In Algeria only 1% of the population are followers of the Cross, and these believers are often persecuted for their faith. Under a controversial law that forbids “undermining the faith of a Muslim,” a pastor was fined over $800 last year for possessing Bibles. Since November 2017, eight Protestant churches have been closed by the government for failure to have the proper registration. One of these churches had applied for registration in 2013, but the government refused to process their application and has now threatened to demolish the church building. Furthermore, Christians have been arrested for sharing the Gospel of Jesus with Muslims. Pray for God’s grace for these believers as they seek to be faithful to Christ while facing persecution from the government and also their families.
After spending nine years on death row in Pakistan for the alleged charge of blasphemy, Asia Bibi, a 51-year old mother, has finally been able to leave the country and join her family for asylum in Canada. Many Christians around the world prayed for her, and Asia Bibi was acquitted in October of 2018. However, in response to her exoneration, radical Muslims violently protested in the streets for days, and the Pakistani government decided to re-examine the Supreme Court’s acquittal. In January 2019 the Supreme Court’s decision was affirmed, but due to threats on her life from Muslim extremists, she had to go into hiding and could not leave the country. We rejoice that Asia Bibi is safely in Canada with her family.
In India, non-Hindu citizens have seen increasing religious oppression over the five years that Prime Minister Modi has been in office. Under Modi, an advocate of a radical view of Hinduism, the discrimination and attacks against Christians have increased greatly. This past February Anant Ram Gand (age 40), a new believer in Jesus for only nine months, was abducted from his home and decapitated by radical Hindus. Please pray for his wife and five children. Also pray for the national elections underway this month in India, which will determine whether Prime Minister Modi is re-elected for five more years and who is elected to many regional offices. Pray for our brothers and sisters to have grace to endure a climate of religious hostility.
Pakistan continues to be a country where Christians are persecuted, sometimes severely. Pervaiz Masih was falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam during a dispute over wages in 2015. As a result, the police brutally tortured his wife, breaking her back, and the family had to leave their village. After a three-year trial, Pervaiz was finally acquitted in January for lack of evidence.
Asia Bibi—whose acquittal was upheld by the Pakistan Supreme Court in January—has been blocked by Islamic hardliners from leaving the country. Unable to join her children in Canada, Asia has been in hiding with her husband. Read more of Asia’s story here.
Please pray for special grace for these and other believers who suffer for Christ in a country that is hostile to the Cross.
In Tunisia, evangelical Christians number approximately one-tenth of one percent. Though the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, it also states that Islam is the “religion of the state.” Tunisian Muslims who leave Islam to follow Jesus face persecution from family, friends, and the community, and the opposition sometimes turns violent. These new believers often experience loneliness and have few opportunities for fellowship and worship with other Christians. Please pray for grace for our sisters and brothers in Tunisia to stand for Christ in these difficult circumstances.
Though close to half of Nigeria’s population identify as Christian, radical Islamists regularly terrorize Christians. In February of 2018, Boko Haram kidnapped 110 school girls. All but one has now been released. 15-year old Leah Sharibu, who is the only Christian, remains in captivity. She was promised release if she would simply recite the Islamic shahada and wear a hijab. Leah has repeatedly refused to renounce her faith in Jesus. Her father said, “My daughter’s trust and faith has made me realize that I have been living under the same roof with an admirable disciple of Christ.” Leah has been in captivity for a year now. Please pray for special grace for this courageous young woman to stand for Christ as well as for her parents, who are pleading for her release.
In Bangladesh, Christians comprise less than 1% of the population. Unlike many other Islamic nations, it is not illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity. However, since Islam is the state religion, the prime minister recently announced that anyone who makes offensive comments against Islam will be prosecuted. Followers of Jesus are pressured by their families and militant Islamic groups to renounce their faith. Mainline churches have been closed, and so many believers meet secretly in house churches. Due to their being a powerless minority, Christians are often physically attacked over land disputes and business dealings while officials look the other way. Please pray for grace for our persecuted brothers and sisters to shine as lights for Christ as they follow the way of the Cross.
The Muslim nation of Sudan is a dangerous country for Christians. Ruled by radical Islamic Sharia, Sudan decrees the death penalty for those who abandon Islam. The Sudanese government has systematically bulldozed churches, arrested Christians, and raided Christian bookstores. A recent case involves a Sudanese church leader, Tajadin Idris Yousef, and nine other believers who were arrested during a house church meeting in October. They were charged with apostasy and taken to jail, where they were beaten and pressured to renounce their faith in Christ. Yousef stood courageously for Christ while the other nine men recanted their faith and were released after paying a fine. Please pray for strength for Yousef as he faces a trial and a very possible death sentence.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. . . . That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:4, 7)
Last year Frontline Missions released the tenth episode in the Dispatches from the Front film series. It was an important milestone for us. The personal blessings flowing from a decade of reporting on the Gospel’s advance are too numerous to list. Add to those the notes and conversations I’ve had over the years with people about the impact of the stories on their lives, families, and plans, and the flow turns into a cascade! But it’s been a special blessing to meet men and women now serving in China, India, and the Middle East who have said the Dispatches films were decisive in God calling them to move to the other side of the world in order to reach an unreached people group with the Gospel.
Recently I received an email from my friend Gloria. She’s a pastor’s wife and a courageous sister serving Christ in the Middle East. The subject line of Gloria’s note was “Words just spoken in our house.” She overheard her 12-year-old daughter tell her younger sister and brothers, “Guys! Let’s have a Dispatches marathon so we can get pumped up for school starting soon!” In another context, Gloria wrote this about the impact of Dispatches on her family:
Watching Dispatches DVDs is kind of like watching someone else work out; you become inspired to get in the game with them. God's story unfolds in every episode, and you get to watch new generations of Christ-followers flex their faith muscles and pass on the Gospel. Kids (and parents) who have a big picture of who God is and the work he is doing in the world will grow big hearts for the nations and dream big dreams for their lives. It's no exaggeration to say that watching and discussing these films together has been invaluable to my family.
All of this is shared with praise to God alone, as He has taken simple tools (a pen, a camera, and willing hands) to magnify His saving work in the world. His people are simply responding in amazement to His Story.
Since the first film was released ten years ago, I have described each episode as opening another window to Christ’s kingdom. So far we have “flung open” ten windows, but there are so many more windows to open! We have now started a new Dispatches from the Front film series that will be rooted in the book of Acts. Every book in the Bible is a jewel in the crown of God’s revelation, but some of these books hold keys to unlocking other books of the Bible. Acts is such a book. Imagine having the Gospel accounts and then the epistles without the book of Acts. That would leave us with so many unanswered questions. How are there churches in Rome or Corinth or Philippi? Who is Timothy? For that matter, who is Paul?
Luke “the beloved physician” provided a great gift to us by writing the story of the Church’s beginnings, the persecution it experienced, and the Gospel advance that occurred across the Mediterranean world. His account of Paul’s missionary adventures reads like a brilliant travelogue, which is understandable since Luke was often with the intrepid apostle. Whether setting foot in unreached Macedonia or floating on a plank as their ship crashed off of Malta, Luke was there. I imagine the pages of his journal were soiled with the sweat and dust of the road and, at times, soaked in salt water. This is why I often refer to Acts as “Luke’s Dispatches.” And that is what I am calling the next Dispatches film series.
The plan is to have six Acts-based episodes with each story set in a major city or region in the book of Acts—places like Jerusalem, Athens, or Macedonia. Each episode will open in its biblical context from Luke’s dispatches in the 1st century, and then we’ll fast-forward to the 21st century to tell stories of Gospel advance in that very city or region today. I want to underscore that what Jesus began, He continues, and He will complete! This is because He is alive, and His Kingdom spans not just continents but centuries, too. His Gospel that was powerful in Paul and Luke’s day is still at work in our day as well.
This resurrection reality is why I wanted to begin the entire story on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, where the risen Christ appeared to His disciples “just as day was breaking.” His resurrection signaled a new day for all of His disciples—both then and now. So in August and September, Pete Hansen (who has been the man behind the camera since the beginning) and I were there. It was an unforgettable morning, and I can’t wait to share it with you. The masthead picture includes just a glimpse of what’s to come.
This year the Christmas project is the next Dispatches series. Each episode will cost approximately $18,000. That’s a total of $108,000 for the six episodes. Amazingly, gifts totaling just over $30,000 have already come in. We are so grateful for that and would appreciate your consideration to help, too. We plan to film the series throughout the coming year with the release of the first two episodes in the summer of 2019.
May Christ who came and died and rose and saves be magnified more and more through these stories of His grace. Please pray for Pete and me in this venture—for all the miles, borders, and unanswered questions ahead. Pray that we will have eyes to see Christ’s work and words to share it—all for His glory.
In answer to the prayers of many Christians globally, on October 31st Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted 51-year-old Asia Bibi of the alleged charge of blaspheming the prophet Muhammad and commuted the subsequent death penalty to which she was sentenced in 2010. Asia has spent a total of nine years in solitary confinement. However, she still awaits release from prison because of the thousands protesting in the streets. Even her lawyer has gone into hiding due to threats on his life. Please pray for the protection of Asia and her family and that they would be able to leave Pakistan safely for asylum in another country. Read our previous update here.