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(Jim Denison Forum) Syria continues to make headlines as its civil war escalates. The United Nations estimated in mid-February that 70,000 people had been killed in this conflict, now in its third year. Last Friday and Saturday, strikes attributed to Israel reportedly targeted a research center near Damascus involved in creating chemical weapons, as well as an airport and Iranian-made ground-to-ground missiles bound for Hezbollah.
In the midst of this physical war, Syrian Christians are facing something much darker—a spiritual war. Christians in Syria have historically experienced a higher degree of freedom than in most other Middle Eastern countries. Many of them have refused to denounce the Assad regime, fearing that extremists would replace the government and severely persecute religious minorities. As a result, many of the rebels consider Christians to be loyal to Assad. In addition, Christians populate a region of Syria that is strategic to the war. Whoever controls their land can split the nation in two and control the conflict. Here's the bottom line: Believers in Syria now face the possibility of population transfers, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. There are three ways we can help them. First, we can join them tomorrow in a special day of prayer and fasting. Coordinators of "The Day of Prayer for Syria" have issued this letter: "On Saturday, May 11, Christians from different denominations . . . are joining together in prayer and fasting to plead before the Lord for His mercy on Syria and an end to the violence. Due to the dangers of traveling in combat zones, Christians will be limited to local meetings planned all across Syria during this day. These groups will be meeting in homes, arenas and churches. Christians across Syria have asked that you join them in prayer on May 11. Thank you for standing in the gap on behalf of the Syrian people and reflecting the love of Christ. Second, we can make time during Sunday worship services to pray for our persecuted sisters and brothers in Syria. (For specific prayer requests, go here.) And third, we can join "8thirty8," a global prayer initiative for the persecuted church. My dear friends Tom and JoAnn Doyle, missionaries with e3 Partners in the Middle East, have created this network. Those of us who have joined them set an alarm each day for 8:38 PM as a reminder to pray for believers in prison, persecution, and danger. You can like their Facebook page for updates and RSVP with your commitment to the Day of Prayer for Syria. When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, "the church was earnestly praying to God for him" (Acts 12:5). As a result, he was miraculously released and continued his global ministry. Let's intercede together for those in our faith family who need a similar miracle from God today.
Syria (MNN) ― It's easy to lose sight of just how bad Syria's refugee crisis has gotten after 14 months of flow into Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. e3 Partners, however, has far from forgotten.
"We think it's one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the Middle East in probably the last ten years," says e3's Tom Doyle.
It's been extremely difficult to keep track of any numbers during the severe unrest in Syria. The number of deaths since the unrest began range anywhere from 10,000 persons to 20,000. No one seems quite sure how many people have been imprisoned or how many are missing. And of course, it's incredibly hard to keep track of how many people are desperately fleeing the war-torn nation.
e3 has an estimate though: "We think it's probably 300,000-plus refugees in the surrounding countries right now." The exodus is likely to keep up with the fighting.
"The civil war continues. It really does not show any signs of letting up," says Doyle. "We think there's some nations behind Syria now that's given them strength to keep this going. So our hearts go out to people in need, no matter what the situation is, no matter the government."
The ministry is not just saying that. Their concern is personal, and it came recently in the form of a desperate call from Jordan.
"We got a plea for help from a Middle East leader saying, ‘Would you be able to help us? We are overwhelmed with the need: the food, the shelter, the clothing that's needed.'" Doyle says many Christian groups in Jordan are severely overwhelmed as they try to take on some of the work the government cannot tend to.
"[Refugees] come into Jordan; it's safer there. So the Jordanian government is doing what it can, but the needs are pretty overwhelming. It's not a large country -- maybe 5 million -- but they've had over 100,000 refugees. So Christian groups are actively reaching out to them," Doyle explains.
And now e3 is reaching out to those Christian groups. Every dollar they raise to help believers in Syria goes directly for those groups to provide clothing, food, shelter, water and other basic necessities. Doyle says clothes are often the first need to tend to as many Syrians fled with nothing but the shirts on their backs.
The response is vital for several reasons. Basic needs are provided for to be sure. But care under Christians also has a protective element to it. Refugees who flee Syria without finding a place to help them could easily get sent back to Syria. Doyle says a potential change in government could completely alter the fate of many people.
As e3's partner groups reach out, their most important gift is the Gospel. Believers have to be careful, but when the time is right, they are sharing the message of Jesus Christ with refugees. Doyle says many refugees are simultaneously having dreams about Jesus and entrusting their lives to Him.
Even back in Syria, the Lord is at work. "In the midst of total neighborhoods being destroyed and people being displaced, there are some amazing stories of Jesus coming to the rescue and reaching out to people," says Doyle.
Despite the largest humanitarian crisis in a decade, the One True God is moving. And e3 wants to be a part of it.
You can help e3 send aid and the hopeful Christ message to thousands. Click here to give and to find out how you can get a copy of Doyle's book Desperation to guide your prayer. Keep praying.
Sherrie Anderson is in the business of helping people. But she’ll soon be taking her expertise in prosthetics and orthotics one step further in helping others and many miles farther away.With a degree and certification in prosthetics and orthotics, Anderson’s taking her work from her office on University Drive in Nacogdoches around the globe to help amputees in less developed countries. This summer, she and her husband, Eddy, and their mission — Step by Step Prosthetic Mission — will collaborate with e3 Partners Ministry “to share two things that are very dear to us,” Anderson writes on her website at www.stepbystepmissions.com, “ ... the life-changing message of Christianity and our passion to help people through prosthetic rehabilitation.”
In June, the couple will join e3 Partners in traveling to various regions of Tanzania to identify and help people with albinism who have suffered amputation at the hands of people selling the severed limbs for use in potions of witch doctors. It was her earlier work in Haiti following the earthquake of 2010 where she volunteered with a rehabilitation team that led to the creation of Step by Step Prosthetic Missions.
“That kind of spurred on my desire to help people in third-world countries,” she said on a recent morning from her clinic at Professional Prosthetic Care. “At about that same time was when the albinos who were being attacked during the night were in the news. The two happening at the same time made me think that maybe I could help in some way in Tanzania.”
This recent project come together through her husband’s uncle, who is a retired college professor and one of the founders of e3 Partners. “At Christmas, I just asked him if he thought it would be something that would be doable and safe to go,” she said. “And about three weeks later, I got an email that said ‘you can go in June. “So now, we’re pretty much on the fast track to make this happen,” she said.
“Since 1987, e3 Partners has brought a unique, biblically-based approach to world missions that has produced significant results in cultures around the world,” according to the website at www.e3partners.org/. “The focus is church multiplication, incorporating all the key elements of Christ’s commission of going, making disciples, teaching and baptizing in order to plant and grow new churches.”
The medical component of e3 Partners works closely with the hospitals and clinics in Tanzania. Step by Step’s mission is to provide “prosthetic services to people in Africa who are living with an amputation, while introducing them to the story of Christ,” the website says. “We provide custom artificial limbs, as well as assistive devices, to improve mobility.” Anderson initially pursued a career in physical therapy, but by working in a physical therapy clinic while in college, she came in contact with prosthetics and orthotics. “And that was better suited to me,” she said. “I’m pretty mechanically inclined and three dimensional in my thinking, and you certainly use those skills in prosthetics and orthotics. And I found it interesting.”
Fundraising will take place over the next several months to help fund the Tanzania trips, but more importantly help cover the costs of fabricating the prostheses once they return with the casts they will make on their initial trip. Once those are made, Anderson and her husband, along with a physical therapist, will return for a two-week stay in August to fit the limbs and teach the amputees how to walk with their new limbs. The goal is to serve 30 amputees.
The most recent attack of an albino occurred last October in the Shinyanga Region, according to information on the Step by Step website.
A 15-year-old girl, Kulwa, had been attacked in the middle of the night by three masked men. Kulwa had been sleeping with another sibling in a shed near the main house. The three assailants managed to open the door without force and, knowing exactly where Kulwa was sleeping, used a machete to sever her arm above the elbow. In response to her screaming, her father came out of the main house but was immediately attacked by one of the masked men. The mother also tried to rescue Kulwa but it was too late. She saw the men disappearing with her daughter’s arm wrapped in one of the men’s coats. At the time of this report, Kulwa was still in Kahama District Hospital with her father.
In addition to 82 reported similar attacks in Tanzania, there have also been 12 grave robberies. In 2011, there were also two failed grave robbery attempts. Anderson’s relying on her faith to keep her calm and safe, and to face the realities of what she will likely deal with in Tanzania. “I’m just putting myself in the hands of e3 Partners and God, and I don’t feel scared at all,” she said.
Click here to watch the I am Second Book Party webcast. The broadcast includes highlights from the January 14 party held at the I am Second headquarters that featured the Newsboys Jim Munroe, Todd Agnew and Sean Little, plus hosts Tamara Jolee, Dallas Cowboy Bradie James, and many others in attendance. This is something you will want to see.
Recently Tom Doyle was interviewed by Chris Mitchell of CBN on a range of topics about the Middle East.
Click here to view the interview.
Out of 7 million potential donors for a bone marrow transplant, he said, only one was a perfect match. God spared his life — and soul, he said.
Munroe is one of dozens of celebrities featured in video testimonials on the “I Am Second” website. They include Texas Rangers standout Josh Hamilton, author Anne Rice, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bradie James and former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns. Ordinary people are also in the videos, and reveal personal lessons in their lives. Each one ends by stating their names and the statement “I am second,” which presumes God is first.
The catch phrase is the title for an Internet-based campaign begun three years ago in the Dallas area that arrived this fall in San Antonio. It is the handiwork of e3 Partners, a 24-year-old evangelical missions organization based in Plano and noted for its use of technology and innovation and the support of local churches.
The “I Am Second” idea came from Norman Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries and a member of the organization's board. The campaign provides free resources online but relies on grass-roots volunteers — from youth ministers to students — who use the campaign materials to set up small groups.
The idea is for the groups to multiply. If numbers in an area grow significantly, e3 Partners follows it up with a media ad blitz, including billboards and radio and TV ads highlighting celebrities.
In the digital age, the campaign is an example of how faith groups are increasingly using the power of the Web to boost traditional messages.
“I think (e3 Partners) has done a very effective job of using multiple kinds of media and penetrating the church market to find folks who are passionate about sharing their faith,” said Greg Ligon, vice president and publisher of Leadership Network in Dallas, a church consulting firm.
Faith groups of many kinds are using this approach. Mormon leaders, for example, included San Antonio this fall in their own national media campaign, mixing billboards and an Internet site with high-quality video testimonials. Called “I'm a Mormon,” it also relied on a first-person catch phrase as a marketing tool.
The local “I Am Second” effort was officially launched this fall at a Silver Stars game and continued at a recent Casting Crowns concert. About 1,000 people have signed on, receiving an “I Am Second” rubber bracelet and other products. About 140 people have been trained to start a small group, said John Williams, a local staff representative of e3 Partners and trainer for the campaign.
“This is such a viral thing,” he said. “I don't control the groups. I equip people, and when they're ready to start a group, we support them. It's really just a tool to empower the church to reach outside the walls to share their faith.”
Lee High School is an example. A few initial students have become three groups of up to 40. After seeing the Munroe video on a recent Friday afternoon, some of the Lee students teared up. The magician's story carried the theme of mortality and eternal life, they said, which they built on with discussion later and readings from the Bible. To conclude, members asked each other how they would apply the lesson to their lives that week.
“You never know when Jesus may come back,” said Keaira Dorn, a 16-year-old junior and group leader who wore a campaign bracelet. “We should live our lives like this and know that everything you go through helps you prepare for victory later.”
Most headlines involving Mexico over the past few years have revolved around some sort of drug cartel shootings, kidnappings or most recently, arson. Although the whole nation of Mexico is certainly not smothered in violence, many people in border towns are scared for their lives.
Of the 40,000 deaths that have occurred since 2006 connected to Mexican drug cartels, most have been men actually caught up in some way with the cartels. But the violence has spread easily and quickly outside those circles to include many civilians, paralyzing many who live along the border with fear.
"People have a feeling that today could be the day that they die," says Todd Szalkowski with e3 Partners. "They literally approach every day, because of the violence there, as if it could be their last day on earth."
Szalkowski says in every Mexico-U.S. border town, people have been directly affected by the violence through the death of innocent friends or family, the death of loved ones who were wrapped up in the cartels, or the abductions of those around them. Szalkowski says kidnappings for ransom are common among middle-class Mexicans.
As a result, "People are afraid to gather in large groups, and that affects church-going people. They're seeing their pastors abducted out of the pulpit right in front of their eyes and held for ransom."
Szalkowski says it's gotten to the point where families are sending children away. "Our pastor friends in these border towns are asking us to adopt their daughters and bring them to the United States because of their fear for their safety."
Gripped by fear, even believers are too nervous to attend church. They're staying in, and in extreme cases, some are turning to answers from ungodly sources.
"People feel the cartels are somehow protected [through] all kinds of idol worship," explains Szalkowski. "So civilians are looking at that and saying, 'Well, if it's protecting the cartels, maybe that's the direction I should go,' rather than worshipping the Creator God of the universe."
e3 Partners has been in Mexico for 20 years. The ministry currently has a presence in most key cities along the north and south borders. After watching the ways spiritual growth has been halted by fear, e3 is planning a new plan of attack.
e3 is implementing their I Am Second program into home groups in Mexico, to encourage group Bible studies that will essentially serve as small house churches. The hope is that as people get involved with the home churches, the groups will multiply. So far, e3 has just completed a few training sessions, but their goal is to have 8,000 of these groups along the border.
In order to do this, e3 has a couple of needs. First, these church groups, which will serve as beacons of Christ's hope and light to a volatile area, need Bibles. e3 is providing the groups with hardcover Bibles that will last.
The ministry also needs prayer that many might come to the Lord. "[We're] praying that we can reach as many people with the gospel of Jesus Christ before violence or other negative things impact their lives in such a way that we've lost them," Szalkowski concludes.
(MNN Online) Community transformation is a key component to the work of e3 Partners. A part of that transformation is planting vibrant churches -- something they've been doing for 25 years.
Todd Szalkowski, South America Regional Director for e3, outlines what community transformation means to e3. "Our desire is that each of those churches that are planted are transformational in its community, from a spiritual and also a health and material ability to function in a community."
The question is: Why would communities need transformation? Szalkowski says, "In many parts of the world, it's difficult for people to hear the Gospel if they're so hungry they may die of starvation. So it's a desire to meet physical needs in a non-dependence-creating way that allows people to realize that those needs are being met by the love of Jesus Christ through the local church."
Tanzania is just one example of where e3 Partners wanted to "build a coalition of church leaders as well as local government, educational, and other leaders who were willing to sit down together to prioritize the needs of their community and the assets that are already in that community."
This is where evangelism transformation can take place, by starting discipleship groups though existing alliances. "The easiest way to keep a discipleship group together is to inject discipleship into an existing, natural group of people,"says Szalkowsk.
It can be community leaders, families, or other like-minded members of a group.
Szalkowski says community transformation couples with it the"I Am Second" movement, an initiative that encourages people to find their God-given purpose in life and gives them the tools to make a difference physically and spiritually.
If you'd like to help e3 Partners, Szalkowski says, "We would ask your listeners to consider contributing Bibles and funds toward the effort to expand a very easily reproducible discipleship program among all the nations."
Tom Doyle, e3 Partner's director for the Middle East and Central Asia, was a guest on the 700 Club Friday July 29 to discuss the phenomenon of Muslims who are leaving Islam to follow Jesus as their Savior. Tom's book Breakthrough! The Return of Hope to the Middle East tells the stories of these amazing Muslim- background believers who risk their lives when they become Jesus' disciples.
Doyle encourages believers to pray for Muslims worldwide during Ramadan which begins August 1st. For the past 20 years, global prayer initiatives have enlisted believers to pray and fast for Muslims during this important month. And God has been faithfully answering those prayers. The month of fasting is considered holy to Muslims which total 20% of the world's population. Demographic trends predict that within a few years, one out of every four people on the globe will be Muslim.
"During Ramadan, each year some Muslims are reporting that they are seeing visions of Jesus while observing Islamic rituals in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This creates a thirst in their soul that only Christ can quench. Often when they return home after Ramadan, God brings a believer into their life that eventually leads them to faith in Christ. Some e3 teams have even had the privilege of praying a prayer of salvation with Muslims who have been having encounters with Jesus over time. God is powerfully moving today in the Muslim World. In the last 10 years, more Muslims have become followers of Jesus than in the last 15 centuries of Islam."
If you want to be inspired, order Breakthrough! here.
Imagine if a little cube could help save the lives of one million children every year. There is now such a cube — MalariaCube™, a simple tool that will change how the world views Malaria.
Malaria is one of the most serious health threats facing the world today.
Malaria takes the lives of more than one million people, mostly children five years old and younger, per year and affecting between two and three billion people worldwide.
Introducing MalariaCube™, a simple and engaging tool that educates viewers on causes, treatment and prevention of malaria. Using pictures to eliminate the language barrier, MalariaCube™ unfolds to reveal important facts that help identify how to prevent malaria. See link for demonstration: http://malariacube.com.
"[MalariaCube™ is] a unique and creative approach for educating people about malaria prevention and control," Dr. K.F. Fischer, MD, MPH, said. "Since there are no words on the Cube, the message can be shared in any language using the information on the package insert. I recommend it." Elizabeth Styffe, RN PHN MN and director of Global Orphan Care Initiatives for Saddleback Church and The PEACE Plan, said, "MalariaCube™ is a simple yet effective resource anyone can use to teach others about malaria."
"MalariaCube™ is a remarkable resource unlike anything we've seen, providing fresh help and hope for ending malaria," Styffe said. "If our aim is not to fight malaria, but to end malaria, excellent tools like the MalariaCube™ must be placed in the hands of local community."
To learn more about MalariaCube™, call the information hotline toll-free at 1-855-4MCUBES. You can also visit the MalariaCube™ website at http://www.malariacube.com or contact Joelle Polisky (615) 516-0358.
Beginning with the creation of EvangeCube® in 2000, e3 Resources now provides an extensive line of innovative tools and resources used in over 75 countries worldwide. e3 Resources is a division of e3 Partners, recognized as a world leader in short-term missions and church planting, as well as the innovative new discipleship movement I AM SECOND. For more information on e3 Resources visit http://e3resources.org.
Listen to Barry Creamer's interview with Brian Fikkert.
Newly appointed e3 Partners Director of Israel and longtime Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam, along with five others, have been selected to the Class of 2011 Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition to Elam, the selection committee also elected Colorado Rockies player Larry Walker, former University of Colorado and Denver Broncos defensive lineman Alfred Williams; former President of the Colorado Rockies Keli McGregor; legendary race car driver Bobby Unser; and Art Berglund for his contributions to USA Hockey.
The six were officially inducted at the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Banquet, Tuesday, April 12th at the Denver Marriott City Center.
Elam was a member of the Broncos from 1993-2007 and won two Super Bowl titles with the club. He retired with the fifth-most field goals (436) and points scored (1,983) in NFL history. A member of the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team, his 236 games played for Denver are a club record and his 15 seasons with the Broncos are tied with center Tom Nalen for the second-most seasons with the team in franchise history behind Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
Elam recently joined e3 Partners in an official capacity after several years of assisting Middle East Region Director Tom Doyle on many e3 expeditions. He will continue to focus his efforts on leading the strategy in Israel.
e3 Partners Vice-President and Middle East Regional Director Tom Doyle continues to be a confident voice of truth in national television and radio interviews regarding the turmoil and changing political landscape in that volatile region.
Listen to Tom on the Janet Parshall radio show here:
As pro and anti-Mubarak protesters clash in the streets of Egypt, the Christian minority continues to face mounting persecution, largely unbeknownst to the public eye.
Tom Doyle, Middle East director for E3 Partners, a Christian missionary organization that works extensively in Egypt and the surrounding region, and author of “Breakthrough: The Return of Hope to the Middle East,” tells FOX that colleagues on the ground report the murder of 15 more Christians outside Al-Minya, about 150 miles south of Cairo.
“With no police available, no one was willing to help them. Family members are taking turns keeping watch over their homes, as robberies, rape, looting, and car theft are occurring routinely now.”
Under Egypt’s constitutional rights, Christians are free to practice their faith. Persecution, however, has been rampant, as Muslim extremists seek to deny those rights. Twenty-three Christians were murdered and 70 injured as a suicide bomber attacked a Coptic Christian Church at a New Year’s Eve mass in Alexandria. Archbishop Raweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, denounced what he called a lack of protection.
"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church," he said. "Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from Al Qaeda?”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was recently asked about the onslaught of Christian murders across the Middle East. Gibbs deflected to the State Department, and said, “I have not heard the – an overarching theory” behind the attacks, and “the president is aware.”
Christianity in Egypt dates back to the first century A.D. as Alexandria was an early center of Christianity, and until the Islamic conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, it was predominantly Christian. Today, the Christian minority only makes up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.
“With the Muslim brotherhood rising up, Christians are very nervous about who might be next in line to take over for Mubarak,” explained Doyle. “Many times it’s been stated that there’s democracy but it’s just been a veil for authoritarianism.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in the 1920s, demanded today for Mubarak to step down, as well as Jordan’s new Prime Minister. Among the brotherhood’s graduates, Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 - the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri -- who was imprisoned for three years on weapons charges following President Sadat's assassination in 1981, as well as Hamas, the terror network behind suicide bombings and rocket attacks in Israel, and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine whose goal is the destruction of Israel.
Walid Phares tells FOX the group is “the mothership for the Jihadi ideologies and thinking, and therefore one can say today's Al-Qaeda and today's many other jihadists are offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Asked today about how the Obama administration would handle Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood takes control, Gibbs said, “I think we’re getting way ahead of the process. I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about what-if.”
Whether it will be addressed by the White House or not, Egyptian Christians fear what will become of the already persecuted minority should Muslim extremists take control.
In a phrase, "Dang skippy."
And why not? Doesn't the Bible say in Matthew 11:12, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."
Well, if you have seen MMA in any form or promotion, you know this fits.
And if you don't believe me, then ask a guy named Vitor Belfort. Read an excellent article by Jennifer Riley in The Christian Post. Or better yet, watch Vitor's "I Am Second" video.
Yes, this man nicknamed "The Phenom" (who has a great chance to win the UFC middleweight championship this weekend), is a blood-bought, keepin-it-real, Jesus-loving Christian.
Is that possible?
This guy is one of the best middleweights/light heavyweights in MMA history. However, before new UFC fans knew his name, he knew God. How? Through a traumatic experience most can't even begin to imagine. From the story:
In 2004, he captured the title of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. But in that same year he received devastating news that his sister was kidnapped in Brazil after their mother dropped her off at work. The family never found her body, but heard stories that more than 20 men raped her and killed her in the slums...
...Seeking a way to assuage his pain, Belfort began to pray. It was through praying that he heard God’s voice: “Son, it doesn’t matter how you look, how you think about your life, your sister belonged to me.”
An amazing testimony for an amazing guy. Why? Because he's famous? No. Because he's a fighter? Not really. Because he's got a 'I Am Second' Video? Not so much.
It's all those things, really. Watch his fights and you think this cat has a serious mean streak. Listen to his post-fight interview and you may mistake him for a preacher. Yet, people do not usually make fun of him.
I know, aside from the fact dude would slap a rear naked choke on you so fast, you would think you just swallowed wrong. No, UFC fans and staff alike leave his relationship with Christ alone because it's real.
That's all it takes for people to respect you as a child of God - a real commitment to Christ and being real in front of everyone else. That is is the difference between being given an opportunity to witness about God's grace and being a hypocrite that only witnesses everyone pointing and laughing in your direction.
Vitor probably reads a Bible in his dressing room... right before he shadow boxes and imagines ripping Anderson Silva's ...um, someone's arm clean out of its socket. Can you be saved and still do that? Vitor manages it just fine.
Behind the curtain, I was a martial artist for years. I am a huge fan of MMA. And my church even has a UFC Fight Night Bible study every pay-per-view. Why tell you that? Well, laugh if you want... but that group is one of the biggest in our church and one of the only in the state.
Yes, there's others. And why? In fact, fighting ministries help churches reach out to men, who are less likely to attend services, believe in God or consider religion important in their lives, according to a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Whatever your hobby, you can glorify Christ with it within reason. And whether viewing the bone-chilling tackles on a football field or admiring a sweet noma plata in the Octagon, it is still sport… and I can still be saved enjoying it.
This is not a Christian world, folks. Therefore, in the midst of it, we should just strive to be the image of Christ in this world for everyone to view, enjoy and want to emulate. Regardless of what people are doing or saying around you.
But don't take my word for it:
But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. (1 Timothy 6:11-14 NLT).
So, that said. God bless my fellow martial artists of the world who practice with passion and praise God with purpose. Ooss! (And, here's to hoping Jesus is watching UFC 126 and helps Silva slip on some sweaty canvas so Vitor can put him to sleep. Um, Amen.)
Middle East (MNN) ― While the world continues to focus on Egypt, protests are also hitting Jordan and Yemen. In Jordan, protesters are upset with unemployment and corruption. In response, reports say King Abdulla fired his Cabinet, ordering his new prime minister to pursue political reforms to "correct the mistakes of the past."In Yemen, protesters are upset with high unemployment and want the president to resign.
Tom Doyle with E3 Partners says this is a new wave of discontent across the Middle East. "I think we're just seeing a collective anger around the Middle East, primarily young people, but people our age too are just frustrated. They're oppressed, and they want freedom."
With 60 percent of the population of the Middle East under the age of 30, the lack of employment and education means hopelessness.
While Islam is the predominate religion, radical Muslims are outnumbered by secular Muslims. But Doyle says, "In times of desperation, people put back and retreat and get more established into their religion, so we have seen secular, moderate Muslims switch in just a minute when things were on the line."
The prayer for Christians globally is simple, says Doyle. "Pray that this massive [group of] people in the middle doesn't move to radicalism, because IF that happens, then the world will witness the creation of 'Iran South.'"
While some Christians are getting involved in the protests, the majority aren't. "Believers are laying low and using this as a time where they can bring salt and light and truth to people in their villages and cities, but they realize right now that they don't have a lot of protection."
Police and the military are being used to keep government institutions from being burned to the ground. There's not much protection for minority Christians who are already treated poorly. "I talked to one Christian leader in Egypt. He said, 'It's just like it's always been. It's just us and Jesus. He's our protector.'"
While Doyle is hopeful secular Muslims will fill the political vacuum in Egypt, he's still concerned about the Islamic Brotherhood winning. "If they do, they're the largest country in the Middle East and North Africa. [They have] nuclear weapons. This does not look good if it moves away from moderates."
E3 Partners support national pastors in these nations. Doyle is asking you to help support them, especially during these uncertain times when people are open to hearing about Jesus.
John has a presence. It’s difficult to articulate, but there’s a calmness and peacefulness that emanates from him. He comes across as naturally quiet. That could be due to language. He interacts as much as any other African when he’s moving amongst his people. One assumes the peace is from his walk with Christ, but it could also have been born when he was laying with the pile of dead bodies--but I’m skipping ahead.
With his bible school training under his belt, John continued to plant new churches in far Southern Sudan and Northeast Kenya until another American missionary asked him to come back to Sudan with him. Shortly after this, John felt compelled to return home; however, home no longer existed. The SPLA controlled a village about 20 kilometers south of John’s home village. He set up camp there. It was 2005. He hadn’t seen his father in over a decade. John had been shot, left for dead, and radically transformed by Christ in the meantime. He decided to look for his father. For his act of reconciliation, he was captured by a still active Northern Government. Despite the newly signed peace agreement, John was jailed for a few days until word hit and the foreign army released him.
His vision now is to first work with five to ten leaders. Disciple them to reproduce the work God has had him begin all along the river. He wants to grow the mother church he tends in Baliet and plant others. His church cares for 17 orphans. He tried to house and care for them all at his home, but it became too much. And, in an act of tenderness, he became concerned when the other kids started to make fun of them for not having families. Since then, families in the church have taken in the children as long-term foster care or adoption to end the stigma.
After two-and-a-half years working abroad, Bowers was named president of Southern Co. Generation in Birmingham, Ala. He served in that role from 2001 to 2008, when he oversaw fossil and hydro generation, fleet operations, research and environmental affairs, engineering and construction services, and the company’s competitive generation subsidiary, Southern Power. Then in 2008, Bowers returned to Atlanta to serve as Southern Co.’s chief financial officer and chief risk officer.
After putting off his interest in missionary work for most of his life, Brad Stoner has been making up for lost time.
The Rancho Penasquitos business owner and father of two has made 33 trips to 10 countries in the past decade, mostly through a Texas-based evangelical organization called E3, to spread the Gospel and do charitable work.
"I'm kind of on the adventurous side," said Stoner about his weeklong trips to Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Uganda, Ukraine, and India, which he has visited 11 times.
Stoner said he's found various reactions to his message in his travels, which have taken him to countries where people already are Christian to other areas where people have never heard of Jesus Christ. In almost all cases, the reaction was noticeably different from what he has experienced as an evangelist in the United States.
"One of the things I enjoyed about it was that the people were very receptive," he said. "I've done a lot of door-to-door evangelism in United States, and people weren't that interested. But these people were interested in why an American would want to come all that way."
Stoner said he had wanted to participate in a mission for years, but as the father of two young children, he never thought it was possible. That changed in 1999 when Stoner, 43 at the time, heard Rick Eisenmann of E3 speak at Community Bible Church in 1999.
Not only did the trip seem possible, but Stoner even took along his son, Aaron, 12, and daughter Stephanie, 10, on his first trip to Argentina. Both have gone on six or seven trips with their father since then.
"It's extremely unusual," Eisenmann said about the number of trips Stoner has taken. "He's very tender-hearted. To be able to help people who are not as fortunate as he is is very meaningful to him." Eisenmann, who works in the San Diego office of E3 and has been with the 20-year-old group since 1995, makes four or five trips a year to Ethiopia and Ecuador as a church planter.
E3 ---- the name stands for Equip, Evangelize, Establish ---- has more than 400 staff members, and about 3,000 volunteers and makes more than 150 trips a year, Eisenmann said. Of those volunteers, about 40 percent have gone on trips before, but most will go only two or three times over 10 years, he said.
Stoner, owner of Brad Stoner Painting, said having his own company provides him the time and money to pay for the trips, which cost him between $2,400 and $3,600 each. "In my business, I've been able to make more than I need, so I've been able to help others," he said.
"Most people who make more than they need just spend more on themselves," Eisenmann said. "Brad's not that type of person."
Stoner said the most interesting place he's visited was Cuba, where all religion has been outlawed since the 1959 communist revolution in the country. "We'd have evening meetings in people's homes, and there might be 10 or 20 people outside listening through the windows," he said. "The people in Cuba just had this look in their eyes like they were defeated."
Stoner's farthest trip was to Lesotho, South Africa, and he has made 11 trips to India, where he has visited Imphal, Suriapet, Guwahati, Gurapu Thanda, Murial Guda, Silchar and Mellore. "In some places they've never even seen white people," he said. "These folks have no concept of Christianity. They have got no clue. You show them a picture of Jesus on the cross, and they'll say, 'Who's that?'"
Stoner said the most resistance he's had to his evangelical message has been in Argentina, which has a large Catholic population, but he never gets discouraged. "We don't know what tomorrow brings," he said. "We sort of have to live by faith every day here, but we need to get out of our comfort zones.
When Lauren Haynie was a freshman, she remembers struggling to find a place she fit into at college. After winter break 2010, Haynie, a general studies junior and co-vice president of I Am Second UNT, found her calling during a College Ministry road trip. Later, she was introduced to Chris Plekenpol, one of the first speakers for I Am Second. “We all have struggles and we are designed to be able to help each other through them,” Haynie said. I Am Second, a worldwide multimedia movement founded in 2008, was started by Plano-based e3 Partners Ministry, said Jim Williamson, a mechanical engineering sophomore and president of the group. The stories on iamsecond.com provide insight into dealing with daily struggles while relating to others, according to the website. I Am Second UNT is directed toward the college generation, open to anyone and free to join, Williamson said. “I Am Second is all about teaching people to live a life where we are always putting ourselves second, never first,” said Leah Olsen, a communications and political science junior and co-vice president. The group has a core team of seven people who do the decision making and more than 35 members, Williamson said. Throughout the week, small group sessions meet and every Sunday, a large group meeting is held at 8:30 p.m. at the Clubhouse, which is located at 1026 Hillcrest St. All members gather to worship, pray, receive updates and meet new members, Olsen said. The sessions follow a process of watching a video from the website, reading a passage that goes along with the video, answering analytical questions and applying what they learned at the session to something and someone before they meet up the following week, Olsen said. “It’s a safe place where you can come and ask questions, where it’s not heavy on doctoring beliefs,” said Steven Bieberly, a communications senior and member. “They don’t force things on people.” The group is supported by fundraisers such as carwashes, as well as by the national I Am Second organization and Denton Bible Church, Williamson said. The movement differs from a church because it’s geared toward non-believers and people of other faiths, using an outreach process instead of the in-reach process which is typically used, Bieberly said. “I Am Second is primarily focused on relating and befriending those who would never darken the door of a church,” Haynie said. The group participates in Homeless Ministry every Wednesday night in Dallas and is involved with Denton Bible Church and the Village Church Denton Campus , Olsen said. The next event is at 7:30 p.m. on Monday at the Clubhouse, and is for students to learn more about I Am Second UNT and be placed in a small group session, Haynie said. “I really want people to see how Christians really live in a community as opposed to the stereotypes,” Williamson said. I Am Second UNT will celebrate its one-year birthday at the start of the new year, and hopes by then that the numbers are larger because students are willing to give the movement a try. “I was the girl who came to college and got caught up in the scene of boys, parties and bars,” Olsen said. “I think every person should be aware that they don’t have to go through college alone.” For more information, search “I Am Second UNT” on Facebook.
By Christina Mlynski / Senior Staff Writer - North Texas Daily
Mike Edwards has no qualms about sharing his performance secret. He’s first because he’s second.
A few weeks back, I sent an email update to our Seed Effect subscribers celebrating the day that we officially broke 100! (On the morning of May 26th, we issued our 109th loan, bringing our active borrowers served to 90 with the addition of "God with Us" SE Cell Group.) Well, less than a month later, we are celebrating another milestone...
Just this morning, I received a report that we have now issued 146 loans to date and currently serve 127 active borrowers! As if this isn't reason enough to celebrate, the best news is that our Sudanese staff accomplished the latest round of loan disbursements and orientations all on their own while Thomas, Managing Director of Seed Effect: SUDAN, was on R&R in London. Seeing the email below, from our staff accountant, come across my desk last week literally brought me to tears.
"Hope this mail shall find you well. We have today successfully disbursed loan for 24 new clients where 7 were from Mere (Tembi Group) and 17 were from Wudu (Amabia Group). The total cash amount disbursed for this new clients was 4,040,000 shillings... the orientation seminar for Mondikolok has also started because those of Kenneth are still in the field with Doris at this time."
Tears because we have not only empowered our borrowers, but because our Sudanese staff, a group of amazing, resilient, hard-working, and Christ-seeking individuals, has learned not only to turn on and use a computer, but to manage a successful loan program that is empowering their fellow Sudanese in less than a year. When we set out to launch our Seed Loan Program in a goat town with no running water, electrical grid, paved roads, or connection to the outside world, we could not have imagined this. We are so proud of our staff, but moreover, so blessed to serve a good God to whom we give all the glory!
As we, again, celebrate empowerment today, I'll write to you, what I wrote to our subscribers last month as it still rings true...
The Christian Lawyer
Author Anne Rice starts her testimony while sitting, hands folded, in a white chair.
Rice has reconnected with Jesus Christ and recently began sharing her story through the increasingly popular I Am Second campaign.
"I was a Christ-haunted person," she said. "I was a Christ-haunted atheist."
The Christianity-based campaign marries old-school media -- billboards, radio commercials and bus stop kiosks -- with the Internet. A Web site gives users access to short video testimonials from everyday people struggling with problems but also features athletes and celebrities such as Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and actor Stephen Baldwin. Online maps show people where to connect with others. Downloadable materials are available that people can use to spread the need to put Jesus first.
"We live in this world where we are all trying to be first," said Nathan Sheets, vice president of partnership development for the Plano-based e3 Partners Ministry, which is behind the 17-month-old campaign. "Everything is about me being No. 1."
Sheets and Norm Miller, CEO of Interstate Batteries, wanted people to ask themselves whether God comes first in their lives and to say, "I am second because Christ is first in my life."
To reach people, e3 needed a media campaign, Sheets said. "We just need to make Jesus as famous as Tony Romo in Dallas," he said.
"It just exploded," Sheets said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 2,239,318 viewers from 211 countries had checked out the Web site, Sheets said. He said businesspeople and ministries in Russia, the United Kingdom, South Africa and France have discussed bringing the movement to their communities.
Fundraising is taking place to spread the campaign to cities such as Orlando, Fla., Atlanta and Nashville. Testimonials are typically filmed by willing participants who have heard about the movement from fellow Christians.
Bret Wurzbach, a senior at Hebron High School in Carrollton, said a testimonial from the Rangers' Hamilton drew him to the movement. He was prompted to get involved and started a group at his school to help spread the word.
"It's pretty relaxed," he said. "It's pretty chill. It's not like beating at you over your head."
Taylor Fritz, a junior at Hebron, said the movement helped spur a stronger Christian fellowship youth group at her school. The group, which meets at the football field house Fridays before classes, has grown to close to 100.
Testimonials by beauty pageant contestant Ashley Rawls, who coped with an eating disorder, and former Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy are popular with teens, Fritz said. But Hebron High teens are also getting inspired from testimonial videos they make and post on their own Facebook group page.
Join us as we journey across the world to share the story and power of Jesus. Share Jesus. Make disciples. Start new I am Second style Groups. Bring real world solutions to poverty and suffering.
Each day you will partner with local believers to share the story of Jesus in exciting and creative ways. Help local believers start new I am Second style Groups in their neighborhoods. Serve the people through various community service projects. Partner with local believers to bring the love and message of Jesus to hurting people.
One day will be set aside for touring, shopping, and free time. No foreign language skills necessary. Translators are provided for you and everyone on the trip. Can’t afford the trip? Don’t worry, we will train you how to raise the money.
Go on Expedition and take it to the ends of the world.
Find out more!
Back in November, I was in Sudan for the launch of Seed Effect's first microfinance site. During this trip (my 5th in 2 years), we finally handed out loans to our first 19 clients. It was an incredible blessing to be there and to see the joy on their faces as they and their families were empowered with renewed hope for their future. On this day, we prayed that they might come to know Christ and know him fully and that our Seed Loan program would be the catalyst that empowers them to overcome poverty.
“Today, I cried for the first time on this trip. Only a couple of weeks ago, we received an infant at the orphanage. Rose Yangi gave birth to her fourth child. Because of complications with the birth, Rose passed away. She named him Geri Evans and he was brought to the orphanage… This past weekend, we noticed that Geri was becoming ill. After being admitted to the hospital, we learned that he was not urinating nor defecating. As he spent some days in the hospital his condition worsened. Yesterday, Thursday, Nov. 19, Geri stopped breathing. The hospital staff attempted to administer oxygen into his body, but they were not successful. Geri Evans Anthony passed away at approximately 5:00PM. Today, I attended the burial of Geri’s body and the brief service that followed. As I stood among almost 100 other people, I began to feel the weight of the family’s mourning. Geri’s body was buried only a few feet away from his mother’s grave. Women were wailing. And I found myself praying for this father who has lost both his wife and his son within three weeks… All the people of South Sudan have come to know death very well. And because of this, I have come to appreciate life all the more.”
The day I received this email, was the day that I truly began to understand what we were doing at such a deeper level. The stakes are high. Really high. Of course, it's all in his hands. He doesn't need us but he can use us... the more available we are, the faster we work, the more we spread the truth, the more funds are raised, the more women are reached, the more families are impacted, the less children are orphaned, and the more lives are saved.
Click Here to go to the Original Blog site
Two weeks ago I experienced a few more firsts that I would like to share with you. One was the first time for me to travel to Ecuador. A first in Ecuador came in a soup bowl. Yes, I ate my first chicken neck, chicken foot, and chicken heart. Amazingly, they all tasted like chicken. For some reason as “el Pastor” it was an honor to receive and eat these items. On January 15th-23rd Anne Lucas, Alice Cunningham, Lora and I traveled to the South American country of Ecuador to do medical missions and to help plant new churches in the northern region of the country. It was my first time to preach at a church with a translator, and I felt your prayers because God gave me a confidence in speaking His Word that I have never felt before.
It was my first time to personally see God work in this way.
I have always heard stories about, and wanted to be a part of, the harvest of people for God. In total our team consisted of 33 North Americans plus translators. We spent 5 days in 2 medical clinics and our 4 evangelistic teams went door to door sharing the gospel. In the medical clinic doctors, nurses, pharmacists, eye team, students and other team members saw people that were hurting physically and spiritually. Each clinic worker prayed with and shared the gospel with most of the people that went through the clinic. God healed many physical hurts while also healing spiritual needs. Even as God was moving in the lives of the people of Ecuador, I know he was also moving tremendously in the lives of our team.
I had the privilege of working with the evangelistic team. It was my first time to spend 5 days going door to door in three towns sharing the gospel. It was my first time to see so many people willing to give their life to Christ. These firsts will be in my mind forever. One thing I will commit is that these firsts will not be my last. (OK, except maybe the chicken parts). What I mean is I will be more deliberate in sharing the gospel with others. It won’t be the last time I see God work in this way. God has won the victory over the enemy. The fields of the harvest are still ripe, and the workers are still few. Join me in working, and I hope you will have some of these experiences as “firsts” as well.
What God did by the number’s - 1798 people were seen in the medical clinic, 1463 people were seen in eye clinic and 1626 gave their life to Christ for the first time.
To see a visual representation of our trip go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWvEmAWmPAw
In nearby Andhra Pradesh, hard line Hindus are concerned so many people are coming to Christ the state could turn entirely Christian. That fear is causing tensions and many believe violence is imminent. However, that tension isn't stopping the work of Pastor Singh in the city of Vijayawada. Brother Singh has a vision. "[Our vision is] to reach 1,000 children in the slums and on the streets — destitute people. And also, [we want] to plant as many churches in the region. Already, we have 30 churches planted and we are looking forward to planting thousands of churches in the region."
In order to do this Brother Singh needed help. That's when he contacted e3 Partners to come help them with training. He says he called e3 Partners and found that e3 Partners' Al Wilson was already in Indian — not only in India, but in Brother Singh's home state. Wilson interviewed Brother Singh at a restaurant. Brother Singh explains the rest. "I don't know what happened to them. That night, they thought about it and early the next day they said to me that, 'we want to bring a team to you.'"
They took a team to Vijayawada in early December. "They were led into the villages where there were no churches. Almost 500 people were led to the Lord."
But, the story doesn't end there. Brother Singh says despite being tired from hosting the team, local church leaders decided to hold Christmas campaigns in three areas of the city. "First, 150 people came. [The] second day, more than 200 people came, and the third day, almost 500 people. So, we see hundreds are responding to the Gospel and giving their lives to Jesus."
Brother Singh says they'll be providing them Bibles, getting together with them once a week in discipleship, and providing encouragement
So when Nathan Sheets of e3 Partners Ministry, Inc., and a few others set out to develop an outreach campaign, they decided to zero in on the pure, raw and heartfelt stories of those who have been transformed by Christ, and strip away all of the trappings of Christianity.
"When we're starting a conversation and I'm telling you about all these issues that I've dealt with in my life and I share with you how God has brought me through that, I think that it takes away the bad feelings of 'I hate church,'" Sheets told The Christian Post.
E3 Partners is marking the one year anniversary of the "I Am Second" movement, which was launched on Dec. 2, 2008, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The campaign was meant to reach only those in north Texas but once the website was launched, it quickly went viral.
"We were probably fairly shortsighted being on the worldwide Web, not thinking it would leak outside of Dallas-Fort Worth," Sheets explained. "But we never anticipated the impact."
The idea was born in January 2008 when Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Battery System of America and who has been involved with e3 Partners for 20 years, felt God wanted him to do more to lift up Christ in the local area. He was inspired by the biblical passage John 12:32 ("But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.").
Sheets then thought of placing a famous figure such as Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks on a billboard and though he may be number one in the NBA, the ad would say "I am second" and direct people to a website where they can view his video testimony.
They began filming celebrities in May 2008, beginning with actor Stephen Baldwin and Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. Some of the latest video testimonies include ones by former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, "The Biggest Loser" winner Michelle Aguilar, and best-selling author Anne Rice, who recently finished shooting her personal story.
"We're created to be with Him," Welch states in his story. "Contentment is given to you in life because you don't have to look anywhere else and you're exactly where you need to be. ... I am second."
Testimonies on the website deal with a wide range of issues including drugs, divorce, pornography, bulimia, abortion, money, homosexuality and purpose in life.
"I think that people are hurting more than ever in the United States," said Sheets. "When you have all these stories out there there's enough opportunity for people to get on the site and say 'that's me, that's what I'm struggling with."
"In God's eyes, we're all equal so we've stripped out the things of this world that might set you apart as a celebrity versus being a noncelebrity," Sheets explained.
The main thrust of the campaign is to reach out to the lost and make disciples. Sheets wants Christians to leverage the I Am Second movement and to be empowered to share Christ – and not necessarily with an evangelistic script. Sheets lamented, "The statistic is 97 percent of all evangelical believers will never share the Gospel and it's because we have relegated evangelism to an acronym, or an outline or a bunch of Scriptures we have to memorize and I'm terrified to share the Gospel because I think I'm going to screw it up."
"But people love to talk about themselves," he added. "So let's just be intentional and show people this is how you use your own testimony ... about what God has done in your life and use that as a way to encourage other people towards Christ."
I Am Second groups are forming around the world. The superintendent of a school district in Texas started a group in his office, 70 cadets at West Point are going through I Am Second small group curriculum every week, and students at the University of Oklahoma are meeting regularly, according to Sheets.
Junior Nathan Lanham told The Oklahoma Daily, "This is not a group where you come and some guy preaches at you. We’re not going to point the finger at you and tell you what you have done wrong ... Instead, we will be meeting in small groups. We believe this is the most effective way of sharing the love of God with others."
Looking toward the second year, the goal, Sheets said, is to continue to lift up Christ. "When we set out, we said 'what is success for I Am Second?'" Sheets highlighted. "And we said 'to maintain what Jesus said that when he's lifted up he will draw men to himself. And we think that the best way to be able to lift up Christ is to be able to talk about the incredible transformational power of the Gospel.”
"Nearly half of his tanda is illiterate," said Doug Harstine, a regional manager with Faith Comes By Hearing, the world's foremost Audio Bible ministry. "This is very common. About 70% of the people in India are illiterate."
"We are conducting a pilot project with e3 Partners to disciple the Banjara people," said Harstine, who recently returned from a trip to India. "They have several teams working with pastors in local villages to use Banjara (Lambadi) Audio New Testaments in their church planting efforts. These pastors are using Audio Bibles to help people understand God's Word."
"The goal is 100% saturation, and the feedback has been very positive," Harstine said. "The Banjara people are particularly receptive to the Gospel—we want to continue growing this project and see what God will do!" The Banjara are a community of six million spread throughout India. Experts estimate only 1% of the Banjara people are believers. Most live in deep poverty either in rural villages or city slums. They are related to the Roma people in Europe, who are often called "gypsies" or any one of 53 other names.
India is a land of contrasts in peoples, geography, culture, beliefs and languages. With nearly 1.2 billion souls, India is the second most populous country in the world. "There are about 100 major languages spoken in India," said Harstine. "And we have the Audio New Testament in 24 languages now, so we are only about a quarter of the way there." Harstine said the number of languages is disputable because there are so many different dialects. According to the Ethnologue, there are 495 living languages in India.
We can't mention the country or the man's name for security reasons, but according to Tom Doyle, Middle East Director for e3 Partners, their worker whom we'll call Jamal was attacked by a conniving Muslim. Doyle says, "Jamal was sharing with a Muslim who really seemed to be seeking. He seemed to know a little bit about Christianity. He was talking about dreams and visions, and there was some trust there. Jamal was completely surprised that the man attacked him."
It was heard by authorities. Doyle says this is a unique message in the Middle East. "There's no forgiveness there. You do something to my family, I do it back to your family, and it just never ends." Doyle adds, "Jamal's display of forgiveness is the most powerful message because it's not the message of the other religion. That puts Christianity in a different category, which it really is. This message of forgiveness -- that's what's needed there."
“Isn’t that great?” Plekenpol asks. “Right here in the middle of everything you hear something about Jesus. I love it.”
Plekenpol should know. For just a few blocks away a picture of him clad in U.S. Army fatigues with a sharp salute advertises the same Web site on which McCoy and Bradford appeared—I Am Second. Plekenpol’s testimony has been featured on the Web site, which has now received more than 1 million hits.
I Am Second is the brainchild of e3 Partners—a global missions organization with a focus on recruiting, organizing and mobilizing Christian missionaries for partnerships to establish churches around the world. Plekenpol, 32, is finishing his last year of study at Dallas Theological Seminary, and his involvement in the Web site outreach came as a surprise to him given his background as a graduate of West Point and executive officer in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne. West Point and Beyond A native of Trophy Club, Texas, he arrived at the United States Military Academy quite by accident. Through a passing conversation between his father and former Sen. Phil Gramm, he filled out the application for West Point on a whim, passed the physical exam and to his surprise, was soon on his way to New York to join the long grey line.
West Point proved to be a place where he thrived both as a student and future military officer. Upon his arrival at the Academy, he quickly noticed the Baptist Student Union was a gathering place for many cadets as they participated in many hours of serious teaching about the Bible. Plekenpol always considered himself a Christian, but he had seldom read the Bible. As a child, his parents took him to a Lutheran church, but he confesses that he “never really understood the Gospel until I got to West Point and observed the character and quality of life lived by all the Christians around me.” As he observed his fellow cadets “read their Bibles and devote themselves to Christ their lives became a powerful example to me about the reality of the Gospel.”
Following graduation from West Point, his first assignment was at Fort Knox, Ky. During his days as a young lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he remained interested in the doctrines of Christianity. He listened to well-known preachers on the radio and drove an hour and a half one-way to Louisville to hear Bob Russell, senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church, preach each week.
“In those days, I thought bigger was better,” he said. “I wanted to experience the fullness of God, and it seemed to me that the people who were at that church knew God in a way that I did not, and I wanted what they had in their lives.”
Coupled with his involvement in the Officer’s Christian Fellowship while at West Point (a large organization of officers from every military branch who join together for Bible study), Plekenpol slowly became aware that he had not been converted.
On Dec. 4, 1999, he stepped forward at the end of a worship service and joined a group at the front of the church as they prayed to receive Christ.
“From that moment, my life went from black and white to vivid color,” he states.
Plekenpol was soon transferred to Fort Benning, Ga., then to Fort Bragg, N.C. and finally to Camp Casey, South Korea. The call then came for him to report to Iraq, where he would lead an armor company into battle. Yet, nothing prepared him for what he would see in the deserts of the world now transformed into a theater of war. In the Company of Soldiers His very first day in the region was marked by missteps and mistakes which forced the realization that war creates a “fog where so many things can go wrong.” All soldiers involved in combat are forever changed by the experience. Plekenpol is no exception. Many of his experiences are chronicled in two books he wrote about his time in Iraq. Faith in the Fog of War was originally his daily journal that grew into a book as he “struggled to put into words all that he experienced in battle.”
Many say he is lucky to be alive after an IED ripped through his 72-ton tank on Nov. 23, 2004.
“I had never encountered that type of deadly force in my life,” he said.
Emerging from the wreckage, he was amazed that while the tank was still smoldering from the heat of the impact, nothing had penetrated the crew compartment. His reflections on the experience evidenced that something was changing in him as the days passed. The Bible seemed to be “more alive” and provided him with a growing confidence that God was “aware of my situation and nothing could ever budge His will off its sovereign track.”
Plekenpol’s belief in God’s sovereignty would only grow in the days to come. The now famous assault on Fallujah in the fall of 2004 would leave him with an experience that would forever shape his understanding of the Gospel of Christ. During a routine inspection, an Iraqi insurgent tried to ram a tank with a car loaded with explosives and was now unconscious from the impact. While the attempt to kill the American soldiers had failed, the car was still filled with bombs which ultimately ignited in a huge blast, killing the driver. As the flames consumed the insurgent, Plekenpol watched with horror as the man died before his eyes.
“Suddenly I saw myself in the corpse that lay before me,” he writes. “I was about to be consumed by God’s fire, when God the Son put Himself in my place. He pulled me from harm’s way and dove into the flames, sacrificing His life that I might live.”
This is the experience recounted by Plekenpol on the I Am Second Web site. And it is the one experience which still crystallizes in his mind his best understanding of the Gospel.
“As God’s enemy, God did something for me that I could not do for myself,” he says. “I deserved to die for my sins, but Jesus died for me so that I might live.”
Post-War Ministry Since his days in Iraq, he has given himself to the formal study of the Bible and theology. His brushes with death have produced a clarity which drives him to action as he seizes every opportunity to push both himself and others “beyond the superficial toward what is real in life.”
It is not uncommon to hear that Plekenpol has taken in a homeless man off the streets or spends time with men struggling with homosexuality. “The main thing I want in my own life and in the lives of others is something real—not something made up or simply on the surface.”
His method to pursue spiritual authenticity is small group interaction where “facades can recede and people can admit their struggles and sins.”
This is one of the goals of the I Am Second outreach and something for which he works to establish in local churches.
While previous attempts by other evangelical ministries have sought to use celebrity as a means of evangelism, Plekenpol admits that ultimately it is not only famous people who struggle with sin. Each person featured on the Web site reveals deep personal struggles—the likes of which are seldom mentioned openly in public especially by religious people.
“The reality is that we are all in need, and the local church must be a place where honesty and accountability really matter or we are just playing games and not really working for life-change,” he said.
Plekenpol hopes that is the message received by all who view the I Am Second Web site. He insists that I Am Second is simply a gateway to a place where people can find real help through local congregations dedicated to the Gospel of Jesus Christ who “get involved in the messy details of life.”
“I want to live my life in such a way that failure is guaranteed unless God intervenes,” he says.
For this soldier turned minister, it does seem that God does remain first while he is—second.
Article: By Douglas Baker • October 29, 2009
Be Social. Inform your Friends.