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:
International Mission Board
Compass Direct News
William Carey University
North Greenville University
The Baptist Courier
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (2 items)
Israel Ministry of Tourism
South Asia News Prayer Requests (International Mission Board), September 2011, http://www.go2southasia.org
SOUTH ASIA (IMB)–Brief items reported by South Asia News (http://www.go2southasia.org) on Aug. 2 include:
BANGLADESH. Praise the Lord for what He is doing in the Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. In the midst of hardship and persecution, pastors in the Hill Tracts continue to faithfully serve their Master. Pray for open doors and a harvest of believers in the villages where pastors are beginning to work. Pray for the needs of their families to be met spiritually, physically and in every way. Here’s a short excerpt of one volunteer trip this past summer. “The time in the village, two days, was incredible. I truly believe it changed the lives of each of us. It was miserably hot and wet, but the stories were told. We had prayer time for physical and spiritual healing and the team ended with a special foot washing. In the past, the team has washed the feet of all the participants, but the decision was made to wash only the feet of the leaders of a couple of villages, our translator and the pastor. The impact was life changing.” Pray that the lives of the Hill Tracts’ peoples would be transformed as they follow Jesus – the One who came to seek and to save the lost.
BHUTAN. Pray for Bhutanese Christian students, asking God to equip them, empower them, and use them to make Jesus known to their generation and in their country. Pray that the Father will protect them from the evil one and protect their testimonies for His name’s sake. Ask that they would live holy, obedient lives – completely sacrificed – totally committed to Jesus. May they shine like the stars in the heavens as they hold out the Word of Life.
DIASPORA. A team serving among South Asians in the Diaspora writes, “Pray for us as we follow up the 51 salvations reported to us from the medical clinic on July 20 at our home. Over 200 people came through the clinic, were given the opportunity to hear the Gospel, and were ministered to both physically and spiritually. Pray for the new believers to grow in their faith and be ready to tell their stories. Please pray for the others to be reminded by the Holy Spirit of the truth they heard.
INDIA. This month, Hindus throughout India will celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi (the birthday of Ganesh). To millions of people, Ganesh is the elephant-headed god that represents wisdom, success, and the overcoming of obstacles. Large and small statues of Ganesh will be seen throughout India. In many cities, huge statues of Ganesh will be stationed at major locations so that thousands of people can bow before him. Vendors will sell the clay Ganesh images in a variety of sizes and colors so that everyone can afford to purchase one for their home. The idols will be washed and cared for and then, at the end of the celebration, the image will be taken to a body of water, immersed, and washed out to sea. Please pray that the more than 900 million Hindus of India will encounter the Living Word–the source of wisdom and the only One who said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b, ESV). Ask the Father to show you how to share love and Truth with Hindus whom you may encounter this month.
MALDIVES. In the beautiful Maldives Islands practice of any religion but Islam is banned. Some non-Muslim Maldivians exist, but most stay secret – afraid to share their new-found faith. Pray for breakthroughs in religious freedom allowing the Good News of Jesus to flourish. Pray the existing believers would be bold in sharing their faith and that zealous leaders would emerge to begin church planting movements in the Maldives.
NEPAL. Pray for patience and persistence for workers in Nepal who have continually had problems receiving the necessary documentation to do human needs projects in Nepal. In the midst of disappointment, the work continues. A worker in Nepal writes, “Please pray that the leaders in the churches would continue to persevere and be encouraged as they see the Kingdom of God grow through multiplying churches and that unbelievers’ eyes would be opened. Pray for Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal and his new government to include religious freedom in their new constitution.
PAKISTAN. Can the Gospel penetrate one of the most dangerous and darkest places on the planet? Although we might hesitate to respond, God’s answer in Christ is an unwavering YES, as the last few months have shown in Pakistan. God continues to draw people to Himself, and then save and sanctify them by the power of His blood on the cross. Pakistan has seen a lot of bloodshed in recent years, but our Savior’s blood speaks a much better word that the blood of Abel. It silences the voice of violence and revenge, and instead speaks forgiveness and freedom. Continue to pray that Pakistanis from north to south and east to west will listen and obey the voice of mercy. www.prayforpak.com
SRI LANKA. Pray for the pastors in Sri Lanka who have heard, over the past month, the vision for reaching the lost with the Gospel. Pray for God to break their hearts for the lost and for them to be strong and courageous and be faithful to do all the Lord commands them. Also, pray for believers in Sri Lanka to be diligent about Abiding in Christ.
MUSIC, ART AND STORYTELLING. “Satsang” means “gathering of truth.” For centuries, Hindus have gathered together in homes to sing “bhajans” (devotional songs) and talk about their beliefs and how to apply them in their lives. It sounds a lot like church, doesn’t it? Personnel all across India are beginning to apply this concept by holding “Yeshu satsangs” (satsangs focusing on Jesus) in friends’ homes and even their own homes. Pray that Hindus across high and low castes will choose to worship only Jesus when they attend these satsangs, sing bhajans about Jesus, and learn stories and Scripture that can apply to their lives.
FORWARD CASTE HINDUS. Levi (pseudonym), an auto rickshaw driver in India, was introduced to a volunteer team last year. After spending time with the group as they prayed for the needs of people they met, Levi was impressed and wanted to know more about Jesus. He decided he would start following Jesus along with his other gods. This year, some of the same volunteers returned to India. Levi encountered some of them and again spent time with them. After a few days, he ripped the amulet from his neck and said, “I want to follow Jesus only.” The next day, after overhearing training on baptism, he expressed a desire to be baptized. National believers made arrangements, and four people, along with Levi were baptized! Please pray that Levi will continue to grow in his obedience to Jesus. http://prayingforvaranasi.blogspot.com
SOUTH ASIAN HINDU FESTIVALS. Ganesh, the Hindu god of prosperity and success, is one of the most popular gods among Hindus of South Asia. For 11 days every fall, he is worshipped in homes all over South Asia. Most Hindu families will buy a special, large statue of Ganesh, set him up in their home, and worship him twice a day. This festival, called Ganesh Chaturthi, will be held on September 1-12 this year. During the same time, believers will be prayerwalking various cities, focusing on the strongholds of false beliefs. Pray for the followers of Ganesh this month, asking that they will realize that success and prosperity in this life will not help them in eternity. Pray that they will follow the one true God. Pray that as South Asia is covered in prayer, the strongholds will fall and the Spirit of God will cover South Asia. http://prayforgujarat.wordpress.com/
SOUTH ASIAN UNENGAGED PEOPLES. Traditionally known as shepherds and blanket weavers, the 4.5 million Gadaria people are scattered throughout northern India. Very few of them have ever heard about the Good Shepherd who gave His life for them and rejoices in rescuing even one lost sheep. The Gadaria are primarily Hindu, and their views of God and man are based upon several ancient Hindu myths about shearing sheep. Literacy levels are low, and belief in ghosts and witchcraft is common. Pray that the Gadaria will hear stories in their own language about the Good Shepherd who sacrificed His life for the sheep. Pray that fear will be overcome by love and that many Gadaria will choose to follow Jesus–the Way, the Truth and the Life. http://prayerthreads .imb.org
Nepal’s Churches Live under Threat, Discrimination
Lack of official recognition exposes Christians to litigation and other perils.
By Sudeshna Sarkar
KATHMANDU, Nepal (Compass Direct News)–Defying pouring rain and flooded streets, over two dozen people have gathered faithfully at the Putalisadak Church in the heart of capital city Kathmandu for the regular Thursday evening Bible study class, bringing a smile of satisfaction on the face of Pastor Dev Kumar Chetri.
The smile fades, however, when he talks about the problems that Nepal’s second-oldest church has faced due to government discrimination. Hundreds of other churches scattered through the former Hindu kingdom have faced the same problem.
The roots of the discrimination are imbedded in history. When four missionaries from neighboring India’s Kerala state came to Kathmandu Valley and founded the Bethshalom Putalisadak Church in 1953, preaching non-Hindu religions was a punishable offense. A powerful Nepalese aristocrat, Col. Nara Raj Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, who had secretly converted to Christianity in India, helped build the Protestant church on land bought in his name and those of two others.
“As per the old laws, churches were not allowed to register as religious institutions,” said Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, a Protestant pastor. “They functioned either as Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] or personal properties. In 2006, when Parliament formally declared Nepal secular, we thought it would change and churches would be recognized as religious institutions.”
Five years later, however, discrimination against Christians continues, Gahatraj said.
“We have not even been mentioned in the new policies and programs of the government proposed in Parliament this year,” he said.
The Putalisadak church suffered a crisis when two of the men who were co-owners of the land went to court to reclaim their share. The church land had to be carved up to resolve the dispute. Then it suffered another blow when the land it had bought with donations from parishioners in Lele village in neighboring Lalitpur district to build a cemetery 10 years ago could not be used due to fierce resistance by locals.
“This is the saddest story,” Pastor Chetri said. “Our church records indicate there are nearly 2 million Christians and about 4,000 churches in Nepal now. But most of them don’t have a final resting place, as Christianity is still not recognized in Nepal. It is as if we don’t exist.”
Operation World’s estimate of the number of Christians in Nepal is lower than the church’s – 850,801 – but the latest edition estimates a higher number of congregations, 9,780, than the Putalisadak church does.
The third-oldest church in Nepal, Nepali Isahi Mandali, founded in 1957, was also dragged to court by a resentful neighbor.
“When our congregation started growing, in 2006 we started building a bigger hall to accommodate them,” said Pastor Samuel Karthak. “But it was opposed by a neighbor, who went to court. The dispute went up to the Supreme Court before it was resolved. We would have felt so much more secure if the churches had been recognized as religious institutions. However, we are still regarded as second-class citizens, and churches as places that exist only to convert people. We still don’t have a voice.”
Stung by government apathy, Christians this month joined forces with other excluded religious communities like Buddhists and Muslims to begin a campaign seeking an end to religious discrimination.
The Inter-Religious Secularism Protection Movement (IRSPM) is asking the government to allow churches, mosques, Buddhist monasteries and all other institutions run by religious minorities to be registered as religious institutions and be exempted from paying taxes.
“Despite ratifying several international conventions and despite becoming secular, Nepal has not recognized Buddhist monasteries, mosques, churches, Sikh gurdwaras [worship halls] and other religious institutions belonging to the religious minorities as religious trusts,” said Ishu Jung Karki, IRSPM’s acting coordinator. “Instead, it is nurturing laws that promote one particular religion.”
The campaigners are demanding that the government amend the draft of a new penal code that has triggered widespread controversy and condemnation over the inclusion of clauses that make conversions a punishable offense. Instead, they are asking for a new Religion Act as well as Religion Commission to resolve religious disputes.
Christians make up 2.85 percent of the population of Nepal, a nation that is 16 percent Buddhist and 4.4 percent Muslim; Hindus are the majority at 75 percent, according to Operation World.
For the first time, Christians and other religious minorities are seeking proportional representation in all state organs such as the army, judiciary and civil service on the basis of population. Though Nepal’s new Parliament has 601 seats with the provision that the prime minister should nominate representatives from unrepresented communities, the stipulation has been virtually ignored. Most ignored have been Christians.
The campaign has also expressed concern at strident propaganda by a section of the Nepalese media against religious minorities; these media representatives say the religious minorities’ proposals aim to spread “envy, hatred and strife.” The Christian community has been especially alarmed by a recent article in a popular English daily, authored by the editor of a financial newspaper, who alleged that all international NGOs that had set up office in Nepal aimed to propagate Christianity.
Perhaps the greatest concern by Christians is about the delay in promulgating a new constitution that was to have bolstered the nascent republic’s secular status. The major political parties failed to meet two deadlines – one last year and one in May – to get the charter ready. A third deadline looms on Aug. 31, and it is evident that not even the first draft of the document will be ready.
The inordinate delay has given militant Hindu groups time to push for the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion and for a referendum to decide if Nepal should remain secular.
“The government should implement the new constitution by Aug. 31,” reads an IRSPM press statement. “That is the mandate of the people as well as the pro-democracy movement.”
The pro-democracy movement ended Hindu King Gyanendra Shah’s army-backed rule and brought the political parties to power.
WCU celebrates 250th birthday of school’s namesake
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (William Carey University)–William Carey University celebrated the 250th birthday of William Carey, the “Father of Modern Missions” and namesake of the institution, with an exquisite cake and campus gathering in the Student Conference Center on August 22.
The event was led by Dr. Myron Noonkester, dean of the Noonkester School of Arts and Letters and chair for department of history, and Dr. Bennie Crockett, professor of religion and philosophy and vice president for institutional effectiveness and long range planning. Dr. Noonkester and Dr. Crockett, both of whom are co-directors for the Center for the Study of the Life and Work of William Carey, D.D., recently purchased a lithograph of a painting of Carey, dated 1813, from a print shop in London. At the party, they unveiled their new treasure to WCU faculty, staff, students, and guests.
After a short lesson on the rare portrait, guests watched in awe as the 250 candles on the Carey-themed cake were lit and blown out, one section at a time. Everyone had a chance to admire the detailed cake, which included a portrait of Carey and other decorations representing his life, before enjoying the delicious masterpiece. WCU will continue the yearlong celebration Carey’s life with a variety of events, including a Carey-themed art exhibit in October.
NGU athletics to spearhead missions shoe project
TIGERVILLE, S.C. (North Greenville University)–The logic is simple. North Greenville University athletes compete in athletic shoes. The shoes get worn. Then, the seasons end. The following year, athletes get new shoes. Finally, the slightly worn shoes are being donated to the United Ministries Shoe Donation Project. A project coordinated by Crusader head baseball coach Travis Henson and associate head baseball coach and Director of Missions/Community Relations Reggie Reynolds.
Crusader Athletics has created this worthwhile mission project to share athletic shoes with young athletes throughout the Greenville/Spartanburg area who may not be able to afford a new pair.
The shoe donation project is a part of the kickoff to NGU’s new student-athlete mission emphasis program. The purpose of the program is to promote and ensure a greater community connection through ministry service and mission opportunities for all teams in our athletic program.
“We have a desire as individual athletes, coaches, and teams to serve God and community allowing us to maximize our impact and influence,” says Henson. “The program is called 127.COM taken from James 1:27 which is summarized as ‘Pure religion is helping others and reaching out to those in need.’ ” The COM represents “Crusaders On Mission.”
All of the shoes collected in the project go to United Ministries in downtown Greenville. United Ministries is an organization that seeks to meet needs in inner city Greenville by supplying food, clothing, and other necessities. Shoes are always in great demand and the supply was low – particularly for large sizes of athletic shoes. Shoes of all types and sizes are needed and are continuing to be collected.
Despite losing arm, Georgetown shrimper ‘watched over’ by God
By Marty Minto
GEORGETOWN, S.C. (The Baptist Courier)–It appeared to be a normal morning in Georgetown on June 30 when Allen Carl and his son went out on Carl’s fishing boat.
However, as father and son were about three hours into a day of shrimping, Carl’s hand became entangled in the fishing net as the boat’s powerful motorized winch lifted it from the water. Within seconds, his left arm was torn from his body.
In an instant, Carl’s life was changed forever. However, he believes each step — from the first horrible moments of the accident to his arrival home five days later — was watched over and guided by the hand of God.
Carl’s 11-year-old son, John Allen, witnessed the accident in shock, but had enough composure to follow his dad’s instructions and help save his father’s life. (John Allen was later honored by the South Carolina’s Sheriff’s Association with a life-saving award that included a plaque and medal.) It took approximately two hours from the time of accident for Carl to reach the hospital by medical helicopter.
“It was truly a miracle how my left arm was severed, because it was twisted and severed, which caused the artery to immediately close, causing very little blood loss,” Carl said.
Even in the swirling chaos of the moment, Carl said he remained calm because he knew God was with him and had a purpose for allowing this to happen in his life.
He said he has wondered what that purpose could possibly be, because his livelihood was not only as a shrimper but also as a barber. He is not sure what the future holds, but says he knows that God holds his future.
This is the second time Carl has come close to death. In another boating accident, he broke most of the bones in his face.
His pastor, Jason Williams, said Carl is a greeter at church and, on the first Sunday following his accident, was back at his assigned post at Screven Church in Maryville.
Through tears, Carl said it is clear that what matters most to him is the blessing to spend another day with his wife and children. The accident “has brought my wife and me and my children closer together,” he said.
Survey: Only 14 percent of ob-gyns perform abortions
WASHINGTON (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission)–A recent survey found only 14 percent of obstetricians-gynecologists perform abortions in the United States.
The result was less than the 22 percent reported in a 2008 survey, according to MedPage Today. Lead author Debra Stulberg of the University of Chicago and her co-authors said the latest finding may demonstrate a genuine decline or may represent divergent sampling and survey methods, MedPage Today reported.
“Access to abortion remains limited by the willingness of physicians to provide abortion services, particularly in rural communities and in the South and Midwest,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The survey also found those more likely to provide abortions are female doctors over males (18.6 percent to 10.6 percent), the youngest physicians, those in the Northeast or West, doctors in highly urban postal codes and those who identify themselves as Jewish. Less likely to perform abortions are Roman Catholics, evangelical protestants, non-evangelical protestants and doctors with strong religious motivation.
The research was conducted with a sample mail survey of 1,800 physicians, but the final sample was 1,031.
Pittsburgh repeals ordinance barring leaflets
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission)–Pittsburgh has rescinded an ordinance banning leafleting after pro-life advocates won a victory in federal court.
The Pittsburgh City Council officially repealed the ordinance Aug. 11, about 10 months after a federal court issued a temporary injunction that blocked its enforcement. Among the measure’s prohibited activities was placing handbills or cards on automobiles. The city said the ordinance was needed to prevent littering.
The city agreed to pay $35,000 in lawyers’ fees and repeal the ordinance in negotiations with the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented two pro-lifers in the case.
“From the very beginning, it was clear that this ordinance violated the First Amendment rights of our clients,” ACLJ senior counsel Ed White said in a written statement. “We’re extremely pleased that this ordinance has been repealed and that Pittsburghers can once again exercise their free speech rights through the distribution of leaflets without the fear of being fined.”
Restoration of the crown on Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate now complete
NEW YORK, N.Y. (Israel Ministry of Tourism)–After nearly a year of extensive conservation work on the largest and most impressive of Jerusalem’s gates, visitors to the Old City can now enjoy the Damascus Gate just as the public experienced it for hundreds of years. The conservation of the gate, carried out as part of the Jerusalem City Wall Conservation Project in cooperation with the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the Prime Minister’s Office, included the restoration of the large crown that Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent built atop the gate in 1538 CE.
“The Old City of Jerusalem is a focus of interest for people the world over and the number one tourist attraction in Israel,” says Elad Kendel, director of the Old City Basin in the Jerusalem Development Authority. “The city walls and gates are the first thing that everyone sees when they arrive at the Old City, and it is therefore important to us that tourists, both domestic and foreign, see the city in all its glory.”