, if there isn’t a strong presence of God working in it, then there is no male leadership. Or if there is, it’s weak.”
The movie portrayed what a godly man should do, he added. “Some fathers may say they spend plenty of time with their kids, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to show them God in your own life.”
Strange said the movie helped answer this question: “How am I supposed to be the one who will embody a godly man to my own son?”
Missions major Lauren Brown told TMCNews that she wanted to see the movie after “hearing the guys say what a great movie it is, and that it really touched them. That means it really had to be a good movie, especially for those guys who seem so nonchalant about everything else.”
Brown said the movie “addressed the deepest life issues people of our generation are facing in every walk of life — as fathers and children.
“Even though it was directed at fathers, the movie pulled at the guys’ hearts strings about the things their fathers did and didn’t do,” she said. “I think it challenged them to strive for what they should be as they are thinking about their future.”
“Courageous” spoke to Brown regarding the “relationship between father and daughter. It’s one of the strongest and most important because a girl’s relationship with her father determines what her marital relationship will be. She will learn respect for the man in her life, and her mission to the man in her life. She will draw confidence from her father, as well as learn what characteristics she should be looking for in a man.
“If a girl has a correctly protective father, then that’s the kind of man she’ll look for. But if her father doesn’t care, she’ll probably go after any guy and be frightened the rest of her life never having developed confidence in who she is and what she’s worth,” said Brown, whose father died when she was age 9.
“Courageous” also featured a similar personal loss as Brown’s and Stanley’s, and Brown appreciated that the movie’s producers put the drama where it belongs: “The drama is not in the losing,” she said. “That’s not the drama. The hard part is recovering from the loss — learning how to go through life day-in and day-out with something missing. Life is never the same, and the movie focuses on the healing process. It teaches that where those who’ve experienced that kind of loss will need your help is six days, six weeks, six months and six years afterwards.”
“I didn’t start mourning until many years later,” Brown said of her father’s death. “When things happen in your life and that loved one is supposed to be there, but isn’t — that’s when it really hits you. The movie teaches that that’s when it’s going to hurt the most.”
Brown’s general recommendation for the movie: “I went from bawling, to laughing till my sides hurt, to bawling again.”
The movie sparked theme-related study groups in the male-occupied dorms that meet every week.
Courageous is the fourth release of Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church. Their first release since “Fireproof” — the number one independent film of 2008 — Courageous joins Sherwood’s other films, “Facing the Giants” and “Flywheel,” in touching and impacting lives through heartfelt stories of faith and hope.
Norm Miller is director of communications at Truett-McConnell College.
Senior Writer Vicky Kaniaru contributed to this story.
Campbellsville University makes plans to partner with the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba
By Christina L. Kern, office assistant
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (Campbellsville University)–Campbellsville University is making plans to partner with the Hispanic Baptist Bible Institute and the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba to provide training for professors at the seminary in Santiago, Cuba.
CU administration along with School of Theology faculty members met two pastors to discuss establishing a partnership: the Rev. Joel Luis Dupont, president of the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba, and Pastor Ernesto Font, who pastors Hispanic churches in Springfield and Danville, Ky., and serves as a professor at the Hispanic Baptist Bible Institute.
Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of CU, said, “We were very pleased to host the Rev. Joel Luis Dupont, president of the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention. His passion for reaching the people of Cuba for Jesus Christ was very much evident in our discussions.”
Dr. Twyla Hernandez, assistant professor of Christian missions at CU and director of the Hispanic Baptist Bible Institute, said, “The Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba has one seminary, 264 pastors and 490 churches. Just these few numbers highlight the need for additional leadership training, and the experience and expertise of Campbellsville University could be highly beneficial.”
Carter said, “Campbellsville University continues to provide strong support and partnership with the Hispanic Baptist Bible Institute; we are thrilled to have Dr. Hernandez as our professor of Christian missions and as she continues to serve as director of the HBBI; and we are going to work with Dr. Hernandez, Rev. Dupont, and others on an ongoing relationship and emerging partnership with the East Cuba Baptist Convention.
“CU is a Great Commission institution, and this is but another example of we are committed to helping prepare a global community of Christian servant leaders.”
The Hispanic Baptist Bible Institute began its relationship with the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba in 2010. In June 2011, the institute raised enough funds to start an extension center of the Bible institute in Cuba.
Hernandez said, “Because the average salary in Cuba is $20 per month, we cannot charge tuition or even books. With various donors, we were able to raise funds to supply the textbooks for 10 students. Currently, we have approximately 30 students studying in the extension center in Contramaestre, Cuba, all sharing the 10 books per course that we were able to provide. We hope to be able to expand this important ministry in the future.”
In the 1990s when the Soviet Union fell, Cubans began “turning to the Lord in record numbers,” Hernandez said. “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the Cuban convention needs more trained leaders in order to assimilate the many new believers who are being incorporated into the body of Christ.”
In addition, the Cuban government has also asked the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba to provide additional training for seminary professors.
“This moment in Cuba’s history is very important as restrictions are beginning to loosen for the first time in 50 years,” Hernandez said. “I believe that if we could come alongside our Cuban brothers and sisters at this moment, Campbellsville University could have a long-lasting impact on a health of the church in Cuba.”
CU’s School of Theology faculty members are planning a mission trip to Cuba for 2013. Hernandez will also make the trip in May/June of 2012.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,500 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master’s degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.
Long-term mission trip takes adventurers around the world in 11 months
By Richard Yeakley
Asheville, N.C. (World News Service)–Allison Elliot wanted more from this world than a lifelong pursuit of the American dream. At 19, Elliot was in college, studying psychology and longing to go explore the world. But she didn’t just want to travel. Elliot wanted to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
“Something inside of me was stirring to get up and go see the world that God created, to go love and serve others the way Jesus did,” Elliot said.
In August, Elliot joined the World Race, a long-term mission trip that takes participants through 11 countries in 11 months. Both the challenge and the timeframe seemed like the perfect lifestyle to encourage total surrender to the Lord, Elliot said.
Now four months into her adventure, Elliot is learning what it means to rely on God every day.
“Living by faith has never been easier,” she said. “Living in different cultures and not knowing what lies in store for the next day quite literally strips me of any sense of control I have felt in the past. Without faith, without trusting God, this year would be impossible. I rely on God for everything and when I forget to, He is quick to remind me that I can’t do anything without Him.”
Adventures in Mission, an interdenominational organization based in Gainesville, Ga., sent out its first team of 22 world racers in 2006. Since then, more than 1,000 young adults have taken on the challenge. In 2012 the organization will send out about nine squads of 40 to 60 racers, arranged in teams of 5 to 7 people. All racers must be between 21 and 35 years old.
The program’s goal is to reveal to young people what God is doing in the world before they commit themselves to the American Dream, exactly what Elliot wanted.
“The whole 11 countries in 11 months and a lifestyle that forced me to totally surrender to the Lord seemed perfect for me,” she said.
Weston Belkot, World Race brand manager, believes the long-term commitment the trip requires gives participants the most value in terms of personal growth. Whereas many missions trips are short-lived, “11 months is actually enough time to start some habits,” Belkot said.
Working in such small teams also gives racers the opportunity to experience a unique, tight-knit community. Although not everyone on the race becomes best friends, they learn to care for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, Elliot said.
“Intentional community is far from easy but it is a gift as well as an opportunity to experience relationships the way God intended,” Elliot said.
The program has changed with the growth and popularity of the race and the organizers walk a fine line between planning service opportunities and allowing the racers to rely on God, Belkot said.
“We spend a lot of time filtering ministries,” Belkot said. “But you need to go by faith.”
The racers participate in different mission opportunities in each country they visit.
Although most racers say they apply for the race to clarify their purpose in life, many of them end up finding something deeper – their true identity, Belkot said.
After only four months, Elliot is starting to get a better sense of her identity.
“I am learning to live a life of total surrender to God, and I am loving my brothers and sisters around the world as I go.” Elliot said. “There is something unique about the World Race culture, but it’s also a lifestyle I plan on embracing even long after the race is over.”
For more information about the World Race visit www.theworldrace.org.