Thursday, October 20, 2011

Revival in Cuba, Persecution in Iran, Afghanistan

Coat of arms of Cuba.
Cuba's Coat of Arms
Revival in Cuba
Raul Castro's regime has implemented economic reforms in Cuba including massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public employees, but they don't appear to be working. The resulting poverty and unemployment has given way to despair. 

Instead, churches are ministering to the poor and growing rapidly. For years churches pushed the legal limits just by meeting, and it's still dangerous for students, religious teachers and leaders, especially in rural areas, to be outspoken Christians. Christians are still considered counter-revolutionary in Cuba, meaning they may be put under surveillance and denied employment and housing. The government has also restricted the size of churches, forcing believers to worship in homes.

Even with these challenges, opportunities are opening in Cuba as it changes politically and socio-economically, making the gospel even more relevant to people there. Cuba's believers have taken advantage of the opportunities with rapid house church growth, evangelism, relief work, and community development. Cubans in the difficult economic times are realizing that they have little power themselves to change things, so they turn to the spiritual side. As a result, revival is springing up in Cuba, and many are coming to Christ. A few months ago a series of amazing meetings occurred in Guantanamo and spread to other parts of eastern Cuba. In other areas of Cuba pastors are boldly planting new churches.

Resourcing this growth is a challenge. Cuba desperately needs Bibles. It can be very difficult to obtain a Bible because there are no Christian bookstores. Last month Tyndale House publishers met with over 800 Cuban pastors to discuss a new Spanish Contemporary Language Bible project. These pastors saw an opportunity for the gospel to become something more contemporary for their people. Pray for open doors to bring into Cuba 100,000 Bibles and make them available to people. This is a huge project, and there's a lot at stake. Once the man on the street is able to read a Bible himself,God will use His Word to reach people. Source: Mission Network News

Persecuted Church
IRAN – Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, whose death sentence for apostasy from Islam was upheld in by the Supreme Court Sept. 28, has now had his case referred to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who may rule within a few weeks. The Supreme Court has also announced that it is willing to review the case again (though no retrial). Because of international pressure and the unpredictable Iranian judicial system, the Iranian government has put out numerous falsehoods and confusion, denying a death sentence and accusing Pastor Youcef of rape which carries the death sentence, too. A petition asking US Sec. of State Clinton to address the issue nears 200,000 signatures. Please ask the Lord to uphold and sustain 34yo Youcef, his wife Tina, and their two sons Daniel (10) and Joel (7). Pray that this case will be resolved and this family be reunited. Pray for Youcef's legal team and all those in authority connected with this case to have wisdom. Source: VOM Canada

AFGHANISTAN -- According to the U.S. State Department, there is not a single public Christian church left in Afghanistan. The last church building was destroyed in March 2010, and no Christian schools exist either. The State Department states: "The [Afghan] government's level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice [has] declined, particularly for Christian groups and individuals. Negative societal opinions and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity. The lack of government responsiveness and protection ... contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom." While no church buildings remain in Afghanistan, the church as God’s people is alive and well. Believers must be careful, but they are ready to answer unbelievers’ inevitable questions, those about eternity and faith. Foreign Christians among the military and NGOs are also developing friendships with Afghans and telling them about Christ. Pray for Afghan Christians to be able to have great wisdom, but also to have boldness in sharing about Jesus Christ with their family members, with their friends, with their neighbors. Source: MNN